Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Context, Style and the Theme of Apocalyptic Literature

I.                   Introduction
The word defines both a genre of literature and also the characteristic idea of this literature. Within the canon apocalyptic is represented especially by the books of Daniel and Revelation. This paper is concerned with the context, style and the themes of the Apocalyptic Literature, to say, that are the historical background for the introduction for this kind of literature and the style of the literature, specially it deals with the dualistic nature, esoteric and the symbolic nature of the literature. This paper later deals with the themes of the apocalyptic literature such as Antichrist, Messiah, Eschatology and Hope. Finally this paper concludes with the findings and the conclusion.
II.                Context (historical background) of Apocalyptic literature
A type of religious thought which apparently originated in Zoroastrianism, the ancient Persian religion, taken over by Judaism in the exile and postexilic periods.[1] Which was meditated by Judaism to early Christianity during around 200 B.C. to A.D. 100.[2] Taking the roots for there, it had continued as an important element in popular Christian belief down to the present. Many factors concerning the historical milieu of apocalyptic literature debated among scholars. But all agrees that the Book of Daniel provides the prototype for this literary form and that apocalyptic writings arise out of a context of renewed Jewish nationalism, beginning with the Maccabean revolt. It is also generally agreed that the apocalyptic writings were written during times of intense persecution and crisis to give that hope and assurance of the sovereignty of God.[3]
III.             Style of Apocalyptic literature
A.    Dualistic
Apocalypticism is essentially dualistic. This is not a metaphysical dualism of spirit and matter, instead it is the dualism of two opposing personified force in the universe, a good god and evil one, in Jewish thinking Yahweh, of course was the good God, whereas Satan as evil one, no longer merely Yahweh’s agent as the temper of mankind, was both God’s opponent and man’s oppressor. But due to the traditional monotheism belief the dualism was not so marked as it was in Persian thinking, Satan was clearly inferior to God, a times was considered to be just a fallen angel. It is most apparent, perhaps, in Revelation, where the greater number of the human and supernatural followers of God have their counterparts among Satan’s human and supernatural forces.[4] The dualism has always been the style of the apocalyptic literature since its origin.
B.     Esoteric
Esoteric simply means the secret things. The apocalyptic writings significance the revelation of the divine mysteries to certain illustrious individuals of Israel’s past, which are subsequently recorded in secret books for the instruction of God’s chosen remnant. The secrets are revealed to the God’s chosen people through dreams and vision.
C.    Symbolism
Symbolism is one of the style of the apocalyptic literature, numerology is one of the characteristic of it. The book of Daniel and the considerable part of the book of Revelation is filled with the numeric symbolism.[5] Furthermore characteristic is that of animal and bird symbolism, at times bizarre in character, and in part mythological or astrological in origin. This type of symbolism is present in certain apocalyptic literature. The beast of Daniel and Revelation are well known. Animal symbolization are also found in Isa. 24-27.[6]So symbolism is one of the literature style of the apocalyptic literature.
IV.             Themes of Apocalyptic literature
A.    Antichrist
If we look at the Gospel then we can find time Jesus teaching and warning of false teaching, false Christ’s and false prophets. They will perform signs and miracles to deceived (Mark 13:6, 21-23). Don Flemming states that, “The Spirit of antichrist is always in the world and has shown itself in many way and in many people down the ages, as it will have its last and most violent expression in the final great rebellion against God immediately before the return of Christ (1 John 2:18; Dan. 9:27; 11:36-39)”[7] Again Stephen Thorsan opines that, “John wrote not only that many antichrists had already come but also that a particular antichrist is coming (1 John 2: 18-22; 4:1-3), that is the man of lawlessness which had not yet been revealed; this man will do counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders and set him up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God (1 Thess. 2:1-10; Rev.13:14-15)”[8]
B.     Messiah
However Messiah is considered as the secondary feature of apoclaypticism, the Christian apocalypses must have a messiah-namely Jesus Christ (in his second advent, not his first). Jewish apocalypses may or may not have a messiah. None is presented in Isa. 24-27 and in Daniel, for the Danielic Son of man is actually the personification of the righteous remnant of Israel. On the other hand, the son of man a glorious and powerful pre-existed heavenly messiah, plays an important part in the similitude of Enoch.[9]
Strictly speaking, without a messiah there can be no messianic kingdom between the present age ruled over by Satan and God’s future age. It is why the introduction into the pattern to provide a special but indefinite role to Jesus Christ on his return.[10]

