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The Legacy of Jewish Apocalypses in Early Christianity: Regional Trajectories

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Chapter Summary

This chapter focuses on the 'religious' context of apocalypses in early Christianity: their significance as sacred texts, their meaning for sectarian self-definition, and their influence on religious communities' evolving conceptions of a sacred realm and the means of access to it. This 'latent hostility' expressed itself in a series of religious movements both strongly sectarian and vividly other-worldly. Across a diverse network of Christianities that included Alexandrian Gnostics, proto-monastic anchorites, millennialist movements, and monasteries, Egypt became a crucible of apocalyptic writing in the Roman and Byzantine period. In surveying Egyptian Judaism as the source of Jewish apocalypses in Egypt there are two kinds of apocalypticism: the first, which denote as 'speculative apocalypticism', probably organized itself in conventicles; and the second, 'millennialist prophecy', probably organized concentrically around holy men, self-proclaimed prophets, and the few literati who might proclaim scripture as 'living' words to popular audiences.

Keywords: Alexandrian Gnostics; early Christianity; Egyptian Apocalypticism; Jewish apocalypses; Roman



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