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Obama is the Antichrist? – Not again!

by Yau-Man Chan, Aug 16 2009

Last year, during the presidential campaign, “Obama is the Antichrist” websites started popping up all over the Internet.  My email address must have been poached by one the many “End Times” ministries as I found myself mercilessly spammed by their proselytizers and my email filter had to work overtime to keep up.  Eventually this wave of lunacy subsided and the Nigerian 419-scam-mails reclaimed their rightful place as the dominant bandwidth consumer of my Junk Mail Universe.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, another Obama-is-the-Antichrist campaign started up again. This time it came in the form of a viral YouTube video which claims that Jesus was quoted in the Gospel according to Luke to have revealed the name of the Antichrist.  This a accomplished with the help of some cryptic association of the president’s first and last name when rendered in Aramaic, combined with bad Hebrew pronunciation, gleamed from a text written in Greek. I will leave it up to Mike Heiser, host of the PaleoBabble blog,  Academic Editor for Bible Study Magazine, who is no fan of the President but has expertise in Hebrew and Aramaic to debunk this latest bunk.

The reason I am particularly interested in this recent silliness about our President being the Antichrist is that as a native Chinese speaker, I am familiar with how easy it is to make wild associations with names when transliterated to another language. It is difficult if not impossible to phonetically represent non-Chinese names in Chinese without imparting some unintended meaning to the name. The Chinese language is tonal and monosyllabic and in written form, a single character represents a concept with a unique sound.  As an example, a simple name like “Mary” is represented by two Chinese characters with the sound of “Ma” and “Li” (with no “r” sound character, the “l” will have to do.) So “Mary” is transliterated as “Ma-Li.”  The best possible outcome for making up names is for the characters with the proper sounds when strung together to make no sense at all or to mean something pleasant or good.  That’s not always possible.  “Ma” is “horse.”  “Li” is “good omen” or “tongue” depending on the character used.  So, the name “Mary” in Chinese can mean a “Good omen horse” or “Horse’s tongue.”  Now, imagine a multi-syllabic name like “Roosevelt.”  The standard Chinese rendering of this presidential name is with three characters: “Lor – See – Fook.”  It’s meaningless but with only slight tonal shift, it can mean “Gong Buttocks.”  I understand that Chinese newspapers have settled on President Obama’s name as “Oh – Barn – Ma.” In Cantonese the 3 characters used sounds like “Australian Striped Horse or Zebra. Now, go have fun with it!  Every kid in Chinese school history classes have enjoyed many giggling fits with historical Western names rendered in Chinese characters – they range from funny to downright vulgar depending on what character is used to get the sound!  A quick check with my mom’s Chinese newspapers showed that they have given up on trying to render Nancy Pelosi’s name in Chinese – they just print her name in alphabets. There is just no graceful way to get a Chinese version of “Nancy” without sounding awkward and even awful! Most Chinese political cartoons or jokes involve punning with a politician’s name, substituting a character with another of the same sound but giving the name a whole new meaning. This phonetic mangling of names, intentional or otherwise is ubiquitous. A Vietnamese immigrant family with a last name of “Phuc” is well advised to change it if they don’t want their children to be butt of jokes in school!  The reason I have spent so much ink explaining the difficulty of representing  a name in a foreign language is to illustrate how disingenuous and desperate the Antichrist crowd is to have to resort to phonetically deconstructing the President’s name in Hebrew, quoted from an Aramaic speaker, recorded in Kione Greek 1,900 years ago!

It comes as no surprise that this particular application of linguistic ignorance to make a bad theological case for whatever suits ones prejudice can get traction so easily in monolingual America.  A vast majority of the population have no competence in a foreign language and therefore have little appreciation for subtle linguistic nuances and how barely noticeable tonal variations in pronunciation are not just minor regional accent difference but can change meanings of words and sentences. With the help of a sprinkling of Hebrew numerology, true believers can have fun creating conspiracy theories by quote-mining the Old and New Testaments.  So, for the next four (or eight) years, this kind of exercise with gematria, conflation of Hebrew, Aramaic & Greek and mutilation of other Semitic languages will continue in full force to make the case that Barack Hussein Obama is indeed the Antichrist. (Notice the 6 letters in each name – hence 666, the number of the Beast – it’s just too easy! Oh, but wait, “Hussein” has 7 letters!  No, it’s only 6 letters when spelled in Greek … and on .. and on .. and on…)  Apocalyptic expectation of Armageddon has always been a fixture on the landscape of American culture and politics.

