2.2. Divine revelation as a theological root


The divinity, which holds the absolute control over the world, reveals – more or less – to people its plans for the human species. Some religions speak about total extinction; others refuse to mention anything about an end, while others prefer a middle way. In this last case the end is depicted as a dramatic transformation of the world under the watchful eye of the divinity. The end of the world event does not simply happen, out of nowhere, totally unexpected. It has a meaning, being a phase of mankind’s evolution.

The concept of the end of the world can be found in the cultures that contained a myth of universal creation. The myth of the world’s birth and the myth of the world’s death are antagonistic, being built on the ancient pattern of the battle between order and chaos, good and evil, light and darkness, life and death. The two myths, when they are put together, express the idea of temporality, universal duality and ultimately the divine will. Concurrently, they were instruments through which human societies attempted to create a frame for understanding the passing of time.

In Northern European mythology everything came from chaos, including the gods, which in turn created mankind. But, due to the decadence of the world and the expansion of evil, a final battle between good and evil would bring the beginning of a new cycle of human existence. In Chinese mythology, which contains several myths of creation, the world was created through the ordering of the chaos by the primordial gods; but one day the dragons that pull the Sun in a cart would get drunk and, not being able to pull it anymore, time would stop. In Hindu mythology the supreme god floats on the cosmic ocean and his skin emanates a huge number of universes, after which they are inhaled back, and the cycle starts again endlessly. Persian mythology says that the world was created from the battle between the good gods and the evil gods, and at the end of time the world would be purified through a final battle between the two sides. Noah’s Flood, which is also an end of the world, can be found as a myth in Sumero-Akkadian civilizations and in the myth of Gilgamesh.3 The ancient Romans were obsessed with prodigies, omens and signs, believing that civilization started with them and would also end with them. The Romans believed that 12 magical vultures sent by the gods revealed to Romulus, who killed his brother Remus, the place where to found the city of Rome. The Roman calendar had as starting point the foundation of Rome, the year 1 Ab urbe condita (which means “from the founding of the city”), correspondent to the year 753 BC in the modern calendar. But these vultures also symbolized the 12 saecula of existence of the city, after which it was going to be destroyed by the gods. The word saecula was taken by the Romans from the Etruscans and it had a vague meaning; it was understood as “generation” or as a period of time necessary for the renewal of the population. Hence, the interpretation of the 12 saecula varied between 120 and 1,200 years (12 centuries).4

The disappearance of civilizations and religions led to a subsequent disappearance of the doomsday scenarios. And since the 7th century the idea of a world’s end has been disseminated mainly by the Abrahamic religions.

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