Lecture 17 – (14.2) Islamic & (16.1) Mamluk and Ottoman Jerusalem

•March 12, 2011 • Leave a Comment

(14.2) Islamic Jerusalem

This lecture, we began by finishing up our discussion of Islam and its transformation of Jerusalem from the time when Caliph Umar took Jerusalem (638 CE) up to the Crusaders’ takeover and reinstitution of Jerusalem as a Christian center in 1099 CE. We discussed last time the changes that occurred under the Umayyad Dynasty (638-750CE) ruling out of Damascus (Syria), mostly in the context of things we know for sure (things they build) [Caliph Umar‘s building of a wooden mosque, Abd al-Malik‘s building of the DotR (691 CE) and the various other events and ideas associated with it, and also the building of the Al-Aqsa Mosque (“The Farthest Mosque”) (705-715 CE) by Caliph Walid]. After spending a second looking into a bit of the architecture of Solomon’s Stables, which are basically vaults under the Southeast corner of the Temple mount (attributed to Solomon, but really had nothing to do with him), we moved on to the next Islamic Dynasty to take control over Jerusalem: the Abbasid Dynasty (750-969 CE), ruling out of Baghdad. The Abbasids tried to wipe out the memory of Umayyad Dynasty, destroying palaces and Caliph Al-Ma-mun taking credit for the building of the DotR (However, he forgot to erase the date of construction).  Al-Ma-mun not only seemed willing to lie to take credit for Umayyad accomplishments, but also had a polemic against Christianity, where he argued against the Trinity and said “God is only one God.” This type of thinking combined with various other hostility shown towards Christians (Muhammad al-Sanhaji (governor of Jeru.) kills John the Patriarch (965 CE)), shows the Abbasids were much less tolerant of other faiths than their predecessirs the Ummayads. A new Islamic dynasty rose out of Egypt and took over control of Jerusalem from 969 to 1099 CE: the Fatimids. More unrest rose up ruing this period (period of upheaval), but this population of Jerusalem steadily increases nonetheless. Those in power in Jerusalem under the Fatimids in this period show the idea that the welfare of those of other faiths (Jews and Christians) depends highly on the ruler, as while some rulers persecuted and otherwise tarnished Jewish and Chrisitian presence (e.g. Caliph al-Hakim orders destruction of all Jewish and Christian houses of prayer (including Holy Sepulcher)), near the end of the Fatimid rule Jewish and Christian governors were appointed. However, this period of Fatimid rule was fairly short-lived (relative to the two previous Islamic dynasties), and they seemed to begin to get pressure from all over. For example, the Byzantine army advanced southward taking Muslim territory in Syria, aiming to recapture Jerusalem (“The War of Sixty Days” [969-1029]). Natural forces came in to hurt them as well, with earthquakes severely damaging Jerusalem’s walls and other building (including DotR) in 1033. The Seljuqs (a break-away group previously part of the Fatimids) took Jerusalem from the Fatimids and occupied the city from 1070-1098, non-diplomatically destroying and looting the city and massacring many inhabitants. In 1098, the Fatimids took back control (in 40-day siege), but the damage had already been done. This infighting between Islamic groups (Fatimids and Seljuqs) is reminiscent of what we saw with the Sadducees and Pharisees upon the Roman invasion in 63 BCE, weakening each other until all Pompey had to do was talk in and declare the city his. We see the same thing here, so by the time the Crusaders (under Godfrey de Bouillon) came , despite the population swelling to ~20,000 upon the even of the 1099 CE takeover, there was no strong resistive force united and ready to meet them.

This Islamic period of rule was a very interesting one and I think it was covered well in this class. I particularly liked the covered at the end of the idea that we cannot think of conflicts of faith as purely Muslim vs. Jews vs. Christians, but rather need to look at many conflicts as based in complex ethnical and religious sectarian divisions. For example, we see the ethnic battle between Persians (Iran) and Arabs (Iraq, syria, S.Arabia, etc.) and the sectarian divides of non-Sunni (Shi’ite, etc) vs. Sunni Muslims, Zealots vs. Zionist Jews, S, Catholic vs. Protestant Christians, etc. It is key not to stereotype (not to “trash in any homogeneous way”), because as we’ve seen with some of the Muslim rulers of this period, some are very tolerant, and others are not. Have to judge a person by who they are, not what ethnic group and religious affiliations they have. This message, along with explaining the basis for the Muslim divide between Sunni and Shi’ite (in 14.1 (Part I) of this lecture) made this a very interesting lecture in my view. Learned a lot I didn’t know.

