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Introduction to Apocalyptic Literature


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Title: Introduction to Apocalyptic Literature

Introduction to Apocalyptic Literature
  • BIB509-2006

1. Definitions of "Apocalypse"
  • 1.1 far as the preserved evidence goes, we
    must say that the literary form we call an
    apocalypse carries that title for the first time
    in the very late first or early second century
    AD. From then on, both title and form are
    fashionable, at least to the end of the classical
    period. Their fashionable-ness is part of the
    well known growth of superstition and of claims
    to special revelations and to occult knowledge,
    complementary characteristics of the later Roman
    Empire which forms their daily familiar social
    background. Smith, Morton, On the History of
    APOKALUPTW and APOKALUYIS, In Apocalypticism in
    the Mediterranean World and the Near East, ed. D.
    Hellholm, 19

1. Definitions of Apocalypse
  • 1.2 "'Apocalypse' was a well-known genre label in
    Christian antiquity, beginning from the end of
    the 1st century CE, when it appears as the
    introductory designation in Rev 1.1. Thereafter
    apocalypses are attributed to both NT (Peter,
    Paul) and OT figures (e.g., the gnostic
    Apocalypse of Adam, the Cologne Mani Codex speaks
    of apocalypses of Adam, Sethel, Enosh, Shem, and
    Enoch). Prior to the late 1st century CE the
    title is not used." Collins, Early Jewish
    Apocalypticism, ABD, I, 283

1. Definitions of Apocalypse
  • 1.3 "In general we understand apocalyptic to
    apply to two things first, a certain body of
    writings, the apocalypses, that is, revelatory
    writings which intend to reveal the secrets of
    the transcendental word and the end-time second,
    it applies to the world of concepts and ideas
    which comes to expression in those texts." Betz,
    Hans Dieter, On the Problem of the
    Religio-Historical Understanding of
    Apocalypticism, Journal for Theology and the
    Church, No. 6, 1969, p. 135

2. Apocalypse as a Genre
  • A. "'Apocalypse' is a genre of revelatory
    literature with a narrative frame work, in which
    a revelation is mediated by an otherworldly being
    to a human recipient, disclosing a transcendent
    reality which is both temporal, insofar as it
    envisages eschatological salvation, and spatial
    insofar as it involves another, supernatural
    world." Collins, John, "Towards the Morphology
    of a Genre," Semeia 14, 1979, p. 9

2. Apocalypse as a Genre
  • 1. ...the recipient of the revelation in Jewish
    apocalypses is invariably a venerable ancient
    figure Enoch, Daniel, Moses, Ezra, Baruch,
    Abraham. Collins, FOTL, 5
  • 2. ...the narrative framework invariably
    contains some account of the way in which the
    revelation was received. Collins, FOTL, 5
  • 3. One weakness in this that it
    neglects the issue of function, though it does
    directly address the characteristic form and
    content of the genre apocalyptic. Aune,
    Prophecy in Early Christianity and the Ancient
    Mediterranean World, 109

2. Apocalypse as a Genre
  • N.B that Yarbro Collins has responded to this
    by ...there is on a rather general level, a
    common function an apocalypse is intended to
    interpret present, earthly circumstances in light
    of the supernatural world and of the future, and
    to influence both the understanding and the
    behavior of the audience by means of divine
    authority. Collins, Early Jewish
  • 4. While the apocalypses constitute a distinct
    genre, they cannot be understood in isolation
    from various types of related literature.
    Collins, Early Jewish Apocalypticism

2. Apocalypse as a Genre
  • B. The term apocalypse should be applied
    strictly as the designation of a literary genre.
    It is one of the favored media adopted by
    apocalyptic seers for communicating their
    message, though it is not the exclusive nor even
    the dominant genre. Rather, it takes its place
    among other genres such as the testament, the
    salvation-judgment oracle, and the parable as a
    means of giving expression to the perspective of
    apocalyptic eschatology and as a vehicle for
    expressing the ideology of an apocalyptic
    movement. As in the case of all genres, the
    apocalypse is not rigid but underwent a history
    of development over the biblical and
    post-biblical period. Hanson, The Dawn of
    Apocalyptic, 430

2. Apocalypse as a Genre
  • 1. Structure and typical features These are
    expressed succinctly in Rev. 1.1-2 (1) a
    revelation is given by God, (2) through a
    mediator (here Jesus Christ or an angel), (3) to
    a seer concerning (4) future events. Hanson,
    Apocalypse, Genre, IDBSup Also note
    revelation occurs in a vision in which the seer
    peers into the heavens to see future events
    ecstatic state of seer direct commutation from
    the Lord and interp. from angelic guide seer
    responds in awe words of comfort cosmic drama
    with elaborate symbolism. The genre may have one
    or more visions incorporated hymns, historical
    resumes, prayers, testaments, etc.

