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The Oxford Study Bible Study Bible supplemented with commentary from scholars of various religions.

Revelatory Literature

As early as the second century B.C.E., Jews employed the “apocalypse” (from the Greek word for “unveiling” and therefore “revelation”) to comfort and empower their readers by forecasting God's victory over wicked human and superhuman powers. Early Christians, too, were fascinated with prophetic predictions, especially predictions attributed to Jesus (see 1 Thess. 4.8–13 ). Q, for example, contains many such sayings, as does Mark 13 (the so-called “Synoptic Apocalypse,” which may rely on an even earlier collection of prophetic sayings). Chapter 16 of a late first-century document known as The Didache (or “The Teaching,” see below) likewise recorded predictions of imminent doom and salvation.

The most famous Christian example of this type of literature is The Apocalypse of John, or The Book of Revelation, in which the author claims to have visited heaven and seen visions of the future. Other such Christian apocalypses are The Apocalypse of Peter (which reports Peter's tour of heaven and hell), The Apocalypse of Paul (not the one from Nag Hammadi), The Epistula Apostolorum, The Shepherd of Hermas, 5 Ezra, 6 Ezra, and the Christian Sibylline Oracles. One particularly valuable example of early Christian prophecy is known as The Ascension of Isaiah, chs. 6–11 of which issue from circles of Christian prophets at the end of the first century or the beginning of the second.

Several Gnostic texts likewise present themselves as revelations of the risen Lord, but for the most part they refrain from speculating on future events. Instead, they purport to record post-resurrection visitations of Jesus to his followers, granting them secret instructions. The Apocryphon of James, which begins and ends as a letter (cf. The Letter of Peter to Philip), encourages its readers to endure martyrdom and to ascend with Christ to heaven. In The Book of Thomas the Contender, Jesus instructs Thomas concerning ascetic and spiritual practices. Jesus appears to the faithful in The Apocalypse of Peter (Nag Hammadi) warning them to beware of “those who are outside our number who name themselves bishop and also deacons, as if they have received their authority from God.” Here Gnostics recruit Jesus to oppose “orthodox” Christian clergy. According to The Apocryphon of John, Jesus revealed to John through an elaborate myth how evil powers had created the physical world and how people may be saved from their domination. The Gospel of Mary claims that Jesus gave secret instructions to Mary that Andrew and Peter refused to accept because Mary was a woman. The Dialogue of the Savior, The Sophia of Jesus Christ, The (Second) Apocalypse of James, and Pistis Sophia also are Gnostic revelatory discourses.

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