1902 Encyclopedia > Apocalyptic Literature

Apocalyptic Literature




APOCALYPTIC LITERATURE. This branch of later Jewish literature took its rise after the older prophecy had ceased, when Israel suffered sorely from Syrian and Roman oppression. Its object was to encourage and comfort the people by holding forth the speedy restoration of the Davidic kingdom of Messiah. Attaching itself to the national hope, it proclaimed the, impending of a glorious future, in which Israel, freed from her enemies, should enjoy a peaceful and prosperous life under long wished for Deliverer. The old prophets became the vehicle of these utterances. Revelations sketching the history of Israel and of heathenism are put into their mouths. The prophecies take the form of symbolical images and marvelous visions. As the old remained unfulfilled in the progress of events, and doubts arose about their truthfulness, it was necessary to give them a new turn and a more correct interpretation. Working in this fashion upon the basis of well-known writings, im! itating their style, and artificially reproducing their substance, the authors naturally adopted the anonymous. The difficulty was increased by their having to paint as future, events actually near, and to fit the manifestation of a personal Messiah into the history of the times. Hence apocalyptists employed obscure symbols and mysterious pictures, veiling the meaning that it might not be readily seen. The artificial imitative character of their productions caused certain peculiarities; and the main object was attained by fastening the spirit of their contemporaries on the immediate fulfillment of their highest aspirations. From the intentionally dark imagery enfolding the ideas, it is difficult to discover to exact times of their appearance and the historical interpretation.

The earliest of such apocalypses is the canonical book of Daniel, in which an old seer in the Chaldean captivity is employed to portray the oppression of the Jews, under Antiochus Epiphanes. This was the model for all later ones. The literature in question was not confined to the Jews. Christian not only used the productions in which the Messiah was described after the Jewish fashion, but composed similar ones themselves, - Jewish Christians in particular. Here the Apocalypse of John is the noblest example, and deserves the honour of naming the entire range of literature.

The most obvious division of apocalyptic works is that founded upon authorship, Jewish or Christian. This, however, cannot be carried out with exactness because of later interpolations, proceeding from Christian who used the Jewish prophecies with the object of making them more suitable. But it is not easy to trace the extent of subsequent elaborations; and we have only to rely on probable conjecture.


I. JEWISH APOCALYPTIC

1. Enoch. – Under the name of this antediluvian patriarch a book exists which is quoted in the epistle of Jude. After it had disappeared, except the fragments preserved by ecclesiastical writers, it was found in Ethiopia among the Abyssinians, and published by Laurence in 1821; subsequently by Dillmann in 1851, to which the latter scholar added a German translation in 1853. The book has been divided into five parts, exclusive of an introduction and a conclusion. The first contains an account of the fall of the angels, and their intercourse with the daughters of men producing a race of giants, with the consequences of such apostacy; followed by a description of Enoch’s travels through heaven and earth under the guidance of holy angels, who explain to him the mysteries of the visible and invisible world (chapters vi.-xxxvi.) The "second vision of wisdom" is occupied with a description of the mysteries belonging to the heavenly kingdom, the angel-world, the Mess! iah, the growth and completion of His kingdom, the blessedness of the elect, and the condemnation of the unbelieving (xxxvii.-1xxi.) The third part is astronomical and physical, including an account of the movements of the stars, the sun, and the moon; on the four winds, and various earthly objects (1xxii.-1xxxii.) The fourth part describes two dream visions shadowing forth the history of man, from his origin to the completion of the Messianic kingdom (1xxxiii.xci.) The fifth contains a series of admonitory discourses addressed by Enoch to his own family in the first place, and then to all inhabitants of the earth (xcii.-cv.) Several appendices are subjoined containing a narrative of the wonders which happened at Noah’s birth, and a writing of Enoch’s about the future retribution of the just and unjust (cvi.-cviii.)

The work contains much curious matter about the secrets and powers both of the visible and invisible worlds. Besides its historical views which relate mainly to the past, present, and future of the Jewish people, as also to heathen kings and potentates, much of the legendary and haggadic is interspersed. Daniel’s seventy weeks, reaching down to the Messianic age, are changed into seventy periods of heathen rulers. The writer has withal a religious spirit. He is a strict moralist, warning and threatening. His imagination is vivid, but incapable of sublimity. The sweep of his prophetic vision is extensive. He has poetic force and vigour. The work is an interesting product of pre-Christian Judaism, multifarious, artificial, rabbinising.

