Research Project


Apocalypsis – Exegesis – Prognosis: Prophetic Consultancy and Political Action in Early Modernity

Dr. Matthias Riedl

The project researches the interrelations between apocalyptic predictions of the future and violent action in early modernity. It departs from the hypothesis that early modern apocalyptic-exegetical literature indicates a change in the relation between politics and prognostic activity, more precisely, a change from a quietist to an activist interpretation of man's stance toward the future. While ancient and medieval apocalypticism insists on the immutability of the divinely planned structure of history and the eschatological determination of man, early modern apocalypticism allows for the impact of human agency. Consequently, the character of apocalyptic prognostication shifts from mere prediction to concrete advice on how to act and, ultimately, to revolutionary agitation. Thomas Müntzer's infamous Sermon to the Princes brilliantly illustrates this development. Based on recent scholarship and newly available source material, the project will describe the growth of activist apocalypticism by combining intellectual, religious, and social history approaches.

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