The Millennium Cometh:
Apocalypse and Utopia in Bible, Sociology and Literature
Profs. John Coleman, S.J. (Sociology),  Felix Just, S.J. (Theology),  Holli Levitsky (English)
Loyola Marymount University - Spring 2000

Reading Guide, Discussion Questions and Writing Assignment for

The following questions are intended both to help guide your own reading of the assigned texts, and to stimulate our small group discussions on Thursday, Jan. 20. Also, the instructions for your short written exercise are appended further below.

Thurs, Jan. 13

Biblical Readings: 2 Kings 24-25 (cf. Jeremiah 52); Psalm 137; Ezra 1

When the Kingdom of Judah (=Jews) was defeated by the Babylonians (=Chaldeans) in 598 BCE and again in 587 BCE, many Jews were deported to Babylon (cf. 2 Kings 24-25; Jer 52). This "Babylonian Exile" did not end until 539 BCE (cf. Ezra 1).
How does Ps 137 describe the situation of the deported Jews living in Babylon during this exile?
Biblical Readings: 1 Maccabees 1-2; Daniel 1-12
Although the visions of Daniel supposedly take place during the "Babylonian Exile" (6th cent. BCE), most scholars agree that much of this book was actually written during the reign of Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175-164 BCE).
How is the vision of Dan 2 different from Dan 7?
How are the historical events described in 1 Macc 1-2 mirrored in the visions of Dan 7-8?
Why would an author living in the 2nd cent. write a story about people in the 6th cent. instead?
Extra-Biblical Readings: Mitchell Reddish, "Preface" & "Introduction" (pp. 13-38)
How does Reddish define "apocalypse," "apocalyptic," "apocalypticism," and "eschatology"?
What was the original purpose of apocalyptic literature, and how is this literature used (or often misused) today?

Tues, Jan. 18

Biblical Readings: Mark 13 (cf. Luke 21; Matt 24-25);

What is Jesus really talking about here: a particular war? the end of the world? some cosmic event?
Biblical Readings: Revelation 1-22
What does Rev 2-3 tell us about the social situation of the Christians to whom John is writing?
Who did the woman, the child, the dragon (Rev 12) and the two different beasts (Rev 13) originally represent?
How do we know that the "Babylon" of Rev 18-19 really refers to Rome? Why was this code-name used?
According to Rev 20, exactly what is supposed to happen before, during, and after the prophesied "millennium"?
Sociological Readings: Robbins & Palmer, "Introduction: Patterns of Contemporary Apocalypticism" (R&P, 1-27)
The authors introduce an important distinction in forms of millennialism: distinguishing between pre- and post-millennialism. How would you define these two types?
Can you generalize about apocalyptic beliefs in movements and their propensity to resort to violence?
Note the secular variants of apocalypticism in the environmental movement, feminism, and among survivalists.
Literary Readings: William Butler Yeats, "The Second Coming" (on library reserve)
What is the attitude of the speaker of Yeats' poem toward "revelation" (line 9)?
Is this a personal revelation, or is the speaker imagining a public apocalypse?

Thurs, Jan. 20 - Discussion Sections

Main Discussion Topic:  The Biblical Foundation of Apocalyptic (see the writing assignment below)

Extra Sociological Reading: David G. Bromley, "Constructing Apocalypticism" (R&P, 31-45);

What is the affinity between apocalyptic movements and the resort to charismatic leadership (i.e., the authority invested in a strong personal leader)?
Why would apocalyptic movements appeal to a radical type of organization?
Why might they evoke opposition from more "normal" social forms?

Writing Assignment (due Jan. 20):  [See the main page of Questions & Reflections for Writing Guidelines and Tips]
How is the original purpose of the Book of Revelation similar to and/or different from the original purpose of the Book of Daniel? Make sure you also point out exactly where and how in the texts these two authors most clearly express their respective intentions, and how their messages are related to the history and social situation of the Jews in the early 2nd century BCE (for Daniel) and of the Christians in the late 1st century CE (for Revelation).

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