The document consists not only of the prophecy of Enoch, but of extracts from a Noah-prophecy interspersed. The latter are found in places often unsuitable, consisting of chapters liv. 7-1v. 2, 1x., 1xv.-1xix. 25; perhaps also of xx. And 1xx. In cvi., cvii. the same hand may be partly traced. Setting aside these insertions, the book of Enoch itself seems to be composed of three documents, the oldest of which is chapters xxxviii.-1xxi. The other two are not easily collected, but the chapters xci.3-cv. have the clearest claim to belong to the second, and xxxiii, xxxvi., 1xxxv.-xc. to the third. The rest is all uncertain. The first was written about 144 B.C. as Ewald (175-1) acutely remarks; the other two fall some years later, i.e., within the reign of John Hyrcanus (136-106 B.C.) The Noah-document is posterior, belonging perhaps to the first century; and all were subsequently put together, forming the present heterogeneous composition. Hilfenfeld contents that chapter xxxvii-1xxi proceed from a Christian Gnostic (175-2), but his arguments are insufficient. Still more improbable is the hypothesis of Volkmar, that the entire Apocalypse was written 132 A.D. (175-3) We believe, however, in opposition to Dillmann, that they have been interpolated by a Jewish Christian, since the Christology is higher than what Judaism produced; while the eschatology and angelology are developed in a manner which savours of Christianity. Thus, in the 51st and 62d chapters the Messiah is described as sitting on the throne of His glory and taking part in the judgment, while He is also called the Son of woman, the Son of man. To make Messiah the judge of mankind, either as the delegate of the Father, or together with Him, is not a Jewish, but a Christian idea. This differs from the representation in the 90th chapter, where he is symbolized by a white bull with great horns, whom all the beasts of the field and all the birds of heaven feared and entreated at all times. All races a! re to be changed into white bulls; the first among them became a great animal; and the Lord of the sheep rejoiced over them and all the bulls. Here Messiah is simply the chief of God’s people, elevated above the rest, but still of the same nature with them, having no share in the judgment, or in founding the new church of God. He comes into the description by way of appendix, as it were, though the author could not well omit all notice of Him. His part is entirely subordinate. In the 105th chapter, which, with the next three, show traces of Christian influence, the Messiah is called Son of God, - an appellation which seems to carry the idea of His person beyond Judaism, especially in connection with that in the 62nd chapter, Son of woman, for the two come very near the idea of an incarnation. The whole work presents no trace of Rome as a power dangerous to Israel, so that the latest parts cannot be brought down far into the 1st century. The book had a very limited circulation among t! he author’s countrymen. They do not quote it. It proceeded from a private individual, who may have belonged to a small circle or sect such as the Essenes. But Jude cites it. It has been translated into English by Laurence; into German, but chiefly from Laurence’s English by Hoffmann; and much more correctly by Dillmann in 1853. The translation of the last mentioned scholar has superseded those of his predecessors. See also Ewald’s Abhandlung, u.s.w.; Lucke’s Versuch einer vollstandigen Einleitung in die Offendarung des Johannes, u.s.w., zweyte Auflage, § 11; Koestlin, "Ueber die Entstehung des Buches Henoch" in the Tubingen Journal of Baur and Zeller for 1856; Hilgendeld’s Die Judische Apokalyptik; Davidson in Kitto’s Ctclopoedia, article "Enoch," Hilgenfeld’s Zeitschrift fur wiss. Theologie, 1860, 1861, 1862.

2. Another apocalyptic production is the so-called
Fourth Book of Esdras, or The Prophecy of Ezra, originally written in Greek, but known now only versions,-Latin, Ethiopic, Syriac, Arabic, and Armenian. The whole consists of a series of visions, which Ezra, who is put unchronologically into the 30th year of the Babylonian captivity, is supposed to have had. The questions that troubled the seer arose out of the state in which the Jews were at the time. They were deeply oppressed and afflicted. The heathen had trodden them down to the ground. Why had the promises of God to His own people been unfulfilled? Was not Israel still the chosen race, though often sinning? Were they not better than the heathen? The Romans had destroyed Jerusalem, and the Jews were scattered to the four winds; so that the writer was deeply perplexed by the establishment of a heathen power over the Jews, involving an indefinite delay of the Messianic kingdom, or an apparent hopelessness! as to its inauguration. Heathenism triumphed over Judaism, rending it to pieces. What had become of the divine faithfulness? The first vision (ch. Iv.-v 20) contains an angelic answer to the questions which the seer had painfully pondered, as in the 3d chapter. After being reminded of his inability to comprehend God’s ways, the signs of the end are given. The second vision 9v. 21-vi.34) is similar. The third vision (vi. 35-ix. 25) and the fourth (ix. 27 – x. 59) refer to the Messianic future. The fifth, relating to an eagle coming up out of the sea (x. 60-xii.59), describes the Roman empire, its destination and period of duration; the sixth (ch. Xiii.), the setting up of Messiah’s kingdom; and the seventh (ch. Xiv.), an account of ezra’s re-writing the holy books. It is very difficult to discover the date of this singular book, and the question is not yet satisfactorily settled, though many critics have investigated it. One thing is pretty clear, that the destruction of Jerusalem! had taken place, and that Christianity had passed its incipient stage, exercising some influence even upon Judaism. Original sin, a dying Messiah, a general resurrection, &c., point to a Christian origin; so that the passages in which these features appear, and others too, were probably interpolated. Hilgenfeld even thinks that vi. 18-vii. 45 were interpolated by a Christian at the commencement of the 3rd century, (176-1) but his arguments are not cogent, as Langen has shown. As the data for determining the time lie chiefly in the interpretation of the eagle’s wings and heads, the diversity of opinion is increased. Perhaps the 30th year after the ruin of the city (iii. I) points to the like time after the Roman conquest of Jerusalem. The six wings of the eagle on the right side are the six Julian emperors; the six on the left, are Galba, Otho, Vitellius, Vindex, Nymphidius, Piso; and the three heads, the Flavian emperors. Either Titus’s or Domitian’s reign should be fixed upon; prob! ably the latter, about 96 A.D. Hilgenfeld assigns 30 B.C.; Volkmar seems nearer the truth who gives it to 97 A.D.,(176-2) though some of his ingenious interpretations are far fetched. It is impossible to tell whether the author lived at Rome or in Egypt. The few internal evidences bearing on the point favour the latter.

