Revelations of Ideology, G. Anthony Keddie proposes a new theory of the social function of Judaean apocalyptic texts produced in Early Roman Palestine (63 BCE–70 CE). In contrast to evaluations of Jewish and early Christian apocalyptic texts as “literature of the oppressed” or literature of resistance against empire, Keddie demonstrates that scribes produced apocalyptic texts to advance ideologies aimed at self-legitimation. By revealing that their opponents constituted an exploitative class, scribes generated apocalyptic ideologies that situated them in the same exploited class as their constituents. Through careful historical and ideological criticism of the Psalms of Solomon, Parables of Enoch, Testament of Moses, and Q source, Keddie identifies an internally diverse tradition of apocalyptic class rhetoric in late Second Temple Judaism.
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.