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Antichrist by Bernard McGinn
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Antichrist (original 1994; edition 2000)

by Bernard McGinn

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250365,459 (3.69)2
Member:grunin
Title:Antichrist
Authors:Bernard McGinn
Info:Columbia University Press (2000), Paperback, 369 pages
Collections:Your library
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Tags:Religion, u

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Antichrist: Two Thousand Years of the Human Fascination With Evil by Bernard McGinn (1994)

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I bought this book ages and ages ago. I don't remember why or when. Last year one of my reading resolutions was to read more of my religion books, which I absolutely failed to do. But it explains how this ended up finally on my to-read shelf when I was looking for a new non-fiction book to read.

So, this book tracks Christianity's changing views on the Antichrist, from Jewish pre-Christ apocalyptic writings to the present day. It's a sprawling history with a narrow focus, and I just am not familiar enough with Catholic history to get as much out of the book as I could have. Great swaths of the book felt very much like reading those stretches of The Name of the Rose dealing with different sects of the Catholic church, and all the names start to blur together and I'm straining to get anything meaningful out of it at all.

Which is not to say I didn't get anything out of it. It's easy to get mired in the mythos and worldview of your own time. Seeing how the ever-evolving understanding of evil, Antichrist, and end times both shaped and was shaped by the events and forces of history was good perspective on how we got to now.

A good reminder on why I set the goal of reading more books from my religion shelf in the first place. ( )
  greeniezona | Dec 6, 2017 |
Bernard McGinn is one of my favorite writers on historical theology. This is a detailed and interesting history of the various conceptions of the Antichrist and its application in theology, spirituality, and apocalypse. ( )
  proflinton | Dec 22, 2015 |
This accessible, well-documented history of the development of the story of Antichrist was surprisingly unexciting. Although a work would have to be much larger to treat exhaustively of the topic, McGinn's is nearly as comprehensive as its scale permits. He proceeds at a steady pace from pre-Christian antiquity through the late twentieth century, and by the end, he proposes that he and the reader should be tired of the topic. (280)

Theologian McGinn dismisses mythicists like me as a "lunatic fringe" for being skeptical of the evidence for a "historical Jesus." (34) But his fractious consensus of "New Testament scholars" is even less persuasive than the because-we-say-so of traditional clergy. And, although he is himself evidently a Christian (of the non-Fundamentalist sort, he is quite clear), he seems not to have faith in any sort of antichrist himself, nor to think that an incarnation of the Lie could be a constructive idea for modern believers.

Writing in the early 1990s, the author may have anticipated a market for Antichrist related to the approach of the year 2000, but he certainly couldn't have foreseen the Obama Antichrist rumor and 'net meme that would arise later. Reading his account of the traditional ingredients of Antichrist legend, it is possible to see, for example, deep synergy between the Antichrist allegations and the charge of crypto-Islam aimed at the 44th US President. Another bizarre potential correlation is for born-again Christian George W. Bush to be the "Last Emperor" who is supposed to precede the reign of Antichrist. (The early medieval trope of the Last Emperor is typically absent from the Dispensationalist neo-Millenialism common to today's Christianist chiliasts, though.)

One signficant element missing from McGinn's treatment--in its modern phase at least--is the appearance of professed antichrists, such as Friedrich Nietzsche and Jack Parsons. While it could be tempting to excuse such an oversight by disqualifying such figures as lying outside of the spectrum of Christian belief, the book does actually include treatments of Jewish and Muslim Antichrist parallels, as well as a discussion of Jung's secular psychological theory of Antichrist.

Overall, the book is useful for readers wanting to get a historical handle on the Antichrist concept and its evolution. McGinn claims that Antichrist belief has become marginal and unoriginal in modern times, but he admits that there's no way to be sure of the extent to which it formerly penetrated popular consciousness. And I would add that not all our current elites are as erudite as Professor McGinn, so his admission that Fundamentalist Evangelicals are "a limited, if powerful, segment" of Christianity should give the socially-reflective reader pause regarding just how irrelevant the anticipation of Antichrist may be.
3 vote paradoxosalpha | May 25, 2011 |
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Epigraph
It is therefore necessary for us to marke diligently, and to espie out the felowe: and it is convenient for us also, to geve the eyes of our heartes attentively unto this purpose (especially the worlde that is now) to th'intent we maye be hable to knowe (out of the scriptures) both him and all his wyles, and to beware of him, that he begyle us not.

[Rudolph Walther]
Antichrist, that is to saye: A true report, that
Antichrist is come . . . : translated out of
Latine into Englishe. By J. D.
(Southwarke:
Christopher Trutheall, 1556), fol. 701.
Die zyt die kumt, es kumt die zyt:
Ich worcht der endkrist sy nit wyt.

[The time comes, it is quite clear,
The Antichrist is very near.]

Sebastian Brant
The Ship of Fools, CIII.92-93.
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The origins of the Antichrist legend are inseparable from the history of Jewish speculations about the endtime and it proximity.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0060655437, Hardcover)

Tracing the concept of the Antichrist from its Judeo-Christian origins to the present day, a historical analysis examines the social and religious groups, as well as the individuals, accredited with its behavior.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:44 -0400)

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