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When Time Shall Be No More: Prophecy Belief in Modern American Culture (Studies in Cultural History) [Paperback]

by Paul Boyer
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)

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Book Description

January 31, 1994 0674951298 978-0674951297

Millions of Americans take the Bible at its word and turn to like-minded local ministers and TV preachers, periodicals and paperbacks for help in finding their place in God’s prophetic plan for mankind. And yet, influential as this phenomenon is in the worldview of so many, the belief in biblical prophecy remains a popular mystery, largely unstudied and little understood. When Time Shall Be No More offers for the first time an in-depth look at the subtle, pervasive ways in which prophecy belief shapes contemporary American thought and culture.

Belief in prophecy dates back to antiquity, and there Paul Boyer begins, seeking out the origins of this particular brand of faith in early Jewish and Christian apocalyptic writings, then tracing its development over time. Against this broad historical overview, the effect of prophecy belief on the events and themes of recent decades emerges in clear and striking detail. Nuclear war, the Soviet Union, Israel and the Middle East, the destiny of the United States, the rise of a computerized global economic order—Boyer shows how impressive feats of exegesis have incorporated all of these in the popular imagination in terms of the Bible’s apocalyptic works. Reflecting finally on the tenacity of prophecy belief in our supposedly secular age, Boyer considers the direction such popular conviction might take—and the forms it might assume—in the post–Cold War era.

The product of a four-year immersion in the literature and culture of prophecy belief, When Time Shall Be No More serves as a pathbreaking guide to this vast terra incognita of contemporary American popular thought—a thorough and thoroughly fascinating index to its sources, its implications, and its enduring appeal.


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Editorial Reviews

Review

A splendid, rigorously documented treatise, as up to date as the morning newspaper...No book provides more comprehensive information about the awesome degree to which Biblical literalism and prophetic fervor have invaded the hearts and minds of Americans, rich and poor, educated and ignorant...[Those] who read the book can laugh and weep. (Martin Gardner Washington Post Book World)

Paul Boyer traces the roots and branches of the rich, strange complex of biblical exegesis and twisted journalism that he calls 'prophecy belief.' When Time Shall Be No More exhaustively describes a strange species of rabid predictions of the wrath to come. (Anthony Grafton New Republic)

Splendid... [A] compelling cultural history. (L. S. Klepp Village Voice Literary Supplement)

This is one of the most important and impressive books I have ever read in American cultural history. It is richly researched, ably argued, exhaustive in its coverage of the subject of apocalyptic belief in the United States, yet a constant revelation. Indeed, it amounts to the discovery of what many of us in this field have halfway understood but never quite realized, that the dominion of prophecy and 'end-time' religion is vast and of utmost importance in understanding the whole of American culture. It will scarcely be possible now not to see the importance of this fringe culture that affects millions of Americans and which, from time to time, finds itself near the very center. (James Gilbert, University of Maryland)

This is not a facile study, attempting to draw large and arresting conclusions from a mere sample of the evidence. Boyer committed himself to an intense study of popular prophetic belief and the result is a learned, persuasive, and nuanced study of a very important subject. The book is inherently interesting and superbly written. (Nathan O. Hatch, University of Notre Dame)

It is a work of high quality in every respect and is as good as anything I know of on the subject. In addition to writing well, the author is judicious and insightful in his judgments and maintains a tone of seeking understanding rather than, as do most writers on such topics, taking cheap shots at easy targets. Also and importantly, I found the book engaging and was eager to keep reading. (George Marsden, University of Notre Dame)