The poetic excellence of this production is much greater than that of Enoch. It is, indeed, below the Apocalypse of Daniel; but its merit is considerable. In modern times Messrs Frere and Irving gave it a place beside Daniel and St John,- strangely combining the prophecies of the three into one, as though all were formed upon the same plan, and referred to the same events. Chapters i., ii., and xv., xvi., which need not be separated, seem to have been written by Egyptian Christian; the first two chapters about 201 A.D.; the last two about 263 A.D., according to Gutschmid.(176-3) Like the Fourth Book of Esfras, these were also written in Greek, but exist only in a Latin translation.

The literature and numerous opinions about the date may be seen in the Prolegomena to Hilgendeld’s Messias Judoeorum; the same work contains the different texts of it. The Latin text alone is presented by Fritzsche in his Libri Apocryphi Veteris Testamenti Groece, 1871; and by Volkmar in his Handbuch der Eintleitung in die Apocryphen, 2 Abtheil., 1863. It is in the English Apocrypha, translated, no doubt, from the Vulgate. Luther left it out of his version, and De wette followed him. The chief writers on the book in recent times are Volkmar and Hilgenfeld; but the list since Whiston and Semler is very copious.

3. The Book of the Jubilees, or the Little Genesis , Greek he lepte genesis, Latin parva Genesis. – This work is apocalyptic only in part, though called the Apocalypse of Moses in the notices of it by George Syncellus and George Cedrenus. In the form of a revelation made to Moses during his stay on Mount Sinai, it professes to be intended for future races, and to contain prophetic admonitions relating to coming times. It is predominantly historical and chronological, beginning with the old histories of the creation. From the commencement of the world till the entrance into Canaan is divided into 50 jubilee years; and every event is arranged according to jubilees, years of weeks, and years. Later Jewish ideas are transferred to earlier times, especially to the patriarchal; and difficult questions connected with the ancient worship are solved. Traditional views and haggadic materials appear with Jewish ritual and exclusiveness. The author was an energetic Palestinian Jew, convers! ant with the history of his people, and conservative, who meant to confirm them in attachment to the faith, by narrating their past fortunes over again, and keeping them alive to their principles. Amid the multifarious contents it is not easy to trace the precise origin of the book, though it is easy to see that the author was a patriotic Jew, whose object was to keep his countrymen firm in their religion at a time when it was in great peril both from without and within. It has been assigned to an Alexandrian, an Essene, and a Samaritan source, none of which opinions can be maintained. The writer has respect to different sects and parties in Judaism, to the various tendencies existing within the old religion when he wrote; and he endeavours to mediate between them by making concessions in this direction and that, - to conciliate and blend them together, that they may be more united against anti-Jewish influences. Hence Samaritan, Essene, Sadducean, and Pharisean peculiarities are fo! und in the work. There is little doubt that he was an orthodox Jew, who had in view the consolidation of Judaism against heathenism and Christianity – the uniting of all sects and shades of belief in the common faith of Levitical monotheism.(176-4) It is worthy of remark that the Hebrew text he used agrees with the Samaritan more than the Masoretic, though he himself was not a Samaritan, else he would not have mentioned Zion among the four holy places, to the exclusion of Gerizim. The date is the 1st century of our era; and before the destruction of the temple, as may be inferred from the first chapter. The writer seems to have used the book of Enoch, for he speaks in the fourth chapter of Enoch writing out the signs of heaven according to the order of their months. There are also coincident passages which go to prove the same thing. And there is evidence that the writer of the Testaments of the patriarchs employed our book; though this does not necessarily take the latter’s origin into ! the 1st century. So, too, the Fourth Book of Esdras was used, as we infer from what is said in relation to Abraham, Esdras iii. 14, &c., and Jubilees xii. The date cannot be fixed nearer than about 50 A.D.(176-5) The Little Genesis was soon forgotten, and no trace of it appears among the Jews, except perhaps in the title of Bereshit Rabba. Yet its Midrash is of an older type than the other Midrashim; mystic and supernatural in its tendency; its angelology less developed. Jerome refers to it twice by name, and Syncellus thought highly of it. It had been rendered into Greek before the time of Jerome. Dillmann has published the Ethiopic version from two MSS, and translated it into German.(177-1) The original was Hebrew or Aramaean, as all critics allow, except Frankel, who is refuted by Langen.(177-2) A Greek version existed early, and was subsequently lost. From it the Ethiopic was made. In 1861, Ceriani published from a palimpsest in the Ambrosian library at Milan, considerable fragments of an old Latin version.(177-3) This has been reprinted in a revised state by Roensch, together with a Latin version of Dillmann’s text. The work of this meritorious scholar is accompanied with learned notes and exhaustive dissertations; and Dr. Sal. Rubin has taken the trouble to translate it into Hebrew, with an introduction and notes, Wien. 1870. See Treuenfels in the Literaturblatt des Orients, 1864; Beer’s Das Buch der Jubilaen und sein Verhaltniss zu den Midraschim, 1856; Jellinek, Bet ha-Midrasch Sammlung kleiner Midraschim and vermischter Abhandlungen aus der alteren Judischen Literatur, 1853-1855; Frankel in the Monastschrift fur Geschichte und Wissenschaft des Judenthums, 1856; Roensch, Das Buch der Jubilaen oder die kleine Genesis, u.s.w., 1874.

