These terms were created by Richard Landes, Boston
University History Department, as an aid to readers in his forthcoming
book. They are offered here as a suggested vocabulary with which
to speak about apocalyptic matters.
WHILE GOD TARRIED:
DISAPPOINTED MILLENNIALISM AND THE GENEALOGY OF
eschatology: belief in an end to history which resolves
the problem of theodicy (i.e., the question of God's justice:
why the good suffer and the evil flourish). By predicting a Last/Ultimate
Judgment in which the evil will finally and publically receive
their punishment and the good, their reward, eschatology provides
an especially powerful and appealing answer to the problem of
credal eschatology: saved because of faith, belonging
to a given community of belief
moral eschatology: saved by way one has treated one's
spiritual eschatology: belief that both rewards and
punishment at the end of time will be experienced only on a totally
spiritual plane, the physical universe having passed away. Eschatology
can be used as a shorthand for this form of belief: many historians
call this apocalypticism, that is a belief that the next
great transformation is a cataclysmic destruction of this world,
and the end of time, space, history.
apocalypticism: belief that this end is imminent (enough
to change one's behavior in anticipation)
public apocalypticism: a period when apocalyptic expectations
have become so widespread that they are publicly discussed and
collective responses -- penitential processions, collective pilgrimages,
etc. -- emerge.
apocalyptic spill-over (bavure): when a group
passes from waiting -- however intensively -- to celebrating
the arrival of the "Day of the Lord": induces public
behavior of radical nature (antinomianism, ecstatic celebration,
disorder, violence). e.g. Jewish wars of 66-70 CE, the group
referred to in II Thessalonians.
apocalyptic figure: preacher/writer at the onset of
an apocalyptic moment: herald, prophet, messiah, god-man; some
of these figures go through the whole range of claims, depending
on their success
apocalyptic herald: someone announcing the onset
of the apocalyptic moment, and indicated the proper preparations
(e.g. John the Baptist).
apocalyptic escort: someone whose actions coincide
with the cosmic take- off, perhaps playing a role (performative
utterance) in the very bringing of the endtime (my interpretation
apocalyptic spur: an idea which incites apocalyptic
hope -- theodicy, signs and wonders, identifying Antichrist,
utopian promises.apocalyptic extender: a way of increasing the
buffer between now and the eschaton -- populating the period
with further prophecies to be fulfilled (rumors of war, but not
yet...), and pre-millennial projects.
apocalyptic hedge: a passage one puts in discussion
with outsiders and in written texts which, by introducing an
element of doubt or uncertainty, permits the speaker/writer to
handle the eventual failure of prophecy (e.g. Gregory I telling
Aethelbert that the end is near "although not in our lives").
Hedges tend, in the aftermath, to take on far more significance
than they had at the time uttered; capstone historians use hedges
to make their case (i.e. "Gregory I was not really apocalyptic,
he thought the world would continue after he died").
apocalyptic horizon: how much time one imagines before
the final consummation of history takes place; this is an acute
form of temporal horizons, or the amount of time one imagines
the future of the world as we know it to continue.
apocalyptic chronology: a set of calculations
which triggers an apocalyptic moment; could be either of the
very generation (Judas the chronographer of ca.200 C.E., Miller
and 1843), or one that comes due after a long wait (6000 AM =
500 CE or 801 C.E.; 1000). See
Augustinianism: the misinterpretation/misappropriation
of Augustine's writings by people who want to make precisely
the point he wished to deny them (aka gefaming* Augustine). Thus
apocalyptic Augustinianism: citing Augustine in support
of identifying historical events with the interpretation of Revelation
as an imminent end.
chronological Augustinianism: dating the end of the
world, more specifically using Augustine's 1000 years to date
political Augustinianism: declaring some current, or
trying to establish a reformed polity as, the Heavenly Kingdom
on earth (Eusebius, Charlemagne, etc)
historiographical Augustinianism: this is an inversion
of the principle: here modern, "scientific" scholars
end up replicating what Augustine wanted to do, even as they
explicitly deny his religious agenda.