(16.1) Mamluk and Ottoman Jerusalem

Last time (Lecture 16), we went threw the Crusader period in Jerusalem, the time between the Islamic period (ended above) and the Mamluk Peruid that then arose after. We concluded with the (15.1) Crusader Period by examining Salah ad-Din’s conquering of Jerusalem in 1187 CE in the “Horns of Hattin” victory, as well as the proceeding reign of himself and the Ayyubid Dynasty (1187-1250).  The nature with which Saladin took over the previously Crusader-occupied Jerusalem grew into his legacy, as he had spared the people. His legend grows out the contrast between Saladin, who handled the occupiers peacefully, and the Crusaders’ method of fighting (some argue this is part of the reason the Crusades eventually failed, people began to see the contradictions between what the Gospel preaches and what they were doing to one another). Saladin also purified the Haram, gave the CotHS (Church of the Holy Sepulcher) to the Greek Orthodox, and also allowed Jewish settlement, displaying his tolerance as a ruler. However, although Jerusalem surrendered and the Crusaders left, Jerusalem would experience many struggles for power between the Ayyubids themselves and between the Ayyubids and Crusaders, particularly after Saladin’s death.In this period the Ayyubids and Crusaders struggle over Jerusalem, however, with each Crusade (3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th…), the Crusaders’ attempts grew weaker and less successful, until in 1291 the last Crusader outpost fell (Akko). Most importantly, however, the walls of Jerusalem were dismantled (ca. 1219) during the 5th Crusade (1217-1221), leaving Jerusalem unprotected and the people fled and the population sank to 2000. By 1244, both the Ayyubids and the Crusaders lost interest in Jerusalem as it (with its lack of walls) had lost its prominence as a political stronghold, and rose up as a religious center during the Mamluk Period (1244-1516).

This new period was more of a movement than a dynasty. The Mamluk movement was a grassroots movement of Islamic soldiers. However, ‘Mamluk’ means ‘owned’. The Mamluks were originally slaves. Thus, they were soldiers of slave origin that converted to Islam and began to join forces to create a grassroots movement. New people (Mamluks) were now coming to control power, a people of little control traditionally. This military movement was of great political importance and their influence and reign over affairs in various parts of the near east and the world (Egypt, Lavant, Iraq, India). This powerful military movement led to some proclaiming the rank “sultan” while others held regional power. Under the Mamluks, Jerusalem arose as a religious center, which was made possible partly (and significantly) because of its political and military insignificance (due to its lack of walls)  – it became a place of political exile. However, Jerusalem also grew into a religious center due to new emerging ideas about Jerusalem as such a vital place for faith (particularly for Islam), such as the concept of “Ziyara” (or “visit”) to Jerusalem (vs. Hajj [pilgramage to Mecca]), 30 anthologies made “In Praise of Jerusalem” during this and the Crusader period, and Muhammad having said that “He who lives in Jerusalem is considered a warrior of the jihad”. The Mamluk period involved new developments in Jerusalem, mostly to secure and strengthen its new role as a religious center. The Haram al-Sharif was developed and schools (‘madrasas’ – Qur’anic schools, hospices,  and hostels were constructed in many places. Two mosques were built. New architecture emerged, similar in a sense to the Umayyad obsession with geometry, but with a new style behind it, which is showcased in one particular Madrasa (al-Ashrafiyya – “third jewel of Jerusalem”).The Ghawanima Minaret arose and charitable foundations were created for the general benefit of the people, including improvement to mostly the NW sides of the Temple Mount (facing the Modern Day Islamic Quarter).

