Discussion Notes for Visions of the End Course (remote 2021 version)

Orientation

Early Judean Apocalypses

Developments in early Apocalypticism (Judean and Christian)

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Introduction to Apocalypticism (Ancient to Modern)

1. Why study apocalypticism?:  Apocalypticism’s varied significance

  • Ancient Judaism and Christianity
  • History of western culture
    • Medieval (e.g. Munster, the “New Jerusalem”)
    • Modern world: Mainline Christianity in the West (e.g. American fundamentalism); “Radical” doomsday sects (e.g. Heaven’s Gate); other Christian movements (e.g. Jehovah’s Witnesses); movements in colonial contexts (e.g. cargo cults); modern environmental and scientific movements; popular culture (e.g. TV, film, music)

2. What is apocalypticism?

  • 1) Worldview or perspective (also important for essay one on 1 Enoch)
    • Key characteristics:
      • Thoroughgoing cosmic dualism / twoism – good and evil, god and personified evil opponent(s)
      • Present evil age apparently dominated by evil powers
        • Fallen angels and the origins of evil personified
      • Centrality of combat or battle (combat myth origins) – God vs Belial / Satan / etc
      • Predeterminism (god’s final plan to destroy evil and establish good order)
      • Revelation (god reveals his knowledge, plans and power over the universe to special people)
      • God’s cataclysmic and final intervention (part of the plan):
        • End-time emissaries or functionaries on god’s side (e.g. angels, priests, prophets, kings/messiahs/christs contributing to the fulfillment of god’s plan)
        • End-time opponents headed by figures like Satan or a fallen angel (later development of a Anti-Christ figure)
        • End-time scenario: combat; final judgement with destinies for the righteous (eternal bliss – “heaven”) and wicked (destruction or eternal torment – “hell”)
  • 2) Social grouping and collective behaviour (millenarian or millenial movements)
  • 3) Type of literature (apocalypse as genre): Examples and characteristics of the genre; social settings

3. Our historical approach to the subject

  • Studying cultural phenomena in historical context: non-theological; non-normative; non-judgmental; cross-culturally sensitive; interdisciplinary
  • Theoretical frame of postcolonialism (discussion of Loomba)

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Origins of Apocalypticism 1: Mesopotamian Combat Myths

1. Introduction to Ancient Near Eastern combat mythology

  • A look ahead:
    • The beast in Daniel 7 and the reign of the angelic opponent, Michael (one like a human being)
    • The great red dragon / “ancient serpent” of John’s Apocalypse (see 12 and 20), the battle, and the reign of the “king of kings”
    • Centrality of this battle imagery to the apocalyptic worldview as a whole
  • The Ancient Near Eastern Combat myth: Order vs. chaos
  • Importance and characteristics

2. Mesopotamian examples

  • Sumerian (2000s BCE): Ninurta vs. Azag (online translation)
  • Akkadian (1000s BCE): Ninurta vs. Anzu / Zu (discussion of readings)
  • Babylonian (1400-1200 BCE and earlier): Marduk vs. Tiamat (online translation)
  • Influence on Greek mythology: Zeus vs. Typhon (online translation)

4. Canaanite and Israelite examples

  • Israelite: Yahweh vs. the chaos monster (Rahab/Leviathan)
    • Psalms 74:12-17
    • Psalms 89:5-18
    • Job 40-41 (Yahweh’s rubber ducky)
    • Isaiah 51:9-11: Slaughter of chaos as prototype for the future

5. Significance of the combat myth for Judean (Jewish) apocalypticism

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Origins of Apocalypticism 2: Persian and Zoroastrian Apocalypticism

