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The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia
§ I. The Terms "Apocalypse" and "Apocalyptic."
An "Apocalypse," in the terminology of early Jewish and Christian literature, is a revelation of hidden things given by God to some one of his chosen saints or (still oftener) the written account of such a revelation. The word is derived from the Greek ἀπōκάλυψις, "uncovering," "disclosure"; a noun which does not appear at all in classical Greek, and in the later profane writers is not employed in any way that corresponds to the use above mentioned; it seems to have originated among Greek-speaking Jews, and then passed from them to the Christians, who developed it still further.
The Greek verb ἀπōκαλύπτειν is occasionally employed in the Septuagint to translate the Hebrew ("reveal"); thus, of a secret, Proverbs 11:13; compare Ecclus. 4:18, 22:22, 41:23 [42:1]; of future events disclosed by God, Amos, 3:7, and especially in the idioms "uncover the ear," , "uncover the eyes," meaning "reveal," Numbers 22:31, 24:4,16 (compare Enoch, 1:2); compare further 1 Samuel 2:27, 3:21, etc. So also Theodotion's translation of the Aramaic , Daniel 2:19,22,28 et seq., 47. The noun ἀπōκάλυψις appears in the Greek translation of Ecclus. with the meaning "disclosure" of what is unknown, Ecclus. 22:22 (μυστηρίōυ ἀπōκάλυψις, "revealing of a mystery"—compare Theodotion's translation of Daniel 2:19,28 et seq.), 41:23 [42:1], 11:27. The nearest approach to this usage which has been observed in a profane writer is the passage in Plutarch, "Moralia," 70 F: δεῖ γὰρ. . . τῆς ἁμαρτίας τὴν νōυϑέτησιν κας ἀπōκάλυψιν ἀπόῤῥητōν εἶναι κ.τ. (the reference in Stephanus, "Thesaurus"); but it must also have been in use among Greek-speaking Jews at the beginning of the common era in the sense "revelation from God." Thus, when Paul speaks of "visions and revelations [ἀπōκαλύψεις] of the Lord" (1 Corinthians 14:6,26; 2 Corinthians 12:1,7; compare Justin, "Dial. cum Tryph." p. 81), he is plainly using a term well known to Hellenists, in its history directly connected with the Septuagint use of the verb in such passages as Numbers 22:31, 1 Samuel 3:21, and such use of the noun as that found in Ecclesiasticus (Hermas, "Vision," 3:3 should perhaps also be compared here). The same may be said of its use in Revelation 1:1; it illustrates Jewish usage. Further evidence of the same kind may be found in the words of Luke, 2:32, φῶς εἰς ἀπōκάλυψιν ἐθνῶν (compare the Greek of Psalms 98:2), "a light for revelation to the Gentiles," occurring in a context which is Hebrew through and through. Hellenistic Jews, then, employed the noun ἐπōκάλυψις in speaking of visions and revelations sent from God. No etymological equivalent of the word in this signification was in use, however, either in Hebrew or in Aramaic. The term commonly used in the Old Testament is (also ) "vision"; see, for example, Daniel 8:1.
Use of the Term.
The use of ἀπōκάλυψις to designate the written account of such a vision, or the book containing it, was the next step. This usage apparently had its origin in the title given to the New Testament Apocalypse; which title was itself obtained, very naturally, from the opening words 'Aπōκάλυψις 'Iησōῦ Χριστōῦ (see above), in which the term "revelation" is of course used simply to describe the contents of the book, not as a literary designation. The name Apocalypse was then given to other writings of the same general character, of which many appeared at about this time. From the second century it was applied to a number of books, both Jewish and Christian, which show the same characteristic features. Besides the Apocalypse of John (thus named in some of the earliest of the Christian Fathers), the Muratori fragment, Clement of Alexandria, and others mention an Apocalypse of Peter. Apocalypses of Adam and Abraham (Epiphanius) and of Elias (Jerome) also begin to be mentioned; see, for example, the six titles of this kind in the "List of the 60 Canonical Books" (published, e.g., in Preuschen, "Analecta," p. 159). The use of the Greek noun to designate writings belonging to a certain class of literary products is thus of Christian origin, the original norm of the class being the New Testament Revelation.
In recent times the designation apocalyptic literature, or apocalyptic, has commonly been used to include all the various portions of the Jewish and Christian Scriptures, whether canonical or apocryphal, in which eschatological predictions are given in the form of a revelation. That the term is at present somewhat loosely used, and often made to include what is not properly apocalyptic, is due in part to the fact that the study of this literature as a distinct class is comparatively recent.
§ II. Characteristic Features.
