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

Course Syllabus  &  Schedule of Readings  -  Spring 1999

Felix Just, S.J.

Syllabus - Spring '99

Course Goals & Objectives: 

As the year 2000 approaches, many people seem to believe that the world will come to a catastrophic end very soon.
Don’t the "signs of the times" all around us clearly indicate that we are quickly approaching our last days here on earth?
Doesn’t the Bible itself clearly predict that the apocalyptic end of the world is very near?
In contrast to such fears & misinterpretations, this course on apocalyptic literature has the following goals:

1) To understand the nature and purpose of ancient apocalyptic literature -- what it is, and what it isn’t:
- we will define "apocalypse," "apocalyptic," and related terms and genres of ancient literature
- we will consider how these ancient works are similar to and/or different from today’s literature

2) To study the Book of Revelation critically in light of its social, historical, literary & religious contexts:
- we will read a variety of other ancient Jewish and Christian apocalypses and related writings
- we will learn the relevant highlights of Judeo-Christian history (esp. 2nd cent. bce to 2nd cent. ce)

3) To investigate how the Book of Revelation has been used (or misused) in our own age and cultures:
- we will sample some modern apocalyptic literature, films, and millennial movements
- we will learn about some Catholic teachings on eschatology and the end of the world

4) To improve our academic skills, including critical reading, research, writing, and presentation skills:
- we will attempt not only to find answers, but to question presuppositions and raise new questions
- we will share our insights with one another in written assignments and oral presentations

5) To learn about and to practice doing theology as an essentially inter-disciplinary enterprise:
- we will incorporate some insights from the fields of history, literature, language, philosophy,
sociology, art, natural sciences, mathematics, etc., as well as using the methods of theology itself.
- we will explore the internet for some web-based sources of apocalyptic resources and materials

Required Textbooks (all available at the LMU bookstore):

1) Reddish, Mitchell, ed. Apocalyptic Literature: A Reader. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1990.

2) Nickelsburg, George W. E. Jewish Literature Between the Bible and the Mishnah: A Historical and Literary Introduction. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1981.

3) Fiorenza, Elizabeth Schüssler. Revelation: Vision of a Just World. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1991.

4) Meeks, Wayne, ed. The HarperCollins Study Bible. New York: HarperCollins, 1993. – abbrev. HCSB

Reference Works to be used regularly (available in LMU Library Reference and/or reserve):

1) HarperCollins Bible Dictionary. Revised ed. San Francisco: Harper, 1996. – ref. BS440 H235 1996
(see esp. the packet of photocopied articles from the HCBD on reserve in the LMU Library, upstairs)

2) Anchor Bible Dictionary. 6 vols. New York: Doubleday, 1992. – ref. BS440 A54 1992

3) New Jerome Biblical Commentary. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1990. – ref. BS491.2 N485

4) Bibloi CD-ROM Program - available on the LMU Library Reference Area Computers

5) Other biblical and non-biblical commentaries on reserve in the LMU Library (upstairs)

6) Charts, images, glossaries, and lots of other materials available on Prof. Just’s web-pages

Legal Disclaimer:

This "syllabus" is subject to modifications which may be announced during the course of the semester.

Course Work/Expectations:

1) Attendance and Participation: On-time attendance is required; tell me in advance if you must unavoidably miss a class (make sure you get all announcements, handouts or other material you missed). Your course grade will be lowered one step for every two unexcused absences. This course is partly seminar-style, so preparation and participation by all students is essential. Always come prepared to ask questions, suggest answers, take notes, summarize the readings, and challenge assumptions (yours and those of others - but respectfully!).

2) Reading Assignments: Readings must be done before class each day, so you can contribute to the discussion. Read the primary (ancient) texts first, then also read the assigned secondary (modern) literature. Afterwards, write out your own answer for the "Daily Questions" (given below), and also come up with some new questions and/or observations of your own (based on each of the readings) to contribute to the class discussion. Each day, I will randomly call upon students to share some of these prepared items with the class.

3) Written Exercises: You will be asked to write three short papers (3, 4, and 5 pages, respectively), due at the beginning of the class periods listed below. Late papers will be graded down one full letter grade for each day they are late. Detailed written instructions for each exercise will be given well in advance. All papers should be revised (improving your writing and incorporating my comments) and resubmitted for a final grade.

