Tuesday, March 11, 2008

This entry only concerns the historical genre of apocalyptic literature. Justifications and interpretations within theological contexts are abundantly available at entries for individual books. For other uses, see Apocalypse (disambiguation) for a list.
Apocalyptic literature was a new genre of prophetical writing that developed in post-Exilic Jewish culture and was popular among millennialist early Christians.
"Apocalypse" is from the Greek word for "revelation" which means "an unveiling or unfolding of things not previously known and which could not be known apart from the unveiling" (Goswiller 1987 p. 3). The poetry of the Book of Revelation that is traditionally ascribed to John is well known to many Christians who are otherwise unaware of the literary genre it represents.
The apocalyptic literature of Judaism and Christianity embraces a considerable period, from the centuries following the exile down to the close of the middle ages. In the present survey we shall limit ourselves to the great formative periods in this literature--in Judaism from 200 BCE to 100 CE, and in Christianity from 50 to approximately 350 CE.

Transition from prophecy to apocalyptic literature
The origin of the apocalyptic genre is to be sought in unfulfilled prophecy and in traditional elements drawn from various sources.

Sources of apocalyptic literature
The judgments predicted by the pre-exilic prophets had indeed been executed to the letter, but where were the promised glories of the renewed kingdom and Israel's unquestioned sovereignty over the nations of the earth? One such unfulfilled prophecy Ezekiel takes up and reinterprets in such a way as to show that its fulfilment is still to come. The prophets Jeremiah(iv.-vi.) and Zephaniah had foretold the invasion of Judah by a mighty people from the north. But as this northern foe had failed to appear Ezekiel re-edited this prophecy in a new form as a final assault of God and his hosts on Jerusalem, and thus established a permanent dogma in Jewish apocalyptic, which in due course passed over into Christian. Another alternative is that the invasion from the north predicted in Jeremiah 4:6; 6:1 was fulfilled in the subsequent invasion of Nebuchadnezzar King of Babylon, since Jeremiah 25:9 suggests that northern armies would assist Nebuchadnezzar in his invasion of Judah. Other scholars suggest that a Scythian invasion that possibly occurred during that time was intended by Jeremiah, though this seems unlikely. Thus, the Battle of Gog and Magog prophesied in Ezekiel 38-39 could be a quite different invasion altogether.
But the non-fulfillment of prophecies relating to this or that individual event or people served to popularize the methods of apocalyptic in a very slight degree in comparison with the non-fulfilment of the greatest of all prophecies--the advent of the Messianic kingdom. Thus, though Jeremiah had promised that after seventy years. (Again, these two books were not considered as inspired Scripture by the Jews, and thus were not authoritative on matters of prophecy.). Earlier in Daniel chapter 7, and also in chapter 2, however, the fourth and final world empire is actually Rome, since Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome were world empires which all clearly arrived in succession. This may mean that according to the Book of Daniel, Rome would be the last world power before the kingdom of God.
Once more such ideas as those of "the day of Yahweh" and the "new heavens and a new earth" were constantly re-edited by the Jewish people with fresh nuances in conformity with their new settings. Thus the inner development of Jewish apocalyptic was always conditioned by the historical experiences of the nation. But the prophecies found in Jewish Scriptures, which have not changed over time, await their fulfillment.

Unfulfilled prophecy
Another source of apocalyptic was primitive mythological and cosmological traditions, in which the eye of the seer could see the secrets of the future no less surely than those of the past. Thus the six days of the world's creation, followed by a seventh of rest, were regarded as at once a history of the past and a forecasting of the future. As the world was made in six days its history would be accomplished in six thousand years, since each day with God was as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day; and as the six days of creation were followed by one of rest, so the six thousand years of the world's history would be followed by a rest of a thousand years, the garden of Eden.

