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Religion

종교 탐방

DOCTRINES AND DOGMAS
3 MAJOR THEMES AND MOTIFS  

3.2 Eschatology

 

Eschatology (the doctrine of last things) is originally a Western term, referring to Jewish and Christian beliefs about the end of history (or of the world in its present state), the resurrection of the dead, the Last Judgment, and related matters. The term has been extended by historians of religions to cover similar themes and concepts in the religions of nonliterate peoples, ancient Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cultures, and Eastern civilizations.

Eschatological ideas and beliefs played a central role in the development of Judaism; the Kingship of God, "the end of days," "the world to come," the Messiah and the messianic era, the Day of Judgment, and the images of a perfected future were basic concerns in biblical (Old Testament) and rabbinic Judaism.

 

3.2.1 NATURE AND SIGNIFICANCE

In New Testament Christianity, history is viewed throughout in eschatological terms: the future of God has already begun with the appearance of Christ; the end of history is near; the end time is therefore filled with danger and salvation, faith and unfaith, Christ and Antichrist, and will be consummated through the resurrection of the dead, the judgment of the world, and its salvation through a new creation. Christianity, with this biblical heritage, has influenced many religions, revolutions, and civilizations through its orientation toward hope in the future. Biblical eschatological archetypes can be found in the various secular liberation movements leading up to the present day. (see also  attitude)

In the general history of religions, the term eschatology refers to conceptions of the beyond that express the destiny of man after his death (immortality of the soul, rebirth, resurrection, migration of the soul). These eschatological concepts stand in a mutual relationship with the experiences of men in the present world, the turning points of life, and the understanding of death. They often pose a contrast to the present experience of suffering within nature and society, within this whole "perverted world." Eschatological themes thrive particularly in crisis situations, whether they serve as consolations for those who hope for a better world or as the motives for revolutionary transformation of the world. (see also  afterlife)

A distinction has often been made between individual (personal) eschatology and collective (social) eschatology. The eschatological expectations of either type, however, are as extensive as the respective believer's interest and involvement in life and his suffering from its miseries. These expectations can embrace individual souls; they can just as easily embrace a people or group, humanity, or the whole cosmos.

 

3.2.2 GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS

 

3.2.2.1 The theme of origins and last things.

Because biblical eschatology is grounded in what are interpreted as uniquely occurring historical events (such as the Exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt in the 13th century BC), certain difficulties occur when the biblical concept of eschatology is translated into the eschatological framework of other religions. In other religions (especially Eastern religions and the religions of nonliterate peoples), cosmic representations of the eternal struggle between cosmos and chaos prevail. Therefore, a distinction must clearly be made between mythical eschatologies and historical eschatologies. The term mythical refers to the concept of the philosophically conceived truth of the human condition in relation to the realm of the sacred and the profane as defined in nontemporal terms and stories. The term historical, on the other hand, refers to the concept of the philosophically conceived truth of the human condition in relation to the realm of the sacred and the profane as defined in temporal terms and stories. (see also  myth, history, philosophy of, sacred and profane)

Mythical eschatologies emphasize the reproduction of the origin of the world at the end of the world. The end time repeats the primordial time; out of chaos (disorder) there arises anew the cosmos (order). At the origin there stands the cosmogony (creation of order) and the laws that govern the world and the pure order of things. Time is experienced as decay, degeneration, and guilt. Salvation, therefore, is found in a return of the origin or a return to the origin. All historical events are interpreted as representations of an eternal struggle in which the world order is defended against chaos. This struggle occurs as myth in the world of the gods and as history in the world of men. History thus becomes a cultic drama in which priests and kings play out the ritual roles foreordained to them. (see also  cyclicism, chaos and order)

The religious symbolism of mythical eschatology can be defined in terms of the "myth of the eternal return." This concept contains not only a cyclical view of history but also a cultic view of the annihilation of the horrors of history itself. In the ever-recurring cultic festivals, the lost time of history is regenerated and eternity is represented. Through the ritualistic repetition of all events in the creation of the cosmos, the impression of transience is proved to be a mere semblance. Everything basically remains in its place. In the framework of the myth of the eternal return, hope is inherent in memory. This basic structure is not limited to the great cultic religions; many messianic and revolutionary movements (such as the nativistic religious movements in Africa and Oceania, and sectarian movements in pre-1917 Russia) also exemplify it. Within a history that is generally regarded as evil, the saving future is depicted as a return to the primordial origin. In the terms of mythical eschatology, the meaning of history is found in a celebration of the eternity of the cosmos and the repeatability of the origin of the world.

Historical eschatology, on the contrary, is not grounded in a mythical primal happening but in historically datable events that are perceived as root experiences (past events that are narrative and paradigmatic in the present) and are regarded as fundamental for the progress of history. Biblical and biblically influenced eschatologies are grounded in such a view of historical experiences and are directed toward the historical future inaugurated by them. In this view, such experiences are never universal but always particular; they are not grounded in natural happenings but in historical election. Such events and experiences are not repeatable in cultic forms and rituals but are remembered through the telling of history and the relating of tradition. They do not abolish history; they rather inaugurate a new process (or new age) of history. They are events in which a novum (new or extraordinary thing) is perceived, that have a greater future than a beginning. Hope is thus grounded in historical remembrance but goes beyond what is remembered historically.

Because history is viewed as unrepeatable, the future of history is final. History is understood in this context not as the arena of the horrors of chaos but as the field of danger and salvation. The meaning of history is thus not found in its cultic abolishment (as in the case of mythical eschatologies) through the presence of eternity but in its future goal and its fulfillment. The divine or sacred is not experienced in the eternally recurring orders of nature and of the cosmos through ritualistic reenactments. Rather, God's freedom, faithfulness, and promises of the future are known and comprehended in the contingent and irreversible events of history. If here the future is greater than the beginning, hope at the end is more extensive than at the beginning.

Historical eschatologies are found in the faith of Israel and Judaism, which is grounded in the Exodus event (the liberation of the Hebrews from Egypt in the 13th century BC) and which in the course of its historical experiences is more and more directed towards the expected revelation of the glory of God in all lands. Historical eschatologies are also found in the Christian faith, which is grounded in the history of Jesus and in the root experience of his resurrection from the dead. The hope of Christian faith is aimed at the Kingdom of Christ and the Kingdom of God, through which history is ended as well as fulfilled. In both cases the unique occurrence of a historical foundation event serves as a basis for the final goal of the long-awaited and hoped for future. A historically experienced novum opens up hope in a new creation that will be more than the reproduction of the primordial condition.

