APOCALYPSE


APOCALYPSE
APOCALYPSE (Gr. ἁποκαλυψις; "revelation"), term which, strictly speaking, denotes the Jewish literature of revelations which arose after the cessation of prophecy and the Christian writings that derived from this Jewish literature. The major purpose of apocalyptic writings is to reveal mysteries beyond the bounds of normal knowledge: the secrets   of the heavens and of the world order, the names and functions of the angels, the explanation of natural phenomena, and the secrets of creation, the end of days, and other eschatological matters, and even the nature of God Himself. The term "Apocalypse" as the title of a book first appears in the "Apocalypse of John" and from the second century C.E. Christians applied it to similar writings. In the baraita, the term gillayon apparently refers to apocalyptic writings: "These writings and the books of the heretics are not to be saved from a fire but are to be burnt wherever found, they and the Divine Names occurring in them" (Shab. 116a). But it is hardly credible that the tannaim had such an attitude to Jewish apocalyptic writings such as Syriac (II) Baruch or IV Ezra, which abound in moral and religious piety and the reference is apparently to Christian and Gnostic apocalyptic works. The verb ἁποκαλύπτω is generally used in the Septuagint as a translation of the Hebrew galeh ("reveal"), which occurs in Daniel and in the Dead Sea Scrolls in passages where apocalyptic matters are under discussion, e.g., "to conduct themselves blamelessly each man toward his neighbor in all that has been revealed to them" (1QS 9:19). Daniel and the Dead Sea Scrolls also use ḥazon ("vision") in the same way (cf. 1QH 4:17f.). The classical period of Jewish apocalypse, a highly developed literary phenomenon in its own right, is from the second century B.C.E. to the second century C.E. Its basic assumption is that prophecy, which had ceased, would be renewed only at the end of days. Therefore, the apocalyptic authors generally attributed their teachings to men who had lived in the period of prophecy, i.e., from Adam to Daniel. The Dead Sea Scrolls, teaching that God made known to "the teacher of righteousness," the leader of the sect, "all the mysteries of the words of his servants the prophets" (1QP Hab. 7:4f.), are an exception to this view. The apocalypse came into being because of its authors' consciousness that theirs was "the last generation" (1QP Hab. 2:5 ff.). Consequently, eschatology constitutes one of its central themes. Apocalyptic history divides itself into "this world," subject to the rule of wickedness ("the government of Belial"), and the "next world," in which "wickedness will be forever abolished and righteousness revealed as the sun." The "end of days" is conceived as a cosmic process accompanied by upheavals in nature, and the events on the earth in those days will be a mere echo of the final war between cosmic forces, when "the heavenly host will give forth in great voice, the foundations of the world will be shaken, and a war of the mighty ones of the heavens will spread throughout the world" (1QH 3:34 ff.). Thus in the apocalyptic vision Israel's redemption assumes a form much further removed from historical reality than in the prophetic works. The Messiah, for example, often becomes a superhuman figure. Since the apocalyptic vision emphasizes the imminence of the "end," leaving little time for normal historical development, it does not allow for the possibility of the alteration of the course of history through repentance. Of course, a moral lesson is contained in the cosmic vision of the end of days, namely, the final victory of good over evil (the apocalyptic vision having come into being to allay contemporary misfortunes), but this morality finds full expression only in the culmination of the process and not at any one of its earlier stages. This explains the fatalistic mood often manifest in the apocalyptic writings. The apocalyptic vision as a whole is not limited to questions concerning the end of days – rather, universal history becomes a process governed by its own special laws. It speaks not only of the future but also of the distant past. It conceives of world history as a chain of the histories of specific kingdoms, the spans of whose rule are predetermined. Moreover, in many cases it sees the end of days as a return to the events of creation. In the apocalypses, mysteries are most often revealed by an angel, but occasionally the human hero himself is said to travel in the heavenly realm or to see it in a vision. The mysteries are revealed in the form of strange symbols, and historical personalities are not called by