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Source: (consider it) Thread: Apocalyptic literature
Gamaliel
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Here's the promised thread on apocalyptic literature.

I thought it might be Kerygmaniacal but kindly Hosts and Admins may wish to shunt it to Purgatory.

The key aspects I'd like to explore are:

- How do we define apocalyptic literature and how does it differ from other genres found in scripture (both canonical and non-canonical)?

- How should we interpret and handle such literature?

My answer to the second would be: carefully.

I have a lot of sympathy with the way the Churches of the Christian East held fire for some considerable time before accepting the Book of Revelation into the canon, for instance.

They knew very well what sort of things people would concoct out of it. Hence its absence from the readings in the Orthodox Liturgy.

Of course, that doesn't mean that I think such literature is 'harmful' in and of itself - 'all scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness (NASB).

http://biblehub.com/2_timothy/3-16.htm

It's how we handle it where the problems arise.

To get the ball rolling ... my 'take' would include the following observations:

- 'Veiled' or apocalyptic literature primarily addresses issues of its own day and time and was not necessarily meant to be predictive in the sense that fundamentalists understand it to be.

- It can contain pseudographia and attibutions which fundamentalists would reject.

- It deals in symbols and allegories so, no, there aren't going to be any literal creatures with the heads of men and the tails of scorpions (Rev:9:10)

http://biblehub.com/revelation/9-10.htm

So the way we approach such literature must take those elements into account.

Daniel and Revelations are the paradigm examples in the canonical scriptures (seen from a Protestant perspective) with other examples in the deutero-canonical and apocryphal corpus.

Any interpretation that seeks to build a detailed eschatological schema on such literature is wrong-headed at best and harmful at worst.

Why? Because it misses the point and the original intention of such writings and acts as a distraction.

That's my take ...

Now your turns ...

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Nick Tamen

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quote:
Originally posted by Gamaliel:
To get the ball rolling ... my 'take' would include the following observations:

- 'Veiled' or apocalyptic literature primarily addresses issues of its own day and time and was not necessarily meant to be predictive in the sense that fundamentalists understand it to be.

- It can contain pseudographia and attibutions which fundamentalists would reject.

- It deals in symbols and allegories so, no, there aren't going to be any literal creatures with the heads of men and the tails of scorpions (Rev:9:10)

http://biblehub.com/revelation/9-10.htm

So the way we approach such literature must take those elements into account.

Daniel and Revelations are the paradigm examples in the canonical scriptures (seen from a Protestant perspective) with other examples in the deutero-canonical and apocryphal corpus.

Any interpretation that seeks to build a detailed eschatological schema on such literature is wrong-headed at best and harmful at worst.

Why? Because it misses the point and the original intention of such writings and acts as a distraction.

That's my take ...

Now your turns ...

I would broadly agree with your take. Where I would amplify it is to say this: Apocolyptic literature is primarily addressed to a persecuted group, Israel in captivity and the early Church, specifically. The point of apocalyptic literature is to affirm that God will prevail and will establish a reign of justice and righteousness, that the persecuted will be vindicated and that the persecutors will be punished. Symbol and metaphor are used to describe the players and forces at work in the persecution, and the central message of apocalyptic literature is that God, not evil, will win out in the end.

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Gamaliel
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Yes, hence the parallels between Daniel and the Book of Revelation. The latter draws on imagery from the apocalyptic back-catalogue as it were and applied it to the current situation.

Both were times of persecution and when it looked like hope would not prevail.

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balaam

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We have to remember that the Jews arrange their scriptures differently to ours.

<Tangent> The prophets re divided into the lesser prophets, Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings (one scroll each, using the English names) and the greater prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and the Twelve (The minor Prophets on a single scroll.</Tangent>

The important thing in understanding Apocalyptic literature is this. By the Jewish way of reckoning the book of Daniel is not in the Prophets: Daniel is in the Writings.
quote:
Gamaliel said:
- 'Veiled' or apocalyptic literature primarily addresses issues of its own day and time

The problem is that is true of prophetic literature, but there are Jewish interpretation that say that the book of Daniel is about the future.

quote:
The alternative, suggested by Don Isaac Abarbanel, is that the books of "prophets" were those who were given prophecy to convey to the people at that moment, for some purpose. Daniel was an "armchair prophet" (to quote Leiman); while he had visions, he was never ordered to convey them. So he may have been a "seer", but not a "speaker."
https://judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/596/why-daniel-is-not-among-the-prophets

Daniel is a veiled message which will be revealed in the future.