 

3.2.3 THE FORMS OF ESCHATOLOGY

In the sphere of historical eschatology, distinctions should be made between the hopes of messianism, millennialism, and apocalypticism. Messianic hopes are directed toward a king of the end time who will lead the people of God, now suffering and oppressed, into a better historical future. In political and nativistic messianism, visions of the vengeance and of the equalizing justice on the side of the oppressed are aimed at political and religious leaders. Always at work in these instances are inner and often local historical expectations of a certain fulfillment of history before the end of history. Apocalypticism should thus be distinguished from this point of view. Apocalypticism upholds the view that God will intervene in history on the side of a faithful minority and that the intervention will be accompanied by sudden, cataclysmic events. According to this view, "this world" cannot bear the "justice of God." Therefore, against what is perceived as the perverted world, the followers of apocalyptic views hope for the creation of a new world on the basis of God's righteousness. If this hope is universal, it is, nevertheless, not generally represented by a people but rather by individual holy men or, perhaps, by an ascetic community. Millenarian hope is directed toward the 1,000-year Kingdom of Christ and of his own people, in which the ones who are suffering now will rule over their enemies.

 

3.2.3.1 Messianism.

The term messiah, derived from the Hebrew word mashiah ("anointed"), has been applied to a variety of redeemer figures, and many movements with a markedly eschatological or utopian-revolutionary character of message have been termed messianic. Though messianic movements have occurred throughout the world, they seem to be especially characteristic of the Jewish and Christian traditions. Hence, not only the word messiah but also other terms relating to the messianic type of phenomena are derived from biblical religion and from the history of Jewish and Christian beliefs--e.g., "prophetic," "millenarian," and "chiliastic" movements--the last two terms referring to a 1,000-year reign of Christ and his saints before the final end of history. Moreover, the scientific study of messianic beliefs and movements--originating, as it did, in the Western theological and academic tradition--was directed mainly to phenomena occurring either in Christian history or in cultures exposed to Western colonial, missionary, and modernizing influences. These Western origins of messianic terms and concepts give discussions of the subject an almost unavoidable Judeo-Christian slant. Hence, many present-day sociologists and anthropologists have attempted to develop a more neutral terminology--e.g., nativistic movements, religious movements of liberty and salvation, renewal movements, revitalization movements, crisis cults--but many of these terms emphasize incidental and adventitious aspects of the phenomenon and miss its essential features.

 

3.2.3.2 Apocalypticism.

The term apocalypticism is generally restricted to eschatological views and movements in the West that focus on cryptic revelations about a sudden, dramatic, and cataclysmic intervention of God in history, the judgment of all men, the salvation of the faithful elect, and the eventual rule of the elect with God in a renewed heaven and earth. Western apocalypticism is based upon the archetypal apocalyptic work in the Judeo-Christian tradition, the Book of Daniel. Daniel is the only apocalyptic book to be admitted to the Old Testament canon, just as the Book of Revelation is the only apocalypse included in the canon of the New Testament. There are many noncanonical apocalyptic works from both Jewish and Christian authors, among them the three books of Enoch, the Second Book of Esdras, the Ascension of Isaiah, and the Apocalypse of Peter. All of the apocalyptic works written during the first efflorescence of millennialism, including the Book of Revelation, owe much of their shape and style to Daniel. This Old Testament book stands in the succession of the Jewish prophets and was apparently influenced by Iranian religious thought, such as the Zoroastrian concepts of the Last Judgment, the battle between good and evil involving both men and angels, and a punishment of fire for evildoers. (see also  Iranian religion, Zoroastrianism)

 

3.2.3.3 Millennialism.

Millennialism (from the Latin word for 1,000) is a philosophy of history viewed from a Christian theological standpoint and a religious movement now associated with such modern Protestant sects as the Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses, and certain segments of many Protestant denominations. There have been many millennial groups and individuals throughout church history. The term is derived from the imagery of the New Testament Book of Revelation (Rev. 20), in which the writer describes a vision of Satan being bound and thrown into a bottomless pit and of Christian martyrs being raised from the dead and reigning with Christ for 1,000 years. This 1,000-year period, known as the millennium, is viewed as a time during which man's yearnings for peace, freedom from evil, and the rule of righteousness upon earth are finally realized through the power of God. (see also  Protestantism)

As a branch of eschatology, millennialism is concerned with the earthly prospects of the human community. Not limiting itself to the prospects of the individual in this world and the next, millennialism attempts to answer in vivid imagery such questions as: What will be the final end of this world? Will mankind ever fulfill the agelong dream of dwelling in an earthly paradise or will all men be destroyed in a cataclysm of fire brought on by their own folly or God's judgment?

Millennialism is thus the cosmology (study of order) of eschatology, its chronology one of future events, comparable to the historical record of the past.

Millennialism is found within both Christian and other traditions. During the 20th century, anthropologists, historians, and sociologists explored the millennialist aspects of non-Western cultures, finding many striking similarities to the millennialism within the Judeo-Christian tradition. The millennial treatises produced by Jewish and Christian believers in the latter part of the Greco-Roman civilization--the Hellenistic period--particularly the books of Daniel and Revelation, provided the building materials from which the successive millennial structures were erected. In constant repetition the motifs, the leading characters, the symbols, and the chronologies of these works have arisen in the teaching of some prophet of the end of the world, each time taking on new significance from associations with contemporaneous events. (see also  Judaism)

 

3.2.4 ESCHATOLOGICAL TERMINOLOGY

Eschatological language ordinarily uses two elements of style in conjunction with each other: the negation of the negative and the analogy of the future. Objective statements about the future that is not yet present are not possible in history. Such statements are possible only in the form of the negation of the negative in this life and this world. An example of this style may be found in Revelation 21:4: "And death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more." Thus, the positive aspects of the eschatological future are circumscribed by the negative aspects of the present. If this future is to be meaningfully related to this life, however, this life, despite all its negativity, must also be presently capable of pointing toward or of foreshadowing the future life. Eschatological imagery and language, therefore, constantly use comparisons or analogies from everyday life (such as the several "the Kingdom of God is like . . ." analogies in the New Testament) and employ the hopes and anticipations of people and events from history in analogical ways. (see also  prophet)

A problem of eschatological language exists because of the necessary connection between negation and analogy. If negation is predominant, the tendency is towards apocalyptical and metaphysical dualism and towards mysticism. If analogy or foreshadowing of the future dominates eschatological language, the tendency is toward a one-sided belief in progress. In both cases the novum of eschatology becomes inexpressible. A hermeneutic (methodological interpretive principle) of eschatological traditions must verify the negation of the negative in face of the presently experienced negative and simultaneously seek the traces of the coming positive in the ambiguous history of liberations. There are always negative and positive signs of the future in history. "Where danger is, the saving also flourishes" (Hölderlin), but "where the saving draws near, danger also grows" (E. Bloch). Eschatology understands history as a growing crisis: the good provokes the evil, and the growing danger makes the action of redemption necessary. Authentic eschatology is neither world denying nor faith in progress but rather it can be seen as anticipation of freedom in the midst of slavery and of salvation in the midst of lostness and alienation.

