The mystery of the prophet

Mysterious, controversial, influential, charismatic. Few figures evoke as much wonder and emotion as the prophet. I am not talking about one person in particular here, but about the position or function of prophets in our societies past and present, such as (most famously) Jesus Christ and Mohammed. Figures with often mesmerizing characteristics, who draw out the innate human desire to know hidden secrets, passed down from the divine. Often the prophet claims to profess the true word of God or is attributed with the messianic promise of saving or redeeming his followers and initiating a better future, and therefore tends to attract large groups of followers.   A thought-provoking new Netflix series released this month, “Messiah“, plays on the complexity and …

The Rhetoric of Catastrophe

‘The Rhetoric of Catastrophe in Eleventh-Century Medieval Ireland: The Case of the Second Vision of Adomnán’, in: Catastrophes and the Apocalyptic in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, ed. by Robert E. Bjork, ASMAR 43 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2019), pp. 1-14. There is plenty scholarly contention about the rhetoric of apocalypticism and opinions are divided about which elements to include or dismiss. One of those elements is the concept of a catastrophic end (‘the Apocalypse’). The association between the catastrophic and apocalyptic anxiety is pervasive especially in studies of medieval apocalyptic movements and the interpretation of (perceived) apocalyptic portents. This article* seeks to explore the question: when is a prophecy of catastrophe not apocalyptic? * This article is the print version of …

The Old English Account of the Seven Heavens (text and translation)

‘The Old English Account of the Seven Heavens’, in The End and Beyond: Medieval Irish Eschatology, 285-306. [edition and translation]  In this article I provide an edition and translation of this Old English text, discuss its themes, and place it in the context of related literature. Download: Old English Seven Heavens

The Second Vision of Adomnán (text and translation)

‘The Second Vision of Adomnán’, in The End and Beyond: Medieval Irish Eschatology, ed. J. Carey, et al. (Aberystwyth: Celtic Studies Publications), 647-81. [edition and translation] In this article I provide a new, semi-diplomatic edition and translation of this Middle Irish text from two manuscripts and discuss some difficult features in it, such as the prognostication with which it opens. Download: Second Vision of Adomnán

De Finibus

A few years ago I had the good fortune to work on the project De Finibus: Christian Representations of the Afterlife in Medieval Ireland in University College Cork. I was part of a team exploring a range of texts containing eschatological ideas, which were neither biblical nor, strictly speaking, apocryphal in content. The primary outcome of this project was an easy-to-read collection of texts presented in both the orinal and in translation, together with a website providing basic information about the topic. The 2-volume project handbook was published in 2014 as The End and Beyond: Medieval Irish Eschatology (available from Oxbow). You can download my individual contributions from the Eschatology page. The second major outcome of this project was my dissertation, entitled ‘Medieval Irish …