The Mayan Calendar, December 21, 2012, and the End of the World

According to people who follow and accept the predictions of the Mayan calendar, today, December 21, 2011, is the beginning of the “Year of Doom.”  People who accept the validity of the dates in the Mayan calendar believe that the Mayans predicted a series of cataclysmic events that will culminate with the destruction of the world in 2012.

Archaeologist Michael D. Coe, in his book, The Maya: Ancient Peoples and Places (New York: Thames & Hudson, 2011) wrote that Mayan astronomers predicted that in 2012 there will be intensive solar activity that will affect the whole world.  Thus, twelve months from today, the world may be confronted with horrific situations that may culminate with the destruction of the planet on December 21, 2012.

Coe’s book has made a profound impression on the minds of many people around the world because people who believe in the predictions of the Mayan calendar also believe that the world will come to an end in 2012, the year when the Mayan calendar ends.

The fear that cataclysmic events that may befall the planet at the end of 2012 are based on questionable interpretations of Mayan culture.  This fear about the end of the world has created an industry that is exploiting the gullibility of individuals who have accepted these so-called Mayan prophecies at face value.

For instance, the movie “2012” (Columbia Pictures, 2009), is loosely based on the myth about the end of the world found in the so-called predictions of the Mayan calendar. In addition, thousands of books have been sold by people who are willing to make a profit from those gullible enough to believe these so-called Mayan prophecies.

An article published in USA Today on March 27, 2007 said:

With humanity coming up fast on 2012, publishers are helping readers gear up and count down to this mysterious — some even call it apocalyptic — date that ancient Mayan societies were anticipating thousands of years ago.

Since November, at least three new books on 2012 have arrived in mainstream bookstores. A fourth is due this fall. Each arrives in the wake of the 2006 success of 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl, which has been selling thousands of copies a month since its release in May and counts more than 40,000 in print. The books also build on popular interest in the Maya, fueled in part by Mel Gibson’s December 2006 film about Mayan civilization, “Apocalpyto.”

Most of the anticipation generated by the predictions of the Mayan calendar can be compared with the euphoria generated by the “Left Behind” series, a series of books based on the popular belief of the “rapture” of the church.  The books in the “Left Behind” series made a lot of money for the writers and publishers, even though the theological premises of the books were loosely based on biblical teachings.

Richard Thornton, writing for the Examiner, wrote:

Maya astronomers DID know that the early 21st century would be time of violent weather, which would peak in 2012.  Such dangerous periods have happened like clockwork through the ages.

The late 20th century and early 21st century saw several record-breaking storms and earthquakes, while the American Southwest is experiencing an ever worsening drought.  This is exactly what Maya astronomers and priests expected each 416 years.  On the peak year of solar activity, 2012, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has predicted very dangerous solar flares.

A solar flare blast can knock out satellites, land-based communication systems, regional power grids, mainframe computers, cable TV networks and even the computers that operate modern automobiles.  In truth, there is potential for major damage being done to the world’s economy in 2012 because of natural catastrophes, but it is not likely to be hurricanes the size of nations or asteroids simultaneously striking several locations on earth as portrayed in the movies.

But scientists are divided about the date and the intensity of the solar flares scheduled for 2012.  In a press release dated March 15, 2006, NASA announced that scientists were predicting “the most intense solar maximum in fifty years.”  Scientists predicted that “the next sunspot cycle will be 30% to 50% stronger than the previous one.”  According to NASA, the solar maximum of 2012 would “produce a burst of solar activity second only to the historic Solar Max of 1958.”

However, in another press release dated November 10, 2011, NASA said that “killer solar flares are a physical impossibility”:

Given a legitimate need to protect Earth from the most intense forms of space weather – great bursts of electromagnetic energy and particles that can sometimes stream from the sun – some people worry that a gigantic “killer solar flare” could hurl enough energy to destroy Earth. Citing the accurate fact that solar activity is currently ramping up in its standard 11-year cycle, there are those who believe that 2012 could be coincident with such a flare.

But this same solar cycle has occurred over millennia. Anyone over the age of 11 has already lived through such a solar maximum with no harm. In addition, the next solar maximum is predicted to occur in late 2013 or early 2014, not 2012.

Most importantly, however, even the biggest solar flares are not powerful enough to physically destroy Earth.

Notwithstanding all the scientific evidence that nothing cataclysmic may occur in 2012, people are still worried about “Meteorite storm, sudden pole shift, Nibiru (aka planet-x), extreme weather, earthquakes, volcanic activity and the oceans of the world sweeping across the continuants [sic] of the world resulting from a sudden pole shift.”

In view of the desperation that many people are experiencing as the “Year of Doom” begins and as December 21, 2012 approaches, how should people of faith react?

First, I would again emphasize the words of Jesus: “But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Matt. 24:36). If Jesus said that neither the angels of heaven and not even himself knew when the last day would be, I do not think that God kept that day a secret from his Son, but then decided to reveal it to the Mayans.

Second, for people of faith, the Bible is the only authority for teachings that relate to the things of God.  If God, in his sovereignty, chose not to reveal the date of the end of the world in the Bible, it is doubtful that he would choose the Mayan calendar to reveal one of the most important dates that people of faith want to know.

Finally, people who are worried about the end of the world are people who are not prepared for the end of the world.

The writer of Hebrews speaks of people who are “held in slavery by the fear of death” (Heb. 2:15). These are the people who approach the end of the world with fear and trembling because they are not ready to give God an account of their lives here on earth.  As the writer of Hebrews wrote: “By God’s law death comes to all people, and after that they are judged” (Heb. 9:27).

People are afraid of the end of the word because they are afraid to die and because they are afraid of the day of judgment.  I do not believe for a moment that December 21, 2012 will be the end of the world or that something cataclysmic will happen on that day, however I know that the end is near.  For those who are unprepared for the end of the world, here a prophetic warning: “prepare to meet your God” (Amos 4:12).

Claude Mariottini
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

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6 Responses to The Mayan Calendar, December 21, 2012, and the End of the World

  1. Craig Benno says:

    Hi Claude.

    I like the look and feel of your updated site. Well done.

    In regards to end times theology, I always ask the question if it makes you fearful and if so – why?


    • Claude Mariottini says:


      Thank you for your words about by new site. I hope to include resources for pastors and seminary students at a later time.

      About the end time, I honestly do not worry about it. I am a believer and I am ready to meet the Lord. When the time of persecution comes, I know that my faith will see me through, whatever problems I may face.

      Thank you for visiting my blog.

      Claude Mariottini


  2. But, Claude, the world ended January 1, 2000….


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