 

3.2.5 ESCHATOLOGY IN NON-WESTERN RELIGIONS

 

3.2.5.1 Nonliterate cultures and nativistic movements.

Eschatological motives must be understood in their religious and cultural contexts. According to the eschatological views of the people of the Andaman Islands, at the command of the god Puluga an earthquake will destroy the earth and the bridge of heaven; the souls and spirits of the dead will arise and be reunited. Then men will lead happy lives in power, without sickness, death, and marriage. Even the animals will appear again in their present form. The impatient spirits of the underworld are already now shaking the roots of the palm tree, which supports the earth, in order to bring about the end of this present world and the resurrection more quickly. The Semang pygmies in Malacca hold a somewhat different eschatological view: (see also  Andamanese)

In the beginning of the ages there was still absolutely nothing. Then Ja Pudeu [the highest being] blew with her mouth causing storms to rage over the earth. This was the means by which stars, water, trees, and everything came into being. At the end of the ages when all men shall have died, she will destroy everything with the same storms; a great flood will complete the destruction and the bones of men will swim together. Finally, the bones will rise.

The Australian aborigines claim that the end of the world will come when the moral world order legislated by the gods is no longer upright.

The Gabonese Pygmies in West Equatorial Africa believe that once Kmvum (the original man) lived with them faithfully. Then their guilt brought on the day of separation. He will come again, however, and bring back with him joy, abundance, and happiness. Among the Altaic Tatars of Central Asia there is an eschatological belief that Tengere Kaira Khan (the "graceful emperor of heaven"), who once lived on earth with men, will return at the end of the world in order to judge men according to their works. At his departure from earth he sent a mediator who remains faithful to him. At the end of the world the mediator will be victorious over evil. The Salish Indian tribes of the Pacific Northwest of North America believe that the creator god, before he vanished from the earth, promised the "elder" or "chief" his return at the end. When earth (a female figure) has become old, the coyote will return as the first sign of the world's end. This will be followed by the "chief" himself returning to earth. "After this there will no longer be a land of the spirits. All men will live together, the earth will receive her natural form and will live as a mother among her children. Then all things will be made right and happiness will reign."

Such mythical themes arranged around the origin-fall-return motif are experiencing a revival as primitive peoples suffer cultural shock in their encounters with Western civilization and Christianity. Many messianic movements of nonliterate cultures--even when antiwhite and anticolonialist--exhibit markedly Christian features both in the details of their symbolism as well as in their overall messianic ideology. Some messianic movements (e.g., that of Simon Kimbangy in the former Belgian Congo from 1921, or that of Isaiah Shembe from 1911, among the South African Bantu, as also several movements in Brazil), in fact, appeared outwardly as Christian revivalist sects with an eschatological character. The movement of Simon Kimbangy has been admitted to the World Council of Churches as a member. (see also  acculturation, primitive religion)

A variety of names has been applied to these movements that emphasize various messianic characteristics. "Nativistic" movements expect salvation from a revival of native values and customs and a rejection of everything alien; e.g., many of the North American Indian movements from the 17th century on, including the Pueblo Indian Revolt led by Popé in 1680; the anonymous Delaware prophet (1762) and Pontiac; the religious revival and revolt led by Tenskwatawa and Tecumseh in 1807; the Ghost Dance outbreaks of 1870 and subsequent years among Southwestern and Plains Indians. The messianic movements in Melanesia focussing on the arrival--in ships or airplanes--of "cargo" (i.e., the coveted wealth and riches that symbolize power, well-being, and salvation) are referred to as cargo cults. Some anthropologists speak of "revitalization movements," whereas others emphasize the connection between acculturation and messianic movements. Since it is not acculturation as such that produces messianism but the crises and dislocations caused by certain forms of culture contact, many scholars prefer the more neutral and objective term "crisis cults." Since many movements are started or propagated by the activity and preaching of prophet-like leaders, they are also spoken of as "prophetic movements."

There is a tendency among modern anthropologists to consider primitive messianisms as forms of protonationalism in non-European and premodern societies. Though Christian influence and Christian symbols often play a major role in the crystallization of messianic ideologies, they are by no means their only source. The ideological starting point of a messianic movement can be supplied by native traditions and mythologies, by Christian ideas, or by motives that are born under the pressure of circumstance.

 

3.2.5.2 Religions of the East.

Buddhism has four "noble truths"--the fact of human suffering, the understanding of the origin of suffering, the removal of the causes of suffering, and the path to the transcendence of suffering--and is partly therefore a religion of redemption. According to the Buddhist world view there is a macrocosm composed of innumerable worlds. In recompense for good and evil deeds, creatures are reborn in an unceasing process in the region that they deserve. Beyond all worlds is found Nirvana ("bliss" or enlightenment), "the indescribable goal," whose attainment means redemption from the cycles of existence. Each one of the innumerable worlds passes through periods of destruction and recreation. There is no soul migration because there is no soul substance. Rather, each new existence is defined by karmanthe deeds of the earlier existence. Only insofar as this is true can one speak of continuity in the reincarnations. (see also  samsara)

If anything at all in Buddhism can be considered as eschatological it is the yearning for an ultimate redemption from the cycle of rebirth and the final abolishment of the suffering bound up with it. In the religious community founded by the Buddha this yearning finds its peculiar way, the "eightfold path," on whose highest step occurs illumination or enlightenment. This illumination or "life beyond grief and woe" (Nirvana) is a condition of eternal peace that cannot be conceived or described in ordinary terms. Rather, it comprehends even the worlds and their cycles themselves: "I do not know the end of suffering if we have not reached the end of the world" (Gautama, the Buddha).

According to Theravada Buddhism, the individual believer must strive after redemption for himself through the exertion of his powers of being. At the centre of Mahayana Buddhism, on the contrary, stands the concept of the redemption of all living creatures which will occur through the sympathetic assistance of a redeemer figure.