The Life of Adam, adduced by Syncellus three times with the Greek words ho legomenos Bios Adam, seems to have been identical with the book of Jubilees, or perhaps a part of it. If the latter, it may have been another recension, enlarged and modified in various respects.(177-4)

The Book of Adam’s daughters, Liber (qui appellatur) de filiabus Adoe sive Leptogeneseos, mentioned in Gelasius’s decree about authentic and apocryphal books, also appears to be the same as the Jubilees.(177-5)

4. The Assumption or Ascension of Moses, Greek Analepsis Mouseos, is a prophecy of the future relating to Israel, put into the mouth of Moses, and addressed to Joshua just before the great lawgiver died. Founded upon the book of Deuteronomy, it is brief and unpoetical. But it seems to have been large at first, for according to Nicephorus, it consisted of 1400 stichs, while the Jubilees had only 1100.(177-6) The work is an appropriate sequel to the Jubilees, but it seems to have proceeded from a different writer, though he lived at the same time. Internal evidence points to its composition after the death of Herod the Great, and before the destruction of Jerusalem. In the third chapter Pompey the Great is clearly depicted; but there is no trace of Jerusalem’s overthrow. The author was a Jew who wrote in Hebrew or Aramaean, and his production was afterwards translated into Greek and Latin. We need not assign him to any other place than Palestine, though Fritzsche conjectures tha! t Rome was his abode. Fragments of the Latin version were first edited from a palimpsest a Milan by Ceriani. The version is by the same hand as that of the Jubilees, for both are found in one MS. and agree in character. The translator may have, therefore, taken the two for the work of the same author. After ceriani, it has been published by Fritzsche. Hilgenfeld has tried to put it into Greek. The same has been done by Volkmar, Schmidt, and Merx. The ancients believed THAT Jude borrowed from this work his statement as to the dispute between Michael and the devil about the body of Moses. See Ceriani, Monumenta Sacra et Profana, tom i. fascic. 1; Hilgenfeld, Novum Testamentum extra canonem receptum, fascic i. 1866; Messias Judoeorum, 1869; Volkmar, Handbuch zu den Apokryphen, Band 3, 1867; Schmidt and Merx in Archiv fur wissenschaftl. Erforschung des A.T. 1868; Fritzsche, Libri Apocryphi Veteris Testamenti Groece, 1871.





5. Apocalypse of Moses, whose proper title is (in Greek) Diegnesis kai politeia Adam, apokaluphtheisa para Theou Mouse to theraponti autou didachtheisa para tou archangelou Michael, contains an account of the formation of Adam and Eve, their fall, Seth’s dialogue with his mother about Adam, and the disposal of the latter’s body beside that of Abel. This work was first published in Greek by Tischendorf from four MSS. It was afterwards accurately edited from one of these (D in the Ambrosian library at Mailan) by Ceriani. But this text is incomplete, wanting chapters xviii.- xxxv. Tischendorf thinks that Greek is the original, and that its date is about the time of Christ, but it is probably later, though certainly not mediaeval, as Dillmann supposes. The lepte genesis was thought by some, perhaps also by Syncellus and Cedrenus, to have been the same as the Apocalypse of Moses, and was so called, but it is not. Both, however, are of like character. The revelation is said to have been made to Moses when he received the tables of the law and was instructed by the archangel Mic! hael. Tischendorf, Apocalypses Apocryphoe, 1866; Ceriani, Monumenta Sacra et Profana, v.i.; Roensch, Das Buch der Jubilaen, 1874.

6. The Sibyllines. – The rise of Jewish apocalyptic literature of a sibylline character probably dates soon after Alexander the Great, when Judaism began to look with a spirit of philosophic inquiry into Greek and Oriental literature, attaching itself to such elements as seemed congenial. A composite product was the result. The Alexandrian Jews were the first to adopt this course by fusing the remnants of Greek sibyllism with their native prophecy. The former seemed to them an indication of an Adamic or Noachic religion which had filtered into heathenism notwithstanding its polytheism. It was a species of natural prophetism, distinct from the priestly oracles, of a more ancient and higher type, in which Jewish gnosis could discover a point of contact, amid its endeavours to trace the pre-Abrahamic religion in the most enlightened Hellenism. As Noah was thought to be the second great progenitor of humanity, who represented the primitive theocratic religion its division and corruption, the sibyl was his daughter, prophesying of the tower of Babel, and exhorting the people to worship the true God. her voice was predominatingly threatening, like that of the heathen sibyl, foreshadowing the downfall of paganism. Anti-theocratic kingdom and cities must be overthrow. There is but one religion, the old Noachic one, which even the heathen sibyl darkly echoed, and her utterances can only be interpreted aright in their relation to the world’s history by the Jewish sibyl. Thus Jewish gnosis found support in Hellenism. After using the method and form of the latter in the sibylline oracles, it drew them into a higher region. Uniting them with theosophy and history, it spiritualized them. The prophetic spirit was discerned in the cultus of heathenism, stripped of priestly and polytheistic phenomena. But it was still the main object of the sibyllines to combat heathenism itself, by exposing its idolatry and opposition to the truth, to anticipat! e its total destruction at the advent of Messiah.

