Apocalyptic Literature

Greg Carey

in Biblical Studies

ISBN: 9780195393361
Published online July 2011 | | DOI:
Apocalyptic Literature

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“Apocalyptic literature” refers to the ancient Jewish and Christian documents that share common concerns, themes, and literary devices with the books of Daniel and Revelation and other literary apocalypses. In addition to Daniel and Revelation, prominent literary apocalypses include 1 Enoch, 2 and 3 Baruch, 4 Ezra, the Apocalypse of Abraham, the Shepherd of Hermas, and the Apocalypse of Peter. Collaborative research and multiauthor anthologies have contributed greatly to the study of apocalyptic literature. For multiauthor works, this entry generally refers to the entire book, citing especially important essays where appropriate. Some treatments approach apocalyptic literature in terms of the classical literary apocalypses, but the phenomenon of apocalyptic literature extends well beyond those boundaries. This entry does not emphasize discrete apocalyptic texts; instead, it addresses the major questions that have occupied scholars: the historical origins, social settings, development, and interpretation of ancient Jewish and Christian apocalyptic literature. During the 1970s and 1980s, consensus emerged regarding two issues. First, a common generic definition regards a literary apocalypse as a narrative account of a revelatory experience involving a visionary and an otherworldly interpreter. Second, whereas “apocalyptic” once functioned as a noun that encompassed all things apocalyptic, interpreters gravitated toward more-precise distinctions between literary apocalypses (genre), apocalyptic eschatology (ideas), apocalypticism (movements), and apocalyptic discourse (modes of communication). Nevertheless, defining apocalyptic literature, whether in terms of a literary genre, a communicative function, or a body of literature with common characteristics, remains a crucial problem in scholarship.

Article.  6266 words. 

Subjects: Biblical Studies

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