Friday, May 28, 2010
Jubilees and the Definition of 'Apocalypse'
The Book of Jubilees is included in the list of Jewish apocalypses by John Collins in his Apocalyptic Imagination (also in his 1979 article in Semeia). I am not sure that any would dispute its inclusion; however, the inclusion of Jubilees does seem to stretch the genre. The book does not include visionary or ascent experiences that most would expect of an apocalypse. The content of Jubilees is primarily the retelling of Israel's history from creation to Moses. This retelling (or rewritten scripture as it is often called) contains a heavy emphasis on keeping the law. We then must ask: What makes Jubilees an apocalypse? Jubilees can be considered an apocalypse because of the the framework in which the retelling occurs. The text begins with Moses' ascent up Mount Sinai where God tells him to write what he is told. The rest of Jubilees reports God's revelation to Moses. As far as the definition of 'apocalypse' is concerned, we find in Jubilees revelation mediated by a heavenly being to a human recipient. The revelation, among other things, includes information concerning eschatological salvation--keeping the law. Still, Jubilees poses some difficulties which are pointed out by Collins. The text is ambiguous at times whether Moses is receiving the revelation from God himself or from the 'angel of the presence' (cf. 4 Ezra). Another difficulty is that at the end of Jubilees there is no return to the apocalyptic framework with which it began. Moses does not return from the mountain. He is not told to bind up or reveal what he has been told, etc. Jubilees fits the genre definition, but it shows the flexibility of the definition.