Apocalyptic Literature


The term "Apocalyptic" is derived from the Greek "apocalypsis" ("apo-", "away from", and "kalupto", "I veil" - i.e. taking the veil away from, or revealing something). In the Bible the genre is represented by parts of Daniel in the Old Testament, and the "Revelation to St. John" (also known as "The Apocalypse") in the New Testament. Most apocalyptic literature is outside the Canon of Scripture, and was often written pseudonymously (the writer claiming to be some hero or patriarch of the Old Testament) and addressed to a select group or religious community (eg "the Apocalypse of Abraham, 1 & 2 Enoch, 2 & 3 Baruch)

The main feature of apocalyptic literature is the revelation of secret visions and prophecies to the religious community, often citing angels as agents of the revelation, with a focus on eschatology (the End of Time) and the great Day of Judgment. Such literature was particularly popular at times of persecution, as a means of stressing that although evil seemed to be in the ascendancy in the world, there was actually another dimension, in the heavens, in which spiritual warfare was taking place, and which would eventually lead to victory and the vindication of the faithful minority.

Apocalyptic writings can be divided into two main types, "historical" and "heavenly".

The most frequent type is the "historical apocalypse", of which parts of Daniel are typical, and which gives an interpretation of history, and the rise and fall of empires, relating these to battles in the spiritual realm, and prophesying that the "ungodly" empires will eventually fall before the chosen elect.

The second type is the description of a heavenly vision, or a journey guided by an angel, in which the writer describes an ascent through various grades of heavens (usually 7, as the "magic number"), and often goes into great detail as to the torments of the ungodly and the ultimate glory of the faithful.


Copyright © 1999 Shirley J. Rollinson, all Rights Reserved

Dr. Rollinson

Station 19, ENMU
Portales, NM 88130

Last Updated : June 27, 2017

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