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Bernd U. Schipper
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(2,506 words)

Introduced by protestant theologians in the nineteenth century, the term “apocalypticism” stands for a wide range of phenomena from antiquity to the present. Despite the reception of certain apocalyptic texts (the Book of Daniel, the Book of Revelation) or the history of individual motifs in the European religious tradition, the specific function of apocalyptic scenarios throughout the ages is crucial: A historical situation, often a cultural or social change, is declared by a certain group as a scenario that has to be overcome. This perspective entails a codified language rooted in the respective religious tradition and presupposing a relatively substantial (written) tradition. Thus, building upon a broad canon of older literature, apocalypticism is an elite phenomenon; an apocalypse is a text written by a scribe for a restricted group of literati. In most cases, these literati belong to a formerly powerful elite that is now marginalized and striving to regain its influence in cultural discourse. ⸙

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