Book Review of The Scarlet Woman and the Red Hand: Evangelical Apocalyptic Belief in the Northern Ireland Troubles by Joshua Searle

SearleCoverPastor James McConnell’s provocative comments about Islam last month sparked outrage and indignation throughout Northern Ireland – as well as sympathy and defence from some quarters, it must be admitted. But I couldn’t help thinking that what McConnell said about Islam wasn’t all that different from what Rev Ian Paisley had been saying for years about Catholicism.

Joshua Searle, Tutor in Theology and Public Thought at Spurgeon’s College, London, sheds light on those segments of Northern Irish evangelicalism which continue to see the Catholic Church as a Satanic force, and the Pope as the Anti-Christ, in his new book: The Scarlet Woman and the Red Hand: Evangelical Apocalyptic Belief in the Northern Ireland Troubles (Pickwick Publications 2014).

Indeed, the ‘scarlet woman’ of Searle’s title is drawn from the book of Revelation, chapter 17:

“And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones, and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication:


Evangelicals like Paisley have long interpreted the Scarlet Woman as a symbol of the Catholic Church.

Despite his kinder, cuddlier image since entering the Executive with Sinn Fein in 2007, Paisley’s website (the European Institute of Protestant Studies) still contains sermons and essays that condemn the Catholic Church in strong language. That includes a sermon directly addressing the passage about the scarlet woman, preached by I.M. Haldeman in 1910, who is described as ‘one of the great fundamental prophets of the early 20th century.’

But Searle goes beyond describing how evangelicals like Paisley interpret select biblical texts. He offers compelling and fresh perspectives on a broad range of evangelical ideas about ‘apocalyptic eschatology.’* He introduces us to a range of ‘evangelical cultures’ and helps us understand how ideas about the end of the world matter in the world in which we live today.

*(The apocalyptic has to do with the destruction of the world, usually at the end of time, and eschatology has to do with theological interpretations of the end times. Searle is careful to distinguish between these terms but sees both as important for understanding evangelical beliefs, p. 15-24).

Searle acknowledges that some scholars and commentators have interpreted the apocalyptic rhetoric of Northern Irish evangelicals as a response to the violence of the Troubles. But rather than accepting conventional wisdom that he Troubles drove evangelicals to an unusual obsession with the end of the world, Searle emphasises the longevity and durability of their ideas, arguing that pre-existing biblical interpretations informed evangelicals’ responses to violence. As he writes (p. 85):

“Historians of Ireland have uncovered pervasive strands of millennial discourse which were deeply woven into the fabric of Irish history. These studies imply that apocalyptic language was not a product of specific instances of political crises but functioned as a set framework through which to interpret the apparent prophetic significance of prevailing social events and trends.”

Indeed, Searle finds no evidence of an increase in the use of apocalyptic language during periods of more intense violence during the Troubles, in evangelical publications or sermons. What’s remarkable is the consistent use of apocalyptic language over time.

Searle usefully analyses evangelicals’ apocalyptic ideas under three broad themes, each of which is taken up by a chapter in the book:

  • Apocalyptic Fear: “In the last days perilous times shall come”
  • Apocalyptic Hope: “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth”
  • Apocalyptic Dualism: “Because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth”

The chapters on fear and dualism contain the expected examples of Paisley and other evangelical/fundamentalist preachers, using colourful language to convey the urgency of the end times, including terms like “synagogue of Satan” to describe “apostate” churches such as the Catholic church or Protestant churches with ecumenical sympathies.

Beyond those preachers, though, Searle provides examples of how such fearful and dualistic discourses crept into the language of mainstream unionist political parties, encouraging an attitude of no compromise (or “no surrender”). He quotes a 1977 Ulster Unionist Party election pamphlet (p. 199):

“The Ulster Unionist party will continue to press for total victory over the terrorist forces. There can be no compromise.”