Both because of the origin of the name apocalyptic, and still more because of the prominence with which certain well-marked characteristics appear in the typical writings of this class, there is justification for giving the Apocalypse a place by itself, as a distinct branch of literature; and it is both possible and desirable to mark off the boundary lines with some distinctness. As characteristic features of the Apocalypse the following may be noted:
- It is a revelation of mysteries, things which lie beyond the ordinary range of human knowledge. The Most High gives to His saints definite instruction in regard to hidden matters, whether things altogether foreign to human experience, or merely events in human history which have not yet come to pass. Some of the secrets of heaven are disclosed, in greater or less detail: the purposes of God; the deeds and characteristics of angels and evil spirits; the explanation of natural phenomena; the story of Creation and the history of primitive man; impending events, especially those connected with the future of Israel; the end of the world; the final judgment, and the fate of mankind; the Messianic age; pictures of heaven and hell. In the Book of Enoch, the most comprehensive Jewish Apocalypse, the revelation includes all of these various elements.
- The disclosure of hidden wisdom is made through a vision or a dream. Because of the peculiar nature of the subject-matter, this is evidently the most natural literary form. Moreover, the manner of the revelation, and the experience of the one who receives it, are generally made more or less prominent. Usually, though not always, the account is given in the first person. There is something portentous in the circumstances, corresponding to the importance of the secrets about to be disclosed. The element of the mysterious, often so prominent in the vision itself, is foreshadowed in the preliminary events. Some of the persistent features of the "apocalyptic tradition" are connected with the circumstances of the vision and the personal experience of the seer. As Daniel after long fasting stands by the river, a heavenly being appears to him, and the revelation follows (Daniel 10:2 et seq.). John, in the New Testament Revelation (1:9 et seq.), has a like experience, told in very similar words. Compare also the first chapter of the Greek Apocalypse of Baruch; and the Syriac Apocalypse, 6:1 et seq., 13:1 et seq., 55:1-3. Or, as the prophet lies upon his bed, distressed for the future of his people, he falls into a sort of trance, andin "the visions of his head" is shown the future. This is the case in Daniel 7:1 et seq.; II Esd. 3:1-3; and in the Slavonic Book of Enoch, 1:2 et seq. As to the description of the effect of the vision upon the seer, see Daniel 8:27; Enoch, 60:3; II Esd. 5:14.
- The introduction of Angels as the bearers of the revelation is also a standing feature. The Most High does not speak in person (contrast the early Hebrew narratives, the visions in Amos, - etc.), but gives His instruction through the medium of His heavenly messengers, who act as the seer's guides or interpreters, bringing the mysteries of the unseen world before his eyes, explaining to him what he sees, answering his questions, and disclosing to him the future. There is hardly an example of a true Apocalypse in which the instrumentality of angels in giving the message is not made prominent. In the Assumption of Moses, which consists mainly of a detailed prediction of the course of Israelite and Jewish history, the announcement is given to Joshua by Moses, just before the death of the latter. So, too, in the Sibylline Oracles, which are for the most part a mere foretelling of future events, the Sibyl is the only speaker. But neither of these books can be called truly representative of apocalyptic literature in the narrower sense (see below). In another writing which has sometimes been classed as apocalyptic, the Book of Jubilees, an angel is indeed the mediator of the revelation, but the vision or dream element is wanting. In this case, however, the book is not at all apocalyptic in its nature.
- In the typical compositions of this class the chief concern of the writer is with the Future. The Apocalypse is primarily a Prophecy usually with a distinctly religious aim, intended to show God's way of dealing with men, and His ultimate purposes. The writer presents, sometimes very vividly, a picture of coming events, especially those connected with the end of the present age. Thus, in certain of these writings the subject-matter is vaguely described as "that which shall come to pass in the latter days" (Daniel 2:28; compare verse 29); similarly Daniel 10:14, "to make thee understand what shall befall thy people in the latter days"; compare Enoch, 1:1,2; 10:2 et seq. So, too, in Revelation 1:1 (compare Daniel 2:28 et seq., LXX.), "Revelation, . . . that which must shortly come to pass." Past history is often included in the vision, but usually only in order to give force and the proper historical setting to the prediction, as the panorama of successive events passes over imperceptibly from the known to the unknown. Thus, in the eleventh chapter of Daniel, the detailed history of the Greek empire in the East, from the conquest of Alexander down to the latter part of the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes (verses 3-39, all presented in the form of a prediction), is continued, without any break, in a scarcely less vivid description (verses 40-45) of events which had not yet taken place, but were only expected by the writer (see next page, § III.); viz., the wars which should result in the death of Antiochus and the fall of his kingdom. All this, however, serves only as the introduction to the remarkable eschatological predictions in the twelfth chapter, in which the main purpose of the book is to be found. Similarly, in the dream recounted in II Esd. and , the eagle, representing the Roman empire, is followed by the lion, which is the promised Messiah, who is to deliver the chosen people and establish an everlasting kingdom. The transition from history to prediction is seen in 12:28, where the expected end of Domitian's reign—and with it the end of the world —is foretold. Still another example of the same kind is Sibyllines, 3:608-623. Compare perhaps also Assumptio Mosis, - In nearly all the writings which are properly classed as apocalyptic the eschatological element is prominent. In fact, it was the growth of speculation regarding the age to come and the hope for the chosen people (see next page, § III.) which more than anything else occasioned the rise and influenced the development of this sort of literature.