2. Apocalypse as a Genre
  • 2. Setting and function
  • 2.1 ...the primary function is to disclose to
    the elect the secret of what is and what is to
    take place, thereby serving to comfort the
    oppressed and encourage them to remain faithful
    to their beliefs. Hanson, Apocalypse, Genre,
    IDBSup, 27
  • 2.2 ...seem to stem from settings of persecution
    within which they reveal to the faithful a vision
    of reversal and glorification (Dan 12.1). This is
    made possible by concentration on heavenly
    realities, whether given in the form of symbols
    or in purported direct description. Earths woes
    are seen as the shadows of a passing epoch.
    Though it is likely that ecstatic experience
    played a part in the apocalypses, there is also
    evidence of studies application of conventional
    devices. Hanson, Apocalypse, Genre, IDBSup,

2. Apocalypse as a Genre
  • 2.3 The popular view that apocalypses are
    reactions to persecution is based primarily on
    the canonical apocalypse of Daniel and
    Revelation, and is erroneous even in the latter
    case.... It is true, however, that all the
    apocalypses are related to a crisis, but the
    crises are of different kinds.... Collins,
    FOTL, 22

3. The Two Basic Apocalyptic Genre
  • A. The Historical Apocalypses (Daniel Book of
    Dreams and Apocalypse of Weeks in 1 Enoch
    Jubilees 4 Ezra 2 Baruch.)
  • 1. The Media of Revelation
  • 1.1 The symbolic vision. Dan 7-8 Note the
    pattern of (1) indication of circumstances (2)
    description of the vision (3) request for
    interp (4) interpretation by an angel (5)
    conclusions are usually variable.
  • 1.1.1 visions usually allegorical
  • 1.1.2 visions differ in pattern from Amos 7.7-9
    Zech 1.7-17 1.18-21 6.1-8.

3. The Two Basic Apocalyptic Genre
  • 1.1.3 symbolic dreams in Bible basically
    distrusted Deut 13.1-5 Jer 23.25-32 27.9-10
  • 1.1.4 Note the parallels of Daniel and Joseph
  • 1.1.5 Zech and Ezek 40-48 parallel angel interp.
  • 1.2 Epiphany. Vision of a single supernatural
    figure like in Dan 10.
  • 1.2.1 Note Ezek 1-2 8.
  • 1.2.2 God came to X in a dream by night...
    pattern Gen 20.3 31.24 1 Kgs 3.5 9.2

3. The Two Basic Apocalyptic Genre
  • 1.3 Angelic Discourse. A revelation delivered by
    a speech of an angel. Note Dan 10-11.
  • 1.4 Revelatory Dialogue.
  • 1.5 Midrash. ...a work that attempts to make a
    text of Scripture understandable, useful, and
    relevant for a later generation. Collins, FOTL,
  • 1.6 Pesher. Like a exegetical midrash, but interp
    of dreams and writings on the wall.
  • 1.7 Revelations Report.

3. The Two Basic Apocalyptic Genre
  • 2. The content of the Revelations
  • 2.1 Ex Eventu Prophecy. (1) Periodization of
    History Dan 7 9 (2) Regnal prophecy Dan 11
  • 2.2 Eschatological Predictions. The pattern is
    crisis-judgment-salvation. (1) Signs of the end.
    (2)Description of Judgment Scene. (3) Epiphany of
    a Heavenly Figure. (4) Prophecy of Cosmic

3. The Two Basic Apocalyptic Genre
  • B. Otherworldly Journeys (Book of the Watchers,
    Astronomical Book, Similitudes all in 1 Enoch
    2 Enoch 3 Baruch Testament of Abraham
    Apocalypse of Abraham Apocalypse of Zephaniah
    Testament of Levi 2-5)
  • 1. Biblical tradition by contrast has no clear
    precedent for the apocalyptic otherworldly
    journey. The OT does not describe what Enoch or
    Elijah saw when they were taken up. The prophets
    are said to stand in the divine council (Jer
    23.18 cf. 1 Kgs 22) but in not case is their
    ascent described. The nearest biblical
    approximation to this type of apocalypse is found
    in Ezekiels guided tour of the temple area in
    Ezek 40-48, but this involves neither an ascent
    to heaven nor a descent to the netherworld.
    Collins, FOTL, 15

