Apocalypticism in the Bible and Its World

A Comprehensive Introduction

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"An ideal textbook for college courses. Its distinctive strength lies in its exposition of the role apocalypticism plays in the New Testament."--John J. Collins, Yale Divinity School
Apocalypticism is not a specialized or peripheral topic in biblical studies. It represents the central, characteristic transformation of Hebrew thought in the period of the Second Temple and is the context in which the New Testament books were written. Frederick Murphy defines apocalypticism while discussing its origins, its expressions in the Hebrew Bible, and its bearing on Jesus and the New Testament. This text will be useful for students of early Christianity and will work well as a supplemental text for Second Temple Judaism, Hebrew Bible, and New Testament courses.
1. Definitions and Origins
2. Proto-apocalyptic Biblical Texts
3. Daniel and the Animal Apocalypse
4. The Book of Revelation
5. Ancient Jewish Apocalypses
6. Ancient Jewish Literature Related to Apocalypticism
7. The Dead Sea Scrolls
8. The Gospels, Q, and Acts of the Apostles
9. Jesus the Apocalyptic Prophet
10. The Apostle Paul
11. The Rest of the New Testament
12. The Ongoing Legacy of Apocalypticism
13. Glossary


"Years ago Ernst Käsemann asserted that Jewish apocalyptic was the mother of Christian theology. If you want to understand that claim, read Rick Murphy's masterful guide to all the relevant ancient Jewish and Christian apocalyptic texts. This remarkable synthesis is a fitting memorial to a beloved teacher, respected scholar, and fine human being."

Daniel J. Harrington, SJ, professor of New Testament, Boston College School of Theology and Ministry

"Lucidly written, accessible, and reliable, Murphy's book is an ideal textbook for college courses. Its distinctive strength lies in its exposition of the role apocalypticism plays in the New Testament."

John J. Collins, Holmes Professor of Old Testament, Yale Divinity School

"A master teacher, Professor Murphy has left us a legacy in this volume that will serve students for years to come. He covers the entire range of apocalyptic imagery and eschatology from its roots in the prophetic texts of the Hebrew Bible through the Dead Sea Scrolls and other Jewish works of the Second Temple period. Text boxes, charts, illustrations, and extensive bibliographies make this a classroom friendly volume."

Pheme Perkins, professor of theology, Boston College

"This book is without a doubt the most comprehensive and up-to-date introduction to apocalypticism available. It was written by a master scholar and teacher whose many years of intimate acquaintance with the ancient texts and whose pedagogical adeptness in communicating the material are evident on every page. This superb study will benefit both those who are new to the apocalyptic genre and worldview and those who are ready for a fresh and deeper look into a subject whose importance for understanding early Judaism and Christianity cannot be exaggerated."

Daniel C. Harlow, professor of religion, Calvin College; coeditor of The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism

The Author

  1. Frederick J. Murphy

    Frederick J. Murphy

    Frederick J. Murphy (1949-2011) was professor of New Testament at College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, for over twenty-five years. He authored numerous books, including Fallen Is Babylon: The Revelation to John, Early Judaism: The...

    Continue reading about Frederick J. Murphy


2013 Biblical Archaeology Society (BAS) Award for Best Book Relating to the New Testament
Frank Moore Cross Award, American Schools of Oriental Research (2013)

"Apocalypticism in the Bible and Its World provides the field of Biblical research a comprehensive study of Jewish apocalyptic thought from its inception in the Books of Enoch through the vast literature of Early Judaism, including the Dead Sea Scrolls, into its expressions in Jesus' teachings, Pauling theology, and the early Christian movement. At the same time, author Frederick J. Murphy makes his work accessible to critical Biblical study beginners by the clarity of his presentation of the developmental stages of apocalypticism, its vestiges in current belief and practice, and by the side bars, boxes, charts, illustrations, and very useful bibliographies found in each chapter."

Biblical Archaeology Review

"This book was written to introduce biblical and extracanonical apocalyptic literature to students and a general audience. It fulfills its purpose admirably, explaining clearly and engagingly both technical details and profound issues of meaning and the 'big picture.'. . . It would make an excellent textbook in a variety of courses. The whole book would serve well in a course on ancient apocalypticism. Chapters 1-3, 5-7 would be excellent reading in an introductory course on the Hebrew Bible or Second Temple Judaism. Chapters 4, 8-12 would work well as readings in an introduction to the New Testament. Teachers and students are in Murphy's debt."

Adela Yarbro Collins,

Review of Biblical Literature

"The book is illustrated with good pictures, boxed text with summaries of discussions, and comparisons between parallel biblical texts, making it user-friendly. This introduction is indeed comprehensive and does justice to the phenomenon of Jewish and Christian apocalypticism against the background of its founding documents, and it will be useful for graduate students as well as postgraduate students who do not specialize in the field of apocalypticism."

