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The End of History and the Ends of History: Assessing the Political-Theological Status of the Achaemenid Empire in Persian Period Judaism

Prof. Konrad Schmid (University of Zurich)


In 1959, Otto Plöger published a monograph entitled “Theocracy and Eschatology” (German original: Theokratie und Eschatologie). It suggested a basic bifurcation in the political and theological thinking of Persian period Judaism. Jewish literature of that era covers a spectrum between “theocratic” positions that approve of the Achaemenid empire and interpret it as the “end of history,” and “eschatological” positions that instead envision other “ends of history” and argue for national sovereignty, a Davidic kingdom, and the return of the diaspora. This paper explores the legitimacy and the limits of this model and proposes new perspectives for the political theologies of Judaism under Achaemenid rule.

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