Mystery of the Lost Jubilee: Part VIII – Prophetic Memories

In our last article, we introduced a Jubilee prophecy that has spread like wildfire over the Internet in the last few years, that has been attributed to Judah Ben Samuel, also known by Jews as Yehudah Hachassid. In that article we promised that today we would disclose new information about the source.

That new information comes from a meeting that Gidon Ariel and I had with Aviel Schneider, Editor-in-Chief of Israel Today magazine, whose father, Ludwig Schneider, authored the original article about the prophecy in their March 2008 issue. It was from that one article that every other article originated.

Later in this article, I will tell you what about this whole situation troubles me the most. But before that, let me start by quoting the exact words of Ludwig Schneider in introducing this prophecy to the world. Ludwig wrote of Judah Ben Samuel on p.18 in March 2008 of Israel Today:

“Before he died in the year 1217, he prophesied that the Ottoman Turks would conquer Jerusalem and rule the Holy City for “eight Jubilee years.” A biblical jubilee year consists of 50 years. Fifty multiplied by eight equals 400 years.BIN-OpEd-Experts-300x250(1)

Afterwards, according to Ben Samuel, the Ottomans would be driven out of Jerusalem, which would remain no-man’s land for one jubilee year. In the tenth jubilee year, Jerusalem would return to the Jewish people and then the Messianic end times would begin.

This came to pass 300 years after his death. He could not have based his prophecy on events that could be foreseen, but only on the results of his study of the Bible.”

Later in that article, Ludwig Schneider wrote the words that would cause this story to take on a life of its own over the next eight years:

“According to this timeline, it is possible that 2017 or 2018 will be a decisive year for Israel because it will be 70 years after 1947, the UN decision for the establishment of Israel, and 50 years after the reunification of Jerusalem.”

Ludwig closed out his article with the statement:

“We don’t know the day or the hour of his coming, but we are not talking about the return of Jesus. We are talking about God’s timetable for Israel.”

After we found this article and could find no earlier source material anywhere regarding this prophecy, Gidon contacted the offices of Israel Today asking for the best way for us to connect with Ludwig. The office suggested we send an email that would be forwarded to him. We wrote, asking for any additional information he might be willing to disclose about the original source of the prophecy. We got a confirmation that the email had been forwarded to him, and then waited about 10 days for a reply. At this point I phoned up Aviel Schneider, his son, asking for his help. Aviel told me not to expect an answer from Ludwig, but agreed to meet Gidon and me face-to-face at the magazine’s Jerusalem offices to hear our request for detailed sources.

He began by expressing his frustration, saying, “For seven years nobody talked to us about this issue, until a few months ago.” We were stunned to hear this, given that Google finds more than 60,000 web pages on the topic.

Aviel confirmed that the March 2008 article is the only occasion that his father ever wrote on the topic of this prophecy.

Asked about the source of the prophecy, Aviel told us that his father had a large collection of Jewish writings in the German language. Aviel believes the source material for the prophecy came from that library.

Had Aviel ever seen the specific prophecy himself? No.

I then asked the main question we had come to ask. Would Aviel be willing to ask his father to locate the book in which this prophecy was written? To my question Aviel responded in Hebrew to Gidon. Gidon, upon hearing that answer turned to me and said in English: “I asked my father to find it and he said ‘With so many books, I wouldn’t know where it is.’”

Indeed, while Ludwig Schneider has an exceedingly sharp mind, (he still writes regularly for Israel Today), he is elderly and eight years ago is a long time. Furthermore, we can all understand and appreciate the decision of a son to guard his elderly father from those whose questions would now undoubtedly raise stress. “I take care that he is protected,” Aviel told us.

Actually the stakes are higher than our series of Jubilee articles. The important point is that we can find no record of this prophecy being discussed by Jews before 2008. The Jewish people value and respect the writings of their sages. They would receive with great gratitude any newly discovered writings from one of their greatest sages, especially after the destruction of so many books by Nazi Germany in the Holocaust. Clearly there are no opposing Jewish motives here: prophesies from Jewish sages are pronounced occasionally, so that breaks no new ground, and this Jewish prophecy if confirmed, would bring nothing but honor to the Jewish people and Judah Ben Samuel — if he wrote it, that is.