Under this general name there exists a collection of oracles said to proceed from the sibyl, in which Jewish ideas are promulgated and recommended to the Gentiles. The contents, however, are of a mixed character. Instead of a connected whole written by one person at a specific time, we have a heterogeneous assemblage of materials, Jewish, Christian, and heathen, of earlier and later origin, which must be separated and sifted before they can be assigned to their respective origins.

Books I, ii, iii, 1-96 are late. The first begins with the creation and fall of man, enumerates the six races, and characterizes them, the first after Noah falling in the golden age. Christ is described in His miracles, sufferings, death, resurrection, and ascension; the apostles, and the cessation of prophets. The Hebrews will be oppressed by a Roman king, and be scattered abroad after the destruction of Solomon’s temple. The description is continued in the second book. The world will be shaken throughout, and especially will heathen Rome be destroyed at the time of the tenth race. The whole piece is evidently Christian, for the eschatological ideas rest upon Matthew xxiv., xxv. Hellenic mythology and Hebrew tradition are intermixed with the author’s utterances. The date is obscure. Bleek, with whom Lucke agrees, assumes the 5th century. There are, indeed, late views in the books, such as Christ’s descent into hell to preach the resurrection, the worship of! the Virgin, the intercession of the saints for a class of the condemned. It is also true that millenarianism does not appear, and that no Christian writer of the first four centuries cites them. Still the 5th century is too late. We prefer the second half of the 4th. Ewald assigns about 300 A.D.

The third book, taken as a whole, is the oldest portion, at least verses 97-828. it enumerates the kingdoms of the world that followed one another, emphasizing the Hebrew one in particular, and mentioning the Roman. Woes are pronounced upon various cities and lands, and the appearance of Messiah is depicted, accompanied with the punishment of the wicked, the downfall of all worldly kingdoms, the conversion of the heathen, and the restoration of Judah to more than former splendor. As the destruction of Carthage by the Romans is alluded to, the date must be after 146 B.C. Various indications point to 124. There is little doubt that the writer was an Alexandrian Jew, whose hopes of a personal Messiah were feeble and vague, for after touching upon a king sent by God from the sun who will put an end to war, and under whose sway Israel will enjoy abundant prosperity, he paints the golden age again without mentioning the king.(178-1)

The fourth book, which is but a short poem of less than two hundred lines, arranges history according to twelve ages, terminating in the Messianic one. The writer’s descriptions are general. He evinces no decided Jewish sympathies, nor does he utter ideas distinctively Christian. Sinful heathenism in an indefinite way is the chief object of his veiled descriptions. Hence Friedlieb makes him a Jew; Ewald, a Christian. The passages which have been supposed to show either his Christian or Jewish tendencies (178-2) are hardly decisive as to the one or the other; and the interpretations of them by Lucke are somewhat strained in support of the strong statement about the Christian character of the contents generally, with which he begins his sketch of the fourth book. Probably he was a Jewish Christian who came out of an Essene circle. The date of his oracle is somewhat later than that of the Apocalypse, since the destruction of the temple is presupposed as well as the eru! ption of Vesuvius, 79 A.D. The return of a matricidal emperor from beyond the Euphrates to overthrow Rome is also expected. Such allusion to Nero, which is a prominent feature in the Apocalypse, and a few other particulars, incline us to assume Christian authorship, though the absence of evangelical ideas marks a stage not far beyond Judaism. Yet the writer rejects sacrifices. The date may be about 80 A.D.

The fifth book presents great difficulty both in separating the component parts, and in assigning them to Jewish or Christian authorship. The absence of ideas characteristic of Judaism or of Christianity marks the poem. Nor is it easy to discover any internal connection, so that the whole might be attributed to the same authorship. The religious views of the author or authors are vaguely expressed. The first part, i.e. 1-51, appears to be of Christian, the rest i.e., 52-530, of Jewish origin. The former describes in prophetic language the series of Roman emperors from Julius Caesar to Hadrian. In this was we are brought to the end of Hadrian’s reign as the date, about 138 A.D. The second part, which expresses among other things the hope of a temple to be erected in Egypt, in which sacrifices should be offered, and the people of God should enjoy Messianic happiness, points to a Jew of Alexandria living after the destruction of the temple at Jerusalem, about 80 A.D.

The sixth book contains a short hymn to Jesus the Son of God, touching upon His doctrine, miracles, and death, with a curse on the Sodomite land which platted His crown of thorns. It is curious that the fire at Jordan on the occasion of the baptism of Jesus, and the representation of the dove, vary from the canonical Gospels, though the former appears in the Gospel of the Hebrews. Something of a Gnostic element shows itself here.