I am old enough to remember reading about the Antichrist and the End Times way back in the 1970s, featuring Hal Lindsey, Jerry Jenkins, Tim LaHaye and hoards of co-religionists cashing in with books, lectures and videos.  They were assuring us all, with exactly the same rhetoric and tortured exegesis as today’s apocalypticists that the Antichrist would unify Europe, promise peace, and start the Battle of Armageddon with the help of the USSR.  Remember the USSR?  And what happened to all of Lindsey’s, LaHaye’s and Jenkins’ predictions? Nothing. The Late Great Planet Earth will end in 1988? Not!  How about NASA engineer Edgar Whisenant’s “88 reasons Why the Rapture will be in 1988”? Not! (Just goes to show that being an engineer does not inoculate one from being a looney coo-coo!)

Does the current generation of Antichrist-Is-Already-Here, Rapture-Is-Eminent proselytizers ever read history? Is it possible they did not know of the long list of world leaders who had been branded as the Antichrist over the last 60 years; Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, various popes, Mao Tse-Tung,  Anwar Sadat, Saddam Hussein, Sun Myung-Moon, Henry Kissinger  to just name a few. Oh, let’s not forget Mikhail Gorbachev, with a birthmark on his head that every eschatologist was so damn sure was the “mark of the beast” mentioned in Revelation.  These Apocalypse-Now Chicken Littles deserve to be scorned and mocked for their prediction track record of 100% failure rate. Check out a few webpages for a small sampling. Here’s a list of predictions for 1971-1997 which failed.  Here’s a list of predictions for 1998-1999 which failed. And here’s a list of predictions for 2000-2005 which failed.  So, why are so many attracted to this Antichrist, Rapture, Armageddon Apocalyptic worldview? And why are they all unabashedly prepared to be wrong again and again?

Occasionally in my more charitable mood, I can convince myself that these true-believers must have taken Martin Luther’s Sola Scriptura directive to heart but are intellectually deficient to understand what they are reading when they try to read the Bible on their own. They lacked the inquisitiveness to acquire the necessarily scholarship on the history and cultural backdrop of a very complex narrative about a region and time so alien to them. They ended up creating a new religion based on misshapen symbolism and misdirected allegories, and in doing so, committed idolatry which the Bible had warned against in the first place. How else can anyone explain Lindsey’s claim that a first century narrative of desert locusts was really a foretelling of helicopter gunships twenty centuries later in a Middle Eastern desert?

When I am less magnanimous I dismiss all these eschatological stuff as having nothing to do with Biblical interpretation. The people involved really don’t think the End Time is near. They enjoy fantasizing about it because they know it’s not true and delight in mentally constructing outrageous improbably scenarios just for the kick of it to see how far out they can push the story.  It’s the equivalent of all those letters-to-the-editor sexual escapades in men’s magazines – guys reading them know none of it is true but nevertheless they get a kick out of reading it anyway because they wish it could happen to them. Speculating about who the next Antichrist is and when the Rapture will happen is theological pornography for these believers.

However, a more somber and sober consideration which should not be ignored is that this constant proof-texting and data-mining, backed by twisted and unscholarly hermeneutics to make the case for the appearance of the Antichrist and place the Rapture within our life time may be perpetrated by a bunch of pathological social misfits who cannot comprehend or cope with the modern world.  Stuck in a fast-changing world that they can neither fit in nor care to, they take solace in wishing for and fantasizing about the end of that world with the gory and fiery destruction of people they hate.  The cynic in me thinks that the modern day Antichrist movement may be invented by a bunch of lazy believers who felt compelled to do God’s work but then found it too demanding, and by believing that the world is going to end soon will make their being Christians easier.