In Hinduism the world of Brahman (the Universal Soul) is created by demiurges (creator beings) in egg-form and contains numerous zones and levels around the golden world mountain Meru. It passes through a series of temporal cycles, and every temporal cycle ends with the destruction of the world followed by a new creation under a new demiurge. Man is now living in the dawn of the last, worst Kali yuga(age) of such a cycle. Through migration of the soul, man is drawn into the circle of the animals and plants. Rank and kind of birth are determined by the individual karman (acts and their consequences). The karman, which accompanies the soul and even has an effect on the destruction of the world, determines the following existence. After death, the soul returns to earth or it goes the "gods' way" (devayana) of redemption. Redemption occurs when karman can no longer be produced, or it can happen through a divine act of grace that blots out the existing karman. Redemption is popularly viewed as entrance into the highest heaven of the god worshipped, where the redeemed one awaits a spiritual reflection of earthly joy. In modern Hinduism the soul that is identical with God is redeemed through a recognition of the organic wholeness that has vanished from consciousness because of the soul's imprisonment in matter. Self-recognition (Atman) then leads to identity with the absolute being (Brahman). Redemption lies in the accomplishment, or rather recognition, of the Atman-Brahman identity, for it already frees man from the chains of karman and samsara (cycle of rebirths).

Buddhism and Hinduism do not have a historical eschatology. They rather emphasize an ultimate redemption from the cycles that have no beginning. Their redeemer figures are impersonal transparencies of the ultimate-universal.

 

3.2.5.3 Religions of ancient civilizations.

In the religions of the West, there is a tendency to understand time as irreversible and therefore the end as occurring once and for all, as ultimate. The final judgment will be followed by the creation of a new and sacred world that is eternal. Origins of this kind of eschatological thinking are found in ancient Egypt in texts such as the "Shipwrecked Sailor" and the "Conversation between Atum and Osiris." The idea of an eschatological individual judgment of the dead is developed here in the strongest sense. Ancient Greek and Roman eschatological views depict a shadow life for the individual departed soul in Hades. Other than this focus on the individual, however, the cyclical concepts of periodic world destruction and world renewal are also found in these religions. (see also  sacred and profane, Egyptian religion)

 

3.2.6 ESCHATOLOGY IN RELIGIONS OF THE WEST

 

3.2.6.1 Islam and Zoroastrianism.

Islam is not a messianic religion and has no room for a saviour-messiah. Nevertheless, there gradually developed--probably under Christian influence--the notion of an eschatological restorer of the faith, identified as a descendant of the Prophet or as the returning 'Isa (i.e., Jesus). He is usually referred to as the mahdithe "[divinely] guided one." After the appearance of 'Isa, the last judgment will begin: the good will enter paradise; the evil will fall into hell. Heaven and hell possess various goals and steps of recompense for good and evil. The time before the end is viewed pessimistically: God himself will abandon the godless world. Ka'bah (the great pilgrimage sanctuary of the Muslim world) will vanish, the copies of the Qur'an will become empty paper, and its words will disappear from memory. Then the end will draw near.

In Sunni (traditional) Islam the whole subject is one of folklore rather than of dogmatic theology, though all orthodox Muslims believe in the coming of a final restorer of the faith. In times of crisis and of political or religious ferment, mahdistic expectations have increased and have given rise to many self-styled mahdis, the best known of all being Muhammad Ahmad, the Mahdi of Sudan, who raised a revolt against the Egyptian administration in 1881 and after several spectacular victories established the mahdist state that existed until defeated by the English military leader Kitchener at Omdurman (Sudan) in 1898. In the Islamic Shi'ah sect (which holds a belief in the transference of spiritual leadership through the family of 'Ali, Muhammad's cousin and son-in-law), the doctrine of the mahdi is an essential part of the creed. Among the Twelvers, the main Shi'ah group, the expected mahdi is believed to be the hidden 12th imam, or religious leader, who will reappear from his place of occultation. The notion of a mahdi also played a role in the foundation of new religions or Shi'ah sects--e.g., the belief of the Druzes that the Egyptian caliph of the Fatimid dynasty al-Hakim (reigned 996-1021), who is thought to be the last prophet and divine incarnation, would return at the end of days (1,000 years after his appearance at the end of the 9th century AD) to establish his rule over the world. Other Islamic-based messianic figures include the founder of the Indian Ahmadiyah sect, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, who in the late 19th century declared himself to be the Christ and the Mahdi; and the founder of the religion that subsequently became known as Baha`ism, the Iranian Mirza 'Ali Mohammad of Shiraz, who proclaimed himself in 1844 to be the Bab ("gate") on the 1,000th anniversary of the disappearance of the 12th imam.

Zoroastrianism is a religion with a thoroughly eschatological orientation: for it world history is a battlefield on which the forces of light and good fight the powers of darkness and evil. Though the notion of a personal saviour figure is not essential to the Zoroastrian system, it did nevertheless arise. The Iranian prophet Zoroaster's ministry (6th century BC) is said to have opened the last of the history of the world's four periods of 3,000 years each. He is followed, at intervals of 1,000 years, by three "saviours," considered to be posthumous sons of Zoroaster. The last of these, the soshyans (or saoshyant), will appear at the end of days, and God will entrust to him the task of the final rehabilitation of the world and the resurrection of the dead.

 

3.2.6.2 Judaism.

 

3.2.6.2.1 In ancient times.

The real inception of historical eschatologies stems from the Old Testament. Israel's faith in God there is rooted in the historical experience of the Exodus, and because of this experience of liberation it contains a hope in the guidance and the promises of God in history. The basic structure of this faith is found in the law of promise and fulfillment. The eschatology of the Old Testament is grounded in the identity of faith in God and hope in the future (Gen. 12:1ff.). It has its beginning in the promise of a "good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey" (Ex. 3:8). In the Pentateuch (first five books of the Old Testament) the promise is broadened to the increase of people and possessions, the blessing of God and the victorious presence of God (Gen. 49:8-12; Num. 23; Deut. 33:13-17; Num. 23:21). The history of the occupation of the land of Canaan (Palestine) and the victory of the Hebrews is to be understood as "realistic hope." Through the experiences of Israel's own disobedience to the laws and the will of God and defeats at the hands of its enemies, the concept of the "day of the Lord," which is to bring salvation and victory, came into existence. The happiness of the establishment of the Kingdom by David in the 10th century BC led to a hope in the future Messiah (Anointed One) of God from the house of David (II Sam. 7). (see also  covenant, Syrian and Palestinian religion)

In the midst of the political catastrophes of the 8th century BC, the great prophets took up the concept of the "day of the Lord" and proclaimed it as a day of judgment (Amos 5:18) over the disobedient people and also over all other peoples. It was through such a process that the day of the Lord concept became the bearer of eschatological hopes. Isaiah also viewed salvation in an eschatological light as happening only after the universal judgment (Isa. 4:3; 6:13; 11:11; 37:31) and combined it with the presence of a messianic mediator of salvation (7-12). (see also  messiah)

In spite of the political destruction of Israel (8th century BC) and Judah (6th century BC) the prophetic hope kept Israel alive religiously. This prophetic hope was aimed primarily at a comprehensive and total new creation, a new heart, a new covenant (Jer. 31; Ezek. 36; Isa. 41; Isa. 51). Through the vicarious atonement of the servant of God (either the people of Israel or a messianic figure) this hope was to include not only Israel but also the Gentile world (Isa. 42:6; 49:6). The future of Israel is thus bound up with the future of all peoples and of the whole earth.

