Enraptured?

The Rapture is ImminentMost people will now be aware that the Christian Rapture is predicted to take place today, May 21, 2011.

In fact, according to Harold Camping of Family Radio, this world-shaking event is due in just a few hours.

In the Skeptics we usually steer clear of religious topics. This is not because of any political correctness or an unwillingness to offend. It’s simply because we prefer to examine issues based on the evidence.

And if a religion makes no testable claims (which they usually don’t) then it’s not a question of evidence, but a question of faith.

The interesting thing about this particular religious prophecy, is that Harold Camping has made a testable claim.

Mr. Camping has claimed, quite firmly, that the Rapture will take place today, and that it will take place in the manner described in the book of I Thessalonians, Chapter 4:

For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first.

Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

The RaptureSo there you are.

If we haven’t seen at least one person floating into the sky by the end of today (and we’ll even give it until the end of the day, US West Coast time), then we can safely conclude that this particular religious belief is wrong.

Of course, Camping is not the first to try to put a specific date on the Rapture. Christians have been doing this since the modern idea of the Rapture was first floated (pun intended) back in the 18th century.

Even Camping himself has predicted the Rapture before, back in 1994. It’s failure to eventuate then was apparently down to some botched arithmetic. Presumably Camping has got someone to double-check his numbers this time around.

If you’re keen, there’s an exhaustive list of previously-failed Rapture predictions (and other miscellaneous Apocalyptica) here.

What has been really interesting this time around is the mainstream media coverage, and the backlash from other Christians.

Those in the Christian anti-Camping camp have been quick to point out this particular quote from Jesus, in the Gospel of Matthew 24:36:

“But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.”

It’s a valid point, but Camping takes the time to address it at some length here. (Although I’ve got to say, Camping’s argument is a little laboured, even for him).

But I think a much better argument could be made against Camping’s idea. And in fact, against the idea that the Rapture will occur at all.

The same Christians who rush to point out Matthew 24:36 tend to gloss over this little gem from just two verses earlier:

“Verily I say unto you, this generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.”

Jesus supposedly spoke these words almost 2,000 years ago. The generation he was speaking to has well and truly passed.

So was Jesus himself the first to falsely predict the Rapture?

Matt

3 Responses to Enraptured?

  1. Vadim says:

    Nice one.

  2. Ross says:

    I steer well clear of people like Harold Camping, and while I respect the King James Bible, don’t read it very often because I find the Shakespearean English hard to understand.

    As for Matthew 24:34, I’m not across all the scholarship on this issue, but it depends whether you think Jesus was talking about a literal generation, or if he was using a figure of speech. Few scholars argue that Jesus was talking about a literal generation, but what he did mean is still being debated.

    • keng2 says:

      It’s unlikely that the early Christians thought it meant a literal generation. The Gospel of Matthew was believed to have been written towards the end of the 1st Century AD, i.e. a generation or two after the death of Christ. Its author(s) would hardly be claiming “Jesus said it would happen within the lifetime of his audience – but we now know he was wrong”.

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