March 5, 12
Destruction, Reconstruction and the End Times
Genre of Apocalypse
- Emerged around the 3rdC BCE as major literary genre.
- Books of revelations characterized by vision format.
- Term: Greek apokalypsis – uncovering – related to revelation,
something that is disclosed (revealed, uncovered)
- Interpretation of symbolic vision as something obscure, requiring
mediator or guide (angel).
- Pseudonymity: vision not published under it writer’s name, but set
deep in the past, ascribed to ancient hero.
- The book of Revelation isn’t under a pseudonym – John isn’t trying
to be the famous John he is just a regular John.
- Two general categories of content: eschatological (expectation of
imminent end, judgment of wicked) and speculative (revelation of
- Narrative framework
- Spatial orientation: action takes place in heavenly as well as earthly
realm; cosmology and cosmogony important here.
- Temporal orientation: chronological span of time, particular view of
- Final judgment and destruction of the wicked – prophetic element,
but future hopes belong to different realm in apocalyptic.
Form cultural resistance, situation of persecution or perception of
- Revelation as exception to apocalypse as pseudonymous: difference
in eschatological/historical understanding. – 2 quotes (Daniel and
Revelation) – John is a prophetic figure in the present – thus he
doesn’t have to write in the past.
Worldview of Apocalypticism
- Human life bounded in present by supernatural world of angels and
demons, and in future by inevitability of divine judgment.
- Progress and fate of world determined by superhuman forces.
- Dualism: ethical (good/evil); spatial (up there, down here);
temporal (time before and time after)
- Importance of salvation beyond catastrophe, triumph of good over
evil, final intervention of G-d.
- Appeal to supernatural revelation – basis for assurance and
4 Ezra (2 Esdras 3-14)
- Written in period after Jewish Revolt of 66CE, after destruction of
Temple in 70CE.
- Underlying questions shaped in large part by catastrophe of 70 CE –
Jewish response to national tragedy.
- Structured in seven visions: first three are dialogues between seer
(pseudonymous: Ezra) and angel, next three symbolic; final one a
narrative of revelation of sacred books to Ezra.
- Central interpretive issue: transition of Ezra from skeptic to
believer, focus on problem of justice of G-d (theodicy).
- Ezra starts off with a pessimistic tone – Evil inclination has been
present since the beginning. – Fundamental questions of human
- Contrast of human experience of the world and divine experience of
- Ezra takes on a new role (chapter 10 verse 20) – she must let
herself be persuaded – At some point everything will be ok – things
will get better – Apocalyptic cure – The woman symbolizes
Book of Revelation (Apocalypse of John)
- Controversial elements: presented as circular to seven churches in
Asia Minor – not pseudonymous
- “visioning” John’s apocalypse
- Symbolism in revelation – Chapter 13 verse 18 – Number of the
beast – 666.
- Nero – seen as the beast. – most common identification with the