Books and writing, according to Jacques Derrida, are always concerned with questions of life and death. Nowhere is this more true than regarding the heavenly book motif, which plays an important role in early Judeo-Christian literature, and particularly in apocalypses. This book identifies four sub-types of the motif—the books of life, deeds, fate, and action—and examines their development and function primarily in Jewish and Christian apocalypses. It argues that the overarching function of the motif is to signify life and death for those inscribed: earthly life and death in its early appearances and eternal destiny in later texts. The first full-length analysis of the heavenly book motif in English, this study highlights a vital element of the genre apocalypse.
Leslie Baynes, Ph. D. (2005) in Christianity and Judaism in Antiquity, University of Notre Dame, is Assistant Professor of New Testament and Second Temple Judaism at Missouri State University, Springfield, MO.
1. Introduction. State of the Question
2. “But if Not, Blot Me Out of the Book” Earthly and Heavenly Books in the Hebrew Scriptures up to Daniel
3. “Everyone Who Is Found Written in the Book” the Heavenly Book of Life in Daniel, the Dead
4. “And Books Were Opened” the Heavenly Book of Deeds in Daniel and other Second Temple Literature
5. “It Has Been Written and Ordained” Heavenly Tablets and the Book of Fate in Jubilees, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and other Second Temple Literature
6. “Who Is Worthy to Open the Scroll?” the Adaptation of the Motif in the New Testament
7. “But Not Like the Books of This World” the Heavenly Book in Christian Literature of the
All those interested in Jewish and Christian apocalyptic literature, Second Temple Judaism, and orality and literacy studies.