1. Introduction to Zoroaster and Zoroastrian apocalypticism

  • The Indo-Aryans (settling in Iran from about 1500 BCE) and the Persian (Achaemenid and Sassanian) empires (550 BCE-651 CE)
  • Zoroaster
    • The problem of dating: 6000s BCE (e.g. Diogenes Laertius / Plutarch / Pliny ca. I-III CE); 1500-500 BCE (based on analysis of individual writings); 600s-500s BCE (e.g. al-Biruni ca. 900s CE, based on popular Iranian belief)
    • Priest who developed a specific understanding of Ahura Mazda as the supreme deity (in opposition to Angra Mainyu = Ahriman); notions of asha (truth / order) vs. druj (falsehood / disorder); overall dualism
  • Zoroastrian sources (Avesta) and the problem of dating Zoroastrian apocalypticism
    • Oral transmission with the earliest writing probably in the 5th century CE (earliest manuscript from 1323 CE)
    • Which teachings in the Avesta are early, and which later?
      • Some Gathas may more directly reflect Zoroaster’s teachings (older language and cultural context of pastoralism)
  • Zoroastrian apocalypticism important whether as an influence on Judean apocalypticism and/or on its own terms as another form of apocalypticism

2. Key apocalyptic themes and plots

  • Zoroastrianism according to Plutarch’s description (ca. 120 CE) drawing, in part, on a source from the fourth century BCE (discussion) – among the earliest written sources
  • Key characteristics in the Zoroastrian apocalyptic worldview (discussion of Gathas)
    • Apocalyptic elements in the early Gathas (9th or 6th century BCE?)
      • Cosmic dualism: “Two primal spirits”  at battle (Yasna 30, 45)
      • Place and destiny of people in this dualism: The wicked and the just (rewards / recompense; House of Best Purpose / House of the Lie)
      • Saoshyant figure
      • Transfiguration of the world
    • Apocalyptic developments in the later Avesta (dates unknown, first written in about the 400s CE) (“Apocalyptic Texts” from Boyce)
      • Periods of history and eschatology: “Limited time” and “the making wonderful”
        • The Seven branch tree analogy (ZVYt ch. 3)
        • Signs of the end (ZVYt ch. 4)
        • Saviour figures of the end times: Saoshyants (future benefactors)
        • The final cosmic battle, the defeat of evil and the making wonderful
        • Resurrection, judgement and final destinations (ZVYt ch. 9 [and Bundahishn chs. 1  and 34 in Boyce p.52, 82-83])

3. Significance for the Judean apocalyptic worldview

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Origins of Apocalypticism 3: Israelite Prophecy and Wisdom

1. Importance of Israelite Prophecy for Judean apocalypticism

  • Israelite prophetic and wisdom literature as an important basis of later apocalypticism (we will deal with wisdom more fully later)
    • Scholarship on prophecy and apocalypticism (Hanson 1974; Moore 1995; Collins etc.)
    • Common view that Israelite prophecy played a key role.  Debates as to how to explain that and how important prophecy was in relation to other cultural factors (e.g. Cohn and the prominence of Zoroastrianism)
  • Key questions in comparing prophets (of the exilic and post-exilic periods) with the later apocalypses (post 200 BCE):
    • What similarities and differences are there in literary forms (e.g. first person account, visions, communications from God, angelic assistance — prophets generally contain oracles)?
    • What similarities and differences are there in the worldviews and assumptions?
    • What recurring themes in the prophets come to play a key role in later apocalyptic literature?  What transformations take place with respect to these themes (specific crises vs. general cosmic end)?
      • Interpreting “that day” in the prophets (what does it refer to?)
        • Battles, triumph over foes and the nature of those foes (end of political powers, or end of everything?)
        • “Celebrations” at the defeat of the foes, including banquets
        • Restoration of Israel and establishment of God’s rule / kingdom (what is the nature of that kingdom and who rules?)
      • What’s missing in the prophets? (e.g. resurrection of the dead, judgement of human beings, ultimate destination of human beings, Satan as a personified evil figure)
    • How did later apocalyptic writers interpret and use these earlier prophetic writings?

