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a quick update on the end of the world

I was in Scottsdale AZ last week and had a chance to listen to a few minutes of Harold Camping’s late-night program Open Forum. For some reason I assumed he’d be taking questions regarding something other than the Rapture, which he has predicted will occur next week. I don’t know what I was thinking. I should have known that nobody would want to talk about anything else.

He spent the entire twenty minutes or so I heard defending himself from cheap potshots about whether his ministry was still taking donations, who would be taking over his network after the Rapture, what sort of plans he had for June, etc. It wasn’t pretty.

He even merited mention on Bill Press’s radio show this morning. Apparently someone from Family Radio tried to get his show involved in their last-minute media blitz. Press of course suggested that Camping is asking for money and compared him to William Miller [link]; kudos to Press for knowing who Miller was.

To my knowledge Camping isn’t actually saying “the End is nigh; send me money,” so I’m a little disappointed in Press for not doing his homework before climbing on his high horse. I can’t figure how Camping is making money off this; it’s like he decided to mortgage any future earnings (past May 2011) for a big run-up ending next week.

For the record, the calculation I’ve heard from Camping is captured on the appropriate Wikipedia page [link]; it’s the second of the two listed. I had forgotten that Camping used a base date of April 1, AD 33 and calculated forward using a solar calendar. Never mind the underlying problem that he’s mixing the poetic, the literal, and the numerological to get his 1978 years; I’m under the impression that Old Testament prophecy used lunar years, not solar years. I was also under the impression that the Crucifixion occurred in AD 27; apparently the most commonly used date is April 3, AD 33 [link].

When I was a kid I found this sort of thing fascinating; in retrospect, I think mostly because it used simple arithmetic and calculated things with grave implications. As an adult I’d despair of getting a calculation like this right: never mind how silly the premise is; it’s just hard to count a half-million of anything and have no margin of error, and that’s what this calculation attempts to do.

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  1. May 16, 2011 at 3:36 pm

    What I find amazing is that anyone listens to Camping at all, since he pulled this before and was (obviously) wrong.

    • May 16, 2011 at 4:14 pm

      My recollection is that when he’s not talking about eschatology he’s fairly orthodox; he’s old, and the programming on his radio network is very conservative. I can imagine that he would be attractive to older listeners, people who were adults in say 1950. When I listen to him, though, most of his callers are considerably younger, say in their thirties.

      I have some vague recollection of Chuck Smith having called a date before, but I’m not sure he ever did anything as precise (or silly) as what Camping has done.

      It’s a puzzle; I’d love to see his Arbitron ratings for the trailing 18 months and the next 18 months.

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