ANTICHRIST by Bernard McGinn


Two Thousand Years of the Human Fascination with Evil
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 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. (30 b&w photos, not seen).

Pub Date: Dec. 9th, 1994
ISBN: 0-06-065543-7
Page count: 416pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1994