How does Collins describe the genre of apocalypticism?

 How does Collins describe the genre of apocalypticism?

John J. Collins’ chapter, “The Apocalyptic Genre,” in The Apocalyptic Imagination, provides a comprehensive, detailed overview of what apocalyptic literature is, the influences that have shaped it, and how biblical scholars have interpreted it. Collins begins by defining apocalyptic literature while making it clear that it is difficult to easily describe it because there are many similarities and differences among the apocalyptic texts in the Bible. He also provides a critical summary of how various influential biblical scholars, such as R. H. Charles and Hermann Gunkel, have interpreted apocalyptic texts (McAllister, 2020). Collins agrees with Gunkel’s holistic view that the documents must be understood historically and socially, but also by paying attention to the mythological, spiritual aspects of the stories. Collins argues that the texts can best be understood by also taking into consideration the historical and social forces that shaped the patterns and content of the stories. For example, Collins explains and gives examples of the major influences, especially the Babylonians, Persians, and Greeks, by paying attention to how and when the various stories were written (Meeks, 2006).

By also examining the apocalyptic literature through the lens of various types of settings as well as their function – what purpose the stories were intended to serve – Collins makes it clear that these stories must be read and understood as products of their times rather than applying a homogeneous interpretation to all of them. In other words, throughout the chapter, Collins’ overarching main idea is that making generalizations about the biblical apocalyptic stories is an incorrect oversimplification, which downplays the importance of the context of the stories, including the setting, influences, and function(McAllister, 2020). The apocalyptic passage can be found in Daniel 11:12 trials, and trouble is going to happen no matter what. Our reward is everlasting life in heaven, the revelations to history end from the tale of the Persian Empire, the death of Alexander the great, the wars between Ptolemies in Egypt. The Seleucids of Babylon, Palestine being taken hostage, persecution of the Jews (verse 21-35). The rise of the antichrist trials and tribulation we will face before his defeat (verse 12:1)(Meeks, 2006).

What are its chief characteristics?

One of the main ideas that Collins fully develops is the historical and ongoing perspectives and understanding of what constitutes apocalyptic literature and how it should be defined. For example, after beginning with some relevant historical context for why many scholars avoid the topic of apocalyptic literature, especially its connection to “fanatical millenarian expectation” of the world’s wickedness and subsequent final judgment, Collins provides a broad definition of the terms associated with this topic: “apocalypse as a literary genre, apocalypticism as a social ideology, and apocalyptic eschatology as a set of ideas and motifs that may also be found in other literary genres and social settings.” He then proceeds to explain these terms and demonstrate how they are interconnected. He also provides a specific overview of the evolving interpretations and priorities of apocalyptic scholars.

 Collins also contextualizes the apocalyptic genre by demonstrating the qualities it shares with other types of literature. He also emphasizes the critical importance of being aware of the social and historical context of the stories to establish their validity as apocalyptic literature(McAllister, 2020). He states that “the study of the apocalyptic genre rejects the generic orientation of previous scholarship and places its primary emphasis on the internal coherence” within each story. For example, he states that Daniel’s revelation must be understood and appreciated as apocalyptic literature by following the account within its context; one must read the beginning of Daniel and be aware of other stories about the brutal treatment of the Jews by Antiochus Epiphanes. More specifically, Collins critically examines to what extent the portrayal of Daniel as a wise Babylonian who receives apocalyptic messages was influenced by Akkadian prophecies within the culture of the Babylonians (Meeks, 2006). For instance, he agrees that an angel gives the revelation is a logical connection to the Akkadian texts where a similar pattern is evident.

 By outlining and critiquing the arguments of various biblical scholars, Collins demonstrates how the thinking about how apocalyptic literature should be interpreted has evolved. The first is the interpretation of apocalyptic texts, which has been approached differently by Hermann Gunkel and R. H. Charles, two of the most influential scholars of this type of literature. Although he criticizes R. H. Charles’ inability to avoid anachronistic assumptions of apocalyptic texts, Collins sympathetically places him in context by stating that various British scholars who were his contemporaries also tended to oversimplify the ancient texts(Meeks, 2006).

References

McAllister, C. (Ed.). (2020). The Cambridge Companion to Apocalyptic Literature (Cambridge Companions to Religion). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/9781108394994

Meeks, W. A. (2006). The HarperCollins Study Bible: New Revised Standard Version, with the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books. HarperCollins.

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