TRAJECTORIES IN NEAR EASTERN APOCALYPTIC

 

Synopsis and description.

Modern study of the apocalyptic literature produced by Jewish and Christian religious communities during the Hellenistic and early Roman periods of eastern Mediterranean history oftentimes has spawned the erroneous impression that the heyday of apocalypticism was roughly 200 BCE to 200 CE. Once Judaism and Christianity achieved their respective ‘classical’ forms, interest in and production of literary apocalypses gradually declined and eventually disappeared. This common perception is in fact gravely wrong — apocalyptic ‘books’ retained their appeal and enjoyed a considerable vogue, not only among certain circles within Judaism and Christianity but also among a number of distinct biblically based Near Eastern religious traditions, throughout Late Antiquity and well into the medieval period. Somewhat surprisingly, these later apocalyptic works have been largely ignored both in studies of apocalypticism as a religious phenomenon and in scholarly presentations of the ideological history of apocalyptic literature. 

The present project aspires to remedy this unfortunate situation. It has at least three primary foci: (1) the convenient assemblage at a single locale of a representative selection of Jewish, Christian (Syriac), Muslim, and gnostic (non-Coptic) apocalyptic texts emanating from the Near East during late antiquity and the early medieval period; (2) the preparation of textual resources and new English translations, accompanied by brief introductions, scholarly annotation, and commentary; and (3) the synoptic study of these texts both within and across traditional religious boundaries in order to reconstruct plausible affinities and lines of developmental influence. Of paramount significance at this stage of the investigation will be an exploration of the interreligious history of the interpretation of seminal biblical passages which lie at the root of the apocalyptic enterprise among the various scriptural communities. 

The first fruits of the project takes the form of a monograph entitled Trajectories in Near Eastern Apocalyptic: A Postrabbinic Jewish Apocalypse Reader which appeared in 2005 under the joint imprint of the Society of Biblical Literature and E. J. Brill.  Future volumes will explore the rich Christian and Muslim apocalyptic traditions in tandem with the Jewish texts.

A Note on the Translations.

The translations posted on this web site are for the use of students in my Judaica and Bible classes. They are based upon standard accessible print and/or manuscript resources (these are always indicated); they do not pretend to supply or suggest a ‘critical edition’ for the text in question. Given the pluriform nature of the manuscript and printed evidence, I am not even sure whether the attainment of a ‘critical edition’ for most of these texts is even possible. Annotations are copiously supplied in my printed editions of these texts, but they are deliberately suppressed in these web versions in order to maximize the texts’ pedagogical utility. 


Back to index page