Saturday, January 05, 2013

Revolting Jews

A new book is out.
Written by Anathea Portier-Young, it's entitled:  Apocalypse against Empire: Theologies of Resistance in Early Judaism.
From the blurb:

The year 167 b.c.e. marked the beginning of a period of intense persecution for the people of Judea, as Seleucid emperor Antiochus IV Epiphanes attempted -- forcibly and brutally -- to eradicate traditional Jewish religious practices. In Apocalypse against Empire Anathea Portier-Young reconstructs the historical events and key players in this traumatic episode in Jewish history and provides a sophisticated treatment of resistance in early Judaism.

Building on a solid contextual foundation, Portier-Young argues that the first Jewish apocalypses emerged as a literature of resistance to Hellenistic imperial rule. She makes a sturdy case for this argument by examining three extant apocalypses, giving careful attention to the interplay between social theory, history, textual studies, and theological analysis. In particular, Portier-Young contends, the book of Daniel, the Apocalypse of Weeks, and the Book of Dreams were written to supply an oppressed people with a potent antidote to the destructive propaganda of the empire -- renewing their faith in the God of the covenant and answering state terror with radical visions of hope.
I read this in John C. Reeves's review, "Rethinking the Imperial Context for Early Jewish Apocalypticism" -

...Portier-Young's presentation is divided into three sections. Part 1 ("Theorizing Resistance") introduces the conceptual scaffolding, largely postcolonialist, which distinguishes her study of Second Temple Israelite history and...furnishing the theoretical support for her reading of early Judean apocalyptic treatises as "resistance literature." Part 2 ("Seleucid Domination in Judea") explores the various state-sponsored mechanisms by which the Seleucid Empire suppressed and exploited the indigenous populations under its control...Part 3 ("Apocalyptic Theologies of Resistance") focuses attention upon the divergent programs of resistance against imperial hegemony that are offered in Daniel and the Enochic apocalypses, respectively...

...The precise shape of Judean "ancestral traditions" in an age predating the physical existence of a canonical "Bible" could also be a problem, but it is one which the author happily recognizes: she correctly argues that the phrase "ancestral traditions" should not be facilely equated with either the Mosaic Torah or with canonical scripture...The author makes a compelling case for a carefully plotted program of Seleucid state-sponsored terror against Judea, especially during the reign of Antiochus IV (175-164 BCE). Its intent was to demolish and then rebuild a "world and identity" for the Judeans...[altough] the massacre described in 2 Macc 6:11//1 Macc 2:29-38 should not be blithely accepted as historical, since it is blatantly modeled on the similar story found in Judg 9:46-49.
...According to the author, the materials in Daniel advocate a program of nonviolent resistance, whereas the Enochic texts call for armed revolt. She argues convincingly that the "strength" and "power" associated with characters like Daniel and the repeatedly invoked "smart ones" (Hebrew: _maśkilim_) is not martial or military in nature, but consists instead in the possession and wielding of true knowledge and wisdom.. .
...Despite the quibbles voiced above, this is a vitally important contribution to our understanding of the Second Temple Judean discursive responses to imperial rule.

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