More surprising is the chapter on Hope, which contains analysis of what Searle calls ‘Transformative Apocalyptic Eschatological Hope’ (p. 152ff). Here, Searle engages in particular with the work of Evangelical Contribution on Northern Ireland (ECONI) through its magazine Lion and Lamb, and other publications.

Searle traces the influence of theologians such as Jurgen Moltmann, Stanley Hauerwas and John Howard Yoder on this ‘culture’ of evangelicalism, arguing that it developed ‘apocalyptic eschatology as a social critique,’ and used traditional apocalyptic biblical texts ‘to overcome conventional sectarian distinctions, particularly between “Protestant” and “Catholic”, and thereby to support peace-building and reconciliation initiatives’ (p. 154).

But while the evangelicals of ECONI read these texts as a call to peace activism, traditional evangelicals ‘tended to read the same texts more as exhortations to remain faithful in the midst of apostasy than to work for social justice’ (p. 159-160).

Searle’s careful analysis of the variety of cultures within Northern Irish evangelicalism, and the diverse ways in which they have interpreted apocalyptic texts, will be of interest to a general audience concerned with the role of religion in Northern Ireland.

His book will also appeal to those interested in the roots of some of the fearful and dualistic discourses that continue to be used in Northern Ireland. Searle’s precise attention to language clearly show the links between evangelicals’ apocalyptic language and interpretations of scripture, and wider unionist approaches to politics and political compromise.

Priced at under £15 on amazon, it is more affordable than many academic tomes.

Academic readers will find plenty to chew on in his engagement with critical theory, hermeneutics, biblical studies and millennial studies. This analysis may be heavy going for a general reader, but it establishes Searle’s work in a wider body of international work.



  • cynic2

    “what McConnell said about Islam wasn’t all that different from what Rev Ian Paisley had been saying for years about Catholicism.”

    ….or what many in mainstream “Christian” churches said about witches, other religions, blackamoors, people who didn’t believe Earth was the centre of the Universe, homosexual men (but strangely not women), atheists, monobrows, people who part their hair on the wrong side etc , etc until the late 18th Century.

    Islam just started 600 years after Christianity and perhaps its extremists are still catching up on who to hate and what to do with them. Christians tended to use burning and stoning

  • aquifer

    Very useful to explore these ideas, their origins and their influence. The sheer otherworldliness of it might prompt ‘what planet are they on’, but these elaborate constructs are about reconciling ever-ambitious human egos with what exists on this world and in their particular social and economic confines. A mental trick to confirm that it is not only OK to be approaching the bottom of the heap in terms of wealth and status, but that it was probably predestined and the money never really mattered. Or for fewer individuals, a means to get status over others. The problem about these ideas is their relationship to potential self annihilation (or martyrdom) and disregard for others who may take their current social and economic relations more seriously. It is too short a step from devaluing your existence in this world to deciding that others should join you in the next. Pie in the sky in the sweet by and by. You are special, you deserve it.

  • Turgon

    This is an interesting article and no doubt an interesting book. However, it reports a number of different views held by certain evangelical Christians. It is important in the understanding of these positions not to conflate different religious positions with one another and definitely not to conflate them with political views. By no means all evangelicals / fundamentalists will adhere to all these views and their adherence or not to one set of views does not predict their adherence to other views.

    Firstly it is indeed entirely accurate that the view have no political basis. Amongst the most enthusiastically interested in the apocalypse tended at least in the past to be Brethren who often do not vote and many of whom regard involvement in politics as wrong even potentially sinful.

    Firstly not all evangelicals regard the Whore of Babylon depicted in the Revelation as meaning the Roman Catholic Church and the papacy. The more traditional view as set out in the Westminster Confession of faith is that the Pope is the antichrist (otters regard him as an antichrist or even ante-christ).

    Identifying the pope with the whore of Babylon is a more recent phenomenon which seems largely to have come from the USA and it is not agreed to by some fundamentalist evangelicals. Some feel the Pope is the antichrist, some that the whore of Babylon refers to the Roman Catholic Church; some that both concepts relate to the RC church, some that neither do.