I am not a Biblical scholar and will admit that after reading the Bible from Genesis to Revelation more times than any science geek should admit to, I still don’t know what the Book of Revelation is really about. All I know is that in recent years it’s been adopted as a canon within a canon by the lunatic fringes of the Religious Right and the Anarchic Left (Yes, many “liberation theologians” hate the U.S. and have America labelled as the Antichrist.)  It has also acted as magnet for and gives aid and comfort to the deranged such as Jim Jones, and psychotics like David Koresh, and greedy charlatans like Elizabeth Clare Prophet, to make wild apocalyptic pronouncements and to see an Antichrist coming around every corner. I am assured by many friends and relatives who are sincere and devout Christians that they have no need for this End Times stuff in their quest for communion with God.

Promoters of Obama-is-the-Antichrist polemics are not even funny – at least the “birther” are so comically incompetent they are laughable.  They may not like the fact that he won the election; they may disagree with his policies and they may hate his Supreme Court appointee but procuring their eschatological viewpoint from reading the Left Behind series and then clamoring to make the case that he’s the Antichrist is asylum-worthy and should disqualify them from the arena of political discourse.

And please don’t get me started on the Mayan Calendar 2012 apocalypse – this bombastic nonsense is not even at the level of bunk to be worth debunking!

Recommended Reading
For those interested in reading books about the Book of Revelation written by biblical scholars (of which Tim LaHaye, Jerry Jenkins and Hal Lindsey are definitely not,) I recommend the following:

How to Read the Apocalypse by Jean-Pierre Prevost, gives an overview of the symbolism, numbers, historical context of all the important characters and story lines in the Book of Revelation.

Four Views on the Book of Revelation is a book by four different Evangelical authors, each explaining one of the four dominant Evangelical presentation of the Book. It’s a college level text book and definitely not for casual reading.

Paperback Apocalypse is a non-academic book by Robert M. Price, a professor of New Testament and Systemic Theology.  With the subtitle “How the Christian Church Was Left Behind,” Prof. Price makes no apologies for that fact that he wrote this book as an antidote to the LaHaye-Jenkins “Left Behind” series.

Arguing the Apocalypse by Stephen O’leary.  This book examines and analyzes in detail two specific End Times predictions that failed – The Millerites (predecessors of today’s Seven Day Adventists) of mid-19 Century and the LaHaye-Jenkins phenomenon of the 1970s and 1980.

Recommended Reading

37 Responses to “Obama is the Antichrist? – Not again!”

  1. John Paradox says:

    RE; names with 6-6-6, one of my favorites was Ronald Wilson Reagan… who is now considered by Neocons to be a ‘saint’.

    Attraction to the End Times are Here can be summarized in a song title: Everybody Wants To Go To Heaven, But Nobody Wants To Die. The Rapture (totally unBiblical, BTW) would allow going to see ‘god’ without all that annoying ‘death’ stuff.

    J/P=?

  2. Drew says:

    I remember being pretty obsessed with end-times type stuff when I was younger. I saw some special on Nostradamus when I was about 13 and it seemed very convincing. I told everyone that NYC would be destroyed by an atomic bomb in July of 1999. When it didn’t happen, I actually did the right thing and stopped believing in it. Shortly after 9/11 I began hearing the exact same prophetic statements used to predict the atomic explosion in 1999 being twisted to sound like they predicted 9/11 (The seventh month is September after all, just look at the route word ‘Sept’!) By then I knew better.

    If you ever meet someone really tied into these things, I recommend having them make a specific prediction and make a deal with them: if it happens, I’ll believe, but if it doesn’t, you need to stop believing. Right after the prediction fails, they’ll probably resist it, but when people have to come to terms with breaking their own agreement it can create enough cognitive dissonance to make them come around eventually, even if they end up thinking it was their idea.

