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When Time Shall Be No More: Prophecy Belief in Modern American Culture (Studies in Cultural History) 49579th Edition

4.7 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0674951297
ISBN-10: 0674951298
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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.
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Product Details

  • Series: Studies in Cultural History (Book 10)
  • Paperback: 488 pages
  • Publisher: Belknap Press; 49579th edition (January 1, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674951298
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674951297
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #199,101 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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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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