The object of this literature in general was to solve the difficulties connected with the righteousness of God and the suffering condition of His righteous servants on earth. The righteousness of God postulated according to the law the temporal prosperity of the righteous and the temporal prosperity of necessity; for as yet there was no promise of life or recompense beyond the grave. But this connexion was not found to obtain as a rule in life, and the difficulties arising from this conflict between promise and experience centred round the lot of the righteous as a community and the lot of the righteous man as an individual. Old Testament prophecy had addressed itself to both these problems, though it was hardly conscious of the claims of this latter. It concerned itself essentially with the present, and with the future only as growing organically out of the present. It taught the absolute need of personal and national righteousness, and foretold the ultimate blessedness of the righteous nation on the present earth. But its views were not systematic and comprehensive in regard to the nations in general, while as regards the individual it held that God's service here was its own and adequate reward, and saw no need of postulating another world to set right the evils of this. But later, with the growing claims of the individual and the acknowledgment of these in the religious and intellectual life, both problems, and especially the latter, pressed themselves irresistibly on the notice of religious thinkers, and made it impossible for any conception of the divine rule and righteousness to gain acceptance, which did not render adequate satisfaction to the claims of both problems. To render such satisfaction was the task undertaken by apocalyptic, as well as to vindicate the righteousness of God alike in respect of the individual and of the nation. To justify their contention they sketched in outline the history of the world and mankind, the origin of evil and its course, and the final consummation of all things. Thus they presented in fact a theodicy, a rudimentary philosophy of religion. The righteous as a nation should yet possess the earth, even in this world the faithful community should attain its rights in an eternal Messianic kingdom on earth, or else in temporary blessedness here and eternal blessedness hereafter. So far as regards the righteous community. It was, however, in regard to the destiny of the individual that apocalyptic rendered its chief service. Though the individual might perish amid the disorders of this world, he would not fail, apocalyptic taught, to attain through resurrection the recompense that was his due in the Messianic kingdom or in heaven itself. Apocalyptic thus forms the indispensable preparation for the religion of the New Testament.

Apocalyptic literature as a genre
We have already dwelt on certain notable differences between apocalyptic and prophecy; but there are certain others that call for attention.

Apocalyptic literature as distinguished from prophecy
The message of the prophets was primarily a preaching of repentance and righteousness if the nation would escape judgment; the message of the apocalyptic writers was of patience and trust for that deliverance and reward were sure to come.

In the nature of its message
Prophecy believes that this world is God's world and that in this world His goodness and truth will yet be vindicated. Hence the prophet prophesies of a definite future arising out of and organically connected with the present. The apocalyptic writer on the other hand despairs of the present, and directs his hopes absolutely to the future, to a new world standing in essential opposition to the present..
Under the guidance of such a principle the writer naturally expected the world's culmination in evil to be the immediate precursor of God's intervention on behalf of the righteous, and every fresh growth in evil to be an additional sign that the time was at hand. The natural concomitant in conduct of such a belief is an uncompromising asceticism. He that would live to the next world must shun this. Visions are vouchsafed only to those who to prayer have added fasting.

By its dualistic theology
We have already touched on this characteristic of apocalyptic. The prophet stood in direct relations with his people; his prophecy was first spoken and afterwards written. The apocalyptic writer could obtain no hearing from his contemporaries, who held that, though God spoke in the past, "there was no more any prophet." This pessimism and want of faith limited and defined the form in which religious enthusiasm should manifest itself, and prescribed as a condition of successful effort the adoption of pseudonymous authorship. The apocalyptic writer, therefore, professedly addressed his book to future generations. Generally directions as to the hiding and sealing of the book were given in the text in order to explain its publication so long after the date of its professed period. Moreover, there was a sense in which such books were not wholly pseudonymous. Their writers were students of ancient prophecy and apocalyptical tradition, and, though they might recast and reinterpret them, they could not regard them as their own inventions. Each fresh apocalypse would in the eyes of its writer be in some degree but a fresh edition of the traditions naturally attaching themselves to great names in Israel's past, and thus the books named respectively Enoch, Noah, Ezra would to some slight extent be not pseudonymous.

By pseudonymous authorship
Apocalyptic took an indefinitely wider view of the world's history than prophecy. Thus, whereas prophecy had to deal with temporary reverses at the hands of some heathen power, apocalyptic arose at a time when Israel had been subject for generations to the sway of one or other of the great world-powers. Hence to harmonize such difficulties with belief in God's righteousness, it had to take account of the rôle of such empires in the counsels of God, the rise, duration and downfall of each in turn, till finally the lordship of the world passed into the hands of Israel, or the final judgment arrived. These events belonged in the main to the past, but the writer represented them as still in the future, arranged under certain artificial categories of time definitely determined from the beginning in the counsels of God and revealed by Him to His servants the prophets. Determinism thus became a leading characteristic of Jewish apocalyptic, and its conception of history became severely mechanical.

