Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies


On the antiquity of Zoroastrian apocalyptic

Mary Boyce

‘Apocalyptic’, it has been pointed out, ‘is only another word for “revelation”, and apocalyptist for “revealer”. Essentially, therefore, prophecy and apocalyptic [are] identical.’ Prophecy in its turn has been defined as ‘the declaration of knowledge which cannot be apprehended through the ordinary faculties, but is acquired either by revelation from a deity or by some other mantic power inherent in te seer himself’. Through the accidents of history a distinction came to be drawn by students of Jewish sacred literature between ancient prophecy and later apocalyptic, the latter flourishing in the intertestamental period; and in the Jewish tradition it is apocalyptic which, it has been said, ‘was the first to grasp the great idea that all history, alike human, cosmological and spiritual, is unity. … Apocalyptic sketched in outline the history of the world and of mankind, the origin of evil, its course, and inevitable overthrow, and the final consummation of all things’.