chiliasm: belief that the rewards of the saved will
be enjoyed on this earth, generally a thousand years of earthly
peace, prosperity, equality; the key, however, is the idea that
"salvation" will come in this world. (See apocalyptic).
imperial or authoritarian chiliasm: a chiliastic scenario
in which redemption comes from a monarchical figure who imposes
it; imagines the ideal society as one which mirrors the heavenly
hierarchy, sees the ruler as the imago Dei. Often involves some
ideal of a "Last Emperor" who will rule the earth for
more than a century in perfect order. The eshcatological enemy
here is chaos; slavation comes from divinely imposed order. Political
monotheism here means: "One God, one emperor." (E.g.,
Eusebius/Constantine, Alcuin/Charlemagne, Gerbert-Sylvester/Otto
III, etc. From this perspective Constantine is the first "Last
Emperor." Note: this chiliasm need not emerge only above
the prime divider (its place of predilection); popular movements
can, and often do, develop these authoritarian traits.
radical or egalitarian chiliasm: a chiliastic scenario
in which redemption comes from a collective, bottom-up, thrust.
Collective, acephalous manifestations of enthusiasm are seen
as God's way of bringing his peace down to earth, inaugurating
an age of plenty, dignified manual labor for all, fraternity
(Isaiah 65). Here the eschatological enemy is hierarchy (order
through injustice); the political meaning of monotheism is "No
king but God." (E.g., Hussites, Diggers, Levellers, Shakers,
dissonant and consonant apocalypticism
dissonant resentment: the sense of hostility that disappointed
apocalyptic believers feel towards those who did not mistakenly
believe in their predictions
apocalyptic scapegoating: product of dissonant apocalypticism,
assigning to some other group the responsibility for the failure
mutational apocalyptic: the second stage of a movement
-- after the failure of apocalyptic expectations, trying to deal
with cognitive dissonance. In Christian terms, apostolic.
gefaming: To cite someone as supporting precisely the
position he has denounced (e.g. Quodvultdeus dropping the not
from Augustine's warning about identifying the Goths and the
Visigoths with Gog and Magog -- see above, Apocalyptic Augustinianism).
This also happens in modern historiography, largely unintended.
genealogical interpretations: taking account of a process
whereby any text concerning apocalypticism is a (later) product
of a dynamic in which its composition represents a stage in the
process of domestication and institutionalization. To see it
as a late coalescence of a particular narrative enables us to
reconstruct the process whereby it developed; to take it as a
starting point and complete the process of domestication is capstone.
immanence vs. imminence: the former refers to the belief
that God's kingdom is realized within oneself and between oneself
and others; it offers a means of achieving salvation within the
continuing saeculum. The latter refers to the sense that the
end of the saeculum is about to occur (i.e. chiliasm).
messianism: belief that a chosen individual will bring
about the chiliastic period
millennialism: belief that the end will come at the
completion of the current period of 1000 years by whatever calendar
(annus mundi, anno domini, annus ab urbe condita: 5000 AM, 6000
AM, 1000 AD); by extension, millennialism represents "date-based"
apocalyptic expectation and can derive from some widely accepted
date which is the culmination of several generations of anticipation
(1260 AD, 1300, 1500, 1666).
prime divider: that division between elites and commoners
which marks the fundamental fissure of almost all pre-modern
civilizations (based on the sociological historical work of scholars
like Ernst Gellner, John Hall, John Kautsky, Patricia Crone).
This division, enforced by privilege (legal disparities), occupation
(manual labor for those below), wealth and access to power (elite
monopolies on weapon-bearing and literacy), creates two radically
different cultures, in which aristocrats are more likely to identify
with other aristocrats than with their own commoners. In apocalyptic
matters, the prime divider plays a key role: 1) many eschatological
visions forsee the demise of the prime divider and therefore
has immense appeal to those who find themselves below it (e.g.,
"the meek shall inherit the land"); 2) most of our
documentation comes from those above the prime divider and, where
not profoundly hostile to apocalyptic thought, tends to reflect
a different, less politically radical eschatology.
royal jelly: the various liturgical, rhetorical, and
even architectural techniques whereby a monarch is convinced
that he is an imperial messiah, chosen by God to bring Christianity
to his -- indeed the whole world's -- people. e.g. Constantine,
Theodosius, Clovis?, Charlemagne, Otto III, Frederick I, II.
