Monday, February 6, 2017

Book Review: Interpreting Apocalyptic Literature


This is a continuation of Handbook for Old Testament Exegesis; thus, it centers on the apocalyptic of the Old Testament.  As such it focusses upon Daniel and Joel. I am disappointed that he says little about other apocalyptic sections of the Old Testament (Ezekiel, Zachariah). The book is divided into the following sections:

·         What is Apocalyptic Literature? This is the best chapter of the whole book. It deals with definition and with both its distinctiveness and its problems with defining the word. The word has been a problem to accurately define, but he does a good job (page 33). He holds that apocalypse is a literary genre; is rich in angelology; and has to do with the eschaton.

·         Major themes in Apocalyptic Literature. Since it is both is represented in the Old Testament, intertestamental Jewish literature, and the Dead Sea Scrolls. He spends time with all three. The O.T. is seen to have sowed the seeds of the genre, especially Daniel, but found in other prophets as well. It is extended to new heights in the intertestamental Jewish literature. This is somewhat helpful in understand the character of this genre, but with mixed results. He characterizes the genre in broad terms, too broad at times. I agree that the fundamental feature of Apocalyptic nature is written expression and revelatory in content.  The chapter in my opinion sees little difference between Biblical Apocalyptic literature and secular. This to me is a major flaw in the work. I see three conflicts between the two—pseudonymous authorship (not true of most of the Biblical apocalyptic literature); pessimism,  optimism; and the presence of ethnical demands. These conflicts are overlooked. 

·         Guide for Interpretation (chapters 3-4). These are two helpful chapters no matter how you view the genre. In chapter 3 it centers upon preparing for interpretation. It mostly defines figures of speech which the genre is heavily burdened with. He gives a wide variety of tools to use. It relies mostly on the original Hebrew text and recourses of Hebrew language. Chapter 4 gives guidelines for interpretation. He gives six clear and general guidelines. There are two I consider the most valuable: The grammatical-historical approach, and the limits of figurative language.  He clearly points out a warning against reckless speculations that come by over attention to detail.

·         Proclaiming Apocalyptic Literature. In other words, this chapter is on preaching from this type of literature. He strongly advocates its preaching. He gives good sound features of doing so, using a good example from Daniel 7.

·         The last chapter is on sample texts.

·         An appendix of the history of this type of literature.

This volume is worth having and gives a sound survey of the subject, in spite of what I see as weaknesses. It will be helpful, but to do a more detailed study, one will need to supplement it with more advance works. However, this will help in understanding the basics of the subject and its history.


I received this book free from the publisher to review. It did not have to be a positive review.The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.