The Millennium Cometh:
Apocalypse and Utopia in Bible, Sociology and Literature
Profs. John Coleman, S.J. (Sociology),  Felix Just, S.J. (Theology),  Holli Levitsky (English)
Loyola Marymount University - Spring 2000

Reading Guide, Discussion Questions and Writing Assignment for

The following questions are intended both to help guide your own reading of the assigned texts, and to stimulate our small group discussions on Thursday, March 30.  Also, the instructions for your fifth written exercise are appended further below.

Tues, March 21

Sociological Readings: John Hall & Philip Schuyler, "The Mystical Apocalypse of the Solar Temple" (R&P 285-311)

  1. How does a "mystical apocalypse" as described in the Solar Temple belief differ from the expected apocalypse of conventional bible-prophesy believers?
  2. The article deals with several anti-cult groups around the world. Why do you think anti-cult groups emerge? Do you think they are legitimate? Do they actually stereotype cults?
Sociological Readings: William Kephart, "The Oneida Community" (from Extraordinary Groups, 50-93; on library reserve or E-Res)
  1. On p. 88, Kephart suggests that one cause of the fall-out of the Oneida community was a shift from religious to a social science emphasis. Why would this shift weaken the Oneida community's internal bonds?
  2. Do you think that the utopian experiment of "complex marriage," as successfully tried and implemented at Oneida for almost forty years (with its ingredients of male coitus reservata and care to keep women from unwanted child-bearing and stirpiculture), could be tried again in a small community and work for almost forty years? If so, what mechanisms would have to be institutionalized in the commune for it to work?

Thurs, March 23

Biblical Readings:  Isaiah 24-27; Ezekiel 37-39; Joel 1-3; Zechariah 9-14

  1. Recalling our definition of a literary "apocalypse" from the beginning of the semester, in what ways are these four prophetic writings not full apocalypses?  What part of the definition do they not satisfy? And in what respects are these writings at least proto-apocalyptic? How is biblical "prophecy" different from biblical "apocalyptic"?
  2. Which of these four prophetic writings intrigues you, impresses you, or scares you the most?  Why?
  3. What images from these four prophetic writings are frequently quoted by modern fundamentalist Christians, and interpreted as "signs" of the imminent end of the world?
Extra-Biblical Reading:  The Apocalypse of Thomas (Reddish, 330-333); 6 Ezra (Reddish, 343-350)
  1. How would you summarize and characterize the "signs" that are supposed to occur at the end of the world according to the 7-day pattern of the Apocalypse of Thomas?  And what is supposed to happen on the eighth day?
  2. What types of punishments are threatened against the wicked in 6 Ezra?  What rewards for the righteous?
  3. Which biblical passages most strongly influenced Apoc.Thomas? Which biblical texts mainly influenced 6 Ezra?  What concepts and images in Apoc.Thomas and 6 Ezra are new (i.e. not found in the older biblical writings)?

Tues, March 28

Literary Readings: Jack Kirby's "New Gods" (Parts 1, 2, 3; on library reserve);  also website article "Biblical influence in Kirby's NEW GODS"

  1. In what ways can Jack Kirby's "New Gods" legitimately be called "apocalyptic"? How are they similar to, and how are they different from other apocalypses we have read this semester?
  2. "New Gods" begins with an Epilogue and ends with a Prologue" - Why? What is the effect of this reversal?
  3. What allusions and parallels are there in the "New Gods" to the Judeo-Christian Bible? Which figures represent the Old Testament prophets? Does anyone represent Jesus?
  4. What does the "Anti-Life Equation" reflect? To what biblical/theological concepts is this similar?

Thurs, March 30 - Discussion Groups

Writing Assignment for Block #5
[See the main page of Questions & Reflections for additional Writing Guidelines and Tips]

You have a choice of one of the following two options:

  1. You are a member of The Moonies (to be explained more on March 21) who is in charge of helping other Moonie members become recruiting agents for prospective group candidates. Briefly explain to them the traits they should look for in recruiting candidates to the Moonies and the mechanisms they should use to draw them into membership.  List at least three traits and at least two mechanisms for recruitment to a new cult such as the Moonies.

  3. You are a member of the Christian Anti-Cult organization who is in charge of training Christian anti-cult members to dissuade people from becoming Moonies. List at least three mechanisms you would use to try to dissuade someone (a relatively susceptible candidate) from becoming a Moonie. Explain to your trainees why you chose these three mechanisms and why you justify this choice.

Course Homepage    /    Description & Syllabus    /    Readings & Resources    /    Questions & Reflections    /   Final Group Projects

This page was last updated on 07/01/01