By its comprehensive and deterministic conception of history

Old Testament Era Apocalyptic Literature
(See the separate headings for the various apocalyptic books mentioned in this article.) All are probably pseudepigraphic except the passages from Ezekiel and Joel. Of the remaining passages and books, large sections of Daniel belong unquestionably to the Maccabean period, and the rest possibly to the same period. Isaiah xxxiii. was probably written about 163 B.C.; Zech. xii.-xiv. about 160 B.C., Isaiah xxiv.-xxvii. about 128 B.C., and xxxiv.-xxxv. sometime in the reign of John Hyrcanus. Jeremiah xxxiii. 14-26 is assigned by Marti to Maccabean times, but this is highly questionable.

Isaiah xxiv-xxvii; xxxiii; xxxiv-xxxv
possibly Jeremiah xxxiii 14-26?
Ezekiel ii. 8; xxxviii-xxxix
Joel iii. 9-17
Zechariah xii--xiv
Daniel Canonical books

Non-Canonical Books

For more details on this topic, see book of Noah. Book of Noah

Main article: Book of Enoch 1 Enoch, or the Ethiopic Book of Enoch

Main article: Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs Testaments of the XII Patriarchs
These psalms, in all eighteen, enjoyed but small consideration in early times, for only six direct references to them are found in early literature. Their ascription to Solomon is due solely to the copyists or translators, for no such claim is made in any of the psalms. On the whole, Ryle and James are no doubt right in assigning 70-40 B.C. as the limits within which the psalms were written. The authors were Pharisees. They divide their countrymen into two classes--"the righteous," ii. 38-39, iii. 3-5, 7, 8, &c., and "the sinners," ii. 38, iii. 13, iv. 9, &c.; "the saints," iii. 10, &c., and "the transgressors," iv. II, &c. The former are the Pharisees; the latter the Sadducees. They protest against the Asmonaean house for usurping the throne of David, and laying violent hands on the high priesthood (xvii. 5, 6, 8), and proclaim the coming of the Messiah, the Son of David, who is to set all things right and establish the supremacy of Israel. Pss. xvii.-xviii. and i.-xvi. cannot be assigned to the same authorship. The hopes of the Messiah are confined to the former, and a somewhat different eschatology underlies the two works. Since the Psalms were written in Hebrew, and intended for public worship in the synagogues, it is most probable that they were composed in Palestine. (See Psalms of Solomon)

Psalms of Solomon

Main article: Assumption of Moses The Assumption of Moses

Main article: 2 Baruch Syriac Apocalypse of Baruch

Main article: 2 Esdras 4 Ezra

Main article: 3 Baruch Greek Apocalypse of Baruch

Main article: Apocalypse of Abraham Apocalypse of Abraham
The Prayer of Joseph is quoted by Origen

Lost Apocalypses: Prayer of Joseph
This book was written in the name of the two prophets mentioned in Num. xi. 26-29. It consisted, according to the Targ. Jon. on Num. xi. 26-20, mainly of prophecies on Magog's last attack on Israel. The Shepherd of Hermas quotes it Vis. ii. 3. (See Marshall in Hastings' Bible Dictionary, i. 677.)

Book of Eldad and Modad

Main article: Apocalypse of Elijah Apocalypse of Elijah

Main article: Apocalypse of Zephaniah Apocalypse of Zephaniah
This new fragment of the Enochic literature was recently brought to light through five MSS. discovered in Russia and Servia. The book in its present form was written before A.D. 70 in Greek by an orthodox Hellenistic Jew, who lived in Egypt. For a fuller account see 2 Enoch.