The Jewish aspect of Jerusalem was also growing at the time, aided by one prominent Jew (Rabbi Modes ben Nachman (Nachmanides) making an aliyah (“going up” to Jerusalem) in 1267 CE, attracting many Jews to come study with him in Jerusalem. He argued this “going up” to Jerusalem is a commandment to all Jews, and he developed Kabbalah (Jewish Mysticism), a spiritualized Jerusalem (Temple a symbolized path to God). He built up the ideas of “Zion” as meaning the “divine presence” and being the innermost stage on path to God, with Kabbalah making this spiritual aliyah (to Zion/God) possible. This was a very important development in the rise and presence of Zionism today.

Next we discussed Ottoman Jerusalem (1516-1918), with Ottoman Rule in Jerusalem coming with the falling of Constantinope (1453) and then Selim I’s defeat of the Mamluks in 1517 in northern Syria, with Jerusalem peacefully surrendering in 1516. They became and described themselves as the “new possessors of “the first quibla”. The Turkish-Ottoman kingdom flourished under strong government. Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent (1520-1566) made huge improvements to the city, including most importantly the rebuilding of the city walls (1536-1541 CE), refurbished the Haram and its monuments (added Syrian tiles on the DotR), and in general made renovations to markets, public charities, and mausoleums, until his work in Jerusalem paralleled that at Mecca and Medina. Suleiman had, in a sense, reestablished Jerusalem as the “third great city” in Islam. Jewish refugees were encouraged to resettle and restore the city.  He restored both Christian and Islamic religious establishments simultaneously (or at least tried his best to accommodate both), showing the Ottoman shrewdness at pleasing multiple parties and maintaining power (which they did for ~ 400 years!). We looked at Ottoman Architecture, including the new huge walls of Jerusalem, containing various gates. Damascus Gate the North is the largest of the seven gates of Jerusalem, AKA the “Gate of the Column”, with numerous defenses (this was always the side attacked). We talked about the history of the Jaffa Gate and how its tradition of “walking into Jerusalem” (Caliph Umar 638) was broken by Kaizer Wilhelm II, who wanted to make a “grand entrance”. This was then contrasted with General Allenby (1917) of the British, who dispite the new hole/passageway, took the old way on foot, saying “he wouldn’t enter a city on horseback, when his savior entered on a donkey.” We then finished up this lecture discussing The Western Wall (which was GIVEN to the Jews by Suleiman as a place of prayer) and its increasing significance for Judaism and Zionism in particular, as it became thought that they”Shekhinah” (“presence of God”) settled there after the Temple Destruction. It became known that the “Gate of Heaven” existed just above it, and this Wall became the place Jews from all over came to pray and submit letters to God within its crevices.

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Lecture 16 – (15.1) Crusader Jerusalem

•March 12, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Today we discussed the Crusades and their impressive influence upon Jerusalem and in shaping the world’s perceptions of the role of religion in wartime and politics in general. We began our discussion with understanding the term ‘Crusade” itself (along its unfortunate misuse by our former president), the potential causes of the Crusades, went systematically through the Crusade events (beginning with Pope  Urban II’s Speech, etc.) as relevant to Jerusalem, the effects Crusaders in Jerusalem had in the city (in Christianizing it), and also the idea of Ideal vs. Real Jerusalem (the idea that Jerusalem, in reality, was not that useful of a city and yet thousands were dying and their blood soaking its ground for it, showing that despite its lack of prominence in reality, it meant EVERYTHING ideally…it has been the center  of religious myths and thought for millennia, and its purpose as a symbol made this city stand for something worth fighting for). We also then went more in deptch with how various architectures were modified, rebuilt, or built anew and also specifics on how various the “quarters” of Jerusalem were divided at the time, usually occupied by one of the few developing “Orders” (Knight Templar, The Hospitallers, Teutonic Knights, Order of St. Lazarus, etc.). Lastly, we discussed the chivalrous Salah ad-Din of the Ayyubids and his relevance to Jerusalem. He conquered Jerusalem in 1187 CE in a victory at the “Horns of Hattin”, bringing Islamic control back over Jerusalem that, despite several interruptions (some initially by progressively weakening Crusader attempts), would last up until WWI (1918). Salah ad-Din became known as a chivalrous leader, effective for his own people and at the same time tolerant and sometimes even seemingly very generous to other groups. People look back upon Salah ad-Din as a true hero of the Crusades for bringing relative “peace” back to Jerusalem, and was hailed by many Jews especially as the “new Cyrus” or the new messiah that had allowed their return from exile.

