Apocalyptic Novels – Spiritual Reports

Interpreting Apocalyptic Literature

The focus of the series is not so much on the world behind the text as on the worlds created by the texts in their engagement with readers. Nowhere is the world of the biblical text stranger than in the apocalyptic literature of both the Old and New Testaments. In this volume, Stephen Cook makes the puzzling visions and symbols of the biblical apocalyptic literature intelligible to modern readers. He begins with definitions of apocalypticism and apocalyptic literature and introduces the various scholarly approaches to and issues for our understanding of the text.

In contrast to other apocalyptic writings, there is no sense of impending judgment in the Testament of Abraham. Its chief concern is with the future destiny of individual souls. Again, note the important difference between classical prophecy and the apocalyptic literature. Both of them speak about final things; both of them speak about an end-time. But the classical prophets did not in general expect that the course of human affairs would come to an end.

In the longer of the published alphabets, as in the Hebrew Book of Enoch, Meṭaṭron is represented as the revealer of the secrets disclosed in these writings. There is also a very brief and condensed narration of Enoch’s assumption into heaven, of his transformation into one of the angels at the heavenly throne, and of his initiation into all the mysteries of heaven and earth. This piece is not in the Constantinople-Venice edition, but is to be found in the Cracow-Amsterdam edition, and also in the Munich Codex. The latter has also the seventy or seventy-two names of God and the ninety-two names of Meṭaṭron, which, from religious scruples, were omitted in the Cracow-Amsterdam edition. The names of God are obtained from combinations of the different letters of the alphabets, already alluded to as characteristic of this group of writings.

Others more intellectual, while they welcomed the enlightenment of the Greeks, retained their faith in the one God. To them it seemed obvious that as their God was the true God, all real enlightenment must have proceeded from Him alone. In such thinkers as Plato and Aristotle they saw many things in harmony with the Mosaic law.

The disastrous overthrow that he suffered at the hands of Caesar and his miserable end on the shores of Egypt seemed to be a judgment on him for his impiety. Later, Nero was the especial mark for the Apocalyptists, who by this time had become mainly Christian. Later Roman emperors impressed the imagination of the Apocalyptists, as the Flavians.

Although there are so many versions of the Greek, they are all so paraphrastic that the Greek in most cases is not by any means certain. The few verses quoted in Greek by Clemens Alexandrinus do not afford space enough to discover through them if there is any other language behind. It possibly was written in Hebrew, as it seems to have been written in Palestine.