Tag Archives: judaism

Impressions of “Judaism and Christianity: A Contrast,” by Rabbi Stuart Federow

Judaism and Christianity: A Contrast the inverse of The Crucified Rabbi. Instead of being an explanation of the Gospels as fundamentally Jewish documents, A Comparison asserts that the Gospels are fundamentally pagan documents that co-opted Jewish words. Rabbi Federow presents Christianity as foreign to Judaism as any replacement theologian does.

Roughly, there are five classes of arguments in Judaism and Christianity.

First, arguments against heretical or non-Catholic Christianity
Second, arguments against literary Judaism
Second, arguments that mirror Christian apologetic
Fourth, arguments that Christian writers have failed to address
Five, arguments that may persuasively argue against Christianity from a Jewish perspective

In the interest of space, I will provide one example of each of the arguments

Against the Heretics

Rabbi Federow criticizes Nestorianism, the idea there are two Christs (the part of Jesus that is man, and the part that is God), and only one of these died on the cross.

Although this should be obvious, Jesus was a human being, and not a lamb. Christians may believe that Jesus was also God: however for their to have been a death on the cross, it had to be Jesus-the-human that died and not Jesus-the-God who died, since the One True God cannot die.

All existing Christians agree! The Nestorians were declared as heretical, and the last known Nestorian Church was a pagoda in China!

A Nestorian artifact of the support objected to in the book

Against Judaism

Christ’s prophesy that he would lay in the ground for “three days and three nights” is criticized, as this appears to contradict the Biblical account. As Federow reckons:

However, if one simply remembers the story of Jesus as portrayed in the Christians’ New Testament and the way in which it is celebrated all over the world, Jesus was crucified and buried on a Friday (called Good Friday) and was resurrected on a Sunday (called Easter Sunday)

Friday – the first day
Friday Night – the first night
Saturday – the second day
Saturdy night – the second night
Sunday morning – Jesus was resurrected

But if on sunday, as some point during the day, he was supposedly resurrected, where is the third night?

Yet the Book of Esther, recognized by all Christiand and Jews as scriptural, counts days in the same manner:

Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai: 16 “Go, gather all the Jews who are present in Shushan, and fast for me; neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise. And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!”

So Mordecai went his way and did according to all that Esther commanded him…

Now it happened on the third day that Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the king’s palace, across from the king’s house, while the king sat on his royal throne in the royal house, facing the entrance of the house. So it was, when the king saw Queen Esther standing in the court, that she found favor in his sight, and the king held out to Esther the golden scepter that was in his hand. Then Esther went near and touched the top of the scepter.

And the king said to her, “What do you wish, Queen Esther? What is your request? It shall be given to you—up to half the kingdom!”

So Esther answered, “If it pleases the king, let the king and Haman come today to the banquet that I have prepared for him.”

Then the king said, “Bring Haman quickly, that he may do as Esther has said.” So the king and Haman went to the banquet that Esther had prepared.

Esther 4:15-5:5

Contemporary American English speakers note that phrases such as “next weekend” are ambiguous in their tongue. We shoudl not be surprised that other languages have ambiguities too.

Esther swoons, upon hearing she cannot count

With the Christians

In the context of a longer argument against the Messiahship of Jesus, Federow brings up the following analogy: what if one calls in an electrician, but the repairmen is a plumber instead?

As soon as the “electircian” left, all of Jack’s neighbors came over to his house. They said to Jack, “Wasn’t Bill a great electrician?”

Jack responded, “He wasn’t an electrician. Electricians do not fix the plumbing.”

That is strikingly close to C.S. Lewis’s analogy in Mere Christianity that Christ is like a carpenter that the believer hires for some specific work (to repair the cabinets say, or a marriage) and then is surprised that the work performed can be quite different (it appears a mansion is being built — completely beyond spec!)

“I just wanted the plumbing repaired, this seems a bit much…”

Beyond the Christians

The Hebrew Bible distinguishes three kind of blood sacrifices: the Sin Offering, the Trespass Offering, and the Peace Offering. Alred Edersheim has an excellent description of them. They were sacrificed in a particular order

  • the Sin Offering (such as a castrated steer or a female lamb), for the forgiveness of intentional sins
  • the Trespass Offering (sometimes a male lamb), for the forgiveness of unintentional sins
  • the Peace Offering (sometimes a male lamb, calf, or bull) , the jofyl sacrificial meal

The gem of the book was the following line:

Christians believe that Jesus, who was male, was their sin sacrifice of a lamb. However, we cannot find a passage in the Torah where God demands a male lamb to be sacrificed for sins.