The seventh book is a fragmentary collection of oracles loosely connected. The contents are varied. Several pieces treat of Christ; several of the oracles are threatening, some are of the nature of hymns. The baptism at Jordan is mentioned in a peculiar way;(178-3) and a strange sacrificial rite is recommended.(178-4) The allusion to the Persians reigning is indefinite; but it is all the historical evidence that bears on the date, which seems about 160 A.D.; though Alexandre puts it between 233 and 235 A.D.(178-5) As there is a tinge of Gnosticism in the book similar to that of the sixth, they may have proceeded from the same person. He was a heretical man, as Alexandre supposes; but whether he was Jewish Christian is uncertain.

The eighth book contains a prophecy of the judgment of the world. Rome is coming at length to an end. There is also a summary of the history of Jesus, His life, sufferings, and resurrection. The writer commences with Hadrian, to whom he gives three successors of his house. He is also acquainted with the king of another house, Septimius Severus, in whose days, 948 of Rome, the end comes. The date is therefore 211 A.D. It is curious that Antichrist Nero is here made to come with the third from Hadrian, viz., Commodus. In this oracle occurs the celebrated sibylline acrostic, the initial letters of thirty-four lines (verses 217-250) representing Iesous Chreistos Theou huios soter stauros. Verses 361-500 are of earlier origin. They contain various fragments of prior poems. It is noticeable that a historical insertion about the birth of Jesus Christ from the Virgin occupies an unsuitable place, having been the product of a late time, when the dogma about the mother of God was developed.! With this exception the second part of the book belongs to the 2d century. The whole is thoroughly Christian.

Books xi-xiv. were discovered in MSS. at Milan and Rome, and published by Mai, in his Veterum Scriptorum nova collectio, tom. Iii. p. 202, et seq. They are of Christian origin, and from Egypt. It is true that the Christian element appears but little. The writer used the preceding books and heathen oracles besides. The date is uncertain, but cannot be earlier than the 5th century. The eleventh book surveys the history of kings and people, till the death of Cleopatra and the end of the Egyptian kingdom; the twelfth recounts the Roman emperors from Augustus till the death of Alexander Severus; the thirteenth continues the history from Alexander Severus still the reign of Odenatus; and the fourteenth brings down the sketch to Aureolus. The names of the emperors and rulers are partially disguised, and eventually become unrecognizable. See friedlieb, Oracula Sibyllina, 1852; Alexandre, Oracula Sibyllina, 1841, 1856; and Ewald, Ueber Entstehung, Inhalt, and Werth der sibyllinischer Bucher, 1858.

7. The Apocalypse of Baruch. – In this rhetorical production Baruch receives revelations respecting the future of Israel. Though Jerusalem has been destroyed by the Romans, and the calamities of the chosen people seem excessive, the prophet is comforted with the hope of better times, since the Messiah will come shortly to set up his kingdom after the Roman one has been destroyed. Then will be the judgment and the consummation; sinners will be punished, and the righteous rewarded. Part of this production, viz., the epistle of Baruch to the nine tribes and a half (chapters 1xxviii.-1xxxvi), was published in the Paris and London Polyglotts in Syriac and Latin. The Syriac was again edited more correctly by De Lagarde. Whiston translated the Latin into English; and he has been followed by Jolowicz, 1855. The whole book was published from a Syriac MS.in the Ambrosian library by Ceriani, first on a Latin translation (179-1) and then in the Syriac itself. (179-2) The Latin is reprinted with a few emendations by Fritzsche. It was written after the destruction of Jerusalem, how long it is difficult to say. The author was acquainted with the Book of Enoch and the Apocalypse of Esdras, for he has many passages which are echoes of sentiments contained in them. He has also later Jewish legends, which point to the 2nd century of the Christian era as that in which he wrote; and there is little doubt that Greek was the original. Langen (179-3) thinks that the author was a Palestinian. From its length and wordiness, with the absence of poetic spirit, the perusal of the document becomes wearisome.


II. CHRISTIAN APOCALYPTIC

Christians followed the example of the Jews in using the sibyl as a vehicle of their ideas. Besides referring to the past, which they did mainly with reference to the person and work of Jesus Christ, they looked forward to the destruction of the world-power, and the consummation of all things at the second coming of Christ. They employed to a considerable extent both Jewish and heathen documents, interpolating or modifying them not very strongly. Often content with non-Christian sources, they adapted them but slightly, so that the ideas peculiar to Christianity shine forth dimly. The prophetic form of the Apocalypse does not demand the enunciation of doctrine, but rather a general indication of historic events, or the threatening announcement of destruction to the enemies of God. It deals with the utterance of principles exemplified by kingdoms and their rulers.

1. The Sibyllines. – We have already seen that books i., ii, iii. 1-96, iv., v. 1-51, vi., vii., viii., xi.-xiv., belong to this head, though they incorporate Jewish as well as heathen pieces with small adaptation.

