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Is there emptiness, or an outside? I will trace how this image of reaching the end and breaking through has been returning in contemporary mainstream cinema, especially in connection with the idea that the world we experience is a simulation The Truman Show, Dark City, The 13th Floor, The Matrix.

Imagining The End: Visions Of Apocalypse From The Ancient Middle East To Modern America

Furthermore, I will explore how this gesture of breakthrough is gendered and what other images of dealing with the edge we can find. At that point, time, history and politics reappear in this spatial concept of the end of the world. Author: Natalie Lettenewitsch. Add to Cart.

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Have Institutional Access? Forgot your password? Framing the Apocalypse Visions of the End-of-Times. Some researchers emphasise that social contexts, within which apocalypses originated and to which they belong, are more complex and diverse. Collins notes, for example, that Hanson's well-known division of groups within the post-exilic community is by no means a constant factor in those and later times.

He also notes that, though Qumran's literature, possibly Enoch texts and maybe Daniel may be regarded as conventicle-like texts, it is not the case with 4 Ezra and 2 Baruch. He remarks, "The 'conventicle' theory of apocalypticism is at best an unwarranted generalization". Such differences question the reductive and distorted models that are imposed on apocalyptic groups. More examples provide a fuller picture. Other more diverse portraits are provided of apocalyptic groups. Lampe , for example, does not speak of one apocalyptic setting only, but distinguishes between at least two types of apocalyptic groups.

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Whilst some groups supported a violent response to those who oppressed them, others followed a non-violent route. Intellectuals represent this non-violent, individualistic type, heavily influenced by wisdom. They differ from the priestly type that was willing to support their claims with the sword. History thus confirms that people with an apocalyptic mind-set can respond violently to times of crisis, whilst others do not.

In the words of Albertz , an increasing number of scholars are distinguishing between "several apocalyptic groups who pursued different goals and came from different backgrounds". A closer reading of Revelation reveals its complex social setting. This is, first, true of the interior situation within the faith community.

In the seven churches Rev. The letter is not about "the" church as conventicle or sect against oppressors. The opponents of the author are also complex. They include socio-political adversaries, Jewish groups, and wealthy, influential members of the church. This complex picture stands in clear contrast with an analysis such as that of Farmer who writes that readers of Revelation stood under Jewish attack, were despised by their gentile neighbours, and suffered under internal divisions: "The Christians, generally poor and disenfranchised themselves, probably sympathized with the poor in these conflicts, which again brought them into confrontation with the authorities.

One of the most recent investigations of Revelation proves how tentative the model of poor believers against wealthy opponents is. Mathews deviates in a major way from this type of interpretation.


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He, in fact, turns it on its head. He describes Revelation as an attempt to warn the community against seeking affluence "in order to find some sense of false security and establish their self-sufficiency" cf. Focusing on altering their attitude to wealth, he advises them to withdraw from the present economic system and find their wealth in Christ. In making such a radical choice, they show their commitment to God rather than to wealth.

In doing so, they opt for a marginal existence. This analysis offers the proposition that Revelation is not the result of deprivation or social marginalisation. It is their apocalyptic faith that leads them to opt for a marginal existence - which means offering a critique of, and distancing themselves from an existing prosperous lifestyle. Their marginal lifestyle does not lead them to embrace apocalyptic thought. The opposite is true. This interpretation of Mathews questions deprivation theory in more than one way. This model simply does not fit the text.

His research shows that Revelation suggests more complex relationships than a common bond of poverty. Not all are deprived, because the community includes wealthy members, as text pronouncements such as Revelation indicate. All this is not only true of Revelation, but also valid of other apocalypses. Albertz provides revealing insights from contemporary research on this matter. Some scholars associate Daniel and his group, for example, with the Hasidim of the Books of Maccabees and some with the opponents of the Hasidim - the cultic and wisdom circles of Jerusalem.

Others link it with learned scribal, urban upper-class groups; with well-educated, upper-class mantic wisdom groups; with returning exiles, or with wandering prophets of scribal learning and mystical experiences. This illustrates not only the hypothetical nature of social reconstructions, 25 but also the many possible mutually exclusive, in some instances groups with which apocalyptic texts can be associated.

One could approach this from the opposite direction - that is, by using contemporary models to understand apocalyptic groups from Biblical times. Social analyses of modern trends point to diverse social locations and complex social structures of apocalyptic groups. Apocalyptic thought is used in many social contexts and is at home in a huge variety of settings. Countless adaptations of apocalyptic thought are made, for example, in religious and secular art and in political nationalism, as Vondung noted. Equally informative for a proper hermeneutical approach to the social location of apocalypses is the research that has been done on apocalypses as crisis literature.