    On the apocalypse itself the interest has waxed and waned with very little to do with the Troubles. Much more relevant was in the 1980s the nearing approach of the millennium which many identified as being the time of Christians being taken to heaven (The Rapture) before or after a time of trial and suffering (The Tribulation). Adding to this interest in the millennium and probably the most important issue in promoting apocalyptic views was the intensification of the Cold War at that time. Added to that was the widespread showing of the “Thief in the Night” films on video to church mainly youth groups and books such as “When Your Money Fails.”

    All these factors played into an interest in apocalyptic stuff which peaked in the mid 1980s (I remember Gorbachev’s port wine stain being proclaimed as the mark of the beast). The interest died away and many of the silliest were silenced by the conspicuous failure of the world to end in 2000. More recently there has been a bit of a revival of interest p
    in these subjects along with a modification of some of the views: such as the rapture not occurring until at least part way through the tribulation.

    However, again many of these ideas come form the US. As a generalisation more traditional fundamentalist Calvinist Presbyterian views have been a little less interested in these concepts than the more charismatic (often more Arminian) churches. A generalisation but probably not an unfair one.

    In contrast the ECONI position is much less mainstream than any other view. Its popularity tends to be greater amongst non evangelicals and especially ecumenists hoping to find political views they approve of in evangelical circles.

  • Turgon

    Forgot to mention that Chernobyl was also relevant. Chernobyl was claimed to be Russian (or Ukrainian) for Wormwood. In is not actually but this mis-identification was also important in such views in the 1980s.

    As I have mentioned above and indeed as the book appears to make clear there is no correlation between Northern Ireland political events and interest in the apocalypse. Nor is there even really a common political viewpoint held by those interested in issues around the apocalypse. It is true that some evangelical fundamentalist Christians (but by no means all) are interested in the apocalypse and that many (though by no means all) are also on the harder line end of unionism. However, trying to find any greater link is adding 2 and 2 and getting 22.

    The only story I can tell about these views is that once when I was about 16 my parents and sister were away for a day or two. I was by myself (I think it was the Easter holidays) and saw a light in the sky (probably the moon through clouds). I was convinced it was the Rapture and was most distressed to be left behind. The next day I was pleased to hear nothing about anything odd on the TV or radio. I was only finally happy when I rang a friend of mine and got (as I had hoped I would) his mother. Knowing she was still there proved the Rapture could not have happened. It was only years later that I told her.

  • Regarding Chernobyl and Wormwood, the significance of this is Revelation 8:

    10. And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters; 11. And the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter.

  • caterpillar

    “otters regard him as an antichrist or even ante-christ. ”

    I’m sure Tarka and his dwindling friends have no such view on these evangelical matters. Or even whether 2 ‘”firstly”‘s constitute a grammatical bollocks compared to ‘ante’ (after the event) or ‘anti’ (opposed to). Obviously these are matters for mammals outside the marine environment.

  • David Crookes

    That was jolly interesting, Turgon.

    Fifty years ago there was a great concern with prophecy in certain evangelical circles. I recall ‘prophetic meetings’ from my childhood. The speaker would often have behind him a colourful and frightening 6′ x 4′ chart, on which the events of the last days were mapped out. The basis for many of these meetings (and their charts) was a book called DISPENSATIONAL TRUTH by Clarence Larkin, almost a coffee-table-sized volume as it seemed to me then, although today you can get it as a normal-size paperback, with everything inside absurdly reduced, almost to the point of illegibility.

    My parents and their contemporaries had come through a world war. Some of them, like my father, had fought in it. Between 1948 and 1953 material prosperity was not widespread. The Cold War was serious business, so much so that the expectation of nuclear horror was widespread. A solo hymn of the time called ‘Tenderly he watches over you’ included the two lines

    These are days when the world is uncertain,
    And the power of the atom unknown.

    The newborn state of Israel was a great focus of interest in those days.

