Looking to the Millennium: Yale Hosts Public Lecture Series

The turn of the 21st century and the advent of the third Christian millennium is a moment of symbolic relevance for many societies, even those with different calendars and time reckonings. In response to the approach of the Year 2000, the Yale Council on Middle East Studies will sponsor a lecture series this semester and next fall on millennialism, beginning Thursday, Jan. 22, at 4 p.m., with a talk titled “Weeping Warriors at the End of the Millennium: From the Peace of God (990s) to the Promise Keepers (1990s),” by Richard A. Landes. Landes is professor of history at Boston University, where he directs the Center for Millennial Studies. All lectures are free and open to the public. They will be held in Luce Hall, 34 Hillhouse Ave.

Professor Landes is author of “Relics, Apocalypse, and the Deceits of History: Ademar of Chabannes (989-1034)” (Harvard University Press, 1995) and editor, with Thomas Head, of “The Peace of God: Social Violence and Religious Response in France around the Year 1000” (Cornell University Press, 1992). He has written numerous articles on the history of apocalypticism and organized several conferences on millennialism.

The lecture series is an outgrowth of the Sawyer Seminar on “Millennium and Millennialism: Motifs and Movements,” funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Sawyer Seminars, named in honor of John E. Sawyer, the Mellon Foundation’s third president, provide opportunities for inquiry into the historical and cultural origins of significant contemporary developments. This seminar is open to faculty and graduate students at Yale. Abbas Amanat, professor of Middle Eastern history and chair of the Council on Middle East Studies at the Yale Center for International and Area Studies, is director of the seminar and lecture series. Graduate student Magnus Bernhardsson is coordinator.

“The theme of millennial chaos and subsequent renewal is prevalent in all major religious traditions originiating in the Middle East: Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam,” Amanat explains. “Millennialism and messianism, as ideas and as movements, profoundly influenced the shaping and the evolution of religious traditions – so much so that it is possible to argue that the very notion of prophetic religion stems from the ideal of millennial renewal. Millennialism should be seen as a common yearning shared by many cultures and societies to view the present as a culminating moment which defines the past and predicts the future within a perceived time cycle.”

The second speaker in the public lecture series is a leading authority on Zoroastrianism. Philip G. Kreyenbroek, professor of Iranian studies at the University of Gttingen in Germany, is author of “Sraoa in the Zoroastrian Tradition” (Leyden, 1985) and editor of “Yezidism: its Background, Observances and Textual Tradition” (Edwin Mellen,1995). He has written numerous articles and encyclopedia entries on Zoroastrianism and Pahlavi literature. His talk, titled “Zoroastrian Cosmogony and Eschatology,” will be held on Feb. 12.

The third speaker will be John. J. Collins, a leading scholar on Jewish apocalypticism and Hellenistic Judaism. His talk is titled “Apocalypticism in the Dead Sea Scrolls,” and will be presented on Feb. 17.

Collins received is professor of Hebrew Bible at the University of Chicago Divinity School. His books include “The Apocalyptic Vision of the Book of Daniel” (Harvard Semitic Monographs, 1977), “Between Athens and Jerusalem. Jewish Identity in the Hellenistic Diaspora” (Crossroad, 1983), “The Apocalyptic Imagination” (Crossroad, 1984), “The Scepter and the Star: The Messiahs of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Other Ancient Literatures” (Doubleday, 1995) and “Apocalypticism in the Dead Sea Scrolls” (Routledge, 1997). He served as editor of the Journal of Biblical Literature 1989-1994, and as president of the Catholic Biblical Association 1996-97.

Other public speakers in the series this spring include R. I. Moore (University of Newcastle) on Medieval Christianity, Said Amir Arjomand (SUNY-Stony Brook) on Classical Islam, Mary Carpenter (Queen’s University) on Victorian Britain and Bernard McGinn (University of Chicago) about Europe in the late Medieval and Early Modern Period.

For more information, see the web-page (www.yale.edu/ycias/cmes) or call the Council on Middle East Studies at 432-6252.

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Media Contact

Gila Reinstein: gila.reinstein@yale.edu, 203-432-1325