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

3.58  ·  Rating details ·  325 Ratings  ·  54 Reviews
"[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,
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published August 22nd 2006 by HarperOne (first published 1997)
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Jun 22, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: religion, history
If this book were food, it would be peanut butter crackers. I suggest an alternative title for the next edition: "1001 Things I Hate About the Book of Revelation." From the review I read, I’d been hoping for a balanced, scholarly critique of the Revelation to John, but instead I got a 200-page polemic by a lawyer whose sloppy research wouldn’t get him through a master’s thesis, let alone the lavish praise of someone like Karen Armstrong, who should be embarrassed to be quoted on the front cover. ...more
Catalin Negru
Jun 11, 2016 rated it did not like it
Target audience: People interested in the Book of Revelation and Christian eschatology. But I think that common people may have a hard time reading it.

About the author: Not be accused of being biased, I’ll quote exactly from book the information about the author: Jonathan Kirsch is the author of ten books, including the national bestseller The Harlot by the Side of the Road: Forbidden Tales of the Bible, King David: The Real Life of the Man Who Ruled Israel, Moses: A Life, and his most recent wo
Dan Weaver
Mar 18, 2009 rated it did not like it
Only one quarter in, I find this hard going. I am struggling with the organization and writing style. It reads like notes hastily edited together rather than a book; clearly a lot of research went in, but not enough effort went in to make it build smoothly from chapter to chapter as books for lay-people like this one should. The phrase "as we will soon see" keeps coming up, which would be the first thing I'd try to eliminate in a revision. Apocalyptic factoids come up in multiple places, causing ...more
James (JD) Dittes
Jul 30, 2011 rated it did not like it
This could have been a really good book, considering how widely Revelation has been interpreted (and how disastrously in many cases). However, Kirsch doesn't seem to have the ability to discern between the good sources and the poor ones. Waaaaay too much of the book is given to explaining the explanations of Revelation, and too little covers the historical use or providing insight into how the post-modern Christian world can look at it.
Julie Dawson
Feb 24, 2010 rated it really liked it
"A History of the End of the World" chronicles the history of the Book of Revelations and its impact on Western Civilization. Characterized by Kirsch, and in the minds of many readers rightfully so, as the single scariest book in the Bible (and arguably in all of Judeo-Christian writing), Revelations is a strange book that is both at odds with the rest of the Bible and yet surprisingly the biggest attraction in the Bible.

To serious scholars, much of what Kirsch discusses here is old news. He co
Aug 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: rome
I could not help noticing my fellow reviewers are all over the map when rating this book. (Veering from one to five and back again and quite emphatic about their opinions!) My little inner voice tells me that the variation in stars has a lot to do with the controversial nature of its contents. The Apocalypse of John, or Revelations, has had nearly two thousand controversial years now and has confounded, astonished and obsessed readers for most of that time. I admire Jonathan Kirsch for his excep ...more
Michael T.
Dec 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I haven't written a review in a while, but this book was really REALLY good. Americans in particular are a nation of apocalyptic thinkers (think some of your favorite sci fi films), and we are so for historical reasons. The very founding and early settlement of the US was based on the Puritan pursuit of "a new heaven and a new earth." "A shining city on a hill" as Ronald Reagan quoted it. It's all in here. Including the invention of the concept of "the Rapture," a very American, and historically ...more
Jan 29, 2016 rated it did not like it
This book was not what I expected at all. Instead of a discussion of the Book of Revelation from the Bible, it is was a hate-filled diatribe poking fun and sneering at the Christian and Jewish faiths at every turn. The Antichrist is described as an arch-villain instead of evil incarnate as those of my faith believe as if this was a simple movie with the "good"guys and the "bad" guys. It is suggested that the Apostle John was not the author but a sanctimonious nut who believed he was victimized b ...more
Frederic Pierce
Nov 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
Fascinating. I had no idea that so many elements of modern American culture have roots in an ancient text that almost didn't make it into the final version of the Bible. And I was surprised at how little basis there is in the Bible for some of the most stridently held ideas regarding an ultimate "Day of Judgement." This is an eye-opening book for anyone who thinks about the end of the world. And among Cold War kids like myself who grew up in the shadow of nuclear holocaust with movies like "The ...more
Raughley Nuzzi
Jul 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was a fascinating look inside the Book of Revelation from the identity of the author to the debate over its canonicity to the impact it has had on western thought through the millennia. It's essentially a literary criticism of one of the strangest books of the Bible and it does a good job of walking the fine line required to take on such a task.

I only gave it 4 stars because I went into it thinking it would be more focused on particular doomsday cults and while they featured, they served a
Steven Williams
Nov 20, 2016 rated it liked it
This book attempts to explain why and how “The Book of Revelations” was written. It also covers how people have interpret it over time, including the process of canonization in the Bible. Unfortunately, I don’t have much to add. I made no significant notes. I did enjoy the book to a degree. Jonathan Kirsch writes well and seems to know his topic. I could recommend this book to someone looking to learn more about Revelations than he or she would learn from in church.
Jul 07, 2014 rated it it was ok
A partial read, I actually lost interest.
A.J. Deus
Jul 13, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Harvey Smith
Oct 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I once attended bible college, so in that process was tasked to read through the entire old and new testament two times, plus medicate on the daily readings.

