THST 398 - "The Book of Revelation and Apocalyptic Literature"

Written Exercises - Spring 1999

Felix Just, S.J.

Click to go to detailed instructions for each item:

General Guidelines on Format, References, Grammar, Bibliography, etc.

Exercise #1 - Initial Impressions of the Book of Revelation (due 1/14/99)

Exercise #2 - Ancient Jewish Apocalyptic Literature (due 2/25/99)

Exercise #3 - Early Christian Apocalyptic Literature (due 4/8/99 - note the new earlier due date!)

General Guidelines for Written Exercises:


Unless otherwise specified, all short written exercises this semester should be:
* bordered by one-inch margins all around (please check this on your computer!)

* typed (or word-processed), double-spaced, with 12 to 10 point type (10 to 12 cpi)

* written in standard essay format (brief introduction, body, brief conclusion)

* compactly headed (single-spaced!) with your name, the course number and name, and the exercise number & title

* turned in at the beginning of the class session on the day they are due

* composed in proper written English (spelling and grammar counts!)

Biblical References:

Always back up all your claims with specific references to the biblical texts, citing book, chapter, and verse(s). Follow the examples in Reddish, Nickelsburg or Fiorenza to learn how to cite biblical references properly.

We normally put biblical references in parentheses at the end of a sentence, just before the concluding punctuation; only put references without parentheses in the middle of sentences if they are directly a part of your sentence. Examples:

a) Matthew’s Gospel begins by calling Jesus "the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham" (Matt 1:1).

b) Did you read the parables of Mark 4, including the famous Parable of the Mustard Seed (4:30-31)?

c) The death of Jesus is briefly but powerfully described in the Fourth Gospel: "When Jesus had received the wine, he said, ‘It is finished.’ Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit" (John 19:30)

Use standard abbreviations for the names of biblical books (see HCSB, xxxi - please do not use italics or periods); you can omit the book name after the first reference, but only if you are obviously still referring to the same book. Examples:
Mark 13 means all of chapter 13 of Mark’s Gospel Mark 1-4, 8 means chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, and 8

Rev 2:12-17 means chapter 2, from verse 12 to verse 17 Rev 2:12, 17 means ch. 2, verses 12 and 17 only

2:1 - 3:22 means the section from 2:1 to 3:22 2:1; 3:22 means the two verses 2:1 and 3:22 only

Grammatical and Stylistic Cautions:

Please be especially careful about the following common errors, which not only drive your reader up the wall, but also significantly distract me from understanding what you are trying to say (thus resulting in lower grades!). Of course, I wish I would not have to mention these items to college-level students, but past experiences have made this caution necessary.

Know the differences:

two ¹ too ¹ to (too obvious to mention? you’d be surprised!)

they’re (they are) ¹ there (place) ¹ their (possessive)

it’s (it is) ¹ its (possessive, belonging to it)

then (at that time) ¹ than (in comparisons)

Be careful with:
relative pronouns: "the people who did something" (not "the people that…") vs. "the object that is something"

sentence fragments: every sentence must have a subject and a verb, otherwise it is incomplete!

pronouns without antecedents: every pronoun must refer back to a noun which was explicitly stated not too much earlier

subject/verb agreement, esp. with pronouns: one person does… he (or she) does…; several people do… they do…

Finer stylistic points:
Avoid contractions in formal writing: he is (not he’s), they have (not they’ve), I am (not I’m), etc.

Always underline or italicize the titles of modern books; but put titles of "articles" in quotation marks.

Since we capitalize book titles, always capitalize "Bible," "New Testament," "Gospel of Mark," "Synoptic Gospels," etc.

Bibliographical Tips:

At the end of most papers (but not for Exercise #1), append a single-spaced bibliographical list of all the sources you used; specifically list which dictionary articles you used, not just the titles of the dictionaries in general. Provide specific information in the following format (a modified Chicago-style used by most people in biblical studies):
the article’s author (not just the editor), the articletitle, the publication info, and the volume and pagenumbers.
Note: The names of authors are usually listed at the end of articles. But since the HarperCollins Bible Dictionary articles list only the authors’ initials, you need to check see the list of "Contributors" (pp. vi-xv) to get the full names.

Incorrect/incomplete examples:

Not just: David N. Freedman, Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol. 1.

Nor only: C. E. C. "Jesus Christ." HarperCollins Bible Dictionary.

Good examples:
Marxsen, Willi. "Christology in the NT." Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible; Supplementary Volume (Nashville: Abingdon, 1976) 146-56.

Dunn, James D. G. "Christology." Anchor Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1992) 1.979-91.

Johnson, S. E. "Lord (Christ)." Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (Nashville: Abingdon, 1962) 2.151.

Frick, Frank S. "King." HarperCollins Bible Dictionary (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1996) 567.