I do not like this, as it plays into the hands of the Dispensational Fundamentalists, but it is something we have to bear in mind when working out what Apocalyptic actually means.

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Gamaliel
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Interesting. So how does that work out in terms of Jewish eschatology?

What are they expecting?

I've not encountered that many very conservative Jews. Most I've known have been moderately conservative or else Reform and quite liberal.

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balaam

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quote:
Originally posted by Gamaliel:
Interesting. So how does that work out in terms of Jewish eschatology?

Can't say, and neither can they, as the reason that Daniel didn't make the cut as a prophet, but Ezekiel did, but only just is that Ezekiel has a very few passages that passed as prophesy. Just how much was needed to make the cut though has been lost. It was all in the linked article above.

My personal take is to listen to the persecuted, both Jews and Christians, and see the comfort they get from the Daniel, Ezekiel and Revelation.

The way the persecuted church interpret the apocalyptic is a sharp contrast to that of Christian Fundamentalism. But I side with the former as they are the ones actually living it.

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Moo

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quote:
Originally posted by balaam
My personal take is to listen to the persecuted, both Jews and Christians, and see the comfort they get from the Daniel, Ezekiel and Revelation.

I have read that apocalyptic literature became widespread after it was clear that the Jews would not be able to rule themselves again without direct intervention from God.

Moo

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Nick Tamen

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It seems like this gets to something discussed in the other recent thread—the contemporary understanding of “prophet” and “prophecy” vs. the Hebrew understanding reflected in the OT.

The Hebrew understanding had relatively little to do with foretelling future events and much more to do with conveying the divine message to people now. The prophet was the spokesperson of God. In traditional Jewish understanding, Torah and the Writings were also written by prophets, such as Moses, David and Solomon. What distinguishes the books classified as Prophets is a focus on calling Israel to faithfulness, on challenging Israel's unfaithfulness, and on describing what God intends for Israel.

This is surely a gross oversimplification, but perhaps at the most basic, the Prophets are about calling Israel—and particularly the powerful in Israel—to remember who they are as a covenant people and to be faithful, righteous and just. Apocalyptic writings, on the other hand, encourage a powerless and persecuted Israel, or later the early Church, with hope of God's ultimate defeat of evil.

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Gamaliel
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Thanks Nick, yes, that sits well with me.

Thanks too, Balaam. An interesting link and one which whets my appetite to read more Jewish material.

I've met Messianic Jews and other conservative evangelical converts from Judaism who are well into fundamentalist / Dispensationalist type schemas.

I've met others - also Jewish converts within evangelical constituencies - who have told me that most Jewish people roll their eyes at the way Dispensationalist-influenced Christians (whether Jew or Gentile by background) handle these issues.

But I'm by no means an expert.

I did read a book about the Psalms by a Rabbi which I found vastly illuminating. He'd have been far too liberal for the fundies though.

I must do some research into Jewish eschatology. I'm sure it's very rich and varied.

Meanwhile, there does seem broad agreement on this thread so far. We've not heard from anyone who takes a different perspective to the one Nick and others here have aired.

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Honest Ron Bacardi
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The point about apocalyptic literature being used primarily in the context of explaining suffering is well made, but it has a problem. Which is to say that if you look at contemporary extra-canonical writings, no such restriction seems to apply.

It is possible that the observation is an artefact that arises through the selection of the canon(s).

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Gamaliel
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Possibly, although some traditions don't make the same distinction between canonical and deutero-canonical or apocryphal as Protestantism does ...

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balaam

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We seem to be on the same page here,
Nick:
quote:
Originally posted by Nick Tamen:
This is surely a gross oversimplification, but perhaps at the most basic, the Prophets are about calling Israel—and particularly the powerful in Israel—to remember who they are as a covenant people and to be faithful, righteous and just.