2 Enoch, or the Slavonic Enoch, or the Book of the Secrets of Enoch
See under N. T. Apocalypses, below.

Oracles of Hystaspes

Main article: Testament of Job Testament of Job
For an account of these three Testaments (referred to in the Apost. Const. vi. 16), the first of which only is preserved in the Greek and is assigned by James to the 2nd century A.D., see that scholar's "Testament of Abraham," Texts and Studies, ii. 2 (1892), which appears in two recensions from six and three MSS. respectively, and Vassiliev's Anecdota Graeco-Byzantina, (1893), pp. 292-308, from one MS. already used by James. This work was written in Egypt, according to James, and survives also in Slavonic, Romanian, Ethiopic, and Arabic versions. It deals with Abraham's reluctance to die and the means by which his death was brought about. James holds that this book is referred to by Origen (Hom. in Luc. xxxv.), but this is denied by Schürer, who also questions its Jewish origin. With the exception of chaps. x.-xi., it is really a legend and not an apocalypse. An English translation of James's texts will be found in the Ante-Nicene Christian Library (Clark, 1897), pp. 185-201. The Testaments of Isaac and Jacob are still preserved in Arabic and Ethiopic (see James, op. cit. 140-161). See Testaments of the III Patriarchs.

Testaments of the III Patriarchs

Main article: Sibylline oracles Sibylline Oracles
When we pass from Jewish literature to that of the New Testament, we enter into a new and larger atmosphere at once recalling and transcending what had been best in the prophetic periods of the past. Again the heavens had opened and the divine teaching come to mankind, no longer merely in books bearing the names of ancient patriarchs, but on the lips of living men, who had taken courage to appear in person as God's messengers before His people. But though Christianity was in spirit the descendant of ancient Jewish prophecy, it was no less truly the child of that Judaism which had expressed its highest aspirations and ideals in pseudepigraphic and apocalyptic literature. Hence we shall not be surprised to find that the two tendencies are fully represented in primitive Christianity, and, still more strange as it may appear, that New Testament apocalyptic found a more ready hearing amid the stress and storm of the 1st century than the prophetic side of Christianity, and that the type of the forerunner on the side of its declared asceticism appealed more readily to primitive Christianity than that of Him who came "eating and drinking," declaring both worlds good and both God's.
Early Christianity had thus naturally a special fondness for this class of literature. It was Christianity that preserved Jewish apocalyptic, when it was abandoned by Judaism as it sank into Rabbinism, and gave it a Christian character either by a forcible exegesis or by a systematic process of interpolation. Moreover, it cultivated this form of literature and made it the vehicle of its own ideas. Though apocalyptic served its purpose in the opening centuries of the Christian era, it must be confessed that in many of its aspects its office is transitory, as they belong not to the essence of Christian thought. When once it had taught men that the next world was God's world, though it did so at the cost of relinquishing the present to Satan, it had achieved its real task, and the time had come for it to quit the stage of history, when Christianity appeared as the heir of this true spiritual achievement. But Christianity was no less assuredly the heir of ancient prophecy, and thus as spiritual representative of what was true in prophecy and apocalyptic; its essential teaching was as that of its Founder that both worlds were of God and that both should be made God's.

New Testament Era Apocalyptic Literature

According to the teaching of the Gospels the second advent was to take the world by surprise. Only one passage (Mark xiii. = Matt. xxiv. = Luke xxi.) conflicts with this view, and is therefore suspicious. This represents the second advent as heralded by a succession of signs which are unmistakable precursors of its appearance, such as wars, earthquakes, famines, the destruction of Jerusalem and the like. Our suspicion is justified by a further examination of Mark xiii. For the words "let him that readeth understand" (ver. 14) indicate that the prediction referred to appeared first not in a spoken address but in a written form, as was characteristic of apocalypses. Again, in ver. 30, it is declared that this generation shall not pass away until all these things be fulfilled, whereas in 32 we have an undoubted declaration of Christ "Of that day or of that hour knoweth no one, not even the angels in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father." On these and other grounds verses 7, 8, 14-20, 24-27, 30, 31 should be removed from their present context. Taken together they constitute a Christian adaptation of an originally Jewish work, written A.D. 67-68, during the troubles preceding the fall of Jerusalem. The apocalypse consists of three Acts: Act i. consisting of verses 7, 8, enumerating the woes heralding the parusia, Act ii. describing the actual tribulation, and Act iii. the parusia itself. (See Wendt, Lehre Jesu, i. 12-21; Charles, Eschatology, 325 sqq.; H. S. Holtzmann, N. T. Theol. 1-325 sqq. with literature there given.)

