Jesusism-Paulism, Part II: Caiaphas and Diocletian Did Know Better

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Why was Jesus crucified? Why were the Christians thrown to the lions?

Douglas Adams began his epic Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by saying people didn’t want to be kind

And then, nearly two thousand years after one man had been nailed to a tree for saying how great it would be to be nice to people for a change

While Juanna Hates sees something in the Christian message that the Temple found obnoxious

Surely it was because of these outrageous claims that the leaders of the Jewish community succeeded in having Jesus killed. His real claims struck at the heart of their religion, the identity of their nation.

Both these answers are too easy. They make people feel good about themselves, knowing how foolish and short-sighted their opponents were. But Caiaphas was wise and far-sighted. Diocletian was one of the greatest Emperors in history. Why did they make their decisions?

Joseph Caiaphas, Hellenized Jew, Roman political appointee, and High Priest of the Temple for 18 years, agitated against Jesus to his fellow priests.

Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”

Joseph Caiaphas ruled as high priest for nearly two decades, and other family members would reign for most of the century. He was a smart man. He wanted Jesus dead.

Centuries later, Emperor Diocletian banned Christianity

“It was the nineteenth year of Diocletian’s reign [AD 303] and the month Dystrus, called March by the Romans, and the festival of the Saviour’s Passion was approaching, when an imperial decree was published everywhere, ordering the churches to be razed to the ground and the Scriptures destroyed by fire, and giving notice that those in places of honour would lose their places, and domestic staff, if they continued to profess Christianity, would be deprived of their liberty. Such was the first edict against us. Soon afterwards other decrees arrived in rapid succession, ordering that the presidents of the churches in every place should all be first committed to prison and then coerced by every possible means into offering sacrifice

But Diocletian was not a cruel man. He was an autodidact, a world-system thinker, and a genius. He separated the Roman foreign policy system into what we would call a “Department of Defense” and a “Department of State. He further subdivided DOD into an “Army” and “National Guard.” He defined a system of executive political appointees that would allow for Constitutional succession of Emperors for the first time in history. When his economic reforms caused rapid inflation, he changed them so they wouldn’t. Diocletian was a very intelligent man able to learn from mistakes. Diocletian was smart man. He wanted Christians dead.

These men may not have “known” why, but Caiaphas and Diocletian had a fingerspitzengefühl — a gut feeling — that something was wrong with Christianity. Interrogating witnesses who had heard Christ, Joseph Caiaphas saw a threat that could destroy his nation. The Emperor Diocletian saw a force that could destroy his Empire.

The Empire believed in a steep vertical world. Romans believed that the State ruled men, that men ruled their families, and that this relationship was decided by virtue. Women, children, and slaves were without virtue. They were naturally property of the pater familias — the father of the family — to do with as he pleased. And just as the pater familias has life-and-death power over his dependents, the State had life and death power of its citizens. Socrates execution of Athens was seen to prove Socrates virtue, because he submitted to an unjust execution.

Visually,


State has life-and-death power over Citizens
Citizen-Fathers have life-and-death power over Women, Children, and Slaves

Another way to see this is that the Romans believed that religions should be state cults. Want to found temples to some crazy god? No problem — as long as you worship the Emperor too. Jews were granted a special exemption because of the personal friendship of Julius Caesar and Herod the Great, but even then the Jerusalem Temple worked closely with Roman authorities.

Roman Religions are State-Cults
Judaism, while having extraordinary privileges, is still under Roman guidance

Because religions were state Churches, power flowed from the churches to the State, while authority flowed from the State to the churches

 

Power Diagram, Showing Rome investing power into,
and harvesting power out of, the State-Cults

Christians did not accept that Christianity should be under Roman control. Christians did not believe the Church was under the State. As The Apostle wrote

 

And [God] made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment— to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.

Paul (Ephesians 1:10)

Or more clearly, in a different translation

letting us in on the plans he took such delight in making. He set it all out before us in Christ, a long-range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in [Christ], everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet earth.

The Christian world would be worse than inverted: not only did Christians want their faith to guide the State

The Christian Goal of Subverting the State-Network to Christian Ends

Romans 13:1 “…there is no authority except that which God has established…”

Romans 13:4 “[The Ruler] is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer…”

They also lumped the State into a “Mystical Body of Christ” with all other things, flattening the world and making the State only a subset of Christ’s mystical body

 

Christ, Head and Body

Note that the State, and the Church, are merely subsets of the Mystical Body

As a 4GW religion — a netfaith — Christianity empowers individuals and weakens other bonds

And compound it by stating that women and slaves should obey the pater familias, and that subjects should obey the State, because of the authority of God, not the authority of the State

And, to that, the Christians believed that women, children, and slaves were just as important to God — had just as much virtue — as free men

There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Paul (Galatians 3:28)

To the Romans, this was a nightmare. Christianity was a giant moral isolation attack against the Roman elite, making their women, children, and slaves see themselves as Christians first, dependents second.

This is why Christianity had to wait until the Empire was weak to become the State Religion. Christianity would never oppose the state — that much is clear from its strategy of co-option. But Christianity could only become an energizing force for the State if the State recognized the instrinsic value of every human life.