We do well to remember that the lesser Prophets, Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings, fulfil this function as well as the greater Prophets (Isaiah to Malachi minus Lamentations and Daniel).
quote:
Apocalyptic writings, on the other hand, encourage a powerless and persecuted Israel, or later the early Church, with hope of God's ultimate defeat of evil.
Like I said, about the future. There is a bit more to it than this, but nothing to make a system of events based on the apocalyptic feasible. I can find nothing in my searches that would suggest that Apocalyptic is meant to be interpreted as a sequence of events, as in Schofield.

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balaam

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quote:
Originally posted by Gamaliel:
Possibly, although some traditions don't make the same distinction between canonical and deutero-canonical or apocryphal as Protestantism does ...

The use of "deutero-canonical" by Roman Catholics show they do make a distinction, just a different one to that we Prots make.

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Honest Ron Bacardi
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quote:
Originally posted by Gamaliel:
Possibly, although some traditions don't make the same distinction between canonical and deutero-canonical or apocryphal as Protestantism does ...

I don't think there is anything in the Deuterocanon/Apocrypha which would alter my observation, Gamaliel. You might put Bel & the Dragon down as apocalyptic, but it already has a cognate passage in the undisputed bit of Daniel. And anyway you could say that the story could still be interpreted as about liberation from Babylonian captivity (the dragon being symbolic of Babylon).

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Gamaliel
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Fair enough ...

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Nigel M
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I don’t think that the history of interpretation has been helped by the invention of the category ‘apocalyptic.’ As with all labels, it ran the risk of becoming more than the sum of its parts – people saw the label and imported a whole set of assumptions that were probably not part of the author’s original intention. The genre becomes – by an illogical leap – an idea; it develops a life all of its own.

The essential characteristic that defines ‘apocalyptic’ literature is symbolism. That is what is seems to come down to when definitions are looked at. Secondarily it comes to mean a catastrophic end of the world (or least least the world as we know it), but is not the genre; that is the idea that the genre leads to.

Personally, I think when we trace the literature of this genre back, we find it is nothing other than narrative, and should therefore be interpreted as that. I can see this working by tracing, for example, one line back from the book of Revelation 14 (‘apocalyptic’) to Daniel 7 (prophecy) and back to Daniel 2 (narrative). The only thing that changes is the degree of rhetoric, but essentially, we are dealing with narrative on a rhetorical spectrum. That should inform the interpretation. The rhetoric might be heightened at one end of the spectrum, but that should not deflect an interpreter from the path. Down other paths lie beasties and dragons, apparantly.

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mousethief

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The Gospel of St. Mark is narrative. The Revelation of John is narrative. Well and good. But we need another word for Revelation because it's clearly not the same genre as Mark. Way different things are going on with the use of imagery and language and "event." Merely marking it as "narrative" doesn't cover it.

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Gamaliel
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Yes, hence the coinage of the term 'apocalyptic'.

Unless someone comes up with a better one then it's a term I'll continue to use.

'Allegorical' is close, but somehow 'apocalyptic' is more definite.

Revelation and Daniel are hardly 'narrative' in the way the Gospels are for instance. And the Gospels aren't straight-forward narrative either.

No narratives are.

Not Tacitus nor Herodotus, not Caesar's Gallic War nor Bede's history.

That doesn't mean they don't deal with real events of course.

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Raptor Eye
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A vision is not narrative, it seems to me. Apocalyptic literature is visionary. It taps in to the visual imagery of the imaginative mind, connected with our spiritual sense so that it touches us deeply rather than making sense intellectually.

It is meant to give hope and courage to those who persevere in faith despite persecution. The evil people will not win in the end, the good people will. Happy endings.

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Nigel M
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I understand the need to break down masses of data into digestible bite sizes. Genre analysis is an approach that seeks to do just that. My concern is not with genre analysis as such, but with the tendency in genre criticism to move too glibly from the categorisation to interpretation. I come across arguments in literature and from pulpit which move like this, from: “This text is an example of the ‘x’ genre…” to “…and therefore is to be interpreted as meaning ‘y.’” It may an unconscious move, but it results in readers coming to a book like Revelation thinking: “Well obviously this is about The End of the World and all We Know of It, because this is Apocalyptic in nature.”

