The Ancient Roots of Doomsday Prophecies

How it Ends: The Ancient Roots of Doomsday Prophecies and End of the World Beliefs


Hollywood’s obsession with the End of Times is not over yet – Armageddon, Deep Impact, Doomsday, Legion, Thor: Ragnarok and 28 Days Later, are just a few of the blockbusters, out of hundreds, that deal with mankind’s demise. And now, yet another apocalyptic film is set to be released. ‘ How it Ends ’ imagines how a sudden societal collapse could occur in the modern U.S. as a result of a geological apocalypse. But man’s obsession with the end of the world is not a new one. 

Doomsday prophecies are as old as recorded time.  For as long as humans have existed, there has been a fear of an apocalypse or ‘end of times’, when the gods wish vengeance upon their people, when humans pay for the sins of their fathers and forefathers, and when the demons of the world rise up and devour all that is good.  Prophecies of the end of times stem from the mythologies of civilizations past: the Norse story of Ragnarök, the tale of Noah and the Flood, and the Biblical apocalypse.  Though these civilizations are all thousands of years in the past, the same fear that drove them to make these myths—the fear of the unknown—continues to haunt the human race today.

Supposedly, the earliest prediction of the end of the world came from the Assyrians, a powerful Mesopotamian culture that lasted for roughly two thousand years.  A tablet was found dating back to sometime between 2800 and 2500 BCE that bears the first known prophecy of the end of days.  According to the translation, it claims that the earth was in its final days in those years, and that the world was slowly deteriorating into a corrupt society that would only end with its destruction.  Though it is not known who wrote this inscription, and where specifically the tablet came from, it is a fervent example of how far back in human history apocalyptic prophecies world began.

An Assyrian Tablet from 2800 BC bears the first known prophecy of the end of the world.

An Assyrian Tablet from 2800 BC bears the first known prophecy of the end of the world. Photo: Assyrian Tablet from Nineveh, northern Iraq. Credit: The British Museum

In Norse mythology, Ragnarok is a series of apocalyptic events that will define the end of the world, where giants of frost and fire will together fight the gods in a final battle that will ultimately destroy the planet, submerging it under water. According to the legend, the world will resurface, the surviving and returning gods will meet, and the world will be repopulated by two human survivors.

The downfall of the AEsir

'The downfall of the AEsir'. The heavens split and the 'Sons of Múspell' ride forth upon the AEsir at Ragnarö. The Norse apocalyptic battle, Ragnarok. ( Wikimedia Commons )

Numerous other prophecies have appeared throughout history pertaining explicitly to the mortal fear of the ‘Second Coming of Christ’ —the belief that a day will come when humankind would be judged for all of their sins, and Christ would battle the Anti-Christ, Satan, and a False Prophet in the biblical Armageddon. The Four Horsemen, traditionally named War, Famine, Pestilence, and Death, will ride during the Apocalypse. Most, if not all, prophets claimed that preceding the enormous battle would be the Rapture, where the purest of humankind would be removed from the Earth before the battle between Christ and the Anti-Christ.  The expectation of this event and the fear of what would happen to humankind during it called for various people from numerous religious and ethnical backgrounds to try to predict the event so those alive could prepare for what they believed was an inevitable end, and so those soon to be born could be taught to live a pious life to survive such an ending.  The belief in Armageddon and the Rapture primarily stems from the Bible and biblical translators and interpreters, however the cryptic and symbolic language used in the text creates quandaries about the appropriate date and time of the so-called Second Coming.

Four Horsemen of Apocalypse

Four Horsemen of Apocalypse, by Viktor Vasnetsov. Painted in 1887. ( Wikimedia Commons )

It was also feared for a long time that the year 1000 AD would be the end of the world.  Y2K created the same type of millennia fear, as it was assumed that the '00 of 2000 would be misread in computers as 1900 and create a bug that would force all technology to fail, causing worldwide confusion and tremendous destruction.  New millennia, years ending in '99, and the beginning of new centuries have all been subject to doomsday prophecies in the past, and the present era is no exception to that.  Uncertainties about the future continue to plague the human race, such as the recent belief that cataclysmic events would transpire on or around 21 December 2012, a date regarded as the end-date of a 5,126-year-long cycle in the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar.

Mayan calendar on parchment.

Mayan calendar on parchment. Source: BigStockPhoto

More recently, there has been a doomsday theory put forward in relation to the four blood moons appearing in the twelve months between April 2014 and September 2015, which are said to be an indication of the end because such an occurrence is so rare.  Despite the advancement of the human race, and the technological tracking abilities at their disposal, new and unknown events and situation remain terrifying, leading many people around the world, known as ‘Doomsday Preppers’ to continue preparing for the ‘end of the world as we know it’, seeing such as efforts as a more ideal option than risking being blindsided.

It is clear that fear is the driving factor behind the prophecies of doomsday throughout human history.  The effort of mapping out the future—when the end will come, how the end will come, and who will survive it—is, and has always been, an attempt to outsmart circumstances that are not within human control and cannot be within human control.  Though many people know and understand this, it has never stopped humans from trying to predict the outcome.  It is safe to say that as long as life on earth continues to grow and thrive and even encounter devastating calamities, doomsday prophecies will continue to prevail.