Marius Nel,

Review of Biblical Literature

"Without question, the volume aims to be both comprehensive and introductory. It is to Murphy's great credit that he is largely successful in this effort. . . . Though the book's primary focus is apocalyptic, it contains much more, especially in the material dealing with the New Testament. This portion of the book also contains much that would count as standard introductory material on the New Testament in general. . . . The comprehensiveness of this book is evident both in the amount of apocalyptic material covered by the book and in the author's knowledge of the discussions about apocalyptic in the secondary literature. Indeed, I know of no other book quite like it in scope and detail. For those new to the topic, this book will serve as a resource to which they will repeatedly return. The book's second great strength is its pedagogical usefulness. It has clearly been written with beginning students in mind. . . . This is a book that can be recommended enthusiastically. It contains a wealth of information that will enrich one's reading of the apocalyptic literature of the biblical period, whether beginner or seasoned scholar."

J. Todd Hibbard,

Review of Biblical Literature

"This book might be considered [Murphy's] crowning achievement. . . . The book has a three-pronged focus: it moves carefully through the major apocalyptic literature; while doing so, historical overviews are provided; when appropriate, theological perspectives such as millennialism and messianism are discussed. Murphy's skill as a teacher is revealed on every page as he explains very complicated ideas. Illustrations, charts, diagrams, conclusions at the end of every chapter, and a helpful glossary enhance the pedagogical value of this volume. This is an outstanding introduction for the beginning student and a fine review for the more advanced."

Dianne Bergant, CSA,

The Bible Today

"Murphy's survey of pertinent literatures testifies to the pervasiveness of the apocalyptic perspective in the centuries before Jesus and in the years following his life. . . . While [Murphy's] death is a loss to the scholarly community and to the world at large, this posthumously-published work is an enduring gift to Christians and Jews alike whose sacred literature has been shaped by apocalypticism and whose religion cannot be fully understood apart from this ancient worldview."

Charles D. Myers Jr.,


"A comprehensive guide for contemporary readers seeking to understand Jewish and Christian apocalypticism and its relevance for life today. This book targets students and newcomers to this broad field of inquiry by providing a detailed analysis of the canonical and extracanonical works often classified as apocalyptic (or containing apocalyptic elements) in an easy-to-use format perfectly suited to classroom or individual study. . . . Murphy's work is recommended for those seeking to understand the role of apocalypticism in the Bible and its continued influence within some religious communities today."

J. Brian Tucker,

Bulletin for Biblical Research

"Apocalypticism in the Bible and Its World was a massive undertaking, and Murphy is to be applauded. . . . The book is readable and accessible to the undergraduate student, which I have seen firsthand in an upper level undergraduate course. . . . The suggested readings listed at the end of the chapters and the bibliography are added benefits for interested readers and a great service for professors in directing students to additional sources. . . . The book is valuable for introducing readers to the thought world and origins of the Jewish apocalypses and part of their relevance for the NT."

Benjamin E. Reynolds,

Trinity Journal

"Apocalypticism in the Bible and Its World lives up to its subtitle [A Comprehensive Introduction]: this Roman Catholic biblical scholar presents and summarizes all of the apocalyptic texts in the Bible and also from around the biblical world, providing their historical context (to the degree that can be determined) and showing the basic development of apocalyptic ideas. . . . His approach is fair to the contested matters, and his tone is irenic in presenting reasons for his conclusions. Murphy's is a posture of faith-seeking-understanding, so that historical-critical perspectives are deployed to illuminate the biblical text rather than to undermine its authority."

Amos Yong,

Pneuma Review

"[This] volume provides a thorough introduction to understanding the context and form of apocalypticism in the Bible."

Old Testament Abstracts

"This book well lives up to its title. It is indeed comprehensive in examining writings often spoken of as apocalyptic. . . . This is a valuable book to describe and illumine the pervasive role of apocalyptic in Jewish and Christian writings and thought. It will be useful to students and teachers who want to explore the wide impact of apocalyptic."

Wendell Willis,

Restoration Quarterly

"[Murphy] bestowed the academic community with a departing gift just before he left his world. His legacy will survive in this and other works of high scholarly merit on the world of Second Temple Judaism. This work deserves a place on the bookshelf of every serious student of the Bible. It will prove particularly valuable as a textbook for courses on NT introduction and Second Temple Judaism."

Jared Poznich,

Stone-Campbell Journal

"Murphy's distinction between apocalypses and apocalypticism provides a new framework to understand the influence of the apocalyptic thought on Jesus, on the primitive communities, and even on current Christian churches and movements. . . . This book offers not only a broad and deep understanding of the influence of apocalypticism in the ancient world and, especially, in the times from the Second Temple to the second century C.E., but it is also an important tool in order to understand how the apocalyptic thought is still alive and working in most of the Christian communities nowadays. This contribution is a must-read for any serious student or scholar wishing to acquire a greater understanding of the world of apocalyptic thought."

Jose F. Castrillon,

Science et esprit

"The present volume is one of the greatest attempts not only to interpret and analyze the last book of the New Testament, but also to frame it in its proper context, acquiring new meaning. After an extensive introduction to the subject, this book is structured, by one side, from a deep analysis of the sacred text and, on the other hand, a description of the intertextual relations that are observed with other writings past and contemporary. . . . It ends the volume with an interesting section, dedicated to the tradition of the Apocalypse in modern culture."

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