Friday, January 30, 2009

Encountering Apocalyptic Worlds

I wasn’t planning on blogging this book, but since we’re going through Daniel in college group I thought I would get these thoughts down for the next time I go through Daniel or Revelation in the future. I’m not a big fan of apocalyptic literature, if a pastor can say such a thing. There’s so much crazy imagery and speculation that it seems dangerous water to tread. To say something I feel like you have to speculate. I don’t like speculating; I like when things are pretty solid and we understand what the author is trying to say. That’s why I’ve stayed away from apocalyptic literature. I guess it’s time to grow up and deal with it, though. So here goes…

The first chapter sketches what apocalyptic literature is and isn’t. It is literature that concerned with the destination of the created order and, in particular how the “patterns and conflicts at stake in present experience” fit the cosmic plan rather than a timeline for the future. Cook states, “The apocalyptic worlds of the Bible peer beyond the mundane political and social realities, revealing a new world coming. Profoundly realistic about humanity’s limitations and shortcomings, the literature recognizes that this better world, while a fundamental human longing, will never come as a human achievement. It comes only with the advent of God’s sovereign rule on earth” (p. 22).

In addition to a light/dark duality, apocalyptic literature often has heaven and earth paralleling or mirroring each other. Without opening the text again, I recall Revelation shifting back and forth from heaven to earth. The received definition of apocalyptic in scholarship dates to the 1970s. Cook quotes John Collins’ definition:
“An apocalypse is defined as: ‘a genreof revelatory literature with a narrative framework, in which a revelation is mediated by an otherworldly being to a human recipient, disclosing a transcendent reality which is both temporal, insofar as it envisages eschatological salvation, and spatial insofar as it involves another, supernatural world” (p. 26).

We’ll see how this continues to play out through the book. Should be an interesting journey.

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