Cosmos, Chaos and the World To Come

Norman Cohn; Yale University Press 1993

reviewed by Irvine Roxburgh in Sea of Faith (NZ) Newsletter 23, October 1997

"Sometime between 1500BCE and 1200BCE the Iranian prophet Zoroaster broke from a static yet anxious world view and re-interpreted the Iranian version of the combat myth. For Zoroaster, the world was moving through incessant (supernatural) conflict towards a conflictless state "cosmos without chaos". The time would come when, in a prodigious battle, the supreme God would utterly defeat the forces of chaos and their human allies and eliminate them forever, and so bring an absolutely good world into being. Cohn points out that the continuity that we so often speak about as the Judeo-Christian tradition was in fact not an unbroken succession. Cohn reveals how the basically Zoroastrian metaphysical vision of the future (eschatology) was in certain critical respects resisted by Judaism but [that it] met no such resistance from the Jesus sect and early Christianity. It became, substantially, the worldview of traditional Christianity."