- Go to the course forum to post your questions or further engage in discussion of readings
- Go to the discussion notes for this course
- Philip Harland: pharland – at – yorku – dot – ca
- Zoom meetings Tuesdays 11:30am-2:20pm: https://yorku.zoom.us/j/92070904400
- Office hours by appointment: https://yorku.zoom.us/j/92070904400
This course investigates the origins, development and legacies of apocalypticism within Judean culture and early Christianity. Beginning with the ancient context, we will focus on understanding: (1) the earliest apocalyptic literature (biblical and non-biblical); (2) apocalyptic or millenial movements within early Judaism and Christianity; and (3) the apocalyptic world-view, which centres on the notion of God’s ultimate intervention in order to destroy evil and inaugurate an eternal perfect kingdom. As we proceed we will also survey the legacies of apocalypticism in religious movements, popular culture (including music and film), and artistic representation to the present day. Students will have an opportunity to present on scholarly articles about apocalyptic movements throughout history.
- Bible (modern translation such as RSV, NRSV, NIV, NEB, Jerusalem – there are also links to individual biblical books below). NRSV available as pdf here: link
- John J. Collins, The Apocalyptic Imagination: An Introduction to Judean Apocalyptic Literature. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998 (ebook link; you may download 150 pages at a time)
- Additional pdf readings linked below
Evaluation (see end of syllabus for full descriptions):
- Attendance at zoom meetings, participation in discussions (in meetings and on the forum), and surprize quizzes (at beginning of meetings), and surprize quizes (15%)
- Fishbowl team discussion for 15 minutes x 3 in groups of 3-4 students (students are marked individually): 20%
- Presentation (15 minutes each) on legacies of ancient apocalypticism (15%)
- Essay 1: Analysis of primary source – 1 Enoch [with completed academic integrity test], due week 5 (20%)
- Academic integrity quiz (link; must be completed before or with submission of assignment 1
- Critical bibliography on an apocalyptic leader or group (same as presentation and final essay topic), due week 7 (5%)
- Essay 2: Research paper on your chosen apocalyptic leader or group, 10 pages, due week 12 (25%)
Important things to know:
- Readings and participation: Read and study materials BEFORE meetings.
- Penalties for lateness: Assignments are due at the beginning of class (if in person, hardcopy; if remotely, by email attachment). Late submissions will be penalized by one full grade (e.g. from a B to a C) and a further grade for each additional day beyond the due date.
- Academic honesty and plagiarism policies: Absolutely no form of plagiarism will be tolerated. Study York’s policies here and here.
- Password protected files for the course, which are used under fair dealing provisions for the purpose of education, are for course use only and should not be redistributed in any form.
Key ongoing questions for the course and for fishbowl discussions:
What do we mean by apocalypticism? What were some of the antecedents or component parts of apocalypticism? What are the characteristics of an apocalyptic way of thinking and viewing the world (as we see it in a particular writing)? How does this apocalyptic stance relate to historical contexts or events? When do we witness social groups who live out the apocalyptic worldview? What are the characteristics of the apocalypse as a genre of writing? What were the afterlives of ancient apocalypticism throughout western history?
Unit 1: Orientation
Week 1 (Sept 14): Introduction to apocalypticism
- Reading during class time: Revelation 12-13 (link)
Week 2 (Sept 21): Antecedents and influences – Mesopotomian combat myth
- Podcast lectures (listen before meeting): Visions of the End – What is Apocalypticism? (link); Origins part 1 – Ancient Near Eastern Combat Myths (link)
- Readings: “Anzu” (link): Psalms 74:12-17 and Psalms 89:5-18 (link); Isaiah 51:9-11 (link); Clifford, “The Roots of Apocalypticism in Near Eastern Myth” excerpts (link)
Week 3 (Sept 28): Antecedents and influences – Persian and Zoroastrian dualism
- Podcast lectures (listen before meeting): Origins part 2 – Zoroastrian apocalypticism (link)
- Plutarch, Isis and Osiris 370 on Zoroastrianism dualism (link); Yasna 30 and 45 and “Apocalyptic texts” (link); Cohn, “Zoroastrians” (link)
- Fishbowl discussion (four people who begin our discussion for the first 15 minutes of class):
Week 4 (Oct 5): Antecedents and influences – Israelite prophetic and wisdom literature
- Podcast lectures (listen before meeting): Origins part 3a – Israelite Prophets 1 (link); Origins part 3b – Israelite Prophets 2 (link)