2. The Apocalypse of Esdras. – this Greek production resembles the more ancient fourth book of Esdras in some respects. The prophet is perplexed about the mysteries of life, and questions God respecting them. The punishment of the wicked especially occupies his thoughts. Since they have sinned in consequence of Adam’s fall, their fate is considered worse than that of the irrational creation. The descriptions of the tortures suffered in the infernal regions is tolerably minute. At last he prophet consents to give up his spirit to God who has prepared for him a crown of immortality. The composition is feeble and tame, a poor imitation of the ancient Jewish one. There are no internal marks of date in it. It may belong, however, to the 2d or 3d centuries of the Christian era. Tischendorf published the Greek text for the first time in his Apocalypses Apocryphoe.

3. The Apocalypse of Paul. – This work contains a description of the things which the apostle saw in heaven and hell. The text, as first published in the original Greek by Tischendorf, consists of fifty-one chapters, but is imperfect. The narrative descend to minute particulars, and possess no force or poetic power. Imitated from the Revelation of St. John, their great inferiority is apparent. Internal evidence assigns it to the time of Theodosius. i.e.., about 390 A.D.. Where the author lived is uncertain. Dr Perkins found a Syriac MS. of this Apocalypse, which he translated into English, and printed in the Journal of the American Oriental Society, vol. viii. This version is an enlarged and exaggerated edition of the Greek, which it supplements and illustrates. See Tischendrof’s Apocalypses Apocryphoe.

4. The Apocalypse of John contains a description of the future state, the general resurrection, and judgment, with an account of the punishment of the wicked, as well as the bliss of the righteous. It appears to be the work of a Jewish Christian, for the bodily appearance of Antichrist is derived from Jewish sources; and there are numerous quotations from the Old Testament, especially from David. The date is late, for the writer speaks of the "venerable and holy images," as well as "the glorious and precious crosses and the sacred things of the churches, (179-4) which points to the 5th century, when such things were first introduced into churches. We cannot put it earlier than the 5th. This Apocalypse was first published by Birch, (179-5) but incorrectly; afterwards by Tischendorf. The Greek appears to be the original. It is a feeble imitation of the canonical Apocalypse, devoid of literary value, and with the marks of a corrupted Christian age on its face.

5. The Apocalypse of Peter contains a narrative of events from the foundation of the world till the second advent of Christ. The book is said to have been written by Clement, Peter’s disciple. This Arabic work has not been printed, but a summary of the contents is given by Nicoll in his catalogue of the Oriental MSS, belonging to the Bodleian. (179-6) There are eighty-eight chapters. It is a late production; for Ishmaelites are spoken of, the Crusades, and the taking of Jerusalem.

6. The Revelations of Bartholomew. – In the year 1835, Dulaurier (179-7) published from a Parisian Sahidic MS., sub-joining a French translation, what is termed a fragment of the apocryphal Revelations of St Bartholomew, and of the history of the religious communities founded by St Pachomius. After narrating the pardon obtained by Adam, it is said that the Son ascending from Olivet prays the Father on behalf of His apostles; who consequently receive consecration from the father, together with the Son and Holy Spirit-Peter being made archbishop of the universe. The late date of the production is obvious.

7. The Apocalypse of Mary, containing her descent into hell, is not published entire, but only several portions of it from Greek MSS.in different libraries, by Tischendorf in his Apocalypses Apocryphoe.

8. The Apocalypse of Daniel has been published only in part (a little more than the half), by Tischendorf from Greek MSS., in St Mark’s Venice, and in Paris. The date of the document is determined by the monarch going to Jerusalem to deliver up his kingdom to God, and being succeeded by his four sons, who reside in different and distant cities.

9. The Ascension and Vision of Isaiah. – The first portion of the work called the ascension of Isaiah in the Ethiopic text, gives an account of Isaiah’s being out to death by the saw, under the reign and at the command of Manasseh. The prophet had had a vision respecting Christ, His crucifixion and ascension, as well as of the general apostacy which should take place in the early churches, of the descent of Berial in the form of a matricidal king, the duration of his reign, the descent of the Lord from heaven to destroy the wicked, and cast the ungodly into the fire. For this vision and prophecy Isaiah is condemned, and dies the death of a martyr (chapters i.-v.) The second part (chapters vi.-xi.) is essentially the same as Isaiah’s vision in iii. 14-iv.22. The prophet is transported in an ecstatic state into the seven heavens successively, and describes what he sees in each, the chief object being Christ himself. It is not the future of Christianity and of the world which fills the mind of the seer, but the past, the first advent of Christ. The two divisions form distinct works. The first is based on the Jewish legend of Isaiah’s martyrdom, and may be merely the Christian expansion of a Jewish writing embodying it. Indeed, with the exception of the Christian interpolations (i. 5, iii.13-iv., 22), the whole is Jewish. Both tertullian and origen knew the martyrdom part of the document. The date must, therefore, be the 2d century. The second, or the Vision of Isaiah, properly so called, has a Gnostic coluring. Its Christology bears a Docetic stamp. As it presupposes an acquaintance with the first it may have originated in the early part of the 3d century. Epiphanius speaks of it, and gives an extract. (180-1) Laurence published the Ethiopic text, with a Greek and Latin version, in 1819. The Greek original is lost; and the Latin version, published at Venice in 1522, and again by Gieseler in 1832, is of late origin. Fragments of an older one were printed by Mai in his Veterum Scriptorum nova collectio, p. ii. 1828. Jolowicz translated it into German, 1854. See Lucke’s Versuch einer vollstandigen Einleitung in die Offenbarung des Johannes, etc. das erste Buch.

