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 was eventually born and grew: the perspective of the “classical prophets” of the Israelite tradition.  I will spend a couple of posts explaining what the prophets of the Hebrew Bible had to say, focusing on arguably the earliest, Amos (who in many key ways is typical) before explaining how these views came to be transformed and radically altered centuries later into the apocalyptic views held by so many Jews in the days of Jesus.

In these posts I will simply reproduce material on the prophets as found in my recent textbook, The Bible: A Historical and Literary Introduction (published by Oxford University Press).




The Classical Prophets

The prophets in the English Bible are divided into the five major prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, and Daniel) and the twelve minor prophets (Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi).   The difference between the two groups is simply one of length, not importance (major prophets are longer).   In the Hebrew Bible the entire (same) group is known as the Latter Prophets, and are only four in number:  Lamentations and Daniel are not included in the group, and the twelve minor prophets count as one book, “the Twelve.”

The classical prophets appear…

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