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 …