COOL CLASSES: “The End of the World as We Know It”

This class in the Department of Religion on early Jewish and Christian apocalyptic literature explores the social functions of apocalyptic and ask why this form has been so persistent and influential.

Class name: “The End of the World as We Know It”

Taught by: Professor of Religion Naomi Koltun-Fromm


Here’s what Koltun-Fromm had to say about her class:
This class focuses on early Jewish and Christian apocalyptic literature such as 1 Enoch, Daniel, Revelation 4 Ezra. I wanted to expose students to texts they probably have not read, but think they know something about. I particularly wanted to introduce them to the idea that the “apocalyptic” encompasses much more than the contemporary pop-culture idea of the world coming to an end in a catastrophic disaster. While there is much disagreement in the secondary literature as to what constitutes an apocalyptic text, the texts that we read together open up a world of late ancient thinking that includes not only predictions of the “End of the World,” or scenarios of how it will happen, but more far ranging discourses on cosmology, the shape of the known world, as well as the contours of heaven and earth. Often these texts focus on the evils of this world as the authors perceived them, the sources of these evils and how these same evils will be rectified at the End. In reading these texts the students can reflect on late ancient world views as refracted through a particular literary genre’s lens. As some of these texts (Daniel, Revelation) remain “active” in the imaginations of many American religious communities, I want my students to understand these texts’ historical and literary contexts as well as reception history and status as sacred literature to contemporary readers.

I chose to teach this course for the first time this year because I wanted to learn more about this literature and be able to make connections both to my own work, but also to what might intrigue and make meaning for students interested in the ancient world, biblical literature, and how their contemporary world views may or may not jive with these ancient texts. As I will teach the course from year to year, I will expand my own knowledge as I learn from my students as much as they learn from me


See what other courses the Department of Religion is offering this semester.

Photo by Sarah Jennings ’21.

Cool Classes is a series that highlights interesting, unusual, and unique courses that enrich the Haverford experience.