Accessible Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter January 16, 2016

Why did Early Believers in Jesus Write Apocalypses?

Enrico Norelli

Abstract

There were different messianic expectations in Judaism at the time of Jesus and his disciples, but in all of them, to the best of our knowledge, the presence of the Messiah marked the end of the action of evil powers in the world. Such a statement represents what Umberto Eco called a semiotic judgement in a semiotic system. However, the fact that the first believers in Jesus were still exposed to a distress they understood as being caused by evil powers obliged them to formulate a factual judgement, predicating of a given content “semantic markers that have never been attributed to it by a previous code.”1 As the code provided the ground for stating that Jesus was the Messiah, it could not simply be dismissed, but had to be restructured through the integration of the factual judgement as a new semiotic judgement. Taking up and transforming the genre “apocalypse” allowed early believers in Jesus to effect that transformation, because it required a competent authority to establish a rule corresponding to the factual statement. In a Christian apocalypse, God or a heavenly Being authorized by God accomplishes such a performance, explaining that the distress of believers between Christ’s Resurrection and his Parousia fits a system built on the idea of God’s plan of salvation for humans. John’s Revelation discloses Christ’s heavenly identity and his power over history, showing that his suffering and death was a necessary step for his glorification and that the same path has to be trodden by his followers. The last part of the contribution illustrates two examples of the transformation of traditional apocalyptic motifs so that they may function in the system restructured through the central role attributed to Jesus.

Published Online: 2016-1-16
Published in Print: 2016-1-1

© 2016 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin/Boston