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Until the End of the World - Carl Schmitt, Apocalypse and the Katechon

Until the End of the World - Carl Schmitt, Apocalypse and the Katechon

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Published by William Rauscher
In order to undergird his theory of modern political sovereignty, Carl Schmitt appropriates from Paul the Apostle the figure of the katechon, tasked with restraining the end of the world until the proper time, marked by the arrival of the Antichrist.
In order to undergird his theory of modern political sovereignty, Carl Schmitt appropriates from Paul the Apostle the figure of the katechon, tasked with restraining the end of the world until the proper time, marked by the arrival of the Antichrist.

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Categories:Types, Research, History
Published by: William Rauscher on Dec 07, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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09/24/2013

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 1
Until the End of the World – Carl Schmitt, Apocalypse and the
Katechon 
William RauscherCCC Papers 004
An Angel entraps the Mouth of Hell under lock and key. 1150 AD, author unknown.
 
 2
The
katechon 
originally appears as a figure in Paul’s Second Letter to theThessalonians, wherein Paul (or the writer standing in for Paul: the authenticityof second Thessalonians remains dubious) describes it as the entity taskedwith restraining chaos until the proper arrival of the Last Judgment. In thiscontext, the
katechon 
appears to solve the problem of earthly authority inmessianic time: in light of the Thessalonians’ premature apocalypticenthusiasm, Paul needs a way to justify obedience to the existing order. Paulsays, in effect, that yes, earthly authority will be invalidated when the worldends, but don’t go around disobeying this authority just yet, because for nowthe
katechon 
is prohibiting this event from taking place:Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day will not comeunless the rebellion comes first and the lawless one is revealed,the one destined for destruction. He opposes and exalts himselfabove every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takeshis seat in the temple of God, declaring himself to be God. Doyou not remember that I told you these things when I was stillwith you? And you know what is now restraining him, so that hemay be revealed when his time comes. For the mystery of
 
 3
lawlessness is already at work, but only until the one who nowrestrains it is removed. [Second Thessalonians, 2:3-2:8]
1
 Paul makes two cryptic references here, to the “one who restrains,” the
katechon 
(
Aufhalter 
in Luther’s translation), and to the “lawless one” who willappear only after the restrainer has been removed. The restrainer and thelawless one share a relationship of constant antagonism. The lawless onecannot be defeated by the restrainer; instead the restrainer keeps him at bay,repeatedly warding him off, until “his time comes,” at which point the restrainer“is removed” so that the lawless one may be allowed to assume power fullyand thus usher in the Last Judgment. While the
katechon 
vigilantly protectsearthly orders against chaos, his position is in essence temporary, withtermination and failure built into the job description.The hedonistic behavior of the Thessalonians prior to Paul’s arrival
2
 signals the danger of allowing “lawlessness” to operate without the invocationof a restraining force. After all, why should Christians continue to obey theruling order if the end of the world is imminent, and with it, the invalidation ofall earthly authority? This question strikes at a core concern for the Christian
1
All biblical citations from
The New Oxford Annotated Bible,
Bernhard W. Anderson, Bruce ManningMetzger and Roland Edmund Murphy, eds. (New York: Oxford University Press: 1991).
2
See James D.G. Dunn,
The Theology of Paul the Apostle
(Grand Rapids: William B. EerdmansPublishing Company, 1998), 298-304.

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