Camping in 2012
July 19, 1921|
Boulder, Colorado, U.S.
|Died||December 15, 2013 (aged 92)
Alameda, California, U.S.
|Education||BS, civil engineering (1942)|
|Alma mater||University of California, Berkeley|
|Occupation||Talk radio personality, self-published Christian author|
|Known for||Christian broadcasting, end times predictions|
|Spouse(s)||Shirley Camping (1943–2013, his death)|
Harold Egbert Camping (July 19, 1921 – December 15, 2013) was an American Christian radio broadcaster, author and evangelist. Beginning in 1958, he served as president of Family Radio, a California-based radio station group that broadcasts to more than 150 markets in the United States. In October 2011, he retired from active broadcasting following a stroke, but still maintained a role at Family Radio until his death. Camping is notable for issuing multiple failed predictions of dates for the End Times, which temporarily gained him a global following and millions of dollars of donations.
Camping predicted that Jesus Christ would return to Earth on May 21, 2011, whereupon the saved would be taken up to heaven in the rapture, and that there would follow five months of fire, brimstone and plagues on Earth, with millions of people dying each day, culminating on October 21, 2011, with the final destruction of the world. He had previously predicted that Judgment Day would occur on or about September 6, 1994.
His prediction for May 21, 2011, was widely reported, in part because of a large-scale publicity campaign by Family Radio, and it prompted ridicule from atheist organizations and rebuttals from Christian organizations. After May 21 passed without the predicted incidents, Camping said he believed that a "spiritual" judgment had occurred on that date, and that the physical Rapture would occur on October 21, 2011, simultaneously with the final destruction of the universe by God. Except for one press appearance on May 23, 2011, Camping largely avoided press interviews after May 21, particularly after he suffered a stroke in June 2011. October 21, 2011, passed without the predicted apocalypse, leading to comments that Camping's ministry would collapse after the false prophecy.
Camping was reported to have retired from his position at Family Radio on October 16, 2011, only days before his last predicted date for the end of the world. However, his daughter later clarified that he had not retired outright, but was maintaining a role at Family Radio while working from home. Camping admitted in a private interview that he no longer believed that anybody could know the time of the Rapture or the end of the world, in stark contrast to his previously staunch position on the subject. In March 2012, he stated that his attempt to predict a date was "sinful", and that his critics had been right in emphasizing the words of Matthew 24:36: "of that day and hour knoweth no man". He added that he was now searching the Bible "even more fervently...not to find dates, but to be more faithful in [his] understanding." After the failure of Camping's prophecies, Family Radio suffered a significant loss of assets, staff and revenue.
Camping was born in Colorado and moved at an early age to California.[when?] Both his parents came from the Netherlands – his mother from Friesland, his father from Groningen – but they first met each other in the United States. In 1942, Camping earned a B.S. degree in civil engineering from the University of California, Berkeley. In 1943, he married his wife, Shirley. He and his family were members of the Christian Reformed Church until 1988.
In 1958, Camping joined with other individuals of Christian Reformed, Bible Baptist, and conservative Presbyterian backgrounds to purchase an FM radio station in San Francisco, California. The radio station – KEAR, then at 97.3 MHz – was used to broadcast traditional Christian Gospel to the conservative Protestant community and minister to the general public. Through the 1960s, Family Radio acquired six additional FM stations and seven other AM stations under guidelines established by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
In 1961, Family Radio began running the Open Forum, a live, weeknight call-in program that Camping hosted until 2011. Listeners were invited to call in, primarily with questions about the meaning of certain passages from the Bible, and Camping answered them by means of interpretations, often with reference to other Biblical passages. Occasionally, questions were posed relating to general Christian doctrine, ranging from the nature of sin and salvation, to matters involving everyday life, such as marriage, sexual morality and education. The Open Forum continued running until Camping's partial retirement in July 2011, and was broadcast on the more than 150 stations owned by Family Radio in the United States. The Open Forum was also translated into many foreign languages and (together with other Family Radio programming) was broadcast worldwide via shortwave station WYFR, a network of AM and FM radio stations, a cable television station and the Internet. In October 2012, over a year after the failure of Camping's prophecies, Family Radio began airing repeats of his broadcasts.