Apocalypse in Mark xiii
The earliest form of Pauline eschatology is essentially Jewish. He starts from the fundamental thought of Jewish apocalyptic that the end of the world will be brought about by the direct intervention of God when evil has reached its climax. The manifestation of evil culminates in the Antichrist whose parusia (2 Thess. ii. 9) is the Satanic counterfeit of that of the true Messiah. But the climax of evil is the immediate herald of its destruction; for thereupon Christ will descend from heaven and destroy the Antichrist (ii. 8). Nowhere in his later epistles does this forecast of the future reappear. Rather under the influence of the great formative Christian conceptions he parted gradually with the eschatology he had inherited from Judaism, and entered on a progressive development, in the course of which the heterogeneous elements were for the most part silently dropped.

2 Thessalonians ii
Since this book is discussed separately we shall content ourselves here with indicating a few of the conclusions now generally accepted. The apocalypse was written about A.D. 96. Its object, like other Jewish apocalypses, was to encourage faith under persecution; its burden is not a call to repentance but a promise of deliverance. It is derived from one author, who has made free use of a variety of elements, some of which are Jewish and consort but ill with their new context. The question of the pseudonymity of the book is still an open one. It is also speculated in some Catholic circles that this book is also a depiction of the Mass in Heaven and a testament to the sacrificial nature of the Mass and was written poetically so as not to bring attention to the first century Christians who were under much persecution at the time from the Romans as well as their Jewish counterparts.

Apocalypse (Revelation)


Main article: Apocalypse of Peter Testament of Hezekiah
This work in two recensions was first published by James, Texts and Studies, ii. 2. Its editor is of opinion that it was written by a Jewish Christian in Egypt in the 2nd century A.D., but that it embodies legends of an earlier date, and that it received its present form in the 9th or 10th century. It treats of Michael being sent to announce to Abraham his death: of the tree speaking with a human voice (iii.), Michael's sojourn with Abraham (iv.-v.) and Sarah's recognition of him as one of the three angels, Abraham's refusal to die (vii.), and the vision of judgment (x.-xx.).

Testament of Abraham
This eschatological work ( Χρησεις Ὑστασπον: so named by the anonymous 5th-century writer in Buresch, Klaros, 1889, p. 95) is mentioned in conjunction with the Sibyllines by Justin (Apol. i. 20), Clement of Alexandria (Strom. vi. 5), and Lactantius (Inst. VII. xv. 19; xviii. 2-3). According to Lactantius, it prophesied the overthrow of Rome and the advent of Zeus to help the godly and destroy the wicked, but omitted all reference to the sending of the Son of God. According to Justin, it prophesied the destruction of the world by fire. According to the Apocryph of Paul, cited by Clement, Hystaspes foretold the conflict of the Messiah with many kings and His advent. Finally, an unknown 5th-century writer (see Buresch, Klaros, 1889, pp. 87-126) says that the Oracles of Hystaspes dealt with the incarnation of the Saviour. The work referred to in the last two writers has Christian elements, which were absent from it in Lactantius's copy. The lost oracles were therefore in all probability originally Jewish, and subsequently re-edited by a Christian.

Oracles of Hystaspes

For more details on this topic, see Ascension of Isaiah. Vision of Isaiah

Main article: The Shepherd of Hermas Shepherd of Hermas
This book, which constitutes in the later MSS. the first two chapters to 4 Ezra, falls obviously into two parts. The first (i. 5-ii. 9) contains a strong attack on the Jews whom it regards as the people of God; the second (ii. 10-47) addresses itself to the Christians as God's people and promises them the heavenly kingdom. It is not improbable that these chapters are based on an earlier Jewish writing. In its present form it may have been written before A.D. 200, though James and other scholars assign it to the 3rd century. Its tone is strongly anti-Jewish. The style is very vigorous and the materials of a strongly apocalyptic character.