- Readings: Isaiah 24-27 (link); Hibbard, “Isaiah 24–27: The So-Called Isaiah Apocalypse” (link)
- Fishbowl discussion:
*Reading week Oct. 9-15 – no class*
Week 5 (Oct 19): Discussion of modern American forms of apocalyptic expectation
- Video (watch before meeting): Waiting for Armageddon (link; 2009 documentary; 74 minutes)
- Readings: Collins, “The Apocalyptic Genre” (ebook link)
** Assignment 1 (analysis of primary source / 1 Enoch) due at the beginning of zoom class **
Unit 2: Earliest Judean Apocalypses
Week 6 (Oct 26): Literature associated with Enoch – Otherworldly journeys
- Podcast lectures (listen before meeting): 1 Enoch – An Introduction to the Earliest Apocalypse (link); 1 Enoch – Fallen Angels in Early Apocalypticism (link)
- Readings: 1 Enoch 1-36 (link); Genesis 5-6 (link); Collins, “The Early Enoch Literature” (ebook link)
Week 7 (Nov 2): Book of Daniel – “Historical” apocalypse
- Podcast lectures (listen before meeting): Introduction to Daniel’s Historical Apocalypse (link); Daniel’s Visions as Veiled History (link)
- Readings: Daniel 2, 7-12 (link); Collins, “Daniel” (ebook link)
- Fishbowl discussion:
Unit 3: Developments in early Apocalypticism (Judean and Christian)
Week 8 (Nov 9): The Apocalyptic community on the Dead Sea – Dualism and the final cosmic battle
- Video lecture (watch before meeting): Prof. Lawrence Schiffman, Scholars, Scrolls and Scandals (link)
- Readings: “The Community Rule (1QS),” especially a detailed reading of columns 1-5 (link); Collins, “The Dead Sea Scrolls” (ebook link)
- Fishbowl discussio:
Week 9 (Nov 16): Apocalypticism among the earliest Jesus adherents – Paul
- Podcast lectures (listen before meeting): The Situation at Thessalonica (link) and Paul’s response to Jesus-followers at Thessalonica (link)
- Readings: 1 Thessalonians (link); 1 Corinthians 7 and 15 (link); Collins, “Apocalypticism in Early Christianity: Paul’s Apocalyptic Perspective” (ebook link)
- Fishbowl discussion:
Week 10 (Nov 23): Biographies of Jesus on Jesus as an apocalyptic figure – Mark
- Podcast lectures (listen before meeting): Jesus as Teacher – Present or Future Kingdom? (link); Jesus as Prophet (link)
- Readings: Gospel of Mark, with an especially close reading of chapter 13 (link): Horsley, “The Kingdom of God and the Renewal of Israel” excerpts (link)
- Fishbowl discussion:
Week 11 (Nov 30) Apocalypses responding to the destruction of the temple, part 1: 4 Ezra
- Video lecture (watch before meeting): Prof. Hindy Najman, Ezra the Prophet in 4 Ezra, starting at 44:00 (link)
- Readings: 4 Ezra (link); Collins, “After the Fall: 4 Ezra” (ebook link)
- Fishbowl discussion:
Week 12 (Dec 7): Apocalypses responding to the destruction of the temple, part 2: John’s Apocalypse
- Podcast lectures (listen before meeting): A Satanic Empire in John’s Apocalypse (ca. 80-100 CE) (link)
- Readings: John’s Apocalypse / Revelation, esp. chs. 1-3, 12-18 (link); Collins, “Apocalypticism in Early Christianity: The Book of Revelation” (ebook link)
- Fishbowl discussion:
Fishbowl discussion (first 15 minutes of meeting, students marked individually):
- For most weeks, four or five students on their own will begin discussion of that weeks main readings in their group with the rest of us observing quietly and, eventually (after 15 minutes), joining the discussion. Our focus questions for the course may be a guide for some issues to explore. You will also want to show how the current week’s readings relate to other things we have been learning in the course.
- There is no need for the group to meet or discuss things in advance. In fact, it is preferred that you don’t since this is not a cooredinated presentation but rather a somewhat spontaneous discussion based on your own reading of the materials.
Analysis of primary source essay (5 pages, no longer)
- Analysis of the apocalyptic perspective or worldview via 1 Enoch 1-36, aka the Book of Watchers: Thoroughly read and study 1 Enoch 1-36 (link), one of the earliest examples of a Judean (Jewish) apocalyptic writing (ca. 200 BCE). Also read John Collin’s brief introduction to this part of 1 Enoch (link). Write an essay in which you explain key components of the apocalyptic worldview as evidenced in this document.
- You will engage questions such as: What is the overall point or aim of the author in this writing? What is he trying to convey to you as reader? How does the author view the world, humanity, and otherworldly figures (including angels and God)? What importance does the author give to the revelation of knowledge and what sources of knowledge are there? How does the author explain the origins of evil and how does this impact humanity, including his audience? What importance does he give to the story of angels interacting with human women?
