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When Time Shall Be No More: Prophecy Belief in Modern American Culture

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Overview

Millions of Americans take the Bible at its word and turn to like-minded local ministers and TV preachers, periodicals and paperbacks for help in finding their place in God's prophetic plan for mankind. And yet, influential as this phenomenon is in the worldview of so many, the belief in biblical prophecy remains a popular mystery, largely unstudied and little understood. When Time Shall Be No More offers for the first time an in-depth look at the subtle, pervasive ways in which prophecy belief shapes contemporary American thought and culture.

Belief in prophecy dates back to antiquity, and there Paul Boyer begins, seeking out the origins of this particular brand of faith in early Jewish and Christian apocalyptic writings, then tracing its development over time. Against this broad historical overview, the effect of prophecy belief on the events and themes of recent decades emerges in clear and striking detail. Nuclear war, the Soviet Union, Israel and the Middle East, the destiny of the United States, the rise of a computerized global economic order—Boyer shows how impressive feats of exegesis have incorporated all of these in the popular imagination in terms of the Bible's apocalyptic works. Reflecting finally on the tenacity of prophecy belief in our supposedly secular age, Boyer considers the direction such popular conviction might take—and the forms it might assume—in the post-Cold War era.

The product of a four-year immersion in the literature and culture of prophecy belief, When Time Shall Be No More serves as a pathbreaking guide to this vast terra incognita of contemporary American popular thought-a thorough and thoroughly fascinating index to its sources, its implications, and its enduring appeal.

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Boyer immersed himself in the literature of prophecy to study its content and implications. He writes in the preface: "...one cannot fully understand the American public's response to a wide range of international and domestic issues without bearing in mind that millions of men and women view world events and trends, at least in part, through the refracting lens of prophetic belief." Recent events in Waco, Texas support the need for understanding of this current in American thinking. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
New Republic
Paul Boyer traces the roots and branches of the rich, strange complex of biblical exegesis and twisted journalism that he calls 'prophecy belief.' When Time Shall Be No More exhaustively describes a strange species of rabid predictions of the wrath to come.
— Anthony Grafton
Village Voice Literary Supplement
Splendid... [A] compelling cultural history.
— L. S. Klepp
Washington Post Book World
A splendid, rigorously documented treatise, as up to date as the morning newspaper...No book provides more comprehensive information about the awesome degree to which Biblical literalism and prophetic fervor have invaded the hearts and minds of Americans, rich and poor, educated and ignorant...[Those] who read the book can laugh and weep.
— Martin Gardner
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674951280
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 9/28/1992
  • Series: Studies in Cultural History
  • Pages: 468
  • Product dimensions: 6.45 (w) x 9.59 (h) x 1.53 (d)

Meet the Author

Paul Boyer, Merle Curti Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

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Table of Contents

Preface
Prologue: The Hidden World of Prophecy Belief 1
I The Genre and its Early Interpreters
1 Origins of the Apocalyptic 21
2 Rhythms of Prophecy Belief 46
3 The Premillennial Strand 80
II Key Themes after World War II
4 The Atomic Bomb and Nuclear War 115
5 Ezekiel as the First Cold Warrior 152
6 The Final Chastisement of the Chosen 181
7 The United States in Prophecy 225
8 Antichrist, 666, and the Mark of the Beast 254
III The Enduring Apocalyptic Vision
9 The Continuing Appeal of Prophecy Belief 293
10 Apocalyptic Portents in a Post-Cold War World 325
Notes 341
Acknowledgments 445
Credits 449
Index 451
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