I also understand that a work like Revelation ‘reads’ differently to, say, Romans or a Gospel, but I fear that inventing a new genre type to cover it on the basis of its literary style alone has led, and will continue to lead, readers to think that they should be reading (in the sense of interpreting) it differently. “It can’t mean the same as Matthew because it uses a different style.”

This is why I think it is better to drop the additional categorisation and default to narrative as the basis for interpretation.

But after all, what is narrative? A sample definition runs: a spoken or written account of connected events. It is the art of telling a story.

The literary critic Robert Alter (in The Art of Biblical Narrative, Basic Books, 1981) argues that in order to understand biblical narrative fully, it is necessary to be aware of the literary conventions familiar to the biblical writers and their first readers. The art can cover a realm of rhetorical devices, some of which may not be familiar in everyday usage by western cultures, but which are common in other cultures. It makes sense to use the literary techniques associated with narrative, not some artificially devised extra-cultural practice. The significance of plot comes to mind as one technique. We find plot in the Gospels and we find it in Revelation.

Another device is dialogue. Alter emphasizes throughout his book that the Biblical narratives major on dialogue: "Everything in the world of biblical narrative ultimately gravitates toward dialogue". We find dialogue as a means of moving plot along and for revealing knowledge in Torah, prophecy, and Revelation.

There’s more, but I just wanted to make the point that the book of Revelation is on a common platform with narrative, albeit at the more rhetorically enhanced end of the narrative spectrum. The book therefore needs to be read as such.

Revelation moves not as some esoteric idea of how visions should work in the land of faerie (for want of a better word), but as a connected series of narrated events, with dialogue, that move from a beginning, through a middle, to an end. That is narrative at a high level. The lower-level structure can be seen in many commentaries, so I won’t bore everyone here with that.

It is also worth noting that the author placed his work in the land of prophecy. That noun is used 19 times throughout the book. That should alert us to his intention; he is situating his work firmly in the tradition of Jewish prophecy – which is in turn rooted in Torah (which reads more clearly to the western ear as narrative).

What about the argument that apocalypticism can be defined as revealed knowledge? But that is what prophecy is about, too. In fact, I would say that the narrative work of biblical authors is all about revealing knowledge to the misinformed, or under-informed.

Just in case anyone fears that by imposing the ‘story-telling’ style on the text I am somehow removing it from factual history, I don’t believe that this is the case. Much of recorded history has come to us as narrative (often with dialogue), but that does not remove the telling from fact.

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mousethief

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“Narrative” covers a thousand things. History. Historical fiction. Novels. Mythology. Autobiography. Satire. News reporting. An overview of the methods used to test a scientific hypothesis. A description of how I rebuilt the engine in my 1967 Mustang GT.

It's just too vague to be of any use at all in interpreting.

It looks like you just don't like the word "apocalypse."

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Nigel M
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Indeed I don’t mousethief – and for good reason.

What, exactly, does defining a particular text type as ‘apocalyptic’ do? Where does it take us? It’s fine to say that a particular group of texts demonstrate a unique set of characteristics, setting them apart from other groups of texts that don’t share those same characteristics, but so what? To what end?

If a teacher were to stand up and tell us that the book of Revelation is an example of the apocalyptic genre, that is minimal information. It takes us … well, not very far at all. What we really, really, want to know is what the book means; how it is to be interpreted.

Do you interpret the book of Revelation on the basis of its (apocalyptic) genre? If so, how; and more importantly, with what logic?

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mousethief

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You go, "Oh. What other texts are apocalyptic? Let's compare and contrast this one with those." It's far more enlightening to compare and contrast the Revelation of John to Daniel, than to Watership Down. (Although that would certainly not be entirely without use.)

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Gamaliel
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By referring to Revelation as 'apocalyptic' I'm not lifting it out of its historical context nor denying the narrative structure.

What I am doing is firing a warming shot across the bows of those who take it as some kind of blue-print for the end of the world ... 'The Final Count down ...'