4) Class Presentations/Projects: All students will have three in-class responsibilities this semester:

A) Each student will give a 5-minute oral presentation on a biblical person, event, or custom. See the items listed for Jan. 19 to Feb. 11 on the detailed schedule below. Prepare a short handout (½ page only!), and bring it to my office at least one hour before class (so I can copy all of that day’s handouts together).

B) Pairs of students will lead the class in discussion of one chapter of the Book of Revelation (March 16-30). Do not just lecture, but get the other students involved in discussing the highlights and problems of the text. To prepare, use some of the Bible Commentaries available on library reserve. No handouts are necessary.

C) Groups of three students each will study some modern apocalyptic literature, films, movements, or related phenomena. Many topics for these projects are on my web-site, or you may suggest others that interest you. Each group will have 25 minutes to present its topic, followed by 10 minutes of discussion (April 13-29). You should prepare something for the class to read in advance, and you are encouraged to use multi-media in your presentation. The group must work together, but each member’s contribution must also be evident.

5) Objective Tests: There will be five short quizzes (mostly covering basic historical and literary concepts), and a comprehensive final examination. If you prefer, instead of the final exam you may write a final term paper (8-10 pages) on a relevant topic of your choice (but different from your group presentation), subject to the professor’s prior approval. If you choose this option, please submit a topic proposal by Tuesday, April 13. The completed paper is due at the end of the scheduled final exam.

6) Academic Integrity and Honesty: You are strongly encouraged to study together with other students, and you may of course use any books and other resources to help you learn. However, all written work must be your own, unless you are directly citing from sources which you have properly documented and credited. Copying from any other person, or any book, or from anything on the internet (even if you change a few words here and there!), without properly documenting your source, is considered plagiarism and will result in a failing grade.

Course Grades:

A: 90-100%, B: 80-89%, C: 70-79%, D: 60-69%, F: (hopefully not necessary!)  --  [Letter +/- within 2% -- e.g. A- 90-91%, B+ 88-89% ]

Class Participation & Reading Preparation: 100 points (or about 17% of the 600 point total)
Written Exercises: 150 points (40, 50, 60 points each, respectively; or about 25% of the total)
Class Presentations/Projects: 150 points (40, 50, 60 points each, respectively; or about 25%)
Quizzes: 100 points (5x20; or about 17%)
Final Exam or Final Term Paper: 100 points (or about 17%)

Detailed Class Schedule - Spring '99


Day, Date (Quizzes/ Exercises/ Misc. Info.)
Historical/Cultural/Literary Focus:  contextual material to be covered during this class period
Primary Reading:  biblical or other ancient texts themselves (mostly in the Bible or in Reddish)
Secondary Reading:  modern scholarly explanations/ introductions, esp. from the HarperCollins Bible Dictionary (HCBD),
    or Fiorenza, or Nickelsburg [pages in square brackets are optional]
Presentations:  topics presented by students during this class period
Daily Questions:  write out your answers before class; also come up with your own new questions & observations

Tues, Jan. 12 (Review of Syllabus; Student Profiles)

Introduction: What is the Bible? An Overview of Biblical Terms, Books, and Genres

Research Tools & Resources for Biblical Studies (library reference, library reserve, BWP, WWW, etc.)

Thurs, Jan. 14 (Exercise #1 - Initial Personal Impressions of the Book of Revelation)

Literary Focus: An Overview of the NT Book of Revelation; Definitions and Descriptions of Literary Genres

Primary Reading: Rev 1-22 (read the whole text in HCSB 2310-37, but not yet the footnotes)

Secondary Reading: HCSB 2307-9 (short introduction)

Daily Questions: What do you think are the main message and the original purpose of the Book of Revelation?
        Where do you find these expressed in the text itself (give chapter and verse numbers)?

Tues, Jan. 19

Historical Focus: The Hebrew People from Abraham to David

Primary Reading: Gen 1-11 (read carefully); Gen 12-50 (skim)

Secondary Reading: Reddish, "Preface" & "Introduction" (13-39); Nickelsburg, "Introduction" (1-8)

Presentations: 1) Abraham & Sarah, 2) Their Children & Grandchildren, 3) Twelve Sons/Tribes of Israel, 4) Joseph

Daily Questions: How do biblical scholars today define "apocalyptic," "apocalypse," and "apocalypticism"?
        How are these terms different from each other? How are they different from their popular definitions today?