5 Ezra
This work consists of chapters xv.-xvi. of 4 Ezra. It may have been written as an appendix to 4 Ezra, as it has no proper introduction. Its contents relate to the destruction of the world through war and natural catastrophes--for the heathen a source of menace and fear, but for the persecuted people of God one of admonition and comfort. There is nothing specifically Christian in the book, which represents a persecution which extends over the whole eastern part of the Empire. Moreover, the idiom is particularly Semitic. Thus we have xv. 8 nec sustinebo in his quae inique exercent, that is בשא ב ; in 9 vindicans vindicabo: in 22 non parcet dextera mea super peccatores = φεισεται ... επι = יתמול...על. In verses 9, 19 the manifest corruptions may be explicable from a Semitic background. There are other Hebraisms in the text. It is true that these might have been due to the writer's borrowings from earlier Greek works ultimately of Hebrew origin. The date of the book is also quite uncertain, though several scholars have ascribed it to the 3rd century.

Apocalyptic literature 6 Ezra
Critics are still at variance as to the extent of the Christian Sibyllines. It is practically agreed that vi.-viii. are of Christian origin. As for i.-ii., xi.-xiv. most writers are in favour of Christian authorship; but not so Johannes Geffcken (Oracula Sibyllina, 1902), who strongly insists on the Jewish origin of large sections of these books.

Christian Sibyllines
These are mentioned in the Gelasian decree. The first may possibly be the [Greek: Anabagikon Paulou] mentioned by Epiphanius (Haer. xxxviii. 2) as current among the Cainites. It is not to be confounded with the apocalypse mentioned two sections later.

Apocalypses of Paul, Thomas and Stephen
This Greek production resembles the more ancient fourth book of Esdras in some respects. The prophet is perplexed about the mysteries of life, and questions God respecting them. The punishment of the wicked especially occupies his thoughts. Since they have sinned in consequence of Adam's fall, their fate is considered worse than that of the irrational creation. The description of the tortures suffered in the infernal regions is tolerably minute. At last the prophet consents to give up his spirit to God, who has prepared for him a crown of immortality. The book is a poor imitation of the ancient Jewish one. It may belong, however, to the 2nd or 3rd centuries of the Christian era. See Constantin von Tischendorf, Apocalypses Apocryphae, pp. 24-33.

Apocalypse of Esdras

Main article: Apocalypse of Paul Apocalypse of Paul
(Tischendorf, Apocalypses Apocr. 70 sqq.) contains a description of the future state, the general resurrection and judgment, with an account of the punishment of the wicked, as well as the bliss of the righteous. It appears to be the work of a Jewish Christian. The date is late, for the writer speaks of the "venerable and holy images," as well as "the glorious and precious crosses and the sacred things of the churches" (xiv.), which points to the 5th century, when such things were first introduced into churches. It is a feeble imitation of the canonical apocalypse.

Apocalypse of John
Contains a narrative of events from the foundation of the world till the second advent of Christ. The book is said to have been written by Clement, Peter's disciple. This Arabic work has not been printed, but a summary of the contents is given by Alexander Nicoll in his catalogue of the Oriental MSS. belonging to the Bodleian (p. 49, xlviii.). There are eighty-eight chapters. It is a late production; for Ishmaelites are spoken of, the Crusades, and the taking of Jerusalem. See Tischendorf, Apocalypses Apocrypae pp. xx.-xxiv.

Arabic Apocalypse of Peter
This book contains her descent into hell. It is not entirely published, but only several portions from Greek MSS. in different libraries, by Tischendorf in his Apocalypses Apocryphae, pp. 95 sqq.; James, Texts and Studies, ii. 3. 109-126.

Apocalypse of the Virgin
This late apocalypse, which M. R. James assigns to the 10th or 11th century, deals with the subject of intercession for sinners and Sedrach's unwillingness to die. See James, Texts and Studies, ii. 3. 127-137.

Apocalypse of Sedrach
See Vassiliev's Anecdota Graeco-Byzantina (Moscow, 1893), pp. 38-44; Uncanonical Books of the Old Testament (Venice, 1901), pp. 237 sqq., 387 sqq.

Apocalypse of Daniel
Dulaurier published from a Parisian Sahidic MS., subjoining a French translation, what is termed a fragment of the apocryphal revelations of St Bartholomew (Fragment des révélations apocryphes de Saint Barthélemy, &c., Paris, 1835), and of the history of the religious communities founded by St Pachomius. After narrating the pardon obtained by Adam, it is said that the Son ascending from Olivet prays the Father on behalf of His apostles; who consequently receive consecration from the Father, together with the Son and Holy Spirit--Peter being made archbishop of the universe. The late date of the production is obvious.

