Apocalypse Against Empire: Theologies of Resistance in Early Judaism

Anathea E Portier-Young

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 this book, 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.