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118 SHOFAR Spring 1994 Vol. 12, No.3 173-98, and G. Shrimpton, "Regional Drought and the Economic Decline of Mycena," Echos du Monde Classique 31 (1987), pp. 137-77. J. D. Muhly Department of Ancient History University of Pennsylvania The Rise and Fall of Jewish Nationalism: Jewish and Christian Ethnicity in Ancient Palestine, by Doron Mendels. The Anchor Bible Reference Library. New York: Doubleday, 1992. 450 pp. $35.00. Barring the discovery of new evidence, some topics might seem unlikely to reward further scholarly investigation. The history of the Hasmonean kingdom and its first-century CE. successor states might qualifY as one such instance. The relevant scholarly literature is immense and includes major works by scholars of the stature of Solomon Zeitlin, Victor Tscherikover, E. J. Bickerman, and Martin Hengel. The publication of Doron Mendels' The Rise and Fall ofJewish Nationalism demonstrates once again that such pessimism is not warranted. All that is required to reinvigorate an old topic is for an able scholar to find a new perspective from which to view the sources and to derive from them unexpected insights. The focus of the new perspective that is at the heart of Professor Mendels' study is nationalism understood as the ancient Jewish people's sense of its own distinctive "ethnicity." His methodology is to isolate four specific symbols of Jewish political nationalism-temple, land, kingship, and army-and trace the history of each symbol from the second century B.CE. to the second century CE., analyze its treatment in contemporary Jewish literature, and compare it with similar manifestations of other Hellenistic peoples' political nationalism. The result is a history not of the rise and fall of the Hellenistic Jewish kingdom but of the disintegration of the ideology of that kingdom and the implications of that disintegration for Jewish hiStory. It is Professor Mendels' contention that the continued vitality of these symbols was essential to the maintenance ofJewish political nationalism. In his view these symbols were most vital during the early Hasmonean period. Then the Jews inhabited a compact territory ruled by a Jewish monarch and defended by a Jewish army while the temple in Jerusalem provided the Hasmonean kingdom with its spiritual center. Unlike what happened in the case of their neighbors such as the Egyptians or Book Reviews 119 Phoenicians, however, the material and institutional symbols of Jewish political nationalism gradually lost their vitality during the course of the approximately two centuries covered by Professor Mendels' study, leaving the Jewish people uniquely disoriented and ready to respond positively to calls for revolt against Roman rule in 66-70 and again in 130-135 C.E. Professor Mendels sees Alexander Jannaeus' use of a Jewish army to suppress his Pharisaic opponents as the first step in the long and complex process of symbolic devaluation. The "villain" in Professor Mendels' story, however, is Herod the Great, whose "schizophrenic" policies-favoring the non-Jewish populations of Judaea although ostensibly a Jewish king, compromising the independence of the temple priesthood, and relying on a non-Jewish mercenary army to maintain his power-led to the simultaneous devaluation of all four political symbols. The resulting condition of nationalist demoralization persisted except for a brief intermission in the early 40s C.E. until the termination of ancient Jewish political existence in the two great Jewish revolts against Rome deprived the four symbols ofthe last vestiges of their former significance. All students ofHellenistic and Rabbinic Judaism and early Christianity will find much of interest in Professor Mendels' excellent work. That does not mean, of course, that his approach is free of problems. Quite the contrary. Problems exist, but none is so serious as to impair the value of his monograph. Most serious, certainly, are his choice of th~~m "nationalism" with its unavoidable modern overtones to denote ancient Jewish political self-consciousness and his unconventional use of "symbol" to refer to entities such as the Hasmonean army or the temple. These clearly had symbolic value, but they would not themselves be called "symbols" in normal scholarly discourse. His analysis of ancient institutions is also sometimes not as nuanced as it could be. So he allows for only two alternatives in defining the character...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-5165
Print ISSN
0882-8539
Pages
pp. 118-120
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-03
Open Access
No
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