Book Review—Dictionary of Daily Life in Biblical and Post-biblical Antiquity

Dictionary of Daily Life in Biblical & Post-Biblical Antiquity, Complete in One Volume, edited by Edwin M. Yamauchi and Marvin R. Wilson

Hendrickson | Amazon | CBD

A couple of years ago, the good folks at Hendrickson published a multi-volume work entitled Dictionary of Daily Life in Biblical & Post-biblical Antiquity (hereafter DDL), volume two of which I reviewed here. After what seems to be a warm reception of the series, Hendrickson published the previously separate volumes in a one-volume edition, a decision I (for one) am glad they made. Having reviewed only one of the previous volumes, I couldn’t speak for the whole series (though I’m sure each one had its strong and weak points). However, this all-in-one edition has allowed me to read through a broader selection of topics (even though each volume covered numerous topics) with a slightly better sense of the contents.

Given my own proclivities towards background studies, this series was a welcome one. Indeed, I felt it would be a welcome addition to the already burgeoning body of literature available. However, this particular work fills a niche that is part of the world of backgrounds, but still deserves its own treatment. As editor Edwin Yamauchi notes, “the Bible, as received, recounts events in the lives of individuals, tribes, and nations…” (emphasis mine; xii). It is this aspect of background studies that has recently grabbed my attention and this volume provides a wealth of information on various aspects of every-day life, many of which receive only scant attention in other comparable works.

As I noted in my previous review, the primary way in which this series differs from others is its focus—on the daily life of the peoples of antiquity. So, while matters that are pertinent to the bigger picture of the biblical story may still show up, they are only addressed as sub points, so to speak. In other words, they are only mentioned as connections to the primary socio-cultural feature the article is about. However, these matters of connection to larger themes of the biblical story are by comparison minimal and quite brief. There are no lengthy discussions of religion, temples, sacrifice, etc. If such issues do show up, it’s only minimally. And I would also like to note that the length of discussion for many topics is somewhat related to the relevance of that topic to the various contexts in which it relates to the biblical text (these contexts will be mentioned below). For example, the article on milk and milk products (1193–1207) offers but a single paragraph about milk and milk products in the NT. Why? Because the term “milk” (γάλα) simply doesn’t occur that frequently and most of the uses are figurative in some way.

The articles are written by experts in their fields but are written in very accessible prose so that the reader might receive the maximum benefit. Each topic is discussed in overarching contexts—scriptural (Old and New Testaments), which is followed by the cultural (Near Eastern, Greco-Roman, Jewish, and Christian)—thus providing the reader with a wider range of backgrounds against which to understand that particular issue. Within each of these sections there is brief discussion relevant to other sub-contexts, e.g., political, socio-economic, religious, etc. For example, in the section on barbers and beards (sure to appeal to the hipsters among us!), Marvin Wilson discusses the matter in the above-mentioned larger contexts (scriptural and cultural), but conveys how haircuts and beard cutting/shaving were important socially and religiously, information that is not always obvious when reading texts, especially in isolation from these assumed contexts.

While each topic is addressed at generally similar lengths, some obviously will be shorter/longer than others. And for those who wish to read beyond the DDL, each article concludes with a substantive up-to-date bibliography.

One feature that I appreciate in this volume is the fact that the authors took the time to include, at least, parenthetical references to the ancient works they cite. It seems a given that any work that like should require its contributors to do this, but there are surely occasions in which editorial constraints prevent the inclusion of copious references and notes. While there are no notes to speak of here, the reader does have references to primary sources, the consistency of which is dependent on the particular contributor. Also, the references, likely due to the aforementioned restrictions, are not numerous, but do provide a starting point of sorts.

More technical series (ABD, IVP’S black dictionaries) offer insight into all aspects of the biblical world, particularly those issues that were more pervasive socially, e.g., imperial cult, agriculture, religious praxis, etc. The DDL, however, places the focus on aspects of life that were perhaps not central to the texts that reflected the culture. Ed Yamauchi, who both edited and contributed to this series, cites the issue of abortion as but one example of a practice that was pervasive in the ancient Mediterranean, yet is not addressed in the Bible (1). This particular volume covers such matters as dentistry and teeth, doors and keys, food consumption, heating and lighting, and horses, along with a number of other aspects of daily like that are perhaps more expected. As Yamauchi correctly points out, the authors of the Bible took for granted what was well known to themselves and their audience, thus they had no need to provide all the requisite background information to understand what they were reporting (1). As such, we must comb the sources of the ancient world in order to understand their world and thus better understand the context of the Bible. However, outside of academia, most readers of the bible have neither the resources nor the skills to mine the depths of ancient sources, so works like DDL demonstrate their ultimate value.