If one wanted to offer a lamb for a sin sacrifice, it have to be female.

“Leviticus 4:32: And if we brings a lamb for a sin offering, he shall bring it a female without blemish.”

Jesus was not a female, much less a female lamb. So Jesus could not be a sin offering.”

I had not encountered this before. There are sacrifices of male lambs in the Bible outside of the three-fold sacrifice, including how Abraham describes Isaac:

And Abraham said, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb of a burnt offering.” So the two of them went together.”
Genesis 22:8

And the sacrificial male lamb is used in the Passover offering too

Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats. Now you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month. Then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at twilight. And they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses where they eat it. Then they shall eat the flesh on that night; roasted in fire, with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs they shall eat it
Exodus 12:5-8

Additionally, the specific phrase Lamb of God appears only twice in the Bible

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is He of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ I did not know Him; but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water.”

And John bore witness, saying, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him. I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.”

Again, the next day, John stood with two of his disciples. And looking at Jesus as He walked, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God!
John 1:29-36

Something is missing from how Christians understand these events. Rabbi Federow should be blessed for pointing out this gap in our understanding.

As the Bible says:

“Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘In those days ten men from every language of the nations shall grasp the sleeve of a Jewish man, saying, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.”’”
Zechariah 8:23

I am grateful for Rabbi Federow’s work, as God is with him, and he is showing us some things that were too hard for us gentiles to find on our own.

The Wedding Feast of the Lamb who Takes Away the Sins of the World

Before the Christians

By far the most convincing of Federow’s arguments is the obvious one: much of the Messiah’s work is unfinished. The Jews were given a specific description of what the Son of David would accomplish, so that they could recognize him.

The real Messiah will make changes in the real world, changes that one can see, perceive, and prove. It is for this task that the real Messiah has been anointed in the first place, hence the term messiah — one who is annointed. These changes that one will be able to see and perceive in the real world include the following: … There is peace between all nations… All weapons of war are destroyed… There is an end to all forms of idolatry… Famines cease to exist… Death ceases to exist [etc].”

Christians would respond these things will be accomplished by the Messiah but not just yet. Rabbi Federow responds then perhaps Jews should just wait to be sure they don’t follow a false Messiah.

It’s hard to argue against that.

An interesting analogy arises to the Parable of the Sleeping Guards

“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is. It is like a man going to a far country, who left his house and gave authority to his servants, and to each his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to watch. Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming—in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning— lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping. And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!”
Matthew 24:32-37

If the guards were hired after the time the man went away, the new guards would know him only through the written and verbal descriptions of those who had seen him, or knew what he would look like. If the traveling man came back with a deep tan, or unexpectedly dirty or fine clothes, or missing a limb or with a new wife, these would be surprising. The travelling man could not be too cross at his servants who were trying to prevent a trickster from hoodwinking them. Rabbinical cautiousness of the crucified Rabbi is thus seen, by Christians, as faithfulness to the Messiah who came for them.

Zealous guards at the wedding feast

I read Judaism and Christianity: A Contrast in the Kindle edition.

Impressions of “The Crucified Rabbi: Judaism and the Origins of Catholic Christianity,” by Taylor Marshall

2,000 years ago a Jew from Galilean regularly visited the Temple in Jerusalem. He celebrated Hanukkah and Passover there. At home he would preach in a synagogue. His followers called him “rabbi.” He was executed on the authority of the Roman governor. After his death a convert to his cause spoke, saying “I am a pharisee.”

The man of course was Jesus. But the implications of this, that the one who Christians call the Son of God was himself Jewish, is often elided. It does not imply only that Jews are the elder broths in faith of the Christians. It means that to understand the words of Jesus as they would have been understood by those he spoke to, a Jewish interpretation of those words is needed. This is what Taylor Marshall gives to us in his short work, The Crucified Rabbi.

Marshall was formerly protestant minister (well, an Episcopal priest, which may be close enough). His extensive Biblical knowledge, and his late introduction to Catholicism, allows him to make connections that others would not see. (For what it’s worth, a Reform minister who read my reactions to Covenant and Creation and The Book of Kings made a mirror comment about me — I knew little enough about Reform thought to be surprising.) At his best, He defends both the Papacy and the Blessed Virgin in terms I’ve never encountered anywhere, and which have stayed with me. His discussion of baptism is interesting, though tends to a Protestant understanding of the sacraments. And when it comes to the matter of the Old Testament, Marhall is a dispensationalist, and attempts to bring this disreputable protestant theory into the Catholic mainstream.