The Revelations of Bartholomew
See Vassiliev, Anec. Graeco-Byzantina (1893), pp. 10-22. The introduction, which is wanting in the Greek MS., has been supplied by a Latin translation from the Slavonic version (see pp. vii.-ix.). The book contains disclosures by Christ, the Virgin and Beliar and much of the subject-matter is ancient.

Questions of St Bartholomew
An apocalypse is a literary report of a fearful, often violent, vision that reveals truths about past, present and future times in highly symbolic and poetical terms. The poet may represent himself as transported into a heavenly realm, or the vision may be unveiled— and even interpreted— by an angelic messenger. Apocalyptic exhortations are aimed at chastening and reforming their hearers with threats of punishment and rewards in the coming "end times." A brief apocalyptic vision is found in Gospel of Mark 13 is sometimes called the "Little Apocalypse" and parallel passages can be found in Matthew 24 and Luke 21.
Apocalyptic poetry concentrates the character that Northrop Frye has found in the Bible as a whole: "a series of ecstatic moments or points of expanding apprehension—this approach is in fact the assumption on which every selection of a text for a sermon is based" (Frye 1957 p 326).
In connection with a PBS documentary "Apocalypse!" Dr. L. Michael White said, "Apocalyptic thinking has been called "the child of prophecy in a new idiom." (see link). White drew attention to the new direction prophecy took after the Hebrews' return from the trauma of the "Babylonian captivity." Earlier prophets of Israel and Judah had spoken of the word of God, calling the children of Israel to their duty. The newer apocalyptic writings, in the aftermath of the destruction of Solomon's temple looked forward to coming divine retribution and made forecasts of the future that contrasted hope and despair. The throne of David itself, as it was not unshakeable as events had proved, took on metaphoric meanings. Early examples of the apocalyptic world-view can be found in the late additions made to Isaiah by the pseudepigraphical writer called the "Third Isaiah" (chapters 56 to 66), and in the collection of prophetic forecasts of this new kind that are collected as Ezekiel
The new cultural element included extreme and vivid polarized contrasts, a distinctly realized Satan in opposition to Yahweh, a city of Evil (Babylon) contrasted to the city of God (Jerusalem), the evil and corruption and despair of the visible world contrasted with the blinding light of the world to come and often embodied in demons and dragons, elements deriving from Zoroastrian dualism. A new focus on eschatology, the End of All Things, was also foreign to the earlier Hebrew tradition. Some, though not all apocalyptic literature was messianic, predicting the imminent arrival of a savior—even in Essene writings, of more than one savior.
The overtly allegorical nature of this new literature inspired new allegorical readings, now applied to every kind of earlier statement, a detailed unravelling of texts, often to give results not originally foreseen, which influenced the development of techniques of exegesis for Jewish and Christian scholar alike and became a foundation of the medieval hermeneutics, which are still practiced today in some traditionalist circles, as "Biblical hermeneutics".
Among books of prophecy of this new kind, the Book of Daniel was accepted into the Hebrew Bible, among the "Writings," as the sense of a canonic literature developed in the Rabbinic tradition during the first centuries of the Common Era. Other apocalyptic literature did not make the cut: The Book of Enoch, some of which is older than Daniel (though it has received some Christian interpolations and editing in the versions that have survived) was never considered canonical by Jews or Christians, though it is quoted or paralleled dozens of times in the New Testament. Enoch has been called "an ecstatic elaboration" of the line in Genesis (v.22): "And Enoch walked with God three hundred years after he begat Methuselah." The book of Jubilees (2nd century BCE) also contains some apocalyptic poetry. The so-called Sibylline Oracles, which were assembled partly in Alexandria, are filled with pseudo-prophecy (vaticinium ex eventu, written after the fact) and threatening generalities; they bridge any apparent gap between late Jewish apocalyptic literature and early Christian writings in the genre.
Within the Christian tradition, the Apocalypse of Peter and The Shepherd of Hermas are examples of apocalyptic literature that devotees of Revelation would also enjoy, though their poetry never reaches the same intensity.
Apocalyptic literature has had a long history. Some aspects of apocalyptic visions can be found in the Kabbalah.

See also

This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.

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