    • Yau-Man Chan says:

      I was actually introduced to this genre of silliness by a physics post-doc visiting from Australia when I was working at the Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics at the U of Colorado, Boulder. That was 1980, at the height of the end-of-the-world-in-1988 hysteria. I lost some respect for science in Australia for a while till I found out that there are PhD’s in the US who are card-carrying members of the Biblical Astronomy Society. They lend their academic titles to give credence to the Biblical-centric proof that the earth is the center of the solar system nonsense.

  3. Is it possible they did not know of the long list of world leaders who had been branded as the Antichrist over the last 60 years?

    Not only that, but how many times in history has someone set a date for the end of days, only to have that day come and go? No amount of historical evidence is enough to sway the rapture-ready crowd that this time won’t be different.

  4. tmac57 says:

    Given that about 153,000 people die every day on average, then I’d say all those predictions for the end of the world were (for them at least) accurate. Even a broken clock (analog) is right twice a day.

    • Carl says:

      The prediction of the Rapture is that some people WILL NOT die–ever. If a “saved” person dies, it’s actually evidence against the Rapture.

  5. Some on the anarchic left regard the AntiChrist in Revelations as symbolic, originally representing the government of Rome. When Liberation theology started in places like El Salvador and Nicaragua, the US was supporting dictatorships and was a partner in “evil.” There are probably liberal Christians that believe the US is THE AntiChrist, but I haven’t encountered them.

    What I find absurd about the latest AntiChrist furor is how it has combined with Zionist/Illuminati conspiracy theories promoted by people like Alex Jones. See: http://barackobamaantichrist.blogspot.com/

    • tmac57 says:

      Maybe they see themselves as conspiracy theory,mixed media, kinds of artists. A Jackson Pollack of apocalypse, if you will. Just throw as much of it as you can against a wall, and see what sticks.

  6. Brian says:

    Some people just need to believe in such stuff, I think. For them it’s not about being right; it’s about being able to believe that you’re right. Actually being right is a niggling detail — annoying to be sure, but it can be ignored in a pinch.

  7. valdemar says:

    Imagine how upset these people will be when they discover he’s also black…

    • OneHappyAtheist says:

      That kills me. (Assuming I’m following you correctly and you’re speaking of Obama.)

      He’s also white.

  8. Paul T. says:

    Imagine the looks on their faces when they discover. I’m the Antichrist-SFX-insert sound of sinister laugh with echo.

  9. This is the sort of article from which every reader will learn something. If nothing else, almost all readers will learn that letters-to-the-editor in men’s magazines sometimes contain descriptions of sexual escapades. It’s amazing what dedicated skeptics are willing to find out in the interests of research, isn’t it?

  10. Trimegistus says:

    Now, let’s be scientific here: first we need to establish that BHO is not, in fact, the Antichrist.

    So, what proof is there that he isn’t?

    Um…

    • Beelzebud says:

      Prove he isn’t the antichrist?

      wow…

    • Tim says:

      Actually, if you wanted to be scientific then the burden of proof lies on those that make the proposition (meaning that you have to prove he is, not that others have to prove he is not).

      I am not thick though, I do see that you are clearly attempting humor…and succeeding.

  11. Sly Reference says:

    Wasn’t Napoleon the Antichrist as well?

    And I think they come up with their claims about the Antichrist because of vanity. They think that something that momentous and significant MUST happen in their lifetimes, and that they will witness it. It’s like the people around 9/11 who were SURE that their city would be the next target and kept looking up at the sky for planes.

    Modern day chicken littles.

  12. Pat in Montreal says:

    Obama the antichrist… wow… the righties are really getting desperate!

    Besides we all know Jenny McCarthy is the anti-christ! :)

  13. Tim says:

    If I believed in religion, which I don’t, then Obama would make a fine anti-Christ candidate. Nationalization of industries, attempts to pass bills of attainder, coordinating to send buses filled with agitators to the homes of AIG executives, telling the executives in the White House “we are the only people standing between you and the pitchforks”, placing a eugenicist who advocated putting sterilizers in drinking water for “population control” as the Science Czar, lying about intentions in healthcare (caught with evidence, video and audio), meeting weekly with special interest groups like the SEIU (and unlike President Bush who never met with a single CEO during the 8 years of his presidency to avoid the appearance of impropriety, President Obama meets regularly with CEOs from companies like GE which stand to make billions from the “Green” agenda), placing a self avowed communist as the Green Czar, maintaining warrant less wiretapping (and keeping Gitmo open, and maintaining the “right” to indefinite detention along with several other Bush administration policies), and finally of course all the things that line his personality up with the anti-Christ including being a slick tongued, peace advocating, “unifier” capable of bringing masses of people to gather and (while throwing the hands out) chant “yes we can, yes we can, yes we can.”

