End-Timers: Three Thousand Years of Waiting for Judgment Day

End-Timers: Three Thousand Years of Waiting for Judgment Day

End-Timers: Three Thousand Years of Waiting for Judgment Day

End-Timers: Three Thousand Years of Waiting for Judgment Day


End-Timers: Three Thousand Years of Waiting for Judgment Day examines the high and low points of millennial expectation across the centuries. It shows how and why such beliefs first developed in antiquity, and it explores how end-timers influenced events as varied as the persecutions of Hellenistic ruler Antiochus Epiphanes and Roman Emperor Nero, the Crusades, the settlement of North America, and the 20th-century debacles at Jonestown and Waco.

Suggesting that anyone who wishes to understand the Middle East today needs to penetrate the background of modern fundamentalism within the three Semitic religions, the author illuminates the part played by Christian Zionists in promoting the return of the Jews to the "promised land" and the resulting formation of the state of Israel, as well as subsequent fundamentalist reactions within both Judaism and Islam. He also follows the birth of the "Christian Right" in 19th-century Britain and its development and growing influence in the United States. Finally, the book examines how religious end-timers confront the four horsemen of the 21st-century apocalypse: world population increase, depletion of natural resources, advanced weaponry, and global warming.


Norman Cohn’s The Pursuit of the Millennium: Revolutionary Millenarians and Mystical Anarchists of the Middle Ages still holds its place high on The Times Literary Supplement’s list of the most influential books. While German scholars had taken an interest in medieval sects for decades, this work opened up millennial studies to English readers. But Cohn was aiming for more. Born into a mixed Jewish and Catholic family, he had lost relatives to the Holocaust and, in the immediate postwar years, served in the British army in Vienna, where he was surrounded by evidence of Nazi and Stalinist oppression. When he came to concentrate on medieval history, he made a link between twentieth-century suffering and the persecution of heretics, witches, and Jews during those early troubled centuries. While the depth of Cohn’s scholarship has never been in question, some of his emphases and conclusions have aroused debate. Medieval historians, in particular, question the way he presents a stark dichotomy between apocalyptic sects and the Augustinian Catholic mainstream. They insist that terror of the apocalypse and descent into hell pervade all areas of medieval society. This can be illustrated by literary works from Dante and Chaucer, from passion plays, and from the doom paintings that loomed down from so many church walls.

Cohn’s later regression into antiquity appears to have been motivated by Old Testament scholars’ stubborn refusal to acknowledge how much postexile apocalypticism drew inspiration from the older Aryan prophet Zarathustra (Zoroaster). Cohn’s Cosmos, Chaos and the World to Come: the Ancient Roots of Apocalyptic Faith was approved by veteran Persian scholar Mary Boyce, who was the world expert in this area. It therefore comes as a surprise that—at least by the evidence of mainstream scholars’ book lists—Boyce’s works remain little read. in common with Cohn, I find the evidence for Zoroastrian influence very compelling.

It has long been accepted that no sharp distinction can be drawn between political and ecclesiastical history of Europe before the time of the European . . .

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