Studies in Bible and Feminist Criticism

By Tikva Frymer-Kensky | Go to book overview

22 / The End of the World and the
Limits of Biblical Ecology

2001

It was only a year ago, though it seems much longer, that the end of the world was in the air. Places were going to drop out of the skies, not because their pilots went up in the rapture, but because their computers crashed on encountering double zeroes. Panic over Y2K brought back memories of doomsday fever at the end of the first millennium, and reminded us that apocalyptic ideas are part of the way that we see the world. Nonrational, nonscientific ways of imagining reality have found a new receptivity in the last fifty years, perhaps accompanying the collapse of absolute faith in science and rationalism in the postmodern shift of the latter half of the twentieth century. There has been a resurgence of both scholarly and popular interest in magic, in mysticism, in the occult and in apocalypticism. People are searching for old ways to express their spiritual understanding; scholars are seeking to recover and present long-forgotten ancient literature on these themes, to understand how this literature developed and to achieve a nuanced reading of these newly reintroduced writings. Our colleague Hans Dieter Betz has been in the forefront of this movement, and his work on Greco-Roman magic and on apocalyptic literature has been crucial in developing these areas of study. As early as 1966, Betz laid down several essential principles: that apocalypticism did not develop solely from inner-Jewish discourse, but was part of the “Hellenistic-oriental syncretism”; that understanding the theological intentions of an author demands clarity about the religiohistorical context and traditions at work; and that one needs to detect the underlying questions which cause older material to be transmuted and recast.1

To turn first to the question of the “Hellenistic-oriental syncretism,” the Hebrew Bible itself has more in common with Hellenism than is

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