- Still another characteristic of the Apocalypse is found in certain literary properties which are always present to some extent, and usually are quite prominent. The element of the mysterious, apparent in both the matter and the manner of the writing, is a marked feature in every typical Apocalypse. The literature of visions and dreams has its own traditions, which are remarkably persistent; and this fact is unusually well illustrated in the group of Jewish (or Jewish-Christian) writings under consideration. This apocalyptic quality appears most plainly (a) in the use of fantastic imagery. The best illustration is furnished by the strange living creatures which figure in so many of the visions—"beasts" in which the properties of men, animals, birds, reptiles, or purely imaginary beings are combined in a way that is startling and often grotesque. How characteristic a feature this is may be seen from the following list of the most noteworthy passages in which such creatures are introduced: Daniel 7:1-8, 8:3-12 (both passages of the greatest importance for the history of apocalyptic literature); Enoch, -xc.; Slavonic Enoch, , 15:1, 19:6, 42:1, etc.; II Esd. 11:1-12:3,11-32; Greek Apoc. of Bar. ,; Hebrew Testament, Naphtali's,; Revelation 4:6 et seq. (compare Apoc. of Bar. [Syr.] 51:11), 9:7-10,17-19, 13:1-18, 17:3,12; Hermas, "Vision," 4:1. Certain mythical or semimythical beings which appear in the Old Testament are also made to play a part of increasing importance in these books. Thus "Leviathan" and "Behemoth" (Enoch, 60:7,8; II Esd. 6:49-52; Apoc. of Bar. 29:4); "Gog and Magog" (Sibyllines, 3:319 et seq., 512 et seq.; compare Enoch, 56:5 et seq.; Revelation 20:8). As might be expected, foreign mythologies are also occasionally laid under contribution (see below).
The apocalyptic quality is seen again (b) in the frequent use of a mystifying symbolism. This is most strikingly illustrated in the well-known cases where gematria is employed for the sake of obscuring the writer's meaning; thus, the mysterious name "Taxo," Assumptio Mosis, 9:1; the "number of the beast," 666, Revelation 13:18; the number 888 ('Iησōῦς), Sibyllines, 1:326-330. Very similar to this is the frequent enigmatic prophecy of the length of time which must elapse before the events predicted come to pass; thus, the "time, times, and a half," Daniel 12:7; the "fifty-eight times" of Enoch, xc. 5, Assumptio Mosis, 10:11; the announcement of a certain number of "weeks" or days (without specifying the starting-point), Daniel 9:24 et seq., 12:11,12; Enoch 93:3-10; II Esd. 14:11,12; Apoc. of Bar. -; Revelation 11:3, 12:6; compare Assumptio Mosis, 7:1. The same tendency is seen also in the employment of symbolical language in speaking of certain persons, things, or events; thus, the "horns" of Daniel 7,; Revelation 17 et seq.; the "heads" and "wings" of II Esd. et seq.; the seven seals, Revelation 6; trumpets,; bowls,; the dragon, Revelation 12:3-17, 20:1-3; the eagle, Assumptio Mosis, 10:8; and so on. As typical examples of more elaborate allegories—aside from those in Daniel 7, , II Esd. , , already referred to—may be mentioned: the vision of the bulls and the sheep, Enoch, et seq.; the forest, the vine, the fountain, and the cedar, Apoc. of Bar. et seq.; the bright and the black waters, ibid. et seq.; the willow and its branches, Hermas, "Similitudines,"
To this description of the literary peculiarities of the Jewish Apocalypse might be added that in its distinctly eschatological portions it exhibits with considerable uniformity the diction and symbolism of the classical Old Testament passages (see below). As this is true, however, in like degree of the bulk of late Jewish and early Christian eschatological literature, most of which is not apocalyptic in the proper sense of the word, it can hardly be treated as a characteristic on a par with those described above.
§ III. Origin and Materials.
The origin of the Jewish Apocalypse is to be sought chiefly in the natural development of certain well-defined tendencies in the national literature; possibly also in part, as some have thought, in the influence of foreign religious ideas and literary models. The earliest known example of a Jewish Apocalypse is the Book of Daniel (middle of the second century B.C.), with which book the distinct beginning of a new branch of literature is made (though some hold that a part of the Book of Enoch is anterior to Daniel). But the author of Daniel 7-, though a pioneer and an originator in this department, could hardly be called the creator of the Jewish Apocalypse. Nearly every one of the characteristic features of his work is to be found well established in the earlier literature of his people. Furthermore, the subsequent compositions of this class were not wholly or even largely developed from the materials provided in this book. Like Daniel, and together with it, they were a characteristic product of the times (see below). The extensive Enoch literature, which begins to make its appearance soon after this, is in itself a sufficient demonstration of the fact. It is evident that the materials for this sort of composition were at that time ready to hand. On the other side, the Book of Daniel certainly did determine, to a considerable extent, how the existing materials should be used in the apocalyptic tradition and in the popular eschatology. Its influence on both the religious and the literary side was very great.