3. The Two Basic Apocalyptic Genre
  • 2. The Media of Revelation.
  • 2.1 Transportation of the Visionary. (1) Report
    of Ascent. (2) Report of Descent.
  • 2.2 The revelation Account. (1) Report of tour.
    (2) Report of Ascent through a Numbered Series of
  • 3. The Content of the Revelation.
  • 3.1 List of Revealed things.
  • 3.2 Visions of the Abodes of the Dead.
  • 3.3 Judgment Scenes.
  • 3.4 Throne Visions.
  • 3.5 Lists of Vices.

4. Literary Features
  • Some of the striking literary features of
    apocalypses are pseudonymity, reports of
    visions, reviews of history presented as
    prophecies, number speculation, the figure of the
    interpreting angel (angelus interpres), the
    tendency to make frequent allusions to, but not
    quote, the OT, and the conscious attempt to
    present the compositions as revelatory
    literature. The more distinctive religious
    features of apocalyptic authors include imminent
    eschatology, pessimism, spatial and temporal
    dualism, determinism, secrecy, a longing for
    individual, transcendent salvation, and an
    emphasis on the detailed knowledge of the
    physical and supernatural universe. Aune,
    Prophecy in Early Christianity and the Ancient
    Mediterranean World, 108

5. Apocalyptic Eschatology
  • Apocalyptic neither a genre
    (apocalypse) nor a socio-religious movement
    (apocalypticism) but a religious perspective
    which views divine plans in relations to
    historical realities in a particular way.
    Hanson, The Dawn of Apocalyptic, 430

5. Apocalyptic Eschatology Buber
5. Apocalyptic Eschatology
  • A. Hanson
  • 1. Hanson argues, the line of connection between
    prophetic eschatology and apocalyptic eschatology
    can be seen in the orientation of both toward the
    future as the context of divine redemption and
    judging activity. The two are differentiated by
    the degree to which that activity is regarded to
    be integrated into the structure of historical
    realities and mediated by human agency. Hanson,
    The Dawn of Apocalyptic, 432

5. Apocalyptic Eschatology
  • 2. Eschatology, as the study of end-time
    events, developed earlier in biblical prophecy.
    The perspective of apocalyptic eschatology can
    best be understood as an outgrowth from prophetic
    eschatology. Common to both is the belief that,
    in accordance with the divine plan, the adverse
    conditions of the present world would end in
    judgment of the wicked and vindication of the
    righteous, thereby ushering in a new era of
    prosperity and peace.... Prophetic eschatology
    and apocalyptic eschatology are best viewed as
    two sides of a continuum. The development from
    the one to

5. Apocalyptic Eschatology
  • the other is not ineluctably chronological,
    however, but is intertwined with changes in
    social and political conditions. Periods and
    conditions permitting members of the protagonist
    community to sense that human effort would be
    repaid by improved fortune tended to foster
    prophetic eschatology, that is, the view that
    Gods new order would unfold within the realities
    of this world. Periods of extreme suffering,
    whether at the hands of opponents within the
    community or those of foreign adversaries, tended
    to cast doubts on the effectiveness of human
    reform and thus to abet

5. Apocalyptic Eschatology
  • apocalyptic eschatology, with its more rigidly
    dualistic view of divine deliverance, entailing
    destruction of this world and resurrection of the
    faithful to blessed heavenly existence." Hanson,
    Apocalypses and Apocalypticism, ABD, I, 280-281

5. Apocalyptic Eschatology
  • B. Collins
  • 1. The distinctive novelty here was the belief
    in the judgment of the dead. An apocalypse like
    Daniel might still proclaim an eschatological
    kingdom of Israel, but it also promised that the
    faithful would rise in the glory, and thereby
    offered a perspective on life which was very
    different from that of the Hebrew prophets.
    Collins, Early Jewish Apocalypticism
  • 2. The two problems in the discussion of an
    apocalyptic eschatology

