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Cosmos, Chaos, and the World to Come, 2nd Edition Paperback – September 1, 2001


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Cosmos, Chaos, and the World to Come, 2nd Edition + Longing for the End: A History of Millennialism in Western Civilization + Revelations: Visions, Prophecy, and Politics in the Book of Revelation
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; 2 Sub edition (September 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300090889
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300090888
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #319,590 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Cosmic order and human destiny provide the subjects for Cohn's (emeritus, Univ. of Sussex, England) most recent study. Students of his previous work, Pursuit of the Millennium (1970), will find in Cosmos the same rich tapestry encompassing history, archaeology, popular culture, mythology, and religion. With an eye to eschatology and apocalypticism, Cohn effectively leads us from the ancient Near East to the "new" thinking he locates in Zoroastrianism and its prophet, Zarathustra. He credits Zoroastrianism with providing the eschatological framework for Western thought. Cohn's depth and breadth of knowledge is marvelous, his enthusiasm for the subject infectious. Well documented and extremely readable, this is highly recommended for religion, history, and seminary collections.
- Sandra Collins, SLIS, Univ. of Pittsburgh
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

The ancient cultures of Egypt and Mesopotamia perceived the world order to be a static and immutable stage on which the forces of good and evil battled incessantly. During the second millennium B.C., however, the Iranian prophet Zoroaster questioned this structure of the world order; he maintained that it was progressive rather than static and that humanity was moving toward a time that would be free from conflict. In his cogent, highly readable volume, Cohn traces these and other apocalyptic beliefs from their origins to the perfect future, in which the supreme god will defeat the forces of evil for the benefit of humanity, and he reveals how this new philosophy affected the belief systems of Judaism and early Christianity. Edward Lighthart --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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A nice introduction to ancient religion, as well as ancient apocalyptic views.
André Barros
Cohn takes us to the very roots of civilization, explaining how the traditional cycles of life coincided with religious belief.
William Alexander
I am well aware of all of them, and I learned little beyond details from this book, and yet I enjoyed reading it very much.
Wyote

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Wyote VINE VOICE on March 9, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is an elementary introduction to ancient religion, focusing on the issues in the title: cosmos, chaos, and the world to come. It considers ancient Egyptian religion, Mesopotamian religion, Vedic religion, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, and very early Christianity--all extremely briefly, focusing only on the issue of the cosmic struggle against chaos, and the development of the apocalyptic worldview. If you are only slightly aware of what all that could mean, this book will entertain you greatly. I am well aware of all of them, and I learned little beyond details from this book, and yet I enjoyed reading it very much.

However, if you want depth on any of these topics, there are other books for you. For Zoroastrianism, begin with Mary Boyce. For early Christianity, begin with E. P. Sanders and move on to Ehrman. For ancient Mediterranean religion, begin with "Religions of the Ancient World: A Guide." And consider "The Other God."

Cohn's argument that Zoroastrianism had a huge influence on ancient Judaism and Christianity, is in my opinion unquestionable, and yet neither emphasized nor even recognized in academic circles, nor widely known among the general public. Somehow it is perceived as embarrassing to Judaism, and yet I think that is ridiculous: after all, the influence on modern Judaism is minute, and who does Zoroastrianism threaten? Jesus, Paul, Hillel and the author(s) of Daniel were still Jews, even if influenced by Zoroastrianism. In fact, in my opinion, they are far more interesting! Similarly, isn't Christianity more interesting precisely because it assimilated so much "pagan" influence? So I hope this book is read widely and its argument more popularly acknowledged.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By William Alexander on September 23, 2003
Format: Paperback
This is a brief but fascinating journey through the history of ancient apocalyptic faith. Cohn takes us to the very roots of civilization, explaining how the traditional cycles of life coincided with religious belief. The cycles of death and rebirth, day and night, summer and winter, mixed in with occasional droughts, floods, and enemy invasion mirrored religious belief in an ordered cosmos that was originally formed by the gods out of a pre-existent chaos. Cosmos wasn't absolutely secure however; chaos was always a threat to the daily ordered life of each civilization, so the benevolent gods continuously fought the "chaos monsters" that constantly threatened the ordered world. Complex pantheons and creation myths arose out of these beliefs and sacrifices and gifts were brought to the gods to give them strength and worship in their enduring battle of protection of the people against chaos.
Cohn takes us to the earliest religious beliefs of Egypt, Mesopotamia, the Vedic Indians, and the Zoroastrians describing their beliefs, interconnectedness, innovations, and future implications. He safely credits Zoroaster for the innovation of the first apocalyptic faith, the belief in a consummation of the never ending fight against chaos wherein the supreme god, Ahura Mazda would one day finally and forever defeat the gods of chaos; an age of prosperity, order, and goodness would then be ushered in.
Cohn then proceeds to Judaism and the specific experiences of the Israelites, particularly related to the Babylonian exile, when elite Jews discovered the compelling apocalyptic of Zoroastrianism and adapted it to their own faith in Yahweh.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Ricky Hunter on January 9, 2002
Format: Paperback
Norman Cohn contines his exemplary work as a historian of religious history with Cosmos, Chaos and the World to Come (The Ancient Roots of Apolcalytic Faith). This book begins a little drier than his previous works but picks up speed nicely with his discussions of Zorastrianism, Judaism, and very early Christianity while showing the connections between the former and the latter two in terms of its prophetic, apocalyptic writings. This book makes a nice companion piece to this author's earlier and seminal work on millenniarism during the medieval period. A fine addition to the Cohn canon.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By M. Lorenzo Warby on April 24, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am a longstanding fan of Cohn's writings. I read this book in a day, finding it extremely lucid and informative. It brought the cosmologies of the ancient world alive, showing how their underlying themes make sense to everyday lives of the time.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 30, 1998
Format: Paperback
This is not only a wonderful description of the rise of the belief in impending apocalypse but also a well written explanation of the rise of Judeo-Christian-Islamic monotheism. It is absolutely brilliant! A must read for anyone wondering where monotheism and apocalyptic thinking came from.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By John C. Landon on June 10, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Norman Cohn's history of the Zoroastrian idea is one of the most informative and useful studies of a complex subject available. The influence of Zorastrianism on the emergence of monotheism should be common knowledge, yet seems to escape public attention in its exclusive focus on the Judaeo-Christian tradition. Highly recommended for students of religion, and/or of world history.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By César González Rouco on November 15, 2008
Format: Paperback
There are already many good reviews to this book, so I will only suggest reading the following books on religion in addition to Cohn's: a) "The Phenomenon of Religion: A Thematic Approach," by Moojan Momen (astonishingly encyclopedic); b) "Shamans, Sorcerers, and Saints: A Prehistory of Religion" by Brian Hayden (great overview of religion origins and development); c) "God Owes Us Nothing: A Brief Remark on Pascal's Religion and on the Spirit of Jansenism" by Leszek Kolakowski (on predestination); d) "The Book of Miracles: The Meaning of the Miracle Stories in Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam" by Kenneth L. Woodward (very readable); e) "Sin and Salvation in the World Religions: A Short Introduction" by Harold Coward (somehow dry but also covering Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism and Hinduism); f) "Prayer: A History" by Philip Zaleski and Carol Zaleski (interesting and readable); g)"Dreaming in the World's Religions: A Comparative History" by Kelly Bulkeley (I have not bought it yet, it has been published this July); h) "Alternative Tradition: A Study of Unbelief in the Ancient World (Religion and Society)" by James A. Thrower; and i) "The Birth of Satan: Tracing the Devil's Biblical Roots" by T.J. Wray and Gregory Mobley (amazon's reviews are fairly positive).
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