Wrath, Mercy, Pestilence, and Plague. How the Wisdom of the Ancients Offers Courage in Pandemic


The authors explore the meanings and contexts for “plague” and “pestilence” in bib-lical documents and other Circum-Mediterranean traditions. The ferocious, ominous images foretelling the “end of times” in the book of Revelation explain some of the current malaise in reaction to Covid-19. The term “pandemic” denotes undercurrents from the histories of all these words, and together, they help to make sense of con-temporary changes in religion and culture. The cognitive perception of time changes, and words take on an intense urgency. A practical solution is found in Paul’s advice to the early Christians, which is buried inconspicuously in the New Testament.

Article history

Received 28 May 2020. Accepted without revisions 31 July 2020. Published online 10 September 2020




English (en)


Margaret Boone RappaportThe Human Sentience Project, LLC

Christopher CorballyVatican Observatory

Riccardo CampaJagiellonian University in Krakow

Ziba NormanUniversity College London


Orbis Idearum Volume 8, Issue 1 (2020), pp. 13-27
Epidemics in the History of Ideas