Review of the Apocalyptic Literature by Stephen L. Cook

Stephen L. Cook provides his readers with an introduction into the highly imaginative world of apocalyptic literature. Cook writes from an academic’s perspective, and yet his Christian faith comes through as the fruit of his research comes to light in his writing. As readers are introduced to this often new world of transcendent reality, and cosmic renewal, the battle lines are drawn and readers are meant to be moved into action. Cook provides a good overview into the world of apocalyptic texts, and helps his readers to see the importance of such literature to canon of Scripture. As often the case with other types of Biblical literature, whether it be the historical writings, the wisdom literature, the prophetic literature, or the apocalyptic texts there is a tendency to misread, or misappropriate Scripture to fit preconceived ideas or various other hermeneutical examples that fall well short of doing justice to Scripture. The Interpreting Biblical Text series, offers its readers practical insight and tools into reading Scripture.

The Apocalyptic Literature, presents readers with a chance to engage a world where God is breaking into our present reality and seeking to put the world to rights. Apocalyptic literature does not just present historical facts or tell a fictional tale, but allows its readers to see the world and the overthrow of evil finally and fully through the work of God. Cook begins his introduction into the world of Apocalyptic literature by helping his readers enter into this imaginative world, and provides helpful insight to what apocalyptic literature is, and provides historical analysis for the development of the apocalyptic genre as arising from the experiences of Israel in the greater Mediterranean World. After examining the historical roots for apocalypticism, and apocalyptic genre, Cook notes the problems that arise with domesticating apocalyptic works. While historical context is important, no doubt apocalyptic literature is meant to be read in every time as a word from God to whatever audience is reading the texts in question. While, again this type of literature is highly imaginative, there have been all kinds of varied readings and interpretations that have lead many people into quite a few hermeneutical downward spirals, either through highly spiritualized, futuristic, or purely historical readings. Cook demonstrates the importance of a canonical approach to reading, one that allows for the apocalyptic texts to stand on their own merit, and one that allows for the rich theology of such texts to come through. Cook, taking the minority view, argues for that the social location from which apocalyptic texts emanate are not necessarily those on the fringe of society, but one can find apocalyptic circles in all strata of society. One of the highlights of Cook’s work is that in addition to describing apocalyptic groups in the ancient world, he is obviously a student of culture and demonstrates a familiarity with apocalyptic groups across the centuries that have a lot in common, and arise within a climate of high divine expectancy and desire to transform the world they live in. Cook goes on to look at a number of examples of apocalyptic texts outside of the canon of Scripture, and demonstrates a commonality with the works of Scripture under consideration, such as selected texts in Ezekiel, Zechariah, Joel, certain texts in Isaiah, Malachi, and Daniel. Apocalyptic literature, and apocalyptic groups were no stranger to New Testament times as well, and I think Cook does a good job presenting Jesus in his historical context as the Messiah of Israel, but offers something as well by exploring some of these aforementioned Old Testament texts in the findings of the Qumran Scrolls as evidence of a highly apocalyptic imagination shared by Jesus in self-understanding. As his work comes to a close, Cook explores the world of the book of Revelation and helps his readers see the artistry and beauty that comes through from the New Testaments only pure piece of Apocalyptic Literature. What readers will walk away with is an understanding that all the apocalyptic works use the language and symbols of Scripture to recast the transcendent reality and the cosmic battles that raging all around us. Stephen L. Cooks motivates his readers to engage the Scriptural witness and let Scripture speak in new and intriguing ways.

About Jason Retherford

The random musings of a youth minister.
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