That is what Caiaphus and Diocletian saw. If Christianity would spread, peaceful society built on some humans being morally worthless would be impossible. The only proven method of social peace would have to be abandoned.

Caiaphus and Diocletian weighed the value of social peace on one hand with the lives of a carpenter and a few thousand fanatics on the other. They understood that violence is disasteful but sometimes necessary. They chose what they saw as the greater good. As, or Priest Joseph Caiaphus put it

 

You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish!

It would centuries before Muslims found the secret to deforming Christianity and nearly eliminating it as a threat. But that is a post for another time…


Jesusism-Paulism, a tdaxp series in six parts
1. Love Your Enemy As You Would Have Him Love You
2. Caiaphas and Diocletian Did Know Better
3. Every Man a Panzer, Every Woman a Soldat
4. The Fall of Rome
5. The People of the Book
6. Embrace and Extend

7 thoughts on “Jesusism-Paulism, Part II: Caiaphas and Diocletian Did Know Better”

  1. “Diocletian was not a cruel man…”

    Hello-o! He commissioned the religious genocide of thousands, tens of thousands of Christians across the known world in cruel and unusual ways. How was this not cruel? Sure, it may have been a part of what you claim as his “political genius”, but surely a real genius could have conceived a subtle way of destroying his enemy, rather than wholesale slaughter! (Which by the way strengthened and spread Christianity even further anyway, as persecution tends to do.)

  2. Joanna,

    Thank you for your comment. Perhaps I should have said “needlessly cruel” or “sadistic.” Like any politial leader, Diocletian was willing to inflict harm to achieve his goals. Emperor Diocletian attempted to turn Christianity into a militant insurgency, which could have been easily crushed by the Romans. He failed to do this, and because of his failure the Empire would be remodeled on Christian lines.

    We are thankful for that failure. But because he failed did not make him an idiot. It made him someone who chose the wrong strategy.

    As for whether or not Christianity grew because of the persecution, see Simon Johnson’s comments elsewhere on this blog at http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2005/07/10/4gw-tactic-love-your-enemy-as-you-would-have-him-love-you.html.

    I think the failure of the persecution was a big propoganda coup for Christianity, but I’m not sure if it was helpful at the time.

  3. Designer villains

    “Ishmael will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.” —Genesis 16:11
    “Islam did not arise in a backwater from some obscure Judaic-Christian sect, but arose in the full stream of religious life in Asia.”—R. Bell, Origins of Islam in Christian Environment, London: Macmillan & Co., 1926

    It’s not very widely known how deeply rooted in Roman Catholicism is the religion of Islam. Recognizing the nature of this relationship will help considerably in understanding America’s religious wars in the middle east.

    When Mohammad (c570-632) founded Islam, Christianity ruled an evildoing world under full authority of the mark of Cain, the double-cross now separated into sword and +.

    It was the Emperor Constantine (c 285-337) who had given the mark to the Christian bishops, and Augustine of Hippo (354-420) who developed the theological system under which the mark would be enforced by the masters of the Roman Church until today and perhaps beyond.

    During the lives of the apostles and for several generations afterward, the Christian churches had lived and preached straight from the original Greek Scriptures the gospel of a loving and accessible God, all in a joyous spirit of reconciliation and intellectual freedom.

    http://www.tuppersaussy.com/html/writings/religiouswar/godlessintro.html

  4. Kalitor,

    The history is interesting, but statements like:

    “With Augustine, who in his own words “hated Greek” and “was not competent to read and understand” the language, came an approach to Scripture that suffered from his insensitivity to it. Important meanings were overlooked or denied, resulting in a majestic, Saturnian indifference to mankind, the promotion of priestcraft, and a nasty impatience with any opinion that disagreed with his own. According to Farrar, “Augustine was the first and ablest asserter of the principle which led to Albigensian crusades, Spanish armadas, Netherlands butcheries, St. Bartholomew massacres, the accursed infamies of the Inquisition, the vile espionage, the hideous large fires of Seville and Smithfield, the racks, the gallows, the thumbscrews, and the subterranean torture-chambers used by churchly torturers.” [Frederic Farrar, Lives of the Fathers]”

    Are distracting. Blaming Saint Augustine for the French invasion of Southern French, or a Spanish naval expedition to England, is strange. It is like blaming Charles Darwin for Nazism — but of course far stranger, because Augustine lived a thousand years before some of those events.

  5. “When Mohammad (c570-632) founded Islam, Christianity ruled an evildoing world”

    If by world you mean the Mediterranean region and nothing much else. And there wasn’t one strong authority. The Patriarchs disagreed amongst themselves, the Popes and Constantinople had long running disagreements, and the Egyptian Copts went their own way.

    “of the mark of Cain, the double-cross”

    I don’t believe the Bible states what the mark of Cain was. The mark was there to protect Cain from others not from the Garden of Eden.

  6. Catholicgauze,

    Don’t forget that in Beowulf, the monster Grendel is akin to Cain. Is Benedict XVI merely the latest in a line of anglo-saxon-monster-Popes?

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