Apocalyptic Literature: A Reader compiled and edited by Mitchell G. Reddish
In the Bible, when we read of the sun turning dark, the moon into blood, and the stars falling from the sky in Matthew 24:29, is this to be taken literally? Many Christian interpreters say yes. Others say no, it is simply apocalyptic language and cannot be used as a determiner in the sequence and timing of end-times events. I hoped, both from the introduction and reading of these non-canonical Jewish and early Christian texts, to get a sense for the apocalyptic writing style of the period that would give me some additional perspective.
Many in the posttribulation camp, for example, feel that the seals, trumpets, and bowls overlap. While in modern writings, we would not interpret sequential events as overlapping, I have read that in ancient writing, unannounced overlap was common. In this text, which is billed as appropriate for college undergraduate courses, I was looking for scholarly confirmation.
The collection of apocalyptic writings is chosen to represent different non-canonical apocalyptic writing styles in both ancient Jewish and Christian literature. But the introduction is something to be taken with a grain of salt. If this text is used in undergrad coursework, it is presenting an extremely skewed viewpoint that is potentially as dangerous as it is inaccurate. The editor, Mitchell Reddish, adopts the view that all apocalyptic literature, including the canonical book of Daniel, was written ex eventu, or after the fact, by a writer using a pseudonym of an ancient historical figure, such as Moses, Abraham, or Daniel. This places all apocalyptic literature in the realm of human origins—works of fiction and imagination - and denying the possibility of divine inspiration. In other words, despite the internal evidence and the testimony of other ancient writers, the only way biblical writings could contain accurate prophecies is for them to have been written by imposters centuries later.
Ironically, throughout the introduction to the book, Reddish repeatedly uses the term "God," as if he accepts the existence of a divine being, and he even refers to Jesus as "the Christ" and refers to His resurrection; and yet his evaluation of all apocalyptic literature, including the writings of the biblical canon, is that that it is nothing more than "protest writing" of human origin. Futurist interpretations of Revelation - or even any attempt to see these prophecies as literal, even in terms of historical fulfillment - are written off as foolisness.
Although this book is a compilation of non-canonical literature, and therefore is not a direct attack on the inspiration of scripture, there is still a dangerous combination of fact and personal belief as it relates to all apocalyptic literature that is packaged as if it is all fact. His bias even goes so far as to indicate that most Christians who do venture to study Daniel and Revelation discover them so impenetrable that they give up all hope of finding any clarity within them. This is so blatantly untrue that it makes all of his other unverifiable statements suspect, as well.
As for the remainder of the book itself, this is an interesting collection of apocalyptic literature, and for anyone interested in this genre, it provides a perspective that is important for all students of prophecy. It's important to have a broader perspective than our own worldview. If we want to understand the style, organization, and flow of books such as Revelation, it helps to have a larger sense for the genre. The inspiration for the scriptures may have come from God, but the biblical authors used the language and style of their times. In the world of biblical interpretation, it's all about context, context, context - historical, language, and scriptural. So understanding the other apocalyptic writings of the period has tremendous value. So purchase the book, read the literature, but take the introduction for what it is - a biased perspective that does not reflect the complete body of scholastic thought, but only one narrow view.