By highlighting the difference between a text like The Apocalypse of John (as it's sometimes called) and Proverbs, say or Romans or James, I'm drawing attention to facets that uber-literalists might overlook.

That's the point of categorising it differently.

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Nigel M
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quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
It's far more enlightening to compare and contrast the Revelation of John to Daniel...

Of course – as I said earlier, you can trace elements in Revelation back to Daniel 7 – but then you must go on back to Daniel 2 (which no one I have come across categorises as ‘apocalyptic’) and thus you are in a world of the prosaic. You can then also compare Revelation to Deuteronomy (the Torah hangs over – or indeed, supports, all the biblical literature, one way or another).

I have to ask again, what practical use has genre labelling been to interpretation?

quote:
Originally posted by Gamaliel:
What I am doing is firing a warming shot across the bows of those who take it as some kind of blue-print for the end of the world ... 'The Final Count down ...'

By highlighting the difference between a text like The Apocalypse of John (as it's sometimes called) and Proverbs, say or Romans or James, I'm drawing attention to facets that uber-literalists might overlook.

That's the point of categorising it differently

I have much in common with what has been said on this thread - little to quibble on the concerns. I would say, though, that you do not need to label the book of Revelation as anything at all in order to be able to discuss the various interpretations that are popular in certain circles. My point has been that it is the actual genre label that can lead people to read the texts in the way to which you take exception. Better, then, to just not label it as anything. Genre labels too easily become signposts, diverting attention away from the text itself.
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Gamaliel
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I can see what you are getting at but are Shakespeare's sonnets diminished by categorising them as such?

I can see how the 'apocalyptic' label could fire the imaginations of some but I tend to see it more as a, 'Hey folks, don't try this at home ...' thing.

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mousethief

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It's like that argument parents make about not wanting to "label" their slightly off-kilter child. People are going to label your kid whether or not you like it. You might as well get an accurate label that will help in providing services, and readjusting expectations, to help him or her thrive.

Just so, one little voice saying, "Let's not label works as to genre! It will lead to stereotyping!" isn't going to stop people from labeling works as to genre. Categorizing is what we humans do. Anyway you're taking a claymore to something that prefers a scalpel. Don't prohibit labeling, teach people how property to read apocalyptic literature. THAT is the real issue. Not the existence or application of the label.

It's like arguing about how best to fix your car's alignment when the real issue is the crappy roads. Fix the roads and everything else fixes itself.

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balaam

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quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
You go, "Oh. What other texts are apocalyptic? Let's compare and contrast this one with those." It's far more enlightening to compare and contrast the Revelation of John to Daniel, than to Watership Down. (Although that would certainly not be entirely without use.)

Although the style of Revelation is Daniel, the imagery is taken largely from Ezekiel. This too is to be taken into account. We have to teach people how to properly read apocalyptic literature (also said by mousethief) but first we need to teach them to recognise it. Some of the Old Testament guys slip in and of of an apocalyptic style when writing, Ezekiel, Zechariah and others, but what about the Gospel of Matthew, written to Jews who would have been familiar with the style.

There is the apocalyptic in chapter 24, as in the other synoptics, but is the apocalyptic extended to the parables in chapter 25, which have that character about them. Or chapter 23's woes to the pharisees, there's 7 of them, a significant number in apocalyptic. Is this also apocalyptic, or is this just a coincidence? Or the dead rising from the graves at the crucifixion, an actual event or symbolic using apocalyptic style, or both? And if Matthew uses this form of writing, how about an angel appearing in a dream to Joseph. Real, symbolic or both? (I'm going for both on the last two.)

The thing is that not all apocalyptic is about the end of the age, so labelling all apocalyptic as cataclysmic is an error. (I think that was Gamaliel upthread.)

We need to recognise what style we are reading, as well as how to read it.

Note to Nigel M: I was taught that the whole of Daniel was apocalyptic, the presence of the angel in the fiery furnace as well as closing the lions' mouths points to that. Clearly it is still narrative, contrasting with the last 6 chapters.

The book can be all narrative and all apocalyptic, these are not contradictory categories.

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Gamaliel
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# 812

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I don't think I said that all apocalyptic literature was cataclysmic ... But your points are well made.

