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Cosmos, Chaos and the World to Come: The Ancient Roots of Apocalyptic Faith - Hardcover

 
9780300055986: Cosmos, Chaos and the World to Come: The Ancient Roots of Apocalyptic Faith
In this engrossing book, the author of the classic work The Pursuit of the Millennium investigates the origins of apocalyptic faith-the belief in a perfect future, when the forces of good are victorious over the forces of evil. Norman Cohn takes us back two thousand years to the world views of ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, and India, the innovations of Iranian and Jewish prophets and sages, and the earliest Christian imaginings of heaven on earth, and he illuminates a major turning point in the history of human consciousness.

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About the Author:
Norman Cohn is professor emeritus at the University of Sussex and author of Noah’s Flood: The Genesis Story in Western Thought, also published by Yale University Press.
From Kirkus Reviews:
An incisive study of ancient religion and the rise of belief in an impending apocalypse, by the author of the classic study The Pursuit of the Millennium. Cohn (Emeritus/University of Sussex) has puzzled for nearly a half century over where and when the idea first emerged of a ``marvelous consummation, when good will be finally victorious over evil'' and human beings will enjoy a new life on a purified earth. As he demonstrates through a sequence of succinct histories of ancient religious cultures, neither the Egyptians, Mesopotamians, nor Vedic Indians possessed the notion of apocalypse. Instead, each of these peoples imagined the world as a vastly ancient creation in which the guardians of order, or cosmos, are locked in an eternal stalemate with the agents of chaos. Typically, as in ancient Egypt, the principle of order became embodied in the state and its monarchy (Cohn tends to see tight parallels between religious and political developments). The great break came around 1200 B.C. with Zoroaster, who developed ``a totally new perception of time'' in which the combat between cosmos and chaos (or, on the moral plane, between good and evil) will culminate in the triumph of cosmos--a transformation termed ``the making wonderful,'' including the bodily resurrection of the elect. As Cohn shows, Zoroastrian thinking wound its way into Palestine, where it united with the monotheism of the Israelite prophet Second Isaiah--an event Cohn describes as ``a particularly ingenious response to a situation of permanent insecurity.'' The result was a huge corpus of Jewish apocalyptic literature that led eventually to Christian ideas of a transcendent Messiah and a Final Judgment, encoded most strikingly in the Book of Revelation. Cohn's tendency to see religion as disguised politics (he likens theologians to ``political propagandists'') stays largely in the background here: a tight, intelligent study. -- Copyright 1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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  • PublisherYale University Press
  • Publication date1993
  • ISBN 10 0300055986
  • ISBN 13 9780300055986
  • BindingHardcover
  • Number of pages288
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