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Radical Prophet: The Mystics, Subversives and Visionaries Who Foretold the End of the World

Radical Prophet: The Mystics, Subversives and Visionaries Who Foretold the End of the World
Christopher Rowland

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Christianity began with the conviction that the old order was finished. The mysterious, elusive and charismatic figure of Jesus proclaimed that a new era, the Kingdom of God, was dawning. Yet despite its success, and the conversion of the empire which had executed its founder, the religion he inspired was soon domesticated, its counter-cultural radicalism tamed, as the Church attempted to control both its doctrines and its followers. Christopher Rowland here shows that this was never the whole story. At the margins, around the edges, sometimes off the religious map, the apocalyptic flame of the New Testament continued to burn. In 1649 the Diggers occupied St George's Hill to put the egalitarianism of Christ into practice. 'You must break these men or they will break you', Oliver Cromwell declared of the 'lunaticks'. This book argues that such revolutionaries had divined the true intent of the enigma who threw over the tables of the money-changers: to summon a new epoch - strange, iconoclastic, uncomfortable and otherworldly. It gives full weight to a remarkable strain of radical religion that simply refuses to die.

Author Info

Christopher Rowland is Dean Ireland's Professor Emeritus of the Exegesis of Holy Scripture in the University of Oxford. His many books include Blake and the Bible, Revelation (with Judith Kovacs), The Cambridge Companion to Liberation Theology, Christian Origins: The Setting and Character of the Most Important Messianic Sect of Judaism, and Radical Christian Writings: A Reader (with Andrew Bradstock).


‘With characteristically incisive scholarship, Christopher Rowland makes a novel cut through the two-thousand-year texture of Christian history to reveal some startling perspectives from the past. Introducing us to disquieting voices from previous ages, he shows how they can feed into a reconstruction of Christian theology for those who cry out for liberation and redress, as so many have done over the Christian centuries. The reader may disagree with Rowland’s analyses, but cannot fail to reap rich rewards from the conversation.’ – Diarmaid MacCulloch, FBA, Professor of the History of the Church, University of Oxford

‘Identifying the profound, but much neglected, significance of mysticism and of visionary radicalism in the Christian intellectual tradition, Radical Prophet gives voice to writers whose hopeful revelations sought material change: not in a future paradise, but on earth right here and now. Rowland brilliantly revises radicalism’s association with violence to conceive of it as an apocalyptic, critical and insightful way of experiencing scripture, tradition and the church. From early Christian writings to that of the Digger Gerrard Winstanley, poet William Blake and legal activist William Stringfellow, Rowland focuses on the eschatological as an urgent cry to manifest hope and change. An enthralling and crucial address to both the general and the academic reader, Radical Prophet seeks to affirm the politics of Liberation Theology in a mystical mode by insisting that we must perceive the divine in each other and respond with love to that imperative.’ – Emma Mason, Professor of English and Comparative Literary Studies, University of Warwick

‘This is a rare achievement: a book that sweeps across two thousand years, and combines close scholarly analysis with passionate personal engagement. Christopher Rowland draws us back to the apocalyptic strand in Christianity, marginalised or suppressed down the centuries, with its vision of a heaven on earth rather than in the hereafter. Rowland traces the story from Christ’s own time through mediaeval prophets, German Anabaptists, English Diggers, and William Blake, to the ideals and achievements of liberation theology in Brazil. And like all these radical prophets, Christopher Rowland seeks to inspire as well as inform.’ – Bernard Capp, FBA, Emeritus Professor of History, University of Warwick

‘Radical Prophet is a major study of Christian radicalism from the New Testament to Latin American liberation theology. It freshly illuminates the ways such radical writers as Gerrard Winstanley and William Blake, as well as modern thinkers, drew upon and revised messianic and apocalyptic ideas. Christopher Rowland makes a splendid contribution to the intellectual history of Christianity. Historians of ideas, scholars of religion and literary scholars - even general readers - will all appreciate this deeply original and stimulating book.’ - David Loewenstein, Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of English and the Humanities, Pennsylvania State University

Bibliographic Info

Imprint: I.B.Tauris
Publisher: I.B.Tauris & Co. Ltd.

ISBN: 9781784532659
Publication Date: 29 Aug 2017
Number of Pages: 272
Height: 228
Width: 155

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