There is really nothing to dislike about this series, save for the use of transliterated terms from the languages of the sources cited and otherwise noted. This negligible element aside, the DDL is a solid work, one that will benefit both scholars and non-academics alike. It goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) that no, it is improbable that anyone reading these volumes won’t find something they disagree with. However, this volume is well researched and lucidly written, so even in disagreement readers will learn with great benefit. Will this volume replace others? No, and it isn’t meant to—it’s a supplement to previous works that will greatly aid in the study of the world of the Bible.

 

 

 

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Biblical Studies Carnival

Well, here it is—the Biblical Studies Carnival for August 2017! This is my first time to host the revered BSC, so I hope you enjoy yourself so immensely that you’ll sign up to host your yourself. If you’d like to host a carnival, you can email Phil Long at plong42@gmail.com or send him a DM on Twitter @plong42. No one has signed up thus far, so prime real estate is still available! I’m pretty sure if you sign up, you’ll receive something invaluable, such as the esteem and praise of your peers, a boost in blog traffic, maybe even a puppy, or if you’re Jim West, a cat.

Upcoming Biblical Studies Carnivals

If you have links you’d like to see included in future carnvivals, send the links to the hosts below.

Hebrew Bible/Hebrew
Carly Crouch writes about the ethics of war in ancient Israel and Assyria here.

In light of the 2017 solar eclipse, Claude Mariottini writes about solar eclipses in the OT here.

LXX
William Ross shares some recently discovered correspondence from H. B. Swete here.

LXX scholar Anneli Aejmelaeus shares her experience of being a female scholar in a male-dominant field.

Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha
Phil Long continues his series on apocrypha and pseudepigrapha with posts on Jubilees (why Jubilees was written, the law in Jubilees, story in expansions), The Life of Adam and Eve, The Apocalypse of Adam and Eve, and Joseph and Aseneth (including how Joseph got his wife).

New Testament/Greek
James Tauber continues his jaunt through Greek morphology with part 10 here. Parts 11, 12, 13, 14, . He also has a Greek vocab site that you might enjoy. Check it out here.

Listen to Chris Heilig’s interview with N. T. Wright here.

Read Charles Isbell’s article on Paul and Judaism here.

Should you read Revelation? Of course! And Ian Paul provides a few reasons why here.

Check out the slides from Rachel and Mike Aubrey’s presentation for the Tyndale House Greek Prepositions Workshop here.

James Snapp points out a few “cracks” in the NA28 here and here.

Everyone’s favorite Aussie Mike Bird shares his 12 theses (=major themes) of the catholic epistles here and does so without damaging any church doors.

The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (CSNTM) has recently digitized ten Gospels manuscripts from the National Library of Greece. Read about it here.

Brant Pitre discusses the problem of the Lord’s Supper here.

Larry Hurtado discusses the issue of Galatians and the Jerusalem collection here.

Michael Heiser briefly discusses geography and hell here.

Listen to an interview with Doug Campbell here.

Craig Keener briefly discusses the difficult Matt 23:38–39 here.

Brian small adds more articles to his ever-expanding pool of Hebrews studies.

Phil Long discusses Paul’s Jewish heritage here.

Academia
Read the interesting series of articles over at Mosaic concerning the alleged corruption of the discipline of biblical studies. Joshua Berman begins the conversation and, in turn, Jon Levensen, David Carr, Craig Bartholomew, and Benjamin Sommer offer responses. Marc Brettler weighs in as does Michael Kok here and here. Joshua Berman offers the final word.

Eerdmans authors share their tips on writing here.

PhD students face many hardships in the course of their studies, one of which is maintaining good mental health.

Bruce J. Malina passed away on August 17. May he rest in peace.

Archaeology
In case you’re still wondering about those lead codices, read a comprehensive report here.

Read about the discovery of Hittite bullae here.

Miscellany
Read John Meade’s thoughts on the relationship of manuscripts and the canonization of texts here.

