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Apocalypse against Empire: Theologies of Resistance in Early Judaism Hardcover – January 15, 2011

4.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“Winner of the 2013 Manfred Lautenschlaeger Award for Theological Promise

Choon-Leong Seow
— 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."

Greg Carey
— 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. "

Sharon Pace
— 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."
James VanderKam
"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."

Carol Newsom
— 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."

Walter Brueggemann
"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."

Biblical Interpretation
"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."

Trinity Journal
"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.”

About the Author

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.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 492 pages
  • Publisher: Eerdmans (January 15, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802865984
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802865984
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #337,402 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By Ron Clark on September 26, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Excellent work.This book is well worth the read and has very current info on Apocalyptic Literature and resistance.
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Format: Hardcover
This book has two halves. The first half tries to explain why (assuming that the account in the Book of Maccabees is factually correct) Antiochus, the king of the Syria-based Selucid Empire, oppressed the Jews, leading to the Maccabees' revolt and of course the story of Chanukah arising from the revolt's success. The second half addresses the books of Daniel and Enoch, two books which (according to the authors) may have been Jewish responses to Selucid oppression.

To begin with, even before Antiochus ascended the throne, his empire was fiscally stressed because of a nasty habit of making war against the neighboring Egyptian empire. So when various Jews sought to buy the Jewish high priesthood from the empire, Selucid officials were all ears. The last of these crooked priests, Menelaus, was unable to pay the promised bribe. So to make up the deficiency, Menelaus and his friends robbed the Temple, which in turn provoked rioting and eventually a rebellion by former high priest Jason, which Antiochus easily terminated.

After ending the revolt, Antiochus begin his reign of terror. According to the book of Maccabees, Antiochus began by randomly murdering and enslaving many of Jerusalem's inhabitants. The authors suggest that Antiochus's goal in murdering Jews was to create "a feeling of helplessness and powerlessness in Judea". The empire then enslaved as many Judeans as they killed; unlike its murders, this policy was financially profitable, as Judean slaves were sold in nearby markets. In addition, the dispersal of Judean captives would weaken Judaism (as Jewish slaves were forced to abandon religious rituals) and remind pagan purchasers in other parts of the empire that they could just as easily have been enslaved.
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