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Class and Power in Roman Palestine
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Book description

Anthony Keddie investigates the changing dynamics of class and power at a critical place and time in the history of Judaism and Christianity - Palestine during its earliest phases of incorporation into the Roman Empire (63 BCE–70 CE). He identifies institutions pertaining to civic administration, taxation, agricultural tenancy, and the Jerusalem Temple as sources of an unequal distribution of economic, political, and ideological power. Through careful analysis of a wide range of literary, documentary, epigraphic, and archaeological evidence, including the most recent discoveries, Keddie complicates conventional understandings of class relations as either antagonistic or harmonious. He demonstrates how elites facilitated institutional changes that repositioned non-elites within new, and sometimes more precarious, relations with privileged classes, but did not typically worsen their economic conditions. These socioeconomic shifts did, however, instigate changing class dispositions. Judaean elites and non-elites increasingly distinguished themselves from the other, through material culture such as tableware, clothing, and tombs.

Reviews

‘Anthony Keddie's study of class and power in first century Judea brings refreshing realism to the study of a period that is often viewed through the lens of the history of ideas. At the same time, he appreciates that texts do not simply reflect economic realities, but are constructive attempts to shape the changing ideologies of class. An excellent contribution to the study of the matrix of the Christian movement.'

John J. Collins - Yale University, Connecticut

'Were Jesus’ movement and the First Jewish Revolt consequences of increased income inequality and the exploitation of the lower classes in Roman Palestine? Through a detailed analysis of literary sources and archaeological evidence, Keddie convincingly argues against this view, concluding that changes to class distinctions under Roman rule occurred only gradually, and with a mixed impact on non-elites. Keddie’s book is required reading for anyone seeking to understand the socio-economic circumstances under which Jesus’ movement emerged.'

Jodi Magness - University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

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Contents

  • CHAPTER 4 - Economy of the Sacred
    pp 152-196

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