    So all in all, if there were such a thing as the anti-Christ, I think Obama would be the guy. As it turns out though, no, no he is not the anti-Christ…just an anti-rationalist.

  14. As for the ANTICHRIST:

    He has come; yet to the West only his sorcery stops us from seeing who he is: Osama bin Laden himself, the Antichrist or “man of sin” who started WWIII; the Holy War; and along with THE FAILURE of our KOREAN FRIEND TO ANNOUNCE that OSAMA BIN LADEN ACTUALLY had EARNED that POSITION AS being THE JUDAS OF ISLAM I had to do it; for it is ISLAM which WILL HAVE to DEAL WITH THE CHRIST; AS THE JEWS DID BEFORE THEM! And I don’t think think they will do any better than the Jews did the first time.

    And also called in the East the Masih ad-Dajjal; the “false Mahdi” of Muhammed; his evil twin; his “doppelganger”; this being the Son of Perdition with the spirit of the Antichrist as the Devil with a devil; as Satn who entered Judas at the Last Supper..

    In attacking the US it is Osama bin Laden who fulfilled St Paul at II Thessalonians who saaid that the Antichrist would “sit in the House of God; and showing ( through his power) that he considers himself to “be God”; as the “man of lawlessness” who would place himself beyond all earthly standards or codes of sacred honor; which as Osama bin Laden “judged” the West; and then CARRIED out this “Judgment” he pretty much got the Antichrist sweepstakes all tied up; at least in my book; (The Revelation of Salvation).

    Barack Obama is actually the Messiah for the Black Race at the National level; based on the 430 years foundation of time-indemnity at the national level that Israel went through in Egypt in their course of restoration: but our went internal; thus the Black Race took “Egypt” from within; as Joseph did.

    A real Unification Church scholar could explain this all to you better than I; but with the fall of Rev. Moon in the position of John the Baptist we are pretty much stuck with me; the least in the Kingdom of Heaven; the “least” being the symbolic “position of Christ” at the end; as the “least” is the one who is usually sick; or in prison; or naked; or homeless; or hungry: pretty much like me on a bad day; or any child of the Resurrection: but the world hated my Father before it hated me; if that is any comfort; I find it is.

    Hope this has produced the usual muffled outrage over the actual truth of the Gospel and the Revelation; see you around;

    the Wrath of the Lamb

    • Yau-Man Chan says:

      Ok.. I don’t know if this is for real or not but if you really want to understand the Moonies, you first must understand Confucianism and ultra-patriarchal cultures like the Koreans and Chinese. When filial piety is not just predominant but the be all and end all in all social and cultural worldviews, and a religion is created around it, Moonies is what you get!

    • Tim says:

      I disagree.

      The validity of your source has not only yet to be established, but many of the aspects of the Bible have been discredited through modern science and Israeli archeology. Furthermore I believe that your Biblical interpretation is colored by current events. I base this analysis on the fact that none of your Biblical references are objective or clear in their connections, but are based on ambiguity and interpretation (the same type of interpretation which has led to many previous misses that too applied Biblical passages to contemporary events).

      I suggest re-evaluating your current understanding of the Bible starting with first principles and systematically reconsidering in a critical manner all the positions you currently hold.

  15. Kenn says:

    • When I was a pastor, a laymen called to ask if Jesus was coming in 1988. I told him to ask me later – in 1989.

