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

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Synopsis

"[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.

 

About Jonathan Kirsch

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Jonathan Kirsch is the author of the best-selling The Harlot by the Side of the Road and A History of the End of the World, the book editor of the Jewish Journal, and a longtime contributor of book reviews to the Los Angeles Times. He lives in Los Angeles, California.
 
Published October 13, 2009 by HarperCollins e-books. 352 pages
Genres: History, Religion & Spirituality, Education & Reference. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for A History of the End of the World

Kirkus Reviews

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Literary critic and publishing lawyer Kirsch (God Against the Gods, 2004, etc.) adds yet another volume to the sprawling corpus of work on the New Testament Book of Revelation.

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Publishers Weekly

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Kirsch's well-written reexamination of Jewish history tells the remarkable story of how Jewish diversity has contributed to Jewish survival.

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Publishers Weekly

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Kirsch helpfully points out that the conflict between the worship of many gods and the worship of one true god never disappeared from the lives of Israelites, Jews, or Christians, in spite of many historians' claims to the contrary.

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Publishers Weekly

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Kirsch, an attorney and book columnist for the Los Angeles Times , takes the reader on a delightful 2,000-year journey as he explores a text he describes as "a romantic tale, full of intrigue and suspense" and shows how churches, philosophers, clergy and armchair interpreters have promoted their ...

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Gather Books

Post to Your Heart's Content!~*, Notes to Self, .....The Book Review....., As the saying goes, Booklovers, Get the point?, Spirituality Explorers, Comment as you please, Blue Mondays (Positive Posts), I want it ALL, and I want it NOw!, Post 'em if you got 'em!, !!anything!!, EXCUSE ME...DID YOU H...

Oct 22 2009 | Read Full Review of A History of the End of the W...

Project MUSE

Unfortunately, Kirsch has not given us a full account of the ways in which the first users of the automobile saw different propulsion technologies as constraining or liberating and made choices about those technologies, or the way technologies developed to suit changing market conditions.

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