The Origins of Apocalypticism

In my previous post I began to explain how, in 1985, while teaching a class at Rutgers on the Problem of Suffering, I came to realize that I simply didn’t accept any longer most of the views of the Bible on why there was suffering in the world.  But one view did continue to appeal to me, the apocalyptic view that emerged toward the end of the New Testament period, and became the view of Jesus, John the Baptist before ...

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What is the Hebrew Bible?

In response to my previous two posts about how the Hebrew Bible came to be copied over the years, several readers have asked me a related (though also very different) question about how the books of the Hebrew Bible were chosen – why do we have these books and not some others?  Who decided what the canon of the Hebrew Bible would be?  When did they decide?  And what were their criteria? These are important questions, and even though not ...

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The Rise of Apocalypticism

Now, with all the background out of the way, I am able to explain where the apocalyptic worldview came from.  I am maintaining that it emerged out of the classical view of the Hebrew prophets, as historical circumstances forced thinkers in Israel to re-evaluate what the prophets had said.   Here is the simple version of the story, as I lay it out in my textbook on the Bible

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The Prophetic Perspective

We have seen that the classical prophets of the ...

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Are the Prophecies Being Fulfilled?

The Christians knew growing up had a very different understanding of “prophecy” in the Bible from the view adopted by professional biblical scholars.  (I have been thinking about this because of my posts on Amos.)  My sense is that most evangelical and fundamentalist Christians (certainly the latter) continue to have this non-academic view.   It is that the prophets of the Bible – Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Amos, Zechariah, and so on (there are seventeen prophets in the English Bible) – ...

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The Prophetic Background of Jewish Apocalyptic Thought

Several members of the blog have asked me to go into greater detail to explain where Jewish apocalypticism came from.  I’m happy to do so: it’s an important topic for understanding Jesus, Paul, and other early Christians.

As is true for all religious and political ideologies, the historical background to the rise of apocalyptic thinking is complicated.  To make sense of it, I have to say something about a very different perspective which provided the matrix out of which apocalyptic thought ...

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