Practice your academic German by reading an excerpt of text with translation of Torsten Jantsch’s Jesus, der Retter: Die Soteriologie des lukanischen Doppelwerks here.

Keep up your Latin with daily lessons at LatinPerDiem!

Jim West alerts us to Bultmann’s proclivities for correspondence here!

James Tauber has a visualization of Greek letter bigram frequencies here.

Book Reviews and Reflections/Thoughts
The ever-erudite Mike Aubrey provides readers with a supplement to his three-part review of Stan Porter’s Linguistic Analysis of the Greek New Testament: Studies in Tools, Methods, and Practice (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2015). For some context, read parts 1, 2, and 3.

Larry Hurtado offers some thoughts on Paul Fredriksen’s new book Paul: The Pagans’ Apostle here.

Pete Enns reflects on Marten Hengel’s classic Crucifixion here.

Books

Jim West lets us know about a series of OT study guides from Bloomsbury here.

Some guy wants to trade a book here.

Check out the forthcoming Complete Hebrew-Greek Bible from Hendrickson.

Will Brown reviews The Routledge Encyclopedia of Ancient Mediterranean Religions here.

Phil Long reviews Jon Laansma and Randall Gauthier’s The Handy Guide to Difficult and Irregular Greek Verbs here.

Get a free e-book from de Gruyter here. It’s Writing Matters: Presenting and Perceiving Monumental Inscriptions in Antiquity and the Middle Ages, ed. by Berti, Irene / Bolle, Katharina / Opdenhoff, Fanny / Stroth, Fabian.

August Releases

Technology
Mahlon Smith writes about the SBL GNT app (for Android) here.

Get Die Bible—Einheitsübersetzung 2017 for your iPhone here.

If you’re an academic and/or student, get the Logos 7 engine for free here.

Well, I hope you enjoyed your jaunt through this month’s carnival. Hopefully, everyone was kind to you and you found something that made the stop worthwhile. Blessings to you!

Jewish Beliefs regarding Resurrection

I’m of the persuasion that while some Jews of the Second Temple period, perhaps many, believed in the concept/idea of resurrection, I’m not convinced that it was a conviction or in some way integral to their theology and beliefs. Paul, a first-century Jew, had convictions about resurrection, but I’d like to think he was more of an anomaly than the norm. I’m currently reading two recent releases that may ultimately convince me otherwise: Resurrection of the Dead in Early Judaism: 200 BCE–CE 200 by C. D. Elledge (Oxford, 2017) and Paul: The Pagans’ Apostle by Paula Fredriksen (Yale, 2017). While Fredriksen’s book focuses on Paul and the gentile mission more generally, the issue of resurrection seems to pop up throughout. Clearly Elledge’s book is focused on the idea of Jewish beliefs and resurrection, so we’ll see if he can persuade me that beliefs about resurrection were more prevalent and important than I’m willing to concede at this point.

What do you think?

Book Swap?

I recently wound up with a second copy of Richard Deibert’s Second Corinthians and Paul’s Gospel of Human Mortality: How Paul’s Experience of Death Authorizes His Apostolic Authority in Corinth (WUNT 2, 430; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2016). Clearly I don’t need two copies of it, so I’d like to give the extra copy to a deserving soul. This happened once before and instead of just giving it away, I exchanged my extra for another book, and that worked out well. So, I’d like to do the same this time around.

If you’re interested in a free copy of this volume, let me know what title you’d be willing to trade for it. It doesn’t necessarily have to be comparable in value (though that would be ideal), but something close would be preferable. I’ve had my eye on Late Antique Letter Collections: A Critical Introduction and Reference Guide (Sogno, Storin, and Watts, eds.; University of California Press, 2016), so anyone willing to offer this one for Deibert’s would jump to the front of the line, so to speak!

Comment below if you’re interested!

 

Wisdom from Ancient Greece

This poem by Babrius (first or second century CE) seems fitting for all generations.

War and His Bride

The gods were getting married, and when each was paired off,
War drew the last lot and came after everyone.
He married Hubris, who was the only one left.
He loved her excessively, they say,
and he still follows her everywhere she goes.

