Fall 2024

The Rise of Apocalyptic and the Words of the Wise

Listed in: Religion, as RELI-265


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.

Fall semester. Professor Niditch.

How to handle overenrollment: null

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.

Course Materials


Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2014, Fall 2016, Fall 2024