    In the 1950s and 1960s nearly every gospel sermon made explicit and sometimes protracted reference to the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. The thought of an imminent ‘rapture’, when Christians would be caught up and taken to heaven, was so much part of everyone’s intellectual landscape in parts of the evangelical world that it was common for children to get out of bed at 1 am or so, tiptoe along the landing to the bedroom of their parents, and check for the sound of breathing. (When they heard breathing and realized that all was still well, they would tiptoe back to bed.)

    Once material circumstances became more prosperous (my brother and I had ration books as babies in 1952-3!), the interest in heavenly things diminished. As far as I could see at the time, neither the Troubles nor the response of my fellow-evangelicals to the Troubles had any connection with our eschatology.

    That eschatology may be briefly summarized as follows. When the Lord Jesus Christ returns to take his church home to heaven, an unregenerate world government will come into being. It will be a dictatorship with two heads, one temporal and one spiritual, called respectively the Beast and the False Prophet. All trade will be controlled by the Beast, Even ordinary transactions in shops will be legal only if the shopkeepers and their customers have signed up to the Beastly empire by accepting his ‘mark’, (During my lifetime that mark has been construed firstly as a kind of crude tattoo, then as an invisible laser tattoo on the bone of the head or the hand, and most recently as a chip that will tell the government where you are and everything else about you.) The False Prophet will administer an obligatory one-world religion.

    For three and a half years the world government will be wonderfully successful. The Beast will inspire and direct the invention and application of wonderful new technologies. Then he will set up his own image in a newly-built temple in Jerusalem. The Israelites will realize that they have been fooled, and will fight back. Unimaginable massacres will follow, and the world government will run a murderous nightmare regime for the next three and a half years.

    The Lord Jesus Christ will return with his saints, get rid of the Beast and the False Prophet, and sit on the throne of David in Jerusalem for a thousand years. During this period Satan will be locked up, and unable to deceive humanity.

    At the end of the thousand years Satan will be released. He will try to lead humanity in a wipe-out war against Israel, but before he gets going he and his human minions will be defeated by the Lord Jesus.

    Final judgments will follow. Then the era of the new heaven and the new earth will begin.

    When I was a boy, having read some fairly lurid stuff about the Vatican and the Treaty of ROME, I asked a visiting preacher if the ‘man of sin’ was the pope. No, no, he replied, that man belongs to the future.

    Hey! I’ve gone on for far too long. Sorry.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    “Hey! I’ve gone on for far too long. Sorry.”

    Not at all David, some things cannot be said in one sentence, and the careful description of precise terminology helps everyone to escape the broad strokes of error.

    While growing up myself in a “High Church” environment, much of this landscape of belief was also familiar to me. I remember long conversations between my grandfather and his more evangelical friends where much of this would be discussed, and the manner in which his reasonable arguements could make no headway whatsoever against the edge of fear that motivated so many of the Apocalyptians.

    When I was thirteen I remember arguing against an adherent of these doctrines who was also attempting to persuade me that Plato and Scorates were pagans who had died long before Christ’s grace could “save” them, and must be suffering eternal torment. His final coup de grâce was “And you’ll be joining them in the flames too, if you continue to think like that……”

    But again, thank you for taking the time to explain so much.

  • sergiogiorgio


  • David Crookes

    Thanks, Seaan. I recall with horror a colleague trying to tell me that Cyrus was probably in hell. Cyrus!

    Maybe we’re all loopers. But the scariest thing about the state of the world is that to some extent it already exists.

  • MYtwocents

    But harmless?, although some ” Loopers ” are anything but harmless, and some Heathens/Nihiliests/Actulists, are also loopers and equally, anything but harmless.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Oh David, ” But the scariest thing about the state of the world is that to some extent it already exists.”

    I remember the real chill I felt the first time I heard Mephistophilis, on stage in the third scene of “Dr Faustus,” say:

    “Why this is hell, nor am I out of it.
    Think’st thou that I who saw the face of God,
    And tasted the eternal joys of Heaven,
    Am not tormented with ten thousand hells,
    In being depriv’d of everlasting bliss?”