Family Radio runs various programs on its radio stations. Before Camping started teaching that the "Church Age" had ended, programs produced outside of Family Radio were welcome provided they did not accept any "extra-Biblical revelation", and were associated with teachings accepted by the historic Christian faith. Family Radio also utilized at least three television stations: WFME-TV in the New York City area; KFTL-CD in San Francisco, California; and KHFR-LD in Boise, Idaho. Following the digital transition of 2009, Family Radio used its subchannels of WFME and KFTL for various purposes – in WFME's case, the digital signal of that station broadcasts ten separate subchannels, the first being the main channel, and the others carrying audio feeds of other Family Radio services, as well as one broadcasting NOAA Weather Radio.
The Biblical Calendar of History
In 1970, Camping published The Biblical Calendar of History (later greatly expanded in his 1974 book Adam When?), in which he dated the Creation of the world to the year 11,013 BC and the Flood to 4990 BC. This was in contradiction to Bishop James Ussher's famous 17th-century chronology, which placed the Creation at 4004 BC and the Flood at 2349 BC. Camping argued that Ussher's dates "agree neither with the Biblical nor the secular evidence", asserting that Ussher's methodology was flawed.
Camping surmised that the word "begat" in the Old Testament scriptures did not necessarily imply an immediate father–son relationship, as had been assumed by Ussher and others who (Camping felt) had not correctly interpreted the biblical timeline. Camping noted the use of the phrase "called his name" ("qara shem" in Hebrew, found three times in Genesis 4–5), which he characterized as a "clue phrase" to indicate an immediate father–son relationship. Despite the fact that this "clue phrase" does not occur regarding Noah naming Shem, Camping maintained that there is enough evidence to otherwise conclude that they did in fact have an immediate father–son relationship. He also points out the use of qara shem in Isaiah 7:14, which he interpreted as meaning, "Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel."
Camping assumed that, since qara shem implies an immediate father–son relationship (e.g., Adam–Seth, Seth–Enos and Lamech–Noah), all other relationships between the Antediluvian patriarchs (except Noah–Shem) are of ancestors and their distant descendants. That is, when one patriarch died, the next one who is mentioned was not his son, but was actually a distant multi-generational grandson who was born in that same year. Camping thus formulated the concept of the "reference patriarch," i.e., various events are referenced to a specific year of a particular patriarch's life as a means of keeping an accurate chronological record. Although there is no evidence that any ancient civilization kept track of time in this way, Camping used this concept as the basis for his view of Biblical chronology.
Camping taught that a Biblical calendar had been hidden according to Daniel 12:9 and Revelation 22:10, detailing the imminent end of the world (with alleged Biblical evidence pointing to the date for the Rapture as May 21, 2011); of the "end of the church age" (which asserts that churches are no longer the vehicle used by God for salvation, 1 Peter 4:17); and of predestination (Ephesians 1:4–5), according to which God determined before the beginning of the world which individuals are to be saved. In Camping's later publications, he stated that May 21, 2011 would be "the first day of the Day of Judgment" and October 21, 2011 would be the end of the world.
Camping did not consider Family Radio a church and did not claim ordained or hierarchical authority within a church or institution. Camping claimed that the church institutions do not employ the Bible alone as the sole authority. According to Camping, each church or denomination has its own unique set of doctrines and hermeneutics, which dictate how they understand the Bible. Family Radio's sole focus on the Bible is what he believed distinguishes it from mainstream churches. In his book 1994?, he claimed there was a very high likelihood that the world would end in September 1994, although he did acknowledge in the book "the possibility does exist that I could be wrong"; Family Radio remained popular despite this failed prediction. Both before and after the failure of his 2011 prophecies, Camping received criticism from a number of leaders, scholars, and laymen within the Christian community, who argued that Jesus Christ taught that no man knows the day or the hour of the Lord's return. Camping responded to those who labelled him a "date-setter", following his own method of Biblical interpretation, by asserting that he followed the Bible's method of interpretation.
