Is there cause for alarm? The Bible is open to interpretation, and some of its readers believe it foretells a near-future end of the world.

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The Bible, in a move worthy of a secretive government agency, neither confirms nor denies that 2012 will usher in the end of the world. The scriptures certainly contain passages that prophesy the end, but whether they are true predictions of a physical cataclysm or literary devices used for emphasis is anybody's guess. Plenty of preachers have claimed the prophecies are literal, but so far, all interpretations of the Bible that predicted of the world ending on a specific date have proven inaccurate.

Speculation about 2012 as the date of the end started with study and interpretation of the Mayan calendar. The complex Mayan civilization flourished in Mexico and Guatemala beginning around A.D. 250. Experts are still uncertain why their civilization suddenly collapsed around 900. The Mayans were accomplished mathematicians and astronomers, and they devised a calendar that divided time into cycles called baktuns. The final cycle was to end on the winter solstice, December 21, 2012 [source: History.com].

Some think this abrupt end to the calendar hints at the end of the world. Other interpreters foresee an occasion of spiritual rebirth. Current Mayan shamans reportedly view the occasion not as an approaching calamity but as the beginning of a new age [source: Keim].

The buzz about 2012 has been fueled by additional sources as well. Devotees of sixteenth-century French apothecary and visionary Nostradamus claim that his prophecies point to the year 2012 as an end of days. Other people assert that the alignment of the sun with the center of the Milky Way Galaxy in 2012 seems ominous..

Many religions include prophesies about an end to mankind, and some Christian preachers and Bible readers believe 2012 is indeed the end of the world as set forth in the scripture.