So may Hubris never come upon nations or
cities of men, smiling upon the people,
since War will come immediately after her.[1]

Θεῶν γαμούντων, ὡς ἕκαστος ἐζεύχθη, ἐφ᾿ ἅπασι Πόλεμος ἐσχάτῳ παρῆν κλήρῳ. Ὕβριν δὲ γήμας, ἣν μόνην κατειλήφει, ταύτης περισσῶς, ὡς λέγουσιν, ἠράσθη, ἕπεται δ᾿ ἔτ᾿ αὐτῇ πανταχοῦ βαδιζούσῃ.

Μήτ᾿ οὖν ποτ᾿ ἔθνη, μὴ πόληας ἀνθρώπων Ὕβρις <γ᾿> ἐπέλθοι, προσγελῶσα τοῖς δήμοις, ἐπεὶ μετ᾿ αὐτὴν Πόλεμος εὐθέως ἥξει.[2]

 

[1] Translation from Stephen M. Trzaskoma, R. Scott Smith, and Stephen Brunet, eds., Anthology of Classical Myth: Primary Sources in Translation (Indianapolis: Hackett, 2016), 61–62.

[2] Greek text from Babrius and Phaedrus: Fables, trans. Ben Edwing Perry, Loeb Classical Library 436 (Cambride, MA: Harvard University Press, 1965), 86.

 

 

Book Review—Anthology of Classical Myth: Primary Sources in Translation

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Anthology of Classical Myth: Primary Sources in Translation
Edited by Stephen M. Trzaskoma, R. Scott Smith, and Stephen Brunet

Hackett | Amazon

Many thanks to the kind folks at Hackett for this review copy!

Classical mythology—is there a more fascinating and entertaining body of literature? That was a rhetorical question, but there is an enduring fascination with the stories and myths of antiquity, both from academic and popular-level perspectives. From childhood, I can remember watching really bad adaptions of classical accounts of Hercules, Medusa, Jason and the Argonauts, and simply being enthralled by what I saw (though it was pretty terrible production wise!). That fascination has followed me well into adulthood as I am continually intrigued by the tales of old, particularly those of ancient Greece and Rome. This is partly due to my research interests and my years of doctoral work have allowed me opportunities to delve into the myths of old and see what insights they might yield for understanding biblical texts and concepts. When I saw that Hackett was releasing a second edition of their Anthology of Classical Myth, I was delighted. I had consulted this volume before for research purposes, but I really wanted to get a copy just to enjoy reading. Naturally, reading of this sort, for me, is done (at present anyway) with an eye toward information relevant to my dissertation, so my desire for the volume was greater than usual.

All that to say, this is indeed a splendid volume! Last year I read Carolina López-Ruiz’s (ed.) Gods, Heroes, and Monsters: A Sourcebook of Greek, Roman, and Near Eastern Myths in Translation and thoroughly enjoyed it. This volume, edited by Stephen M. Trzaskoma, R. Scott Smith, and Stephen Brunet, functions in much the same way—it’s a collection of popular myths primarily from Greek and Roman sources, though there are selections from other Mesopotamian cultures, classic creation accounts such as The Epic of Gilgamesh, Atrahasis, Enuma Elish, the Hittite Song of Emergence, and the biblical book of Genesis (most of the primeval history, chapters 1–9). Also included are appendixes that are chock full of fascinating texts gleaned from Linear B sources, papyri, and inscriptions (appendix four is where the ANE myths listed above are included).

When putting a volume like this together, one has to wonder what principles guide the process by which the included accounts are selected. The editors state from the outset that many of the entries were chosen because “they provide an overview of important details about major myths or mythical figures” (xxv). Readers will indeed encounter some of these important writers/thinkers from antiquity—Aeschylus, Apollodorus, Homer, Plato, Euripides, Hesiod, Ovid, Lucian—and a host of others whose stories have not only kindled the fires of imagination of their own times, but whose legacies have left an indelible impression on the landscape of Western civilization. Additionally, the editors have chosen material that would “complement or fill gaps in the standard textbooks” that are frequently used in introductory courses on classical mythology (xxiv).

The editors have also provided useful preliminary discussions in the front matter—brief essays on ancient approaches to myth, e.g., philosophical, rationalizing, and allegory, as well as myth and religion, and gender (xxvii–xxx). There are several maps of the ancient Mediterranean, illustrations of the Greeks’ conception of the world (including a sketch of the underworld based on Vergil’s account in Aeneid 6), a genealogical tree of the Greek gods, and a timeline depicting when the included authors penned their works (those whose dates of origin are uncertain are noted as such). From this point, the remainder of the book is dedicated to the titular material—the myths of ancient Greece and Rome.