Central to Camping's teaching was his belief that the Bible alone is the word of God in its entirety, and thus is absolutely trustworthy. However, he emphasized, this does not mean that each sentence in the Bible is to be understood only literally. Rather, the meaning of individual Biblical passages also needs to be interpreted in the light of two factors. The first is the context of the Bible as a whole. The second is its spiritual meaning. In Camping's words, "the Bible is an earthly story with a Heavenly meaning." This stems from Mark 4:34, which states that Jesus did not speak to the disciples without using parables. Because Christ is said to be the living Word of God, therefore, the historical accounts of the Old Testament can also be seen as parables. For example, in Camping's view, Joshua in the Book of Joshua (whose name in Hebrew is identical to the name "Jesus" in Greek) is a picture of Christ, who safely led the Israelites (who supposedly represented those who became saved) across the Jordan River (a representation of the wrath of God) into the land of Canaan (which represents the kingdom of God).
After leaving the Christian Reformed Church in 1988, Camping taught doctrines that explicitly conflicted with the doctrines and confessions of the Christian Reformed Church and churches of the Reformed and Presbyterian traditions. Examples of Camping's teachings which varied from conventional Reformed doctrines include:
- Departing from Calvinist doctrine, Camping taught a relative free will for humanity and that humans are not totally depraved. However, he subscribed to the idea that salvation is unmerited, cannot be achieved by good works or prayer, and is a pure act of God's grace.
- Departing from the doctrine of eternal torment for the unsaved in a place called Hell, Camping taught annihilationism; that life will end and existence will cease for the unsaved soul.
- Departing from scriptural doctrines stating no one can know the time of Christ's second coming, Camping taught (until 2011) that the exact time of the Rapture and the end of the world would be revealed sometime towards the end of time (as per the Daniel 12:9–13 prophecy).
- Camping taught that all churches have become apostate and thus must be abandoned. He encourages personal Bible study and listening to his Family Radio broadcasts.
End times calculations
Camping's teachings regarding the timing of Christ's second coming were based on the cycles of:
- Jewish feast days in the Hebrew calendar, as described in the Old Testament,
- the lunar month calendar (1 synodic month = 29.53059 days), and
- a close approximation of the Gregorian calendar tropical year (365.24219 days, rounded to 365.2422).
Camping's date for the crucifixion of Christ – Friday, April 1, AD 33 (Gregorian) – is nominally the same day as one of those supported by other twentieth-century commentators: Friday, April 3, AD 33 (Julian). However, the dates differ because Camping used the Gregorian calendar, while most commentators use the older Julian calendar, which had a two-day difference during the 1st century AD (they now differ by thirteen days).
In 1992, Camping published a book titled 1994?, in which he proclaimed that Christ's return might be on September 6, 1994. In that publication, he also mentioned that 2011 could be the end of the world. Camping's predictions use 1988 as a significant year in the events preceding the apocalypse; this was also the year he left Alameda Bible Fellowship. As a result, some individuals criticized him for "date-setting." Camping's later publications, We are Almost There! and To God be The Glory, referred to additional Bible passages which, in his opinion, pointed to May 21, 2011, as the date for the Rapture and October 21, 2011, as the date for the end of the world.
2011 end times prediction
Camping gained notoriety owing to his prediction that the Rapture would take place on May 21, 2011, and that the end of the world would subsequently take place five months later on October 21, 2011. Followers of Camping claimed that around 200 million people (approximately 2.8% of the world's 2011 population) would be raptured, and publicized the prediction in numerous countries.
Reuters reported on May 21 that the curtains were drawn in Camping's house in Alameda, California, and that no one was answering the door. Camping emerged from his home on May 22, saying he was "flabbergasted" that the Rapture had not occurred. He stated that he was "looking for answers," and would say more when he returned to work on May 23.
