Classics and Religious Studies




Date of this Version

January 2000


Published in Eerdman's Dictionary of the Bible, Ed. David Noel Freedman, Allen C. Myers, and Astrid B. Beck (Grand Rapids, MI: W. B. Eerdmans, 2000), pp. 72–73. Copyright © 2000 Eerdmans Publishing Company. Used by permission.


"Apocalyptic" is an adjective used to describe a broad category of phenomena linked by a similar worldview. It is part of a constellation of terms (apocalypticism, apocalyptic eschatology) derived from the literary genre apocalypse. The genre name "apocalypse" derives from Gk. apokdiypsis ("revelation" or "disclosure"), which occurs in the opening line of the New Testament book of Revelation. This book, the parade example of an apocalypse in early Christian literature, gives its name to the entire genre. The genre itself may be defined as "a genre of revelatory literature with a narrative framework, in which a revelation is mediated by an otherworldly being to a human recipient, disclosing a transcendent reality which is both temporal, insofar as it envisages eschatological salvation, and spatial, insofar as it involves another, supernatural world" (Collins, Apocalypse, 9). Apocalypses are characterized by the presence of vision, symbolism, a human seer and an otherworldly mediator, an otherworldly journey, an emphasis on events in the cosmic rather than human realm, an increased interest in angels and demons, the notion of the transcendence of God, and pseudonymity. Given this definition, there is only one example of a true apocalypse in the OT, Dan. 7-12. while the Christian New Testament's only apocalypse is the book of Revelation (which is exceptional for not being pseudonymous).

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