Spring 2022

The Rise of Apocalyptic and the Words of the Wise

Listed in: Religion, as RELI-265

Formerly listed as: RELI-40


Susan Niditch (Section 01)


A growing sense of alienation and a fear of disaster affect our daily lives as extreme weather events, superbugs, and political upheaval increasingly become part of experienced, perceived, or dreaded reality. We seem to inhabit a world turned upside-down. Among Jews, the period from the sixth century B.C.E. to the first century of the Common Era was comparable to our own in terms of mood and the range human responses. In this critical watershed period following Babylonian conquest, the biblical writers tried to make sense of and cope with the trauma of war, dislocation, forced migration, ecological disaster, and colonialism. They sought to explain the situation in which they found themselves, offered ways of coping, and expressed hopes for utter transformation so that the troubled world would be replaced with a new and better reality. We will read from the work of the great exilic prophets in the books of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Isaiah, examine some of the so-called “wisdom” traditions in the Hebrew Bible and Apocrypha exemplified by Job, Ecclesiastes, Proverbs, and Tobit, and, finally, explore the phenomenon of Jewish apocalyptic in works such as Daniel, the Dead Sea Scrolls, 4 Ezra, and 2 Baruch.  The problems of these authors and their responses, which laid the foundation for critical themes in Christianity and Judaism, strike the reader as incredibly contemporary. Our work in this ancient material will be enhanced by relevant examples from our own times.

Spring semester. Professor Niditch.

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: Our study of ancient material will be juxtaposed with the viewing of modern films. We will explore these examples of popular culture in break-down groups that will then share their work with the class as a whole. Frequent brief essays, influenced by group work and individual explorations, will reflect on these works in context. Students with documented disabilities who will require accommodations in this course should be in consultation with Accessibility Services and reach out to the faculty member as soon as possible to ensure that accommodations can be made in a timely manner.

This is preliminary information about books for this course. Please contact your instructor or the Academic Coordinator for the department, before attempting to purchase these books.

ISBN Title Publisher Author(s) Comment Book Store Price
Harper-Collins Study Bible HarperOne; Revised (2006) Attridge, Harold W., Society of Biblical Literature Required Amherst Books TBD
The Apocalyptic Imagination: An Introduction to Jewish Apocalyptic Literature Eerdmans; Third ed. (2016) Collins, John J. Required Amherst Books TBD
The Babylonian Genesis: The Story of Creation U. Chicago Press; Second ed. (1963) Heidel, Alexander Required Amherst Books TBD
The Responsive Self: Personal Religion in Biblical Literature of the Neo-Babylonian and Persian Periods Yale University Press (2015) Niditch, Susan, Collins, John, ed. Required Amherst Books TBD
When Prophecy Fails Martino Publishing (2009) Festinger, Leon; Riecken, Henry; Schacter, Stanley Required Amherst Books TBD
The Dead Sea Scrolls Penguin Classics [2012] Vermes, Geza Required Amherst Books TBD

These books are available locally at Amherst Books.


2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2021, Spring 2022