Dr. Witschey wrote to me after my recent sermon on 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 in which I mentioned that some people think the world is going to end on December 21, 2012, because that’s what the Maya calendar “suggests.” It was in that part of the sermon where I was talking about the Day of the Lord coming suddenly, like a thief in the night.
“That’s how it will be,” Paul says. “That’s how it will happen. But the only people it will catch off guard are those who are not expecting it. They will be drunk, and snoring, and sleeping it off when the thief crawls through the window, but you will be wide-awake, sober as a schoolmarm, sitting on the front porch with your suitcases packed. So, why should you worry about ‘when,’ and ‘where,’ and ‘how’ the End will come? You’re ready! You belong to the day, you belong to the light! You don’t have to worry about a thief in the night!” And so, Paul says, stay ready. “Be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.” In other words, you who are Christian can protect yourselves against the anxiety of the end-times by clothing yourselves with great faith, great love, and great hope. Those places where you are most vulnerable to attack—your heart, mind, and soul—will be shielded by that impenetrable armor. “For God has not destined us for wrath,” Paul says, “but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
And then I said:
That’s a good thing to remember, isn’t it, when Harold Camping tells us that the Rapture will occur on May 21, 2011, or the Maya calendar suggests the world will end on December 21, 2012? What Paul is trying to tell us is that end-time prophecy is for others, not for us. Its purpose, as Dr. Philpen has so clearly stated, is to warn those who are not ready, so that they might “get right with God now.”
And that’s where Dr. Witschey corrected me, ever so gently. He wrote:
It was a pleasure to hear your sermon this morning, via Channel 8 in Farmville, VA.
There were a couple mentions of the Maya calendar, and the special calendar date in December 2012. The calendar has interested me greatly since I was ten years old.
All that you said was true, and offered with a smile…yet there is an important nuance here: although some writers claim, “the Maya calendar foretells the end of the world,” the truth, I believe, is that the Maya calendar and inscriptions, and those who make scholarly study of them, make no such claim or forecast. Such claims (mostly in popular and self-serving forums) are based on an observation of a special date in the Maya count of days.
We write the Maya count-of-days, the ‘Long Count,’ as a five place base-20 numeral such as 18.104.22.168.1 for November 20, 2011 in the Gregorian calendar. That calendar will, in just over a year, increment to 22.214.171.124.0 on December 21, or 23, or other nearby date (depending on how you match our two calendars.) Neither the ancient hieroglyphic inscriptions, nor the modern Maya, nor any Maya archaeologists of standing, claim that this is the day the world ends. Rather, the appropriate claim is that, just like Y2K in our calendar, or 100,000 miles on a car odometer, the next day is just the next day, and the beginning of a new calendar cycle. In the Maya calendar we will write it as 126.96.36.199.1 (and most likely will not need to postpone any of our appointments.)
Having picked that small nit, may I say your central message, “Be Prepared,” came through loud and clear.
With esteem, admiration, and thanks,
Walter R. T. Witschey
Professor of Anthropology and Science Education, Longwood University
Director Emeritus, Science Museum of Virginia
Thank you, Dr. Witschey. I hope that millions of people around the world (and not only the seven who read my blog) will stand corrected.
Looking forward to 188.8.131.52.1!