The strange case of Harold Camping

Published in SATS ‘Pastor to Pastor’

Harold Camping is the Calvinist radio Bible teacher based in California. He has sprung to notoriety by predicting that the Rapture would occur at 6 pm on 21st May, 2011. The day has come and gone and the Christian world is left puzzling over the question of how he could have got it so wrong.

Apart from radically reinterpreting Jesus words, that no one knows the day or the hour, as applying only to the disciples of His time, Camping fell on the sword of his faulty interpretive method. He uses and abuses a method commonly referred to as allegorical interpretation, but he is not the only teacher who does this. Several years ago I heard the leader of a major church group preach on how the twelve gates in the walls of ancient Jerusalem each stood for a particular church age. He went around the gates in a clockwise direction and concluded that we were currently in the age signified by the Dung Gate – phew!

Camping uses an extreme form of allegorization but there are several variants in today’s church, and so it would be useful to examine the issue and come up with a balanced approach to biblical interpretation

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