Paper: Apocalyptic Calculators of the Later Middle Ages

Apocalyptic Calculators of the Later Middle Ages

Intro: The purpose of my talk today is to explore why and how astrology became an accepted tool for apocalyptic calculation in the later Middle Ages. Although thirteenth-century scholars flirted with the idea of using the stars to calculate the timing of the end, serious astrological calculations of the apocalypse began in earnest only in the early fifteenth century, during the pervasive, eschatologically-charged crisis of the Great Schism of 1378 to 1414. Scholars then began to look to the stars, I will argue, as an outside, scientific means of countering urgent apocalyptic predictions based on prophecies, visions, and the interpretation of Scripture, predictions that in many instances were coming to be seen as dangerous and divisive. Once astrological calculations were incorporated into the eschatological arsenal, however, they began, rather, to add fuel to apocalyptic fires, complementing, rather than quashing more traditional modes of speculation.

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