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Apocalyptic Literature

Apocalyptic Literature

Apocalyptic Literature Study Archive

Jewish eschatology ought to be defined as a wide category referring to the future hopes of the Jewish people, either immanent or transcendent.  These hopes were cherished by actualizing interpretations of the prophetic oracles in the Bible about the coming of the Messiah to liberate his people from foreign political domination, to re-establish the Davidic kingdom as the supreme power in the world

 


Apocalyptic and Psedepigrahia:
APOCALYPTIC LITERATURE

200 B.C. – A.D. 135


 

APOCALYPTIC: “a genre of revelatory literature with a narrative framework, 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.”  -Ernest Renan


Apocalyptic Literature



Jewish Apocalyptic Genre:
“Turn of Era” Lit. Exploring Eschatological Salvation


Intro to Jewish Apocalyptic
LANGUAGE, LITERARY FORMS, INTERPRETATIONS: ANCIENT AND MODERN

 Steve Mason
“Jewish eschatology ought to be defined as a wide category referring to the future hopes of the Jewish people, either immanent or transcendent.  These hopes were cherished by actualizing interpretations of the prophetic oracles in the Bible about the coming of the Messiah to liberate his people from foreign political domination, to re-establish the Davidic kingdom as the supreme power in the world and the create justice and piety in the Jewish people.  However, eschatological hopes are also found in the rather few and isolated texts expressing the hopes of the resurrection of the death, the final judgment and everlasting reward and punishment of the just and the wicked.” (Understanding Josephus, p. 40)

“According to John J. Collins and many others, Jewish apocalypticism is primarily a literary category.” (p. 40)

George Caird
“The first readers were almost certainly well versed in the sort of symbolic language and imagery in which the book is written. Whether they had formerly been Jews or pagans, they would read the language of myth as fluently as any modern reader of the daily papers reads the conventional symbols of a political cartoon. Much of this language we can reconstruct for ourselves from the Old Testament and Jewish apocalyptic writings on the one hand and from Greek and Roman literature, inscriptions, and coinage on the other (Black’s New Testament Commentaries, “A Commentary on the Revelation of St. John the Divine,” 2nd edition, p. 6).”

Moses Stuart (1836)
(On Heb. 12:25-29) “That the passage has respect to the changes which would be introduced by the coming of the Messiah, and the new dispensation which he would commence, is evident from Haggai ii. 7-9. Such figurative language is frequent in the Scriptures, and denotes great changes which are to take place. So the apostle explains it here, in the very next verse. (Comp. Isa. 13:13Haggai 2:21,22Joel 3:16Matt. 24:29-37). (Hebrews, in loc.)

Milton Terry (1898)
“From these quotation it is apparent that there is scarcely an expression employed in Matthew and Luke which has not been taken from the Old Testament Scriptures.

“Such apocalyptic forms of speech are not to be assumed to convey in the New Testament a meaning different from that which they bear in the Hebrew Scriptures. They are part and parcel of the genius of prophetic language. The language of Isaiah 13:10, is used in a prophecy of the overthrow of Babylon. That of Isaiah 34:4, refers to the desolation of Edom. The ideal of “the Son of man coming in the clouds” is taken from a prophecy of the Messianic kingdom, which kingdom, as depicted in Daniel 7:13,14, is no other than the one symbolized in the same book by a stone cut out of the mountain (Dan. 2:34,35). It is the same kingdom of heaven which Jesus liken to a grain of mustard seed and to the working of leaven in the meal (Matt. 13:31-33). The other citations we have given above show with equal clearness how both Jesus and his disciples were wont to express themselves in language which must have been very familiar to those who from childhood heard the law and the prophets “read in the synagogues every Sabbath” (Acts 13:2715:21). A strictly literal interpretation of such pictorial modes of thought leads only to absurdity. Their import must be studied in the light of the numerous parallels in the Old Testament writers, which have been extensively presented in the foregoing part of this volume. But with what show of reason, or on what principle of “interpreting Scripture by Scripture,” can it be maintained that the language of Isaiah, Joel, and Daniel, allowed by all the best exegetes to be metaphorical when employed in the Hebrew Scriptures, must be literally understood when appropriated by Jesus or his apostles?