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EXERCISE # 1 - Initial Impressions of the Book of Revelation (due Thursday, 1/14/99)

1) For all the students to get a basic overview of the content, imagery, and style of the NT Book of Revelation.
2) For you to begin thinking about the original purpose and overall message of this piece of ancient literature.
3) For me to get an initial sample of the quality of your reading, writing, and revising skills.


Read the entire Book of Revelation, preferably at one sitting:

- Read it fairly quickly, but carefully (it should only take you about 1-2 hours, depending on how fast you read).

- Read only the text of Revelation for now, not all the detailed footnotes or commentary your Bible may have.

Immediately after you have read this work, write down some notes with your initial overall thoughts and impressions:

- What major images and prominent themes did you notice as you read this book?

- What interesting or curious aspects of the structure and style of the book stood out for you ?

- How would you summarize the overall message that the ancient author was trying to tell his original readers?

- What do you think the original purpose of this writing was? That is, why do you think the author wrote this work?

- What else did you notice that surprised you or impressed you about this text?

Now go back over the book and find some specific texts that can back up and/or illustrate your initial impressions:

- Where in the text do you see some examples of the various items that impressed or surprised you?

- Where in the text (cite chapter and verse numbers) does the author most directly state his overall message?

- Where in the text does the author explicitly mention and/or implicitly allude to his main purpose in writing?

For those who have read all or part of the Book of Revelation before, please read the whole work again now:

- If you wish, you may also contrast your current impressions with your previous ones: What stood out differently for you in this reading? Do you see the message and purpose of this work differently now than you did before?


Write 3 to 4 pages in which you answer all the above questions in a clear and orderly fashion, using standard essay format (brief introduction, structured main body, very brief conclusion).

Since this assignment is focused on your own impressions and reactions, you will not need a bibliography, since you should not yet be using any commentaries or other scholarly works—we’ll have plenty of time for that later.

Please make sure you proof-read your paper carefully before you print it out and turn it in; by all means use your computer’s spell-checker, but do not rely on it alone, since these programs cannot catch all typographical errors!

You may of course discuss your ideas with other students and/or get help from other people in finding specific biblical references—and you are strongly encouraged to receive proofreading and/or grammatical help from others if needed!

However, the final product must always be your own writing (do not copy from books or from other people); but also try to use the language of Revelation itself, and avoid mixing in words and ideas from later Christianity;

Remember that late papers will not be accepted, and that the assignment is due at the beginning of the class session!


I will read, comment on, and return your papers as soon as possible (hopefully by Tuesday, 1/19/99), marked with a provisional grade (based on content and form). You should then revise your work, correcting any errors or problems I marked and improving it in other ways I may suggest.

Please turn in your revision along with your original paper within one week (1/26/99?). I will then return them to you with a final grade as soon as possible thereafter. However, please do not be careless or sloppy on your original paper. It is more than just a rough draft!

EXERCISE # 2 (due Thursday 2/25/99) - Ancient Jewish Apocalyptic Literature


1) To review the basic definitions, characteristics, and purposes of apocalyptic literature so popular in ancient Judaism.

2) To analyze in greater detail two passages from the Jewish apocalyptic writings we have already read over quickly.

3) To become more familiar with some of the standard Secondary Literature (Bible Dictionaries and Commentaries) as supplemental research tools.


1) Review Reddish, pp. 19-29, on the definitions, characteristics, and purposes of ancient Jewish apocalypses (writings), apocalyptic (images and themes), and apocalypticism (movements and world-views).

2) Choose two passages to analyze in greater detail, one from each of the following two groups:
       A) proto-apocalyptic writings: Isaiah 24-27; Ezekiel 37-39; Zechariah 11-14; Joel 1-3; Daniel 4-6
       B) full apocalypses: Daniel 7-9; 1 Enoch 85-90; Testament of Abraham 16-20; or the War Scroll 15-19 (Reddish)
Caution: look at the exact chapter numbers here, since these selections do not cover all the texts we have read!

3) Reread the two texts you have selected, paying close attention to the apocalyptic elements and details in these texts.

4) For more background material, read several appropriate articles on the prophet and/or writing (Daniel, Enoch, etc.) in one of the following Bible Dictionaries or Commentaries (available in LMU Library Reference section):
       Anchor Bible Dictionary; the Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible; or the New Jerome Biblical Commentary.
For 1 Enoch or Test. Abr., use either R.H. Charles’ The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament
       or H.F.D. Sparks’ The Apocryphal Old Testament (both on Library Reserve upstairs)
Caution: ask me before using other secondary sources, since not all are of the same quality and some are very out-of-date!
Note: this step is not an optional recommendation, but an important required part of this assignment (see goal #3 above).


