The writing of Old Testament prophetic books are considered by Conservative Christians to have ended 5 0r 6 centuries B.C. But the Apocalyptic genre is considered to have been "invented" in the 3rd or 2nd century B.C. hundreds of years afterward.

This would be after the silent years of Jewish history, when there was no " open vision" or spoken word from God. Some allege that the Apocalypses were written to encourage the Jews in times of adversity, reassuring them of a hopeful destiny in history. They filled the "Prophetic gap."

Are they then to be interpreted the same way as the Prophetic writings? Is their style, and imagery, different enough to be handled with different hermeneutic methods? Or specifically, is the Revelation of John (an apocalypse) to be interpreted as prophecy? Or exhortation?

Just discovered another post: What is Apocalyptic Literature? #4399 He began by stating that there was a Jewish genre designated by this name.

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    Why the need to categorise? What is wrong with treating it as prophecy ("these further dangers will come, but God will deal with it") for the purpose of exhortation ("Here is a call for the patience and endurance of the saints")? Jun 6, 2023 at 6:34
  • Just to clarify; I argue elsewhere that John is addressing two churches at the same time; his own, and the future church facing similar dangers. Jun 6, 2023 at 6:38
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    The Revelation of Jesus Christ, as given to the apostle John in a vision, was written after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and during the first century after Christianity spread (like wildfire) throughout the Roman Empire. Are you speaking about The Second Apocalypse of John, also called the First Apocryphal Apocalypse of John?
    – Lesley
    Jun 6, 2023 at 9:33
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    Questions about hermeneutic approaches are valid, even if they do not reference a specific Bible text. Someone voted to close the question, but I think if should stay open.
    – user33515
    Jun 6, 2023 at 12:30
  • @user33515Thank you. This question was "migrated" from a site that didn't require a specific verse. But if you need references: Daniel 1-12 and Revelation 1-22, in comparison.
    – ray grant
    Jun 6, 2023 at 21:06

2 Answers 2


Britannica provides a useful description of apocalyptic literature:

Dominant in apocalyptic literature is the theme of God’s sovereignty and ultimate rule over all the universe. The message of the apocalyptic writers is one of both warning, of the doom to come at the end of history, and hope in the new age beyond history under the rule of God, when the righteous will be vindicated.

Apocalypses often contain prophecies and some prophetic works such as Ezekiel and Isaiah contain "mini-apocalypses" so it is not always easy to categorize clearly. In Jewish scripture there is only one example of a book that is largely apocalyptic: the Book of Daniel. It may or may not be part of the "silent years" referred to in the OP, depending on its date of authorship.

From the Britannica description, we can see that Book of Revelation basically belongs to the genre of apocalyptic literature. It does contain other literary forms such as prophecy, poetry and channeled writing (the letters to the churches). However these all serve the author's apocalyptic purpose to reveal what will happen as history ends and the reign of God is ushered in.

Prophecy, on the other hand, usually deals with the here and now. The prophet speaks "truth to power," urging kings, priests and the people to repent and warning of the consequences for violating God's covenant. Predictions are not the same as prophecy, but prophecy often contains predictions.

Regarding hermeneutical methods, this is a mixed bag. A literal approach to the Book of Revelation will tend to understand some of its events as playing out in reality, while an allegorical approach understand it symbolically. Few commentators stick to a purely literal interpretation. For example, basically no one sees a literal woman and a real dragon in chapter 12. Often these are seen as representing the Church and the power of the anti-Christ. But some take them as two nations such as Japan (the woman) and Red China (the dragon). The method of historical criticism, meanwhile, is useful as the reader seeks to understand the historical milieu of the author. Does '666' refer to Nero, to Diocletian or to any number of more recent candidates? Taking the Book of Daniel as an example, did the author write during the Babylonian exile or the Maccabean Revolt? If the latter, then he was pointing to second century b.c.e. as the the time of fulfillment; if the former then than a Christian-based hermeneutic will yield a different result from a Jewish one.

Summary: The Book of Revelation belongs to the genre of apocalyptic literature. Various hermeneutical methods may be used to analyze it.

  • Nicely done! I myself, have been intrigued by this NT book more than any other book in the whole bible, excepting maybe Daniel's book, which - for the record - I believe was of the earlier time period, as to the writing thereof. + 1. Dec 10, 2023 at 12:44

Regarding the Book of Revelation by John: Yes, it is in a category by itself. As the Bible's conclusion, all the major threads found throughout the Bible come together.

  • Letters. Like Paul's letters, Revelation 2 & 3 has letters to churches.
  • Poetry. Like Psalms, there are several worship songs. If you take the seven psalms that have the word thunder (Psalms 18, 29, 68, 77, 81, 93, 104), they have themes and imagery that correspond to the seven places in Revelation that mention thunder (excluding the eighth place, Revelation 10, that actually names the seven thunders).
  • Prophecy. Many themes and images from Daniel, the Twelve, and other prophets are carried over into Revelation.
  • Wisdom. If you group the twenty-eight times of Ecclesiastes 3 into seven groups of four times, those seven groupings correspond in order to sections of Revelation. (I explore this in my book, Peace, like Solomon Never Knew.) Thus Revelation is also a wisdom book. In addition, Proverbs ends with a description of the wife of noble character and Song of Songs is an analogy for Christ's love for the church. Revelation includes the wedding supper of the Lamb.
  • Law. Most of the plagues of Exodus show up in Revelation, and there is an association of many with the breaking of specific commandments.

There may be other genres represented, but this is a start. Revelation is an anthology...

  • (Differences) Yes, Revelation is an anthology, whereas the Book of Daniel is not. The styles seem to be totally different (although there are a few similarities). So should the hermeneutic involved to interpret them also be different? This would seem to be consequential as to the interpretation of the "prophesies." Would Daniel's book be more Christological (looking forward to Christ and His Kingdom in the first century, therefore...instead of an emphasis on the End of the World apocalyptic events?
    – ray grant
    Jun 6, 2023 at 21:13
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    As a believer in a closed canon, my understanding is that God reveals new truth to new generations of Christians by enhancing our hermeneutical principles, adding to them over time through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Those hermeneutical rules are found in Scripture but not recognized as such. Then every so often a new set is revealed and additional progress is made in understanding the Word. I believe that the hermeneutical principles needed to fully understand Revelation will be delivered last. Jun 7, 2023 at 0:45
  • Apocalyptic Literature Just discovered a post, What is "Apocalyptic Literature? #4399 from 10 years ago. Soldarnal stated at the beginning, Apocalyptic literature developed as a distinctly Jewish genre. It began with them and developed with them. The Christians continued to use it. He then gives "stages of its history." Interesting.
    – ray grant
    Jun 18, 2023 at 19:17
  • Very perceptive. + 1. Dec 10, 2023 at 12:53

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