AN INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOKS OF THE APOCRYPHA. By W O E Oesterley D D Litt D. © W O E Oesterley 1935. First published S.P.C.K. 1935. - This edition prepared for katapi by Paul Ingram 2003.


HOME | Eschatological and Apocalyptic elements Prophetical Literature. | The Origin of Old Testament Eschatology. | The Apocalyptic Literature. | The Apocalyptists and their Teaching.


[Eschatology deals with the subject of the end of the present world-order, and after, while Apocalyptic describes certain phenomena that will take place then, and which have been revealed beforehand.]

As the Apocrypha comprises one of the most important books of the Apocalyptic literature, some detailed consideration of this literature as a whole is called for.

When we speak of the "Apocalyptic literature" we mean the body of writings belonging approximately to the period 200BC- AD100 which deals with the subjects of the end of the present world-order and the nature of the world to come.
To restrict the expression "Apocalyptic literature" to this body of writings is, however, not, properly speaking, correct; for there is a certain amount of apocalyptic literature in the Old Testament, quite apart from the Book of Daniel.
Inasmuch as this is one of the roots from which the later Apocalyptic literature grew, it would be a mistake to study the later growth without considering that from which it issued.
Stress is laid on the words "one of the roots," for, as we shall see later, there is much in the Apocalyptic literature which is independent of anything occurring in the Old Testament, and for which a different origin must be sought.
It is therefore essential that, before we deal with the Apocalyptic literature in the more restricted sense, we should take a glance, though it be but a slight one, at the apocalyptic elements in the Old Testament.
They all occur in the prophetical books - Daniel is excluded because that belongs to the body of the Apocalyptic literature in the generally accepted sense - in fact, it was only under a misapprehension that Daniel was admitted into the Canon.

In a number of passages in the prophetical books there occur prophecies regarding the "last times" (אַחֲרִית הַיָטִים), frequently spoken of as "that day," or, more specifically, "the day of Yahweh."
[Am.v.16-20; ix.11-15.
Isa.xxiv-xxvii, original portions xxiv, xxv.6-8; xxvi.20-xxvii.1, 12, 13; later insertions xxv.1-5, 9-10; xxvi.1-19; xxvii.2-5, 6-11.
Further, Isa.xxi, xxxiv.1-4. Joel i.15; ii.1-11, 20; iii.1-5 (EV ii.28-32); iv.1-8 (EV iii.1-8); iv.9-21 (EV iii.9-21).
Zeph.i.14-18; iii is of later date.
In Nah.I.2-10 there are the remains of a psalm in which apocalyptic traits are adapted & applied to the historical situation;
Mal.Iii.19-24 (EV iv).
Zech..1-9; i.1-6; xiv.
Ezek.xxxviii, esp. verses 8-12, 14-23; xxxix; & probably elsewhere in this book.
Possibly there are other passages]

These prophecies are of two orders.
On the one hand, they speak of the " last times " as those of judgement and punishment, i.e. they are prophecies of woe.
On the other hand, there are prophecies full of hope and happiness, and these present the "last times" as full of joy and peace, i.e. they are prophecies of bliss.
The important point to bear in mind is that there is no thought of a future life here in a heavenly sphere; whatever happens in those "last times" is to take place on this earth.
True, the moral element comes in, though by no means always.
Woe is for the wicked, bliss for the righteous, but not infrequently it is simply that the "last times" are described as a period of terror, or a period of prosperity, without mention of either the righteous or the wicked.
And, in any case, the idea of a future life, in the generally accepted sense, does not come in at all.

