Two movements, or two wings of the same movement, at once socioreligious and literary, mark the course of Second Temple Judaism. The first one, messianism, had its roots in ancient Judaism and the prophetic tradition; it expressed yearnings for a redeemer who would appear in the end of days to restore the monarchy, destroy the wicked, and liberate the land from foreign domination. The second trend, apoc­alypticism, developed toward the end of the biblical period and intensi­fied around the turn of the era; it expected the advent of the messiah as immediate and imminent at the same time that it sketched graphic sce­narios for his coming. Such scenarios included the revelation of other­worldly secrets about God, the upper world, the last days, and the bodily raising of the dead. Apocalyptic movements, then as now, were generally suspected of being subversive by assuming the termination of present-day secular rule.

The expectation of divine intervention to usher in a new age was acute in the first century C.E. It can be seen both as the by-product of a national situation exasperated by repeated frustrations, and as the expression of the vivid hopes that God would decisively steer the course of history. John the Baptist and Jesus based their preaching on those beliefs when they called people to awake to the dawning new age. The earliest Christian authors were also to appeal to those expectations, thus making apocalypticism, with its sweeping vistas of a universal history oriented toward an ultimate goal, into the mother of Christian theology.

Paul provides a lively illustration of the seminal impact of apoca­lypticism on theological reflection. He passed from an imminent expectation of the Parousia (the return of Christ to end history), to the assertion of a delay, and finally to a sort of accommodation with an indefinite length of worldly existence. John completes the evolution when he affirms that the Spirit, not Christ, is coming (Jn 14-16, and perhaps also 2 Cor 3:17: “Now the Lord is the Spirit”).

As for the fate of those two movements within Judaism, it appears that the two Jewish revolts brought lasting discredit to messianic-polit­ical rebellions and to extreme forms of apocalypticism. After 200,Torah in the form of the Mishnah tends to replace the remnants of mes­sianism; the messiah will not come before Israel has attained the level of sanctification required by Torah.
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