Iudaea capta, Iudaea invicta : the subversion of Flavian ideology in Fourth Ezra
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The present report applies Pierre Bourdieu’s social theory to the study of ancient Judaean apocalypticism in its historical, socioeconomic, and political contexts. Its central thesis is that each Judaean apocalyptic discourse is waged against the dominant ideology of its society and its perceived sustainers and beneficiaries. The particular focus in this report is Flavian ideology—the dominant ideology of the Roman Empire in the last three decades of the first century CE—and its subversion by the apocalyptic discourse of the late-first century CE text Fourth Ezra. After the Romans quashed a revolt in the province of Judaea and sacked the Jerusalem temple in 70 CE, the soon-to-be Roman emperor Vespasian, and his sons Titus and Domitian, initiated and maintained an empire-wide discourse proclaiming Iudaea capta (‘Judaea captured’). By means of coins, monuments, statues, literary propaganda, and the institution of a new Judaean tax, the Flavian emperors magnified their successful suppression of this provincial revolt in order to legitimate their dynasty. This discourse, which quickly became misrecognized in society and persisted long after the tenure of the Flavian dynasty, marked all Judaeans throughout the empire as foreign rebels and barbarians. The author of Fourth Ezra challenged Flavian ideology, and the Iudaea capta discourse in particular, by “revealing”—that is, persuading his audience to believe—that Rome’s victory over Judaea is part of the divine plan, the glory of Rome is fleeting, and the righteous ones who keep God’s Law will still have an opportunity for redemption. A focus of the present analysis is the figure of a lamenting woman employed by both discourses. Whereas the Flavian discourse used a dejected Judaean woman to represent Judaea after the Roman victory, Fourth Ezra’s apocalyptic discourse reveals a similar figure of a lamenting Judaean woman to be Mother Zion, and has her transform into the new, eschatological Jerusalem. When these two discourses are viewed together, regardless of direct influence or dependence, it is clear that the apocalyptic discourse subverts Flavian ideology. In the process, the author of Fourth Ezra recycles power by simultaneously delegitimating the Flavian emperors and legitimating his own social circle of sage-leaders.