2012 Book 45: A History of the End of the World, by Jonathan Kirsch (3/10/2012)
Reason for Reading: Out of a vague interest in eschatology. And by that, I mean I’m interested from a sociological point of view why everyone is so fascinated with the end of the world.
My Revew 3.5/5 stars
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 apocalyptic rhetoric, and his book implies a direct influence of Revelation on pretty much everything bad that has ever happened. Personally, I think the case is over-stated. Apocalyptic rhetoric certainly impacts everyone’s lives in the same way as Shakespearian rhetoric does, but Kirsh implies a more active influence. I had the uneasy feeling that Kirsh was quoting people out of context; and I noticed one time he left important facts out of a historical example, thus misleading the reader. Kirsh also has a distinctly un-Christian leaning (I’m GUESSING he’s a secular Jew), and his views might offend conservative or fundamentalist Christians. Overall, I’m happy I read the book because it provided a broad survey. But I’d like to read others to get a more in-depth look at specifics.