The End of the World as They Knew It? Jews, Christians, Samaritans and End-Time Speculation in the Fifth Century
After the Christianization of the Roman empire, representations of Christ’s return no longer envisioned the end as the fall of an evil empire. Rather, relying especially on Romans 9–11, Christians focused particularly on expectations that the conversion of Jews would inaugurate the end. Jews—and Samaritans—however, envisioned the restoration of their Temple(s) and a political theocracy that would counter the power of the now Christianized Roman empire. This contribution considers four instances in the fifth-century c.e. in which such expectations played a significant role: an account of the conversion of the Jews of Minorca, framed as a prelude to the end; a millenarian episode on Crete whose narrator claims resulted in the mass conversion of Jews; a roughly contemporaneous possible messianic uprising in Jerusalem narrated in the Life of Barsauma, and a Samaritan revolt toward the end of the century. All may be understood as instances of intense contestations between Jews, Christians and Samaritans, in the wake of intensifying orthodox Christian pressures to conform the entire empire to that orthodoxy.