James D. Tabor
This article focuses on ancient Jewish and early Christian millennialism, which are found to be intrinsically inconsistent—there are no specific pointers towards marking the end of time; messianic figures appear in some texts and not in others; and God is humanized in some while others are exclusively emphatic on the transcendental paradigm. It makes the whole millennialist gamut essentially subjective. The groundwork was laid by the pre-Hellenic invasions of Israel and the context for the emergence of Jewish millennialism was provided by the widespread suppression under Greek emperor Antiochus. This article demonstrates that from the second and third centuries onwards, the trend increasingly tended from literal expressions towards symbolic subjective millennialism, to the extent that the former was considered inferior.
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.
Clark H. Pinnock
In Christian theology, annihilationism designates the views of those who hold that the finally impenitent wicked will cease to exist after (or soon after) the last judgment. Annihilation is a term designating theories which contend that human beings may pass or be put out of existence altogether. The theories fall into three classes: pure mortality, conditional immortality, and annihilation proper. Alongside the large number of texts that depict hell as a place of death and destruction, there is some countertestimony too. There are three texts in particular, one in the Gospel of Matthew and two in the Book of Revelation, which need comment because they are cited as proof texts of the traditional opinion. Scripture aside, belief in the nature of hell as everlasting conscious punishing remains solidly traditional, which means that the burden of proof rests on the shoulders of the reformers in this matter.
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.
Class apathy and a selective process of record keeping created fertile grounds for uprise in China. This article throws light on two of the earliest millennialist movements in China, namely, the Taiping Dao and the Wudoumi Dao movements that emerged from havoc, intending to create millennial commonwealth and practiced healing through confession. The Chinese Buddhist millennialism synthesized a modified version of the Indian concept of “kalpa” and the Buddhist teaching of the three ages where each age ends with the demise of a “Bodhisattva” and marks a decline based on the degeneration of Buddha's teachings. It states that the dark age graced by superhuman saviors shall witness the arrival of the Maitreya, the next Buddha incarnate. The Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) rhetoric about “a thousand years of prosperity” is also considered reflective of millennial views.
This chapter explores the construction of evil and the strategies of violence in purification. Prurient fascination and righteous revulsion both recreate and repel each other, developing an anxiety of confusion that has resulted in many circumstances in community efforts to cast the subject, the symbol, of that confusion. Erotic prurience into the nature and deeds of Evil may remain as a living genre for centuries without lending itself to societies as legitimation for purge. Dramaturgy and procession can contribute to brutal but cathartic narratives of saints and monsters, martyrs, and their persecutors, into the immediate festival lives of communities. Furthermore, brutality and atrocity are recurrent characteristics of any culture, often aggravated in situations of historical stress independent of religious systems.
The End Is Nigh: Failed Prophecy, Apocalypticism, and The Rationalization of Violence in New Religious Eschatologies
In popular discourse, apocalypticism has been the feature most often associated with new religious movements. In the theologies of many of the prominent new religions, end-time discourse is conspicuous. Several terms are used by scholars to discuss apocalyptic beliefs, notably apocalypticism, millennialism, and millenarianism, all of which overlap, clustering around the same general eschatological focus—the end of the present world. In the study of new religions, the term apocalypticism has tended to refer to catastrophism and, more often than not, to eschatological scenarios which, despairing of a political or religious transformation of the world, look to cataclysmic intervention of a divine, otherworldly, or superhuman kind. This article discusses millenarian adventism and failed prophecy, Jehovah's Witness eschatology, apocalypticism and violence involving Aum Shinrikyo in Japan, and eschatology and violence.
Robin Globus and Bron Taylor
This article offers a description of the phenomenon of environmental millennialism. Environmentalism synthesises hard science and religion to formulate millennial themes. Although relevant ecological awareness dawned only in the middle of the twentieth century, man's mastery and manipulation over and of nature, have been inspiring Romantics with apocalyptic millennial visions ever since the nineteenth century. George Perkins Marsh's Man and Nature traces the decline of the Roman Empire to indiscreet use of natural resources and predicted a similar fate at the hands of the Americans. The Romantics asserted hubris and arrogance as the roots of environmental degradation. In a postmodern era, new age environmentalism reflects both pessimism and hope in the environmental degradation induced by imminent catastrophe, and a makes a call to reverse the process. Its ultimate conclusions are indeterminate yet versatile. Environmentalism is activist in nature and secular in approach and critique.
Stephen H. Webb
No theologian has done more to show the political significance of eschatology than Jürgen Moltmann. For Moltmann, the subject matter of all theology should be focused on hope, and eschatology is the doctrine where Christian hope is most explicitly formulated. Moreover, Moltmann thinks that hope, more than love, is the Christian virtue most relevant for politics. If God intervenes at the end of history in order to silence all of our struggles and passions, then history is rendered meaningless. Moltmann identifies this catastrophic version of eschatology with apocalypticism. Moltmann did not repudiate liberation theology's advocacy of socialism as the primary means for advancing the kingdom agenda. In The Coming of God, Moltmann clarified his distinction between eschatology and apocalypticism by addressing the issue of millennialism. This article examines eschatology and politics, focusing on the views of Moltmann and the alternative views of George Weigel, Wolfhart Pannenberg, and Oliver O'Donovan. It also discusses providence versus eschatology and Whittaker Chambers's views on the eschatological challenge of Communism, as well as the politics of progressive premillennialism.