    • Someone called and, when I answered the phone, hung up without saying a word. The next Sunday two teens confessed to making the phone call. Upon returning home and finding no one there, they explained, they wondered if the rapture had occurred and they had been left behind. One suggested calling the pastor. If I answered the phone, they’d know they were safe.

  16. WScott says:

    As a theologian friend of mine likes to say: the Book of Revelations is a fanatsy written by a persecuted Christian dreaming of what his God is going to do to those big, bad Romans. The fact that so many Christians still revel in it today just shows how deep their imagined persecution complex runs.

  17. My friends;

    I regret to inform you that I have heard that Rev. Moon now plans to die and ascend on Jan. 13th 2013 from his palace in Korea; thus this will debar him from the claim of being the Messiah; as he is John the Baptist reborn in reality which he always denied; just as John the Baptist denied he was Elijah the Prophet.

    As for thos who do not know that the Revelation of St. John the Divine is the Word of the Living God I can only say that it will be revealed to all in good time; as well as who I happen to be as well; which means nothing to me but will means quite a bit to my Father Jesus in His New Heaven; of which few know or care; but may change their minds as events change their current grasp of so-called reality.

    cheers!

    The Wrath of the Lamb

    • mikekoz68 says:

      My father jesus? I thought jesus was the son and god was his father, I really can’t keep these fairy tales straight

  18. Mark Johansen says:

    Um, just for your 411, it’s a 419 scam (http://www.snopes.com/crime/fraud/nigeria.asp)

  19. Henk van der Gaast says:

    Damn… we are all going to heaven? What the hell are we supposed to do there?

    Where is it? we know its supposed to be flat… just like the earth… so why cant we see it?

    Nay Sayers all of you… Your time will come… in a while

  20. “Self-interest blinds some men;
    but helps other’s see the light…” de la Rochefoucauld

    Dear Friends;

    No one knows that when Lord Jesus ascended to heaven he was actually there to do something; although none have actually known what this is except the Elect; of which many in history and others not known have played a part in bringing the Providence of God to fruition.

    My Father Jesus is therefore a figure unknown in histry or Christianity as no one knew that at some point he would sit down on the Throne of God Himself; which is what creates the “New Heaven and New Earth” itself.

    I suppose few want to learn of this here; but perhaps if they read some of what I have written they might offer their own analysis of events; I only say that Osama bin Laden is the Antichrist because he is; from the reading at II Thessalonians 2:2=5 and in my Messenger Muhammed’s own hadith about the Masih ad-Dajjal; which are rather exact as well.

    Please visit my website to hear my music Thee Unicorns is the band; http://www.myspace.com/theholyunicorns

    Perhaps you would enjoy my songs more than my writing

    In Love;
    the Mighty God;
    christopher

  21. Dear friends;

    the website is at http://www.myspace.com/theeunicorns

    they changed it from the old URL;

    I hope you like the song “Dream of the Dreamer”

    christopher

  22. The Dajjal will be one eyed so Obama is naturally not the Dajjal, unless he has a glass eye. Someone should ask him.

  23. Henk van der Gaast says:

    Goodness what they would do with my name…Dammit, I was supposed to be the antichrist for 2009-2019 but some officious type in accounts changed the roster.

  24. Wineou says:

    When are we going to see more gems from this brilliant blogger?

  25. brainout says:

    To Yau-Man Chan: obviously the people who write you are ignorant of the Bible, especially since apparently you learned from them, to say ‘kione’ Greek. The proper term is ‘koine’, and the only people I know of who miswrite ias ‘kione’, can’t actually read Greek: they are KJV-Only, and are prone to manufactured conspiracy theories which make the theory authors, rich.

    Not all Christians are so dumb. A few of us can actually read Bible Hebrew and Greek (which is not merely koine, but Attic, Ionic (precedes Attic), Doric (cousin), etc). Story in Bible is quite different, and frankly ‘anti-christ’ is a term for Christians, too. You won’t want to hear the whole story, I’m sure. But if you’re masochistic to try, just look up my How God Constructs Time playlist in the Youtube channel ‘brainouty’. The ‘end times’ thing is also a trend of history since Adam. The dummies of course, don’t know that.