Entries are arranged alphabetically by author, not chronologically as I expected. While I would prefer a chronological arrangement, I certainly understand the reasoning in arranging alphabetically—it’s simply easier to navigate. Each entry provides the name of the author, the date range during which that author wrote, the language in which he wrote, and a brief overview of the author himself and of the work that follows. Naturally, some entries are much longer than others, e.g., the first entry is an excerpt from Aelian’s Historical Miscellany, which is only three pages, whereas the entry for Apollodorus spans sixty. This is primarily due to the extent to which each author’s works have bearing on myth/mythology, so someone like Apollodorus would naturally take up more space (the same is true for Hesiod and the Homeric hymns). I would also say that while I am certainly no classicist and do not have (at present) facility in non-Hellenistic Greek, I can say that these translations are wonderfully readable maintain the air of classical writing—it feels ancient and modern simultaneously.

As noted earlier, this volume boasts a substantial series of indexes—150 pages of additional information. The first four indexes cover sources that have been discovered in more recent memory—Linear B sources, inscriptions, papyri, and near Eastern myth.[1] There are also indexes that cover names and transliterations (since Latin names often differ from their Greek counterparts, e.g., Heracles/Hercules, Odysses/Ulysses, Zeus/Jupiter, etc.), and index/glossary that lists the major authors, characters, and works found in the volume.

As one whose interest in classical mythology is both academic/research related and purely for the enjoyment of reading ancient stories, this book really satisfies both perspectives. I can imagine if I were a professor teaching classical mythology to uninitiated students, this would be required reading. Not only does it cover a broad spectrum of classical works, but it does so in a manner that is accessible for readers of varying levels of interest and knowledge—I highly recommend it!

Αυτω η δοξα

[1] While myths of the near Eastern world have long been known through discovery, the editors here refer to the dramatic change in the way these myths were understood based on the work of deciphering discoveries from “cities, monuments, and texts from…Egypt, Mesopotamia (Iraq), Anatolia (Turkey), Persia (Iran), and the Levant (Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and Jordan)” from the mid-nineteenth century and on (437).

Book Review—Interpreting Apocalyptic Literature: An Exegetical Handbook

9780825427619

Interpreting Apocalyptic Literature: An Exegetical Handbook
by Richard A. Taylor
Kregel | Amazon | CBD

In recent years, perhaps decades, there has been a burgeoning interest in apocalyptic. Of course, this fascination has played out in different ways for various sectors of society—I’m thinking of end-times-obsessed preachers/authors of more extreme conservative segments of Christianity—as well as in popular literature and cinema. However, perhaps part of what has spurred the interest and proliferation of scholarly attention to “apocalyptic” has been to offer a corrective to the often wrongly appropriated elements of apocalyptic into these various media ventures, eschatological schemes, etc. Even so, it seems as though scholarship’s attention to apocalyptic has been more of a hermeneutical venture than anything. This has been an endeavor not only to discover what exactly constitutes “apocalyptic,” perhaps the most difficult question to answer adequately, but also to better understand how it figures into various portions of Scripture. As such, the market has been flooded with many fine volumes that seek to answer these questions—and more—and Taylor’s contribution to the discussion is certainly worth your investment, provided you’re not already a seasoned expert.

Predictably, Taylor begins his book by asking the question “What is apocalyptic”? Because this volume assumes the reader is perhaps only somewhat familiar with apocalyptic, this chapter is a natural starting point. Once he walks through a brief history of apocalyptic in scholarship, Taylor turns his attention to a discussion of apocalyptic proper (if such can even be said)—first, the problem of definitions, and second, the unique literary features that give apocalyptic its particular flavor (23–40).[1] Taylor states early in this chapter that the focus of the book will be primarily on apocalyptic as it is found in the OT (26), which may disappoint some readers; however, there is sufficient discussion of non-canonical texts that will inform the reader of the relationship between the two.[2] This chapter is a concise and helpful guide through some of the thornier questions swirling about apocalyptic, e.g., separating “apocalyptic” from its cognates—apocalypticism, apocalyptic eschatology, etc. If I had any criticisms of this opening chapter, it would be this minor quibble. The discussion of apocalyptic as situated in communities that were in some sense marginalized is only given a couple of pages. This, I think, is an important element in understanding the genesis of apocalyptic literature and wish there had been a bit more on this element, though this can be a complex issue and I know authors must be judicious in their use of page space when discussing issues in an introductory capacity.

