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Judaean Apocalypticism and the Unmasking of Ideology: Foreign and National Rulers in the Testament of Moses 1

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Abstract The current study attempts to move beyond the fashionable scholarly opinion that apocalyptic literature is essentially posed “against empire” by critically analyzing the ideologies evaluated and advanced by the Testament of Moses. The author employs a theoretical framework derived from the work of the Marxist philosopher Louis Althusser to argue that the schematization of history in the Testament of Moses exposes and criticizes the domination of national rulers and foreign rulers, but for different reasons. While ideology is depicted as a strategy of domination used by both types of rulers, repressive physical violence is typically only associated with foreign domination. Yet, the text is not simply “against empire.” Rather, the ideology of the Testament of Moses is primarily opposed to the priestly ruling class of Judaea, the group thought to be responsible for the socioeconomic hardships experienced by the Judaean masses in the early first century C.E.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Religious Studies, The University of Texas at Austin 2505 University Ave., Mailcode A3700, Austin, TX 78712-1086 USA


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