     

  • Considerable continuity, and yet something new (of cosmic proportions) is taking place in apocalyptic literature

2.  Key passages illustrating the relation (or lack thereof) between the prophets and later apocalypticism

  • Ezekiel the exilic prophet (ca. 580-70s BCE)
    • Ezekiel 37-39:
      • Valley of dry bones and the restoration of Israel (37): Resurrection?
      • The defeat of Gog of Magog, the power from the north (38-39)
  • Zechariah 1-8 (ca. 520-518 BCE)
    • A series of eight visions interpreted by an angel (1-6)
      • “The satan” in ch. 3 – personified, cosmic evil?
    • The Branch / Davidic ruler (6:9-14)
    • God’s promise: I will return to Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem (ch. 8)
  • Zechariah 9-14 (ca. 400s BCE?)
    • The “day of Yahweh” / “that day”: What happens on “that day”?
    • Centrality of “the nations”
  • Isaiah 24-27 (ca. 540-425 BCE, perhaps 485 BCE when Xerxes conquered Babylon)
    • What happens on “that day” in this passage (judgement, etc)?
    • “that day” meets combat myth (27:1; cf. 25:7)
    • Resurrection?

3. Significance for Judean apocalypticism

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Enoch and Otherworldly Journeys

1. Introductory matters and historical context

  • The figure of Enoch: Genesis 5:21-24; Enoch, Enmeduranki and divination; Enoch’s development in other literature
  • Sequence of the books in 1 Enoch:
    • Pre-Maccabean (c. 225-200 BCE): Book of Watchers (1-36); Astronomical Book (72-82); Apocalypse of Weeks (93:1-10 + 91:11-17); Epistle of Enoch (91-107)
    • Maccabean era (c. 160s BCE): Animal Apocalypse (85-91)
    • First century CE: Similitudes (37-71) — deal with this later on
  • Genre issues: Cosmic (other-worldly) journey apocalypses

2. Apocalyptic themes and world-view

  • The Book of Watchers (1 Enoch 1-36): Ancient stories and end-time scenarios
    • Enoch’s development of the story of the fall of angels in Genesis 6:1-4 (chs. 1-16)
      • Blending two traditions of fallen angels (Semyaz and Azazel)
      • Paradigm for the origin of sin and evil
      • Prototype for the judgement of the wicked at the end times
    • Throne visions in apocalyptic literature (1 Enoch 14:8-25)
    • Enoch’s cosmic journeys (chs. 17-36): Angels as tour guides
  • Other second century BCE portions of 1 Enoch
    • Astronomical Book (72-82): Secrets of the workings of the universe
    • Apocalypse of weeks (93:1-10 + 91:11-17): Periods of history from the apocalyptic perspective
    • Animal Apocalypse (85-91): Apocalyptic imagery and contemporary events

3. Relations, significance and legacy

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Daniel: “Historical” Apocalypse of Crisis

1. Introductory matters and historical context

  • The figure and legends of Daniel
    • Ancient Mesopotamian parallels and archetypes (Dan’el)
    • The stories in Daniel chs. 1-6 and the apocalyptic visions (chs. 7-12)
    • Identity of the author(s): “The wise” in Daniel 11-12
  • Genre of Daniel 7-12: “Historical apocalypse”
    • Characteristics of the genre
    • Historical context of this apocalypse: Hellenization, Antiochus IV Epiphanes and the Maccabean revolt (esp. 169-164 BCE)

2. Apocalyptic themes and world-view

  • The story of Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar (Dan. 2): Relation to the visions of the apocalypse
    • Wisdom, divination and apocalypticism: Decifering divine plans for the future
    • The four kingdoms (Babylonian, Median, Persian, Greek) and the fifth (God’s)
  • Vision of the Heavenly Court (Dan. 7)
    • Heavenly/earthly correspondences in the apocalyptic world view
    • Key figures: Beast-monsters (and the ancient combat myth); “Ancient of days” (and the throne vision); “One like a human being/son of man” (cf. 4 Ezra 13; 1 Enoch 46, 62); “Holy ones”
  • Another vision and the interpretation of Jeremiah (Dan. 8-9)
  • Daniel’s apocalyptic end-time scenario (Dan. 10-12)
    • Resurrection and judgement (earliest biblical reference to general resurrection)
    • Function of Daniel’s apocalypse: Endurance and maintenance of covenant in a time of persecution

3. Relations, significance and legacy

  • Influences on early Christianity
  • Legacies in the history of western culture: The cases of Thomas Muntzer (1524-25) and post-WW II America

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The Dead Sea Scrolls: An Apocalyptic Movement at Qumran

