Jews, Christians, and the Roman Empire: The Poetics of Power in Late Antiquity

Jews, Christians, and the Roman Empire: The Poetics of Power in Late Antiquity

Jews, Christians, and the Roman Empire: The Poetics of Power in Late Antiquity

Jews, Christians, and the Roman Empire: The Poetics of Power in Late Antiquity

Synopsis

In histories of ancient Jews and Judaism, the Roman Empire looms large. For all the attention to the Jewish Revolt and other conflicts, however, there has been less concern for situating Jews within Roman imperial contexts; just as Jews are frequently dismissed as atypical by scholars of Roman history, so Rome remains invisible in many studies of rabbinic and other Jewish sources written under Roman rule.

Jews, Christians, and the Roman Empire brings Jewish perspectives to bear on long-standing debates concerning Romanization, Christianization, and late antiquity. Focusing on the third to sixth centuries, it draws together specialists in Jewish and Christian history, law, literature, poetry, and art. Perspectives from rabbinic and patristic sources are juxtaposed with evidence from piyyutim, documentary papyri, and synagogue and church mosaics. Through these case studies, contributors highlight paradoxes, subtleties, and ironies of Romanness and imperial power.

Contributors: William Adler, Beth A. Berkowitz, Ra'anan Boustan, Hannah M. Cotton, Natalie B. Dohrmann, Paula Fredriksen, Oded Irshai, Hayim Lapin, Joshua Levinson, Ophir Münz-Manor, Annette Yoshiko Reed, Hagith Sivan, Michael D. Swartz, Rina Talgam.

Excerpt

In memory of Alan Segal (1945–2011) and Thomas Sizgorich (1970–2011)

In histories of ancient Jews and Judaism, the Roman Empire looms large. Already in 1 and 2 Maccabees, Roman power is figured as a factor in the negotiation of Ioudaismos and Hellenismos, and at least since Flavius Josephus, the writing of Jewish history in Greek presumes a Roman gaze. Since Josephus, moreover, the first Jewish revolt against Rome (66– 73 ce) has been a primary pivot and problem for recounting the fate of the Jewish people under foreign rule. The revolt serves as the stormy horizon for the Judaean War and Antiquities alike— two works that represent the culmination of Hellenistic Jewish historiography but also the last known Jewish- authored historical writings until the Middle Ages.

To be sure, much ancient Jewish literature effaces the specificity of Roman rule. In the apocalyptic imagination, Rome could be collapsed into Babylon; and in the midrashic imagination, Jewish life in the Roman Empire could be folded into the Deuteronomistic dichotomy of Israel and the nations. Among some rabbis, their relationship could even be reread as a rivalry between two commensurate powers, like the wrestling of Jacob and Esau. Nevertheless, in the Sages’ Edom— as in the Kitim of the Qumran literature and in the blurred Babylon- cum- Rome of 4 Ezra and Revelation— we glimpse hints of engagement with a distinctive imperial culture, not so neatly mapped onto biblical models or onto the historical precedents provided by Assyrian, Babylonian, Achaemenid, Ptolemaic, or Seleucidic rule. Furthermore, as much as a fantasy of isolation envelops the literature of Palestinian rabbis, the ideal . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.