The Royal Household

The most fascinating section is Marshall’s discussion of two offices of the Kingdom of Israel: the Royal Steward and the Queen Mother. A description of the first argument can be found in a post by Caritas et Veritas. The Royal Steward was Father to Jerusalem, and acted in the Name of the King when the King was physically not present among the people or otherwise indisposed. The Royal Steward was even capable of negotiating on behalf of the king

Then the king of Assyria sent the Tartan, the Rabsaris, and the Rabshake from Lachish, with a great army against Jerusalem, to King Hezekiah. And they went up and came to Jerusalem. When they had come up, they went and stood by the aqueduct from the upper pool, which was on the highway to the Fuller’s Field. And when they had called to the king, Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, who was over the household, Shebna the scribe, and Joah the son of Asaph, the recorder, came out to them. Then the Rabshakeh said to them, “Say now to Hezekiah, ‘Thus says the great king, the king of Assyria: “What confidence is this in which you trust?
2 Kings 18:17-19

The Royal Stewardship itself became an Office of Prophecy, as Isaiah foresaw the Messiah would re-establish that office as well. The Royal Steward will be clothed in the robes of the Messiah himself:

‘Then it shall be in that day,
That I will call My servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah;

I will clothe him with your robe
And strengthen him with your belt;
I will commit your responsibility into his hand.
He shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem
And to the house of Judah.

The key of the house of David
I will lay on his shoulder;
So he shall open, and no one shall shut;
And he shall shut, and no one shall open
.

I will fasten him as a peg in a secure place,
And he will become a glorious throne to his father’s house.
Isaiah 22:20-23

The Crucified Rabbi of the tittle appears to explicitly reference this:

Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
Matthew 16:17-19

The implications are not necessarily obvious to non-Catholics: what is the Office of the Royal Steward, and what relevance would it have in Christianity are less discovered than the Bishop of Rome. But the answer may, perhaps by the same

A similar argument can of course made be for the Queen Mother, a position given both by biology and ceremony, both from thrones

Then Solomon sat on the throne of his father David; and his kingdom was firmly established…

Bathsheba therefore went to King Solomon, to speak to him for Adonijah. And the king rose up to meet her and bowed down to her, and sat down on his throne and had a throne set for the king’s mother; so she sat at his right hand. Then she said, “I desire one small petition of you; do not refuse me.”

And the king said to her, “Ask it, my mother, for I will not refuse you.”
1 Kings 2:19-20

and the cross

Pilate then went out again, and said to them, “Behold, I am bringing Him out to you, that you may know that I find no fault in Him.”

Then Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilate said to them, “Behold the Man!”…

When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home.
John 19:4-5,26-27

Old and New Baptism

Marshall seeks Old Testament fore-runners of baptism, but I disagree with his conclusions here. Indeed, the fore-runner to the sacrament of baptism is found in the New Testament… the baptism of John!

According to the Catholic Church, the baptism of John the Baptist was not the sacrament of baptism, but a Jewish tevilah preparing the Jewish people for the advent of the Messiah. John the Baptist did not administer the Christian sacrament of baptism because he did not baptize in the Trinitarian name. Moreover, the Apostles received those who had received “only the baptism of John” (c.f. Acts 19:1-4). Saint Augustine wrote, “Those who were baptized with John’s baptism needed to be baptized with the baptism of the Lord.”

The two oldest versions of the Old Testament we have are the Masoretic Hebrew edition, and the Septuagint Greek edition. While Jewish now use the Masoretic text, and Christians historically preferred the Greek, both are incomplete: the Greek text seems to have been translated from an earlier edition than the Hebrew. Marshall’s focus on the Hebrew seems to have been intended for use in dialog between Catholics and Rabbinical Jews. Thus, some discussion of baptism that would be illuminating have been left out.

For instance, in all his discussions of the Hebrew roots of baptism, he does not include this passage, with the evocative term used in the Greek translation:

Then Naaman went with his horses and chariot, and he stood at the door of Elisha’s house. And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored to you, and you shall be clean.” But Naaman became furious, and went away and said, “Indeed, I said to myself, ‘He will surely come out to me, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place, and heal the leprosy.’ Are not the Abanah and the Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage. And his servants came near and spoke to him, and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do something great, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” So he went down and dipped [baptizein] seven times in the Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.
2 Kings 5:9-14

Christ explicitly references this, in the context of a wondrous baptism being given to a gentile but not the Jews:

And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.”

So all those in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrat
Luke 4:27-28

Instead, Marshall introduces concepts from rabbinical thought but with no obvious analogue in the New Testament, such as the Great Flood turning the world into a giant Jewish washing pool.

