OF THE TEMPLE TO
What we call the beginning is often the end. And to
make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where
we start from.
—T. S. Eliot, “Little Gidding” (1943)
PERHAPS FROM THE BEGINNING THE END HAS fascinated humankind. Any idea with such a long pedigree should not be too easily dismissed. Furthermore, a conversation between the New Testament and movies can hardly avoid the topic because apocalyptic speculation had currency in early Christianity and, despite its problems, still has currency today. When we think of ancient apocalyptic, we imagine Jesus’ prophecy of nation rising up against nation and the sun being darkened, the Lord wreaking vengeance, and the myriad and odd speculations of the Book of Revelation. The modern has its own strong images: the fire and brimstone preacher shouting “the end is near,” nuclear holocaust, and the publishing success of Hal Lindsey’s The Late Great Planet Earth. Some of us tend to distrust apocalypticism because we associate it with the fantastic and the absurd. Certainly, the easiest reason to dismiss apocalyptic speculation is its abysmal track record. All predictions of the end of the world have so far proven wrong!
Yet the failures of apocalyptic speculation have not dampened the enthusiasm of its supporters. The flurry of speculation during the Gulf War with Iraq testifies to its endurance. According to Newsweek, over one million copies of John Walwood’s Armageddon, Oil and the