On May 23, 2011, in an appearance before the press, Camping stated he had reinterpreted his prophecy. In his revised claim, May 21 was a "spiritual" judgment day, and the physical Rapture would occur on October 21, 2011, simultaneously with the destruction of the world. Camping said his company would not return money donated by followers to publicize the failed May 21 prediction, stating: "We’re not at the end. Why would we return it?"
Atheist and skeptic groups such as American Atheists and IIG gathered across the country with signs attracting attention away from Camping's followers who were in seclusion. "The issue is the Bible is mythology," said Larry Hicok, state director of American Atheists. Meanwhile, mainstream Christian groups distanced themselves from Camping's predictions.
In September 2011, Camping and several other prognosticators who incorrectly predicted various dates for the end of world were jointly awarded an Ig Nobel Prize for "teaching the world to be careful when making mathematical assumptions and calculations". In October 2011, News24 reported that the size of Camping's congregation had dwindled to "about 25 adults on a typical Sunday". Camping and his followers largely avoided the media in the months following May 2011, and he remained in seclusion after October 21 passed without the predicted events. On October 21, Time magazine's website listed Camping's end times prediction as one of Time's "Top 10 Failed Predictions".
In March 2012, Camping admitted that his predictions were in error, stating: "We humbly acknowledge we were wrong about the timing." He also announced the "End to Doomsday Predictions". In May 2012, a year after the failure of Camping's prophecy, Religion Dispatches published a report on Camping's disillusioned former followers, some of whom had reportedly come to view him as a cult leader.
In October 2012, the Christian Post reported that Family Radio was re-broadcasting recordings of Camping's teachings. In March 2013, it was calculated that Family Stations Inc. spent more than $5 million on billboard advertising in 2011, the year the apocalypse was predicted to occur, and the network was reported to be suffering from a major loss of revenue, forcing it to sell its main radio stations and lay off staff. In January 2014, a month after Harold Camping's death, Family Radio stated that it would maintain his mission and theology, including the belief that all established Christian churches are apostate.
Health and death
On June 9, 2011, Camping suffered a stroke and was hospitalized. In June, a neighbor stated his speech had become slurred as a result of the stroke, but on July 15, Family Radio stated Camping's speech was unaffected. After leaving the hospital, he moved to a nursing home for rehabilitation, before returning home to continue his recovery. Previously, on June 23, Family Radio had announced that it would replace Camping's Open Forum program with new programming.
- "Christian radio host tells listeners to abandon church". Associated Press. January 23, 2003. Retrieved May 7, 2009.
- "Harold Camping's Daughter Responds to Claims Family Radio Founder Has ‘Retired’". Christian Post. November 3, 2011. Retrieved November 25, 2011.
- "Who Is Harold Camping Anyway?". Christian Post. May 21, 2011. Retrieved May 22, 2011.
- "Biblical scholar's date for rapture: May 21, 2011". San Francisco Gate. January 1, 2010. Retrieved June 29, 2013.
- "Harold Camping silent after Doomsday dud". International Business Times. May 22, 2011. Retrieved June 29, 2013.
- "Followers of rapture evangelist lost millions". People's World. May 23, 2011. Retrieved June 29, 2013.
- Elizabeth Tenety (January 3, 2011). "May 21, 2011: Harold Camping says the end is near". Washington Post.
- Kimberly Winston (March 23, 2011). "Judgment Day: May 21, 2011". Washington Post.
- Nelson, Chris (June 18, 2002). "A Brief History of the Apocalypse; 1971 – 1997: Millennial Madness". Retrieved June 23, 2007.
- "Harold Camping Says End did come May 21, spiritually; Predicts New Date: October 21". International Business Times. Retrieved May 23, 2011.
- "Did Harold Camping Ever Teach The End Was Coming In 1994?" on YouTube. July 30, 2009. Retrieved December 16, 2012.
- "Rapture apocalypse prediction sparks atheist reaction". BBC News. May 21, 2011.
