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By Norman Hepburn Baynes

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Byzantine Studies and Other Essays

Hardback, ex-library, with ordinary stamps and markings, in reasonable all around appropriate as a interpreting reproduction.

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Just as Malalas’s ancient Rome is dominated by the characteristic features of sixth-century Constantinople, so too is midrashic Jerusalem. Yet, in light of the restorative eschatology discussed earlier in this chapter, this projection of late Roman institutions into Israel’s past raises a question of how exactly Jewish authors might have imagined the eschatological restoration of Israel. What would the eschatological Jerusalem look like? Would it indeed include among its buildings a Hippodrome patterned after the one in Constantinople?

32 JUDAISM AND IMPERIAL IDEOLOGY IN LATE ANTIQUITY In other words, Yannai’s critique of the Tower of Babel is not unconditional. Its failure had to do with the failure of its builders to grasp the true meaning of their task. The fundamental icon-like correspondence between the divine unity and that of human society remains to be fully realized in the eschatological future through the agency of Israel. 72 Here, the call for the destruction of Rome (the kingdom of Dumah from Isaiah 21:11) is moderated by an eschatological program that effectively transforms Roman imperial ideology of unity into Israel’s eschatological mission.

The ability of Byzantine political theory to accommodate newcomers fully entitles Israel to receive the crown within Byzantium’s own discourse of political legitimacy. The midrash’s attempt to portray Israel as the ultimate recipient of the imperial office that originated with biblical kings and served to sanctify Roman rulers does not undermine the dominant ideology. Rather it uses this ideology to justify Israel’s claims for eschatological imperialism. Israel is implicitly portrayed as the legitimate successor not only of the Davidic kingdom but of the Roman Empire as well.

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