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Essay about Apocalypse in Revelation

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The end. Absolute in its finality, the end provides at once both a tempting and alluring topic of discussion. Attributable to this fact is the popularity of literary works which discuss the resolution of humanity. Examples of so called apocalyptic literature predate the Old Testament, however, the most controversial biblical example is John’s The Book of Revelation. The work is controversial because it falls to the subjective application of qualifying elements to determine Revelation’s in- or exclusion from the apocalyptic genre. Notwithstanding, while “revelation” is a translation of the word “apocalypse,” this fact does not appear to be enough for Northrop Frye or David Chilton to classify the text as definitively apocalyptic. Chilton argues that Revelation represents such a significant divergence form earlier apocalyptic works that it is beyond inclusion in the genre, whereas Frye perceived the final book as nothing more than a succinct end to the biblical story. In this way, both fail to recognize a third option, that of Bernard McGinn, who instead suggests that The Book of Revelation represents an evolution in the apocalyptic genre.
In his work, Apocalypse in the Middle Ages, Bernard McGinn cites several important elements of early apocalyptic literature and discusses how they are or are not incorporated into John’s Revelation. In line with traditional apocalyptic texts, McGinn notes the imminent punishment of the wicked and salvation of the righteous. This element derives from the trying state which authors of the time found themselves by acknowledging “pessimism about the present aeon” and offsetting it by being “profoundly optimistic about the aeon to come” (McGinn, 8). This can be seen in chapter sixteen of The Book of...


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...g the intent of John do little to address the issue of the genre of the text and instead speculate as to the motivation for the piece. While his argument might suggest that John did not intend the the text as apocalyptic, it fails to demonstrate how this intent would effect the classification. Further, the variation in key elements between The Book of Revelation and earlier textual examples which are cause for Chilton’s disapproval, are simply signs of the evolution of apocalypticism. However, he offers insight as to the primary function of the text. That function being to encourage Christians to lead ethical lives in preparation for the rapture. In the end, it is McGinn who seems to best summarize the genre of the text as a whole, asserting that John’s Revelation does not represent the end. Instead it symbolizes the beginning of a new era of apocalyptic literature.


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