My fifty second book of the year is A History of the End of the World, by Jonathan Kirsch
A History of the End of the World: How the Most Controversial Book in the Bible Changed the Course of Western Civilization
The subtitle of the book is “How the Most Controversial Book in the Bible Changed the Course of Western Civilization”.
This, of course, refers to the Book of Revelation, the last book in the Bible and the odd man out of the New Testament. Kirsch lays out how this book came to be, and how its inclusion in the Bible has influenced history and the development of Western thought.
Its a long and strange journey. From a look at John’s times and the context in which he wrote the book, Kirsch takes us through to the present, stopping off and explaining how Revelation’s presence has influenced artists like William Blake, and political and social events ranging from Wat Turner’s Rebellion and Savonarola’s Bonfire of the Vanities to Cotton Mather, Kirsch makes a convincing case that the strange book of Revelation has had a profound impact on Western thought.
Kirsch doesn’t shy away from the present day, either, baldly telling of Ronald Reagan’s belief in apocalyptic scripture, and he touches base on the Left Behind phenomenon as well.
The argument is brief, the book itself only coming in at around 250 pages (plus the entire KJV version of Revelation taking up another 30 pages). I don’t think, given its small size, that its worth buying as a hardcover, and probably as a paperback as well. However, those of my friends who are interested in the history of religious thought will like the book and find it has much to offer.