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Original Research

Die Hellenisties-Romeinse węreld en die ontstaan van apokaliptiek en gnostisisme

M. Nel

Verbum et Ecclesia; Vol 23, No 2 (2002), 452-467. doi: 10.4102/ve.v23i2.1214

Submitted: 07 August 2002
Published:  07 August 2002


The Hellenistic and Roman world and the origin of the apocalypticism and gnosticism
The world view and culture created by the oikoumene of the Hellenistic-Roman era (331 BC to early fourth century AD) was conducive to the rise of several philosphico-religious movements, like Mithraism and other mystery religions; Stoicism, Epicureanism and Middle Platonism; apocalypticism and wisdom literature in Hellenistic Judaism and Gnosticism. These movements have in common that they originated in a world defined by change and insecurity, leading to an attitude of alienation, despair and agony amongst many people. These people looked for a soter, and the philosophico-religious movements offered such soteria, salvation from an alien and evil world and entrance to a new world. Jewish apocalypticism flourished during the period from the third century BC to the first century AD, when orthodox rabbi’s started purifying Jewish religion from all foreign hellenistic elements like the dualistic views of apocalypticism. When this happened Christianity had already adopted the essence of Jewish apocalypticism. During the second century AD some Christians were disappointed that the parousia had not realised as expected imminently, and from their disappointment grew their involvement in gnostic Christian movements, centered around strong leaders (guru’s). Our age is also characterised by change and insecurity, just as the case was during the Hellenistic-Roman age, and the hypothesis of the article concludes with the assertion that the phenomenal growth in the New Age movement and neo-paganism can be explained in the same terms as apocalypticism and gnosticism.

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Author affiliations

M. Nel, Universiteit van Pretoria, South Africa



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