5 Tips for Reading Apocalyptic Literature in the Bible

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The mark of the beast

Apocalyptic literature is a challenging genre. In the Bible, we find this genre in the Book of Revelation and in the second half of Daniel.

There’s also a lot of apocalyptic literature outside the Bible. It was a very popular genre during the Second Temple period (from 530 BC to 70 AD), and so we have a lot of examples of the purpose, form, and style of apocalyptic literature to inform our understanding of how it functions in Scripture.

Since it’s such a different style of writing than the gospels, epistles, or historical and theological writings we find elsewhere in the Bible, it’s important that we approach apocalyptic literature with a different perspective.

Here are 5 tips for reading apocalyptic books like Daniel and Revelation.

1. Pay attention to the symbolism

One thing to remember about…

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Who Was Nebuchadnezzar?

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Nebuchadnezzar

Nebuchadnezzar was a powerful king of Babylon who reigned from about 605 BC until around 562 BC.

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Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom stretched across the ancient Near East. It was during his reign that the Babylonians sacked the city of Jerusalem and destroyed the temple. Because of Nebuchadnezzar, the Israelites lost their land, and ended up in exile.

This marked the beginning of what is called the diaspora (dispersion), when the…

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What Does “Mene, Mene, Tekel, Parsin” Mean?

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Mene, Mene, Tekel, Parsin

Mene, mene, tekel, parsin, is an Aramaic phrase found in chapter five of the Book of Daniel, the story of Belshazzar and the handwriting on the wall. (This is where we get the colloquial phrase “writing on the wall”.)

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Here’s the passage where we encounter this peculiar phrase:

This is the inscription that was written:

mene, mene, tekel, parsin

“Here is what these words mean:

Mene:…

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Genesis 1: In the Beginning

ZA Blog on 3 weeks ago. Tagged under ,,,,.

genesis

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

The Bible begins with these famous words in Genesis 1, laying the foundation for the rest of the Bible. Genesis 1:1–2:4a is the first of two creation accounts in Genesis, and it focuses on God’s creation of the cosmos.

The Bible’s creation account is the source of a lot of debate. Some modern readers strip away the cultural and theological significance of Genesis, and instead mine it for scientific details about how God created the heavens and the earth. Others suggest it is simply one of many ancient accounts of creation—a myth.

To help us understand this ancient Scripture, we’re drawing from the expertise of Tremper Longman III, a renowned Old Testament scholar. In his online course on the book of Genesis, Longman reveals the cultural and theological implications…

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What Is the Apostles’ Creed?

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Apostles Creed

The Apostles’ creed is the oldest statement of faith in the Christian church, written sometime in the second century AD. The creed defines core Christian beliefs about God, Jesus, the church, salvation, and other theological topics.

By the fourth century, it was widely believed that each of the twelve apostles contributed one article to the creed under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The Catholic Church still traditionally attributes each article of the creed to a specific apostle.

In this video, Michael Bird, instructor of the online course on the Apostles Creed from Zondervan, explains:

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Sodom and Gomorrah: A Story about Sin and Judgment

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genesis

Sodom and Gomorrah are two of the Old Testament’s most infamously sinful cities. Genesis 19 tells the story of how God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah for their wickedness, but spared Lot and his family (mostly).

The New Testament uses these cities as examples of behavior that God’s people need to avoid. But what exactly was the nature of Sodom’s sin? Why did God single them out? And why was Lot spared?

In his online course on the book of Genesis, Old Testament scholar Tremper Longman III answers these questions and more, starting where the story actually begins in Genesis 18, when Abraham finds himself hosting three unknown visitors.

The following post is based on his online course.

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Cain and Abel: A Story of Rebellion, Judgment, and Grace

ZA Blog on 1 month ago. Tagged under ,.

genesis

The story of Cain and Abel is one of sibling rivalry and murder. It’s shocking to realize that there is only one generation between the Bible’s story of creation and the first homicide. Mankind’s descent into sinfulness was fast and severe.

Cain and Abel each bring God a sacrifice. When God shows disappointment in Cain’s sacrifice and pleasure in Abel’s, Cain kills Abel with a stone.

God confronts Cain about murdering his brother. Cain lies about it. And God exiles him to the land of Nod, east of Eden.

This brief account in the Bible is just 16 verses long, but it paints a powerful picture of sin, judgment, and surprisingly, grace. Renowned Old Testament scholar Tremper Longman III explores this famous passage in his online course on Genesis.

The following post is adapted from…

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Abraham and Isaac: A Test of Faith

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genesis

In Genesis 22, God tests Abraham’s obedience by asking him to sacrifice Isaac, his only son.

To modern readers, this passage and this test feels like a nightmare. Why would God ask Abraham to do that? And why would Abraham be willing to go through with it?

Old Testament scholar Tremper Longman III explores this challenging passage in his online course on the book of Genesis. The following analysis is adapted from his course.

But first, let’s look at the passage itself.

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Who Wrote the Book of Genesis?

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genesis

Moses is traditionally considered the author of Genesis. But for over two centuries, one of the most contested questions in biblical scholarship has been “Who wrote the Book of Genesis—and when?”

Genesis is the first book of the Bible, and one of the five books of the Pentateuch. Several other books of the Pentateuch include passages that mention Moses recording events and writing down what God says. The authors of the New Testament—and even Jesus himself—appear to credit Moses as the author of Genesis.

So why don’t scholars agree?

There are passages in Genesis that Moses could not have written, because they describe events that happened after his death, known as postmosaica passages. And there are others that would simply be awkward for Moses to write, which are referred to as amosaica (such as Numbers 12:4).…

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10 Ways the Bible Uses Apologetics

ZA Blog on 2 months ago. Tagged under .

Apologetics

Apologetics is how we logically and philosophically justify our beliefs in the Bible and Jesus. These arguments draw from a wide range of fields and use a variety of persuasive techniques.

Does the Bible itself provide a universal, context-free, step-by-step apologetic system we can apply to any and every apologetic situation? No. But it does offer tools and principles we can apply to our current cultural location, enabling us to think biblically about apologetics.

In their online course, Apologetics at the Cross, Joshua D. Chatraw and Mark D. Allen explore how the Bible creates persuasive arguments, showcasing methods, strategies, and principles that can shape our own arguments and reasoning today.

The following post is adapted from their course.

1. The cross is the best argument for Christianity

If ever there has been a proof-text against apologetics, it…

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What Is Presuppositional Apologetics?

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Apologetics

Presuppositional apologetics is one of the four main approaches to apologetics, along with classical, evidential, and experiential or narratival apologetics. Each of these approaches places a different emphasis on the roles of reason and special revelation (such as Scripture or miracles) in apologetics.

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Presuppositionalists are not very optimistic, if not altogether negative, about what reason apart from special revelation can achieve. Presuppositionalism asserts that reasoning does not take place in a vacuum; rather,…

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What Is Systematic Theology?

ZA Blog on 5 months ago. Tagged under ,.

Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology

As Dr. Wayne Grudem explains it, “systematic theology is any study that answers the question, ‘What does the whole Bible teach us today?’ about any given topic.”

This highly organized, topical approach to exploring Scripture is so important that most seminaries require at least one systematic theology course in their degree programs (sometimes called “doctrines” courses). Many of these courses utilize Grudem’s work.

We’ve adapted this post from Dr. Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology online course to help answer the question “what is systematic theology, and why should I care?”

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