Recent Studies In Old Testament Eschatology And Apocalyptic -- By: John N. Oswalt

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 24:4 (Dec 1981)
Article: Recent Studies In Old Testament Eschatology And Apocalyptic
Author: John N. Oswalt


Recent Studies In Old Testament Eschatology
And Apocalyptic

John N. Oswalt*

If one of the marks of apocalyptic is the periodizing of history,1 then modern historians are surely the true descendants of the apocalyptists. For what is more characteristic of modern history writing than its attempt to isolate periods and ages? This same instinct is seen with regard to the topic under consideration here. It cannot be doubted that we have experienced a resurgence of interest in apocalyptic and with it a concern for its connection with OT eschatology. If this is so, we ask, when precisely did such a resurgence begin? Equally importantly, we wish to know what it was that sparked the resurgence.

Klaus Koch has no reticence in dating the beginning of this renewed interest in a most precise fashion. It began, he says, with Ernst Käsemann’s address in 1959 in which he announced that “apocalyptic is the mother of Christian theology.2 Undoubtedly such a pronouncement came as a shock to German scholars nurtured on a Bultmannian denial of any connection between a Christian eschatology and a Jewish apocalyptic. Nor could such a statement be lightly dismissed, coming as it did on the heels of Wolfhart Pannenberg’s lecture in which he enunciated his now-famous philosophy of history that saw apocalyptic understanding as an essential link in the development of genuinely historical understanding.3

Without doubting the importance of Käsemann and Pannenberg, especially for German-speaking scholars, one can still raise a question as to whether the “present age” dawned quite so precipitately as Koch suggests. As he recognizes,4 H. H. Rowley had already in 1944 offered a mediating view from Bultmann’s that had found wide acceptance in the English-speaking world.5 In 1952 a similar position was expressed by S. B. Frost.6 In 1957 G. E. Ladd also posed the connection.7

*John Oswalt is professor of Biblical languages and literature at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky.

Nor was this recognition of the significance of apocalyptic confined to English speakers. Otto P16ger’s investigation of the relationship of prophecy to apocalyptic had already appeared in 1959,8 and von Rad’s comments about the rootage of apocalyptic in wisdom, while primarily negative, still cons...

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