Review

This is one of the most important and impressive books I have ever read in American cultural history. It is richly researched, ably argued, exhaustive in its coverage of the subject of apocalyptic belief in the United States, yet a constant revelation. Indeed, it amounts to the discovery of what many of us in this field have halfway understood but never quite realized, that the dominion of prophecy and 'end-time' religion is vast and of utmost importance in understanding the whole of American culture. It will scarcely be possible now not to see the importance of this fringe culture that affects millions of Americans and which, from time to time, finds itself near the very center.
--James Gilbert, University of Maryland --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Series: Studies in Cultural History (Book 10)
  • Paperback: 488 pages
  • Publisher: Belknap Press (January 31, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674951298
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674951297
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.1 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #530,771 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
44 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally - a voice of sanity! May 21, 2000
Format:Paperback
The cover of Boyer's book contains a powerful scene. A group of well-dressed people are standing in a field, gazing up at a dark and brooding, but otherwise completely empty sky. As a former fundamentalist Christian, this scene is particularly emotive, as I well understand the sense of hope mingled with foreboding that the premillenial worldview brings.
It is probably difficult for an outsider to understand how this peculiar view of the world can colour a person's entire life. I was constantly aware that at any moment I could be raptured out of the world. I scoured the headlines for a clue as to the identity of the Antichrist, and the latest movements of Gog and Magog. I was convinced that all signs pointed to the end of the world within my lifetime.
Boyer's book is an excellent overview of this type of thinking. Such puzzling terms as the Rapture, Armageddon, the Beast, 666, and the One-World Government are examined in detail. What is particularly good about this book is that it is never judgemental or pedantic. Boyer never explicitly discusses why the fundamentalist, premillenial view of the world is wrong. Instead, he shows in detail how the belief arose in the early second century, and evolved through the ages. Through each step, Boyer shows how ardent Bible students firmly believed that they were living in the last times, and how each interpreted the apocalyptic books of the Bible to fit their own situations. Such an historical overview is a far more eloquent argument against premillenialism than any exegesis of the scriptures could be.
I found this a very fascinating book. It is indispensable for the recovering fundamentalist, if only to put their beliefs into an historical context, and so make some sense of them.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Source Book for End Times Belief July 5, 2001
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Boyer's treatment of dispensationalism in its modern American populist form is encyclopedic and exceptionally fair-minded. His summary includes discussions of the thought (?) of every major player in the end times publishing field. Lindsay, LaHaye, van Impe -- they are all here and all represented quite fairly.
Boyer is not merely encyclopedic and thorough, but is also quite attuned to the subtleties of American prophecy belief. He discusses at length, for instance, the irony of how modern end times beliefs and left wing politics have generated very similar critiques of globalization and economic corporate homogenization.
One thing I did find missing here was a thorough analysis of the arguments that the end times writers use to defend their positions. I had hoped for some discussion on how they argue their positions and how scholars from other Christian traditions have interacted with those arguments. But such discussion was not Boyer's intent. Instead, he has given us more of a "source book" of modern end times beliefs. But, since this is probably the first serious scholarly foray of considerable length in this field, I guess I can't fault Boyer for not writing everything possible on the subject.
A good chunk of the book is devoted to presenting a history of prophecy belief -- from the days of the early church up to the present. This part of the book was actually secondary from Boyer's point of view but, if you're already familiar with modern end times beliefs as I (admittedly) am, you will probably find this the most educational part of the book.
In short, this book is not the place to go for an analysis of the strengths of end times thought (such as it is). But if you want to know how modern end times beliefs developed historically, or if you want an explanation of what it is all about from someone familiar with the end times subculture (but not a part of it) this book is the place to start.
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28 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding history of "End-Times" Paranoia November 24, 1998
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Boyer presents an accurate, cogent account of the history of Bible eschatology. He first documents the litany of freakish movements obsessed with the end of the world that have injured so many. He goes on to relate to and interact with some of Christendom's greatest thinkers (Calvin, Luther, Augustine) and their handling of prophetic Scripture. He also addresses the moronic notions of Hal Lindsey, Jack Van Impe, Edgar Wisenant and other Biblical hacks who pass themselves off as "scholars". Boyer's book is a sound investment for any mature Christian who prefers a spirit of "power, love and a sound mind" as promised in Scripture.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Chronicle of end-times preoccupation September 4, 2001
Format:Paperback
Anyone who reads this book would not be surprised at the runaway success of the "Left Behind" series, since it demonstrates that a preoccupation with Bible prophecy affects a much wider demographic than the fundamentalist subculture. Indeed, the impact of premillenial thought has extended all the way up to the Reagan White House. And, Christian or not, who hasn't heard of the term "Antichrist" or the significance of the number "666"? This book presents a fairly comprehensive survey of popular eschatology, including the role of Israel, Russia, the Arab countries, Europe, and the United States. It also shows how those beliefs have changed over the years (Turkey was considered Gog and Magog before Russia was, and the Pope was designated as the Antichrist for years before Hitler and Henry Kissinger came along). The final chapter, written at the brink of the collapse of the Soviet Union, demonstrates how, once again, premillenial thought adjusts itself (or sometimes not) depending upon world conditions. This is a fair, even-handed treatment of a religious and cultural phenomenon.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book
I would highly recommend this book for anyone who studies end time prophecy. Especially if you are of the Dispensational mindset. Read more
Published 14 months ago by marshall
4.0 out of 5 stars A good intro into prophecy belief in the US
This book is a good look into prophecy belief in the U.S. This book reads like a history of these movements, and in doing so shows the reader how this belief has influenced and... Read more
Published 21 months ago by Matthew Smith
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Read
Read this book a few years back. I echo the sentiments of one reviewer who says this book is "exceptionally fairminded. Read more
Published on January 16, 2012 by patrickssword
5.0 out of 5 stars This history will put the skids on your speculation about end-times
Harold Camping and his ilk desperately need to read this book...and so might you! It is a comprehensive, clear, and challenging book for all, especially those who are certain... Read more
Published on June 30, 2011 by David George Moore
4.0 out of 5 stars Crushing all sensationalism in prophecy pundits.
Here is a fantastic scholarly investigation of the popular prophetic frenzy of North America. This historical survey is crisply written and very informative. Read more
Published on June 14, 2011 by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Fair and comprehensive study
My own reading and review of this volume is from the vantage of one who basically identifies with the premillennial, dispensational Biblical viewpoint of prophecy of which Boyer... Read more
Published on December 31, 2005 by Raymond Banner
4.0 out of 5 stars Thorough Review of America's Infatuation with Prophecy
Boyer presents a comprehensive look at the development and continuing influence of end times prophecy, especially what has become dominant in American Christianity,... Read more
Published on October 13, 2001 by rodboomboom
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