Mon, 31 August 2009
This is a direct continuation of the series on 2 Peter and Jude.
Apocalyptic literature refers to writings that reveal the hidden things of God. It is a new term, not one that apocalyptic writers applied to themselves, and there is some debate as to which works are apocalyptic and which are merely prophetic. It is found in canonical and extra-canonical writings of both the Old and New Testaments, mainly after the Babylonian Exile, usually in times of persecution, especially the time from 200BC to 200AD, and deals with the end times (eschatology).
Apocalyptic visions are dramatic and often wild and highly symbolic, and often mediated through an angel. There is no definitive list of apocalyptic literature, but commonly cited as examples are Daniel, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Zephaniah, Revelation, 2 Thessalonians, The Olivet Discourse (found in Matthew, Mark, and Luke), as well as the extra-canonical books of 1 and 2 Enoch, Jubilees, Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, 4 Esdras, 2 Baruch, The Testament of Abraham, and the Apocalypse of Abraham. The extra-canonical books are called pseudepigrapha (or falsely ascribed writings) to distinguish them from the deuterocanonical books sometimes called apocrypha by Protestants.
Apocalyptic eschatology differs from prophetic eschatology in a few ways, but one difference is that some see prophetic eschatology as more personal and more naturalistic, while apocalyptic eschatology is more obviously supernatural and deals with God breaking into history in cataclysmic ways coming from above. Others would note that even in prophetic eschatology, it is God's will which the prophecy follows. Apocalypse is often less well-accepted into the mainstream than other prophecy, but none of these criteria should be viewed as absolute; there is much room for dispute.
Some believe these apocalyptic writings were composed in part to give an answer to why the pious were continuing to be persecuted and the end of prophecy. This is probably true of the pseudepigraphal works, though it must be clear that apocalyptic prophecy is given by God, and not brought down by man. There was a rise in apocalyptic writing in the 19th century in an attempt to understand why some Christian sects were becoming more liberal.
The closing theme is Gerard Satamian's Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees. www.magnatune.com