Dispensationalism

Easily the weakest theme of the book is Marshall’s attempt to shoehorn “Dispensationalism” into Catholicism. Dispensationalism is an anti-Judaic (and, on suspects, anti-Catholic) doctrine that the Bible is the record of God repeatedly changing his mind and revoking previous promises. At an extreme, Dispensationlists encourage us to ignore the words of Jesus, as they were a last-attempt to speak to the fallen Jewish people, and a new dispensation began with the Descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. As with the equally dubious covenant theology, the trick becomes identifying a unit of analysis (dispensation or covenant) within a text, even though neither has historic validity, and then using it to erase everything except the most recent dispensation or covenant.

Marshall does not hide this. The current dispensation began on Pentecost. Everything before this event is a dead letter if not ratified after it:

While the Old Covenant was consummated and perfectly fulfilled at the death and resurrection of Christ, the New Law of the gospel was not promulgated until Pentecost. It was on Pentecost that the New Testament and the need for baptism became absolutely binding and necessary. Pre-Pentecostal Judaism in expectation of the Messiah was the true religion instituted by God through Abraham. Post-Pentecostal Judaism is a dead letter — a religion unknown to the pges of Sciripture.

In summary, Jewish ethnicity in itself does not save. The Old Covenant is no longer salvific.

A Protestant summary of Dispensationalism which makes this more explicit is below. Note that shared focus on revoked dispensations, and that one of the dispensations revoked are the teachings of Christ:

Two problems here. The first is if the Pentecost began a new “dispensation,” and it is for that reason the old dispensations are no longer in effect, this new “church age” would include the sacrament of communion (which for protestant dispensationlists, is indeed the case), as these words were stated before Pentecost:

And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”
Luke 22:19

As were the words of the first Maundy Thursday:

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.
John 13:34

The second problem concerns Marhsall’s use of the phrase “no longer.” The Apostle Paul wrote that the Law always lead to death, in a way similar to Christian baptism:

For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.
Galatians 2:19-21

This is important: The Old Covenant was never salvific. That is why Christ died for us. Even the great patriarchs descended into the most pleasant parts of Hell. As Marshall writes:

Traditional Catholic teaching holds that Christ descended to “Abraham’s bosom” or Limbus Patrum — the pleasant abode of the netherworld where the Old Testament faithful waited for the coming of the Messiah. They could not yet ascend to the heavens, because Christ had not yet died on the cross.

From a legal perspective, Marshall’s dispensationalism can be rejected by looking at the history of the blood sacrifice. Elsewhere, Marshall writes “The Temple was the only place of sacrifice in the Old Covenant” — a period (or dispensation) presumably beginning shortly after the death of the first King of Israel, David, and ending on the occasion of the death of the last. Numerous blood rituals though are held outside the grounds of the Temple in Jerusalem:

Including gentile sacrifices, such as those by Job:

And when the feast days had run their course, Job would send and sanctify them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all; for Job said, “It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.” This is what Job always did.
Job 1:5

Including Jewish sacrifices, such as those by Moses:

And Moses took the blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said, “This is the blood of the covenant which the Lord has made with you according to all these words.”
Exodus 24:8

And the perfect sacrifice, the only one that could ever lead to eternal life and the resurrection of the dead

Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 For this is My blood of the new[c] covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
Matthew 26:27-28

Catholicism teaches God does not revoke His promises. The Old Covenant is still in effect. But it was given to the Jews at Sinai. Some things were given to our older brothers but not to us.

We hold the Jewish people in special regard because their covenant with God has never been revoked, for “the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable” (Rom 11:29). The Church, which shares with Jews an important part of the sacred Scriptures, looks upon the people of the covenant and their faith as one of the sacred roots of her own Christian identity (cf. Rom 11:16-18). As Christians, we cannot consider Judaism as a foreign religion; nor do we include the Jews among those called to turn from idols and to serve the true God (cf. 1 Thes 1:9). With them, we believe in the one God who acts in history, and with them we accept his revealed word.
Pope Francis I, Evangelli Gaudium

I disagree with Marshall’s theory of revoked covenants as strongly as I thank him for introducing me to knowledge of the Royal Household. But both ideas are indicative of Marshall as a syncretic teacher, who has taken his protestant method of Biblical Analysis and tried to apply it in a Catholic frame.  This is too his credit.  Taylor Marshall writes an exhaustive blog on theological issues, if you’d like to have more familiarity with his methods and ideas.