Please hear me, that in calling that into question, I make no accusation of Ludwig Schneider! And neither is there any danger that this article will ever reach him, according to his son. Ludwig has written positively about Israel for over 40 years and this should command tremendous respect. He should live in peace. Let us all follow the wishes of his son and let him live in peace! But, I can speak from personal experience about how easy it is to get one’s facts or dates mixed when looking at old source material. I once wrote an article that used old Dutch sources to offer new insights about the activities of the Dutch Reformed church in Indonesia in the early 1800s. However, and this is the key point, because I disclosed my sources, a Christian researcher was able to suggest that I double check one of my source assumptions. To my dismay, he was absolutely correct, and I had to quickly put out a retraction and moderate my initial claims accordingly. It was humbling to say the least.

Yet, in the case of this jubilee prophecy we are talking about a situation that is more complicated: an ancient prophecy possibly written in Middle High German that was never quoted verbatim, but only interpreted and translated into English. That interpretation then used the term “Ottoman Turks,” which just doesn’t make sense during the life of Yehuda Ben Samuel. You may remember from our last Jubilee article, that the “Ottoman empire” was founded by—and named for!—a man who was not born until 40 years after Judah Ben Samuel’s death. In addition, the Turks were segmented and in continual decline during Ben Samuel’s life. So the need to look at the exact words used in ancient German, and to see them in their context is critical! In addition, books were rare and multiple authors often combined their writings into a single work, over a period of years, making authorship and dating less certain.

jerusalem
Jerusalem in 1916, in the Latter Days of the Ottoman Empire. Photo: Wikicommons.

Having been given no permission to search for this quote ourselves, we concluded by asking Aviel if he might be willing to search his father’s library for this prophecy. He told us, “Even if I found it, I might decide not to write about it,” which he explained as coming from frustration with how past articles were propagated by the Christian media. He concluded with, “In this case, you are on your own. What we have written, we have written.”

What does all this mean regarding this Jubilee series of articles? It means that the fact that Jerusalem was reunified in 1967 is reason enough to be watching events closely in 2016 and 2017 (49 and 50 years after that date). Such examination requires no further motivation.

And of this prophecy? Until someone discovers an ancient writing that contains the words “Jerusalem,” “eight,” and “Jubilee” in the same sentence of a larger work, and releases that work for examination, this prophecy must be regarded as hearsay. As much as Jews might desire to see more honor go to a pious Jewish man, and as much as Christians might desire a prophetic indication that some amazing event will happen regarding Israel or Jesus in the next two years, we must all refrain from using this prophecy to bolster any such claims. It should not be propagated until the original sources are found.

Were mistakes were made? In my opinion two mistakes were made, and the confusion we have on the Internet today is the result of BOTH of them.

First, it would have been advisable that Ludwig Schneider carefully document the source of the prophecy in his original article, including quoting the words in their original language, given that he was introducing ground-breaking research.

Second, and here is what troubles me the most: Aviel’s statement that, “For SEVEN YEARS nobody talked to us about this issue.” The main propagation of this prophecy began, as far as I could tell, in 2010 when a pastor postulated that the Great Tribulation should begin in 2010 in order that Jesus would return by 2017, according to the Judah Ben Samuel prophecy. (Ludwig himself made no such claim.)  The number of web pages, articles and videos then began to increase rapidly.

Why did nobody ask to see the original source material before now? It is true that many blog posts in the last few years have called the prophecy into question. Those negative blog posts had even more incentive to request the source writings! Aviel Schneider, the head of Israel Today did not turn away our request for a meeting. On the contrary, he received us quickly and obviously felt bad about the situation. Had anyone thought to ask for source material within the first couple of years, the story of this prophecy might not be in limbo.

We must take this case study as an exhortation to communicate with other Christians more than we do, even as Jesus prayed for us in John 17:

“…that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.”  John 17:21 NIV.

Again I don’t blame anyone specifically here because to “connect” takes both parties to agree to do so—one is not enough. Perhaps the fact that you and I are not connecting is my fault, not yours.

But, on the positive side, I find it fascinating that our investigation into these sources came as a result of an evangelical Christian and an Orthodox Jew connecting, trying to find the truth behind the Jubilee. It was Gidon’s checking on his side, and inability to find Jewish sources of the Judah Ben Samuel prophecy that alerted us to go looking for the source. Without him, I would have assumed that the original Jewish writings had been known for centuries.

Perhaps the idea of Jew and Christian working together can be a model that bears good fruit in cases like this going forward. In the meantime, Gidon suggests that we all keep in mind one of the more famous quotes of Abraham Lincoln, who once said, “Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet!”

Next Time

In the next article we will examine whether anything of historical importance happened 49 or 50 years before the pivotal Balfour Declaration in 1917, as we continue to search for clues, and explore together, the Mystery of the Lost Jubilee.