I firstly thought it was absolutely absurd that of all the things Bush could have said in his speech concerning the 911 Terrorist attacks he so poorly chose to use the word ‘crusade’. A word with the deep historical roots in a war with Christians fighting against non-Christians in the name of God was certainly a very poor word to choose to use in this situation, and understandably sent the Islamic world into uproar! I also liked seeing the Islamic side of things, with Osama bin-Laden’s response against the “crusader-Zionist” alliance he sees with America and the entire Western world…issuing a “fatwa” (religious decree) to kill Americans and their allies, as he sees Israelities and Americans as part of the same team (which is partly true), and thus considers elimination of both is “fighting the good fight” on behalf of jihad. I also found it interesting to find out that “the Crusades” were not just a holy war between Roman Cathologics and Muslims, as well as an attempt to recapture Jerusalem (and the Holy Land) from Islamic rule, but also a possible response to the simple westward expansion of the Muslims and also launched simply as a means to be granted penance for past sins (indulgences).  However, we also learned that the cause of the Crusades is hotly debated, with various Political, Religious, and even Socio-Economic reason being cited. On the political side we see arguments the the  Crusades began as an attempt to quell the expansion of Islam, to interrupt the slave trade (similar parallel to reason for civil war in America years later), and as means to changing the role of Rome (from the religious center to the religious AND political center). However, there was also the religious reasons (late reaction to persecution of Christians in  Jerusalem, destruction of their Church, decline in importance of the city and the ability to reach it on a pilgrimage) as well as the socio-economic reason (phenomenon of 2nd and 3rd son; these sons having less of a stake in family fortune and thus “not having anything better to do”). I also thought it was cool to see where the Knight Templar (1118) rose out of and their connection to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. I thought it was interesting to see their interpretation of the “new counterpart” of the Temple being themselves, and how all of the beauty of the new “Temple” laid in their religious fervor and behavior, not in material goods. I thought there seemed to be an interesting shift in mindset underlying this group. Seeing the role of other Orders, like the Hospitallers, was also interesting. Lastly, the most inspiring part for me was to hear about Salah ad-Din and his chivalry. I think its amazing to see a ruler, of any faith, make the explicit decision to not slaughter and persecute a people that had done so to his own people for the previous centuries. I think this move takes far more strength of character than taking the time to swing a sword back and forth to drain the blood of your enemies. This move by Salah ad-Din to spare the Crusaders in Jerusalem is one of the examples of strength of character and mind I think I will always now look back on upon, and which I’m sure many Muslims, Jews, and Christians of this present day look back to. It is a reminder of the enormous effects one’s actions can have on the world – Salah ad-Din did not just spare the Crusaders that day, he allowed the many generations after him to evade much bloodshed due to his simple decision to not seek revenge, even when it was expected of him. His decision has been engrained in many peoples’ minds and has made the world a better place. We need more people making more decisions like this.

 