C.    Eschatology
Eschatology is the term used to define the teaching form Scripture concerning the final consumption of all things. The ideas and concept come to expression in apocalyptic writings range broadly from ancient mythic motifs to biblical themes to speculation reflecting a Hellenistic milieu. As the genre “apocalypse” enjoys pride of place on the literary plane, a world view we can designate “apocalyptic eschatology” more frequently than any other perspective provides the conceptual framework. Eschatology can be understood as the study of end-time events, developed earlier in biblical prophecy. The perspective of apocalyptic eschatology can best be understood as an outgrowth form prophetic eschatology within which the diverse materials encompassed by the apocalyptic writings are interpreted.[11]
D.    Hope
In a special manner apocalyptic literature provides the sense of belonging to a larger historical pattern of reality and hence offers a framework for defining a sense of personal meaning. The great theological contribution of apocalyptic literature is that the hope for humanity can be radically transformed for the better. The transcendence of death in the form of bodily resurrection is seen by some as the supreme achievement of apocalyptic thought so we can conclude that the message of apocalyptic is one of hope in the final victory of the good over evil.[12] There will be New Heaven and New Earth and he will establish the justice and
V.                Our findings
Apocalypses is one of the hope for the people who are facing trouble, persecution and crisis. Apocalyptic literature has always been God’s way for comforting God’s people in need. During the exile the people of Judah faced many challenges regarding their faith and their religion. The situation after the exile was not so good. Greek and Roman rule kept the people in the need of the divine intervention. The situation that the people are facing can be compared with the situation then, believers are facing injustice for the local society level and also form the government level and as well as been persecuted because of their faith. Now in this situation the hope of the apocalypses comforts them by saying that the antichrist with be bitten down and the justice will be removed and the rule of the Son of man will be established and there will be justice and there will be peace and joy. The people who trust in the Lord will rule with the King of kings for thousand years and stay in peace and fellowship for eternity.

VI.             Conclusion
After the above mentioned facts we can conclusive say that the God is sovereign over the history and everything that has happened and will happen is in his control so we need not to fear for tomorrow but trust in the Lord.

[1]M. Rist, “Apocalipticism”, The Interpreters Dictionary of the Bible, edited by George AothurButrick (USA: Abingdon Press, 1962), 157.
[2]Ward Gasque, “Apocalyptic Literature”, The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, edited by Merrill C. Tenney (USA: Zondervan Publishing house, 1976), 200.
[3]Ward Gasque, “Apocalyptic Literature”, The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible,202.
[4] M. Rist. “Apocalypticism”, The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, 158.
[5]M. Rist. “Apocalypticism”, The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, 160.
[6]M. Rist. “Apocalypticism”, The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, 160.
[7] Don Fleming, “Antichrist”, Bridge Bible Dictionary (Canada: Bridge way Publication, 1990), 20.
[8] Stephen Thorsan,,Theological Topics (Nepal: Samdan Publishers, 2010), 50.
[9] M. Rist, “Apocalyptic”, The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, 159.
[10] M. Rist, “Apocalyptic”, The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, 159-160.
[11] Paul D. Hanson, “Apocalypses and Apocalypticism”, Anchor Bible Dictionary, Vol. 1, eds., David Noel Freedman, (U.S.A.: Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, 1992), 280-281.
[12] Zachary Hayes, “Pastoral-Liturgical Tradition”, The Collegeville Pastoral Dictionary of Biblical Theology, eds., Carroll Stuhlmuller (Bangalore: Theological Publications in India, 2011), 40.

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