Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Social World Behind the Apocalyptic Literature

Apocalypticism isn’t necessarily a response of oppressed people. It is much more complex than that. It is grounded in worldview. Biblical apocalypse is not unhinged, but is closely tied to biblical revelation that has gone before it. The key element of the worldview that drives apocalyptic literature is hope. The hope is that there has to be more to life than what is currently experienced. There is a promise of more. The current reality cannot be all there is to life. Cook goes through some cross-cultural examples that indicate this worldview can engage both oppressor and oppressed.

This seems counter-intuitive to me on one level. It makes sense that the oppressed would be seeking more, but the key element of hope is helpful in the sense that there is more to this life than the current existence. I can see how that would be compelling to a whole people group rather than just the oppressed.

In the next chapter Cook begins to discuss the apocalyptic texts of the Bible and he begins with sections in the OT prophets – Ezekiel, Zechariah, Joel, Isaiah, & Malachi. Daniel will get his own chapter. In support of his thesis that apocalyptic literature can come from upper or ruling classes, he notes that all of these prophets were either priests or closely related to priests. Hardly an oppressed people within Israel.

(Note: I’m not summarizing each of these prophets because the sections are so short that I’d essentially have to copy word for word. If you want that, buy the book).

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