1) Write 3 to 4 pages in which you analyze your two selected passages in as much detail as space allows:

- For the proto-apocalyptic work you chose from category A, discuss exactly what parts of Reddish’s definition of an "apocalypse" are fulfilled, and what parts of the definition are not fulfilled by this work.

- For the apocalypse from category B, show how all parts of the definition are fulfilled by this writing (or in case some part of the definition is not fulfilled, explain carefully why not).

- For both works, highlight some of the apocalyptic characteristics or features found in the text.

- For both works, explain what was the original purpose of the text, in consideration of its probable historical context.

- In addition to analyzing each work separately, also compare and contrast some aspects of these two writings.

2) As always, make sure you back up and illustrate what you say with lots of explicit references to the texts (cite chapter & verse numbers whenever you refer to specific passages, not just if you are directly quoting the text)!

3) And also as always, please pay careful attention to the quality of your writing:

- Write in standard essay format (brief introduction, structured main body, very brief conclusion).

- Append a bibliography of all primary and secondary sources you used (see Ex #1 for instructions and examples!).

- Please make sure you proof-read your paper carefully before you print it out and turn it in.

- Use a computer spell-checker, but do not rely on it alone, since such programs cannot catch all typographical errors!

- Also review and follow the "GENERAL GUIDELINES" listed on Ex #1, including the sections on the back:

        "Biblical References"; "Grammatical and Stylistic Cautions"; and "Bibliographical Tips."

4) Papers are due by midnight Thursday (2/25/99). If you are done by Thursday morning, turn yours in during class time; if you are not done by then, do not miss class on Thursday!!! Finish your paper after class and turn it in at my office before midnight!!! Late papers will be marked down one grade for every day late, but they must still be done.

5) As always, you will be allowed to rewrite/revise your work after I read it the first time. But please do not use this as an excuse to turn in a sloppy "rough draft"! Make sure you have re-read these instructions before turning your paper in.

EXERCISE # 3 (due Thursday, 4/8/99) - Early Christian Apocalyptic Literature

1) To become more aware of the variety of eschatologies in the New Testament and other Early Christian writings.

2) To recognize and investigate the connections between the theology and the history of first century Christianity.

3) To become familiar with the use of some of the standard Bible Commentaries as supplemental research tools.

4) To continue improving our academic skills of researching carefully, writing clearly, and supporting our claims.

Reminder about Terminological Distinctions:

Eschatology (teaching about the end) can be categorized into sub-types based on a variety of factors:

WHO: eschatology can be cosmic (end of the world) or national (end of a state) or personal (end of an individual’s life)

WHEN: eschatology can be present (already here) or imminent (very soon) or delayed (not yet) or distant (far future)

HOW: eschatology can be apocalyptic (violent, catastrophic) or non-apocalyptic (peaceful, utopian)

1) Choose three different early Christian texts, one from each group that we have read:
  • One of the "Little Apocalypses" from the Synoptic Gospels: Matt 24, Mark 13, or Luke 21.
  • and one of the following chapters from Revelation: 9, 13, 17, or 18 (but NOT the one you led discussion in class)
  • and one of the following non-canonical Christian writings: Hermas: Vision 4; Apoc. Paul 3-10; Apoc. Thomas
  • 2) Reread the three texts you have selected, paying close attention to the eschatological elements and details in these texts (what kind of eschatology do they contain, according to the various distinctions made above).

    3) Consult some secondary literature for context and additional information on each of the writings you have chosen.
    Reminder: this step is not optional, but an important required part of the assignment (see goal #3 above).

    1) Write 4 to 6 pages in which you analyze your three selected passages in as much detail as space allows: 2) As always, make sure you back up all your claims with plenty of specific examples and references to the actual texts. Refer mostly to the primary literature (i.e., the ancient writings themselves, citing chapter & verse numbers), and only occasionally to the secondary literature (i.e. modern textbooks and commentaries, citing volume & page numbers).

    3) Please append a bibliography of all the secondary sources you used; be specific (list the authors, titles, volume & page numbers of the articles, not just whole commentary); see the back of Ex #1 and/or the course’s web-page for samples.

    4) As usual, please pay special attention to the quality of your writing (see goal # 4 above, and the detailed instructions on the previous two exercises).

    5) Since we are getting so late in the semester, I will probably not be able to accept re-writes for this paper, so make extra sure that you do a good job the first time.

    See also these Related Pages:
    Homepage for THST398: "The Book of Revelation and Apocalyptic Literature
    Course Syllabus and Detailed Schedule of Readings
    Guidelines for Student In-Class Presentations
    Links to Art and Images related to the Book of Revelation
    Links to other Revelation/Apocalyptic/Millennial Web-sites and Materials

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    This page was last updated on 09/27/01