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

Jonathan Kirsch, Author . Harper San Francisco $25.95 (338p) ISBN 978-0-06-081698-8

The question of how and when the world will end has captivated thinkers for centuries. Wars, natural disasters, social upheaval and personal suffering often send believers back to the writings of their prophets and seers, whose gift is to bring satisfying answers to such questions. The book most studied in the Western tradition is Revelation, the last entry in the Christian canon. 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 political, social and religious agendas based on their belief that the end was imminent. Some of this history can be quite sobering, as the powerful have waged wars and built societies based on their varying perceptions of Revelation's message. However, consistent with Kirsch's earlier literary efforts, in particular The Harlot by the Side of the Road , the author exercises great care while treating his material with both sobriety and a healthy sense of the ironic. Written clearly and for a general audience, this is a fine book that merits wide readership. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 05/29/2006
Release date: 09/01/2006
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