I have started reading Frederick Murphy’s book Apocalypticism in the Bible and Its World: A Comprehensive Introduction. Why? Because I think that the theological paradigm for interpretation of the New Testament has passed its sell-by date and that apocalyptic is a crucial component of the alternative historical paradigm. The book is described as a “Comprehensive Introduction”, and it appears to be just that.
One of the things that Murphy discusses in the opening chapter is the relationship between apocalyptic and prophetic literature. A key difference has to do with how they deal with history. Both genres expect divine intervention in human affairs, but whereas in the case of prophecy “that intervention deals with a specific historical situation and the resolution results in something not so different from what preceded it”, apocalypticism generally predicts an imminent end to history (21). Significantly, Murphy points out that in prophecy the language of “cosmic disruption”—of a “new heaven and new earth”, for example—is “for the most part metaphorical”. I would argue that this is also true for much apocalyptic writing, but that is not really the point I want to make here.