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Nigel M
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# 11256

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quote:
Originally posted by Gamaliel:
I can see what you are getting at but are Shakespeare's sonnets diminished by categorising them as such?

The Sonnets are a good example of how genre definitions (categories) should work. They should be essentially neutral. I can’t remember ever having comes across a popular instance of someone approaching the poems saying, “These are Sonnets, therefore the meaning is this…” Rather, publishers group the poems together on the basis of their structure, but commentators do their literary analysis in spite of the label. The same cannot be said of the apporaches in Christian Theology.

I get why people are resistant to giving up the label ‘apocalyptic’. It’s because it is universal and we were all taught it. That shouldn’t prevent us from challenging its use, though. Genre definitions were never meant to be load-bearing, but in Christian theology (and Biblical Studies) they have become just that.
quote:
Originally posted by balaam:
I was taught that the whole of Daniel was apocalyptic, the presence of the angel in the fiery furnace as well as closing the lions' mouths points to that.

I think that would be to move the Apocalyptic slider too far to the left along the narrative spectrum. I agree that it is not uncommon to find a commentary that says something like, “Daniel (or Revelation, etc.) is an example of apocalyptic literature.” However when you get into the detail, you find that the commentator distinguishes between Daniel 1-6 as prophetic, and 7-12 as the apocalyptic section. If we were to define a segment of a larger text by singular instances, then logically we would have to say that the book of Jonah is apocalyptic because God sends a big fish to swallow Jonah, or that the whole of Exodus is apocalyptic because God sends an angel to speak to Moses out of a burning bush.

On the point about educating people (made above in more than one post), I am still not convinced that the approach suggested is worthwhile. A more economical way would be to say, “Here is a good way to read Revelation…” rather than “This is Apocalyptic and here is a good way to read it…”

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Nigel M
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# 11256

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Oh, and another thing! (Sorry about this)

Another one of the issues associated with the attraction to the genre is that readers (perhaps more at a popular level) tend to focus on the passages containing enhanced symbolism, to the detriment of the non-apocalyptic passages. Daniel 7-12 gets the focus in preference to chapters 1-6. Revelation 4 onwards to the disadvantage of chapters 1-3.

This runs counter to the author’s own intended meaning. The author of Revelation included the seven letters to the Christian communities under the rubric of ‘prophecy’ (1:3) and these flow right into the ‘seeing’ (4:1 = “After these, I saw…”). I would argue that the seven letters constrain and direct the interpretation of the following symbolism. They do this because the author inherits the covenant worldview of his ancestors, expressed in places like Deut. 28, with the principle: “If your behaviour is ‘x’, then the outcome will be ‘y’.” This is what we find propping up the teachings in the seven letters, e.g., “To the one who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority…” (to Thyatira), or “Repent, therefore, or I will soon come to you and fight against you…” (to Pergamum). That principle underlies and stitches together what follows, despite the symbolism.

This is why I think it important to treat narrative (which includes dialogue) as the fundamental matrix within which interpretation needs to take place. Literary analysis, bolstered by contextual research (archaeology, sociology, linguistics), needs to be the approach. The ultimate starting point is the question, “Why is that there?” as a way into determining the authorial intention. Asking what the type / category / genre is doesn’t really get us very far at all; in fact it only opens us up to the issue I outlined above and into a world that is difficult to resolve.

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Gamaliel
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# 812

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None of which is incompatible with what I've been trying to say.

'Here's a good way to read Revelation ... Apocalyptically ...'

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Nigel M
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# 11256

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But why add that term "Apocalyptically"? What is gained by referring to a genre label, given the risks and issues that come with it?
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Gamaliel
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# 812

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Are the 'risks and issues' you mention any greater than they would be by not using the term?

[Confused]

At the very least, using a term like 'apocalyptic' at least conveys to the reader that this is something that should be handled differently to a 'straightforward' narrative (if there is indeed such a thing?).

That said, there's no accounting for folk ...

I well remember during the interval at a performance of King Lear in Stratford overhearing some old ladies in the row behind me discussing the putting out of Gloster's eyes.

'As if you'd be able to say all that when they were gouging your eyes out,' said one.
'Oh, I don't know,' said her companion. 'They were a lot tougher in those days ...'