    And having also met Cyrus through Xenophon’s eyes, my horror runs alsongside your own……..I think that the gleeful certainty these people affect is perhaps the most disheartening thing. They “know” they are utterly correct.

  • David Crookes

    Indeed, Seaan. This kind of theology is, as Marlowe makes the mephitic one say, “Unpleasant, harsh, contemptible, and vile.”

    Back to eschatology. How many Harold-Camping “this is it” moments have we all lived through? Yet the Harold Campings never seem to pack up and go away.

    Human folly is incorrigible. So is the desire to believe that the apocalypse is now. Sanity has a lot to do with being grateful to God, not taking yourself too seriously, and not wanting to believe that you and your own little lifetime constitute the final act of world history. The relative lack of interest in prophecy that I perceive in modern evangelical churches may have a lot to do with all the false alarms of the last fifty years.

    Any religious sect, or group, or denomination that encourages its votaries to take themselves with excessive seriousness is intrinsically pernicious.

    PS Meant to ask Turgon if he had ever come across the pocket-sized eschatological comics of Chick Publications.

  • David Crookes

    PPS In the Free P rather than in the Brethren corner of the vineyard, a book by Grattan Guinness entitled “Romanism and the Reformation” was widely read by evangelicals up until the 1960s. The author is still remembered today for his hymn “Crowned with thorns upon the tree”‘. Maybe Gladys will be kind enough to tell us if Dr Searle includes GG’s book in his bibliography.

  • Greenflag

    The world ends every day for millions of people around the earth . In the last week or two the world ended for a 1,000 people in Iraq and since 2003 the world ended for some 400,000 people in that benighted .Mission accomplished indeed .

    And it’s been equally horrific in other parts of the world South Sudan . Chad , Mexico , Libya , Ukraine ,Afghanistan .

    There have always been apocalypti .It’s just that in previous eras they were ‘local ‘ i.e the rest of the world never got to hear of them until long after they were over and sometimes never .

    We have to hope that eventually Reason will triumph over Unreason and that humanity will evolve beyond religion.

    As for the false alarms and the raptures ? It’s mostly financial scamming driven by religious zealotry betimes and at others by pure criminality . Californians are especially targeted as being easy prey for the end of the worlders and some have sold all their worldly possessions and gone to the high hill to be taken up by their Lord and Saviour . Some in expectation of the rapture have been persuaded to buy insurance policies for their loved ‘pets ‘ who will alas be left behind when the great vortex sucks up the chosen 🙁

    I’m surprised to read that Turgon was taken in by the Rapture at 16 . At 10 I had serious doubts about religion at 15 I could’nt believe any more . Interesting though that while evangelicals were questioning whether or not they would be part of the ‘raptured ‘ most teenage Catholics were self traumatising at the possibility of either eventual blindness or eons in hell for onanism .

    Eventually the world (Earth ) will end .Scientists have estimated about 5 billion years from now .Long before then life (All Life ) will have vanished from the Earth . Humanity along with the other 99.9 % of species that ever existed will have long become extinct or self destructed .

    It seems unlikely that humanity will ever escape this Solar system given the vast distances and the laws of physics .

    I can’t prove or disprove the existence of any God or universe creator but I have to admit that how it all began and how it will all end (eschatolgy writ large macro universal or writ small micro universal ) is fascinating . The historical religious pronouncements and revelations on the matter regardless of faith or denomination I find – less than convincing .

    And a word of advice -Never part with any money to anybody who tells you the end is nigh and he/she ‘ll make your donation qualify you for a seat at the top table for eternity .

    Con men

    It’s been interesting watching some of the World Cup soccer teams /fans making the sign of the cross or shouting for Allah as if they believed that the creator of the Universe is so concerned for the continued participation of Iran or Mexico in the tournament that he/she /it will intervene perhaps via an accurately placed thunderbolt from the heavens .?

    :We now know that Messi is faster than Allah don’t we ;)?