Apocalyptic groups have been associated with crises that made them feel marginalised and oppressed by their powerful oppressors. This research is informed by analyses of contemporary apocalyptic and millenarian groups and, once again, leans heavily on deprivation theory. Hofheinz thus stresses the link between apocalypses and crises when he, for example, points out how, in contemporary secular contexts, such a crisis is linked with military, ecological and economical upheavals.

It reflects anxiety about the explosion of numbers, climate change and the nuclear threat. Such a lachrymose interpretation of apocalyptic groups also faces serious challenges.

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Whilst it seems as if apocalypses have some link with crises, it is often difficult to specify their nature with confidence Collins ; Stone Recent research, however, stressed that not all apocalypses can be linked with a "real" crisis. In the case of Revelation, for example, the long-standing conviction that it reflects a crisis, during which believers were persecuted by the Roman State, was questioned because of lack of any evidence Slater Apocalypses also display a marked interest in material that has little to do with crises, such as theodicy 4 Ezra; 2 Baruch; Stone , astronomy, meteorology, gemmology, and other sacred sciences.

Such material would refer to calendrical polemics or mystical interests rather than crisis material. It is reductive, finally, to view ideologies such as apocalypticism as, by necessity, the result of material conditions such as a crisis. Not all crisis situations evoke or create apocalypses.

In fact, a group's apocalyptic convictions need not be the result of a crisis, but can bring about a crisis situation. The poor as class notion is too unstable, varying in time periods, places and contexts. In this instance, the readers as disadvantaged group are understood to be materially and intellectually poor.

Recent research has pointed out that there is no simple understanding of who socially disadvantaged people are. The latter react to domination differently, depending on a multiple number of factors such as their gender, education, legal position, and ethnicity. Social disadvantage is, therefore, a multifaceted term, referring to groups or individuals who lack religious, political, judicial, educational, national ethnic , and economic equality with the rest of society Friesen ; Cook It would thus be a mistake to reduce such a complicated issue to a matter of material possessions or a lack of education.

The effective history of an apocalypse such as Revelation has shown that its contents did not always reflect an uneducated mind-set, and its reception did not take place only among those lacking intellectual skills. Many educated readers engaged in careful scholarship on Revelation, utilising the established historicist interpretation of Revelation as reflecting on world history and predicting future events. Newport provided ample examples of this learned approach by sophisticated readers.

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He spoke of "the long and prestigious pedigree of this interpretive approach" far beyond those. Indeed, even such intellectual giants as the noted Oxford academic, Thomas Goodwin , and as was noted above, the eminent scientists Sir Isaac Newton and Joseph Priestley, turned their hands to the task of this kind of prophetic interpretation.

The above discussion as well as social-scientific research of millennial movements indicates that apocalypses are found and used in many social locations. Not all such groups are marginal or alienated. Apocalypticism emerges in eras of calm Haggai; Zechariah , and in eras of disruption, in stable societies and amid the encounters and clashes of cultures, in peripheral or colonized peoples and in dominating or colonizing powers Cook For example, not only socially disadvantaged groups, but also privileged groups used Revelation.

In the effective history of its interpretation, the book was at times a useful instrument in the hands of oppressors such as the powerful Protestant majority in eighteenth-century England when they demonised and justified their intolerance and actions against Catholics as their socially disadvantaged victims Newbury Social settings are, therefore, more fluid than simplistic scenarios suggest Polanski It is, as should be borne in mind consistently, also a matter of hypothesising and speculating. Finally, a last issue requires attention, because it affects the attempt to determine the social context of apocalypses and simultaneously to extract some information about that context.

This information is of special relevance in connection with the theory that apocalyptic groups were socially disadvantaged people who lacked education and operated on the fringes of society.

Imagining the End: Visions of Apocalypse from the Ancient Middle East to Modern America

It has been noted that there is an ambiguity in apocalypses, which indicates a thoughtful and even learned reflection on their relevance and meaning. Although Revelation and other apocalypses addressed particular readers with a specific message, apocalypses often claim a more universal appeal. Revelation, for example, contains much information about its social setting in Revelation , with its seven letters to Asian communities. Yet, the book moves away from particularity and offers a message with a wider, more universal appeal.

It does not identify its opponents and is, for example, ambiguous in its presentation of Babylon, the great city, calling it Jerusalem, Sodom and Egypt Rev. This paradigmatic communication is presented through the technique of concealment. Though claiming to reveal heavenly secrets about the true reality that exists and endures beyond the present dispensation, its revelations remain ambiguous and concealing, in some instances leaving the reader mystified or perplexed even where explanations of symbols are given Rev.

It is as if, in a learned manner, the author wanted to create space for discovering new meanings in different situations.