[Snigger] [Big Grin]

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Nigel M
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# 11256

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Well you can’t beat a good hung-drawn-and-quartering, is what I say; and when it comes to beasts from the Abyss, God does a nice line!

Anyway, shovelling the dead bodies off the path, I have another question: In what sense, if any, could this type of literature be said to be predictive?

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Gamaliel
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# 812

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My point, of course was that the old ladies behind me should have been alert to the genre.

Gloster's response is uttered in prose - although it's close to iambic pentameter - and he reverts to iambics a few lines later on.

It's a play not 'reported speech.'

Likewise with your beasts from the Abyss.

It's apocalyptic literature we are dealing with.

Apocalyptic literature features beasts from the Abyss and similar phenomena.

It's the genre that gives us the clue how to understand these things.

That's.my.point.

Like the old ladies in Stratford you appear to have missed it.

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Raptor Eye
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# 16649

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quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
It's like that argument parents make about not wanting to "label" their slightly off-kilter child. People are going to label your kid whether or not you like it. You might as well get an accurate label that will help in providing services, and readjusting expectations, to help him or her thrive.

Just so, one little voice saying, "Let's not label works as to genre! It will lead to stereotyping!" isn't going to stop people from labeling works as to genre. Categorizing is what we humans do. Anyway you're taking a claymore to something that prefers a scalpel. Don't prohibit labeling, teach people how property to read apocalyptic literature. THAT is the real issue. Not the existence or application of the label.

It's like arguing about how best to fix your car's alignment when the real issue is the crappy roads. Fix the roads and everything else fixes itself.

[Overused] I've missed you mousethief. It's good to be back.

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Nigel M
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# 11256

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How do you know that the two old ladies were not in fact having a private joke? Why did you jump to the conclusion that they had misunderstood the genre? A colleague of mine in Northern Ireland during the troubles there told me he had overhead two ladies talking about an army helicopter that had been spotting overhead. “Do you know,” Said one to the other,” That helicopter has been stationary up there for a long time.” “Ah, well;” Said the other, “Perhaps it’s run out of petrol.”

Now some might assume they had a lack of knowledge about the function of helicopters and the role of fuel in maintaining that function, but a more likely interpretation is that they were having fun. I know of some who, having heard the tale, assumed the former, but others understood it to be humour. Genre was irrelevant there. One had to have an understanding of the context and nature of the situation and people involved.

You don’t interpret a play by calling it such. A ‘play’ is just a category – a rather broad one. The mistake is not in categorising, it is in interpreting. You do not need the category to define the interpretation. The latter comes – as I said earlier – by applying literary analysis with the contextual limbs in support. Giving it a label is perhaps at best a starting point (we humans do like to categorise), but if taken on the journey too far can get in the way of interpretation. That was my point. Too often in Christian Theology and Biblical Studies (more so at the popular level, I suspect) the genre drives the interpretation and we end up with the issues to which I referred.

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Gamaliel
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# 812

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Context, my friend.

I'd have understood the two Ulster ladies as sharing a private joke.

I'm a nosey bugger and ear-wig on people a lot. So I could tell that the two old ladies in Stratford weren't sharing a joke at all. They were serious.

I was there. You weren't. So don't presume to tell me what I did or didn't understand.

Revelation is 'apocalyptic' literature. Get the hell over it.

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Nick Tamen

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# 15164

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Rather than a specific kind of poem like a sonnet, perhaps the better analogy is a genre of fiction, such as science fiction. Labeling a piece of fiction as “science fiction” tells us that certain conventions are at play in the piece, that a certain framework can be assumed. It doesn’t relieve anyone of the need that analyze the piece as a work on its own, nor does it limit what an author does within those conventions. Likewise with apocalyptic literature.

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Gamaliel
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# 812

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As so often, Nick says what I wanted to say a lot better than I have or could.

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Nigel M
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# 11256

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quote:
Originally posted by Gamaliel:
Context, my friend.

Yes, as I thought. You determined it by context – exactly as I have argued for above. You didn’t do it by determining the genre and then on the basis of that, reaching your conclusion. Like other normal human beings, you interpreted the situation on the basis of analysis, using your experience and knowledge with contextual tools in support. You didn’t need the genre.

