eschatology

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eschatology

the branch of theology or biblical exegesis concerned with the end of the world
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Eschatology

 

the religious doctrine of the final destiny of the world and mankind. Individual eschatology, or the doctrine of life after death of the individual human soul, should be distinguished from universal eschatology, which is concerned with the purpose of the cosmos and history, with their end, and with that which comes after their end.

Ancient Egypt played an important part in the development of individual eschatology, and universal eschatology owes much to Judaism, which focuses on a mystical interpretation of history as a rational process directed by the will of a personal god: history, directed by god, must overcome itself in the coming of the “new heaven and new earth.” Individual eschatology becomes a part of universal eschatology, for the coming of “the age to come” will be the time of the resurrection of the righteous.

Christian eschatology grew out of a Judaic eschatology freed of national aspirations and supplemented by classical, Egyptian, and Zoroastrian eschatological motifs. It proceeded from the belief that the eschatological era had already begun with Jesus Christ (the Messiah). With his first coming, history comes to an end only “invisibly” and continues to last, albeit in the shadow of the end; his second coming (when the Messiah is to judge the living and the dead) will make the end a visible reality.

New Testament eschatology expressed itself in complex symbols and parables, eschewing clarity; nevertheless, the medieval consciousness created a detailed picture of the afterworld, as reflected in countless apocryphal stories and “visions.” On the level of graphically apprehended myths, eschatological motifs are often shared by different religions, such as Islam and Catholicism. With the onset of the age of capitalism, some of the functions, motifs, and themes of eschatology were taken over by the ideology of utopia.

REFERENCES

Dieterich, A. Nekyia. Leipzig, 1893.
Bultmann, R. History and Eschatology. Edinburgh, 1957.

S. S. AVERINTSEV

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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