Interpreting Apocalyptic Literature

Let’s begin with the basics. Interpreting Apocalyptic Literature: An Exegetical Handbook is the latest in an eight volume series on Handbooks for Old Testament Exegesis edited by David M. Howard Jr. This volume is written by Richard A. Taylor, senior professor of Old Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary. It is published by Kregel Publications under Kregel Academic.interpreting-apocalyptic-literature

Suffice it to say that Apocalyptic Literature is a genre of the written word that is unfrequently considered, although according to the author, it is one that is now gaining attention. It would be fair to say that the reason for the lack of consideration is that it is hard to define. This is even admitted by the author, “Of all the literary genres employed in the Bible, none is more difficult to define than the apocalyptic genre. Scholars have not found it easy to reach a consensus on what exactly is meant by the world apocalyptic.” (p.27) In a basic but useful Glossary at the end of the book Taylor provides his definition: “Ancient literature that contains a significant proportion of those features that define an apocalypse, whether or not the writing in question itself fully qualifies as an apocalypse.”

With that dilemma to consider the problem of how to interpret the genre becomes a daunting task. What are the features that define an apocalypse? What if the writing does not qualify as an apocalypse? Must we then assign it to another genre? The questions begin to multiply. Nevertheless, attempting to tackle these questions, Taylor does an admirable job. But let me warn you, it is intense reading.

Perhaps the most useful chapter is “Preparing for Interpretation of Apocalyptic Literature.” (ch.3) Taylor provides several sections that are applicable to interpreting any genre of literature. Interesting also are the final two chapters in which the author moves from the theoretical to the practical dealing with Daniel 7 and 8 and Joel 2.28-32. These discussions provide some application to the theory.

By admission Taylor states that this volume is geared to scholars and seminary students. He is most certainly correct. It may also find use with a pastor preaching in this genre. This is not a volume to be picked up for light reading.

Disclaimer: This book was provided to me by Kregel Publications for a fair an honest review.