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The Hermenejutics of Apocalyptic

The Hermenejutics of Apocalyptic

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Although Collins and Hanson consider themselves historical-critical scholars, the
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significance of their work for conservative Christians is recognized by the choice of Collins towrite the article “Apocalyptic Literature” in the recent evangelical reference work 
Dictionary of  New Testament Background 
, edited by Craig A. Evans and Stanley E. Porter (Downer’s Grove,IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 40-45. Collins’ debt to Hanson was acknowledged by Collins tome personally on November 19, 2000. The book that more than any other launched the currentdebate was Paul D. Hanson,
The Dawn of Apocalyptic
(Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1975). Seealso Hanson’s
Old Testament Apocalyptic
(Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1987). The contributionsof John J. Collins are too numerous to list here, some of the most significant works are: (aseditor) “Apocalypse: the Morphology of a Genre”
Semeia
14 (Missoula, MT: Scholars Press,1
THE HERMENEUTICS OF BIBLICAL APOCALYPTICby Jon PaulienBiblical Research Institute CommitteeLoma Linda, CAFebruary, 2001
The Seventh-day Adventist Church, as I understand it, derives its unique witness to JesusChrist from the conviction that the apocalyptic prophecies of Daniel and Revelation portray arelentless march of God-ordained history leading from the prophet’s time up to a critical climax atthe End. Adventist interpretation of Daniel and Revelation is at the heart of Adventist self-understanding and identity. The contribution I hope to make here is to briefly outline theexegetical basis for Adventist self-understanding in the biblical books of Daniel and Revelation.
The Definition of Apocalyptic
The definitions of the terms apocalypse and apocalyptic have been the object of asignificant amount of scholarly attention in the last three decades. The leading figures during this period of study are John J. Collins and his mentor Paul D. Hanson. Working with a team of 
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1979), entire issue; (along with Bernard McGinn and Stephen J. Stein)
The Encyclopedia of  Apocalypticism
, 3 volumes (NY: Continuum Press, 1998); (as author)
 Apocalypticism in the Dead Sea Scrolls
(London: Routledge Press, 1997);
The Apocalyptic Imagination
, second edition(Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1998).Other works of importance over the last half century on the subject of apocalyptic include
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John Collins’ wife, Adela Yarbro Collins,
Cosmology and Eschatology in Jewish and Christian Apocalypticism
(Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1996); idem, “The Early Christian Apocalypses,”
Semeia
14(1979): 61-121 and the following: David Aune, “The Apocalypse of John and the Problem of Genre,”
Semeia
36 (1986): 65-96; Johann Christian Beker,
 Paul’s Apocalyptic Gospel: TheComing Triumph of God 
Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1982); David Hellholm, editor,
 Apocalypticism in the Mediterranean World and the Near East 
(Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr [PaulSiebeck], 1983); Klaus Koch,
The Rediscovery of Apocalyptic
(Naperville, IL: Allenson, 1970);Clark Rowland,
The Open Heaven: A Study of Apocalyptic in Judaism and Early Christianity
(NY: Crossroad, 1982).Walter Bauer,
 A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian
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 Literature
, second edition, translated, revised and adapted by F. Wilbur Gingrich and Frederick W. Danker from Bauer’s fifth German edition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979), 92.Michael Smith, “On the History of 
 Apokalypto
and
 Apokalypsis
” in
 Apocalypticism in the
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 Mediterranean World and the Near East 
, edited by David Hellholm (Tubingen: J. C. B. Mohr [Paul Siebeck], 1983), 9-20.John J. Collins, “Apocalyptic Literature,” in
 Dictionary of New Testament Background 
,
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edited by Craig A. Evans and Stanley E. Porter (Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000),41.2specialists under the auspices of the Society of Biblical Literature, Collins helped shape thedefinitions that are in working use today.
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The term “apocalypse” is drawn from the introductory phrase of Revelation (Rev 1:1) andmeans “revelation” or “disclosure.” From the second century AD onward it became increasingly
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used as a title or “genre label” for extra-biblical works of a character similar to Daniel and
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Revelation in the Bible. As modern scholars became aware that a whole collection of similar works existed in ancient Judaism, they applied this later label also to books like Daniel, EthiopicEnoch, 4 Ezra, 2 Baruch and other works produced before and contemporary with Revelation.
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John J. Collins, on the other hand, (“Early Jewish Apocalypticism,”
The Anchor Bible
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 Dictionary
, edited by David Noel Freedman, 6 vols. [Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1992], 1:283) does not seem to distinguish between apocalyptic eschatology and apocalypticism, using thelater term in the same way Hanson uses the former, as an expression of world view or, to useCollins’ terms, a “symbolic universe.”Paul D. Hanson, “Apocalypses and Apocalypticism,”
The Anchor Bible Dictionary
,
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edited by David Noel Freedman, 6 vols. (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1992), 1: 279.Hanson,
 Anchor Bible Dictionary
, 1:280.
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In another place I have outlined this development briefly (Jon Paulien,
What the Bible
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Says About the End-Time
[Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald, 1994], 55-71). There I pointout that the prophetic view of the end involved an inbreaking of God into the present system of history, without overturning it. The apocalyptic view of the end contains a more radical break  between the present age and the age to come, usually including the destruction of the old order  before the creation of the new.My one-sentence summary of what Hanson is saying about this term, cf. Hanson,
 Anchor 
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 Bible Dictionary
, 1:281.According to Hanson (ibid., 1:279), Collins’ team of scholars analyzed all the texts
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classifiable as apocalypses from 250 BC to 250 AD, and based the definition on the common3Paul Hanson seems to have been the first to distinguish between the terms apocalypse,apocalyptic eschatology, and apocalypticism. For him as for most others, “apocalypse”
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designates a literary genre, which has since been critically defined (see below). Hanson defines
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apocalyptic eschatology as the world view or conceptual framework out of which the apocalypticwritings emerged. Apocalyptic eschatology (or study of end-time events) was probably an
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outgrowth of prophetic eschatology. “Apocalypticism” occurs when a group of people adopt the
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world view of apocalyptic eschatology, using it to inform their interpretation of Scripture, togovern their lives, and to develop a sense of their place in history.
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There is a general consensus among the specialists that the genre apocalypse should bedefined as follows:
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