In the incipient apocalyptic views of the prophet Daniel (2 and 7), hope is transcendent. His apocalyptic eschatological hope expects the "Kingdom of the Son of man" following the consummation of evil in the fourth and final kingdom of the world. Since that time, hope in a Messiah and hope in a Son of man have been bound to a kind of eschatology that unites the fulfillment of the history of Israel with the end of world history. (see also  Daniel, The Book of)

In the face of a threat to the existence of the Jewish faith and temple worship, a group of zealots revolted in 168 BC against the occupation forces of the Seleucid monarch of Syria, Antiochus IV Epiphanes (c. 215-163/164 BC) and against those of their Jewish countrymen who favoured reducing Judaism to the level of a hellenized Oriental (Greek and Syrian) cult. The author of Daniel constructed his work to give aid and comfort to the rebel cause, particularly to assure them that God was aiding them, that the end of their struggles was in sight, and that a new golden age was dawning. In a vision reputed to be seen by King Nebuchadrezzar, he depicted a series of four world monarchies, represented in one passage by parts of a giant statue and in another by mythological beasts, each empire embodying evil to a greater extent than the last. Man's empires will end with the fourth kingdom, which is crushed by a "stone . . . cut out by no human hand," symbolizing the fact that neither its destruction nor the ensuing order are natural developments from forces latent in history. A figure called the Son of man, however, will institute a fifth, entirely righteous, just, and eternal kingdom. (see also  persecution, Seleucid kingdom)

As in the Jewish prophetic tradition that preceded it, Daniel made predictions about the future, but, unlike the predictions of a prophet such as Jeremiah (late 7th to early 6th century BC), the outcome anticipated by the prophet was not the virtually inevitable product of antecedent forces but a total reversal of what might seem to be the likely outcome if God were not to intervene. The reversal of worldly expectations through a violent supernatural intervention in the course of history is one of the most characteristic features of apocalypticism and stands quite in contrast to the older prophetic style. Also essential to Daniel and subsequent apocalypticism is the immediacy of the message and the imminence of the deliverance that is promised--the promise of salvation now. Descriptions of this imminent salvation of cosmic proportions included vivid representations of historical figures who depicted the growth of evil and decline of goodness from past time down to the present, when all wickedness came into terrifying focus.

To these significant emphases in Daniel's apocalypse--the imminent and supernatural intervention of God in man's history and the reversal of the heretofore irresistible progress of evil and declension of good--might be added other characteristics that have proved to be influential. Numerology, mythological figures, and angelology, which have continued to play such a large part in millennial movements, were probably introduced as a result of the influence of Iranian thought. Other characteristics of Daniel, such as its pseudonymous authorship and the emphasis upon the esoteric, mysterious quality of the truths discussed, were probably due to the unique problems faced by the author in presenting these views to a 2nd-century-BC audience.

 

3.2.6.2.2 In Hellenistic Judaism.

In the period of Seleucid (Syrian Greek dynasty ruling Palestine c. 200-165 BC) and later Roman and Byzantine (63 BC-AD 638) rule and oppression, the expectation of a personal messiah acquired increasing prominence and became the centre of a number of other eschatological concepts held by different groups in different combinations and with varying emphases. The Qumran sect, a Jewish monastic group known in modern times for its preservation of the Dead Sea Scrolls, held a doctrine--found also in later Jewish sects--of a messianic pair: a priestly messiah of the House of Aaron (the brother of Moses) and a royal messiah of the House of David. This messianic detail, incidentally, shows that these "anointed ones" were not thought of as saviours--as in later Christian thought--but rather as ideal leaders presiding over an ideal, divinely-willed, and "messianic" socioreligious order. The "son of David" messianism, with its political implications, was overshadowed by apocalyptic notions of a more mystical and mythological character. Thus it was believed that a heavenly being called the "son of man" (the term is derived from Daniel 7:13) would descend to save his people (e.g., as in the apocryphal books of Enoch). The messianic ferment of the period, attested by contemporary Jewish-Hellenistic literature, is also vividly reflected in the New Testament. (see also  Qumran community)

The destruction of the Temple at Jerusalem by the Romans (AD 70), exile, persecution, and suffering only intensified Jewish messianism, which continued to develop theoretically in theological and semimythological speculations and to express itself practically in messianic movements. In popular apocalyptic literature another messianic figure gained some prominence: the warrior-messiah of the House of Joseph (or Ephraim) who would precede the triumphant messiah of the House of David--but would himself fall in the battle against Gog and Magog, two legendary powers under Satan and opposed to the people of God (Ezek. 38:2; Rev. 20:8). The notion seems to have developed toward the end of the 2nd century, after the failure of the last revolt against the Romans (AD 132-135), led by Bar Kokhba, who was hailed as the messiah, but it is connected with a more basic notion of apocalyptic messianism; that is, the belief that the messianic advent is preceded by suffering and catastrophe. In some versions of apocalyptic messianism, the notion of a messianic age merges with that of an end of days and last judgment: the "new heaven and new earth" are ushered in amid destruction and catastrophe.

 

3.2.6.2.3 In medieval and modern Judaism.

Messianic faith tended to develop into mass enthusiasm, frequently fed by calculations based on the Book of Daniel and other biblical passages. Almost every generation had its messianic precursors and pretenders; e.g., Abu 'Isa al-Isfahani and his disciple Yudghan in 8th-century and David Alroy in 12th-century Persia; the propagandists of the messianic agitation in the Jewries of western Europe in the 11th and 12th centuries; and--perhaps the most notorious of all--the 17th-century pseudomessiah Shabbetai Tzevi (Sabbatai Zevi) of Smyrna. Belief in, and fervent expectation of, the messiah became firmly established tenets of Judaism and are included among the great Jewish medieval philosopher Maimonides' Thirteen Articles of Faith. There was much variety in the elaboration of the doctrine--from the early apocalyptic visionaries and later Kabbalistic (Jewish esoteric) mystics at one end of the scale to the rationalist theologians on the other. The latter (including Maimonides) emphasized the unmiraculous nature of the messianic age.