I strongly recommend The Crucified Rabbi by Taylor Marshall. In Confessions, Saint Augustine wrote that reading of the Old Testament without understanding Judaism may do more harm than good, and The Crucified Rabbi is a good cure for this. It is a better explanation of the Old Testament than than Covenant and Creation, and more accessible to a lay reader than The Assembly of the Gods.

I read The Crucified Rabbi in the Kindle Edition.

Christianity is Older than Judaism

Christianity is Older than Judaism

This meme has been making the rounds again, that Americans are ignorant yokels for thinking that Christianity is older than Judaism. But as is often the case with debunkeres, the debunkers are more arrogant and just as unknowledgable as the debunkee, as a great argument can be made that Christianity is, in fact, older than Judaism.

Both Christianity and Judaism are based largely on religio-legal corpora, which are called “Testaments” in Christianity and “Torahs” in Judaism. In Christnaity these corpora are the “Old Testament” and the “New Testament.” Both in their ages of composition and their internal chronology, they are seperated by the Roman occupation of Palestine — the Old takes place beforfe, the New takes place during. In Judaism these corpora are the “Written Torah” and the “Oral Torah.” While both works claim to be the same age (given to Moses by God on Mount Sinai), the Oral Torah clearly contains elements from Semetic pre-history while others date it to between the Destruction of the Temple and the middle-Dark Ages.

In other words, Christianity as a religion based on Two Testaments appears to have coalescened somewhere around AD 100. Judaism as a religion based on Two Torahs appears to have coalescend somewhere around AD 600. Christianity is half a millenium older than Judaism.

Both Christianity and Judaism are descended from an ancient religion, often called “Temple Judaism,” like early Christianity (but not like Judaism) was centered around a priesthood that controlled the teaching authority of the faith.

It is often said that most Jewish communities that existed immediately before the chrnologicla beginning of the New Testament became Christian communities. A very small number converted to Judaism instead, several centuries later.

Jew!

My friends, the charade is over. For years I have been furitively poisoning easter wells, using the blood of gentile children for matzo balls, and of course smuggling aphrodisiac chewing gum to Egyptian teenagers. I have been able to do this because your foolish governments have not required me to wear a yellow star, thus allowing me to deceive good Muslims and Christians into believing I am not a Jew. I know my actions are evil and wrong, but they are the ways of my ancestors, the pigs and the dogs.

What is disturbing about LNM’s comment, I also find it particularly disturbing for someone who is Jewish, and anti-Arab and anti-Muslim, to falsify his identity in order to defame others., is not that it is (apparently) Islamic hate-speech. I’ve been threatened with harm and condemned to Hell by Muslims on this blog before. Rather, it is that the comment combines serious criticism with paranoid ravings. Education and westernization no more detracts from Arab anti-Semitism than it detracted from German anti-Semitism.

When we face fanatics and anti-Semites, we are not dealing with back-water hicks. Rather, we struggle against modern ideologues who hold modern ideologies. This has implications for the long war against terrorism. Appeasing our enemies, avoiding outrages and allowing them to modernize on a steady tract, may not be a wise thing. The problem with the Arab world (and those it influences) is not that it is modernizing too slowly, it is it is modernizing in the wrong way.

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

alpha_chi_ro_omega_md

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

Not-So-Conservative Judaism

Forming a survival strategy: Conservative Jews plan bold new steps to stem tide of secularism,” by Arlene Nisson Lassin, Houston Chronicle, 11 March 2005, http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/ssistory.mpl/religion/3080795.

The “Conservative” branch of Judaism is facing obliteration

Dwindling congregations and increasing numbers of interfaith marriages are two issues Conservative rabbis plan to tackle following a four-day international gathering in Houston.

“With increased secularism on the part of Jews in this country, with diminishing support for Israel, and with the tough reality of diminishing demographics, it is more challenging than ever to hold our critical middle ground,” said Rabbi Alvin Berkun, vice president of The Rabbinical Assembly, a Conservative organization.

“In the American Jewish Committee Survey of 2002, 39 percent of Jews were in interfaith marriages,” Schorsch said. “Of that number, in the follow-up Phillips survey, they found of the … interfaith marriages with children, only 8 percent of the mixed families described themselves as Jewish. Twenty-four percent identified themselves as Christian, and 68 percent identified no religion.

How can this be, at a time when “mainline” faiths are fading and socially conservative ones, such as Mormonism, Catholocism, and Evangalical Christianity, are blooming?

Well, Conservative Judaism isn’t conservative, for one.

In other business, the rabbis reiterated support for stem cell research, the peace process in Israel and women’s reproductive rights. The issue of same-sex marriages was referred to a special Law Committee.

The massacre of the innocents is not a conservative ideal. It is not a Jewish one, either.