Will the World End on December 21, 2012?

No.  Not according to Walter R. T. Witschey.

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:

Dr. Somerville,

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 for November 20, 2011 in the Gregorian calendar.  That calendar will, in just over a year, increment to 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 (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
Maya Archaeologist
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!


18 thoughts on “Will the World End on December 21, 2012?

  1. Jim,

    Thank you for passing along Dr. Witschey’s letter to us. It was very interesting. I did not yet have anything scheduled for December 21, 2012 and now I feel a little more comfortable penciling in something for that day. As matter of fact, instead of using a pencil, I might just use a permanent marker when I do write down whatever I schedule for that day.

    By the way, I am glad to count myself among the seven who read your blog. Take care and Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.

  2. I delved into the Mayan calendar issue for a book I wrote several years ago. It’s true the Mayans did NOT predict the end of the world. The ending of their calendar was more like reaching all zeros on an odometer when it flips over and starts again. The argument can be made they thought 2012 would mark the end of one age beginning of a new one. My book suggested there may be some truth to this in that the worldview many hold is shifting from a mechanical view of how reality works to a more spiritual understanding that all is connected, formed and informed by a force science does not yet officially recognize. I believe this shift in understanding should provide futile ground to bring more to Christ. It certainly did in my case.

  3. If Walter Witschey says it, you can count on the science! In the last line of Stephen Martin’s comment, I’m guessing he meant “fertile” instead of “futile” … typos really can change things, can’t they?!!! Your tongue-in-cheek “7” is really a whole lot more … your blog was the first to introduce me to the wealth of interesting ideas out there in blogs! Thanks.

  4. Have you ever noticed that on the most popular headline news websites, either national or local, there is nary a tab on which to click for the latest religious stories or insights? And daily devotional columns do not appear in mainstream newspapers any more. As a person person who needs a spiritual uplift or gentle nudge on a regular basis, I anticipate a post from you and/or Ralph Starling like a Thanksgiving meal-pun intended! Proud to be one of the voracious seven!!

  5. World is by means of Creative mind or Well designed/Crafted Nature by some source or energy or what we call God , so if a creativity happens , it will be terminated only if it’s a flaw or bug , else the creativity is further modified and modified to have new shapes and forms …
    Always note that if only a flaw happens creativity is to be terminated…….
    So if human is true, if world is true and if Universe is a truth and if these are all part of a creativity ,,, there should not be any sort of fear or thoughts on whether 2012 is a doomsday or likewise , what you have to do is just forget those stories, think of your daily-hood/works/Home …and be always as Usual..So that there will not be any flaw in your family, there by that least progress affects the society , the country as well as world… so believe in creativeness and be happy

  6. Number 11 here! ;> And I figure that the Mayan Calendar is like a recent version of the Book of Common Prayer, used by the Episcopalians (and by me for devotional purposes) in which they have a section where they give the dates for Easter up to around the last decade of this century. They ran out of space so they apparently figured that, after that last date, those publishing the next Book of Common Prayer could carry on the Easter date calculation assuming a new volume is published. Mayans probably figured the same thing but nobody got around to it, ha, ha!

  7. the world is not going to end untill 2000000000,0000000000, 00000000,0000trillion years then it will at least i will be dead becouse im 14 years old x

  8. the world has ben going for billons of years so why must it com to an end the earth is pretty strong couldnt hold for a milleon more years? by the way im ten

  9. I worked for Walter for three years at the Science Museum, he is a very wise and intelligent man and loves Mayan history. His comments can be cast in stone believe me he has done his research.

  10. Well, I am thankful to know that the world is not going to end on Dec. 21st. Have plans with a large group of friends that evening and thankfully, can enjoy them, in a normal manner. I have worried about this, for some time now. I am also proud to be among the seven who read your daily Blog, Jim! Wouldn’t miss it!!

  11. Rick’s birthday is December 21, so he’s really glad the Mayans are wrong. Who wants the world to end before birthday cake? Enjoyed the letter from Dr. Wischey.

  12. I like the idea that Jesus is a thief who sneaks around in the night. Reminds me of the guy who cuts my grass (he pronounces it HeyWhos). I’m always worried he will sneak in the window and take my valuables, or worse yet, my wifes … err … how should I say it…. soul.

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