Chapter two focuses on Major Themes in Apocalyptic Literature and this is the heart of the discussion. Again, because Taylor’s focus in on apocalyptic as found in the OT, attention is given primarily to Jewish apocalyptic texts, the first to be discussed being the book of Daniel. The section on Daniel is a bit longer than the other texts treated in this chapter, which doesn’t surprise me since I know that Taylor has long had an interest in the book of Daniel.[3] For Daniel, Taylor looks at specific components—message, purpose, major themes, and structure. Initially, I suspected this section would be focused so much on these individual elements that the actual apocalyptic elements of Daniel would be somewhat sidelined; however, Taylor does tie these elements together to show how apocalyptic is ingrained in Daniel.  The remaining canonical works discussed here receive more attention on specific apocalyptic emphases, e.g., Isaiah’s “Little Apocalypse” (Isa 24–27), Ezekiel’s windstorm in 1:4–9 (and other elements), Zechariah’s visions, Joel’s vision of the outpouring of the Spirit (Joel 2:28–32), and Malachi’s divine epiphany in Mal 4:1–3. Again, the discussion of these texts is not to be in any measure exhaustive, but simply to highlight various apocalyptic motifs and/elements present in OT texts. Taylor devotes the next section of this chapter to extrabiblical Jewish apocalyptic texts, e.g., the Book of Enoch (with discussion of its major sections), 2 Enoch, Jubilees, 4 Ezra, 2 Baruch, Apocalypse of Abraham, Testament of Levi, Testament of Abraham, Apocalypse of Zephaniah, and the Testament of Moses. Taylor also brings the Qumran community (Dead Sea Scrolls) into the conversation—to leave them out, of course, would be criminal! For those familiarizing themselves with Jewish apocalyptic, this is an excellent sampling with which to begin. Having introduced these representative texts, the chapter concludes with a helpful discussion of what makes apocalyptic—its literary features. Though these disincentives have come in varying degrees in the previous section, there are here elucidated with more detail and this is a fitting conclusion for this chapter.

Those familiar with this series will know that these volumes are not meant simply to introduce a particular literary corpus, but rather to help its readers know how to better interpret said corpora, and this becomes the focus of the remainder of the book, beginning here at chapter three. Entitled Preparing for Interpretation of Apocalyptic Literature, Taylor guides the reader through what is perhaps the most difficult aspect of encountering apocalyptic—how does one interpret it? Again, not surprisingly, Taylor uses Daniel as his example and provides five areas that will help readers prepare: (1) comprehending figurative language, (2) learning from reception history, (3) evaluating issues of textual transmission, (4) working with the original languages, and (5) benefiting from previous studies (88). Naturally, this section deals with some more technical aspects of interpretation, particularly concerning apocalyptic, but Taylor navigates with aplomb, though it bears repeating that this is introductory in nature and thus should serve only as a springboard into more detailed analyses.[4]

If chapter three addressed the preparatory work of interpretation, chapter four—Interpreting Apocalyptic Literature—puts spade to soil and informs the reader how to go about this task. Tools in hand, Taylor leads the ambitious reader through the rocky and resistant ground that is apocalyptic literature in such a way that they have a handle on how to make their way through these often-bewildering texts and derive a sensible understanding from them. While the foundational material is a critical component of any working thesis/argument, this section begins the real heart of the book. Taylor begins with step one—interpreting grammatically and historically, or what is often referred to as the “grammatical-historical method” of interpreting texts. This means that to best approach any ancient writing is to situate a text within the contexts of its original language and its original historical context, an approach that is well within the mainstream. While I think Taylor’s articulations here are solid and agreeable, I do have pause over one particular point. Using Daniel as his example, he states that the interpreter doesn’t need to be an expert, but needs to have “a working knowledge of the morphology of both Hebrew and Aramaic” (119). I worry that such statements are too generalized and vague and, consequently, may lead some readers to assume that even a basic knowledge of biblical languages is sufficient for competent translation, exegesis, and interpretation. I know Taylor personally and have studied under him and certainly don’t think that he believes this level of knowledge is sufficient, but as stated, I fear it could be interpreted that way by some readers.

