Restoration: Old Testament, Jewish, and Christian Perspectives

By James M. Scott | Go to book overview

FROM THE IDEALIZED PAST TO THE IMAGINARY FUTURE:
ESCHATOLOGICAL RESTORATION IN JEWISH
APOCALYPTIC LITERATURE

David E. Aune with Eric Stewart
University of Notre Dame


INTRODUCTION

The concept of “restoration” is rooted in the pre-modern perception of culture which explicitly and implicitly regarded the imagined past as the sole legitimate basis for appraising the legitimacy of the present and envisioning or shaping the future.1 As religious literature, Jewish apocalypses were centrally concerned with the problem of evil and fallenness, with the ultimate solution projected into the eschatological or imaginary future where both the punishment and salvation of responsible moral agents would be meted out by God.2 Salvation, the positive aspect of the solution, is a mythical conception which can be defined as the divinely determined restoration of individuals and the societies in which they are enmeshed to the ideal state which had once been possible for them to enjoy. The conception that the End should recapitulate the Beginning (the Urz.eitlEndz.eit or “protology”/ “eschatology” pattern), which is understood as both perfect and paradigmatic, forms the basic horizon of the apocalyptic view of the world, for the imperfect present lies at the low point between the perfections of the distant past and the perfections of the imminent future. The eschatological and mythical focus of Jewish apocalyptic literature makes it appropriate to confine this inquiry to the ways in which apocalyptic conceptions of the paradigmatic past became the basis for imagining the future as a return to the past, for from the apocalyptic perspective all aspects of the existing world system are hopelessly debased and in need of divine reconstitution.

1 On the contrast between modernity and pre-modernity, see Goran
Therborn, European Modernity and Beyond: The Trajectory of European Society,
1945–2000 (London: Sage Publications, 1995) 3–5.

2 An attempt to analyze the religious explanations for evil and death found
in two late apocalypses is the study by T. W. Willett, Eschatology in the
Theodocies of 2 Baruch and 4 Ezras (JSPSup 4; Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1989).

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