Biblical constant: «eschatology»
by Carmelo Dotolo

1. Starting from its etymology

«By Christian eschatology we mean Christian theology to the extent in which, starting from what has come (namely, from the experiences that humanity, and particularly Jesus Christ, have had of God) it reflects upon what is to come, upon what is new and definitive and, starting from there, tries to interpret the present and to mediate impulses for present-day action*.1 It is within this interpretative framework that we should examine the profound and present meaning that eschatology has with regard to theological reflection and the missionary praxis of the Church. If the time inaugurated by Jesus is an eschatological, qualitatively new time, it is important to understand the horizon of meaning that eschatology has as a dimension that indicates the workshop of salvation in everyday life. In fact, it is not by chance that the renewal of eschatological reflection is motivated by three factors. The first, regarding questions about man's destiny in his individuality, but also in his quality as a creature in relation to the world, to others and to God. The second focuses on a reassessment of apocalyptic literature no longer understood as thought projected in a highly imaginative manner towards the next world, but as a real theology of history, in which one tries to understand the meaning of evil and its excess regarding any explanation, in relation to God's self-communication. The third, corresponding to a historical-salvific re-reading of creation that extends interest to an ecological interpretation of life and the world, to which the human person's destiny is related. At the same time, we must stress that eschatological reflection maintains a radical tension that cannot bring any rapid solution to the questions and doubts that assail the existences of men and women. Therefore, it is necessary to maintain one decisive point: the eschaton is the God who comes (adventus); it is the word that enters our present with an unforeseeable otherness that calls us to listen carefully to the signs of the times. Human knowledge is possible only if this future is anticipated in the present, as in the Jesus Christ event. It is within this framework that the proclamation of the Gospel can open the search to a journey that never tires of experiencing the gift of liberation capable of building a civilisation of love. Following these premises, it is not superfluous to recall the particularity of the meaning of the term eschatology, whose definition requires a more structured approach. To say that eschatology is the discourse about the eschaton means asking what its specific object is since the adjective eschatos indicates extreme, last, which does not envisage anything further. As G. Kittel,2 points out, the word eschatos, in its various forms (adjective, noun, adverb) appears several times in the New Testament, with a meaning linked to experience of the definitiveness of salvation in Jesus Christ, within the present-future tension. Thus the word eschatology has different accentuations that reveal the whole series of meanings that it contains from the classic acceptation of eschatology as a discourse about the last realities; to the meaning of a discourse about the future of the history God opened to man; from eschatology as a discourse about the last times, to theological reflection about the principle-hope that individuates the qualifying fact in the central event of Christ. It is within the framework of these indications that the biblical interpretation on the peculiarity of eschatology in its apocalyptic and prophetic elements must be individuated.

(all text is avaible in pdf)


1. H. VORGRIMLER , Hoffnung auf Vollendung. Aufriss der Escatologie , Herder, Freiburg 1980, 13. Per un inquadramento globale cf. E. SCOGNAMIGLIO , "Ecco, io faccio nuove tutte le cose": avvento di Dio, futuro dell'uomo e destino del mondo , EMP, Padova 2002.
2. G. KITTEL , «éscatos», in Grande Lessico del Nuovo Testamento , III, Paideia, Brescia 1967, 995-1000.