Judgment Day? No Way! What’s Behind the May 21, 2011, End-of-the-World Rumors

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Forget the Mayan calendar’s 2012 doomsday. One Christian radio network has calculated its own apocalyptic date: May 21, 2011.

You’ve seen the billboards and heard the ads. The Christian network Family Radio has proclaimed for months now about the impending date, which it is calling Judgment Day. But how did the network come to such a seemingly arbitrary date to basically guarantee the beginning of the end?

(More on TIME.com: Will May 21, 2011, mark the end of the world?)

The network’s president, 89-year-old Harold Camping, is a decades-long student of the Bible who claims that the numbers add up to Christ’s second coming on May 21.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, Camping cites two Bible passages to determine the date. The Book of Peter implies that the end of the world will occur 7,000 years from the date of the great flood. And the Book of Genesis says the flood occurred on the “17th day of the second month.” Taking a look at the Jewish calendar, the de facto guide in that era, May 21, 2011, is the corresponding date. Family Radio predicts that great earthquakes will shake the earth at 6 p.m. on the 21st, continuing for five months.

If the world doesn’t end on Saturday, however, Camping will have an excuse to diffuse the doubters. In fact, it’s not the first time that he has forecast the end of days. He once predicted that the apocalypse would occur in September 1994, but when we were still alive in October, he reversed his claim, saying that “important subsequent biblical information was not yet known.”

Did he get the math right this time? NewsFeed’s prediction? We’ll see you right here on these pages on May 22.

See TIME’s movie review “2012: End-of-World Disaster Porn.”

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