Bible Review 6:3, June 1990


Unveiling the apocalypse

By F. F. Bruce

Bible Review

Apocalyptic is a genre of Jewish and Christian literature. The word is derived from the title of the last book of the New Testament, Apocalypse, or Revelation to John (usually called simply Revelation). Its primary meaning is “unveiling.”

Apocalyptic literature regularly records visions in which the seer is shown things normally concealed from human sight, such as the secrets of outer space or, especially, of the near or more remote future. The seer is often, but not always, a named biblical figure of the past, who is given a vision of events future to his day but present or impending in the day of the actual author.

The term “apocalyptic” is sometimes used loosely as though it meant eschatological. But the two terms should be kept distinct. Apocalyptic, as has been said, is a form of literature; eschatology is the study of the “last things.”a Eschatology is often the subject of apocalyptic literature, but not invariably so, and eschatology can be presented in factual, nonapocalyptic terms.

An even looser use of “apocalyptic” is in the general sense of disastrous, because much apocalyptic literature depicts cosmic disasters as presaging or accompanying the end of the world.

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