Modern Inflation and Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History

In Christian circles, current events are often used as a gauge to determine how likely the return of Jesus is at any given time. And what are the examples we see today?

  • Gas prices are going up.
  • Sinfulness is increasing.
  • The government is “evil.”
  • Wars are rampant.
  • Natural disasters are destructive.

“Everything is awful,” to parody the hit song from the Lego Movie.

And there is some biblical warrant for this–depending on how one understands Revelation (not to mention Jesus’ literal words in Matthew 24:6-8). John writes as follows in Revelation 6:6,

Then I heard something like a voice among the four living creatures say, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius—but do not harm the olive oil and the wine.”

A denarius was a day’s wages in the ancient Roman Empire. In other words, this passage of Revelation describes famine affecting the world so much that it costs a day’s wages for a serving of bread. No one can live on that. (With that said, though, this gives all new meaning and importance to the line in Jesus’ model prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread.”)

But if we think a day’s wages is a lot for a serving of bread, and if we start comparing that to a whole day’s pay going into our gas tanks today, then we need to think again. Here’s what Eusebius says in his Ecclesiastical History 9.8.4:

“[F]amine as well as pestilence so exhausted the rest of the inhabitants of the cities under him that 2,500 Attic drachmas was the cost of a single measure of wheat.”

It is worth pointing out that the Greek here actually does not specify the specific unit of money. But even if we take 2500 of the smallest unit of Greek money (as delineated on Wikipedia), this still comes out to 52 drachmae. A drachmae, like a denarius, is “the rough equivalent of a skilled worker’s daily pay in the place where they live.”

So sometime between AD 305-310, during the reign of Maximinus Daza, famine got so bad that it cost 52 day’s wages for a meal.

And interestingly, 1,712 years later, Jesus still has not returned. Additionally, a tank of gas, while it might be more than a day’s wages today, is not a daily necessity (nor a thrice daily necessity) for most people. This means that we can’t look at headlines to determine when Christ might return.

When a meal costs 52 day’s worth of work, then we can complain we have it bad. When a meal costs $3,016 dollars (federal minimum wage [$7.25] * 8 hours a day * 52 days), then we can start looking at current events and saying, “Jesus is coming soon.” When life is that expensive and when Christians are being slaughtered even in first-world countries like America–the return of Jesus will be visibly nigh in light of current events.

We–especially in America–do not have it bad. Let’s choose gratitude!

This isn’t to say that Jesus can’t or won’t return tomorrow, or this week, or this month, or this year, but it is to say that current events do not indicate when He will return. Rather, we must always be ready, because He will come at an hour we don’t expect (cf. Matthew 24:50).

Are you ready?

In this with you.

Soli Deo Gloria
Sola Fide
Solus Christus

Thanks for reading.

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