Late Hebrew Prophets.
The most nearly related precursor of the Jewish Apocalypse was the characteristically developed eschatological element in the later Hebrew prophecy. The Hebrew ideas concerning the last things were in many respects very similar to those which were held by the surrounding peoples; but the same fundamental beliefs which shaped the religious life of the nation, and determined the development of every other department of its religious literature, showed themselves to be fully operative here also. It was the doctrine of the chosen people, especially, which was the controlling influence in the growth of Hebrew and Jewish eschatology; and this is easily recognized also as the dominant idea in the Jewish Apocalypse.
The hope for Israel cherished by the later prophets finds its completest and most exalted expression in Isa. -, where the future of the nation is painted in vivid colors and on a magnificent scale: "Israel is the chosen people of the one God, who has plainly declared His purpose ever since the beginning. Though it is now a despised race, trodden under foot, its glorious future is certain." As the horizon of the Jews gradually widened, and they saw more plainly their relative position among the nations of the earth, and the impossibility of gaining any lasting political supremacy, the belief in an age to come, in which righteousness and the true religion should hold undisputed possession, came more and more prominently into the foreground. In the Maccabean age, especially, under the stress of severe persecution, this belief, and the various doctrines connected with it, received a mighty impulse. Thus out of the hope nourished by "Deutero-Isaiah" and his fellows (who are only less eloquent than he in giving voice to it) there grew of necessity the doctrine of "the world to come" (ha-'olam-ha-ba); the ever-present contrast between which and "this world" (ha-'olam-hazeh) is one of the fundamentals of apocalyptic literature throughout its whole history, though these particular forms of expression are late in appearing (see, however, Enoch, 71:15). Thus, the purpose of the whole elaborate symbolism of Daniel 7 is to be found in the final antithesis between the successive empires of this world and the "everlasting kingdom" of the saints of the Most High (verses 18, 27). Compare also especially II Esd. 7:50, 8:1.
"Day of the Lord."
The more unlikely it seemed that Israel would ever be able to get the upper hand of the surrounding nations, the stronger grew the feeling that the final triumph would be preceded by a complete overthrow of the existing order. The present age would come to a sudden end; and a new age, ushered in by the "day of the Lord," would take its place. This "end" () would be announced by great portents, and convulsions of nature, "signs" on the earth and in the heavens; and in speaking of these things, a phraseology highly figurative and mysterious became fixed in use. See, for example, Isaiah 24 et seq., 34:4, 66:15; Zephaniah 1:15; Zechariah 14; Joel, 3:3 et seq. [2:30 et seq.], etc.; and compare in the New Testament Matthew 24:29, and the synoptic parallels. These ideas and images were a fruitful source of material for the apocalyptic writings; compare, for example, Sibyl. 3:796-807; II Esd. 5:1-12, 6:20-28; Apoc. Bar. , ,; Enoch, -, c.; II Esd. ["5 Ezra"] 15:5,20,34-45; 16:18-39.
Moreover, the day of Israel's triumph was to be a day of judgment on the Gentiles. The various phases of this idea made so prominent by the later prophets—a series of final bloody wars, in which the oppressors of Israel shall fall: "Gog and Magog" (Ezekiel 38 et seq.), the judgment and punishment of the nations by Jehovah (Zephaniah 3:8; Joel,  2, 9 et seq.)—are elaborated in characteristic manner by the apocalyptic writers. The most striking example is the prediction in Daniel 11:40-45 (see above, § II. 4).
The idea of a final triumph of God and His heavenly hosts over evil spirits also followed naturally, and kept pace with the development of the Jewish angelology. The "guardian angels" of Daniel 9-, and the punishment of the "fallen stars," which occupies so much space in the Enoch literature, are only elaborations of beliefs which had already received distinct expression; compare Isaiah 24:21 et seq. (a most important passage), 27:1; Psalms 82; Deuteronomy 32:8 (Greek); Job, 38:7, etc. The appearance of the evil spirit "Azazel" in Leviticus 16:8 et seq. is proof that the names of angels and demons were in common use before the days of Daniel and Enoch.
Doctrine of Resurrection.