We have, thus, in the prophetical literature an eschatology of woe, and an eschatology of bliss.
At first sight, there may appear something incongruous in these opposed ideas occurring together; so that it cannot occasion surprise that this incongruity of both conceptions finding expression in one and the same prophetical writing has led some scholars to deny the authenticity of prophecies of bliss in pre-exilic writings.
This gains point when it is remembered that, as these scholars rightly maintain, it was both the duty and object of pre-exilic prophecy to denounce sin and to proclaim coming judgement; for the pre-exilic prophets, therefore, to hold out hopes of coming bliss was outside their province.
Only prophecies of woe, it is held, belong to the pre-exilic prophets.
But after the Exile, regarded as a punishment of the nation for its sins, prophecies of bliss were appropriate, for the people had by the Exile been punished for their sins.
They had been "refined as silver," and their sins had been atoned for (Isa.xl.2).

Therefore it is held that prophecies of bliss belong only to post-exilic times.
[See e.g., von Gall, βασιλεια του θεου esp. pp.37 ff. (1926); others before him, had also held this view, e.g. Huhn, Die messianischen Weissagungen (1899).]

There is a great deal to be said in favour of this view.
But it involves much cutting out of prophetical utterances, for since no prophecy of bliss can belong to a pre-exilic prophet, everything which speaks of this in a pre-exilic writing is declared to be a later post-exilic insertion.

Among those scholars who oppose this view we may mention, e.g., Gressmann; he instances, to mention but one point, Isaiah's doctrine of the remnant.
[cp. the name Shear-Jashub, "a remnant shall return," which the prophet gives to his son, Isa.vii.3]
This necessarily presupposes the thought of an eschatology of bliss in the prophet's mind; and Gressmann brings forward many other passages witnessing to the same truth.
About one thing, however, all scholars are agreed, and that is that eschatology of woe is predominant in pre-exilic prophecy. [Der Ursrung der israelitisch-judischen Eschatologie, pp.178 ff, 234, 242 f. (1905).]

Whichever view be held on this subject, and it is confessedly a complicated one, it may be asserted with confidence that, quite apart from anything that the prophets taught, belief in an eschatology of bliss was ingrained in the popular conception long before the Exile.

In support of this it is sufficient to point to Am.v.18, which nobody would claim as post-exilic; here the prophet says:

"Woe unto you that desire the day of Yahweh!
Wherefore would ye have the day of Yahweh?
It is darkness and not light,

showing clearly that in the popular conception an eschatology of bliss was believed in.
[This is differently interpreted by von Gall, op. cit., pp.24 ff. Holscher, Geschichte der israelitischen und judischen Religion, p.105 (1922), holds that the "Day of Yahweh" has nothing to do with eschatology; there is an element of truth in this, but Holscher restricts the expression overmuch.]

Here a question naturally arises as to how this conception arose in the popular mind; and this brings us to the important subject of the origin of Old Testament eschatology, whether of woe or of bliss.


Was eschatology indigenous in Israel, or was it due to extraneous influences?
Here again opinions differ, but it must be recognized that such scholars as Gunkel, [Schopfung und Chaos in Urzeit und Endzeit (1895).)
and others, have fully demonstrated that the prophets made use of extraneous traditional material in their prophecies concerning the "last times". [In the work referred to above (p.58 note 2).]

A convincing preliminary argument, which bears this out, is the fragmentary character of the eschatological picture presented in the prophetical writings.
Had the eschatology of the prophets been evolved within Israel itself the picture presented would have been more complete, and constructed as a consistent whole, instead of what we now find, namely, a number of isolated traits lacking logical connexion.
It is only after laborious archaeological investigation, as Gressmann truly remarks, that the fragments can be identified and their original connexion ascertained;

for the mythical background still visible to the practised eye, is faded and blurred, and cannot be detected by a merely superficial glance.
What is intelligible, alternates with what can be only partly understood, or else what is wholly incomprehensible; current history is mixed up with mythical elements...

[Op. cit., pp.246 f.]

This fragmentary character of prophetical eschatology can be accounted for only on the assumption that it originated outside of Israel, and was adapted as occasion served.
A fact of significance in this connexion is that the later Apocalypses (taken as a whole) present us with a full and complete eschatological picture.
That which in the prophetical descriptions is only touched upon or hinted at appears in these Apocalypses as a clear and consistently connected whole.
So far as the eschatology of bliss is concerned, there is - apart from the preliminary signs and the world conflagration - a new heaven and a new earth and the return of Paradise in all its original beauty, following upon the resurrection.

