“William Miller was a farmer and self-anointed Bible interpreter from Low Hampton, New York, near Lake Champlain. Whereas Camping’s prediction (as I understand it) was based on his dating of Noah’s flood, Miller devised a complex numerological formula based, at least in part, on the reign of Artaxerxes and the “seventy weeks” mentioned in the book of Daniel in the Hebrew Bible. All of that computed to sometime between March 21, 1843, and March 21, 1844.”—Randall Balmer, “The Great Disappointment: When the World Fails to End on Schedule,” via Religious Dispatches.
“Five Lessons from Harold Camping’s Apocalypse Fail:
1. Old white male Christian religious fanatics sure get our attention.
2. The Christian fundamentalists are not alone in this religious obsession.
3. Americans are fixated on world destruction.
4. Religion is not rational, most of the time.
5. This is not the end of the end.”—Gary Laderman, "5 Lessons Learned from the Apocalypse Fail, Or, It’s Not the End of the World as We Know It, and I Feel So-So." via Religious Dispatches
“The great majority of interpretations of Apocalypse assume that the End is pretty near. Consequently the historical allegory is always having to be revised; time discredits it. And this is important. Apocalypse can be disconfirmed without being discredited.”—Frank Kermode, The Sense of an Ending
“Witnessing that terror and hopeless fear, seeing the suffering that it brought, I stopped thinking of his “Bible prophecy” obsession as a kooky, but mostly harmless set of beliefs. I began to realize that it was a framework that burdened its followers with the inevitability of disappointment, false hope, denial and an inconsolable fear. Its adherents were its victims. There were other victims, too, but its main damage was wrought in the lives of those who most believed it.”—Fred Clark, Slacktivist
Ferdinand and Isabella might have been in it for the money, but Christopher Columbus was hoping to hasten the Second Coming of Christ when he found the Caribbean.
In 1500, returning from his third voyage to the Americas, Columbus wrote to a Spanish court member:
"God made me a messenger of the new heaven and the new earth of which he spoke in the Apocalypse of St. John, after having spoken of it through the mouth of Isaiah; and he showed me the spot where to find it."
Now, Columbus had some serious problems: His mania included adopting first a new variation of his given name, “Cristoforo”; he chose to call himself “Christofereens,” which is a really weird Latinization of “Christ-bearer.” He eventually pulled a Prince and gave himself an unpronounceable symbol for a name.
In 1502, Columbus wrote The Book of Prophecies, in which he detailed the Biblical prophecies that were to be fulfilled through him. He had a 150-year plan, and while it’s stretching it to say that he was the first American to predict the end of the world, he was certainly its first “discoverer” or “looter” to do so.
That makes Christopher Columbus our first American Armageddonist, which I’ll bet you did not learn in grade-school history.
The Hypomanic Edge: The Link Between (a Little) Craziness and (a Lot of) Success in America by John D. Gartner (2005)
The Life of Christopher Columbus, From His Own Letters and Journals and Other Documents of His Time by Edward Everett Hale (1891)