Thurs, Jan. 21 (Quiz #1 on Biblical Terms & Definitions)

Geographical Focus: The Ancient Near East

Primary Reading: skim over all of Exod 1-15, 19-20, 32-34; Deut 5-6, 28; 2 Sam 5-7

Secondary Reading: HCBD: "apocalyptic literature" (39) & "revelation" (903)

Presentations: 5) Plagues in Egypt, 6) The First Passover, 7) Torah on Mount Sinai, 8) King David & Jerusalem

Daily Questions: What are the terms of the four main covenants in the OT, the ones God made with Noah (Gen 9), Abraham (Gen 15, 17), Moses (Exod 20, 30-32, Deut 5-6), and David (2 Sam 7)?

Tues, Jan 26

Historical Focus: The People of Israel from David to the Babylonian Exile

Primary Reading: 1 Kgs 4-6, 8; Isa 24-27; Ezek 37-39; Ezek 40-48 (skim)

Secondary Reading: Nickelsburg 9-18

Presentations: 9) Solomon & the Jerusalem Temple, 10) Isaiah, 11) Ezekiel, 12) King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon

Daily Questions: How were the people of Israel and the Hebrew Bible affected by the invasions of the land of Israel by the Assyrian and Babylonian empires between the 8th and 6th centuries bce?

Thurs, Jan. 28 (Quiz #2 on History & Culture: "Patriarchal Period" to "Babylonian Exile")

Religious Focus: Prophets & Prophecy in Ancient Israel

Primary Reading: Zech 1-6, 9-14; Joel 1-3

Secondary Reading: HCBD: "prophet" & "prophetess" (884-889)

Presentations: 13) Elijah & Elisha, 14) Jeremiah, 15) Zechariah, 16) Joel

Daily Questions: What are some similarities & differences between "prophetic" and "apocalyptic" writings?

Tues, Feb. 2

Historical Focus: The Persian & Hellenistic Periods; Assimilation vs. Resistance Movements

Primary Reading: Dan 1-6; Gen 37, 40-41

Secondary Reading: Nickelsburg 43-46, [19-30]

Presentations: 17) Cyrus of Persia, 18) Zerubbabel’s Temple, 19) Alexander the Great, 20) Ptolemies & Seleucids

Daily Questions: What is the main purpose of the first half of the book of Daniel?
        What precisely is the role played by the characters Daniel and Joseph in these stories, respectively?

Thurs, Feb. 4 (Quiz #3 on History & Culture: "Return from Exile" to "Seleucid Dynasty")

Cultural Focus: Social, Political, Religious Contexts of Ancient Jewish Literature

Primary Reading: The Book of the Watchers: 1 Enoch 1-36 (Reddish 143-62)

Secondary Reading: HCBD: "pseudepigrapha" (894-99) & "Apocrypha, OT" (40-42); [Nickelsburg 48-55]

Presentations: 21) Hellenistic language & education, 22) Hellenistic religion, 23) other Hellenistic social customs

Daily Questions: What are the main categories of ancient Jewish "pseudepigrapha"? What are the most important characteristics of "pseudepigraphy"? How did/does this literary practice affect the ancient/modern readers?

Tues, Feb. 9

Historical Focus: Antiochus IV Epiphanes and the Maccabean Revolt

Primary Reading: Dan 7-12

Secondary Reading: Nickelsburg 71-73, 101-105, [83-90]

Presentations: 24) Antiochus IV Epiphanes, 25) Judas Maccabeus, 26) his brother Jonathan, 27) his brother Simon

Daily Questions: What are some major stylistic differences between Dan 1-6 and Dan 7-12?
        How are the political events of the early 2nd cent. bce related to the concerns of Dan 7-12?

Thurs, Feb. 11 (Quiz #4 on History & Culture: "Maccabean Revolt" and "Hasmonean Dynasty")

Cultural Focus: Cosmology, Symbolism & Numerology in Ancient Judaism

Primary Reading: The First Vision: 1 Enoch 83-84 (handout);

The Animal Apocalypse: 1 Enoch 85-90 (Reddish 41-53);

The Apocalypse of Weeks: 1 Enoch 93, 91 (Reddish 54-57)

Secondary Reading: HCBD: "numbers" (763-4), "symbol" (1076-79); "time" (1151-52); [Nickelsburg 90-95, 145-51]

Presentations: 28) Sabbath, 29) Passover, 30) Hanukkah

Daily Questions: Why are numbers, animals and other symbols so prominent in apocalyptic writings?
        How did they function for the original ancient readers? How do they affect modern readers differently?

