Finding Happiness in Apocalyptic Literature

Greg Carey

in The Bible and the Pursuit of Happiness

Published in print October 2012 | ISBN: 9780199795734
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199979691 | DOI:
Finding Happiness in Apocalyptic Literature

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This chapter notes a remarkable diversity among apocalyptic writings which means that even this type of literature, which is commonly associated with violent and cataclysmic end-time scenarios, knows happiness and in many different “flavors.” The chapter builds on the insights of Positive Psychology, which has demonstrated that identity and commitment are essential to human flourishing. The chapter finds both of these aspects to be prominent in apocalyptic literature. Indeed, it is precisely these elements that enabled people to flourish despite the difficult times that are described in the apocalyptic texts, that lie behind them (in terms of their social location and historical origins), and that are foretold within them. The chapter builds a profile of apocalyptic happiness: (1) it is not primarily subjective or individualistic but is rather “judged according to publically articulated values and behaviors”; (2) while humans have some agency in the “pursuit of happiness,” there are many things that are out of one’s control; (3) happiness is not primarily about attitude but about favored behavior; and, (4) happiness “involves a divine perspective.” The crucial combination of narrative identity and commitment are profoundly relevant to all human flourishing and show that apocalyptic happiness, too, is not reserved solely for the world to come.

Keywords: happiness; Apocalyptic literature; Revelation; suffering; narrative identity

Chapter.  9573 words. 

Subjects: Biblical Studies

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