UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Reimagining the problem of evil in the Jewish-Roman interwar period of 74-116 C.E. Levin, Yoel


This thesis analyzes the convergence of ideologies and events in the period between the collapse of Jerusalem’s Second Temple in 70 C.E. and the Diaspora revolt of 116-117 C.E. It explores the trends of theological dissonance for the justification of God in juxtaposition to an atmosphere of exacerbating and prolonged suffering through slavery, acute stigma, and social and economic oppression, during this interbellum period. The thesis looks back into the causes behind the Great revolt, particularly through the theodical objectives reflected in Josephus’ writings, while advancing the plausibility of similar trends behind the Diaspora revolt. Based on historically verifiable events during this period, the contemporaneous sources - the Sibylline Oracles 4, 5, 2 Baruch and 4 Ezra - portray the view of the adaptation of pre-existing conceptualizations of theodicy into an imminent messianic and eschatological expectation. Drawing from a Hegelian dialectical template of historicist-idealism, the thesis proposes a methodology of phenomenology of belief-action reciprocity. The thesis’s main argument is that the ideological trends in this period constituted a crucial impetus, or a cause, for the Diaspora revolt. This ideology emerged from social conditions, particularly the gradual unification of the nation through unwarranted sufferings after 70 CE. The ideology was mediated by the rise of apocalyptic-eschatology associated with the 116-117 uprising. For this reason, my thesis directs our attention to a plausible interdependence between the Diaspora revolt and the Trajanic Parthian campaign. In so doing this thesis seeks to contribute an additional layer to our understanding of the ideological zeitgeist behind the Diaspora revolt, while also addressing a gap in scholarship concerning the transformation and adaptation of theodicy from Second Temple sectarian ideologies into solution(s) that were embraced only after the failed Bar Kochva revolt (132–136 CE) by rabbinic Judaism (beginning c. 200 CE).

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