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AGABUS (ăg'a-bŭs). One of the prophets from Jerusalem who came to Antioch and prophesied that there would be “a severe famine...over the entire Roman world.” “This happened during the reign of Claudius.” The prophecy led Christians at Antioch “to provide help Barnabas and Saul” (Acts.11.27-Acts.11.30). Years later, a “prophet named Agabus” came down from Jerusalem to Caesarea and by a dramatic action warned Paul that he would be put in bonds if he persisted in going to Jerusalem (Acts.21.10-Acts.21.11). Although we cannot prove that the two prophets are the same man, there is no reason to doubt it.

On the third missionary journey, Agabus at Caesarea predicted, with vivid symbolic action, Paul’s fettering and delivery to the Gentiles if he proceeded to Jerusalem (Acts 21:10, 11). Not new to him (Acts 20:23; 21:4), the prediction failed to deter Paul.

Late tradition makes Agabus one of the Seventy and a Christian martyr.


K. Lake, Beginnings of Christianity, V (1933), 452-455.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

A Christian prophet of Jerusalem, twice mentioned in Acts.

(1) In Ac 11:27 f, we find him at Antioch foretelling "a great famine over all the world," "which," adds the historian, "came to pass in the days of Claudius." This visit of Agabus to Antioch took place in the winter of 43-44 AD, and was the means of urging the Antiochian Christians to send relief to the brethren in Judea by the hands of Barnabas and Saul. Two points should be noted.

(a) The gift of prophet’s here takes the form of prediction. The prophet’s chief function was to reveal moral and spiritual truth, to "forth-tell" rather than to "foretell"; but the interpretation of God’s message sometimes took the form of predicting events.

(b) The phrase "over all the world" (practically synonymous with the Roman Empire) must be regarded as a rhetorical exaggeration if strictly interpreted as pointing to a general and simultaneous famine. But there is ample evidence of severe periodical famines in various localities in the reign of Claudius (eg. Suet Claud. 18; Tac. Ann. xii.43), and of a great dearth in Judea under the procurators Cuspius Fadus and Tiberius Alexander, 44-48 AD (Ant., XX, ii, 6; v, 2), which probably reached its climax circa 46 AD.

(2) In Ac 21:10 f we find Agabus at Caesarea warning Paul, by a vivid symbolic action (after the manner of Old Testament prophets; compare Jer 13:1 ff; Eze 3; 4) of the imprisonment and suffering he would undergo if he proceeded to Jerusalem.

(3) In late tradition Agabus is included in lists of the seventy disciples of Christ.

D. Miall Edwards

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