- "Judgment Day is coming May 21, 2011 – The Bible Says No Such Thing said Kenneth Lewis the President of ChristianNewsToday.com". Christian News Today. Retrieved June 26, 2011.
- "Radio host says Rapture actually coming in October". Globe and Mail. May 23, 2011. Retrieved May 23, 2011.
- "Yahoo! Groups". Groups.yahoo.com. Retrieved June 26, 2011.
- "Harold Camping False Prophet: Ministry Probably Doomed". International Business Times. October 21, 2011.
- "Doomsday prophet remains in hiding". The Daily Mail. 22 October 2011.
- "Harold Camping Exclusive: Family Radio Founder Retires". Christian Post. October 24, 2011. Retrieved October 25, 2011.
- "Letter from Harold Camping to the 'Family Radio Family'". Charisma News. March 7, 2012.
- "End May Be Coming For Harold Camping's Family Radio Ministry". Huffington Post. May 14, 2013. Retrieved May 18, 2013.
- "Holland Doc: Het kaf en het koren". (in Dutch and English). February 23, 2012: 22:55. 57 minutes in. Evangelische Omroep. Check date values in:
|date=(help); Missing or empty
- "Who or What is Family Radio?". Family Stations, Inc.
- "Multiple Ownership; Radio Broadcast Stations". Small Business Administration. Retrieved May 22, 2008.
- Angela Woodall (June 23, 2011). "Doomsday herald Harold Camping's show goes off the air at the end of the month". The Oakland Tribune. Retrieved July 10, 2013.
- "Harold Camping's Controversial Teachings Back on the Air". Christian Post. October 2, 2012. Retrieved October 22, 2012.
- Goffard, Christopher (May 21, 2011). "Doomsday prediction: Harold Camping is at the heart of a mediapocalypse over his Doomsday prediction". Los Angeles Times (Oakland). Retrieved May 23, 2011.
- Stephen Jay Gould. Fall in the House of Ussher. Natural History. November 1991. Retrieved January 29, 2013.
- Harold Camping (September 1970). "The Biblical Calendar of History". JASA (American Scientific Affiliation) 22: 98–105. Retrieved July 14, 2008.
- "Special Series: Engineering Judgment Day – May 21, 2011 Part II". New England School of Theology. May 11, 2011. Retrieved July 11, 2013.
- Justin Berton (January 1, 2010). "Biblical scholar's date for rapture: May 21, 2011". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved January 1, 2010.
- Shiflett, Dave (February 1, 2002). "Depart Out! A call for Christians to leave their churches – the End Times may be here". Wall Street Journal.
- "Judgment Day". Familyradio.com. May 21, 2011. Retrieved May 25, 2011.
- Harold Camping (2008). "We Are Almost There!". Family Stations, Inc. Retrieved April 10, 2008.
- Harold Camping (1992). 1994?. New York: Vantage Press. p. xv.
- "Matthew 24:36–44 – Passage Lookup – New International Version". BibleGateway.com. Retrieved May 22, 2011.
- Dan (January 15, 2011). "Precisely predicting the end of the world. Stuff Christians Like – Jon Acuff". Stuffchristianslike.net. Retrieved May 22, 2011.
- Harold Camping. "First Principles of Bible Study". Family Stations, Inc. Retrieved June 23, 2008.
- Harold Camping (2005). Time Has an End. New York: Vantage Press. pp. 224–226.
- Harold Camping. "Please explain what Romans 2:14...". Family Radio. Retrieved November 20, 2009.
- "To God be the Glory!". Familyradio.com. Retrieved May 22, 2011.
- Harold Camping. "The End of the Church Age...and After". Family Stations Inc. Retrieved June 16, 2008.
- "Four Questions on the End of the Church Age" (PDF). Retrieved September 1, 2008.
- "May 21, 2011: A Portrait of True Believers in the ‘End of the World’". Huffington Post. September 6, 1994. Retrieved May 22, 2011.