Little did I realize then that the book of Revelation was a booked tacked onto the end of the Bible, which had little to do with anything, other than a regional author suffering angst over oppression and persecution by a nation source, with no hope in sight. So, the book of Revelation was written to give a relief to the stress of the situati
Angela Dawn
Feb 10, 2017 rated it liked it
The first chapter is a little rough if you are a Christian. The rest of the book traces the history of Revelation. It speculates on the the authorship, looks at the people who preached it and their interpretations, looks at some of the other apocalyptic works that were written or used throughout Revelations history, and how it came to be in the Holy Bible. It is written in scholarly language because it is primarily a history text.
Oct 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A comprehensive review of the End Days or The Apocalypse with a glossary, end notes a n d bibliography.
May 13, 2012 rated it liked it
This book surveys how the Book of Revelation has influenced culture throughout time. It provides a basic idea of how apocalyptic rhetoric has been used and developed with time. However, I didn’t learn much history from this book. In fact, Kirsh mostly assumes that the reader is either familiar with the history or willing to look up the interesting bits elsewhere. It is also very dense, since much of the text is direct quotes or paraphrases from other writers. Kirsch has a strong bias against apo ...more
Feb 01, 2016 rated it it was ok
Ugh! It was a dreadfully boring read. The subject matter of the Book of Revelations has nothing about it that draws me in. It too is an uninteresting bit of nonsense. The complete text of it is included in this book so I did attempt to at least read through it. So given the subject, it is not a surprise that Kirsch's book is a bore. But I did hope it would be a wee bit entertaining. Endless (oooo pun there) explorations of who might have authored the Revelation nonsense, the context of the times ...more
Beth Barnett
May 27, 2007 rated it really liked it
I heard about this book when I heard the author interviewed on Fresh Air.
The beginning of this book felt repetitive for a while, but once I got past the first 1/3 its editing was better.
There's an appendix with the Book of Revelation in the back, but it's the King James Version, and was very hard to follow. I opted to read the more plain spoken New International Version, which makes me wonder if part of the problem with some extremists is that they read texts in outdated language they can't
Aug 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and highly recommend it. I had not even intended to read it, but after skimming a few pages in the opening chapter, I was hooked. You will not see history--especially Western history--in the same light after reading this book.

The best parts are the ones where he shares little-known facts about historical figure's writings about Revelation and the End Times--and not just figures already known in the study of religion. Understanding how Revelation influenced early e
Fraser Sherman
May 23, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: religion
This gets a four for the early section and maybe 2.5 for the latter third. Kirsch's story of what was going on in John of Patmos' head when he wrote Revelation (I'd always heard of it as an anti-Nero allegory, but Kirsch argues it's more likely an attack on Romanized Jews), where it departs from the theology of the Gospels and how it was received by the early Church are all very interesting. The later stuff about the American perception of Revelation and its influence on American Christianity, p ...more
João Martins
May 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: não-ficção
O mundo vai acabar. Não se sabe quando, mas vai. Aliás, a julgar pelo que milhares de pessoas têm acreditado desde que o Livro da Revelação foi revelado (passe a redundância), é de admirar que ainda estejamos aqui. O ser humano pode ser passivo em relação a muita coisa, mas não em relação ao fim do mundo. Invocando conceitos como vontade divina, desígnios de Deus, etc., foram muitos os homens ao longo da História que, mais do que esperar pelo Apocalipse, envedaram esforços para o provocar. Para ...more
Dec 16, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: exigesists
To be honest I didn't finish this one so maybe my review isn't fair. The author was way to biased in his debunking of the Book of Revelation and anybody who would ever take any of it seriously. This is generally fine with me - it is my opinion too, but not in a book titled a "History". I don't like to feel like I am the choir being preached to.

A more distant historical standpoint, not an opinionated critique, would have been more interesting to me. It seems this was marketed to the emerging Dan
Apr 02, 2010 rated it liked it
An engaging overview of the the Book of Revelation's influence and impact, A History of the End of the World is perhaps a little too discursive at times, though fittingly so -- the end times are predicted, fail to occur, are predicted again and again, fundamentally the same and completely different. Glad I finished when I did: according to a leaflet I recently found, "The End of the World is Almost Here! Holy God Will Bring Judgment Day on May 21st, 2011" -- so it goes.
Sep 05, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
في أحد الأمسيات دلفت إلى مقهى أوتاكوشي وطلبت كوب اللاتيه وأخذت أتجول حول الكتب كعادتي الإسبوعية في هذا المقهى

وبما أني منجذبة جداً للغموض والأخويات السرية وأسرار الديانات الأخرى وتاريخها لا سيما اليهودية
وقع بصري على كتاب تاريخ نهاية العالم .. تصفحته .. قرأت بعض الرؤى منه وقررت إقتنائه

فكرهم عن نهاية العالم والترهات التي يعتقدونها سببت لي إضطراباً حتى في أحلامي :/
الكتاب كان مزعج جدا بالنسبه لي ولكن سأمنحه نجمتان لإشباعه فضولي فحسب !

أخيرا احمد الله وأسجد له مطولاً على نعمة الإسلام ❤
Ryan Smithson
Feb 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely wicked
May 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
A little light holiday reading. Kirsch is an intelligent and compelling writer. Not sure that anyone can make sense of a book that seems to take such pleasure in savagery, but Kirsch does well in showing how that work has been drafted into use by a staggering array of players, both ancient and modern.
Jul 06, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: ministry, history
Very interesting book on the Book of Revelations and how it has affected history over the last 2000 years. The only flaw I can see in this book is the story of how the Book of Revelations became part of the cannon. I didn't see that in this book. Otherwise, a truly interesting and informative book.
May 23, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
A decent survey of the role the Book of Revelations has played in Western history. And it points out that it has been more significant in the U.S. than elsewhere in the world. It didn't really go deep enough for my tastes, though.
Aug 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
Didn't agree with some of the conclusions about Jesus' apocalyptic attitude, but that's natural since I'm Catholic. Overall a good introduction to the ideology behind Revelations and I plan to read Elaine Pagels' book on it as well.
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