Lecture 15 – (14.1) Islamic Jerusalem

•March 2, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Today we discussed the the rise of Islam in Jerusalem and how it transformed various aspects of the city. Since the end of the Bar-Kokhba Revolt (135 CE), Jews had been banned from Jerusalem (by Hadrian). This banning came to an end in 614 CE when Jews were allowed to resettle thanks to the Sasanians taking Palestine and Jerusalem from the Byzantines (from 614-628 CE). However, even at the beginning (615 CE) of this period under Sasanian rule, Christian pograms (targeted mob attacks) against Jews were happening. By 628 CE, the Byzantine Emperor Herclius retook Jerusalem and the Jews were then severely persecuted and massacres committed against them. Ten years later, however, Roman (and thus Christian) presence in Jerusalem was wiped out for some time by  the muslim Caliph Umar’s taking of Jerusalem in 638 CE. Caliph Uman began what would become the Umayyad Dynasty (638-750 CE), and which was based in Damascus. He made a written agreement with the Christian community to not allow Jewish settlement, however, he later allowed Jews to move back in. The Muslims retained the term Aelia (from Hadrian, meaning “city of the Temple”), but Islamic communities quickly began to refer to it as Bait Maqdis (“the City of the Holy House”, and by the 10th C. CE Bait Maqdis was shorted to al-Quds (“the Holy”) [appears on coin minted in 832 CE]. They also renamed the Temple Mount the Haram al-Sharif (“the noble sanctuary”) and built new structures that took prominence in the religious mind during this period, including the Dome of the Rock (DotR) and the Al-Aqsa “The Farthest” Mosque (A-A Mosque). Some other important Islamic terms were: Qibla (direction of prayer) and Mihrab (niche [usually within a mosque] pointing/indicating the direction of prayer). There are thought to have been two Qiblas over the course of Islam’s history, the first of the two being Jerusalem (and its Haram al Sharif). This is indicated in 1 Kings 8:35-36 where it is indicated to pray towards Jerusalem, and this practice by muslims occurs from 610- c. 623 CE. In 622 CE, Mohammad is brought into the picture and his arrival in Medina upon supposedly being persecuted from Jerusalem shifted the Qibla. The Qur’an indicates to “turn your face toward” Mecca (Qur’an 2:144). The Kaaba in Mecca represents the central point to pray to once inside the city, and people thus form a circle of prayer around it. It served as the focal point of their religion as it represented the point of transcendence – a sacred space. We then discussed the give “pillars” of Islam, specifically the Hajj (making the Pilgramage to Mecca once in one’s lifetime) as a vehicle for discussing the prominence of Jerusalem vs. Mecca throughout the reign of the Umayyad Dynasty.  In this period we not only see the competition between Jerusalem and Mecca, but we see the structures and various changes in Jerusalem contributing to this santity competition. In Jerusalem, Caliph Omar builds a wodden Mosque, Abd al-Malik builds the DotR in 691 CE (the purpose of which was to divert pilgramage from Mecca to Jerusalem), the A-A Mosque was built on the site of Umar’s mosque during the reign of Calipha Walid (ca. 705-715) and other great palaces were constructed (equip with fresh water and sewage systems!). This also was a period of tolerance, where Christians and Jews were allowed within the city, and there was a continued influx of Jews and Christians on their pilgrimages. The DotR was commissioned in 687 CE, completed in 691 CE, and stood until in 1099 CE the Crusaders came and conquered Jerusalem, converting the DotR into a church. The Dome is then restored it to its former glory in 1187 CE by Salah ad-Din (Saladin). The DotR is not a mosque, it is a shrine/holy site. Many of these structures (including the added Dome of the Chain) were built in Christian archietectural traditions and intended to outshine Christian monuments, demonstrating the final truth of Islam. Some inscriptions explicitly repudiate Chistian view of Jesus as son of God, although they confirm him as a prophet. We also see much geometric intracacy in the artwork of these monumental buildings. We also see how the landmarks upon the Haram al-Sharif become a standard axis mundi (Eliade), “suspended between Heaven and Earth”.  Finally, we see how the reason for pilgramage by Muslims is based partly in the increased worth of a prayer offered in the “holy cities” versus other cities (Mecca is worth 100,000 prayers, Medina 1000, and Jerusalem is worth 500).

One of the most interesting points for me in this lecture was the part where (not on the slides given), Dr. Cargill described the islamic tradition of ways to say the prophet’s (Muhammad’s) name (with pboh [prais be upon him] attached, etc.). Also, requirements such as no depictions of the prophet was interesting and also the interesting idea that he could neither read or write, and how this contributed to the belief that a divine presence had influenced him in his formation of his life prophecies that he wrote down. My favorite part of all was to see how Muhammad’s descendents and then people’s beliefs in who was the more sacred to follow have shaped modern conflicts in the Islamic community, with Shi’ite on one side and Sunni (following a different descendent/line of Muhammad) on the other. It actually kind of felt bad to realize a lot of people were dieing just because of a conflict in belief over who was following the more rightful line of Muhammad. Seems pretty similar to me. But then again, I am not a muslim and many people feel very strong about their beliefs. I just wish people wouldn’t harm each other over it. It sort of paints them as hypocrites and violators of their own doctrines.