All the parts are thus joined into a completed whole.
In the case of the eschatology of woe, there is likewise a completed whole.
[We must emphasise that we are referring to the Apocalyptic literature as a complete whole; the individual Apocalypses are by no means always consistent with one another; one writer stresses certain aspects of the eschatological drama that another writer passes lightly over or omits altogether.]

That in the different Apocalypses one element in the drama here and another there is more emphasized is merely due to the idiosyncrasy of the different writers; but the main consistent scheme is as outlined. Gressmann asks,

Is it likely that this well-constructed edifice, presented in these later Apocalypses, should have been put together with the fragments scattered about in the writings of the Old Testament?

The problem can only be solved, he maintains, by assuming a twofold entry into Palestine of the same extraneous material.
In the first instance, it came in early pre-prophetical times from Babylonia, the last traces of it being visible in the prophetical writings.
The second flooding of the land with extraneous eschatological ideas occurred much later.
It was at the time when the melting into one another of the religions of the East began.
That period of religious syncretism, which owed its origin to the cosmopolitanism, brought about, in the first instance, by the conquests and policy of Alexander the Great.

One important point regarding the "second flooding" should be added here.
The great influence exercised by Persian eschatology on that of the Jews has in recent years received notable attention.
[See Boklen, Die Verwandtischaft der judisch-christlichen mit der persischen Eschastologie (1902); Scheftelowitz, Die altoersiasche Religion und das Judentum, pp.159 ff. (1920); Oesterley & Robinson, Hebrew Religion,pp.342 ff. (1931). Bousset, Die Religion des Jundentums im spathelleniscvhen Zeitalter, pp.202 ff, 502 ff. (1926). Meyer, Urprung und Anfange, passaim (1901).]

But when did this influence begin to assert itself?
Opinions differ here, and naturally enough, for the evidence is inconclusive.

(We must emphasize again that we are referring to the Apocalyptic literature as a complete whole; the individual Apocalypses are by no means always consistent with one another; one writer stresses certain aspects of the eschatological drama which another writer passes over lightly or omits altogether.)

It would seem likely enough that it began during the Persian period.
The silence of our records - and it is not certain that they are as silent on the subject as many believe, would not necessarily disprove the existence of that influence.
In the Apocalypses it is glaringly in evidence, and it is wholly within the bounds of possibility that Persian eschatological beliefs were current in certain Jewish circles, and had become stereotyped, even prior to the Greek period, before having been put into literary form.
However, it is granted that we are on uncertain ground here.

The Apocalyptic literature is not dependent, or only so in part, on the Old Testament for its eschatology, but is very evident that the Apocalyptists utilized the Old Testament, and a great deal of what they say is coloured by Old Testament ideas.
That is the reason why we have devoted a section to Old Testament eschatology before coming to deal with the Apocalyptic literature itself.


The eschatological picture that we have in the various apocalyptic books is not a uniform presentation.
All the elements are there, but the presentation is not uniform.
The descriptions of the revelations, regarding the events that are to take place at the end of the present world-order and after, often differ in detail.
The various writers of this literature handle the traditional eschatological material differently.
One writer emphasizes some elements more than by another, while others are not mentioned at all by other writers.

The development of eschatological ideas is a matter of individual treatment.
One writer develops an idea in one way, another in a different way, while yet another writer will merely embody traditional material without developing it.
These are factors to be taken into consideration when studying the Apocalyptic literature, and they account in large measure for the lack of uniformity in the presentation of the material.
They are also in part, but only in part, an explanation of many of the contradictions that occur.
For these, however, there is a more deep-seated reason.
And here we come to a matter of fundamental importance.

