A History Of The End Of The World: How the Most Controversial Book in the Bible Changed the Course…

Paperback | September 18, 2007

byJonathan Kirsch

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"[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&#8212the demonization of one's enemies, the sanctification of revenge taking, and the notion that history must end in catastrophe&#8212can 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.

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"[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&#8212the demonization of one's enemi...

Jonathan Kirsch is the author of ten books, including the national bestsellerThe Harlot by the Side of the Roadand his most recent work, theLos Angeles TimesbestsellerA History of the End of the World. Kirsch is also a book columnist for theLos Angeles Times, a broadcaster for NPR affiliates in Southern California, and an adjunct profe...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:352 pages, 8 × 5.31 × 0.82 inPublished:September 18, 2007Publisher:HarperCollinsLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0061349879

ISBN - 13:9780061349874

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

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Rated 3 out of 5 by from SARCASTIC ATTEMPT TO HIGHLIGHT CHRISTIAN DELUSIONS 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. Like other authors with similar interests and background, 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 scriptures of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are a house of cards that rests on serial frauds. It is time to apply reason rather than blind faith in assessing “A History of the End of the World” as presented by the author. For starters, the consensus accepts the unreliability of Eusebius’s testimonies, which the author includes in his evidence. However, by erasing this single author, the history of the Book of Revelation before Constantine the Great simply vanishes, except for a few dubious passages that may or may not refer to the text. For the West it can be excluded also. The Great Leap-Fraud shows that Pope Gregory the Great had no knowledge of the Revelation in the sixth century. Hence, where then is it coming from? I think that the author treats the most exciting questions of his topic with contempt. Given this riddle, it seems noteworthy that the author does not make an effort to include the pre-Islamic or Persian worlds in the events around the millennium, the supposed end of the world. As laid out in The Great Leap-Fraud, the Muslim world─for some inexplicable reason (for the consensus that is)─was shaken by the Doomsday, so much so that they resorted to destroying churches all over the caliphate(s) and displayed a lifestyle of the walking dead. The author comments about a post-millennium monk of Fleury in France, who seemed perplexed about the content of a sermon, as if he had heard the Revelation for the first time. Why not start wondering? Is it possible that Revelation was absent from the West? If so, who were its carriers? When did it arrive and where? Is it an eastern text? The same issue remains with the fifteenth century Savonarola. Why did he go against Rome with the help of Revelation? Papal excess and cultural decay (as the culprit, according to the consensus) were not new in his generation. There must have been a deep sectarian reason smothering below the surface that has been wiped out and cleaned up by the winning Catholic Church. But with whom? The language in the book is polished and with no frills, repetitive at the beginning. It keeps the reader focused on the general ideas until after World War II. However, after that, the lecture becomes painful. Irrelevant sects and personalities are highlighted beyond their importance in the context of Revelation. Also, it is noteworthy that the author makes no forward looking statements about 2012. For readers that are content to reaffirm what they already know, A History of the End of the World is a pleasurable read─without the risk of being intellectually challenged─for the sake of reading. It is the expediency of criticizing the Christian belief for the pleasure of mockery without actually bringing forth anything new, but to enforce the selective wishful thinking that fails to recognize that Christianity, Judaism and Islam are based on hatred against mankind (e.g. the exclusion of the Roman way of life at the expense of millions of lives and for one single purpose: the redemption of Israel). Five stars! The sad core is that the book of Revelation is not the end of the world but the judgment over humanity. It promises a renewal of the world for 144,000 Jewish males and the same number of Jewish virgins (for the sake of ethnic cleanliness), composed from the twelve tribes of the Chosen People. The rest of us is doomed regardless of their faith or disbelief. If that does not challenge the intellectual happiness of the Christians, what will? Those that ask for more have better things to do. No star! A.J. Deus, author of The Great Leap-Fraud - Social Economics of Religious Terrorism ajdeus.org
Date published: 2011-08-26

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Editorial Reviews

“Kirsch traces Revelation’s 2,000-year history --- a “romantic tale, full of intrigue and suspense” --- in lucid, captivating prose.”