Richard Taylor. Interpreting Apocalyptic Literature: An Exegetical Handbook. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, July 27th, 2016. 208 pp.
4 out of 5
This book is part of the Handbooks for Old Testament Exegesis series published by Kregel Publications. Previously I have enjoyed the work on interpreting Old Testament historical books by Robert Chisholm very much and was looking forward to this volume largely because of it. I was also excited for this volume since apocalytpic literary forms is one of the hardest to interpret in the Old Testament and as a preacher it would be helpful to think through critically and be equipped in handling passages of Scripture like the book of Daniel.
The book is divided into six chapters. The first chapter focuses on what is apocalyptic literature. The second chapter is on the major themes of the apocalyptic literatures while the third chapter is on the preparing for interpretation. Chapter four is titled “apocalyptic literatures,” chapter five is “proclaiming apocalyptic literatures” and chapter six is “Sample Texts from Apocalyptic Literatures” in which the author gives us exposition from two passages, the first being Daniel 8 and the second being Joel 2:28-32. The book also has an appendix in which the author Richard Taylor discussed the roots of apocalyptic literature; of course there’s no scholarly consensus but Taylor does a masterful job here of presenting the various views with their strengths and weaknesses.
The author informs the reader of the difficulties of defining this genre and spells out the various factors that makes it challenging to define it. I thought chapter one did a good job of making the readers take a big picture perspective on apocalyptic literatures when he distinguished apocalypse, apocalypticism, apocalyptic literature, etc. It was helpful also for me to see Richard Taylor mentioned proto-Apocalyptic literature, which are writings that are similar to Jewish apocalyptic literature typically before the literary form was fully developed in Old Testament revelation.
The longest portion of the book was chapter two in which the author surveyed and summarized apocalyptic literatures found both in the Old Testament and extrabiblical works. I found the survey of extrabiblical Jewish texts to have been the most fascinating since a lot of the works I was not familiar with (Apocalypse of Abraham, Second Baruch, etc) or were works I have heard of but did not know much about (Testament of Moses and Book of Enoch). Taylor also summarized the major themes that cross over in most of the apocalyptic literatures whether biblical or extrabiblical.
For the most part I felt that the chapters on preparing for interpreting apocalyptic literatures and interpreting apocalyptic literatures covered much hermeneutical principles that are probably already familiar to those who are serious exegetes and expositors of the Bible. Much of the principles are true for other genres as well (prophecy, certain narratives, etc). The same is true concerning how to proclaim the text. However one thing I did appreciate in these chapters is the fact that the authors recommended certain works and commentaries on books of the Bible with apocalyptic literatures. I really enjoyed the little blurb the author gives concerning various resources. That was very helpful and makes this a book that’s worth having around in one’s library after reading it as a reference.
Overall a helpful work to read especially for those who are new to apocalyptic literatures for the first time. This work is ideal for seminarians who are studying to be exegetes. While this book does not go over technical points of Hebrew grammar and syntax, yet it assumes that the readers will receive training in the languages (or for the lay readers, at least see its importance). I do recommend this work. I also think this work is helpful for Christians no matter what their particular eschatology is. While the author is a professor at a famous Dispensational seminary, you don’t really get dispensationalism or premillennialism being pushed in this work.
NOTE: This book was provided to me free by Kregel Publications without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.