Copyright © 2012, by Lou Baldin
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destroy a Nation
The New Testament tells us that "one" man named Jesus was crucified betrayed by "one" man named Judas Iscariot, history tells a different story. It was the nation of Judea that was crucified, betrayed by a small band of Jewish Zealots that engaged in all manner of rebellious terror and murder against Roman soldiers as well as against their own people in order to provoke war with Rome. Rome did not tolerate sedition and rooted it out wherever it found it, often with dire consequences for many that lived in the towns that the Zealots imbedded themselves. When Titus’ (a future Roman Emperor) failed at his many attempts for a peace treaty between Rome and the Zealots, his tolerance for compromise ended; and he unleashed hell itself on the people of Jerusalem.
Josephus, a first century Roman historian, describes the horror outside the walls of Jerusalem before the siege of the city by Titus:
“As the earthworks were progressing, his [Titus] troops captured any who ventured out to look for food. When caught and resisted they were tortured and crucified before the walls as a terrible warning to the people within the city.” “…Outraged and with hatred [towards the Jews] [for having lost many of their fellow soldiers], the soldiers nailed their prisoners in different postures, and so great was their number that space could not be found for all the crosses.” 1
When the stench of the dead bodies inside the walls of Jerusalem became unbearable, the Jews tossed the rotting bodies outside the walls and into the ravines. Titus, while making his rounds outside the walls of the besieged city was distressed at the depth of depravity to which the city had fallen, “he saw these valleys choked with dead bodies oozing decay, he groaned, and lifting up his hands, called God to witness that this was not his doing.” 2
The Zealots stopped at nothing to force their brother Jews over to their subversive behavior, including the slaughter of thousands of Judeans, when they refused to join the rebellion. Josephus writes that after the fall of a town called Gischala, and before the Roman siege of Jerusalem, one of the zealot leaders “John” escaped capture by the Romans by fleeing to Jerusalem:
"When John entered Jerusalem, he and the fugitives were surrounded by vast crowds eagerly asking for outside news. The newcomers, still hot and gasping, put on a boastful air and said they had not fled from the Romans, but had come to defend the capital, thinking it reckless to risk their lives for defenseless little towns like Gischala. When, however, they mentioned the fall of Gischala, their hearers understood that their “retreat” meant “flight,” and had a premonition of their own impending capture [and doom]. John, however, went around inciting groups to war, portraying the Romans as weaklings, who, even if they had wings, could never clear the walls of Jerusalem. They had already experienced difficulty in subduing the villages of Galilee, he claimed, and had worn out their siege engines against these walls. The young believed him and were incited to take up arms, but the old and prudent mourned over the future of the city. Jerusalem was now divided into two hostile factions: the enthusiasts for war and the friends of peace. Indeed, the whole province of Judea was torn by civil dissension, as the parties for peace and war fought for supremacy in every city. Whenever the people had a respite from the Romans, they attacked each other, leaving families and friends divided [and dead].” 3
Once the Zealots made Jerusalem theirs, and having stirred up the Roman wrath that followed the Zealot fugitives to Jerusalem like angry hornets, the fate of the Jews was cast. For those that remained in the city there was no escape from the legions that descended like a biblical plague, engulfing the holy city and killing its people. Jerusalem became a place of unspeakable horror; misery, and famine, death was the only release. Josephus writes, “Famine raged in the city, and the rebels [Zealots] took all the food they could find in a house-to-house search, while the poor starved to death by the thousands. People gave all their wealth for a little measure of wheat, and hid to eat it hastily and in secret so it would not be taken from them. Wives snatch the food from their husbands, children from fathers, and mothers from the very mouths of infants. Many of the rich were put to death by Simon and John [two of the Zealot generals], while the sufferings of the people were so fearful that they can hardly be told, and no other city ever endured such miseries. Not since the world began was there ever a generation more prolific in crime than this bastard scum of the nation [Zealots] who destroyed the city.” 4
Judas and the field of blood
The following passage from the book of Acts, describes Judas Iscariot’s outcome, having betrayed his master Jesus:
“[Judas] purchased a field with the wages of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his entrails gushed out. And it became known to all those dwelling in Jerusalem; so that field is called in their own language, Akel Dama, that is, Field of Blood [Matthew called it “Potter’s Field,” Matt. 27:10]. “For it is written in the book of Psalms: ‘Let his dwelling place be desolate and let no one live in it, and, let another take his position.” (Acts 1:18-20)
All of Judea was a field of blood whose “entrails gushed out” during the seven years of the Jewish revolt against the Roman Empire. Josephus, a Jewish general turned Roman historian, describes the disembowelment of Judea in his writings: “So great was the slaughter that in many places the flames were put out by streams of blood.” 5
The name Judas is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew name Judah, and Iscariot is a condemned city in Moab (Jeremiah 48:24). Therefore, Judas Iscariot means the condemned city of Judah or as it was referred in Jesus time, Judea.
In the book of Numbers, the prophet Balaam had this to say about Jacob’s descendents, and what they would do to Moab:
“I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near: a star shall come forth out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel; it shall crush the forehead of Moab, and break down all the sons of Sheth (Numbers 24:17 RSV).
