- Publisher This accessible and enlightening history provides insights into the fascinating genre of apocalyptic literature, showing how the apocalypse encompasses far more than popular views of the last judgment and violent end of the world might suggest.
- An accessible and enlightening history of the "apocalypses"--ancient Jewish and Christian works -- providing fresh insights into the fascinating genre of literature
- Shows how the apocalypses were concerned not only with popular views of the last judgment and violent end of the world, but with reward and punishment after death, the heavenly temple, and the revelation of astronomical phenomena and other secrets of nature
- Traces the tradition of apocalyptic writing through the Middle Ages, through to the modern era, when social movements still prophesise the world's imminent demise
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About "The Apocalypse"
The apocalypse is one of the central literary forms used by Jews and Christians in the centuries on either side of the turn of the era. The form remained popular among both Jews and Christians during the Middle Ages, and there has continued to be interest in the themes of apocalyptic literature through the modern period into the twenty-first century. The book will cover the literature and its cultural impact in all of these periods.Apocalyptic eschatology, the expectation of an imminent and cataclysmic end to the world as we know it, was widespread among ancient Jews and Christians, and it was expressed in a wide range of texts, including apocalypses. The texts also included symbolic visions and heavenly journeys, that reveal hidden knowledge about a variety of subjects, including not only the course of history and the end of the world, but also the origins of evil, the nature of the cosmos, the heavenly temple and its angelic priests, and the fate of souls after death. The gradual publication of the Dead Sea Scrolls during the last several decades has also had a major impact on our understanding of the apocalypses. The Scrolls are the library of a group that lived in intense expectation of the imminent end of the world, and the apocalypses they preserved are considered to be one of the most important finds of the past few centuries.Despite the profound changes in Judaism and Christianity in the centuries after the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans (70 CE) and the legalization of Christianity (313 CE) and its adoption as the state religion of the Roman Empire, Jews and Christians continued to produce works deeply influenced by the ancient apocalypses. For late ancient and medieval Christians, it appears that the most compelling aspect of the ascent apocalypses was the glimpse they gave of the fate of souls; this theme, particularly its negative side, was developed in great detail in the tours of hell so popular among a wide range of Christian communities in the Middle Ages. Further, both Jews and Christians continued to find signs of the imminence of the eschaton in the events of their own times. The apocalypses they composed as a result of these expectations clearly exhibit the influence of the canonical apocalypses, and indeed of Scripture more generally, despite their claim to revelation. I shall discuss the features that give these medieval apocalypses their distinctive character and consider the similarities and differences of Jewish and Christian works.Finally, the book will consider the continuing vitality of apocalyptic themes in the modern period. I will discuss briefly several examples of the ongoing influence of aspects of the apocalypses including their role in new religious movements such as the Branch Davidians.
This accessible and enlightening history provides insights into the fascinating genre of apocalyptic literature, showing how the apocalypse encompasses far more than popular views of the last judgment and violent end of the world might suggest.