A Christian prophet of Jerusalem, twice mentioned in Acts.
(1) In Acts 11:27, 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 Acts 21:10 f we find Agabus at Caesarea warning Paul, by a vivid symbolic action (after the manner of Old Testament prophets; compare Jeremiah 13:1; Ezekiel 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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