Between Symbolism and Realism: The Use of Symbolic and Non-Symbolic Language in Ancient Jewish Apocalypses 333-63 BCE Public Deposited

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  • March 20, 2019
  • Reynolds, Bennie H.
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Religious Studies
  • This dissertation is a systematic analysis of the language of ancient Jewish historical apocalypses. I investigate how the dramatis personae, i.e., deities, angels/demons, and humans (both individuals and groups) are described in the Book of Daniel (2, 7, 8, 10-12) the Animal Apocalypse (1 Enoch 85-90), 4QFourKingdomsa-b ar, the Book of the Words of Noah (1QapGen 5 29-18 ?), the Apocryphon of Jeremiah C, and 4QPseudo-Daniela-b ar. The primary methodologies for this study are linguistic- and motif-historical analysis and the theoretical framework is informed by a wide range of ancient and modern thinkers including Artemidorus of Daldis, Ferdinand de Saussure, Charles Peirce, Leo Oppenheim, Claude Lévi-Strauss, and Umberto Eco. The most basic contention of this study is that the data now available from the Dead Sea Scrolls significantly alter how one should conceive of the genre apocalypse in the Hellenistic Period. This basic contention is borne out by five primary conclusions. First, while some apocalypses employ symbolic language to describe the actors in their historical reviews, others use non-symbolic language. Some texts, especially from the Book of Daniel, are mixed cases. Second, among the apocalypses that use symbolic language, a limited and stable repertoire of symbols obtain across the genre and bear witness to a series of conventional associations. Third, in light of the conventional associations present in symbolic language as well as the specific descriptions of particular historical actors, it appears that symbolic language is not used to hide or obscure its referents, but to provide the reader with embedded interpretative tools. Fourth, while several apocalypses do not use symbolic ciphers to encode their historical actors, they often use cryptic language that may have functioned as a group-specific language. Fifth, the language of apocalypses appears to indicate that these texts were not the domain of only one social group or even one type of social group. Some texts presume large audiences and others presume more limited ones. In other words, apocalypticism was not the exclusive domain of a small fringe group even if several small fringe groups appear to have internalized the ideology associated with the genre apocalypse.
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  • Ehrman, Bart D.
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