Modernist movements in Judaism tended to maintain the traditional faith in an ultimately redeemed world and a messianic future for mankind, without insisting on a personal messiah figure. Judaism undoubtedly owes its survival, to a considerable extent, to its steadfast faith in the messianic promise and future. Jewish messianism, in spite of its spiritual and mystical connotations, never relinquished its this-worldly orientation and its understanding of the messianic order in historical, social, and political terms. Hence, many writers consider the participation of Jews in so many secular reform, liberation, and revolutionary movements as a secularized version of traditional Jewish messianism. Similarly, the ideology of Zionism, as a movement for Jewish national emancipation and liberation, is not devoid of messianic features.

Individual eschatology emerges only on the periphery of the Old Testament. Amazingly, there were in Israel no known death cults and no vivid conceptions of life after death. The late expectation of the resurrection from the dead to judgment (Dan. 12:2) is not a yearning for salvation but hope in the victorious righteousness of God. Rabbinical messianism continued this same line of thought. (see also  afterlife)

 

3.2.6.3 Christianity.

 

3.2.6.3.1 In the New Testament period.

The preaching and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth and the activities of his followers in the 1st century AD can be properly understood only in the context of contemporaneous Jewish eschatological beliefs. Though the precise nature of Jesus' beliefs about himself and about the nature of the "messianic" task that he attributed to himself are still a matter of scholarly controversy, there is little doubt that already at an early date his followers saw in him the promised "anointed one" (Greek christos, whence the English Christ) of the Lord, the son of David. This view is evident in the Gospel accounts that attempt to trace the ancestry of Jesus back to David, evidently for the purpose of legitimizing his messianic status. According to Luke 2:11 his messiahship was also proclaimed by angels at his birth. Jesus himself seems to have rejected the term--possibly because of its political implications--in favour of other eschatological titles (e.g., the "Son of Man"), but the early community of his followers, believing, as they did, in his Resurrection after the crucifixion, evidently held this term to be expressive more than any other of the role and function that they attributed to their master and "Lord" (Greek kyrios). In due course the title ("Jesus, the Christ") became synonymous with the proper name, and the word Christ was used by believers as the name of the risen Jesus (cf. Gal. 1:6; Heb. 9:11).

With the adoption of the Greek word "Christ" by the church of the Gentiles (non-Jewish believers), the nationalist and political implications of the term "messiah" vanished altogether in Christianity, and the "Son of David" and the "Son of man" motifs, to which subsequently was added that of the "suffering Servant" (Isa. 52-53), could merge in a politically neutral and religiously original messianic conception. Subsequently, the doctrine of the messiahship of Jesus (i.e., Christology) also had to take into account other features of evolving Christian dogma (the Messiah as the Son of God; the Trinity, of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; the incarnation of the Word), and thus came to assert that Jesus as the Messiah, Saviour, and Redeemer was essentially divine. In due course the concept of salvation was radically spiritualized, and the Messiah, through his sacrificial death, was viewed as having delivered man from his bondage to sin and having restored him to communion with God. Meanwhile, Christians asserted that the present world order would provisionally continue until the Second Coming (the Parousia) of Christ in power and glory to judge the living and the dead.

The early Christians held this Second Coming to be imminent, but as time went on this particular expectation shifted to the eschatological horizon. In the centuries immediately following the writing of Daniel, the apocalyptic world view had significantly influenced Jewish culture; the audiences whom Jesus addressed were acquainted with it; and the early Christian Church embraced the apocalyptic world view. The Apostle Paul frequently expressed apocalyptic expectations (I Thess. 4), and Mark 13, a passage often called "the little apocalypse," reflects the apocalyptic expectations of the Roman church at about AD 70.

The Christian Church in the 1st century wrestled with a difficult problem. Jesus had promised the inauguration of a new age, the Kingdom of God, and yet life proceeded after his death in much the same way that it had before his birth, with the exception that Christian believers suffered severe persecution for their faith. The primitive church solved this problem through the paradox of the Second Coming of Christ: Christ has come and is coming again. They believed that the new age had dawned but would not be fully revealed until Christ's Second Coming in glory.

Like the Book of Daniel, the Revelation to John or Revelation was composed during a period of persecution. It was probably written during the last decade of the 1st century AD, and it reflects the persecutions beginning under the emperor Nero (AD 37-68), who seems to be portrayed as the Antichrist--the beast whose symbolic number is 666 (Rev. 13). After addressing letters to churches of Asia Minor, the author depicted his vision of a series of judgments--seven seals opened, seven trumpets blown, seven bowls poured out. The writer directed his attack against the Roman Empire, referred to cryptically as Babylon and as the great harlot. Christ was described as the executor of God's judgment, appearing not as the man Jesus but as an omnipotent king riding upon a white horse with eyes like a flame of fire and a mouth like a sharp sword "with which to smite the nations" (Rev. 19). In the Book of Revelation the assimilation of Jewish apocalypticism to Christianity was completed. Daniel's Son of man was replaced by Christ; many of the numerological formulas were repeated; and the dualistic universe of good and evil, Christ and Antichrist, was provided with a new and unforgettable set of characters. The essence of the apocalypse in Revelation remained what it had been in Daniel: the immediate, direct aid of God was to be momentarily expected, accomplishing the dramatic reversal of history that the believers' present desperate state demanded. (see also  Last Judgment, New Testament)

 

3.2.6.3.2 In the early church.

During the first hundred years of Christian history, this form of millenarianism, or chiliasm (from the Greek word for 1,000), was commonly taught and accepted within the church. Persecution of the church was intermittent, however, and apocalyptic zeal flagged without the pressure of opposition. Christian missionaries succeeded in converting large numbers of Roman citizens, and some of the antagonism toward the empire was dissipated. The appeal of millenarian thought was further limited by its association with the heresy of Montanism. In characteristic apocalyptic fashion, Montanus, the founder of the movement, was fascinated with the idea of dividing past and future into units of prophetic calculation. In AD 156, according to the 4th-century Christian antiheretical writer Epiphanius, Montanus declared himself the prophet of a third testament, a new age of the Holy Spirit. Phrygia in Asia Minor became the centre of this ecstatic and ascetic movement whose leaders claimed divine inspiration for their visions and utterances, the main theme of which was the imminent Second Coming of Christ. This concept of the third age, the new day of the spirit of God, has been one of the most consistently repeated features of millenarian history, reappearing, for example, in Joachim of Fiore's philosophy of history during the 12th century, in views of the 17th-century Quakers, and in the apocalyptic speculations of the Seventh-day Adventists of the 19th and 20th centuries. When persecution of Christians was renewed late in the 2nd century, Montanism began to appeal outside Asia Minor and found converts throughout the Roman Empire, including Tertullian, a North African lawyer and theologian. The church survived this persecution, however, and Montanism was stigmatized as a heresy.

