Eschatology: the idea that history not only has a beginning, but also has an end (Greek: ἔσχατον).

The idea that the world has a beginning, can be found in almost any ancient civilization. Only a genius like Aristotle could contemplate that the universe was uncreated and eternal. That the world would also have an ending, is a more unusual idea.

It is found in Zoroastrianism, where it is believed that the world renews itself every 36,000 years.note In Judaism, the idea that the end was near, can be found in the Biblical book of Daniel, although thoughts about "the day of the Lord" are older and not exclusively Jewish (cf. Balaam's vision). Speculations about the exact date can be found in the Enochite literature and, indirectly, in the Gospel of Luke.

In Jewish and Christian apocalyptic texts, the final days of humankind are violent and terrible (cf. the War Scroll), but after that, the universe will return to its paradisical state. Often, the Messiah plays a role as eschatological king or judge. New religions like Manicheism and Islam were eschatological as well.

In Greek philosophy (in Stoicism to be precise), there are similar ideas about the ekpyrosis, the big conflagration in which the world will come to an end. The Germanic nations believed in the Ragnarök, but this is documented in Medieval sources only.

This page was created in 2020; last modified on 12 October 2020.