As the third millennium approaches, what are your thoughts about this FRONTLINE report on the enduring power of apocalyptic belief?

apocalypticism explained
the book of revelation
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I caught only a small part of the program about the apocalypse. I read many of the messages on the web-site, however, and would like to respond to what seems to be a general level of disillusionment among practicing Christians about the program. I long ago gave up on PBS and NPR, not to mention the commercial networks, with regard to a sympathetic portrayal of anything relating to the Christian faith. The mainstream media are, and have been for a long time, hostile toward true religion and its adherents. There is nothing surprising, nor new, in this. 2,000 years ago a man warned those with ears to hear that it would be so. Why the hostility? Ahh, now that would be an interesting subject for Frontline. On second thought ...

Joe Ebertz Ebertz
Hudson, WI


I greatly appreciated your presentation and amount of research that went into it. Though I may not agree with some of the liberal interpetation I do think the program took seriously how "End Time" ideas and movements have deeply impacted society and culture. As a pastor I found some useful infomation on the program that I can use in Bible Studies. However, I think there should have been some evangelical scholars consulted on the subject. But besides that weakness I though the presentation was excellent.

Arthur Savage
Bethlehem, NH


Oh, but the Millerites and the Seventh Day Adventists were RIGHT ! Christ DID return in 1844 just as William Miller predicted after the correction for no year zero. Only problem was: they had the wrong location for His Return - it was in Shiraz, Iran and the specific day was May 23, 1844 - they expected Him to return on their doorstep. The Bible predicted that the Messiah would come from the east of the Holy Land.

The followers of His Return are called Baha'is and our religion is called the Baha'i Faith. If you want to know what the real interpretation of the Book of Revelations, see a book named "Some Answered Questions" by 'Abdu'l-Baha. There are now 6.4 million Baha'is throughout the world. Our world center is on Mt. Carmel in Haifa, Israel.
He returned; He left again in 1892, but He left us a Message: the Baha'i Faith.

Check out: www.us.bahai.org

Christy Besozzi
Perrysburg, OH


i was intrigued by the apocalypse program, though i only saw the last part of it. i took the program as trying neither to prove nor to disprove the Bible's authenticity i generally assume that the unreliability of scripture is a premise rather than a conclusion of such shows, but rather just to show the effects of apocalyptic thinking within different historical periods. so seen, i found it fascinating. the main reason for my writing this, however, has more to do with the letters i have read here.
i understand the perception of the modern mind that Christianity is simply a collection of superstitions and meaningless rhetoric for those of very little brain. looking at the state of the modern Church it is an easy argument to make. and i also understand the deep compulsion of Christians to defend the faith. indeed, i am very strongly compelled to do so myself. but it seems to me that Revelation--and the apocalypse generally--is not a very solid ground from which to do so. it is interesting academically, but is hardly a cornerstone of the faith.
the most brilliant of Biblical scholars, regardless of the degree of inerrancy they ascribe to the Bible, are in the end only guessing at this stuff. just look at how many different events or people have been assigned to each of the symbols in Revelation and Daniel over the years. we simply don't know.
the bottom line is that Christianity does not stand or fall based on apocalyptic prophecy. it is easy to latch onto some view or other and in so doing allow the trees to obscure the forest. Christianity is not about the millennial reign of Christ or the rapture or the antichrist or whether this beast is rome or that beast is america. it is always about today. it is largely because we have kept our faith locked inside our church walls or in the distant hereafter that our culture has come to view that faith as irrelevant. while it is important to defend our faith with reasoned arguments and ardent conviction, we will only ever win back the right to be heard by living our lives based on the entirety of scripture, not just our pet passages. we have lost our culture not because what we believe is untrue, but because we live as if it were untrue.

vince hufford
euless, tx


After reading the above responses to your program on apocalypse, I can't help but wonder how people who profess such strong faith are so threatened when religion and its artifacts are examined from a purely historical perspective. From what I could tell, the scholars commenting in the Frontline program were discussing the Book of Revelation from an objective, unbiased, and purely factual point of view. I came away with no impressions that any of these historians and theologians were anti-Christian, anti-religious, or anti-anything. Accepting historical fact, questioning contradictions in the Bible, and considering all the meanings to scripture that has as many interpretations as it has readers, is not a blasphemous or atheistic gesture, and is certainly no threat to God. How strong is a person's faith if s/he takes offence when academic rigour is applied to a text that has had more influence on Western culture than any other document ever written? Faith, like so many other aspects of our humanity, can only become stronger when challenged and tested. I highly doubt that God takes any personal offense to those who attempt to extract all possible meanings from the Bible, so I fail to see how any individual should be offended because one person's interpretation does not ideally coincide with their own. True faith is stronger than that.

sam miller
des moines, iowa


Frontline's presentation of apocalypticism was both informative and revealing in the sense that Christians too often aim to fulfill their own versions of prophesy. As a Christian and a graduate student who has been studying the book of Revelation, I find it troubling that so many people in our modern society are willing to distort the vision accounts in Revelation into a timetable for the end of the world. As the Frontline documentary revealed, people have been doing just that throughout history, and their failed predictions have merely upheld Revelation's most solid prediction: you will know neither the time nor the place.