But the eschatological teachings current among the Jews at the beginning of the second century b.c. were not concerned merely with the fate of the nations, and of the people Israel in particular. As the coming "day of the Lord" was looked upon as a time when wrongs were to be set right, it was natural—indeed necessary—that the expected judgment should also appear as the final triumph of the righteous over the wicked, even in Israel. Thus Malachi 3:1-5,13-18,19-21 [4:1-3]; Zephaniah 1:12; Zechariah 13:8 et seq. Hence the doctrine of the resurrection of therighteous Israelites—already formulated in Isaiah 26:19 (as the context shows), 25:8—which assumed such importance in the hands of the apocalyptic writers, beginning with Daniel 12:2 and Enoch, In both of these latter passages, the resurrection of at least a part of the wicked among the Jews is also predicted; and the fact well illustrates the growing prominence of the individual, as contrasted with the nation, in the type of theology which these writings represent. So, too, the picture of a hell of fire, in which those who have done wickedly shall burn, begins now to take a prominent place; e.g., Enoch, 63:10, 99:11, c. 9, 103:7 et seq. Here, also, the Apocalypse was anticipated by the prophet, Isaiah 66:24 (compare Isaiah 30:33).
On the literary side also, as well as on the side of theology, the Apocalypse was in the main a new adaptation and elaboration of recognized Jewish models. Hebrew literature had its "visions" and "dreams," and the popular beliefs as to their importance were like those commonly held among other ancient peoples. The influence of Gen. et seq. on the author of the Book of Daniel is easily recognizable. The mysterious visions of Zechariah and Ezekiel contributed much to the traditional pattern of the later group of writings, with which they have so many affinities. The interesting passage Genesis 15:9-18 (compare verse 1) might almost be called a miniature Apocalypse; notice the way in which it is spoken of in II Esd. 3:16; Apoc. Bar. 4:4. Numerous other passages might be mentioned which in some respects mark the transition to the genuine Apocalypse, and may have served to some extent as models. Among these are the Balaam prophecies, Numbers 24, and the many predictive passages in the Prophets in which the future course of history, the "day of the Lord," or the Messianic age, are pictured in highly poetical and often mystifying language. With these, Vergil, "Ecloga," 4:4-47, deserves to be compared. Some of the writings commonly classed as apocalyptic, on the other hand, really belong to this same "transition" stage; for example, the principal part of the Sibyllines, and the Assumption of Moses, which are hardly more than specimens of supernatural predictive power, or clairvoyance. Even the second chapter of Daniel may be included here, for it has more affinities with the older literature (for example, the allegories of Ezekiel) than with chapter , in spite of its very similar contents.
The marvelous "beasts" of the apocalypses (see § II. 5) also have their prototypes in the earlier literature (compare the very simple representation in Isaiah 6:2 with Ezekiel 1:5 et seq.). The frequent employment of mythological creatures and conceptions already familiar in the Old Testament has received notice above (§ II. 5). It is to be observed also that the incorporation of this mythology into Jewish eschatology had already taken place; see especially Isaiah 27:1: "In that day the Lord with his sore and great and strong sword shall punish Leviathan the piercing serpent, and Leviathan the crooked serpent; and he shall slay the dragon that is in the sea." Foreign mythological material not found in the Old Testament is also occasionally introduced. Thus, the "dragon with the seven heads" (Revelation 12) seems to have been derived from the Babylonian mythology (Gunkel, "Schöpfung und Chaos," p. 361, note 2; Bousset, "Offenbarung Johannis," pp. 394, 398). The idea of the creation of the universe in the form of an egg, and the description of the process, in Slavonic Enoch, , are plainly borrowed. Very close parallels are found in both the Hindu and the Egyptian cosmogonies.
Origin of Jewish Apocalypse.
The question whether the origin of the Jewish Apocalypse was to any considerable extent due to foreign literary models is one that can not at present be answered with certainty. The second century B.C. was a time when considerable gains were made for the Jewish religion and literature through the influence of the surrounding nations. The possibility naturally suggests itself that this new adaptation of existing materials, and the fusion of them into so well defined a product, was due to an impulse received from without. Persian influence has generally been looked for first of all, both because of what is known of its contributions to Jewish theology at about this time, and also because of the distinctly Babylonian character of most of the mythological elements incorporated in this literature. But these Babylonian myths had undoubtedly been more or less widely current among the Jews for a long time; with nearly all of them we know this to have been the case. Such mysterious and fantastic elements as these are sure to be taken up, by a natural process, into the literature of the "hidden wisdom." Furthermore, among the ideas which make their appearance in the earlier apocalypses there is hardly anything distinctively Persian; nor, finally, do we know of any Persian writings of this nature which could have furnished the model. So far as literary parallels are concerned, the hypothesis of a Greek or Egyptian source would have more in its favor. Some of the Greek (especially Orphic) eschatological compositions that were current at this time have much in common with the Jewish "Enoch" writings; see Dieterich, "Nekyia," 1893, pp. 217 et seq. In the oldest strata of the Sibylline oracles passages of unmistakably heathen origin have been preserved, which present the exact counterpart of such writings as the Assumption of Moses. Another interesting parallel is afforded by a certain Egyptian demotic "chronicle," written in the time of the Ptolemies, which is in fact a "prophecy after the event" of distinctly theological character, couched in mysterious language (Wachsmuth, "Einleitung in das Studium der Alten Geschichte," p. 357). But in regard to these parallels, it must be said again that the evidence of any direct borrowing from Greek or Egyptian sources is wanting. The most probable theory of the origin of the Jewish Apocalypse would seem to be this, that it was a characteristic product of the national religious literature, directly produced and given shape by external conditions; namely, the terrible distress under Antiochus Epiphanes. Like other branches of Jewish literature in the Greek and Roman periods, it certainly assimilated, from the beginning, more or less foreign material; but in its essential features it seems to have been truly Jewish in its origin, as it continued to be in its subsequent history.