The Eschatology of the Apocalyptic literature is of two kinds, and these are irreconcileable with one another.

This can be set forth in the following way:

(1.) There is the ancient expectation of a political reestablishment of the Israelite nation to a freedom and power hitherto undreamt-of; a time of absolute well being and prosperity, as well as supremacy over the nations of the world.
This re-establishment at the end of the times of the nation is to be brought about by God's specially anointed one, the Messiah, who will be of the seed of David.
An earthly Messiah, therefore, and a temporal rule, of which Palestine is to be the scene.
His advent will be preceded by all kinds of fantastic occurrences in the natural world.
The Messiah will annihilate all the enemies of Israel, for they are also the enemies of God.

That is one presentation of what is to occur when the Day of Yahweh comes.
But alongside of this there is a very different presentation:

(2.) There is, first, an altogether higher conception of the nature of the "good time" to come.
Material benefits which figure so prominently in the other presentation, are not thought of; for that time will be one of spiritual ascendancy.
We have here a religious development in a universalistic transcendental direction.
No more a Jewish overlordship of all the nations of the earth; but, first the destruction of all evil and all anti-religious elements, spiritual as well as material; and then the coming into existence of a new world of goodness and true happiness.
The whole idea of Jewish nationalism has disappeared. Instead of the traditional antagonism between Israel and the Gentiles, the antithesis is between God and the supernatural powers of evil; and, following that, between good and evil men, which brings to the fore a pronounced Individualism.

In addition to this there are two entirely opposed conceptions of the Messiah.
There is, on the one hand, an earthly Messiah, purely human, who dies like all men; on the other, and more frequently, we have the figure of a transcendental Messiah who has existed from all time, from before the creation of the world.

One or two illustrations may be given; and here it must be pointed out that the dates of the writings from which these are taken are immaterial, because the writers all use the same eschatological traditions which go back to periods long before their time.

First, as to an earthly kingdom of the Israelite nation in the "last time."

For this we may turn to the 17th of the Psalms of Solomon (middle of the 1st cent. BC);
it is too long to quote in full, but a few of the verses are as follows:

"Behold, O Lord, and raise up unto them their king, the son of David... ...
And he shall gather together a holy people whom he shall lead in righteousness...
And he shall have the heathen nations to serve him under his yoke...
All nations shall be in fear before him;
For he will smite the earth with the word of his mouth forever.
He will bless the people of the Lord with wisdom and gladness,
and he himself will be pure from sin, so that he may rule a great people...
He will be mighty in his works, and strong in the fear of God,
He will be shepherding the flock of the Lord faithfully and righteously...
." (vv.23ff)

As an illustration of the spiritual kingdom of the Messiah we may quote Enoch xlv.3-5 (early 1st cent. BC):

"On that day mine Elect One shall sit on the throne of glory,
and shall try their works, and their places of rest shall be innumerable.
And their souls shall grow strong within them when they see mine elect ones,
and those who have called upon my glorious name.
Then will I cause mine Elect One to dwell among them;
and I will transform the heaven and make it an eternal blessing and light.
And I will transform the earth and make it a blessing;
and I will cause mine elect ones to dwell upon it;
but sinners and evildoers shall not set foot thereon.

Then as to an earthly Messiah; in the Ezra Apocalypse (II Esdr.vii.29, 30 [end of 1st cent. AD]) it is said:

"After these years shall my son the Messiah die, and all that have the breath of life.
And the world shall be turned into the old silence seven days, like as in the beginning; so that no man shall remain.

Similarly in the "Test. of the Patriarchs", Judah xxiv.1ff. (early 1st cent. BC):

"And after all these things shall a star arise to you from Jacob in peace,
and a man shall arise like the sun of righteousness,
walking with the sons of men in meekness and righteousness.
And no sin shall be found in him.
Then shall the sceptre of my kingdom shine forth;
and from your root shall arise a stem;
and from it shall grow a rod of righteousness to the Gentiles,
to judge, and to save all that call upon the Lord.

