Although there existed no real millennial text prior to late Jewish and early Christian texts, there exists an overabundance of resources that heavily draw on millennial texts. This article deals with the “Apocrypha” or the Hebrew Bible, which is wrought with apocalyptic literature. Similar literature is also to be found in Mesopotamian scriptures, a string of texts known as the “Akkadian Prophecies”. Ancient Zoroastrian texts, predating both Jewish and Christian counterparts, too seem to have substantial pre-millennial texts, similar in subjective elements such as an unhappy end of time with subsequent salvation, resurrection, personified angels etc. The common factors between these texts are: they commonly draw on general crisis contexts and most immediate and obvious hurdles in projecting the evils of the world; secondly, the geographical origins of these texts were unified by the common factor of their unequivocal resistance to Hellenic expansionism, something that figures prominently in the subjective interpretation of these texts.
The concept of avertive apocalypticism describes a wide range of beliefs that predict imminent worldly destruction and maintains that apocalypse may be averted or forestalled if believers engage in specific spiritual or ritual actions. This article represents the survivalist strain in millennialism, believing in earthly deliberations, and history as pre-ordained, beyond human control and subject to divine will. Salvation from the impending apocalypse is to be delivered by some divine entity that involves enduring by divine messianic preaching. The ideas range from apparitions to planetary escape on exploration of UFOs to employ collective psychic efforts, through mass prayers and to avert imminent destruction. This article focuses on selected contemporary expressions of spiritual avertive beliefs and practices. The concept of avertive apocalypticism upholds human agency and free will. Failure of the apocalypse predictions is pitched as post-facto triumph. The continued analysis of the dynamics of such ideas is crucial for an expanded understanding of the complexity and enduring appeal of apocalyptic and millennial thought and practice.
Eugene V. Gallagher
Catastrophic millennialism emanates from a deep pessimism towards society, history, and general humanity. This article develops an analysis of the basic descriptive vocabulary of catastrophic millennialism from the examination of a pair of texts from Late Antiquity. It simultaneously emphasizes a catastrophic end to life as we know it and “a heaven on earth”, the new coming of humanity, following the cleansing. The article also states that predictions of the apocalypse always combine certain general but instrumental factors that invariably strengthen the conflict. This article shows how a group of contemporary millennialist movements have used the basic tropes of catastrophic millennialism to create their own distinctive apocalyptic messages. It highlights how these groups differ in their assessments of why the world will soon be destroyed, precisely how it will happen, who will accomplish that destruction, when and where it will happen, and, especially, what their faithful followers must do in the meantime.
This article discusses three recurring themes that can be identified from the midst of global millennialism, namely Sacred time—the categorization of history into religiously relevant holy phases; sacred geography—physical locations of great religious relevance, with Mount Zion and Jerusalem at the apex; and lastly sacred commonwealth—an ideal, transcendental state, divinely ruled, by angels or messiahs with divine mandate. The 7,000-year period or “the seventy weeks of year”, at the end of which the salvation would occur, forms the basis of the sacred time. The Islamic conquest of Iberia and the subsequent purging of Christians, Jews, and heterodox Islam put that place in the list of sacred locales. It also gained relevance by facilitating comparative dialogue among the Judaic religions. This article reveals that in Europe, the Taborites under Jan Hus and the Florentine Republic under Girolamo Savonarola, were prominent instances of sacred commonwealth while the 600-year Caliphate resembled the same for Islam.
Melissa M. Wilcox
This article deals with the issues of gender and sexuality in millennial movements. Patriarchy pervades across the spectrum, varieties range from reversal of normative gender based divisions of labor, to anti-abortion drives, to a renouncement of the original sin (sexual intercourse) and others. Convinced at a gross degeneration of the divinely ordained ways, various strains proposed practice of “free love”. Differential interpretations of scriptures evoke different responses to the same elements. While raising a woman to the level of a messiah, generating obedience from men and women alike, and throwing a protectionist cordon around the woman, may seem overtly empowering, with the woman shrouded in false consciousness, becoming party to the abetment of patriarchy. This article sites an instance of white and colored racial supremacists, two extremes of the same spectrum, having in common the same patriarchal subjective notion of women and their role.
This chapter concentrates on the mimetic theory of Rene Girard in evaluating foundational myths of violence. It shows Girard's notion of the scapegoating mechanism, whereby a substitute victim absorbs the mimetic animosities of the entire group and thereby promotes peace, as applicable to the disturbing tendency to direct violence outward toward exogenous groups. According to Girard, competition is the main source of human violence. His explanation, that violence has its roots in competition or mimetic rivalry, contributes to Thomas Hobbes, who also highlighted this cause of violence at the beginning of the modern era. The Abrahamic solidarity with the victim easily becomes an aggressive weapon if taking the side of the victim is not connected with the forgiveness of persecutors. Girard interprets the imitation of Christ in the context of rivalries prohibited in the tenth commandment of the First Testament.
This chapter demonstrates the viability of a new theory for the role of religion in violence by applying it to cases ranging from the ancient to the modern world, and in the three Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Islam, and Christianity). It also describes how scarce resource theory can help elaborate religious violence. Moreover, the chapter reports how religion produces scarce resources, and then concentrates on: 1) access to the divine will, particularly through inscripturation, 2) sacred space, 3) group privileging, and 4) salvation. It is noted that religion is not the cause of all violence. Violence against scriptures can engage all sorts of permutations within the Abrahamic traditions. Sacred space is the source of violence in Abrahamic religions. The fact that religious violence is always immoral, and the fact that non-religious violence is not always immoral, is the key ethical distinction between religious and non-religious violence.
This chapter provides some of the answers as to how evil is experienced and why it exists. Evil explodes into the everyday world unasked and unwelcome, and has little underlying meaning other than in relation to culturally contrived notions of orderliness, goodliness, or legality. Three major reasons or rhetorics are routinely raised by evil-doers when called upon to account for their acts: arguments from affect, from custom, and from rationality. Human evil is always “reasonable” even if it seems at first glance to be crazy. Mankind becomes the occasion of evil; not out of craven malignity, but out of a yearning to triumph over evil. Albert Camus reported on the human response to “plague,” a metaphor for the evils he had just witnessed during the Second World War. However, he failed to determine exactly what a disillusioned grappling with evil might mean.