Dating Sefer Zerubavel. Dehistoricizing and rehistoricizing a Jewish apocalypse of late antiquity

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Sefer Zerubavel («The Book of Zerubbabel») is a Hebrew apocalypse of Late Antiquity. Though dated by some to the eleventh century, the prevailing opinion is that it was composed in the first half of the seventh century and reflects the period of Persian rule in Palestine from 614 to 618. The dating is derived from mention of Shiroi, Persian emperor in 628, and from alleged historical allusions interpreted as vaticinia ex eventu. In fact, the name 'Shiroi' is absent from some of the witnesses. More significantly, a thorough examination of ail textual evidence reveals that two recensions of Sefer Zerubavel can be identified in the manuscript tradition. In the earliest the eschaton is dated to c. 570 CE, reflecting midrashic typology attested elsewhere in Late Antique Jewish literature. In the later recension, redemption is deferred to the eleventh century. The inception of the first recension should be sought in the sixth century, probably in the days of Justinian. It should be read in the broader context of heightened millenarian expectations in the Byzantine empire in the sixth century, as found inter alia in the writings of Agathias, Pseudo-Zachariah Rhetor, Romanos, and Pseudo-Caesarius. This revised chronology obliges us to reevaluate thoroughly the historicizing interpretations of Sefer Zerubavel common in contemporary scholarship and to read the book in light of its proper historical and literary context.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)324-336
Number of pages13
Issue number19
StatePublished - 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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