Photos: Doomsdays throughout time

Updated 4:16 PM ET, Wed May 15, 2013
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From biblical times to the present, the end of the world has been anticipated many times. CNN asked Lorenzo DiTommaso, religion professor and author of the book "The Architecture of Apocalypticism," to describe end of the world predictions throughout history. David McNew/Getty Images
The Bible's book of Genesis tells how the wickedness and corruption of humankind saddens God to such a point that he unleashes a huge flood to wipe out almost all life on Earth. But before he does, he commands Noah to build an ark to save his family and two of each living creature -- one male, one female. The rain lasts 40 days and 40 nights, after which the floodwaters cover the Earth for 150 days. In some Christian views, Noah's flood was the deluge of the world by water, and it will be followed by future judgment and destruction by fire. Hulton Archive/Getty Images
The most famous Jewish apocalypse is the book of Daniel, the final part of which was written about 165 B.C. The book is both an apocalypse and apocalyptic. It contains predictions about the end of time and foretells the rise and fall of four great empires. Daniel chapters 2 and 7 claim the end will come after the fall of the fourth empire. Daniel 8 and 9 lay out specific timetables, while Daniel 12 offers a brief description of final judgment and a promise of individual resurrection. Along with the book of Revelation, Daniel has had great influence on subsequent apocalyptic speculation and end-time timetables. Hulton Archive/Getty Images
This final book of the New Testament dates from the last decade of the first century A.D. It describes the coming doom in great detail, laying out a sequence of plagues, pestilence, chaos and cosmic catastrophe. Its themes and images are an indelible part of the apocalyptic idiom. Some examples include the number 666 as the "mark of the beast," the expectation of a final battle (Armageddon) and a New Jerusalem that will descend from heaven. Unlike much apocalyptic literature, Revelation does not pinpoint a precise doomsday date. This has allowed people of later centuries to interpret the book's message in their own way and to believe, in some cases, that the end will come in their time. Hulton Archive/Getty Images
The "Apocalypse of Pseudo-Methodius" is arguably the most influential of hundreds of apocalyptic texts composed by Christians, Jews and Muslims during the Middle Ages. Written in Syriac (an Aramaic dialect), almost certainly in the seventh century, it was quickly translated into Greek, Latin and other languages. Pseudo-Methodius coincided with the rise of Islam, and its message comforted Christians living in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern lands. It promised the coming of an end-time emperor who would vanquish Muslims, confound the enemies of Christ and restore the glories of Rome. Buyenlarge/Getty Images
The Anabaptists were Reformation Christians in 16th- and 17th-century Europe. Melchior Hoffman, an Anabaptist visionary and prophet, proclaimed that a new era would begin in 1533. Strasbourg, now in France, would be the epicenter of the event and the location of the New Jerusalem. When the apocalypse didn't happen, some followers blamed flawed calculations. They said Munster, now in Germany, would be the second coming site, and this led to the Munster Rebellion of 1534-35, when Anabaptists tried to establish a radical theocracy in the city. The Amish and the Mennonites are among the groups that descended from the Anabaptists. Public Domain
Sabbatai Zevi, a young Kabbalah scholar, lived in Smyrna (now Izmir in Turkey). In 1648 he announced he was the long-awaited messiah. Jews believed the messiah would come that year and shepherd in the end of days. When 1648 came and went without incident, rabbis censured and then banished Sabbatai Zevi from Smyrna. He traveled for 15 years and adopted the Christian apocalyptic speculation that the end would come in 1666. Anticipating the overthrow of the sultan in Constantinople, he and his followers headed that way in early 1666, only to be imprisoned. Taken before the sultan, he converted to Islam on the spot, as did many followers, thereby ending his mass movement. Public Domain
The "Great Disappointment" was the most notorious example of a failed doomsday prophecy in American religious history. In the 1830s, after crunching numbers derived from biblical prophecy, Baptist preacher William Miller became convinced the end-time events and second coming of Jesus would occur between March 21, 1843, and March 21, 1844. When nothing happened, others recalculated and said the date would be October 22, 1844. The repeated failure of these apocalyptic predictions greatly disappointed evangelicals. Rather than suppress future apocalyptic speculations, however, the experience galvanized evangelical Christianity in the United States. Courtesy Ellen White Estate
"Marian Keech" (an alias used by sociologists who infiltrated her group) led a tiny doomsday sect. She had earlier been a part of L. Ron Hubbard's Dianetics movement before he created Scientology. She claimed spiritual beings on the planets Cerus and Clarion told her a flood would destroy Chicago on December 21, 1954. A visitor would arrive at midnight on December 20 to take her group to a waiting spacecraft and salvation. When nothing appeared, she said the group's piety helped change God's mind. The incident inspired the book "When Prophecy Fails," introducing the public to the term cognitive dissonance, the mental turmoil provoked by holding contradictory ideas simultaneously. Keystone/Getty Images
A 1966 pamphlet published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, an organization of the Jehovah's Witnesses, mentioned that the seventh period of human history, which was to last 1,000 years, would begin in 1975. Although never a part of official doctrine, the view that the world would end in 1975 came to be accepted by many members and profoundly affected the outlook and public activities of the religion. Evening Standard/Getty Images
The Branch Davidians (a distant offshoot of the Seventh-day Adventist Church) became a household name when members killed four U.S. agents in a 1993 shootout at the group's compound near Waco, Texas. After a 51-day standoff, the FBI stormed the compound. An ensuing fire left nearly 80 Branch Davidians dead, including their leader and prophet David Koresh. During the standoff, Koresh worked to decipher the seven seals of the book of Revelation, which he thought would explain the group's situation. The Branch Davidians were one of several apocalyptic movements since the 1970s to result in tragedy, including Jim Jones' Peoples Temple. TIM ROBERTS/AFP/Getty Images
Marshall Herff Applewhite and Bonnie Lu Nettles founded a theology that blended biblical apocalypticism and science fiction. The Earth, they said, was a stepping stone to a higher evolutionary state. They were convinced the planet, which they likened to a garden, was so full of weeds that God (actually an alien from the evolutionary level above human) would plow it under, or recycle it. In March 1997, 39 members committed suicide in Rancho Santa Fe, outside San Diego, California, to escape the prophesized doom. They believed a spaceship, traveling alongside the comet Hale-Bopp, would transmit their souls to their evolutionary destination. David McNew/Newsmakers via Getty Images
Some Christians thought the end date would be May 21, 2011. That's when their biblical calculations told them the Rapture would occur, when the righteous remnant of the world's population would be saved. But that date would also bring an enormous earthquake, draw bodies up from graves and mark the beginning of five apocalyptic months before the world would finally end on October 21. The best-known proponent of this belief was Harold Camping, founder of Family Radio, a Christian broadcasting ministry. Camping previously claimed that the world would end on September 6, 1994. John Couwels/CNN
According to the 2012 theory, data recorded in the Mayan "Long Count" calendar suggested the present age would end on December 21, 2012. The 2012 prediction combines old-school apocalyptic notions with a nonbiblical (Mayan) timetable. Some expected a cosmic calamity on the order of Revelation. Others anticipated an alignment of the planets or the sudden inclusion of a new celestial body. Still others thought 2012 would usher in a spiritual transformation. The Internet -- not to mention Hollywood -- played a huge role in shaping the 2012 message, allowing people around the world to participate in what became a global, multicultural phenomenon. Joern Haufe/Getty Images