Apocalyptic Literature Analysis

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The contemporary significance of apocalyptic literature as determined by genre

This essay seeks to explore how far appreciation of genre can assist us in exploring the contemporary significance of biblical apocalyptic. The book of Daniel will be specifically referred to for this investigation.

Introduction

Apocalyptic, meaning ‘uncovering’, is a form of literature primarily concerned with revealing what is naturally unseen. It typically gives accounts of visions and, or journeys into heaven which reveal the hidden nature of the supernatural, and disclose information about God’s ultimate plan for creation, mankind or a people group. The revelation of transcendent reality is communicated to humans by supernatural beings. It is often full
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In order to understand apocalyptic literature, and determine its significance today, it is therefore vital to recognise its key characteristics. First, it must be noted that apocalyptic describes a literary genre, and must not be confused with apocalyptic eschatology, which pertains specifically to the end of all time, and which emerges in several literary forms. Equally, it must not be confused with apocalypticism, in which anticipation of the end of the age is emphasised. Indeed, Daniel ‘lacks most of the features of apocalyptic thought’, and is considered to be one of only two complete pieces of apocalyptic literature in scripture. As stated above, apocalyptic literature is concerned with the heavenly realm and the past, as well as featuring a ’restlessness with the imperfections of the present and…quest for a new and total solution to the human problem’. Both the apocalyptic visions of Daniel 7-12, and in the preceding six paraenetical chapters deal particularly with the supernatural and the future. The overall focus is the judgement of God toward the enemy, and the hope of his future kingdom.
Before discussing the key characteristics of apocalyptic literature, it must be noted that it bears many similarities to the prophetic genre. Indeed, scholars suggest that apocalyptic is a development of Jewish prophetic literature. Mutual characteristics include the communication of God’s word for the present age, the themes of impending judgement and salvation, and the use of symbolism. However, in careful study of works such as 1 Enoch, 2 Esedras and 2 Baruch, as well as Daniel and Revelation, scholars have identified distinctive characteristics, which help to define apocalyptic as a unique
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