The imperial chapel at Aachen is an alchemical structure for
creating royal jelly.
saeculum (also secular time, secular power): religiously
defined as the fallen world in which the success of injustice
necessitates an answer to theodicy; sociologically defined as
the world of the coercial membrane.
teleological/capstone interpretations (aka: tombstone,
wet-blanket, naive): interpretations of the text which systematically
underplay apocalyptic activity. This is based on the principle
that (religious) texts are naturally not apocalyptic (their telos
is sub specie aeternitatis), and only the explicit mention
of apocalypticism can be taken as evidence for its presence.
Thus, rather than consider the possibility that a text is the
product of a (more or less) advanced stage in an apocalyptic
process (ie explore its apocalyptic genealogy), teleological
historians assist the process of de-apocalypticism of which their
very text represent an early phase. The term has broader application
to all forms of historiographical analysis which take the end
product as the purpose of the founders, which do not envisage
"unintended consequences" (functionalism). In the specific
context of apocalyptic analysis, embedded within such a teleological
interpretations is a projection back into the period of the fact
-- unknown to the actors at the time -- that the end did not
naive historiography: "It could be anything. Without
explicit proof, you cannot affirm an apocalyptic reading."
Thus, when Orosius cries out about the difficulty with which
he overcame his sense of the disastrous nature of his age, the
historian of Christian roosters sees a man struggling against
being overwhelmed by apocalyptic time; the naive historian claims:
not necessarily; he could be worried about non-eschatological
disaster, just concerned for social stability, like the pagans.
capstone: an aggressive use of teleological analysis
to deny even the proposal of genealogical analyses (e.g., the
rhetoric of "not a shred of evidence"; the year 1000
"like any other", the return to a non-apocalyptic Jesus).
If teleological analysis refuses to look behind the curtain of
retrospective narratives, capstone analysis tends to resist efforts
to investigate what happens below the elite membrane. Discussions
of what commoners, or peasants, or laymen, or "lower clergy"
thought are dismissed, given the lack of evidence, as hopelessly
conjectural; in the process, such interpretations reinforce the
(occasionally admitted) reluctance of the texts to discuss such
matters (e.g. the Bacaudae).
capstone rhetoric: topoi -- "not a shred"
"pure conjecture" "insignificant number"
"there is no reason to believe that..."
denial: sweeping embarrassing texts into the dustbin
by denying or obscuring their presence (e.g., Halphen excluding
the annalistic entry "mille anni a nativitate Christi"
from his edition because it was mistakenly attributed to the
year 968 [Annales angevines]; Lot denying that Glaber's
most explicitly chiliastic text about the year 1000 existed).
literalness: forbidding any interpretation or "reading
between the lines" to explore apocalyptic allusions in a
text; dismissing as evidence any text that does not make explicit
reference to an eschatological belief.
minimalism: evidence of apocalyptic belief that survives
its own disappointment, is given a neutral status in the weighing
of evidence, thus eclipsed by the extensive number of passages
that rewrite the mistake (e.g. Marcus Borg claiming that the
few explicitly apocalyptic passages attributed to Jesus are "thin
threads" upon which to hang an interpretation that puts
apocalyptic expectation at the core of Jesus' message.
textual communities: communities bound together as
the result of the reading of a text; can have high levels of
illiteracy; often the text serves as a (n egalitarian) law/ethical
code; see Brian Stock's Implications of Literacy where
he introduces the term, calls such communities "laboratories
of social change" and uses the concept to analyze the popular
heresies of the eleventh and twelfth centuries.
literate communities: textual communities that define
themselves through the written exegesis of the text; high literacy
rates (e.g., clerical religious orders, Jews).