In the Old Testament, apocalyptic literature (or simply ‘apocalyptic’, as the genre is often called) might not seem to occupy a prominent place. Only the book of Daniel falls into this category. Despite its poor representation in the Bible, apocalyptic literature is not a fringe activity; nor are its contents peripheral to an understanding of Judaism (or Christianity, for that matter). This article focuses on the book of Daniel, the main Old Testament exemplar, and the book of 1 Enoch, which contains the earliest and in many respects most important Palestinian Jewish apocalypses.
Scott M. Langston
The questions scholars are raising in regard to the biblical text are changing. With increasing frequency biblical scholars are asking, ‘What does the Bible do’?, in recognition that the Bible's impact on individuals, societies, and cultures (and vice-versa) is an important part of understanding the Bible holistically. Unquestionably, understanding a text's inception and formation remains at the heart of biblical studies, but the move to study its wider impact promises to engage a larger number of fields and practitioners and broaden the horizons of biblical scholars. As part of this holistic focus Exodus has proven especially fertile, particularly as a paradigm for critiquing, challenging, and/or overthrowing systems and groups deemed to be oppressive. Interacting with a variety of outside factors, the biblical text has proven flexible enough to accommodate a multitude of distinctions, visions, and solutions.
Richard A. Burridge
The basic question of what the gospels actually are from a literary point of view should have been one of the first things biblical scholars sorted out and agreed about. However, the history of the last century or more of critical study is one in which the pendulum has swung back and forth – from a biographical approach to the gospels to considering them to be unique, and then back to biography again. In order to answer the question of the genre of the gospels properly, it is necessary to understand two key areas: the critical theory of genre and the kinds of literature contemporary with the gospels within the Graeco-Roman and Jewish worlds around the first century. This article first looks at genre theory and then sketches a brief historical overview of scholarly approaches to the gospels. This leads to the recently developing consensus that the gospels are a form of ancient biography and some current issues of debate and future directions of research.
Paul S. Fiddes
The story of the passion of Jesus Christ, in its earliest forms, was already shaped by interpretation. This was the story of a man – who had announced the coming of the Kingdom of God and who had presumed to offer forgiveness, healing, and an acceptance of social outcasts on behalf of the God whom he called Father – which ended in agonizing execution and an experience of forsakenness by friends, fellow countrymen, and his God. The four Evangelists try to grapple with the mystery of ‘atonement’, the belief that through this death a union has been achieved between the Creator and a rebellious creation. When the story of the passion is told in English poetry and prose, one can identify versions of the great models and metaphors of atonement that were developed in Christian theology.