Finally, a couple of passages illustrating tile belief in a transcendental Messiah; Enoch l.7ff:

"For from the beginning the Son of Man was hidden,
and the Most High presented him in the presence of his might,
and revealed him to the elect...
And all the kings and the mighty and the exalted and those who rule the earth,
shall fall down before him on their faces,
and worship and set their hope upon that Son of Man,
and petition him and supplicate for mercy at his hands
... "

Similarly, in the Sibylline Oracles v.414ff. (Circa 150BC):

"For there has come from the plains of heaven
a blessed man with the sceptre in his hand
which God has committed to his clasp.

Many more quotations would be required to illustrate to the full the immense contrast between these two wholly differing eschatological pictures; but the whole position may be summed up thus:

Opposed to the expectation of Jewish political ascendancy in a kingdom of hitherto undreamt-of prosperity, established in Palestine, or else over the whole earth, we find, first of all, great emphasis laid on the contrast between this world and the world to come.
The evil of the present world is such that its utter annihilation is the necessary prelude to a new earth, and also a new heaven (to discuss this latter point would take us too far afield).
The new age of bliss, of which, according to the traditional expectation, Palestine - sometimes the whole earth - was to be the scene, is now transferred to Paradise, or as some of the Apocalyptists teach, to Heaven itself.
In place of the destruction of Israel's enemies, the enemies of God, there is to be a universal judgement.
All alike, Jews as well as Gentiles, will stand before the judgement seat. Jews as well as Gentiles will be punished if found among the wicked; and Gentiles as well as Jews will enter into bliss if found among the righteous; for in the world to come there is a place for the righteous and a place for the wicked.
The Judgement is, thus, to be a universal one, but inasmuch as each man singly will be judged it is also an individual judgement.
Further, in the world to come righteous men will be transformed into angel-like beings; they will be partakers in the resurrection; there will be an end of death, and instead, everlasting life.
According to the traditional teaching the enemies of Israel are God's enemies and will therefore be destroyed; but according to this other view the enemies of God are Satan and his hosts, i.e. spiritual enemies.
And finally, as we have seen, the personality and nature of the Messiah has undergone an overwhelming change.

How fundamentally irreconcileable the differing points of view on all these matters are will be fully realized; and yet there is a constant intermingling of them in the Apocalyptic literature.

How is this to be explained?
Probably, to put it quite baldly, because the Apocalyptists were, in a sense, cosmopolitan Jews.
True, they all have as their central theme the future re-establishment of Israel.
And, naturally enough, they could not shake off their ingrained traditional, nationalistic Jewish attitude.
Since their primary object was to strengthen the faith of their people, to hearten them with hope in the surroundings of an unkind world, they could not ignore the time-honoured expectations in which their people had been reared from childhood.

How could they have gained the car of those to whom they were attached, and whose spiritual welfare lay so close to their hearts, if they had represented all those cherished ideas as chimerical?

It seems hardly possible to believe that the Apocalyptists, with their wider spiritual horizon, could themselves have had any faith in those narrow nationalistic expectations so dear to the bulk of their people; but expediency demanded that they should mention them in their writings.
That will account for the orthodox Jewish element (so far as this subject is concerned) in the apocalyptic writings.

But on the other hand, the Apocalyptists show by their writings that they were steeped in extraneous eschatological ideas.
How did this come about?
To answer this we must again take a glance at the religious condition of the world in general during the third and second centuries BC.

One of the most striking results of the conquests of Alexander was the breaking down of the barriers between the nations and a great intermingling of peoples.
The fuller knowledge of one another gained through this intercourse resulted, among other things, in a loosening of the ties whereby men had been attached to the religion of their country.

[What Hecataeus of Abdera (306-283BC) wrote a century before this time is applicable to this period: "Under the later rule of the Persians and of the Macedonians, who overthrew the empire of the former, many of the traditional customs of the Jews were altered owing to their intercourse with aliens."]