their own names. Some scholars have suggested the Persian influence on Jewish and Christian apocalypse; but basically the Jewish apocalypse is a unique phenomenon, integrally linked with the apocalyptic literature. The only apocalyptic book included in the Bible is daniel . Its apocalyptic portions date from the early days of the Hasmonean revolt, and its visions and symbols became the prototype for all later Jewish and Christian apocalyptic writings. Enoch, Jubilees, and the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs (as well as the Dead Sea Scrolls) were apparently written from the time of John Hyrcanus onward. These works reflect the beliefs of a religious apocalyptic movement, which later found expression in the Qumran sect, which was identified by scholars with the essenes . Possessing a completely apocalyptic view of life, the movement gave a prominent place in its scheme of history to the war between good and evil (the demonic forces), and also seems to have formulated the myth of the fallen evil angels, and to have developed a psychology and moral code of its own. The works of this movement (particularly the Book of Enoch and the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs) contain the earliest references to Jewish mysticism. In the Roman period apocalyptic writings dealing especially with the question of national suffering and redemption appeared in increasing number. The Psalms of Solomon speak of the Romans, of Pompey and his death, and of the messianic kingdom in typical apocalyptic symbols. According to the Assumption of Moses, the Redeemer is none other than the God of Israel. IV Ezra and II Baruch reflect the spiritual upheaval which followed the destruction of the Temple. Apart from those apocalypses, the chief intent of which is national and political, the first two centuries C.E. saw the composition of writings centered on the revelation of the secrets of God and the universe, such as the Slavonic book of Enoch. Similar also are the Greek Apocalypse of Baruch (apparently 150–200 C.E.), the Apocalypse of Abraham, the Testament of Abraham (first or second century C.E.), the Life of Adam and Eve, and the Testament of Job. There are many points of contact between the apocalyptic and talmudic literatures. The apocalyptic historical and cosmic   dualism of this world and the next was accepted by all Israel. Many eschatological views are common to both the Talmud and the apocalypses. Thus the Talmud contains apocalyptic views on Paradise and Hell, the fate of the soul after death, the Messiah, and descriptions of the seven heavens with an angelology – all themes of apocalyptic eschatology. The divine mysteries (ma'aseh merkavah) and those of the creation (ma'aseh bereshit) became in time topics reserved for groups of mystics, who did not publicize their teachings. In I enoch there occurs the earliest description of the "throne of glory," which played a central role in the Merkabah literature. In early Jewish mysticism Enoch himself became an angel and was later identified with Metatron. The heikhalot literature contains, beside its central theme, the ma'aseh merkavah, various descriptions of the "end of days," the period of Redemption, and calculations of the "end" (see merkabah mysticism ). The central figures of these books are the tannaim, just as biblical figures were the heroes of earlier pseudepigraphic apocalypses. Apocalyptic works of the type of I Enoch, apparently through translations, exercised an influence on Midrashim, such as Genesis Rabbati, Midrash Tadsheh, Pirkei de-Rabbi Eliezer, and Midrash va-Yissa'u. This influence was not restricted solely to apocalyptic matters, and it extended ultimately to the Zohar and the books based on it. (The Book of Enoch is mentioned several times in the Zohar.) The apocalypse is important, therefore, even for an understanding of Kabbalah and Ḥasidism. -BIBLIOGRAPHY: J. Bloch, On the Apocalyptic in Judaism (1952); D. Roessler, Gesetz und Geschichte: Untersuchungen zur Theologie der juedischen Apokalyptik… (1960); H.H. Rowley, The Relevance of Apocalyptic: A Study of Jewish and Christian Apocalypses… (19472); D.S. Russell, The Method and Message of Jewish Apocalyptic… (1964); D. Flusser, Mavo la-Sifrut ha Ḥizonit ve-ha-Hellenistit al Ḥazon ha-Keẓ ve-ha-Ge'ullah (1966); Waxman, Literature, 1 (1960), 25–44; F.C. Burkitt, Jewish and Christian Apocalypses (1914). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: The Apocalyptic Imagination: An Introduction to Jewish Apocalyptic Literature (19982). (David Flusser)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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