§ IV. Development and Influence.
One of the most noticeable features in the history of this literature is the constancy with which its own traditions are maintained. Phraseology, imagery, and modes of thought or interpretation are passed on from hand to hand. Numerous illustrations of this fact have already been given; see above, § II. 5. Among still other characteristic examples the following may be mentioned: the "seven heavens," Testaments of the Patriarchs, Levi,; Ascension of Isaiah, -; Slavonic Book of Enoch, -; Greek Apoc. Bar. - (in its original form, probably); the "seven angels," Enoch, (see Greek MSS.; Testaments Patriarchs,Levi,; Revelation 8:1, etc.; compare Hermas, "Simil." 9:6,12; the "watchers" (ἐγρήγοροι, ), Daniel 4:14,20 (Masoretic text); Enoch, 1:5, 12:2, etc.; Slav. Enoch, 18:3; Testament Naphtali,; the great beasts which "came up out of the sea," Daniel 7:3; II Esd. 11:1; Revelation 13:1; the traditional employment of such monsters to symbolize the heathen world-powers, successive rulers being represented by a series of heads, horns, or wings, and so on. In point of theological teaching, also, there is to be observed the same noteworthy transmission of material (see the examples in § III.). It is plain that the fixity of this "apocalyptic tradition" is due to the nature of the subject-matter. The writer of such visions of the future was obliged to deal to some extent with definite things—persons, events, times, and places. The end of the world, for example, could take place in but one way; and after the scene had once been described, a subsequent writer on this theme could not disregard or contradict the former description without throwing discredit upon his own work. In no other branch of literature is it so indispensable—and so easy —to have the support of tradition. It was this desire for authenticity, chiefly, that caused the most of these writings to be put forth under the names of former great men of Israel. Only in the case of the Christian "Shepherd" of Hermas does the author write in his own name.
In spite of this uniformity of tradition, the books of this group exhibit very considerable diversity. In the development of Jewish apocalyptic literature two controlling motives may be especially observed: interest in the future—especially the future of the true Israel—and interest in the secrets of the universe. The two oldest apocalypses that have been preserved—Daniel and Enoch—may serve to represent these two main divisions. The Book of Daniel is the most strongly patriotic of all the apocalypses. Very little attention is paid in it to the unseen world; no great interest in the current mythology is apparent; here alone among all the writings of this class there is no reference to the ancient Hebrew history. The eschatology of the book—immensely important as it is, and strongly emphasized by the author himself—is crowded into the briefest possible space, 7:13 et seq., 27, 12:1-3. Angels are made prominent only for the purpose of emphasizing the fact that God and His hosts are in direct control of all that has come upon the Jews. That to which everything else is subordinated is the prediction of the immediate future. The Jews are soon to be delivered from their oppressors, and the faithful will triumph forever. Another book, to be associated with Daniel in the above classification, but of a very different character, is II Esdras. In this another and most important line of development is exemplified. Theological interests are in the foreground. Questions concerning the dealing of God with His people, and His ultimate purposes for them, are asked and answered. The doctrine of the Messiah is plainly set forth. In all these respects, the (Syriac) Apocalypse of Baruch is the counterpart of II Esdras.
The Book of Enoch, representing the other main division of this literature, is chiefly concerned with the heavens above, and the mysteries of the universe. Interest in the future of Israel is by no means wanting, but it occupies a very subordinate place. Angels and demons, the heavenly bodies, the places and conditions of departed spirits, are among the subjects which receive most attention. The book is composite, consisting, in fact, of several independent books of different dates; its national apocalyptic portion belongs in time near the Book of Daniel. A number of apocalypses, generally of minor religious value, follow in this track. The most noteworthy example of degeneration along this line is furnished by the Greek Apocalypse Baruch.
Both of these varieties of apocalyptic exercised a profound influence on the nation. Such doctrines, common to both of them, as those of the resurrection, the millennium, and the Messianic kingdom, were soon given an assured place in the common belief. The elaborate mythology and occult science of the Enoch literature were inherited by the Jewish Midrash and the early Christian writings. As for the more distinctly patriotic apocalypses, especially Daniel and II Esdras, there is abundant evidence that they gave in full measure what they were designed to give: encouragement, and a new religious impulse to the pious in Israel. For the detailed evidence of their great influence on the development of both Jewish and Christian theology, see the articles devoted to the separate books.