That was inevitable when they began to realize the variety of religious beliefs and practices in the world of their surroundings. Religious unrest arose in all the countries of the Mediterranean seaboard.
The religious ideas of East and West intermingled owing to widespread borrowing and interchanging; hence arose universalistic tendencies in religion.
It is not to be denied that, as a whole, the Jews withstood, to a great extent, these tendencies; but the different parties which existed among the Jewish people is a factor not to be overlooked.
The Hellenistic Jews formed a powerful party in the land, and how strong their influence was is clearly shown in I Maccabees - let alone the Jews of the Diaspora whose liberal views cannot have been altogether without effect on their kinsmen in Palestine.
The chaotic condition of Jewish parties in Palestine during the second and first centuries BC must also be taken into consideration.
The hellenistic Jews were opposed by the nationalists, headed by the Maccabaean leaders.
But it was not very long before the orthodox party, originally nationalistic, found themselves in opposition to the Hasmonaean High-priesthood and those attached to it, on account of their worldly ambitions and their lax observance of the Jewish religion.
Then, belonging to neither of these were the Apocalyptists, who stood aloof from the hellenistic Jews, but were repudiated by the orthodox party.
Under these bewildering conditions it can occasion no surprise that non-Jewish extraneous influences in the religious, as well as in other spheres, should have made themselves felt.

In the case of the Apocalyptists, with whom we are specially concerned, these influences are to be observed in their literature.
To illustrate these influences properly we should have to give a large number of quotations both from non-Jewish literature wherein are described the various eschatological ideas which, it may be confidently asserted, influenced the Jewish Apocalyptists, and also from the Apocalyptic literature itself in order to compare the two.
But for this the special works already referred to must be consulted.
In some respects Babylonian influence may be discerned but that of ancient Persia is far more striking. Iranian influence may be seen in connexion with such subjects as dualism, the final judgement, and the world-conflagration, the combat between the spiritual powers of good and evil, the triumph of good and the end of evil, the new world, and the resurrection, as well as some minor matters.

The question may be asked what reasons there are for maintaining that Jewish eschatology has been influenced by Iranian beliefs, and not vice versa.
The question is the more justified in that some notable scholars, though few in number, deny this influence of ancient Persia on the Jews.
An attempt to answer it is therefore called for.

It should first be pointed out, however, that the denial of Iranian influence has been based on the uncertainty of the date of the Avesta, the sacred Scriptures of the Persians.
This no longer holds good.

For "it can be proved from Greek, Latin, and other writings, that the tradition of the wisdom of Zoroaster lived on during the long period between Alexander and the rise of the house of Sasan in the third century AD." [Williams Jackson, in Hastings ERE, ii.270 b.]

The tradition of this wisdom, which includes eschatological teaching, must therefore have been in existence before 300BC, a date prior to the rise of Jewish Apocalyptic in the developed sense.
Besides, it is granted, even by such a strong opponent of those who insist on Persian influence as Soderblom, that the Gathas, i.e. the songs or psalms, which constitute the oldest as well as the most important part of the Avesta, and which contain eschatological material, belong, at any rate in part, to the seventh century BC.

More worthy of consideration is Soderblom's objection on the ground of the striking differences between Jewish and Persian eschatology. [La vie future, d'apres le mazdeime, pp.301 ff. [1901).]

But, as Bousset has forcibly protested, it is a one-sided proceeding to emphasize all the differences while passing over the many striking similarities. [Op. cit., p.509.]

Moreover, we have this obstinate fact, from which no amount of special pleading can get away; that among all the various eschatological systems of antiquity there is nowhere any approach to the degree of relationship such as exists between the Iranian and the Jewish.
The fact of that relationship is fully recognized by every investigator of the subject; it is only a question of which has influenced the other.
For anyone who approaches the subject with an open mind there would hardly seem to be room for doubt.