Matt Russ
Cleveland, Ohio


I spent much of my childhood in a Fundamentalist, independent Bible-believing Baptist Church whose way of approaching Scripture would make Jerry Falwell's look rather enlightened at times. I remember as an eight year old sitting through a whole series of Sunday School "lessons" and sermons dedicated to the Fundamentalist/Dispensationalist interpretation of the Book of Revelation. The whole church was involved--from the youngest kindergarten erto the eldest senior citizen. I was pretty horrified of the future awaiting all of my "lost", "unsaved" classmates and teachers at school. I felt pretty guilty about the fact that I was not doing my best to introduce them to Jesus so that their souls might be saved before it was too late--so that at the Day of Judgment Christ would not require their blood on my hands.

It has taken me decades to recover from the damage the appropriation of such horrendous imagery caused me. Programs such as yours help me to understand where such a book might have come from. How other forms of Christianity have dealt with it--how the socially conscious think of it as inspiring liberation or how others might view it as having a spritual, symbolic meaning not to be understood literally. I especially appreciated Frontline pointing out the skepticism with which the Greek Orthodox view that book.

I suppose with some Americans, cut off as they are from classical European Christianity, all they have to represent Christianity is the Bible itself. It becomes not a book generated by men contemplating the divine, but becomes God's Truth to man. They do not care to understand the origins of the books; they do not care to understand the relationship between the Book and the Church. They do not care for history lessons.

What happens is that the Bible becomes something to be idolized as God's presence here on earth. A man, with faith in a supernatural, living God, can read the Bible to figure out how this God thinks and works. God, in fact, becomes trapped by his own book. Fundamentalism/Dispensationalism becomes a Christianity which studies God's agenda to know it, and not a religion of mystery and paradox, in which God is free to be God.

Fundamentalis/Dispensationalism is a heresy, I should think.

Dan Luehrs
Columbus, Ohio


The Greek Orthodox Church has the book of Revelation in their "bible." Your report was wrong. If you thought it was correct, you should have questioned a Greek Orthodox theologian about it and ask him/her. It seems like an obvious question to pose, since the Greek Orthodox Church runs the Monastery of St. John on the island of Patmos. Your error could have been easily corrected with a bit of effort, that you seem uninterested in exerting. That's curious to me.

Gary Sarkessian
Phila., PA

FRONTLINE's editors respond:

We received a number of emails from viewers pointing out this error. They are correct; the line in the original script was misleading. The Book of Revelation is included in the Greek Orthodox Bible. However, in many traditions, it is not read as Scripture during church services. For future broadcasts of "Apocalypse!" the narration has been changed, omitting the reference to the Greek Orthodox Church.


The Frontline Producers are doing wonderful work as they struggle to explain the roots of Christianity. Both "Jesus to Christ" & now "Apocalypse." were beautifully rendered, most of the information delivered was very compelling. Though I would've rather learned more about Jesus the Man. But who Jesus was or wasn't doesn't seem to concern Frontline's producers anymore than it concerned Christianity's founders.

Nevertheless though I am quite secure in my atheism, and the more I learn about about the history of Christianity the more secure I become. I do hope Frontline produces more shows in this line. Perhaps a documentary dealing with just the facts of Jesus' life, and not with all that followed in his passing.
Good luck. regards,David Koepp, Chicago Illinois

David Koepp
chicago, illinois


I can't begin to explain how disappointed I was in your "Apocalypse" special. IT proved to be a poorly researched, one sided, opinionated, bordering on blasphemous load of nonsense. I could only stand about 30 minutes of it before I turned it off in disgust.

Your so-called scholars obviously approached the subject with a pre-conceived idea that the Bible is a lie, Jesus was a fraud, and nothing was going to convince them otherwise.

