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In this timely and sweeping exploration, one of the greatest living historians of Christian thought traces the concept of Antichrist from its Judeo-Christian origins to the present day. Rooted in Second Temple Judaism--a period of intense religious and political disruption--Antichrist developed out of belief in malevolent angelic and human forces. McGinn demonstrates how Antichrist has often reflected the human need to comprehend the persistence of evil in the world, and examines how it has haunted popular imagination in both the form of indivuduals--such as Nero, Napoleon, and Saddam Hussein--and groups--Jews, heretics, Muslims.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780231119771
ISBN-10: 0231119771
Format: Paperback
(204mm x 132mm x 22mm)
Pages: 369
Imprint: Columbia University Press
Publisher: Columbia University Press
Publish Date: 16-Nov-1999
Country of Publication: United States

Reviews

UK Kirkus Review » The notion of the antichrist has been with us since Second Temple Judaism, and developed out of a belief in malevolent angelic and human forces. This scholarly overview of humankind's fascination with this self-created embodiment of evil shows how the antichrist fulfills a very real need to personify that evil in order to form some kind of understanding of it. The antichrist has, therefore, taken many forms in the Christian popular imagination. Often it is individuals such as Nero or Saddam Hussein, or even groups, Jews, heretics or Muslims. This is a satisfingly broad dissection of the many and varied forms given to the concept by one of the most thorough of theological historians. (Kirkus UK)

US Kirkus Review » A scholarly survey of how the figure of the Antichrist has been understood through the centuries, from Second Temple Judaism to present-day America. McGinn (Historical Theology/Univ. of Chicago Divinity School), editor of the acclaimed 80-volume Classics of Western Spirituality series, argues that the theme of the Antichrist (in its original form, a literal belief in a being of ultimate evil) illuminates much about how people view themselves and evil in society. Beginning with the apocalyptic traditions of Judaism, McGinn moves through early Christianity, Gnosticism, Byzantine apocalypticism, the Western medieval world, the Reformation, and the more subdued references since the Enlightenment. The Antichrist figure can be understood as an external enemy, such as Nero, or, following the thought of Augustine and some modern novelists, as a reality lurking within believers themselves. Another polarity in the theme is that the Antichrist is sometimes seen as inspiring universal dread or, alternatively, as coming under the appearance of good - hence John Wycliffe's identification of the pope as the Antichrist and the separatist Roger Williams's view that any established Christian society was a form of Antichrist. In modern times, due to the polarities of the Cold War and the specter of nuclear apocalypse, the theme has had a vigorous existence in Russia and the United States; and recent claims, locating evil in apparent sources of power, hold that the Antichrist can be seen at work in the United Nations and in the credit-card system. McGinn notes that, since apocalyptic thought harbors no shades of gray between good and evil, anyone not fully in accord with a given belief may be seen by those who hold that belief as an adherent of absolute evil. An excellent sourcebook for anyone wishing to understand the kind of anxieties that are likely to multiply as we approach the year 2000. (Kirkus Reviews)


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Author Biography - Bernard McGinn

Bernard McGinn, Naomi Shenstone Donnelly Professor of Historical Theology and History of Christianity at the University of Chicago, is the author of many books, including Visions of the End: Apocalyptic Traditions in the Middle Ages (Columbia).

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