The Jewish apocalyptic writings were not the property of any sect or school. Their point of view was in general that of Palestinian orthodoxy, of the type of which the Pharisees were the best representatives. Most of them, but probably not all, were written in Palestine. Most of them, but not all, were composed in the Hebrew language. It is a mistake to regard the writers as men of a pessimistic turn of mind, or to contrast them sharply, as a class, with the prophets. So far as religious teaching is concerned, it is not possible to draw any distinct line between prophecy and Apocalypse. The development in this regard was continuous, as some, at least, of the writers themselves felt; see the use of προφητεία, Revelation 1:3, 22:7 et seq. The appearance of the successive apocalypses did not mark successive periods of persecution, or unusual distress, as has sometimes been assumed. After the Book of Daniel, there is no evidence that any writing of this kind was called forth by the immediate circumstances of the people.
From the Jews this type of composition passed over to the Christians, who both wrote books of their own on this model, and still oftener appropriated existing Jewish books in their entirety or interpolated them. The additions to II Esdras (chaps. , , ,; called also "5 Ezra") are perhaps the most striking illustration of the last-named process. Other examples will be mentioned below.
§ V. The Jewish Apocalypses.
The following is a list of the chief representatives of Jewish apocalyptic. As the several books are treated at length elsewhere, only the briefest description of them is given here, the aim being to present in each case such particulars as will best illustrate the history of the growth of this literature.
- Daniel. The latter part of this book (written probably 165 B.C.) is the oldest Jewish Apocalypse known to us. Chaps. , - have little or none of the "apocalyptic" character. For a characterization of chaps. -, see above, § IV.
- Enoch. Oldest portion written about 120 B.C.; the remainder within a period of perhaps fifty years. Original language was certainly Semitic, probably Hebrew. For the most part it is typically apocalyptic, and a mine of characteristic material; see § IV. Especially prominent features are angelology, secrets of the unseen world, explanation of natural phenomena, the history of the world, arranged in its successive "periods" and the Messianic kingdom.
- Slavonic Enoch (or Book of the Secrets of Enoch). Written probably in the former half of the first century of the common era. Original languagewas probably Greek. General character like that of the older book, but much more influenced by Greek thought. It contains some philosophical speculation. There are marked Gnostic elements, especially in the very detailed account of the Creation. Noteworthy features: the seven heavens, the millennium, and the condition of souls after death. The book is Jewish throughout. Some writers have attempted, but without sufficient reason, to show that it contains Christian additions and interpolations.
- Assumption of Moses. Written, probably in Hebrew, at about the beginning of the common era. In form, not a vision or dream, but a prediction of the future history of Israel delivered to Joshua by Moses. The material which is more or less apocalyptic in character is contained in chaps. -, with which Daniel 11:40-12:13 may be compared. The book as known to us is incomplete.
- II Esdras (also 4 Ezra). The Semitic (apparently Hebrew) original was composed about the year 90. In all respects a typical Apocalypse of the theological type, of which it is the best specimen. The instruction in hidden things here has to do chiefly with matters of religion and faith. Teaching by allegory is a prominent feature. The influence of Daniel (referred to by name in 12:11) is very noticeable, especially in the dream-visions, chaps. - The "signs of the end," 5:1-13, 6:18-28. Messianic predictions, 12:31 et seq.; 13:32 et seq.; 51 et seq.; 14:9, etc. The general resurrection, and last judgment, 7:30-35. Extended account of the condition of souls after death, 7:78-98. The standpoint of the book throughout is that of Palestinian Judaism (contrast, e.g., the account of the Creation, 6:38-54, with Slavonic Enoch, -), but the author is decidedly original, as well as orthodox. Chaps. , , , are a later addition, apparently of Christian origin (see 2:42-48).
- Apocalypse of Baruch (preserved entire only in Syriac; hence sometimes termed the "Syriac Apoc. Bar."). Beginning of the second century. Original language Hebrew or Aramaic. A series of visions, connected by narrative, hortatory, or sometimes highly rhetorical passages. In its general character, the book is the inferior counterpart of II Esdras, to which it also sustains a very close literary relationship, the correspondence extending even to the phraseology. The features mentioned above as characteristic of II Esdras are present here also. The appended letter (chaps. -) contains nothing of an apocalyptic nature.
- Greek Apocalypse of Baruch. Greek text first published in 1897; an abridged Slavonic recension known since 1886. A work dating from the latter part of the second century. Originally Jewish, but now containing Christian additions. A good example of a degenerate Apocalypse of the Enoch type (see § IV.). Baruch is conducted by an angel through the five (originally seven?) heavens, and sees strange sights, the account of which is grotesque rather than impressive. Next to nothing is said about the future; and the religious element, usually so prominent in this literature, is almost wholy wanting. There is evident dependence on the Slavonic Enoch, as well as on the earlier Baruch literature.