“We sometimes, indeed, are meet with a disputant who attempts to evade the force of the above question by the plea that if we interpret one part of Jesus’s discourse literally we are bound in consistency to treat the entire prophecy in the same way. So, on the other hand, it is urged that if Matt. 24:29-31, for example, be explained metaphorically, we must carry that same principle through all the rest of the chapter; and if the words “sun, moon, and heavens” in verse 29 are to be taken figuratively, so should the words “Judea,” and “mountains,” and “housetop,” and “field” in other parts of the chapter be explained metaphorically! It is difficult to understand how such a superficial plea can be seriously put forward by one who has made a careful study of the Hebrew prophets. Every one of the Old Testament examples which have been cited above stands connected, like these apocalyptic saying of Jesus, with other statements which all readers and expositors have understood literally. The most proasic writer may at times express himself through a whole series of sentences in figurative term, and incorporate the extended metaphor in the midst of the plain narrative of facts. …

“Our fourth and concluding proposition is that this apocalyptic passage is a sublime symbolic picture of the crisis of ages in the transition from the Old Testament dispensation to the Christian era. The word picture must be taken as a whole, and allowed to convey its grand total impression. The attempt, in a single passage like Mark 13:24,25, to take each metaphor separately and give it a distinct application, ruins the whole picture. … The picture of a collapsing universe symbolizes the one simple but sublime thought of supernatural interposition in the affairs of the world, involving remarkable revolution and change. The element of time does not appear in the picture. So the Son of man coming on the clouds means here just what it means in Daniel’s vision. It is an apocalyptic concept of the Messiah, as King of heaven and earth, executing divine judgment and entering with his people upon the possession and dominion of the kingdoms of the world. Here again the element of time does not enter, except it be the associated thought of Daniel’s prophecy that “his dominion is an everlasting dominion” (Dan. 7:14). It is the same coming of the Son of man in his kingdom which is referred to in Matt. 16:27,28, the inception of which was to occur before some of those who heard these words should taste of death. The mourning of all the tribes of the land is the universal wail and lamentation of Judaism over its national overthrow. In the fall of their city and Temple the priests, scribes, and elders saw “the Son of man sitting at the right hand of power” (Matt. 26:64), and thus it was made manifest to all who read the prophecy aright that “Jesus the Galilean” has conquered. The gathering of Christ’s elect from the four winds is the true fulfillment of numerous prophecies which promise the chosen people that they shall be gathered out of all lands and established forever in the mountain of God (comp. Amos 9:14,15Jer. 23:5-832:37-40Ezek. 37:21-28). The time and manner of this universal ingathering of the elect ones cannot be determined from the language of any of these prophecies. As well might one presume to determine from Jesus’s words in John 12:32, where, when, and in what manner, when the Christ is “lifted up out of the earth,” he will draw all men unto himself. The point made emphatic, in the eschatological discourse of Jesus, is that all things contemplated in the apocalyptic symbolism employed to depict his coming and reign would follow “immediately after the tribulation of those days” (Matt. 24:29); or, as Mark has it, “in those days, after that tribulation.” That is, the coming of the kingdom of the Son of man is coincident with the overthrow of Judaism and its temple, and follows immediately in those very days.” (Biblical Apocalyptics, pp. 238-245)


George Eldon Ladd (1957)

“To determine our Lord’s attitude toward the subject of apocalyptic is one of the really urgent tasks at the present time confronting New Testament scholars..” (JBL 76 (1957): 192. )

Mitchell Reddish (1995)
“The term apocalypse refers to a particular literary genre.  Although all scholars do not agree on the precise characteristics of an apocalypse, a useful definition has been proposed by John J. Collins and other members of the Apocalypse Group of the Society of Biblical Literature’s Genre Project.  Their definition of an apocalypse states:  “Apocalypse” is a genre of revelatory literature with a narrative framework, 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.” (Apocalyptic Literature, MA: Hendrickson, 1993, p. 245, n. 248)

“Apocalyptic literature, however, is not factual reporting.  It is a special kind of literary work, filled with symbolism, figurative imagery, and ancient myths.  It is more closely akin to poetry than to prose, more like an abstract painting than a photograph.” (Apocalyptic Literature, MA: Hendrickson, 1993, p. 35)

D.S. Russell (1964)
“The rise and growth of the apocalyptic literature in Judaism is to be seen against the background of one of the most heroic, and at the same time one of the most tragic, period’s in Israel’s history.” The Method and Message of Jewish Apocalyptic, (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1964, p.15)

“Those [Jewish apocalyptic books] which be not bear the mark of crisis have nevertheless the same not of urgency that the time is short and the End appointed by God is near at hand.”  (ibid., p. 17)

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