The idea that the Jewish people would rewrite 4000 years of history because they believed that God had deserted them is completely ludicrous! One of the thing that makes the Bible believable is that it doesn't try to make out God's chosen people as perfect. Throughout the Bible, the Israelites are shown in their imperfection, as we all are. The stories of the great flood, Sodom and Gomorah, the worship of idols while Moses was on Mount Sinai receiving the 10 commandments, and other displays of disobedience to God's law are plentious throughout the old and New Testaments. If the Israelites had rewritten their history, don't you think that they would have left these less than flattering accounts out? To refer to John and Jesus as "apocalyptic prophets" is bodering on blasphemous. Jesus was and still is the son of God, who was not only a prophet, but a teacher, healer, miracle worker and the Messiah to boot. Your portrayal of him as a second rate doom sayer was what finally compelled me to turn off your program.

If you intend to run any future specials on this subject, your would be well advised to confer with scholars who study the Bible seriously with an open mind, and not just those out to debunk it. You'll never get donations for programming by airing this garbage.

Gary Hollman
Belleville, Ontario, Canada


I am an elected circuit court judge. I spent approximately $20,000 in my campaign. The election rules in my state require that I do not ask for or note who or what contribution was made to my campaign. My state allows a judicial candidate to only campaign about a desire to uphold justice. My state does not require a judge, once elected, to "run" for reelection. Instead the judge stands for retention.

It appears to me that it is extremely naive to think that politics and money have no place in any appointive system. The big difference between an appointive system and an elective system is that you don't have any reporting of donations in the appointive system. Therefore, you don't know who is giving money nor how much, nor to whom.

An appointive system is as good as its appointers and the appointers of the appointers. By itself, an appointive system is no guarantee that judges will be independent, and unbiased.

I would expect that a real examination of the appointed judges would demonstrate the "good ole' boy system" in action. The people are not served, just the aims of the wealthy and powerful.

Jane Stuart
Chicago, Illinois


Dear Frontline:

I very much enjoyed your overview on the history of Apocalpytic thinking. Of course there is much more that can be said on all sides, but it helped give me a handle on what sort of perspective to place the Book of Revelations in. I was particularly struck by a comment near the end of the program about the "fanatic" splinter-groups being only the fringes/excesses of a widespread basis of belief I'm paraphrasing rather inaccurately. I hadn't thought of it in that way before. I wonder now whether a subconscious sense of doom and despair over the impending end of our millenium might not in some way have contributed, for instance, to the mass shootings in schools or out that have plagued our nation the last few years. In any event, as I think your program was suggesting, Apocalyptic thinking and beliefs are more deeply imbedded in our collective psyche than we realize & are not merely the province of "fanatics." Though I don't believe any Biblical end of days is upon us, now or ever, I confess to being somewhat emotionally affected by the thought of a coming Judgment Day or other Apocalyptic disasters. I am not now a Christian though I definitely believe there's a God but was raised, like most Americans, in a culture that's very much influenced by the Christian church. Whether we embrace Christianity or not, it's in us to one degree or another.

Thank you again for an interesting, thought-provoking program.

M. K. Palmer
Hendersonville, NC


I found that the program and the information posted on this site was interesting. It was disturbing that, as a Biblicist who does believe in a literal interpretation of the prophetic writings, I felt that I was being equated with the likes of David Koresh and the Heaven's Gate Cultists. I read through the comments on apocalypticism and the book of Revelation, and again found the comments interesting. The comments did seem markedly secularist in perspective. One who is to be fair to his or herself should definitely ask the question, "What if it's true?" Jesus Himself said that only God the Father knows the time for the fulfillment of all things, so it is impossible for anyone to know when all of these things shall be. However, it would seem that no other time in history has fulfilled all of the prophecies as our present time. I may die a natural death at an old age, as my great-great grandchildren and their's may also do, but I would not be in the least bit surprised if the 'Rapture' occured at any time.

Steve H


Dear Frontline:

I was interested in watching your show about the Apocolypse. You have shown the Jewish and Christian opinions of it, but you didn't show the Islamic opinion about it. I would like to have seen something about that.

Emad Nackasha
Southfield, MI


I found your Apocalypse program interesting, and am all the more confirmed in my agnosticism. The author of the Book of Revelations was insane, period. This whole fuss demonstrates the great wisdom of Franklin Roosevelt who said: "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." Any sensible person who has been on a kayak trip to Admiralty Island could not possibly believe in this apocalyptic jibberish. Whoever created this beautiful planet and the universe beyond is above this nonsense. Lets hope that during the next millennium we can learn to live in peace instead of finding the first excuse to dominate and murder each other.

Merrill Lowden
Juneau, Alaska


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