One of the most widely praised studies of Jewish apocalyptic literature ever written, The Apocalyptic Imagination by John J. Collins has served for over thirty years as a helpful, relevant, comprehensive survey of the apocalyptic literary genre. After an initial overview of things apocalyptic, Collins proceeds to deal with individual apocalyptic texts—the early Enoch literature, the book of Daniel, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and others—concluding with an examination of apocalypticism in early Christianity. Collins has updated this third edition throughout to account for the recent profusion of studies germane to ancient Jewish apocalypticism, and he has also substantially revised and updated the bibliography.
“The thesis presented in Semeia 14 is that a corpus of texts that has been traditionally called ‘apocalyptic’ does indeed share a significant cluster of traits that distinguish it from other works. Specifically, an apocalypse is 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.’” (Page 5)
“A movement might reasonably be called apocalyptic if it shared the conceptual framework of the genre, endorsing a worldview in which supernatural revelation, the heavenly world, and eschatological judgment played essential parts.” (Page 16)
“Most of the works that figure in discussions of the Jewish apocalyptic literature were not explicitly designated as apocalypses in antiquity. The use of the Greek title apokalypsis (revelation) as a genre label is not attested in the period before Christianity. The first work introduced as an apokalypsis is the New Testament book of Revelation, and even there it is not clear whether the word denotes a special class of literature or is used more generally for revelation.” (Pages 3–4)
“The genre is not constituted by one or more distinctive themes but by a distinctive combination of elements, all of which are also found elsewhere.” (Page 15)
“In the same way, the ‘Son of Man’ passage in Mark 13:26 alludes to Daniel, but the figure in Mark does not have the same reference as it had in Daniel, and the full narrative of Daniel 7 is not implied. Mythological allusions, like biblical allusions, are not simple copies of the original source. Rather they transfer motifs from one context to another. By so doing they build associations and analogies and so enrich the communicative power of the language.” (Page 24)
John J. Collins was a professor of Hebrew Bible at the University of Chicago from 1991 until his arrival at Yale Divinity School in 2000. He has published widely on the subjects of apocalypticism, wisdom, Hellenistic Judaism, and the Dead Sea Scrolls. His books include the commentary on Daniel in theHermeneia series, The Apocalyptic Imagination, and Between Athens and Jerusalem: Jewish Identity in the Hellenistic Diaspora. He has served as editor of the Journal of Biblical Literature and as president of both the Catholic Biblical Association and the Society of Biblical Literature.