This chapter examines the difficulties the Holocaust posed and continues to raise for Jews, Jewish theology, and specifically Jewish ethics, identifying eight major commitments made by Jews and non-Jews that have since then inspired Jewish and global responses to human-made atrocities such as genocide and crimes against humanity. These are (1) to survive; (2) to perpetuate the memory of what happened; (3) to survive as Jews; (4) to set the moral bar high such that people are expected to be “upstanders,” not bystanders, in the face of evil; (5) to recreate relationships with people of other faiths; (6) to combat discrimination and genocide; (7) to define and demand humane standards for medical research; and (8) to learn how to attain both justice and reconciliation after genocidal atrocities.
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.
This article focuses on the twin factors of millenialist predisposition towards violence and the crossover from a volatile disposition to the actual practice of violence. It reviews the literature that has emerged in religious studies and the social sciences in response to the complexities of fragile millennial communities. It focuses on two broad themes or questions: first, what are the factors that predispose apocalyptic or millennialist communities to become involved in violence; and, second, what factors lead apocalyptic or millennialist groups from being predisposed to volatility to actually becoming violent. The necessary millennialist conception often leads to violent measures. In the face of a prophetic failure, charismatic leadership may employ violence, to realize the prediction or, obscuring the failure, or both. Finally, this article concludes that despite the violent nature of apocalyptic beliefs and rhetoric, the majority of millennial groups possess a passive orientation, believing that it is the role of God, and not themselves, to inaugurate the final scenario.
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 article examines the Islamic ideology of Hasan al-Turabi. It charts the factors that influenced the evolution of his ideology and discusses his thoughts on issues such as the Islamic state, democracy, human rights, art, and non-Muslims.
Notwithstanding almost six decades of scholarship and a fast-swelling stream of publications, the historiography of the Holocaust still remains divided in its initial and traditional clusters: the history of the perpetrators, that of the bystanders, and that of the victims. Most of the historical publications about the Holocaust deal with the perpetrators (the Germans and their collaborators) and their anti-Jewish policies and measures in the Reich and throughout occupied Europe. The history of Nazi policies and measures often tends to be considered as equivalent to the history of the Holocaust as such. The second cluster of monographs examines the attitudes and initiatives of the bystanders, of local authorities in occupied countries, of the European populations, the churches, the neutral countries, and the Allies. The third historiographical cluster deals with the life and death of the victims.
Hugh B. Urban
This article deals with the temporal framework of Hindu religion, which consists of four yugas—Satya, Treta, Dwapar, and Kali. All four combined create a “manvantara”, after a thousand of which, the entirity of creation is destroyed and then begins another thousand manvantara. The total cycle is called kalpa, which is a recurring one. This article describes the incarnation of Lord Vishnu throughout the four yugas, to salvage man. The last incarnate, Kalkin, is supposed to manifest in the present age. Several holy men such as Chaitanya, Ramakrishna Paramhansa, and Sri Sathya Sai, have been proclaimed as incarnates in Kaliyug. In the course of suppressive colonial rule, militant nationalism emerged in messianic attire. Spiritual nationalist Sri Aurobindo described it as a religion directly presented by God. The new age came up with lifestyle gurus such as Osho Rajneesh, who asserted a symbolic end of time by surrendering typical lifestyle practices.
Timothy P. Weber
Millennialism is the belief that there will be a period of peace and righteousness on the earth associated with the Second Coming of Christ. Millennialism has taken various forms and been embraced with varying degrees of intensity throughout the history of Christianity. Millennialists cite Old Testament passages that describe a “peaceable kingdom” in which all God's covenantal promises are fulfilled, human society is transformed, and a new covenant is written on human hearts. The Book of Revelation contains both apocalyptic and prophetic elements, which complicates interpretation even more. Most early Christians struggled to make sense of it, as can be seen in the early church's difficulty in recognizing the book's canonical status. Over time, four ways of interpreting Revelation emerged: preterism, historicism, futurism, and idealism. There are two kinds of millennialism: premillennialism and postmillennialism. This article discusses millennialism and the history of millennial movements (the early church, the Middle Ages, the Protestant Reformation, and the modern period), as well as amillennialism as an alternative to millennialism.
The Rastafari of Jamaica represents the main millennial force in the Caribbean, which derives its impetus from European racism. This article deals with the advent of the Rastafari movement in the Caribbean, emerging around the theme of the repatriation of colored people to their original home: Africa. The prophetic parallel drawn between the coronations of Ras Tafari as the Emperor Haile Selassie (1930) and a mention of the event in crowning of the king and queen of Africa (1928), penned by Marcus Mosiah Garvey, intensified the aspirations for repatriation. The Rastafari movement began under the leadership of Leonard Howell, the man who proliferated the prophetic connection, proclaiming Selassie to be the messiah. A militant faction, the Youth Black Faith, incorporated the defining attributes of the Rastafarian—the dreadlocks, the coconut vessel, and the herbal diets. Although millennialist, the movement was far more institutionalized, engaging the state, society, and other counterparts, and had an expressly defined objective.
Eugene V. Gallagher
Millennialism encourages interpretation of historical or religious scriptures. A need to establish relevance between ancient scriptures and contemporary situations, makes such interpretations extremely positivist. This article examines three primary examples. The first two focus on the complex dynamics of the formation and uses of two texts from the Bible. The Biblical book of Daniel has been the source of many a theological effort to identify the time of the apocalypse. The Rastafarian movement capitalized on the maltreatment of colored slaves as the contemporary manifestation of the Babylonian forces. Reinterpreting the Bible reflected the urge to deny white Christian dominance. This article examines a contemporary millennialist text that attempts to legitimize its message by expressing its millennial hope in a scriptural mode. The discussion of each of those examples is intended to reinforce the contention that the decision to read the signs of one's time and elements of traditional wisdom as conveying a millennialist message represents an intentional interpretive decision.