1. Introductory matters and historical context

  • Unity and diversity in Second-Temple Judean culture (c. 538 BCE-70 CE)
    • Unity: Monotheism, Election/Land, Covenant/Law, Temple/cult
    • Diversity: Parties within Judean culture (Sadducees, Pharisees, Essenes, etc.)
    • Dead Sea sect as Essenes?
  • History of the Qumran community:
    • Penitential movement before Qumran (Teacher of Righteousness and Wicked Priest) (starting c. 190s BCE?)
    • Phases at Qumran: Founding and early history (c. 140-100 BCE); Growth and development (c. 100-31 BCE); Rebuilding to the end of the movement (30 BCE- 68 CE)
  • Central characteristics and concerns of the community: Community Rule as a window
    • Covenant, Torah (law) and purity — Techniques of biblical interpretation: Applying the bible to the life of the community
    • Alternative to current temple cult
    • Apocalypticism and the end of days

2. Discussion of Apocalyptic themes and worldviews

A. Community Rule (1QS)

  • The Two Spirits (1 QS 3-4): Dualism and predeterminism
  • Periods of history and the end of days:
    • Present evil age: “dominion of Belial” (background on the history of Satan)
    • Ongoing struggle / battle
    • God’s ultimate eternal kingdom (and the new temple?)

B. 11QMelchizedek

  • Final days: End-time figures
    • Two anointed ones?: 1) King (David) / warrior figure; 2) Priestly (Aaron) figure
    • Figure of Melchizedek (11QMelchizedek); “Son of God” warrior; “Branch of David”
    • Figure of prince Michael (cf. Daniel)
  • Messianic banquet

C. War Scroll (1QM)

  • Final battle of the sons of light and sons of darkness, of Michael and Belial
  • Human participation in the battle

3. Relations, significance and legacy

  • Relations within Judaism
  • Relation to Christianity
    • Apocalyptic or millenarian movement
    • Shared concepts: Dualism, eschatology, messianic ideas
    • Legacy: Dead Sea Scrolls and the popular imagination

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Apocalypticism in the Early Jesus movements: Jesus Materials and Paul

1. Introductory matters and historical context

  • Early Jesus movements as apocalyptic movements within Judean culture
  • Jesus and his context: Messianic and prophetic figures in first century Galilee and Judea

2. Apocalypticism associated with Jesus

  • The historical Jesus and scholarship: Christ of faith vs. historical Jesus
  • Scholarly debates concerning the apocalyptic or non-apocalyptic character of Jesus’ teachings
    • Why do these opposing opinions exist (nature of our sources and methods in approaching them, theological tendencies)?
  • Apocalypticism in the earliest portrait of Jesus: Discussion of the Gospel of Mark
    • Discussion of Mark 13 (and parallels): The “little apocalypse”

     

  • Apocalyptic themes associated with Jesus in various traditions
    • Revelation and the mysteries of God (cf. Lk 10:21, 23; Mk 4:11)
    • Jesus’ time as the end-time (Lk 12:54-56; Mk 9:1)
      • Cosmic conflict with evil/Satan (Lk 10:18-20; Lk 11:14-23; cf. Lk 12:51-53; Lk 16:16; Lk 10:18; Lk 11:20; Mk 3:27 [exorcisms])
    • General resurrection (cf. Mk 12:18-27; Lk 11:31-32)
    • Final judgement (cf. Mk 4:2-9 and Mk 4:26-29; Mt 13:24-30 [harvest symbolism])
    • The future “kingdom of God” and restoration of Israel (Lk 14:15-24; Lk 22:28-30; Mk 11:15ff; Mk 13:1-2; cf. Mk 14:25; Lk 13:29 [Messianic banquet imagery]; cf. Lk 22:28-30//Mt 19:27-29; Lk 13:28-29 [ restoration of Israel)