You see the point?

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Nigel M
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# 11256

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quote:
Originally posted by Nick Tamen:
...perhaps the better analogy is a genre of fiction, such as science fiction. Labeling a piece of fiction as “science fiction” tells us that certain conventions are at play in the piece, that a certain framework can be assumed. It doesn’t relieve anyone of the need that analyze the piece as a work on its own, nor does it limit what an author does within those conventions. Likewise with apocalyptic literature.

I agree with much in this assessment. I don't think the issue is with categorising on the basis of common characteristics. The issue, though, is with moving from there to the assumption that because a group of texts share common characteristics that they then must be interpreted in the same way each and every time. The driver should be authorial intention, but I think where this thread has its motivation is in the issue of interpretation on the basis of genre, rather than authorial intention. As you said, we shouldn't limit what an author does, though I recognise that sometimes an author deliberately contravenes conventions to make a point.
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Gamaliel
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# 812

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I don't disagree with any of that, but again, don't see any conflict or contradiction with my contention that we have to approach such writings in particular ways ... Authorial intention is a major factor in determining genre, of course.

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Nick Tamen

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# 15164

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quote:
Originally posted by Nigel M:
The issue, though, is with moving from there to the assumption that because a group of texts share common characteristics that they then must be interpreted in the same way each and every time.

But has anyone actually argued that? Seems like a straw man to me.
quote:
The driver should be authorial intention, but I think where this thread has its motivation is in the issue of interpretation on the basis of genre, rather than authorial intention.
I agree that the driver is the author’s intent, but I don’t think the motivation of this thread is to champion interpretation on the basis of genre. I’d say the gist is that the genre chosen is one indication of the author’s intent.

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Garasu
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# 17152

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But who is choosing the genre? Some authors embrace genre; others acquire genre; some have genre pinned on to them...

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Nigel M
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# 11256

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quote:
Originally posted by Nick Tamen:
But has anyone actually argued that? Seems like a straw man to me.

I don't think anyone on this thread has arguded for it, Nick (unless I missed something), but it gets frequent airing from popular pultpits (I hear the move being made often, for example, on God TV!).
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Nick Tamen

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# 15164

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quote:
Originally posted by Nigel M:
quote:
Originally posted by Nick Tamen:
But has anyone actually argued that? Seems like a straw man to me.

I don't think anyone on this thread has arguded for it, Nick (unless I missed something), but it gets frequent airing from popular pultpits (I hear the move being made often, for example, on God TV!).
Then that doesn't sound to me like a problem with recognizing a genre of apolyptic literature; rather it sounds like a misuse of the implications of belonging to a genre. In other words, it sounds like sloppy thinking and sloppy analysis that might happen whether the genre label is applied or not.

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The first thing God says to Moses is, "Take off your shoes." We are on holy ground. Hard to believe, but the truest thing I know. — Anne Lamott

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Nigel M
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# 11256

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quote:
Originally posted by Nick Tamen:
...rather it sounds like a misuse of the implications of belonging to a genre.

And that, folks, is a nice summary of what I have been trying to say thus far!

We humans will categorise; we find it useful to do so when faced with a mass of data. Such categorisations are useful as a starting point and should be neutral in implication; indeed, in many disciplines it is so treated, but in Christian Theology and Biblical Studies we can find plenty of examples where the categorisation (under the guise of genre criticism) is extended – beyond logical validity it seems to me – to include interpretation; i.e. to say that “This is an example of the genre ‘x’ and therefore must mean / refer to ‘y’.

The same faulty logic has been applied in the past in source and form criticism. A too fast and loose association made between the category and the assumption that there lies behind it a sure interpretation.

Hence my preference for teaching to go with “Here’s a text called ‘x’ (e.g., Revelation”). Let’s read it and apply literary techniques to see what the author meant when using the rhetorical style he used.”

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Nigel M
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# 11256

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quote:
Originally posted by Garasu:
But who is choosing the genre? Some authors embrace genre; others acquire genre; some have genre pinned on to them...

Good point.
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