The plea that both might be indebted to some earlier common source is excluded because there is nothing to show that such an earlier source ever existed; for neither Egyptian nor Babylonian eschatology offers an analogy here.
[An exception is perhaps the idea of world epochs, but that does not touch he really fundamental subjects of the eschatological drama.]

There is, further, another consideration; it is a priori probable that Jewish religious beliefs in this domain should have been affected by Persian thought.
From the beginning of the Medo-Persian Empire the relations between the Jews and the suzerain power were of a friendly character; the Old Testament makes that clear enough.
The very existence of the post-exilic Jewish community was, in the first instance, due to Cyrus; and there is every reason to believe that as long as the Persian empire lasted, the Jews were, in general, left in peace to develop their religion and culture unmolested.
Further, that as a result of the Exile many Jews had become attached to their new home in which they settled down permanently, i.e. under Persian rule, is well known.
There is also evidence that there was constant intercourse between the Jews of cast and west, so that there was plenty of opportunity for the Jews of the eastern Diaspora to exchange thought with their western brethren.
It is impossible not to believe that the Jews, living in the heart of the Persian Empire and coming into daily contact with their Persian neighbours, were affected in many directions, including religious ideas.
While, on the one hand, the Exile had the result of narrowing the religious thought of the Jews, it is certain, on the other, that among some circles the living in a foreign land had the effect of widening their mental horizon; that is clear from Deutero-Isaiah.

Eschatology was more or less neutral ground, so that in this domain beliefs could be taken over or adapted by the Jews without necessarily involving any disloyalty to their ancestral faith.
And, as we have seen, the soil was ready for the roots of Jewish eschatology reach back far into pre-exilic times.

In addition to what has been said, it is also worth pointing out that in some other respects the influence of Persian on Jewish belief is generally recognized.
The immense development of Angelology and Demonology in Judaism, for example, was largely due to this influence; and the Jewish conceptions concerning superhuman intermediaries between God and men show the influence of the teaching about divine hypostases in the Gathas.

Finally, attention may be drawn to a national Jewish trait, which, in spite of rigid tenacity in all that concerned the fundamental tenets of their faith, has always been characteristic of the Jews.
Namely, their receptivity, together with a genius for absorbing and adapting whatever seemed worthy of acceptation in other religious systems.
This national characteristic should not be lost sight of in connexion with the subject we have been considering.

It will, thus, be granted that the a priori probabilities of the case must incline the impartial investigator to expect to see some signs of Persian influence on Jewish eschatology.


Reference has been made to certain inconsistencies in the teaching of the Apocalyptists, but we merely touched upon their teaching, and did not deal with the manifold messages that they felt impelled to convey, so that a brief examination of their characteristic doctrines is called for.

There is, as already pointed out, no uniform system in the eschatological teaching set forth by the individual writers.
Certain fundamental truths are common to all of them, but the relative stress laid on these varies in the mind of the Apocalyptists when they deal with details.
Each individual writer feels at liberty to treat of these in his own way.

But one conviction common to all the Apocalyptists is that the end of the present world-order is to be expected in the near future.
A great deal of what they have to say, therefore, is concerned with the events which will occur when the end approaches, and with what will happen thereafter.
Their outlook is, therefore, wholly otherworldly.
Their references to this world-order merely emphasize its transitoriness and its approaching end, and to describe the occurrences which will bring about its destruction.
All these things are hidden from ordinary mortals.
They were known to the great national heroes of the past, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses and others, having been revealed to them by angels while they were yet alive, or else in heaven after they had gone hence; and now the Apocalyptists have been made partakers of these divine secrets.
One of the main purposes, therefore, for which the Apocalyptists wrote was to make known to their fellow men the things which should come to pass, and thus to prepare them for the end.

In this respect the Apocalyptists may be regarded as the successors of the prophets of old.
Like them, they never tire of denouncing the wicked for their evil ways, and of proclaiming the coming doom upon the enemies of God.
And, like the prophets, they have words of comfort and hope for the godly, who in this world of iniquity are suffering for their loyalty to God.

