484: TITUS DESTROYS JERUSALEM

“A warm welcome to Zingcreed, the post-Christian blog that brings it all together. If you like it , tell others – if you don’t like it tell me! All comments very welcome: at least then I know someone’s reading this stuff!

Hope you find the following interesting,
In solidarity,
Peter Turner, M.A., M.Sc.”

445

 

TITUS DESTROYS JERUSALEM 

Gessius Florus was the Roman Procurator of Judaea, the first century Palestinian province that included the Jewish capital Jerusalem. He had no understanding of or sympathy for the Jews, indeed when tax revenues were low he raided the horde of silver they kept in their holy Temple. The resulting uproar among the citizens of Jerusalem became so great it became no less than a battle for freedom from the yoke of Roman colonialism. In 66 C.E. (used to be called A.D.) the Romans sent in troops and killed 3600 citizens to intimidate the population and make them kow-tow.

Every  Englishman my age will be familiar with this sort of thing as we were doing it in Aden and Kenya when I was a teenager: “Keeping the wogs in line”. We labelled our victims “Flossy” (Front for the Liberation of South Yemen) and “Mau Mau” (Kenyan Land Freedom Army). My compatriots had better weapons than the Romans and caused more havoc. I marched proudly through the streets in my boy scout uniform to hear our troops praised by bishops on Empire Youth Day, and learned Latin at my Grammar School desk so as to better understand the great Empire on which the British one was modelled.

417

Daily sacrifices to Caesar in the Temple had ceased, not surprisingly; and the revolt spread beyond Jerusalem to the rest of Judaea and on to Galilee. Things were getting out of control big time.

The Christians in Jerusalem, a group formerly led by Jesus’ brother James, moved out in haste in 66 C.E. to Pella across the Jordan. This refusal to back the uprising alienated them from their fellow Jews and after this date they weren’t allowed in synagogues any more. This is one of the reasons why they cuddled up to the Gentiles: they had nowhere else to go! 

After expelling or killing the Romans in Jerusalem, the Jews had to endure a 6 month siege, during which they managed to kill 6000 of the 20000 soldiers surrounding them. Back in Rome, Emperor Nero was getting seriously pissed off. He decided to send in the heavy artillery. Vespasian was a heavily decorated general, a seasoned campaigner: he could sort out these Jews before breakfast! He probably would have done too, if Nero hadn’t died, and if Vespasian hadn’t decided he wanted the post of Emperor for himself. So in comes Titus, his son, a chip off the old block and as ruthless an imperialist as you would ever hope to meet. His siege engines pelted the 3 sets of city walls with enormous boulders while the -by now-  starving, disease-ridden Jews listened in dread inside. His 5 legions were champing at the bit to get their hands on the rebels and tear them limb from limb.

Titus’ men reached the Temple which they methodically looted, desecrated and levelled. Every living person was taken off in chains to be paraded in front of jeering crowds in Rome, or slaughtered on the spot. The dead could be counted in the hundreds of thousands. The Temple treasures were likewise removed to the  empire’s capital.

446

After Constantine, I maintain Titus is the most important person, well, Roman anyway, in the whole history of Christianity. This is because the gospel writers were doing their thing at about the same time. They were influenced by the apocalypse around them. What did it all mean? How were they to interpret Jesus and his prophecies if not in terms of the destruction of the Temple?

Mark thought Jerusalem was destroyed because 35 years earlier its leaders had rejected Jesus (12:1-12). His followers were to persevere and remain faithful until the end (13:13). The war was just the beginning of a great apocalypse in which Jesus would soon punish the wicked and redeem the faithful (13:14-37). These were the stories that Matthew and Luke used as a template. John was similar. Irenaeus, arguably the third most important person in  early Christian history then put these 4 gospels into the canon of recognized scriptures that we still use today.

Meanwhile, many miles away where there was no war, Thomas was writing his gospel, rediscovered at Nag Hammadi in the twentieth century. He doesn’t mention apocalypse at all. Fancy that! Perhaps we can get a clearer picture of Jesus from him than from the 4 canonical accounts? After all, Jesus was dead and buried long before the Jewish uprising started.

This must be worth a Post of its own! I think Patterson p.248ff would be a good place to start…”these ideas did not take hold”…”Edessa a caravan town”…..”an ally in Plato”…..”the Way”…..

Sources:
(i) Christianitytoday.com/ch/1990/issue28/28
(ii) Patterson, S.J. “The lost way. How 2 forgotten gospels are rewriting the story of Christian origins” HarperOne (2014)

Related Zingcreed Posts:
Apocalypse in the gospels
Jesus’ communist brother James (i) His life
The odd wisdom of the 2 lost gospels
From Hebrew to Hellenist – how the church metamorphosed
Ebionites, the residual Hebrew Christians
Pagan influences on early Christianity

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