Apocalyptic Literature

This type of literature is most readily recognized in the Book of Daniel in The Old Testament and The Revelation to John in the New Testament. However, there are sources of apocalyptic literature in addition to these.

Apocalyptic in the Old Testament apart from the Book of Daniel.

(Zechariah 9-14)

And the so-called "Proto - Apocalyptic" sections in:

(Joel 3) (Isaiah 24-27). (Ezekiel 37-39).

Apocalyptic in the New Testament apart from the Revelation to John.

Mat 24-25; ; 1Cor 1, 15; 2 Thess; 2Pet; Jud


Characteristics of Apocalyptic Literature

  1. Assumption that Israel could only be religiously fulfilled when free of foreign domination.
  2. Assumption that the events of ordinary, profane history could not ensure that release and thus that Divine intervention was required.
  3. Assumption that the rules governing the development of future events are divinely determined and have been revealed to certain prophets.
  4. Assumption that those prophets all pre-date Ezra and the return from Exile. (This is true of Hebrew Apocalyptic, not of Greek Apocalyptic.)
  5. Reports of visions. (Similar to those of the prophets--see here)
  6. Symbolic language. (Similar to that of the prophets)
  7. Increasing emphasis on resurrection of the dead or some form of afterlife which will ensure final justice. (For example, see Isaiah 26:14-19; Ezekiel 37; Daniel 12:2)
  8. Increasing Messianic expectations - (For example, see Dan 9:25) (Compare the Rheims-Douay version and the RSV)
  9. Encouragement of the faithful by emphasis on the salvation and deliverance of the righteous and the punishment of the wicked in the world to come.

  10. Apocalyptic Literarture was primarily a literary rather than an oral form. That is, it first appeared in writing in the Hebrew and Greek traditions rather than being transmitted orally. However, it does seem to have undergone a quite lengthy oral transmission earlier in the Persian tradition.

The encouragement of the faithful by the promise of reward in the world to come and the use of symbolic language indicate that apocalyptic literature was produced during a time of crisis when encouragement and secrecy were needed. It is this use of the religious literary genre to stand against active oppression that explains the inter-relation of these charateristics of Apocalyptic Literature.



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