Tues, Feb. 16

Historical Focus: The Roman Period in Palestine; Imperial Control & Local Autonomy

Primary Reading: Testament of Levi 2-5 (Reddish 188-92); Testament of Abraham (Reddish 193-213- skim)

Secondary Reading: Nickelsburg 195-203, [235-37; 248-53]

Presentations: (extras or make-ups, if necessary)

Daily Questions: How did Rome’s take-over of Palestine affect the Messianic hopes of the Jewish people?

Thurs, Feb. 18 (Quiz #5 on History & Culture: "Roman Period")

Cultural Focus: Major Characteristics of Late Second Temple Judaism

Primary Reading: The Community Rule: 1QS (Reddish 224-28); The War Scroll: 1QM (Reddish 229-36)

Secondary Reading: HCBD: "Dead Sea Scrolls" (982-88); [Nickelsburg 122-40]

Daily Questions: In what ways can the Essenes be considered an "apocalyptic movement"?

Tues, Feb. 23

Historical Focus: The Beginnings of Christianity

Primary Reading: 1 Thess 4:13-5:11; 2 Thess 2:1-12; 1 Cor 15:1-58; 2 Cor 12:1-10; 2 Pet 3:1-13

Secondary Reading: HCBD: "Jesus Christ" (510-23 skim); "Paul" (814-22 skim)

Daily Questions: How would you summarize the earliest Christian preachings about Jesus?

Thurs, Feb. 25 (Exercise #2 - Ancient Jewish Apocalyptic Literature)

Cultural Focus: Oral Traditions and Written Gospels; Variety of NT Eschatologies

Primary Reading: Mark 13; Matt 24-25; Luke 19, 21; John 14-17;

Matt 12:39-41; 16:1-4; Luke 10:17-24; 11:29-32 Secondary Reading: HCBD: "eschatology" (302-5); "judgment" (554-55); "parousia" (807-9)

Daily Questions: Can we reconstruct the teachings of the historical Jesus about the future? How?
    How do the words of Jesus as recorded in the Gospels also betray the situation of the evangelists?

T/Th, March 2/4 - no classes (Spring Break)

Tues, March 9

Historical Focus: The First Jewish War against Rome

Primary Reading: 4 Ezra (Reddish 58-96 or in HCSB 1768-69, 1774-1807)

Secondary Reading: Nickelsburg 277-80; [287-94]

Daily Questions: How did the first revolt against Rome and the destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple affect the Jewish people politically, economically, socially, and religiously?

Thurs, March 11

Cultural Focus: The Survival and Reformulation of Judaism

Primary Reading: 2 Baruch (Reddish 97-142)

Secondary Reading: IDBS: "Judaism, Early Rabbinic" (499-504); [Nickelsburg 281-87]

Daily Questions: What are the most important differences between late Second Temple Judaism (pre-70 ce) and early Rabbinic Judaism (post-70 ce)? How did the focus of their religion change?

Tues, March 16

Historical Focus: Pauline and Johannine Communities in Asia Minor

Primary Reading: Rev 1-3; Acts 18-20

Secondary Reading: Fiorenza 1-37 (Introduction), 39-57 (Commentary)

Presentations: Rev 1:1-20; Rev 2:1-29; Rev 3:1-22

Daily Questions: What are the origins and the main stages of the growth of Christianity in Asia Minor?

Thurs, March 18

Cultural Focus: Throne Visions and other Theophanies; Physical Events and Disasters in the Roman Era

Primary Reading: Rev 4-9; Exod 3; 1 Kgs 19; Isa 6; Ezek 1; John 1

Secondary Reading: Fiorenza 57-73; HCBD "theophany" (1140) & "God" (381-82)

Presentations: Rev 4:1—5:14; Rev 6:1—8:1; Rev 8:2—9:21

Daily Questions: How is it possible for human beings to "see" God? (or why is it not?)
        What are some different ways God’s "appearances" are typically described in ancient literature?
        What passages of Rev seem to refer or allude to the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 ce?

Tues, March 23

Cultural Focus: Roman Religion and Emperor Worship

Primary Reading: Rev 10-14; Gen 3, 19, 21

Secondary Reading: Fiorenza 73-92

Presentations: Rev 10:1—11:19; Rev 12:1—13:10; Rev 13:11—14:20

Daily Questions: What are the main elements of Roman "Emperor Worship"?
        How did the growing popularity of emperor worship in the late 1st century affect Jews and Christians in the empire?

