Religious Dissent in the Roman Empire: Violence in Judaea at the Time of Nero (Routledge Monographs in Classical Studies)
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Religious Dissent in the Roman Empire is the third installment in Vasily Rudich’s trilogy on the psychology of discontent in the Roman Empire at the time of Nero. Unlike his earlier books, it deals not with political dissidence, but with religious dissent, especially in its violent form. Against the broad background of Second Temple Judaism and Judaea’s history under Rome’s rule, Rudich discusses various manifestations of religious dissent as distinct from the mainstream beliefs and directed against both the foreign occupier and the priestly establishment. This book offers the methodological framework for the analysis of the religious dissent mindset, which it considers a recurrent historical phenomenon that may play a major role in different periods and cultures. In this respect, its findings are also relevant to the rise of religious violence in the world today and provide further insights into its persistent motives and paradigms. Religious Dissent in the Roman Empire is an important study for people interested in Roman and Jewish history, religious psychology and religious extremism, cultural interaction and the roots of violence.
sent Cumanus into exile (BJ, 2, 245; AJ, 20, 136). The military tribune Celer (chosen, one suspects, as a scapegoat) was to be dragged in public view around Jerusalem and executed: a punishment inordinately severe, even though the nature of the man’s crime remains enigmatic – another example of Josephus’s exasperating silences. As regards the high priest Ananias b. Nedebaeus, if he had been made to endure the ignominy of chains, this did not seem to aﬀect his loyalty to Rome, suggesting that it
misguided and counter-productive, even when it concerns the veracity of episodes some readers may ﬁnd uncomfortable, such as the slaughtering of Jerusalem’s garrison by the rebels on the Sabbath day, or the factions’ reign of terror at the capital under siege. One has to distinguish between his factual reportage and his descriptive and interpretive procedures, an issue that he was perfectly aware of: “I shall recount with accuracy the actions taken on both sides, although in discussion and
some famous prophetic ﬁgure from the past. The easiest explanation of this as deliberate fraud is wrong. Religious psychology, and even more so, the psychology of religious dissent, deﬁes any such rationalism, which is also at odds with the compelling emotional power these texts possess. I am inclined to allow that more often than we are prepared to admit they betray the ‘extra-conscious’ proceedings of their authors, when the latter operated in a state of ecstasy or trance, with the boundaries
‘Messiah of Aaron’ would not have claimed it by deﬁnition (Aaron belonged to the tribe of Levi, and David to that of Judah); nor, of course, could it apply to the supernatural agents. Last but not least, there seems to have existed a sort of demarcation, sometimes blurred, between the image of the Messiah as (in one sense or another) superhuman agent and as a mortal person (king, warrior, prophet), even if he had been posturing or perceived as a miracle worker: it is this latter notion that will
tenure suggests at least some ability of maneuvering between Roman interests and his restless subjects. Only the third Gospel has him involved in the trial of Jesus (Lk 23:7 ﬀ.). But Josephus basically supports (AJ, 18, 116 ﬀ.) the New Testament accounts (Mt 14:3; Mk 6:17 ﬀ.; cf. Lk 3:19 f.; 9:9) regarding his earlier showdown with, and the subsequent execution of, John the Baptist – even though the historian oﬀers no details found in the Gospels. The nature of the Baptist’s teaching and the