In the book of Luke, the author has Jesus describing what was to become of their beloved city of Jerusalem, to his disciples, “As he drew near, he saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. “For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, “and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitations.” (Luke 19:41-44)
The author(s) of Luke obviously knew and perhaps lived through the destruction of Jerusalem. Few Jews believed their city to be so vulnerable, since Herod had built it like a fortress a few decades earlier, to withstand or at least blunt even the likes of a mighty Roman army.
Josephus states that the Jewish unrest, which had simmered for decades, rekindled under the reign of Gessius Florus, whom the Emperor Nero appointed procurator of Judea (64-66 AD). He despised the Jews and plundered the cities that were under his control. His rage was turned loose on men, woman and children, whom he had put to death by the sword and by crucifixion, all perhaps triggered by a dispute over eight talents of silver (a bribe paid to him by the high priests of a synagogue, who asked for his help in purchasing a plot of land next to their place of worship).
Florus took the bribe but did not intervene on their behalf, and others purchased the cherished plot of land. When the priests insisted that he return the bribe money, he instead retaliated against them. Josephus equates the acts by Florus as those that fanned the flames of hatred in the hearts of the Zealots, against the Romans. 6
The birth of a new religion came out of the blood and ashes that the cities of Judea rendered into towards the end of the first century A.D. The Jewish nation, its heritage, and its people, were on the verge of disappearing by way of suicide and the crushing blows from Roman legions and other countries to the North and South of Judea that joined in the fury for plunder. Jewish strongholds and cities in all of Palestine were cut down and thrown into the fire. There was no place to hide for the Jews; many of the cities along the Fertile Crescent shared similar fates as those in Judea. Frenzy for Jewish blood and property, swept across Egypt and Mesopotamia in a “free-for-all” fashion. It was not a good time to be a Jew.
With the sky literally falling down all around them, a handful of Jewish men joined forces and fashioned a plan to salvage the legacy of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, in a form other than Judaism in a desperate attempt to save what they could of their heritage. These Christian forefathers saw the writing on the wall, and understood that Judaism may have breathed its final gasp and put these words in the mouth of their new representative, Jesus, who is quoted by Matthew as saying with his last dying breath, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? That is, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46).
Luke describes Jesus at the Mount of Olives with his disciples before being betrayed by Judas: “Father, if it is your will, take this cup away from me; nevertheless not my will, but yours, be done.” Then an angel appeared to him from heaven, strengthening him. And being in agony, he prayed more earnestly. Then his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” (Luke 22:39-44)
Sweating “great drops of blood” is descriptive of a nation and its people in a state of despair.
The Roman Empire was tenacious when it came to the question of its sovereignty; the “zealots” likewise would not relinquish their own sovereignty, nor would they allow their people to coexist peacefully under any nation other than that of the house of Israel. Although a good portion of the Jews did manage to get along with, and even prosper under the Romans for nearly a century, the few extremists among them (zealots and the sicarii [hired terrorist]) unwittingly, in league with a few tyrannical Roman rulers, made for a relationship that was damned.
Out of the frying pan and into the fire. What the early Jewish Christians failed to foresee was the horrible crown of hatred (thorns) that they inadvertently placed upon the head of their own people (those that survived the Roman bloodbath), and that of their children and their children’s children, for countless generations, even to this day, for a hoax much of the world believed. Throughout history, Christians have persecuted Jews for crucifying Jesus, despite the fact that the crucifixion of Jesus was only a symbol of what was the “crucifying” of a people, God’s people, the Jews of Judea.
The early Christian scribes did much the same as did their predecessors the Hebrew scribes, who wrote the books of the Old Testament (OT). They used metaphors for stories when describing the struggles or battles between good and evil. It began with Adam and Eve in the Garden with the snake (the snake being a metaphor for the cobra, which represented Lower Egypt, with its worldly marvels) seducing a naive Adam and Eve (Hebrews).
After Adam and Eve’s expulsion from innocents, the theme of good and evil continued with their first two children, Cain (evil) and Able (good). The two sons were the prototypes for much of the stories in the Old Testament. Noah was baptized by the flood, which eliminated evil from him and the world. Abraham rescued Lot from the evil in Sodom and Gomorra. Joseph saved Egypt and his family from the evil famine. Moses delivered his people out of the evil clutches of the Egyptian Pharaoh. Joshua cleansed the evil land of Canaan and turned it into the Promised Land. David killed the evil Goliath. Samson fought against the evil Philistines. Jonah (swallowed by a whale) saved the people of Nineveh from their evil sins.
For anyone who has read the Old Testament, it is painfully obvious that the Israelites were not holding up their end of the bargain, which was to be good stewards of Zion, in other words, be true to the one and only God of Israel. Forsaking the pagan gods of the Gentiles brought rewards, prostrating to the pagan gods, brought condemnation, and the wrath of God. Usually the punishment was delivered through the pagan nations that corrupted the Israelites in the first place. The most formidable of these demon rulers were the Egyptians, followed by the Philistines, Assyrians, Babylonians, Greeks and finally the Romans.
Death and rebirth (sin and forgiveness) was a Jewish characteristic that the Israelites played out throughout much of their history. Although the God of Israel seldom spared the rod, like a loving father, forgiveness was always forthcoming to the repentant prodigal sons, the Jews. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, while he condemns disobedience (sin) (brings down to earth the proud) he nevertheless forgives and raises them up again “resurrection,” restoring the Jews to their former glory.