10. The Shepherd of Hermas. – This production belongs in a certain sense to the present class of writings, and is usually reckoned among the apostolic fathers. It is not, however, apocalyptic in the proper acceptation of the epithet, because it wants the form. The apocalyptic idea has a different phase. (See APOSTOLIC FATHERS.) The same remark applies to –

11. The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs.

Many apocalyptic writings, both Jewish and Christian, are mentioned in ancient works of which nothing is now known. Time has swept them away beyond recovery. It would be useless to collect the scattered notices of them. Such as wish to see these notices may consult the articles of Dillmann and Hofmann, in the 12th volume of Herzog’s encyklopoedie, Lucke’s Einleitung, and the Prolegomena to Tischendorf’s Apocalypses Apocryphoe, where he will find references to other works. Since the very able treatise of Bleek and the valuable publications of Gfrorer, which were followed by the masterly review of the whole subject in Lucke’s second edition, the literature has greatly increased. Hilgenfeld and Volkmar, Ewald and Dillman, Ceriani and Langen, Fritzsche, Gutschmid, Merx, and others, have thrown welcome light upon it.

The line between Apocryphal and Apocalyptic literature is not exact. The works now described are those which properly belong to the latter, and are extant, or have been published, if not entire, at least partially. Notices of many others lost or hidden occur in various sources and catalogues of MSS. belonging to public libraries. The apocalyptic idea passed into the life and belief of the church. It became an element of dogma and of morals, finding expression in works somewhat different from the proper apocalyptic. Taking a millenarian direction, using the typical extensively, developing eschatological ideas more or less fantastic, the apocalyptic element receded before other conceptions to which it had given rise. These, indeed, did not suppress it; they merely shaped and developed it into other forms, widening the sphere of its action, and giving it more realism. (S. D.)





References
(175-1) Abhandlung ueber des Aethiopischen Buches Henokh Entstehung Sinn und Zusammenhang, p. 73.
(173-2) Die Jüdische Apokalyptik, p. 148, &c.
(173-3) "Beitäge zur Erklärung des B. Henokh nach dem Aethiop. Text." in the Zeitschrift der deutschen morgenländischen Gesellschaft, 1860, p. 87, &c., and Hilgenfeld's Zeitschrift, 1861, 1862.
(176-1) Messias Judaeorum, p. 49, &c.
(176-2) Das vierte Buch Esra und apokalyptische Geheimnisse ueberhaupt, 1858.
(176-3) Zeitschrift für Wissenschaft. Theologie, 1860.
(176-4 See Roensch's Das Buch der Jubiläen, p. 523, &c.
(176-5) Ibid., p. 528.
(177-1) In Ewald's Jahrbb., Nos. 2 and 3. The original not till 1859 in a separate volume.
(177-2) Das Judenthum in Palaestina, u.s.w., p. 94 &c.
(177-3) Monumenta sacra et profana, tom. i. fasc 1.
(177-4 Roensch, p. 468, &c.
(177-5) Sacrosancta concilia, tom. v. ed. Colet, p. 389.
(177-6) Chronog. Compendiar., p. 787, ed. Dindorf.
(178-1) See verses 652-660, and 702, &c., 766m &c.
(178-2) See lines 160, &c., where Christian baptism is apparently referred to; 174, &c., where the resurrection and last judgment are indicated. At 25, &c., sacrifices are spoken of in an anti-Jewish way. Ed. Alexandre.
(178-3) Ver. 66, &c.
(178-4) Ver. 76, &c.
(178-5) Oracula Sibyllina, vol. ii. p. 386.
(179-1) Monumenta Sacra et Profana, tom. i. fasc. 2, p. 73, &c.
(179-2) Ibid., v. fasc 2.
(179-3) De Apocalypsi Baruch, etc., commentatio, pp. 8-10.
(179-4) Tischendorf, ch. xiii.
(179-5) Auctarium Codicis Apocryphi N. T. Fabriciani, p. 261, &c.
(179-6) Bibliothecae Bodleianae codd. MSS. Orientalium catologi partie secundae vol, primum, etc., p. 49, xlviii.
(179-7) Fragment des Revelations Apocryphales de Saint Barthelemy, &c. Paris, 1835.
(180-1) Haeres., 67, 3, vol. ii., p. 175, ed Migne. See also Haeres, 40, 2.



The above article was written by the Rev. Samuel Davidson, D.S., Professor of Biblical Criticism at the Royal College, Belfast, 1835; Professor of Biblical Literature at the Manchester Congregational College, 1842-62; one of the Old Testament Revisers; author of The Canons of the Bible and Critical and Exegetical Introductions to the Old and New Testaments.




Search the Encyclopedia:



About this EncyclopediaTop ContributorsAll ContributorsToday in History
Sitemaps
Terms of UsePrivacyContact Us



© 2005-17 1902 Encyclopedia. All Rights Reserved.

This website is the free online Encyclopedia Britannica (9th Edition and 10th Edition) with added expert translations and commentaries