What is Salvation?

Many years ago I when I was studying the history of religions I was taught to ask about the various religions of “salvation” that so thickly filled the Hellenistic-Roman world (400 BCE-300 CE) to pose the following probing questions of any text or system of religious thinking about humanity and our place in the cosmos–past, present or future:

Saved from what, how, by whom, and when? In fact, it was that specific kind of inquiry that led to to focus on apocalyptic, messianic, forms of eschatology in the period of late 2nd Temple Judaism–in its many varieties. I suppose you could say I have been doing that for the past 40 years!

Ancient Gold foil Lamellae with “Prayers for Salvation” in the Hadean world that the “gnostic” soul who knows its origin (“I am a children of earth and starry heaven, but heaven alone is my home”), can ascend to heaven, escaping the bonds of death.

I wanted to upload an article I published back in 2000 in the Encyclopedia of Millennialism and Millennial Movements: Volume I: Religion and Society, edited by my friend Richard Landes. It is an encyclopedia article so it has a single word title: “Salvation,” and it runs only three pages. However, if you take a look I think you might find it to be one of the more succinct and helpful summaries of the range of thought from the Ancient Near East down through early Christian ideas. Here it is, you can page through the PDF using the arrows at the bottom. Enjoy!

Tabor Salvation Ency Millennialism