At 04:57 AM 12/27/00 -0500, you wrote:
In a message dated 12/26/00 11:10:09 PM Eastern Standard Time, [log in to unmask]

> the point is less that the OT and NT speak of the end (far more centrally
>  the NT) for whatever reasons, but why people persist in making this the
>  center of their concerns and imagining (so far incorrectly) that the end
>  (Parousia, for xns) will come in their generation.  that, it seems to me,
>  calls for psychological reasons to explain.
>  richard
My understanding is that Christian eschatology relies less on the OT than on
the mother's speech to her sons in 2 Maccabees...which is included in
Catholic Bibles and was originally included in the KJV, but isn't in Jewish
or Protestant Bibles.

"I cannot tell how ye came into my womb: for I neither gave you breath nor
life, neither was it I that formed the members of  every one of you;  But
doubtless the Creator of the world, who formed the generation of man, and
found out the beginning of all things, will also of his own mercy give you
breath and life again..." (2 Mac 7.21-23).

this for the resurrection of the dead, i presume.  there are many more, and many more central passages, as far as i know, including Daniel.

Also, Richard, I don't agree that we need to assume a psychological
abnormality in anyone who believes that the end of the world--or at least the
end of human life on earth--is in the foreseeable future.

i said psychology, not abnormal psychology.  please pat, my entire scholarly career is dedicated to helping people who look at apocalyptic believers as weirdos beyond the pale appreciate how many people they admire (charlemagne and newton are my favorites) cd engage in such "silly" stuff, and understand the psychological appeal of apocalyptic time.

I guess I have what
one might call an environmental eschatology. I believe that during my
lifetime all the major species of wild animals--elephants, tigers, pandas,
lions--will be forced into extinction. I also believe we've gone too far in
poisoning the food chain, the air, the earth, and the oceans to be able to
turn back or recover. I'm noticing especially the upsurge in cataracts and
skin cancers (hole in the ozone layer), as well as other cancers,
deformities, and diseases that seem to have an environmental origin, or come
from the essentially irreversible poisoning of the environment.  We're at the
point where even the DNA of entire populations has been compromised. Children
in Vietnam born with the most bizarre and horrifying deformities weren't
alive when the area was saturated with agent orange. Whatever is wrong with
them is probably attributable to the compromised DNA of their parents and
grandparents. Problems of similar magnitude are cropping up in that little
town that has the misfortune to be right under the hole in the ozone layer,
and as a result is getting far more exposure to ultraviolet than the human
organism is able to withstand.  These people should be evacuated, for the
same reason that whole towns near the Chernobyl reactor had to be evacuated.

This kind of ever-accelerating downward spiral can't go on forever, which
means I see a finite future for the human race. 

this is the condition of modern man -- having displaced god as the agent who brings about the millennial kingdom (the last 500 years have been marked by a wide range of "secular" millennialisms), we now have the power to destroy ourselves.  in 1000, if you wanted to believe that the world wd be destroyed, you needed to believe in god.  today, we have good scientific reasons to so believe.  the whole issue of global warming will play out thru the use of apocalyptic and anti-apocalyptic rhetoric.

the case that i make for 1000 involves pointing out that, for people in the region we call france, at the approach of 1000, given the elite culture's teachings about the nature of the universe, you'd have to be abnormal not to wonder if the end might not be at hand.  cognitive dissonance not only hits the apoc believers (roosters) after the failure of the prophecy, but also the skeptics (owls) before the failure.  think of all the skeptics who nonetheless stayed home last new year's at the approach of y2k.

Five hundred years sticks in
my head as some kind of limit.

so you are eschatological but not apocalyptic.  if you had said: if we don't change in the next five years, we'll all be dead in a generation, and decided to dedicate your life to ending our polluting ways (including, when peaceful efforts at persuasion failed, sabotage and violence), then you'd be apocalyptic, a rooster.  and depending on just how committed you were to your reading of the "signs" of future disaster, and open and urgent in your dedication, "normal" people, owls, wd start calling you crazy.  and then you'd have to ask me to "explain" you to them.  (:-)

Maybe the earth will be too poisoned to be
inhabitable by that point. Or maybe the human race will drag on, learning to
think of it as "normal" for everyone to have cancers, for the water to be
undrinkable, the air unbreathable, the clouds radioactive, and the entire
earth a garbage dump. To believe that "science" is going to save us at the
eleventh hour requires more faith in science than I can muster.

good point.  it does require faith in science.  but even more, it requires faith in people, which leads us back to religious issues.

Maybe it's a religious issue in the end. In the Creation story, when Adam and
Eve are set in the garden of Eden so they can be the keepers of the garden, I
take that to mean that God didn't create the world in order to have human
beings crap it up, and we were actually asked to  be its stewards. Too bad so
little emphasis was put on that verse, and that organized religion has been
far more concerned, over the centuries, with such issues as preserving sexual
purity. Even today, when there are protests or petitions to save the whales,
or the oceans, or whatever, one doesn't see religious leaders in the
forefront. They've convinced themselves that one can love God without
treating the world he created with respect.

that's unfair, i think, to lots of religious people and leaders.  i actually think that francis of assissi is a patron saint of environmentalism.

Anyway, Richard, cut me some slack.  I don't have psychological
abnormalities, even if you don't agree with me.

as i said, its apocalyptic that's the extreme case, which you aren't yet.  and even then, it's not necessarily abnormal, or if it is, it's so only in the sense of deviating from the norm -- e.g., genius is abnormal.  and i'm not at all sure i disagree with you anyway.


Richard Landes
Center for Millennial Studies at Boston University      Department of History
704 Commonwealth Ave. Suite 205                 226 Bay State Road
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