Author: Ron Graham


Camping’s Three Blunt Tools of Prediction
—Prophesied judgment day May 21, 2011

Harold Camping of Family Radio predicted Judgment Day as May 21, 2011. Why was his failed prophecy false? We examine the three blunt tools of his prediction and show why his method of interpreting scripture is false.

1 New Knowledge.

Like so many other failed date setters, Harold Camping claims new knowledge. He says that "we now can know from the Bible the exact time and many details of God’s destruction plan". Camping claims that the church over nearly 2000 years was not given to know this, even though it had the same Bible.

"It was not until a very few years ago", says Camping, "that the accurate knowledge of the entire timeline of history was revealed to true believers by God from the Bible. This timeline extends all the way to the end of time. During these past several years God has been revealing a great many truths, which have been completely hidden in the Bible until this time when we are so near the end of the world."

That statement hints that God has raised up the Campingites to preach new revelation that Paul (for example) didn't have. But Paul tells us that when people claim to have other knowledge from God, they place themselves in opposition to God. "O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called knowledge; which some have professed and thus gone astray from the faith" (1Timothy 6:20).

2 Numerology.

Harold Camping uses numerology as "additional proof" of his predictions. His writings make claims such as "The number 5 signifies the atonement or redemption"; "the number 10 or 100 or 1,000 signifies completeness"; "the number 17 frequently signifies Heaven"; "the number 23 points to destruction"; and so forth. Camping manipulates facts and numbers attempting to give numbers predictive power.

Camping calculates "722,500" days from the crucifixion "April 1, 33 A.D" until "May 21, 2011" and claims this number "is made up of two sets of identical significant numbers. Each number is intimately related to God’s salvation plan: 5 x 10 x 17 x 5 x 10 x 17 = 722,500". He then applies his numerology: "The atonement or redemption demonstrated by Christ’s suffering and death on April 1, 33 A.D. (the number 5) is 100% completed on May 21, 2011 (the number 10) when all the true believers are raptured into Heaven (the number 17)." These assertions reflect a spurious system of interpretation by which, instead of hearing the words of scripture as they are, one seeks to discover in them a hidden code for date setting.

Like all promoters of supposed Biblical numerology, Harold Camping treats his system as a second level of revelation hidden underneath the words of scripture. This puts mystery into the scripture to be discovered in the latter days. But Paul writes of "the mystery which has been hidden from past ages and generations, but now has been made clear to his holy people" (Colossians 1:26). Out of his numbers, Harold Camping makes an audacious modern equivalent of Paul’s claim.

The gentleman is given to interpreting Bible numbers mystically. The basis of his predictive scheme is a mystical interpretation of Peter’s statement, "With the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day" (2Peter 3:8). This simply means that time is of no account to God. However Camping makes it mean that from the flood to the fire there will be a mystical week which in real time is seven thousand years. This is nonsense of course; nonsense cannot come true; therefore his prediction has failed.

3 Natural Wisdom.

Harold Camping says, "Astronomers have long ago discovered that there are 365.2422 days in a complete year." He then claims that we can "multiply the number of years separating two events by the number 365.2422 to know the exact number of days between them." So he finds "722,500.07 days, from April 1, 33 A.D. to May 21, 2011 inclusively". He has also claimed that "the flood occurred in the year 4990 B.C. ...Judgment Day is to occur in the year 2011 A.D. [which] is exactly 7,000 years after 4990 B.C."

The gentleman has thus arrived at a "precise" date for the flood and for the crucifixion using measurements and dates not given in the Bible but borrowed from scientific data. Without that data, Harold could not have set his dates in 4990 BC, AD 33, or AD 2011. Yet he says, "We can know from the Bible alone" the date of the rapture. His "Bible alone" claim is false. He mixes into the Bible wisdom from outside of the Bible, and calls the result "Bible alone" when it's not. Camping is combining natural with spiritual.

Paul shows the right way: "So that your faith does not rest on the wisdom of men but on the power of God... We speak words not taught by human wisdom but words taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual with spiritual" (1Corinthians 2:5,13).

[ The quotes in this lesson, other than those from the Bible, are from the literature on May 27, 2011. Although Camping is not entirely a Premillennialist (just as he is not entirely a Calvinist) he shares with premillennialism the error of two second comings invisible and visible. He has set the date for the visible coming at "October 21, 2011 when God will completely destroy this earth and its surviving inhabitants." ]