- The Sibylline Oracles, Books III.-V. A Jewish adaptation and expansion of similar heathen "oracles." The hypothesis of still further Christian additions is without sufficient ground. The plainly Jewish portions date from 140 B.C. down to about 80 of the present era. These Oracles lie quite outside the course of the characteristic apocalyptic tradition; but furnish in part a good example of the nearly related class of prophetical-eschatological writings (see § III.). Thus, in Book III., which contains the passages most nearly resembling the true Apocalypse: prediction of the successive kingdoms which are to bear rule over the Jews; the woes to come upon the various lands; the signs of the end of the world; the judgment day; the blessed age to come: lines 71-92, 167-198, 295-561, 608-623, 767-806. Similar passages in Book IV.: 40-48, 172-183. In Book V.: 155-161, 260 et seq., 344-385, 414-433, 512-531. With all these, the familiar passages in Joel, Zechariah 14, Malachi, Isaiah 24 et seq. should be compared.
- Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs. Probably a work of the first century of the common era, originally written in Hebrew. Chiefly haggadic Midrash, combined with some predictive prophecy. The only apocalyptic portions are in the Testaments of Levi and Naphtali. In Levi two visions are described: the seven heavens, -; the seven angels, See also , prediction of the Messianic age. In Naphtali, , (Hebrew text, ii-), two dreams are narrated, which have something of the apocalyptic character. The whole book, in the form known to us, has been edited by Christian hands.
- Life of Adam and Eve (or, in another recension, the Apocalypse of Moses). Original language probably Hebrew; date uncertain. It has received some Christian additions. The book contains hardly anything apocalyptic in the narrower sense; see, however, Apoc. Mosis,; prediction of the resurrection and of the future bliss in paradise (compare Daniel 12:1 et seq.); and the fantastic visions in Apoc. Mosis, -; compare also Life of Adam and Eve, - See Adam, Book of.
The following also deserve mention:
The Book of Jubilees. Sometimes classed with this literature, and in Syncellus (ed. Dindorf, 1:5) called the Apocalypse of Moses. It purports to have been given, through angels, to Moses on Mount Sinai, but in the character of its contents it is very far removed from being an Apocalypse. Ascension of Isaiah (also Vision of Isaiah). A brief Apocalypse, found combined with the older Jewish "Martyrdom of Isaiah," of which it forms chaps. -, and also existing separately. It is a Christian product, however; the theory of a Jewish kernel is hardly tenable. Apocalypse of Abraham. A true Apocalypse, of the second century. Apparently Jewish, with Christian additions. Preserved only in a Slavonic version (ed. Bonwetsch, 1897). Apocalypses of Elias and Zephaniah. Coptic fragments, ed. Steindorff, 1899. Both probably Jewish in origin, but worked over by Christian hands. The Apocalypses of Moses and Esdras published by Tischendorf, "Apocalypses Apocryphæ," 1866, are Christian works. Apocalypse of Sedrachis, a late production, dependent on Tischendorf's "Apocalypsis Esdræ," and also upon II Esdras. Ed. by James, "Apocrypha Anecdota," 1893, pp. 127-137. Apocalypse of Adam is a Greek fragment described by James, c. 138-145. Testament of Abraham, and Testaments of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are published, or translated in extract, by James and Barnes, "Texts and Studies," 2:2,1892. These all contain some apocalyptic material, perhaps Jewish.
For a partial account of some characteristic medieval apocalypses, see Bousset, "Antichrist" (English trans.), pp. 72-78. Of the early Christian writings of this class, the most important for the history of Jewish apocalyptic literature are the New Testament Revelation and the Shepherd of Hermas. See also Apocrypha, Eschatology, and the literature on the several apocalypses.
- Among the more important books and essays dealing with this subject are the following: Hilgenfeld, DieJüdische Apokalyptik, 1857;
- idem, Messias Judæorum, 1869;
- Smend, in Stade's Zeitschrift, 1885, 5:222-250;
- Gunkel, Schöpfung und Chaos, 1895;
- Bousset, Der Antichrist, Eng. trans. by Keane, 1896;
- idem, Offenbarung Johannis, 1896, pp. 1-11, and the Excursuses, passim;
- Schürer, Gesch. 3:1898, pp. 181 et seq.;
- Milton S. Terry, Biblical Apocalyptics, New York, 1898;
- Wellhausen, Skizzen und Vorarbeiten, 1899, 6:215-249;
- Kautzsch, Die Apokryphen und Pseudepigraphen des Alten Testaments, 1899;
- R. H. Charles, Book of Enoch, 1893;
- idem, Secrets of Enoch, 1896;
- idem, Apocalypse of Baruch, 1896;
- idem, Hebrew, Jewish, and Christian Eschatology, 1899.
These files are public domain.
Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Apocalypse'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tje/​a/apocalypse.html. 1901.