What is Apocalyptic Literature?

I’ve recently posted about the book of Revelation, as it is the topic of the Bible study I am currently attending. It seems as if every week, my husband (the pastor and teacher) has to tell us –this isn’t describing an actual event — it is simply a symbol. Remember, this is apocalyptic literature. So today I asked him, what are the characteristics of this genre? Here’s what he told me.

  1. Apocalyptic literature is highly stylized. In other words, if follows a certain pattern that would have been easily recognized by people of that time. It was not limited to the Bible.
  2. It uses images to represent reality, but these images should not be taken literally.
  3. Although the works are described as prophetic, in the case of Revelation, the prophecies are meant to describe events that will occur over and over during the course of history. It is not meant to predict specific things that will happen right before the end of time.
  4. This type of literature was often used to criticize or attack a situation or person when to do so openly would have been dangerous. For example, the book of Revelation can be seen as an attack on the Roman Empire.

It’s also important to remember as you read the book of Revelation is that it is not chronological. Writers like John were more concerned with placing themes or topics together, so the events are parallel rather than consecutive.

For more posts about Revelation see:

The Trouble with Churches ….

More about the book of Revelation

What is the White Stone?


1 thought on “What is Apocalyptic Literature?

  1. Pingback: Resources for Reading the Book of Revelation | Lutheran Ladies Connection

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