The next factor to consider is the matter of genre, where apocalyptic proves to be quite tricky. While Taylor reiterates the various features of apocalyptic, e.g., figurative language, there is less “how-to” as far as interpretive practice and more general caution to be attentive to these matters. Thankfully, the following sections concerning interpretive clues and macrostructure are more helpful and practical. Also of great benefit to less-experienced handlers of apocalyptic are the final two sections of this chapter—respecting the silence of the text and pitfalls of interpretation. On the first point, Taylor rightly admonishes readers to limit their exegesis to what the text affirms—“[w]here the text is silent, we must learn to be silent” (127). On the various pitfalls of interpretation, Taylor also rightly indicates that apocalyptic more than just about any other portion of the OT “presents an opportunity for readers to respond in various ways that are not productive” (127).[5]

Chapter five—Proclaiming Apocalyptic Literature—is geared towards those who will ultimately fashion their exegesis into a sermon and/or bible study lesson. Taylor here provides sounds principles for transition from exegesis to dissemination of the text and its meaning. The last chapter—Sample Texts from Apocalyptic Literature—provides a walkthrough of sorts of two OT passages in which apocalyptic is present: Daniel 8:1–27 and Joel 2:28–32. Taylor chose these passages because they show “two different stages in the use of apocalyptic themes and language in the Old Testament” (153).  Joel, argues Taylor, “is illustrative of a transition from traditional Israelite prophecy to an emerging apocalypticism,” whereas Daniel 8 “is illustrative of a fully developed apocalypticism” (153). Overall, this final chapter provides a helpful rubber-meets-road demonstration of how one should approach apocalyptic literature, at least as it is found in the OT.

The book contains one appendix and I am glad this was included—Antecedents of Apocalyptic Literature. Here Taylor briefly surveys the precursors to apocalyptic in the OT. Just as it is important to know how to approach the apocalypticism in the OT, it is also of great benefit to understand the historical development of apocalyptic in general. The best way to start that endeavor is to study other cultures for whom apocalyptic literature, or at least apocalyptic elements, formed part of their cultural matrix. Taylor touches on Canaanite mythology, Akkadian prophecy, Mesopotamian traditions,[6] Egyptian apocalypticism, Wisdom literature, and temple theology, Hellenistic syncretism, Persian religion (e.g., the dualism of Zoroastrian literature), and prophetic literature more generally.[7]

In sum, I think Taylor has provided a very useful volume, particularly those who are new to apocalyptic. Others who are better versed in apocalyptic will still find some benefit in this work, but substantially less than one would find in more specialized works. While there are some minor shortcomings, Taylor’s work is well written and accessible to students, pastors, teachers, and others who experience the virtually-requisite intimidation resulting in staring down apocalyptic texts in the OT. While I would probably recommend other works that more generally and comprehensively introduce apocalyptic literature,[8] for those hoping to know how to better interpret apocalyptic, especially with the end goal of preaching said texts, this would definitely be a worthwhile recommendation.

[1] I appreciate the analogy of Dorothy’s arrival in Oz from The Wizard of Oz to the experience many readers have when first encountering apocalyptic literature—it’s quite fitting!

[2] For those who are interested in further reading about apocalyptic beyond the confines of the Hebrew Bible, Taylor provides plenty of footnotes and bibliographic entries.

[3] Once in a seminar, he was discussing bibliographies and his on Daniel I want to say surpassed 2,000 entries.

[4] Interestingly, Taylor’s discussion of working with the original languages is actually an annotated bibliography of various tools available to assist in working with languages—it does not discuss linguistics, grammar, etc.—the how of working with/in languages.

[5] These various pitfalls are unnecessary ignorance, misplaced certainty, manipulation of details, and creation of arbitrary timetables.

[6] What exactly constitutes “Mesopotamian traditions” is somewhat vague, so readers will have to consult works in the footnotes to obtain a clearer understanding of what these are.

[7] Here Taylor highlights a facet of apocalyptic that has hitherto fore been neglected—apocalyptic as resistance literature. While brief, I am pleased to see this faced of apocalyptic introduced to the reader.

[8] Cf. John J. Collins, The Apocalyptic Imagination: An Introduction to Jewish Apocalyptic Literature, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2016); Frederick J. Murphy, Apocalypticism in the Bible and Its World: A Comprehensive Introduction (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2012).