A fresh and daring take on ancient apocalyptic books
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.
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Anathea E. Portier-Young is associate professor of Old Testament at Duke Divinity School, Durham, North Carolina.
John J. Collins is Holmes Professor of Old Testament Criticism and Interpretation at Yale Divinity School. His many other books include The Apocalyptic Imagination: An Introduction to Jewish Apocalyptic Literature, Early Judaism: A Comprehensive Overview, and The Oxford Handbook of Apocalyptic Literature.
“Winner of the 2013 Manfred Lautenschlaeger Award for Theological Promise
— Princeton Theological Seminary
"Make no mistake about it: this is a landmark study. It is theoretically informed and sophisticated, broad-ranging and erudite, historically aware, and hermeneutically sensitive. It breaks new ground in the field and should be required reading for anyone interested in early Jewish apocalyptic literature."
— Lancaster Theological Seminary
"Anathea Portier-Young's bold proposal demonstrates how the earliest Jewish apocalypses conjured diverse strategies for resistance against imperial power. Her judicious, sometimes daring, application of resistance theories to the historiography of Seleucid Judea sets a challenging precedent for future research. In that cauldron of cultural and political conflict, the apocalypses emerge as creative vehicles for counterimperial theologizing. "
— Marquette University
"Apocalypse against Empire portrays the Second Temple Jewish narrative of hope and survival, resistance and courage, with sensitivity and insight. Scholars and students will appreciate the careful research and fresh approach in this beautifully written book."
"In Apocalypse against Empire Anathea Portier-Young delves deeply into the meaning of empire, the methods used by empires, and the forms of resistance they engender. She then applies these insights to the sources for the historical context in which the earliest Jewish apocalypses were composed and to the texts themselves. The result is a refreshing and impressive explanation of Daniel and two Enochic texts — the Apocalypse of Weeks and Book of Dreams."
— Emory University
"Using methods developed by social scientists for the analysis of state terror and strategies of resistance, Portier-Young brings to life the ancient realities of Seleucid state terror in Judea in a way that few historians have captured. Against that background she makes a compelling case for the audacity of resistance grounded in the apocalyptic imaginations of 1 Enoch and Daniel. Portier-Young brings new depth to the claim that these are political apocalypses."
"The fresh interpretive categories of 'empire' and 'resistance,' applied to biblical texts, have evoked, of late, a significant and extensive literature. In the midst of that large and growing literature, this book is a particularly important contribution that merits careful and sustained attention. Portier-Young's study is deeply grounded in theoretical work on resistance, is rich with particular historical context, and pushes the project toward specific texts. Her book will be a reference point for future study, one that cannot be ignored."
Review of Biblical Literature
"This is a book of outstanding importance. . . . The best book in general available today on Seleucid rule in Judea. It is required reading for anyone interested in Second Temple times."
Religious Studies Review
"This is a fascinating book that advances discussions about the Jewish apocalyptic literature, as well as opening new pathways for thinking about the important events in Jewish history of the second century BCE."
Catholic Biblical Quarterly
"Brilliant analysis of apocalyptic resistance. . . . This book, important not only for the study of apocalyptic literature but also for Hellenistic history, should be required reading for students of both."
"Portier-Young's book is exhaustively researched, carefully argued, and grounded in sophisticated theories which cut across many disciplines. . . . An important source for many years to come."
"An excellent book. . . . It would make a wonderful textbook for a seminary or graduate course on apocalyptic literature."
"A remarkable achievement in terms of its theoretical sophistication, historical sensibility, and textual rigor."
"I cannot recommend Apocalypse against Empire highly enough. Portier-Young's study should be required reading for any who are interested in the history of Judea under Seleucid leadership, or in the function of Jewish historical apocalypses in their social context."
Journal of Ancient Judaism
“A landmark study. . . . Portier-Young argues that apocalypses in general were a resistance phenomenon against the various Hellenistic empires ruling Judea.”
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