3. Paul’s apocalyptic worldview

  • From Jesus to Paul: The messenger becomes the message
  • Apocalyptic themes and scenarios in Paul’s letters
    • Revelation and “mysteries”: Paul’s visionary experience (2 Cor 12:1-10)
    • Dualism:  1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11
    • Paul’s apocalyptic scenario: Two ages and Christ as transition
      • Present evil age
      • The end of the age and general resurrection
      • Jesus as the promised end-time Messiah (first and second visits)
        • The first and last Adams: Christ as the “first fruits” (1 Cor 15:20-26)
      • Judgment
      • Future age: “New creation”

4. Relations, significance, legacy

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Apocalypses Responding to the Destruction of the Temple, part 1: 4 Ezra (= 2 Esdras)

1. Introductory matters and historical context

  • Roman rule in Israel and the Judean war of 66-70 CE
  • Judean responses to the destruction of the Temple
    • Common interpretation: Punishment for Israel’s sin
    • Rabbinic Judaism: From Temple to Torah
    • Christianity: Spiritualizing the Temple
  • Apocalyptic writers: 2 Baruch, Apocalypse of Abraham, John’s Apocalypse

2. Apocalyptic themes and worldview

  • Introduction to 4 Ezra (= 2 Esdras)
    • Central issue of theodicy – God’s promises and apparent failings
    • Dialogues: Ezra, sceptical advocate of humanity and reluctant apocalyptic visionary
      • Dialogue 1 (3:1-5:20): Is Babylon (= Rome) better than Israel?
      • Dialogue 2 (5:21-6:34): Do you really hate your people?
        • The two ages and the description of the “new age”
      • Dialogue 3 (6:35-9:25): Why do the wicked so outnumber the righteous?
        • Ezra as advocate for humanity (the “wicked”): Questioning a central aspect of the apocalyptic worldview
        • Ezra’s particular apocalyptic scenario
    • Visions: Ezra’s “conversion”
      • Vision 1 (9:26-10:59): Woman (Zion) mourning for her son – Ezra’s turning point
      • Vision 2 (11:1-12:51): The Eagle (Roman empire) and the lion (Messiah)
        • Influence of Daniel’s visions
      • Vision 3 (13:1-58): The Man from the sea
      • Epilogue (14:1-48): Ezra as the new Moses
        • The books (secret and otherwise): Ezra and the Law
  • Function of 4 Ezra: Venting; Consoling; Warning

3. Relations, significance and legacy

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The Destruction of the Temple in 70 CE and Apocalyptic Responses, part 2: John’s Apocalypse

1. Introductory matters and historical context

  • Apocalyptic genre: Historical apocalypse with a heavenly vision
  • Historical context:
    • Another response to the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE (Babylon = Rome)
    • Authorship and addressees
    • The situation in Asia Minor
    • Revising the traditional view of persecution
    • Social and religious life in the seven cities of Asia Minor: Imperial cults

2. Apocalyptic themes and worldview

  • Vision of the one like a Son of Man and the messages to the churches (chs. 1-3)
  • Heavy influence of Daniel’s apocalypse
  • Vision of the throne and heavenly worship (chs. 4-11)
    • Jesus as the (wrathful) Lamb
    • Beginning of the end: The scroll with the seven seals – six opened
    • The twelve tribes of Israel (144,000) worship God and the Lamb
    • Sevens: The seventh seal and the six of seven trumpets/disasters

     

  • Combat: Vision of Signs (chs. 12-18)
    • The woman giving birth, the great dragon and the cosmic battle (ch. 12)
    • Visions of the beasts and of Babylon the whore: Rome as the end-time evil world order in apocalyptic literature (cf. Sib.Or. 3:350-380; 4 Ezra 11)
      • Religious critique of Rome (ch. 13): The beasts and worship of the emperor
      • Economic critique of Rome (chs. 17-18): Fall of Babylon and lamentations

       

  • Judgment: Vision of Satan’s end and the victory of the righteous (chs. 19-20)
    • Jesus as king, judge, and cosmic warrior (19:11-16)
    • End-time banquet: “to eat the flesh of kings…and the flesh of all men” (19:17-21)
    • Thousand year reign (millenium) with Christ and the final defeat of Satan

     

  • New Heaven and new earth: Vision of the New Jerusalem (chs. 21-22)
  • Function of John’s Apocalypse: Consoling, warning

3. Relations, significance, legacy

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