Dreams, Visions, Imaginations: Jewish, Christian and Gnostic Views of the World to Come

The contributions in this volume are focused on the historical origins, religious provenance, and social function of ancient Jewish and Christian apocalyptic literature, including so-called ‘Gnostic’ writings. Although it is disputed whether there was a genre of ‘apocalyptic literature,’ it is obvious that numerous texts from ancient Judaism, early Christianity, and other religious milieus share a specific view of history and the world to come.

Many of these writings are presented in form of a heavenly (divine) revelation, mediated through an otherworldly figure (like an angel) to an elected human being who discloses this revelation to his recipients in written form. In different strands of early Judaism, ancient Christianity as well as in Gnosticism, Manichaeism, and Islam, apocalyptic writings played an important role from early on and were produced also in later centuries. One of the most characteristic features of these texts is their specific interpretation of history, based on the knowledge about the upper, divine realm and the world to come.

Against this background the volume deals with a wide range of apocalyptic texts from different periods and various religious backgrounds.

A review copy was provided by the publisher, with no requirements concerning the review’s outcome.
It contains the following essays:

  1. Where Should We Look for the Roots of Jewish Apocalypticism?, John J. Collins
  2. Apocalyptic Literature and Experiences of Contact with the Other-World in Second Temple Judaism and Early Christianity, Luca Arcari
  3. Time and History in Ancient Jewish and Christian Apocalyptic Writings, Lorenzo DiTommaso
  4. Apocalyptic Writings in Qumran and the Community’s Idea of History, Jörg Frey
  5. This Age and the Age to Come in 2 Baruch, Matthias Henze
  6. Jesus and Jewish Apocalyptic, Armand Puig i Tàrrech
  7. Time and History: The Use of the Past and the Present in the Book of Revelation, Adela Yarbro Collins
  8. Dreams, Visions and the World-to-Come according to the Shepherd of Hermas, Joseph Verheyden
  9. Ezra and his Visions: From Jewish Apocalypse to Medieval Tour of Hell, Jens Schröter
  10. Views of the World to Come in the Jewish-Christian Sibylline Oracles, Olivia Stewart Lester
  11. Defying the Divine: Jannes and Jambres in Apocalyptic Perspective, Marcos Aceituno Donoso
  12. Between Jewish and Egyptian Thinking: The Apocalypse of Sophonias as a Bridge between Two Worlds?, Michael Sommer
  13. From the ‘Gnostic Dialogues’ to the ‘Apostolic Memoirs’: Literary and Historical Settings of the Nag Hammadi Apocalypses, Dylan M. Burns
  14. What is ‘Gnostic’ within Gnostic Apocalypses?, Jean-Daniel Dubois
  15. Being in corpore/carne and extra corpus: some interrelations within the Apocalypsis Pauli/Visio Pauli, Thomas J. Kraus
  16. From Historical Apocalypses to Apocalyptic History: Late Antique Historians and Apocalyptic Writings, Tobias Nicklas
  17. Qur’anic Eschatology in its Biblical and Late Ancient Matrix, Stephen J. Shoemaker
  18. The Book of Revelation and Visual Culture, Lourdes García Ureña

I have taken the liberty of marking in bold print the essays which are particularly helpful and provocative.  These essays, as a whole, advance knowledge related to their particular topics.  Readers will note that while the themes covered here are fairly broad, the one unifying concept is apocalyptic.  And not since D.S. Russell’s monograph on apocalyptic has the subject been addressed so thoroughly.

Canonical texts and non-canonical come into view and none are privileged.  The status of texts within their respective communities of faith are left aside and the texts themselves, without the usual baggage attached, are faithfully and carefully looked into.

The indices are a great help in locating materials of particular interest to particular readers.  The subject index is itself very thorough and extremely useful.  Each essay also provides a quite up to date bibliography.  The essays are all in English but the editors have provided a very nice abstract at the beginning of each, in German.  And naturally, this being an academic work, there are plenty of footnotes which will inform and delight those thirsting for more information.

This is a quite good resource and persons desirous of learning about the long tentacles of apocalyptic thought and their entanglements in Jewish, Christian, and Gnostic texts from antiquity will benefit from it.