Lecture 14 – (13.1) Byzantine Jerusalem

•March 2, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Today we discussed Byzantine Jerusalem, or the period where Jerusalem was dominated by Christianity (under the Byzantine Empire). We discussed the effects adopting Christianity as the official state religion had on the city and its culture.

The focus so far has been on Judaism because Jerusalem is the most important city to Judaism. It takes nearly 400 more years of combining the thoughts of Paul, Luke, John, etc…to reach the branch of Judaism that would become Christianity. When Paul traveled about the world saw a western expansion of his relgious views to Rome and beyond. Therefore, although Christianity began in Jerusalem as a sect that broke away from Judaism, we will see how it becomes intimately related to Rome and its rulers and growing empire. An interesting point made was that its hard to look back and see where exactly the schism between the two faiths became large enough to justify a break from Judaism. We see this rise of Christianity within Rome and see how hellenizing factors begin to drive even the new Christian sect to form sects of its own.

What we see with Christianity in Jerusalem is an increasingly clear reason for the split between Judaism and Christianity. The Christians held a much more spiritual view of the temple and of faith in general. We see a case where Jesus predicts the destruction of Jerusalem and the demise of the temple. There is also this hinting to the lack of need to mourn or worry about such a loss however, for such a loss, according to Jesus, is not important, as he argues that faith is in the heart and rests in simply worshipping God as a spirit. Jesus said that “a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem…God is spirit, and his worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth.”(John4:21-24). Jerusalem is also the place where Jesus was said to have been crucified, buried, and resurrected. This event was representative of this massive shift in Christianity away from the temple structure itself to to concept of a “temple” as consisting of the mind/body (“you would destroy the temple and built it in three days”(Matthew27:40).

The Romans held control over Jerusalem for the long period from 63 BCE-614 CE. The city itself became truly Roman a few hundred years in when Hadrian bloodily quelled the Bar-Kokhba revolt and transformed Jerusalem into Aelia Capitolina (135-312 CE).  In 285 BCE, Emperor Diocletian splits administration of the Roman Empire between West and East, with an institued tetrarchy. As one might guess, this didn’t go so well. The western half collapsed and the Eastern side, lead by Constantine (312-337BCE), became the prominent empire (Byzantine Empire and thus Byzantine Jerusalem (312-637 CE)). Constantine took the empire through defeat of Parthians-Persians at the Battle of Milvian Bridge in 312 CE. In 313 CE the vital signing of the Edict of Milan legalized Christianity. In 324 CE, the Council of Nicaea came together on Constantine’s order to consolidate various views and set up a singular orthodox understanding of Christianity in order that it could be used as a unifying force. This consolidation of various viewpoint altered Christianity forever and made it so only one way was right. This was the start of wars on religion, when one viewpoint became more right and was fought on behalf of. Wars fought on behalf of beliefs was started here. It’s ironic when one considered Jesus’s mostly pacifist/non-retalitatory message that now Constantine has shaped the previously persecuted people into a dominant forced. Constantine changed the way Christianity was to be practiced forever.

We then covered Helena’s role in Jerusalem, which occured when she came in 324 CE on the first known Christian Pilgrimage. She dedicated various areas as sacred and king of started instituting Christian symbols and ideas of their origins into the city. We than see a conflict arise where Julian “the APostate” (361-363) begins to try to rebuild the temple. However, this attempt is silenced by a Theodosius in 391 CE, who names Christianity the state religion. From this point forward other huge developments in Jerusalem occur that further Christianize the city, such as Empress Eudocia (Theodosus II’s wife) coming on a pilgramage in 428 CE and building churches, hospitals, and hospices. The Roman emperor Justinian (527-565 CE) also comes in and expands Jerusalem with the construction of the Nea (“New”) Church [which was build for St. Mary], the Church of Holy Zion, and the expansion of the Cardo into Ceremonial Promenade.

