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Apocalyptic literature (from Greek Αποκαλυψις, lifting a veil) is a literary genre that has its origins in the Jewish literary traditions of the first millennium BCE, and was continued by the early Christians through the Roman period and the Middle Ages.
The two best known examples of the genre are those found in the Bible, the Book of Daniel in the Old Testament and the Book of Revelation in the New Testament.
Nature of the genre
Although apocalyptic literature often deals with eschatological themes, such as in the Book of Revelation, it would be a misunderstanding to read such works as direct, literal predictions about future historical events. Rather, such works are highly allegorical and employ a symbolism which only a limited audience is able to understand. In the case of the Book of Revelation, the fundamental theme is not so much the ending of the world, but a reflection on the persecution of the early Christians by Roman authorities at the time of Emperor Nero. Thus, the Great Beast referred to in Chapter 13 can be identified with Nero, and the opposing cities of Babylon and Jerusalem are symbolic representations of pagan Roman society of the 1st century and of the Christian society which it was hoped would replace it and end the persecutions.
Book of Daniel
Book of Revelation
More recent examples
- The Left Behind series of US Christian fundamentalist apocalyptic pulp with just a hint of Schadenfreude when it comes to the fates of those not whisked away to their heavenly rewards.
- Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged and especially its societal breakdown and Going Galt parts owe a fair share to apocalyptic literature (incl. the barely disguised glee over the misfortunes of characters who don't fit Rand's Objectivist ideals).
- William Luther Pierce's 1978 book, The Turner Diaries, is a white supremacist racist/racialist fantasy (and pretty much everyone else's nightmare) about the
brave new worldgenocidal race war that eventually creates a "pure" white Eden.