- You will need to take an historical approach in this essay, avoiding your own moral or theological judgements. Rather than judging the writer or his views as good or bad, right or wrong, you will instead seek to understand and explain the author’s perspectives.
Research Paper (10 pages double spaced)
- This paper will demonstrate research and analysis of both primary and secondary sources. You will likely have at least 10 directly relevant scholarly (secondary) sources (articles, chapters, books) in your bibliography. These will be found in the library, but also in online journal databases through the library. You will also make extensive use of primary sources by — or contemporary with — the historical subjects or movement you are studying in your analysis. The paper will focus on explaining the movement or figures by using these primary sources with interpretive help from the secondary sources.
- A good research paper includes the following characteristics (and more):
- Opening paragraph that provides context by noting the broader relevance of the topic. Ease the reader into the subject, yet get to your main topic or point promptly.
- Clear thesis statement that encapsulates your main argument or point.
- Clearly structured paragraphs, with each paragraph addressing a specific point (or sub-thesis) that helps to support your overall thesis.
- Clearly written sentences that communicate your ideas in a direct and succinct manner (without repetition).
- Succinct concluding paragraph that pulls things together without merely repeating what has already been said.
- No spelling or grammatical errors.
- Complete bibliography listing all sources consulted or cited in the paper. Follow an accepted academic format of bibliography (do not create your own variations).
- Early indication of your purpose, the way you will be approaching your topic, and the methods you will be using (e.g. historical, sociological, anthropological, psychological)
- Discussion of a range of material relevant to your topic and purpose.
- Provision of historical and cultural context. Where does your topic fit within the broader historical trends of the period you are studying? How does your topic relate to political, social or cultural developments of the time?
- Thorough references to the sources (both primary and secondary) of your information throughout the paper (using an accepted form of citation). Find out what plagiarism is and avoid it like the plague.
- Critical use and analysis of primary sources (that is, materials from the period you are studying produced by contemporary participants or observers). Primary sources include not only writings but also visual and artefactual materials (e.g. archeological findings, buildings, artistic productions, films in the modern context).
- Critical use and analysis of secondary sources (that is, scholarly materials). Demonstrate that you have read relevant scholarly sources. Show that you are aware of the key issues of debate among scholars and take sides in the matter. Which scholarly positions do you agree or disagree with and why?
Useful Resources for Finding Primary and Secondary (Scholary) Sources for the Research Paper
York University Library Searchable Online Databases for Journal Articles and Other Sources
Scholarly overviews (check the footnotes and bibliographies in these works for further resources)
- John J. Collins, Bernard McGinn, and Stephen J. Stein, eds., The Encyclopedia of Apocalypticism (3 vols. New York: Continuum, 2000).
Presentation / research paper topics on an apocalyptic leader or movement in subsequent history
You will each present for 15 minutes on a figure or movement relating to the history of apocalypticism. This will require you to find and study at least three scholarly sources (articles and/or books) and at least two primary sources produced or used by the figure or movement. These sources should be directly referred to during the presentation. For each presentation, you will want to explain the movement or its leader, provide some historical and cultural context, and describe the role of apocalyptic ideas or practices within the movement so that your audience understands the connection with what they have learned in the course. It is very important that you avoid morally judging the figure or movement you are studying. Instead, you want to carefully explain what occurred or what they do and believe without passing moral judgement on them.
Possible focus questions: What is the apocalyptic worldview of a particular person or movement? What, if anything, actually happens as a result of this worldview (how does it affect behaviour)? What connections or innovations are evident in relation to ancient apocalypticism?
- The Apostolics and Dolcino (13th century)
- The Lollards (14th century)
- Girolamo Savonarola and the New Jerusalem (15th century Dominican)
- Münster (NOTE SPELLING) as the New Jerusalem (16th century)
- Thomas Müntzer (NOTE SPELLING) and the Peasant rebellion (16th century)
- John Nelson Darby and the doctrine of the rapture (19th century)
- Hung Hsiu-ch’uan’s “Heavenly Chronicle” and the Taiping rebellion (19th century)
- Antonio Conselheiro and Canudos in Brazil (19th century)
- Children of Peace in Toronto (19th century)
- Millerites (19th century)
- Seventh Day Adventists (19th-20th century)
- Jehovah’s Witnesses (20th century)
- Hal Lindsey and his Late Great Planet Earth (20th century; pdf of the book is available online on archive)
- Aetherius Society (1950s on)
- Peoples Temple = Jonestown (1970s)
- Raëlians (1970s on)
- Branch Davidians (1990s)
- Heaven’s Gate in USA (1990s)
- Order of the Solar Temple in Quebec and Switzerland (1990s)
- Aum Shinri Kyo in Japan (1990s)
Film (watch before zoom meeting) – “The Day the Earth Stood Still [1951 original]” (link)