Friday, August 21, 2009

On the Antichrist

Antichrist directed by Satan
Luca Signorelli
Orvieto, Italy, ca. 1505

Joel Richardson is this year's Petrus Alfonsus.

I was alerted to Richardson's (a pseudonym, by the way) new book via twitter and did a bit of digging, including reading a couple of his "commentaries." I'm not going to link to any of his stuff -- you can google (or bing!) it yourself and find out more without too much trouble. Too vile; a strain of pentecostal Christian hatred anti-Muslim that I've encountered before. Indeed, there seems to be no end to it. Witness eminent scholar Rodney Stark's ridiculous new book (publisher here).

Richardson argues in his recent book that the coming antichrist will not be descended from Europeans and Roman Catholicism, contrary to "popular" belief (this ridiculous thinking could be the subject of another lengthy post but allow me to leave that for now). Instead, using "historical research" -- and I use that phrase loosely -- Richardson attempts to show that the Jewish Temple, destroyed in 70 CE, was actually destroyed by pre-Muslims (not Romans) and hence that event foreshadowed the central role Islam will play in spawning antichrist. There's so much wrong here.

First of all, his translation of Daniel 9:26 is crap: "The people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary." I'm sure this is one English rendering of the text but the Vulgate (which is, of course, itself a translation from the original) more literally says that "The people and their leader will come to destroy the city and the sanctuary." Changes things, doesn't it? Read this latter way, it says that a people will come to destroy the city. Read prophetically, this is a standard trope for Gog & Magog and, actually, has nothing at all to do with the supposed leader. He's incidental to the drama unfolding here.

Second, what the heck is a pre-Muslim? Are people confined to a certain religious tradition because of where they're born? Were the Native Americans of Utah pre-Mormon?

The most interesting thing here though, and what makes this kind-of a "teachable moment," is how Richardson does some secondary reading in order to make his original (false/ mistaken) premise fit into some quite solid scholarship on the composition of 1st-century CE Roman armies. It kind of reminds me of the time when I saw a student paper (not one of my students) that argued the development of the feudal system based on that word's derivation from "futile." It was well-argued from there but, ultimately, a bunch of crap because of its ridiculous premise. This is the danger of tautology. The premise proves itself. Richardson and Stark: Islam is evil, thus it must be responsible for all evil. Muslims are terrorists, hence they have always been terrorists. Alas, uncritical, overly simplistic, and ultimately untrue. F.


Liam said...

Yeah. It's anti-Islamic racism in the most literal of ways -- for these hatemongers, now Islam is not the root of evil, it's a manifestation of the evilness of a particular people.

"Were the Native Americans of Utah pre-Mormon?"

Well, according to Mormon belief, sort of yes (along with the rest of the Native Americans). But that's a whole different can of worms.

Vellum said...

Not to be confused with a whole different diet of worms. :)

Anonymous said...

Nasty; I thought the Stark stuff looked bad enough. The `futile system' error however has an honourable pedigree in Calvin & Hobbes. Is it possible the student had been set a dare?

medievalkarl said...

Funny you should post this. Last night, I was just reading chunks of the Oxford Handbook of Eschatology (disappointed to learn it wasn't a how-to manual). The 'Fundamentalist Eschatology' chapter observed that various Fundy eschatologists, Hal Lindsey chiefly, were embarrassed by the fall of the USSR. Where was their Gog now? Thus the turn to Muslims, which, as you point out, brings us back to the 12th c. (or indeed the 11th c., with Ademar of Chabannes).

Matthew Gabriele said...


Interesting. That's the same turn made by the neocons, wasn't it? Communists as great evil --> Muslims. I wonder if the 2 things are related...

medievalkarl said...

Wouldn't be surprised. The Venn diagram of Neocons and Fundamentalists, at least since Falwell, overlaps quite a bit.