The influence of Greek thought upon Christian theology undermined the millenarian world view in another, possibly more significant, manner. In the theology of the great 3rd-century Alexandrian Christian thinker Origen, the focus was not upon the manifestation of the kingdom within this world but within the soul of the believer, a significant shift of interest away from the historical toward the metaphysical, or the spiritual. The association of apocalyptic millenarianism with the Montanist heresy, the growing influence of Greek thought upon Christian theology, and the conversion of Constantine the Great and adoption of Christianity as the favoured religion of the empire--all combined to discredit millenarianism for centuries.

 

3.2.6.4 Post-Biblical Christianity.

 

3.2.6.4.1 The views of Augustine.

In the new age of the church triumphant--i.e., when Christianity became the accepted religion of the Roman Empire-- Augustine (354-430), bishop of Hippo, gave definitive expression to the view that was to dominate Western civilization through the Reformation. In his City of God, a philosophy of history, Augustine viewed the world as eternally divided between the City of the World and the City of God. All men owe allegiance to one or the other of these cities and will ultimately share the fate of that community. The City of the World is ruled by Satan, the prince of this world. He and all who pay homage to his city will suffer eternal punishment. The City of God is represented in the church, and for the church God has ordained salvation from the persecution of the City of the World and eternal bliss in the courts of heaven. Much of this conception is reminiscent of the apocalyptic world view, but the views of Augustine also contained distinct differences.

The dualism represented in apocalypticism is reflected with equal intensity in Augustine's two cities. Furthermore, Augustine remained as pessimistic as any millenarian about the future of the City of the World and the prospect of progress in this world. After his conversion to Christianity, Augustine, a former bon vivant, consistently favoured a world-denying and ascetic style of life. In fact, his disillusionment with worldly values was more thorough than that of the millenarians, for he rejected as carnal any expectations of a renewed and purified world that the believers could expect to enjoy. In this respect he differed sharply with the apocalyptic tradition. The millenarian, in contrast to Augustine, had no quarrel with the world as such except that he had found it controlled by his enemies. The millenarian believed that when the imminently expected saviour had defeated these foes, the righteous would share in an earthly paradise, a land of physical, not spiritual, benefits. (see also  asceticism)

The literalistic descriptions of the judgments that were predicted for the wicked and the bliss foretold for the righteous found in such apocalyptic works as the Book of Revelation were interpreted allegorically by Augustine. He expected that ultimately the history of this world would end, but for him the millennium had become a spiritual state into which the church collectively had entered at Pentecost--the time of the reception of the Holy Spirit by Christ's disciples soon after his Resurrection--and which the individual Christian might already enjoy through mystical communion with God. In contrast to the apocalypticist's focus upon the contemporary world, Augustine, though just as influenced by his own cultural milieu, responded with a millennial eschatology that seemed almost oblivious of time. As far as the struggle with evil in this world is concerned, Augustine surrendered and abandoned the field. No imminent supernatural intervention in history was expected, and no dramatic reversal of the tide of battle was anticipated. Augustine taught what has been referred to as "realized" eschatology. For him the battle had already been fought on the spiritual ground that really mattered. God had triumphed. Satan has been reduced to lordship in this world. In the present age the City of the World and the City of God have been forced to coexist. Eventually, even that small patrimony that Satan claimed would be taken from him, and God would become triumphant. (see also  Last Judgment, allegory)

 

3.2.6.4.2 Medieval and Reformation millennialism.

Augustine's allegorical millennialism became the official doctrine of the church, and apocalypticism went underground. During the late Middle Ages and the Reformation, millenarian views were frequently voiced, most often by rebels and radicals. The extreme wing of the Bohemian Hussite movement, known as the Taborites, sought to establish the Kingdom of God by force of arms. The left-wing Protestant Anabaptists as well as the Bohemian and Moravian Brethren were millenarians. The great Peasants' War in Germany (1524-25), in which the radical reformer Thomas Müntzer and the radical Zwickau prophets took a leading part, and the Anabaptist "Kingdom of God" in the German city of Münster (1534-35)--ruled over by the fanatical John of Leiden--are examples of millenarian-apocalyptic movements or of social movements with a messianic dimension. (see also  Unitas Fratrum)

In England, the Independents (those who separated themselves from the Church of England) thought of ushering in the Kingdom of God, and groups such as the Fifth Monarchy Men believed that revolution was necessary to prepare the way for the reign of Christ and his saints. The revolutionary Puritan leader Oliver Cromwell's (1599-1658) sober common sense and his dissolution of the so-called Parliament of Saints prevented apocalyptic enthusiasm from dominating the Commonwealth. The millenarian element also was strong in 17th- and 18th-century German Pietism, and it played a major role in the doctrines of many sects that arose in the 19th century in the United States and Great Britain (e.g., Irvingites, Mormons, Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Christadelphians, and others). Many of these sects, however, are more correctly described as entertaining messianic expectations than as actual messianic movements.

Apart from these dissidents, the doctrine of Augustine remained unchallenged until the 17th century. The Protestant Reformers of the Lutheran, Calvinist, and Anglican traditions were not apocalypticists but remained firmly attached to the views of Augustine, for whose theology they felt a particular affinity. Many of the allusions of the Book of Revelation were viewed in a distinctly Protestant perspective by the Reformers--the allusions to Rome as the great harlot and as Babylon being transferred to the Roman church, and the pope being identified as the beast. Each of the three main Protestant traditions of 16th-century Europe, however, found support from the secular authorities in Saxony, Switzerland, and England and remained in the same position vis-à-vis the state as had the medieval church. The apocalyptics within medieval Christendom, as well as in the 16th-century Reformation, were those who believed that their only help was the Lord and for whom persecution was a reality and destruction an imminent threat. (see also  papacy)

The Augustinian millennial world view, though it survived the Reformation, did not survive the intellectual revolution of the 17th century. Behind the development of science lay a profound reorientation of Western thought that involved, in the first place, the rehabilitation of nature. A part of Augustine's rejection of the world stemmed from the frustration felt by his generation in attempting to cope with the natural and social history of its time. By 1600 Europeans had gained confidence in their own abilities. Such philosophers as Francis Bacon announced the dawn of a new day and attacked the Augustinian reluctance to see anything but the work of the devil in attempts to control or understand natural processes. Secondly, European intellectuals were becoming far more interested in measurement and quantification. Allegory fell into disrepute when the medieval interpretation of the nature of the heavenly bodies was proved to be erroneous by the facts discovered by the use of the telescope. A new concern with calculation and literalism spread to biblical scholarship and resulted in the creation of the third type of millennialism found in the Christian tradition--progressive millennialism.