Featured image: Depiction of Mayan Apocalypse. Source: BigStockPhoto


Boserup, Mogen, "Fear of Doomsday: Past and Present," Population and Development Review , 4.1, (March 1978), pp. 133-43.

Lemprière, John. Universal biography: containing a copious account, critical and historical, of the life and character, labors and actions of eminent persons, in all ages and countries, conditions and professions (E. Sargeant: BLANK, 1810).

Lewis, James R., "Doomsday Prophecies: A Complete Guide to the End of the World," Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions 9.1, (August 2005), pp. 121-122.

Strauss, Mark. "Ten Notable Apocalyrses That (Obviously) Didn't Happen: Apocalyptic predictions are nothing new—they have been around for millennia," Smithsonian, November 2009.

Thompson, Damian. The End of Time: Faith and Fear in the Shadow of the Millennium . (University Press of New England: New Hampshire, 1997.)

By Ryan Stone


Unfortunately you rely on outdated (debunked) agenda driven "archaeology" concerning Jericho and Ai -
Look into it more fully - subsequent archaeological research/digs - (with an honest effort to learn the truth) and you'll see the "biblical narative/account" aligns with the subsequent discoveries uncovered -

As far as the "Hebrew Scriptures/Torah" being "" - this was fairly well dismissed as even a remote possibility with the discovery of "the Dead Sea Scrolls" in 1947 and the now decades long study of their contents - the accuracy of the transmission throughout the centuries of all of the biblical books that were found blew even the most ardent of skeptics out of the water - the disciplined approach of the Hebrew scribes for copying manuscripts proved itself a most reliable method as the accuracy was close to flawless - even the ardent skeptics had to admit as much -

Again - an honest effort at uncovering the truth of these matters for oneself and not just jumping on the bandwagon of agenda driven, stunted pseudo archaeology and scholarship would lead you to a fuller knowlege of the truth as well as saving you from displaying a less than clear understanding of the subjects you purport to know so much about -

The Hebrew scriptures/Torah are . Joshua sacked Jericho and Ai? Really.... Jericho not only was the victim of an earthquake, but it shows absolutely zero signs of being sacked or an invading force. It also was dead about 220 years before Joshua was even born. Also, Jericho and Ai died-out about 1,000 years apart...

Tall tales .

While it's true that there is still debate (and rightly so) amongst biblical scholars as to the authorship of the book titled "The Revelation (Apocalypse -Greek) of Yahoshua haMashiack" as to the authorship of the work - and for the most part because of the few reasons you cite - one point not usually addressed, as far as the language used in "Revelation" not being exactly similar to the language used by John "the Apostle" (the purported author) in his other works, is that, by the author's own admission, these were not his words - this was a dictated work - one that he was instructed to write down - these were not the words of John the Apostle but those of the one who dictated them - if there are disimilarities with the writing style and the words used by the Apostle John in his other works this needs to be considered and taken into account -

As far as the totally erroneous misinformation about the Council of Nicea 325 C.E. (called by Constantine) to determine the books that would and or would not be included in the "NT" canon (this was already determined some 125 to 150 years prior to the time of the council)
all one needs to do is to go back to the source material concerning this matter and the truth is easily detemined -

One should not use a work of fiction such as "The DaVinci Code" as a source of fact and the basis for his or her statements - one's presumptive ignorance becomes plain to even a casual student of history and is visible for all to see -

If you don't want to take the time to research the source material for yourself this video will do that for you:

While the whole thing is informative (35mins) - starting at the 26:00 minute mark will take you to the relevant information (source material) as far as what the Council of Nicea was convened for and what the outcome of it was - and this by those who were actually there - not a writer of agenda driven fiction or writers of agenda driven pseudo scholarship -

As far as the totally "worn out line" about "old tales", "myths" and the "no more than lessons in morality" regurgitation - it should be noted that the Hebrew Scriptures have more historic and actual archaeological evidence pointing to their validity than any other ancient text of similar relevance - (are there any?)

And even though you mix Greek and Egyptian "mythology" - Zeus, Venus and Horus returning?
You and most others are in for quite a surpise -

It’s always amusing when people give credence to old tales simply because they are old. Or they’ve been placed into a collection of tales such as the Bible. It floors me to now end that Christians refer to Revelations, yet there is no historical basis on which to give it any value. It was written by an unknown person, some think named ‘John’, but accepted as not the supposed John the apostle. Not only because it does not match the writing style of works credited to him, but because it contains flat out contradictions of works credited to him. It also contains information, bits of word usage and writing style that are later than John the apostle.

Revelations was not even going to be included in the Bible by the Council of Nicaea in 325 C.E. It was only after lobbying that they chose to include it.

How people can point to Revelations as-if it has any hint of credibility is beyond me. Not to mention that Mankind has been through countless cycles of ‘deprived times’ in the 1,900 years since it was written. Just how bad does ‘bad’ have to be before things actually start to happen? The old ‘Just wait….’ line is so worn out.

If the Torah and Bible set the standard by which fact is established, we’d best be prepared for the coming of Zeus, Venus and Horus.

Actually, that should be the Lion RETAKES the throne of this COSMOS from the Lizard. The Lion, the beginning and the end.


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