In another direction, moreover, the Apocalyptists show themselves to be in the following of the prophets.
These latter had taught that, in accordance with the divine foreknowledge and plan, the destruction of the Israelite nation was, on account of its wickedness, predetermined.
This conception is taken over by the Apocalyptists and greatly developed; indeed, their doctrine of Determinism is at times carried to extreme lengths.
In II Esdr.iv.36f, e.g., it is said: "For he hath weighed the world in the balance; and by measure hath he measured the times, and by number hath he numbered the seasons; and he shall not move nor stir them, until the said measure be fulfilled," see also Enoch xciii.1ff.

All things are predetermined from the beginning of the world. It seems highly probable that this exaggerated Determinism was due to Iranian influence. [See, for detailed evidence, Bousset, op. cit., pp.502 f.]

Further, it is characteristic of all the Apocalyptists that their outlook was pessimistic.
This was undoubtedly due in large measure to the chaotic political conditions of the world in general in their time.
Then, too, as the Apocalyptists saw, the world was wicked; and this, not only because of widespread vice of every kind, but also because there was no true belief in God.
As to their own nation, the outlook was desperate.
Trodden down under the heel of tyrants, their position was hopeless.
There was nothing to look for in this world, and among their own people too, evil was in the ascendant.
Most men, as the apocalyptic writings show, were steeped in sin.
The pessimistic attitude of the Apocalyptists was, therefore, comprehensible.
But there was something else, which was, in part at any rate, responsible for this pessimism.
The predominance of evil was an incontrovertible fact.

But why was this, and whence came all this evil among men?

In answer to this question, one of the great problems with which the Apocalyptists were confronted, they were forced into holding a form of Dualism.
[That Persian influence is to be discerned here cannot be doubted; the religious system of Mazdaeism centres in the perennial warfare between the two opposing powers Ahura Mazda & Angra Mainyu, & their innumerable retinues.]

The world was a world of wickedness, opposed to which, were the righteous who hated it.
"They have hated and despised this world of unrighteousness, and have hated all its works and ways in the name of the Lord of Spirits" (Enoch xlviii.7).
On one side "the generation of light," on the other those "born in darkness" (Enoch cviii. i 1, 14), representing respectively the kingdom of God and the kingdom of the Evil one.
The antagonism was not only between good and evil men, but between angels and demons, between God and Satan.
Thus the Apocalyptists, though they never seem to realize what it ultimately involved, held a form of Dualism.
[The religious system of Mazdaeism centres in the perennial warefare between the two opposing powers Ahura Mazda and Angra Mainyu, and their innumerable retinues]
But, so far as this world was concerned, the battle certainly seemed to have been won by the powers of evil; hence the pessimistic attitude of the Apocalyptists.

One other matter may be briefly referred to. Although Orthodox Judaism, with its centre of gravity on the Law, had little sympathy with the apocalyptic movement, it must not be thought that the Apocalyptists were unorthodox.
In certain respects they did not, it is true, see eye to eye with Pharisaism, but in all fundamental beliefs they were loyal Jews.
This applies also to their observance of the Law.
Probably they did not in all respects observe the Law in the strict pharisaic sense; but that they honoured it highly is certain.
In Jub.ii.33, e.g., it is said: "This law and testimony was given to the children of Israel as a law for ever unto their generations" (see also vi.17ff.).
In II Esdr.ix.37 the seer says: "The Law perisheth not, but remaineth in honour." (see also v.27; vii.20, 21, 133; ix.30, 31, etc.). And in other writings similar ideas are expressed.

These, then, are the more outstanding characteristics of the apocalyptic writers.
[For their universalistic outlook, see above, p.62, p.65.)

Some further details regarding their teaching will be found in Chapter VII: "The Doctrinal Teaching of the Apocrypha."