 

3.2.6.4.3 Early progressive millennialism.

Joseph Mead (Mede), a 17th-century Anglican biblical scholar, was the pioneer in the movement. Ignoring the allegorical interpretation long associated with the book, Mead took a fresh look at the text of Revelation. He concluded that the Scriptures held the promise of a literal Kingdom of God. The work of redemption, he concluded, would be completed within human history on the stage of this world. The Book of Revelation itself seemed to contain a historical record of the progress of that Kingdom, and scholars other than Mead soon were speculating where in the prophetic timetable the modern millennialist might locate himself. Thus far, progressive millennialism appeared to be identical with the apocalyptic millenarianism of the early church, but there the similarity ended. The Kingdom would not be brought into being through any dramatic reversal of the historical process, nor did the progressive millennialists believe that the Second Advent of Christ would occur in order to rescue them from destruction. History did not need reversing for these early Enlightenment Christians (those who emphasized reason). They thought of the record of the past as the story of victory over evil and the conquest of Satan. They rejected the fundamental assumptions of the apocalypticist--i.e., that victory would be snatched from the jaws of defeat only by a miraculous deliverance. For them it seemed that the progress of history had been continuously upward, that the Kingdom of God was coming ever closer, and that it would arrive, not without struggle, but on the basis of the same kind of effort that had always triumphed in the past. (see also  good and evil)

In the 18th century the teachings of the progressive millennialists became dominant in many Protestant churches. The Anglican polemicist and commentator Daniel Whitby (1638-1726), in his Paraphrase and Commentary on the New Testament (1703), provided such convincing support to the position that he has often been credited with creating it. In America interest in the millennium had not been lacking among Puritan scholars, but it was the great revivalist Jonathan Edwards (1703-58) who first adopted progressive millennialism, giving detailed exposition of his views in his uncompleted History of the Work of RedemptionEdwards saw significance for millennialism in the discovery and settlement of the New World, and he anticipated the establishment of Christ's kingdom sometime near the end of the 20th century.

 

3.2.6.4.4 Later progressive millennialism.

The association of the millennium with the role of the United States proved to be a volatile 19th-century mixture in the hands of Protestant ministers, and for much of that period millennialism fed the fires of nationalism and Manifest Destiny. In a typical utterance, a leading Presbyterian minister of the 1840s, Samuel H. Cox, told an English audience that, "in America, the state of society is without parallel in universal history. . . . I really believe that God has got America within anchorage, and that upon that arena, He intends to display his prodigies for the millennium." The late 19th-century movement known as the Social Gospel, dedicated as it was to establishing the Kingdom of God here and now, manifested most clearly the continuing influence of progressive millennialism.

Because the advocates of optimistic millennialism were confident of the ultimate triumph of their cause, it must not be assumed that they took evil lightly. They thought of God's Kingdom as advancing, as Jonathan Edwards argued, but not without destruction. Though they were not apocalyptic, their view of history included the cataclysmic. In the American Civil War, for example, the antislavery writer Julia Ward Howe, in "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," described God's truth as "marching on." In Pres. Woodrow Wilson's crusade to make the world "safe for democracy" by the entry of the United States into World War I (1914-18), one can see the same idea barely disguised. According to the progressive millennialists, Christ's Second Advent would occur at the close of the millennium as its crowning event, and, as a result, their position has frequently been called postmillennialism.

 

3.2.7 ESCHATOLOGY IN MODERN TIMES

 

3.2.7.1 Influences on modern ideologies.

Western civilization, even in its modern secularized forms, is heir to a long tradition of Christian patterns of thought and sensibility. Thus, it is not surprising that many movements of social reform as well as ideologies regarding an ideal future should bear traces--conscious or unconscious--of Christian influence. Both the 18th- and 19th-century Enlightenment and the Romantic versions of the idea of the progress of humanity to an ideal state of peace and harmony betray their descent from messianic-millenarian beliefs. The 18th-century German philosopher Immanuel Kant, when speaking of the ideal state of eternal peace, describes this concept as a "philosophical chiliasm." The indebtedness of presocialist, utopian thinkers--such as the French social reformer Henri de Saint-Simon, the English reformer Robert Owen, and the French reformer Charles Fourier--to Christian millenarianism was recognized by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, who, in their Communist Manifesto (1848), contemptuously referred to the utopias of these writers as "duodecimo editions of the New Jerusalem." Some early socialist movements, including Christian socialism, exhibited messianic features. Marxist Communism, in spite of its explicit atheism and dogmatic materialism, has a markedly messianic structure and message. (see also  Marxism)

Some of the analogies between Marxism and traditional Christian eschatology have been described, in a slightly ironical vein, by the English philosopher Bertrand Russell, who contends that Marx adapted the Jewish messianic pattern of history to socialism in the same way that the philosopher-theologian St. Augustine (AD 354-430) adapted it to Christianity. According to Russell, the materialistic dialectic that governs historical development corresponds--in the Marxist scheme--to the biblical God, the proletariat to the elect, the Communist Party to the church, the revolution to the Second Coming, and the Communist commonwealth to the millennium.

Whether or not Socialism and Communism, as well as certain national liberation movements, are described as secularized messianism, pseudomessianism, "substitute" messianism, and the like, is partly a matter of semantics, partly an attempt to use evaluative instead of descriptive language. The differences between secular ideologies and traditional messianic expectations are obvious. The similarities are founded on actual historic contacts and derivation (as in the history of reform and revolutionary movements in the West as well as of liberation movements in countries colonized by the West), and also on the fact that they are variations of the same social dynamisms and of a basic myth, expressing in powerful imagery certain elemental human experiences and aspirations.

 

3.2.7.2 Renewed interest in eschatology.

Since the exegetical (interpretive) works of Johannes Weiss and Albert Schweitzer around 1900 (school of "consistent eschatology") and dialectic theology (Karl Barth, Rudolf Bultmann), eschatology has again become a principal theme of academic Christian theology. The crises in the Western countries have led to a renewed activization of eschatological hopes. In church struggles, this was expressed in terms of distinctions between Christianity as a state religion and congregations with eschatological orientations. On its margins, Western civilization contains a series of mystical and apocalyptical "anticultures." Initial attempts to combine eschatology and philosophy, hope, and social practice, and thus overcome the difference between the church and the sects, as well as the church and the modern age, are found in Ernst Bloch's philosophy of hope (Das Prinzip der Hoffnung, 1959), the writings of P. Teilhard de Chardin, and in the "theology of hope" (J. Moltmann, W. Pannenberg, H. Cox, L. Dewart, etc.). Eschatology is one of the main focuses of Christianity. Therefore, its most important theological decisions about theory and practice must take eschatological concerns seriously, as seriously as the many and varied revolutionary groups (both religious and secular) have done in the 20th century. ( J.D.M./R.J.Z.W./ E.R.S./Ed.)

 

   


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