Completing Cook’s Prophecy and Apocalypticism

I finished Stephen L. Cook’s Prophecy and Apocalypticism: The Postexilic Social Setting.  In my reading today, Cook talked about Zechariah 1-8, 9-14, and Joel.  For Cook, all of these works are apocalyptic because they envision God (accompanied by cataclysm) intervening to end one order and to establish another.  But these works serve agendas of the establishment Zadokite priesthood, as far as Cook is concerned, and this contradicts the argument of Paul Hanson and others that apocalyptic is from the marginalized and the powerless, not the establishment.

According to Cook, Zechariah 1-8 is about establishing a practical program that would precede the eschaton, much like the American Puritans tried to set up a godly society that would come before the second advent of Christ.  My impression is that the aim of the program was to please God so that God would intervene and set up a paradise.  For Cook, while Haggai had messianic expectations about the Davidid governor Zerubbabel, Zechariah did not, but its eschatological expectations were future-oriented.  Perhaps Cook’s point is that Zechariah 1-8 holds that God will replace Zerubbabel with the Davidic Messianic king, the same way that the Puritans expected Jesus Christ to supplant Governor John Winthrop, whom they nevertheless admired as an important element of God’s work.  Cook makes a similar argument on page 142, where he states that “the visions announce the present building of the mundane temple (Zech. 4:9), which is a type of the millennial temple (Zech. 6:12-13).”  In this scenario, the present order prepares the way for the eschaton, which will still replace it with something better.

Unlike Hanson, Cook believes that Zechariah 9-14 is from the same community that created Zechariah 1-8, only Zechariah 9-14 was produced when the community was much more pessimistic.  Cook disagrees with Hanson’s argument that, in Zechariah 9-14, the noble clans of Judah (the visionaries) are set in contrast with the corrupt city of Jerusalem, for Zechariah 12:8-9 discusses the exaltation of Jerusalem, whereas Zechariah 14:15 may be about the destruction of Judah.  Cook regards Zechariah 9-14 as pro-priestly and pro-Davidid, and yet he maintains that Zechariah 9-14 had problems with the governors, which was presaged in Zechariah 7.  For Cook, Zechariah 9-14 anticipates God replacing the corrupt and oppressive governors with a righteous Davidic monarch.  Apparently, in Cook’s model, one influential group is attacking others who are influential.

Regarding the Book of Joel, Cook argues that it reflects an attempt to encourage post-exilic Israel to appease God cultically, in light of the coming eschaton, of which certain disasters (which Israel was then experiencing) are a sign.  For Cook, that Joel is priestly is evident from its concern for the cult.

Cook does not regard the Zadokites as monolithic, however, for Ezekiel 40-48, Zechariah, and Joel have different ideas.  For example, whereas Ezekiel 40-48 is exclusive in its restriction of certain cultic activities to the Zadokites, Zechariah envisions a day when all of Jerusalem will be holy.  For Cook, there were a lot of Zadokites, and one should not expect all of them to have thought exactly the same way.

I would now like to touch on one last item.  On page 157, Cook states that “The Zechariah group and the Persians…cooperated in support of the importance of the Davidide in restoration policy (see Ezra 1:8).”  This interested me because I have wondered why the Persians would have tolerated pro-David material.  Wouldn’t they consider talk of a restored Davidic monarch to be subversive?  Ezra 1:8 says that Cyrus the king of Persia counted out the articles of the Temple to Sheshbazzar, the prince of Judah.  The Persians tolerated Davidic princes, perhaps because they didn’t feel threatened by allowing post-exilic Yehud to be governed in some capacity by the ones the Judahites were accustomed to having as rulers: the Davidids.  Regarding the eschatological talk of a Davidic Messiah, maybe the Persians didn’t mind letting the Yehudites dream a bit, as long as they contented themselves with waiting on God and didn’t try to launch their own revolt against the Persians.

I think that this book is important because it contains information about a variety of apocalyptic movements as well as offers an alternative to Hanson’s scenario.  In my opinion, Cook convincingly demonstrates that the establishment can use apocalyptic.  But I still think that Hanson makes good arguments about Third Isaiah, and how its contents indicate an anti-establishment orientation.  There are a variety of people who can use apocalyptic, from the establishment and the marginalized.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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