  • MYtwocents

    “We now know that Messi is faster than Allah don’t we ;)?”
    is there not a law against that.

  • David Crookes

    Meanwhile, back at the ranch, a few of the musical farmers were talking about the technicalities of music.

    Some of the tone-deaf cowboys kept shouting that of course there was no such thing as music.

    The farmers were getting really frustrated. The same thing happened every time they tried to have a serious discussion about the technicalities of music.

    “I’ll tell you what we should do,” said one old farmer at length. “Wait until the cowboys start having a highly technical conversation about football. Then we can all start yelling that of course football is a childish waste of time, and that the cowboys are fools to talk about it.”

  • carl marks

    With no intention to offend anyone, but all this rapture, beast, world government, wormwood thing is totally alien to me, seeming about as probable as the Norse legends or the Bamboo God of the Leo area of Flores.
    To say the least prophecy’s in Revelations or Nostradamus or any other source are by definition open to a variety of interpretations. I am under the impression that for example the “Rapture” is fleetingly referred to in the bible but people seem to be quite sure how it will happen.
    My question is , how did fundamentalist Christians build such detailed scenarios out of such vague hints.

  • Greenflag

    is there not a law against that.”

    If there is there should’nt be 😉

    I’ll take the comfy chair treatment

    There are of course those who wish a martyr’s faith for their children as per this anthem of my childhood . Great hymn but creepy lyrics . Sounds very Ayatollish in fact .

    Of course that was the RC church in it’s triumphalist better days in Ireland .If I was a believer I’d thank Christ those days are gone but as I’m not I can’t . Just time and reason and education and the bravery of a few to stand up and confront a hypocritical church /churches .

  • Reader

    carl marks: My question is , how did fundamentalist Christians build such detailed scenarios out of such vague hints.
    Humans build patterns out of almost anything, so we end up with science, and also with religion.
    There’s not a lot of point picking on one religion alone though; for every Wormwood, Rapture, Tribulation and Apocalypse – there’s also Ascension, Immaculate Conception, Intercession and Transubstantiation.

  • carl marks

    Believe me I don’t, the thread is about fundamentalist Christians, But my comments (with a change of wording) I would apply to any set of religious tenets.
    Also could I make it clear I am not having a go at those who believe these things but I am fascinated with the way a single line (I believe a single line) became such a focus of belief, what was the chain of events (books, sermons, dreams/visions!) that led to this very detailed and widespread belief among this section of Christianity.
    I suppose what I’m asking is can anybody tell me how the idea (the Rapture) evolved?

  • David Crookes

    It didn’t ‘evolve’, Carl: it was articulated in 1 Thessalonians 4:16.

  • TwilightoftheProds

    Jack Chick

    ‘PS Meant to ask Turgon if he had ever come across the pocket-sized eschatological comics of Chick Publications.’

    Fantastic. Loved those crazy things by Jack Chick. Bleak. He took no prisoners. Heavily satirised now in American indie pop culture:

    …on the eschatology and politics thing, someone told me that some United Irishmen were motivated by a kind of millenarianism (well it was near the end of that century and Catholic principalities were under threat). Never chased up that factoid tho. Would explain why Belfast Presbys liked Paine’s Rights of man but hated ‘the Age of Reason’.

    ‘The Late Great Planet Earth’

    I remember a 40 year old evangelical woman telling me that she believed that Jimmy Carter may be an agent of the anti Christ, as ‘Carter’ had six letters, as did ‘Jimmy’. I pointed out that Jimmy has only 5 letters and was told to shut up. I was 9. Don’t think I was ever over for tea again.

    ‘The Late Great Planet Earth’ was on her bookshelves. That fuelled a lot of this thinking rather than the local situation. Nuclear armageddon focused minds more than Woolworth’s blowing up.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Hiya TwilightoftheProds! Thomas Russell is one good example of the millenarian bug. He asked his tribunal for a stay of execution long enought to permit him to complete his commentary on the book of Revelations, “a most valuable guide to the end of days,” by which he meant the early nineteenth century.

