The Family Romance of Martyrdom in Second Maccabees  book cover
1st Edition

The Family Romance of Martyrdom in Second Maccabees

ISBN 9781138206663
Published February 3, 2017 by Routledge
110 Pages

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Book Description

Centering on the first extant martyr story (2 Maccabees 7), this study explores the "autonomous value" of martyrdom. The story of a mother and her seven sons who die under the torture of the Greek king Antiochus displaces the long-problematic Temple sacrificial cult with new cultic practices, and presents a new family romance that encodes unconscious fantasies of child-bearing fathers and eternal mergers with mothers. This study places the martyr story in the historical context of the Hasmonean struggle for legitimacy in the face of Jewish civil wars, and uses psychoanalytic theories to analyze the unconscious meaning of the martyr-family story.

Table of Contents


The Terminology of Martyrdom

The Ancient Theologies of Martyrdom

1: The Psychoanalytic Study of Martyrdom

The Psychoanalytic Analysis of Political Power

The Specific Family Romance of Second Maccabees

2: The Family Romance as Victory Story

Second Maccabees as Triumphalist History

Persecution as a Triumphalist Strategy

3: Theologies of Martyrdom Recast Authority and Cult

The Problem of Too Many Kings

Temple Cult in Second Maccabees: Hierarchies of Sacredness and Power

4: Rereading Sacrifice: Human Blood as a Sign

How Did Blood Become a Sign?

5: The Martyr’s New Sacrifice: Solving the Maccabean Sacrifice Crisis

Killing within the Family: Reworking Priestly Taboos

6: The Happy Ending of Two Wishes Fulfilled

Wish #1: Male Mothers and Child-bearing Fathers

Wish #2: The Family Reunites


Appendix 1: 2 Maccabees 7

Appendix 2: A Speculative Note on Displacing Women in Religious Myths and Rites



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Naomi Janowitz is Professor of Religious Studies at the University of California-Davis, USA.