Thurs, March 25

Political & Economic Focus: Real and Symbolic Connections between Rome and Babylon

Primary Reading: Rev 15-19; 2 Kings 24-25

Secondary Reading: Fiorenza 92-103

Presentations: Rev 15:1—16:21; Rev 17:1—18:8; Rev 18:9—19:10

Daily Questions: What are the major similarities between Rome and Babylon that led to their literary connection?

How do these literary connections affect the ancient and modern readers differently?

Tues, March 30

Cultural Focus: Jerusalem as an Earthly City and as a Heavenly Ideal

Primary Reading: Rev 19-22; Isa 55, 65-66

Secondary Reading: Fiorenza 103-115

Presentations: Rev 19:11—20:15; Rev 21:1—22:5; Rev 22:6-21

Daily Questions: Why is Jerusalem so prominent in early Christian visions of the future? How is this related to the growing tensions and the gradual separation between Christians and Jews in the late first century?

Thurs, April 1 (Holy Thursday)

Literary Focus: Modern Appropriation of the Book of Revelation

Primary Reading: re-read Rev 1-21 quickly

Secondary Reading: Fiorenza 117-139

Daily Questions: How does the rhetorical power of Revelation affect believers and non-believers today?

Tues, April 6

Historical Focus: The Gradual Separation of Judaism and Christianity

Primary Reading: Shepherd of Hermas (Reddish 255-65); Apocalypse of Paul 1-10 (Reddish 291-96 only)

Secondary Reading: HCBD: "Apocryphal NT" (42-43) & "Nag Hammadi" (729-30)

Daily Questions: Why and how did Christianity emerge as a religion separate from Judaism?

Thurs, April 8 (Exercise #3 - New Testament Apocalyptic)

Literary Focus: The Formation of the NT Canon vs. Non-canonical Early Christian Writings

Primary Reading: Apocalypse of Thomas; Sibylline Oracles; 6 Ezra (Reddish 330-50)

Secondary Reading: HCBD: "Bible" (121-23); "canon" (167-68); "New Testament" (751-53)

Daily Questions: Of all the early Christian apocalypses, why is only the Book of Revelation in the NT?

Tues, April 13

Cultural Focus: Medieval & Modern Apocalyptic Art

Reading: materials provided in advance by Prof. Just & by Guest Speaker

Daily Questions: How does medieval and modern art deal with apocalyptic & eschatological themes and images?

Thurs, April 15 (click here for presentation instructions and detailed schedule)

Literary Focus: Modern Apocalyptic Films

Reading: materials provided in advance by student research teams

Daily Questions: How do modern films & videos deal with apocalyptic & eschatological themes and images?

Tues, April 20 (click here for presentation instructions and detailed schedule)

Literary Focus: Modern Apocalyptic Literature

Reading: materials provided in advance by student research teams

Daily Questions: What are some major differences between ancient and modern apocalyptic writings?
        What are some factors leading to the growing popularity of modern apocalyptic literature?

Thurs, April 22 (click here for presentation instructions and detailed schedule)

Sociological Focus: Contemporary Apocalyptic Movements

Reading: materials provided in advance by student research teams

Daily Questions: How do modern apocalyptic movements use (or misuse) prophetic & apocalyptic books of the Bible?

Tues, April 27 (click here for presentation instructions and detailed schedule)

Sociological Focus: Contemporary Apocalyptic Movements (cont.)

Reading: materials provided in advance by student research teams

Daily Questions: Why are so many apocalyptic movements active and growing today? Who joins them?

Thurs, April 29 (click here for presentation instructions and detailed schedule)

Theological Focus: Roman Catholic Eschatological Teachings

Reading: materials provided in advance by student research teams

Daily Questions: What is the focus of the Catholic Church’s official teachings about the future?
        What is Pope John Paul II’s vision for the year 2000 and the new millennium?


Tues, May 4 – Section 3: Final Exam at 2:00 p.m. in R249

Thurs, May 6 –  Section 1: Final Exam at 2:00 p.m. in R 249


Jan. 19 – Feb. 18: Ancient Jewish prophetic and apocalyptic literature

Feb. 23 – April 8: Early Christian apocalyptic and eschatological writings

April 13 – April 29: Modern Christian apocalyptic literature, movements, and teachings

See also these Related Pages:
Homepage for THST398: "The Book of Revelation and Apocalyptic Literature"
Guidelines for Written Exercises
Guidelines for Student Presentations
Links to Art and Images related to the Book of Revelation
Links to other Revelation/Apocalyptic/Millennial Web-sites and Materials

Return to the HOME PAGE of Felix Just, S.J.
This page was last updated on 09/27/01