Between carnality and spirituality: A cosmological vision of the end at the turn of the fifth Jewish millennium

Sarit Shalev-Eyni*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Medieval Ashkenazi interest in the messianic future and in calculations of the End is usually regarded as limited in comparison to the lively discourse on these subjects in rationalist Sephardic circles. But around the 1230s points of congruence between various factors, both in Ashkenazi society and in their Christian surroundings, may have led to a more significant concern with the End among Ashkenazi Jews. During that period, a new wave of Christian eschatological hope was spreading across Europe. The year 1260, the beginning of the third age of the world, according to the influential apocalyptic vision of the Calabrian abbot Joachim of Fiore (c. 1135-1202), was approaching. The Mongols, who had reached the gates of Europe in 1239, became a subject of eschatological interest fitting a similar apocalyptic plan. Although at the beginning they aroused positive expectations, by 1241, with their first victories over Christian knights in Silesia and Hungary, the perception of their role in that context underwent a profound change. Some contemporary reports considered them to be the apocalyptic enemy Gog and Magog and connected them with the ten lost tribes of Israel. At the same time, Jews were preparing for the end of the fifth Jewish millennium, due to coincide with the year 1240 C.E. According to some Jewish calculations, this year was supposed to be the starting point of the messianic times.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)458-482
Number of pages25
Issue number2
StatePublished - 20 Apr 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © The Medieval Academy of America 2015.


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