5. Apocalyptic Eschatology
  • 2. The two problems in the discussion of an
    apocalyptic eschatology
  • 2.1 The question whether there is a consistent
    apocalyptic eschatology. All the apocalypses,
    however, involve a transcendent eschatology that
    looks for retribution beyond the bounds of
    history. Collins, The Apocalyptic Imagination,
  • 2.2 ...neither the judgment of the dead nor even
    the scenario of the end of history is peculiar to
    apocalypses hence the objective that there is no
    distinctive apocalyptic eschatology.... The genre
    is not constituted by one or more distinctive
    themes but by a distinctive combination of
    elements, all which are also found elsewhere.
    Collins, The Apocalyptic Imagination, 9

6. Theories About the Origins of the Apocalyptic
  • A. Early Theories Paul Hanson 6th cen. BCE
  • The origins of the apocalyptic must be searched
    for as early as the sixth century BC. In the
    catastrophe of the Exile the order forms of the
    faith and tradition came into crisis, and
    Israels institutions, including the religious
    institutions, collapsed or were transformed.
    Cross, Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic, 343

6. Theories About the Origins of the Apocalyptic
  • 1. Ancient myth and the rise of prophetic
  • 1.1 Because apocalypticism in it many forms
    draws so heavily upon concepts and motifs of
    ancient myth, its roots must be traced to the
    great cosmogonic myths of the second millennium
    BC. Hanson, Apocalypticism, IDBSup, 32
  • 1.2 There is obvious continuity between the
    apocalyptic expectation of a final judgment and
    the prophetic day of the Lord. The idea of a
    cosmic day of judgment is widely attested in the
    prophets and the psalms (e.g., Pss 96, 98 Isa
    2.4). The apocalyptic interest in the heavenly
    council (e.g., Ps 82.1) which can be traced back
    to Canaan and Mesopotamia in the 2d millennium.
    Collins, Early Jewish Apocalypticism, ABD, I,

6. Theories About the Origins of the Apocalyptic
  • 2. Transition to apocalyptic.
  • 2.1 The transformation of prophetic eschatology
    into apocalyptic eschatology was the gradual
    result of community crisis and national
    disintegration, circumstances which led prophets
    like Jeremiah and Ezekiel to envision redemption
    increasingly on a cosmic level through the use of
    motifs drawn from myth (Jer 4.23-28 Ezek 47).
    Hanson, Apocalypticism, IDBSup, 32

6. Theories About the Origins of the Apocalyptic
  • 3. Birth of the first apocalyptic movements.
  • 3.1 ...Ezekiel and Second Isaiah both were able
    to bequeath to their followers programs of
    restoration written from perspectives quite
    advanced along the continuum from prophetic to
    apocalyptic eschatology. Hanson,
    Apocalypticism, IDBSup, 32
  • 3.2 The writings which seem related to this
    apocalyptic movement (2nd Isaiahs) (Isa 34-35
    24-27 56-66 Malachi Zech 9-14 Joel ?)
    spanthe period from the Exile to the latter half
    of the fifth century. There seem to be no
    apocalyptic writings from the fourth century.
    Hanson, Apocalypticism, IDBSup, 32

6. Theories About the Origins of the Apocalyptic
  • 3.3 Old oracle types (Güttungen) persisted, but
    were radically altered. The old songs of the wars
    of Yahweh were transformed into the
    eschatological songs of the imminent war in which
    Yahwehs universal rule would be established. A
    new Conquest was described in terms of the
    language of the old Conquest of Israels Epic. A
    new Exodus was described in anguage of the old
    Exodus, and with bold mythological language which
    dissolved both old and new Exodus into the
    language of the battle with Yamm or Leviathan,
    dragon of chaos. The myths of creation, in short,
    were given an eschatological function. The old
    lawsuit oracle (rib) was transformed into a
    rhetorical lawsuit between Israels god and the
    gods of the nations. Royal and prophetic offices
    were democratized, and the old oracles of
    kingship and the inaugural oracles or
    confessions (autobiographical oracles) of the
    prophet proclaimed to the nation Israel. Israel
    herself was to be the prophet, the servant of the
    Lord. The people Israel was to be ambassador to
    the nations bearing the law to the peoples.
    Cross, Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic, 345-346

6. Theories About the Origins of the Apocalyptic
  • 3.4 Two traits or patterns that emerged One is
    the democratizing and eschatologizing of
    classical prophetic themes and forms. A second is
    the doctrine of two ages, an era of old things
    and an era of new things. Cross, Canaanite
    Myth and Hebrew Epic, 346