    The Jacobin movement were expecting a total change in every aspect of society and with the intense radicalism with which Napoleon (despite being an “Emperor” ie: a sort of king, Greenflag) totally transformed much of Europe and its social relationships, they could imagine they were almost justified. For the Defenders, Catholicism had long been awaiting a total transformation of Ireand that would be effected by the return of the Stuarts (more kings) with their cult of enlightened tolerence (see “Aisling ghear: Na Stiobhartaigh agus an taos leinn, 1603-1788” by Breandan Ó Buachalla and for the origins of Stuart tolerence policy “Making Toleration” by Scott Sowerby). Ó Buachalla is particularly good on describing how the expectations of Jacobite delivery were reconfigured into Jacobin delivery. I’d also recommend “Ireland and the Jacobite Cause, 1685-1766” by Eamonn O Ciardha for his chapters on this kind of Catholic “millenarianism”.

  • Greenflag

    Relax all you who have faith .Allah/God/Jehovah is alive and well and has now apparently taken up residence in Kano State , Nigeria as per this BBC news report .

    Of course the former USSR used the same technique to silence any opposition to their ideology /religion . Kano State may yet attract admirers from islamabad to Oklahoma to deepest Ballymena as their state ”tolerance ‘ policy towards ‘atheists ‘ finds favour among those with closed minds.

    I suppose one ought to thank Christ that it’ll be another 980 years or so before the next outbreak of ‘millenarianism ‘

    As the man said a ‘load of ould cobblers ‘-is all it is .

    Whatever happened to the Thessalonians anyway ? Were they ever raptured or are they still waiting for the great vortex . Nobody ever wrote to the Oklahomans by the way .Seems the unfortunate Oklahomans get more than their fair share of ‘rapturous events ‘ although in their parlance they are known as tornados .

  • TwilightoftheProds

    Hello SeaanUiNeill

    That’s great -Russell -I wouldn’t have pegged.

    I hadn’t actually considered Catholic Millenarianism and prophecy either – and yet there is its folk history right in front of us (if inverted as a taunt) – Lillibulero.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Hi TwilightOTP, there’s a well researched article by Breandan Ó Buachalla on “Lillibulero” I have somewhere. If I find it in my files I’ll give you a citation to look it up. The words of the song were written by the Whig grandee Tom Wharton. I’ve read Wharton’s letters from the period in Oxford and found him a rather snide mean piece of nastiness.

    Russell is not the only millenarian, but he’s the most interesting. There are some notes on him in this context in the Bigger archive in the Central Library, if you can spare about three weeks to sort through the very unhelpful card index, which was prepared by someone highly unsympathetic to FJB in the late 1920s. However, the staff could not be more helpful, and so more than make up for this.

  • carl marks

    Sorry David it would appear that it did evolve
    Pre-tribulation rapture theology was developed in the 1830s by John Nelson Darby and the Plymouth Brethren,[12] and popularized in the United States in the early 20th century by the wide circulation of the Scofield Reference Bible.[13]
    It would seem that not only does the rapture mean different things to different people but that meaning has evolved through time.

  • David Crookes

    Thanks a lot, Carl, but JND and the boys merely read something which had always been in the Bible, and having read it they believed it. Instead of ignoring this thing, as most of Christendom had done until the nineteenth century, they brought it out into the open, and taught it.

    As far as I know all those who believe in the rapture, like the Brethren (I’m one), believe that at a certain point in history the whole body of living believers will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air.

    So I can’t see evolution here, any more than I can see it in Genesis chapter 1.

  • carl marks

    Perhaps you could point me towards some evidence that the belief (in its present form) of the rapture dates before the 1830’s, my admittedly amateur searching has produced no such evidence.
    I am very interested in how religious belief change through time and how a change in society can cause a change in the core beliefs of a religion.
    Out of interest, do you believe in evolution or do you accept genesis as an accurate account of how we got here?