A History of the End of the World: How the Most Controversial Book in the Bible Changed the Course of Western Civilization

A History of the End of the World: How the Most Controversial Book in the Bible Changed the Course of Western Civilization

by Jonathan Kirsch
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Overview

A History of the End of the World: How the Most Controversial Book in the Bible Changed the Course of Western Civilization by Jonathan Kirsch

"[The Book of] Revelation has served as a "language arsenal" in a great many of the social, cultural, and political conflicts in Western history. Again and again, Revelation has stirred some dangerous men and women to act out their own private apocalypses. Above all, the moral calculus of Revelation—the demonization of one's enemies, the sanctification of revenge taking, and the notion that history must end in catastrophe—can be detected in some of the worst atrocities and excesses of every age, including our own. For all of these reasons, the rest of us ignore the book of Revelation only at our impoverishment and, more to the point, at our own peril."

The mysterious author of the Book of Revelation (or the Apocalypse, as the last book of the New Testament is also known) never considered that his sermon on the impending end times would last beyond his own life. In fact, he predicted that the destruction of the earth would be witnessed by his contemporaries. Yet Revelation not only outlived its creator; this vivid and violent revenge fantasy has played a significant role in the march of Western civilization.

Ever since Revelation was first preached as the revealed word of Jesus Christ, it has haunted and inspired hearers and readers alike. The mark of the beast, the Antichrist, 666, the Whore of Babylon, Armageddon, and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are just a few of the images, phrases, and codes that have burned their way into the fabric of our culture. The questions raised go straight to the heart of the human fear of death and obsession with the afterlife. Will we, individually or collectively, ride off to glory, or will we drown in hellfire for all eternity? As those who best manipulate this dark vision learned, which side we fall on is often a matter of life or death. Honed into a weapon in the ongoing culture wars between states, religions, and citizenry, Revelation has significantly altered the course of history.

Kirsch, whom the Washington Post calls "a fine storyteller with a flair for rendering ancient tales relevant and appealing to modern audiences," delivers a far-ranging, entertaining, and shocking history of this scandalous book, which was nearly cut from the New Testament. From the fall of the Roman Empire to the Black Death, the Inquisition to the Protestant Reformation, the New World to the rise of the Religious Right, this chronicle of the use and abuse of the Book of Revelation tells the tale of the unfolding of history and the hopes, fears, dreams, and nightmares of all humanity.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061746833
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 10/13/2009
Sold by: HARPERCOLLINS
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 34,476
File size: 955 KB

About the Author

Jonathan Kirsch is the author of ten books, including the national bestseller The Harlot by the Side of the Road and his most recent work, the Los Angeles Times bestseller A History of the End of the World. Kirsch is also a book columnist for the Los Angeles Times, a broadcaster for NPR affiliates in Southern California, and an adjunct professor at New York University.

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History of the End of the World: How the Most Controversial Book in the Bible Changed the Course of Western Civilization 3.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Could read only 100 pages ....very boring
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Yawn.
RENAISSANCEAD More than 1 year ago
Is A History of the End of the World an expedient critique or a sarcastic attempt to highlight the Christian delusions in the Book of Revelation? While Jonathan Kirsch's treaty is well structured and placed in the context of the Book of Daniel, it provides nothing new or illuminating. It is an easy and non-offensive read in a sermon style, so much so that I perceive it as ignorant and arrogant. It is strikingly brilliant how the author lists truly offensive passages and analysis as if they would not have had a catastrophic impact on human development through millennia. For example: "If John is seeking to scare his readers and hearers into shunning their pagan friends, neighbors, and kinfolk, the demonization of Roman coinage?and the condemnation of the 'cargo' that it could buy?was a clever psychological tool. After all, Christian true believers could congratulate themselves on their own poverty, whether self-imposed or not, by reminding themselves that participating in pagan commerce was equivalent to bargaining with the Devil. They are encouraged by the book of Revelation to console themselves with dreams of the day when God will punish the collaborators who took the Devil's coin. And revenge, as we shall see, is among the core values of Revelation." As an author that focuses on social economics of poverty, I am alarmed at what level Kirsch seems to be desensitized or contempt to a wording that has, according to the writer, clearly Jewish origins. There is no compassion for and no relation to billions that live in (Jewish) religion induced poverty today and through the ages. A mere statement of the intolerable makes it seem as the author welcomes the consequences of the Jewish follies (or at least not condemns it). Glorification of poverty by Christians (and Muslims, both guided by Judaic scriptures) seems to me offensive in itself. It merited the mentioning of a strong connection between ongoing humanitarian disasters and teachings that should have been rooted out on inception as crimes against humanity. Instead, Kirsch seems to like the teachings of the New Testament where quite obviously (the Roman) civilization is rejected. The author repeatedly refers to the possibility that numerous writers thought the Book of Revelation should not have been included in the New Testament, Luther among them. The point is: the discussion about its potential elimination is in vain. Christians cannot pick and choose from the "prophetic" stock of Judaic writings. They believe or they don't. They half believe in what the New Testament says? A History of the End is selective reading at its best, and that is also the main shortcoming of the book. In other words, while the author rejects the Book of Revelation, he obviously embraces the rest and seeks out an expedient version of history and context. There seems to be no critical thought as to a possible placement in time of the Revelation, despite illuminating every possible angle of its authorship. The first century is a done deal. However, "prophesies" arose from necessity in a slow moving context of either sectarian conflicts or clashes with the authorities. More importantly, they were written AFTER a disaster. Given that the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in the first century and six thousand Jews were crucified (not Christians), one could be content with this marking the end of the world (for the Jews. If you would like to read more on this subject, look up the book Great Le
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The author has no idea what he is talking about! All believers know that Revelation was written by John, the beloved disciple of Jesus,during his exile on the island of Patmos. All of these things WILL come to pass. Please find Jesus as your Savior before it is too late!!!