6. Theories About the Origins of the Apocalyptic
  • 4. Apocalypticism in the second century BC
  • 4.1 ...the world view of these postexilic
    writings is significantly different from what we
    will later find in 1 Enoch and Daniel. The
    crucial difference can be seen in the nature of
    the eschatology. In Isaiah 65 the new creation is
    one where the child shall die a hundred years
    old, and the sinner a hundred years old shall be
    accursed, but they will die nonetheless. There
    is no question of personal immortality. Even
    Isaiah 24-27, which speaks of the destruction of
    death and says that Gods death shall live (Isa

6. Theories About the Origins of the Apocalyptic
  • most probably only envisages the resurrection of
    the Israelite people, in the manner of Ezekiel
    37. There is still no suggestion that a human
    being can pass over the world of the angles or
    become a companion to the host of heaven.
    Consequently these oracles retain the
    this-worldly emphasis traditional in biblical
    prophecy. In view of this, the oracles of Isaiah
    56-66 and other postexilic prophecies are best
    regarded as examples of late prophecy, even
    though some of their themes are later taken up in
    a new context in the apocalypses. Collins,
    Early Jewish Apocalypticism, ABD, I, 284

7. The Social Setting of Apocalypses
  • A. Two primary religious orientations of
    postexilic Judaism
  • 1. There is broad agreement that two primary
    religious orientations arose within postexilic
    Judaism, the priestly-theocratic perspective
    (represented by the Priestly document in the
    Pentateuch, the work of the Chronicler, and 1 and
    2 Maccabees), and the prophetic-eschatological
    orientation (represented by Daniel, in addition
    to the deutero-prophetic writings and
    Malachi...). Aune
  • 2. Hanson calls these two visionary and

7. The Social Setting of Apocalypses
  • B. Nature of Community
  • 1. Apocalyptic eschatology is the idiom of those
    who are oppressed and powerless and whose hopes
    appear impossible of realization within the
    existing order.... There is some agreement that
    apocalypticism in early Judaism was a
    supernaturalistic response to the social,
    political, and religious oppression experienced
    by many segments of early Judaism under foreign
    powers as well as under native representatives of
    those powers, the priestly-theocratic group.

7. The Social Setting of Apocalypses
  • 2. Apocalyptic eschatology during the late
    Second Temple period was a widespread ideological
    matrix which gave rise to various forms of
    collective behavior. Aune
  • 3. All attempts to link apocalyptic literature
    to specific sects or movements have proven
    unsuccessful. Yet it is clear that Daniel and
    other apocalypses are learned, scribal phenomenon
    produced by maskilim (the wise, Dan 11.33, 35),
    who are commonly (but unnecessarily) identified
    with the Hasidim. These scribes, only loosely
    connected with one another if at all, wrote
    apocalypses as tracts for the times in various
    situations of oppression. Aune

8. Apocalyptic Worldview
  • A. Philipp Vielhauser J.Christiaan Beker, Paul
    the Apostle, 135-136
  • 1. The doctrine of the two ages with its radical
  • 2. Pessimism and otherworldly hope, which
    expresses the fundamental thought of apocalyptic
    dualism, that is, the radical discontinuity
    between this age and the coming age.
  • 3. Universalism and individualism, that is, the
    cosmic, universal scope of apocalyptic and its
    view of the person as no longer a member of a
    collective entity.

8. Apocalyptic Worldview
  • 4. Determinism and imminent expectation of the
    kingdom of God, which involves Gods prefixed
    plan of history, calculations about the end of
    history, and its periodization (four, seven, or
    twelve periods).

8. Apocalyptic Worldview
  • B. Klaus Koch J. Christiaan Beker, Paul the
    Apostle, 136
  • 1. An urgent expectation of the impending
    overthrow of all earthly conditions in the
    immediate future.
  • 2. The end appears as a vast cosmic catastrophe.
  • 3. The time of this world is divided into
  • 4. The intro of an army of angels and demons to
    explain the course of historical events and the
    happenings of the end time.
  • 5. Beyond the catastrophe a new salvation arises,
    paradisal in character and destined for the
    faithful remnant.

8. Apocalyptic Worldview
  • 6. The transition from disaster to final
    redemption takes place by means of an act issuing
    from the throne of God, which means the
    visibility on earth of the kingdom of God.
  • 7. The frequent introduction of a mediator with
    royal functions.
  • 8. The catchword glory is used wherever the
    final state of affairs is set apart from the
    present and whenever a final amalgamation of the
    earthly and heavenly spheres is prophesied.
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