- Harold Camping. "Time Has an End: A Biblical History of the World 11,013 B.C. – 2011 A.D.". Family Stations, Inc. Retrieved April 9, 2008.
- Harold Camping. "Excerpt from "God's Magnificent Salvation Plan"". Quoteland.com. Retrieved April 11, 2008.
- Camping, Harold. "A Biblical Calendar of History". Family Radio.
- Camping, Harold. "The Ultimate Terror: Judgment Day". Family Radio.
- E.g.Harold Hoehner (1977). Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ Zondervon Publishing House. p. 65–114.
- Perkins, Donald (December 1, 1996). "The Dangers of Date Setting". According to Prophecy Ministries.
- "Jesus Returning to Earth On May 21, 2011". Flashnews.com. July 30, 2010. Retrieved November 29, 2010.
- "May 21, 2011: Judgment Day believers descend on Joburg". The Daily Maverick. Retrieved November 29, 2010.
- "A Conversation With Harold Camping, Prophesier of Judgment Day". New York Magazine Website. Retrieved May 22, 2011.
- "May 21, 2011 – Judgment Day!; October 21, 2011 – The End of the World". Ebiblefellowship.com. May 21, 1988. Retrieved November 29, 2010.
- "Judgment Day". Familyradio.com. Retrieved November 29, 2010.
- Saveri, Gabrielle (May 21, 2011). "Broadcaster silent as Judgment Day hours tick by". Reuters. Retrieved May 21, 2011.
- Kane, Will (May 22, 2011). "Harold Camping 'flabbergasted' world didn't end". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved May 22, 2011.
- Garance Burke. "Radio host says Rapture actually coming in October". Associated Press. May 23, 2011.
- "An Autumn Date for the Apocalypse". New York Times. May 23, 2011.
- "Harold Camping 'flabbergasted'; rapture a no-show". SF Gate. May 22, 2011.
- "Winners of the 2011 Ig Nobel Awards". Boston Globe. September 29, 2011.
- "Wasabi alarm, beetle sex win Ig Nobel spoof prizes". Baltimore Sun. September 29, 2011.
- "Judgement Day doesn't dawn". News24.com. 21 October 2011.
- "Top 10 Failed Predictions". Time. October 21, 2011. Retrieved November 4, 2011.
- Last year's Apocalyptic predictions were wrong, preacher admits. Associated Press. March 10, 2012.
- "Harold Camping". Christian Post. March 6, 2012. Retrieved March 13, 2013.
- "A year after the non-apocalypse: where are they now?". Religion Dispatches. May 18, 2012. Retrieved May 21, 2012.
- "Harold Camping's Family Radio Suffering Economic Woes?". Christian Post. May 14, 2013. Retrieved May 18, 2013.
- "Harold Camping's Death Will Not Change Family Radio, Says Spokesman". Christian Post. January 23, 2014. Retrieved February 11, 2014.
- Harold Camping of Family Radio suffers stroke; speech affected – Christian Post. Retrieved June 12, 2011.
- "Special Announcement 7/15/2011". Family Radio. July 15, 2011. Retrieved July 22, 2011.
- "Rapture predictor recovering in nursing home". Associated Press. July 5, 2011. Retrieved July 8, 2011.
- Potter, Ned (October 11, 2011). "Harold Camping Predicts End of the World, Again". ABC News. Retrieved October 12, 2011.
- "Harold Camping - Home with The Lord!". Family Radio. Retrieved December 16, 2013.
- "Controversial preacher Harold Camping dies at 92". Kake.com. Retrieved December 18, 2013.
- "Doomsday Minister Harold Camping Dead at 92". ABC News. Associated Press. December 17, 2013.
- T. Rees Shapiro (December 13, 2013). "Harold Camping, radio evangelist who predicted 2011 doomsday, dies at 92". The Washington Post. Retrieved December 18, 2013.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Harold Camping.|
- Harold Camping biography at Family Radio official website
- Harold Camping's publications at Family Radio
- "Life after the (non) end of the world". BBC. December 21, 2012.