Then, the most important closing point was how myths began to “migrate” from the Temple to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. There were several cases pointed out, such as Adam’s burying at Golgotha and Abraham’s binding of Isaac for Sacrifice there that shorted this “shift” or “migration” in story and thought. This idea of a shift from the temple to new structures to take its place is further strengthened by descriptions of the “Nea” Church (New Church, or New Temple maybe?). Some very suggestive descriptors point out the blatantly clear similarities between this new church and the old description of the Temple, such as the two columns, the fact it was made form cedar, as well as a specified length and width. Christianity had taken center stage in Jerusalem and was beginning to recycle old Jewish symbols as its own.

Lecture 13 – (12.1) Jerusalem in Revolt

•March 1, 2011 • Leave a Comment

After the demise of Herod the Great (4 BCE), we see a short era of ineffecitve rule by his sons, followed by an even less effective chain of appointed Roman governors. The inexperience and inability of the Romans to rule resulted in increased Jewish sectarian infighting and general decline of law and order that eventually erupted into the Great Revolt of 70 CE. We also discussed the later and less fruitful Bar-Kokhba Revolt as well as massive repercussions in the changing of Jerusalem to a Roman City (Aelia Capitolina) as well as the building of a temple to Jupiter on the temple mount. Jews were also banned from the city. We also discussed synagogues as a major response to the temple destruction. These alternative places of worship became the new centers of religious life for the Jews that maintained their faith after the temple destruction.

We saw last time how Jerusalem was originally annexed to Rome by Pompey in 63 BCE and subsequently fell to the power of the Idumean leader Herod. Herod’s achieved many things (mostly by building them) and was a paranoid and impulsive ruler that eventually, like all humans, had to die at some point. “Herod the Great” died in 4 BCE and his kingdom was divided among three of his sons, each with much more limited authority than he had carried. Archelaud became ethnarch of Juda (ineffective ruler), Herod Antipas became tetraarch of Perea and Galilee (ineffective for longer), and Herod Philip became tetrarch of Iturea and Trachonitis, far to the north (northwest of the Sea of Galilee)…it was far enough removed from Jerusalem and orthodox Judaism to have coins with faces on them, no resentment of this without Jewish culture present. After their ineffective rule and forced exile, roman governors took over to settle the unrest. However, things were only made worse as it became clear that Jerusalem was simply becoming a “testing ground” for Roman governors to see how much they could handle. In particular we looked at the one procurator (direct Roman ruler/governor) of Judea that was mentioned in the Gospels: Pontius Pilate (ruled 26-36/7 CE). He was significant in that he tried Jesus and ordered his execution, but was insignificant in that he was like every other procurator and was ineffective and provoked the Jews. Eventually, the inexperience and ineptitude of the Roman governors proved too much for the Jewish population living in Jerusalem and revolt was imminent. Jewish nationalist was on the rise (zealouts) – Jews were starting to go around with cloak and dagger and were going around assassinating Roman soldiers, which consequently caused governors to seek revenge and persecute whole groups (many were killed). These violent types of events between Romans and Jews combined with a growing Jewish internal conflict (with provocations from all sides) and the steady decline of law and order lead to an open Revolt against Rome by the summer of 66 CE. During the 1st Jewish Revolt (“Great Revolt”) (66-73 CE), Jewish coins were stamped to show the shift in tide. However, the Romans were not happy with all this and by 70 CE Titus (son of Vespasian) came in and took Jerusalem, destroying the temple on the “9th of Ab”. In 73 CE, the famous Masada holdouts (rebels) supposedly committed suicide when the Romans had made their way up. Later on, after reinstitution of Roman rule had survived for a few decades, the 2nd Jewish Revolvt (“Bar Kokhba Revolt”) (132-135 CE) erupted under Simon ben Kosiba (Bar-Kokhba) and his messianistic plea for the reinstitution of a Jewish state. He made “overstrike” coins, literally hoping to “stamp out” Roman rule, but unfortunately was shut down within 4 years. Emperior Hadrian responded by (1) bloodily punishing the Jews, (2) banning circumcisions, (3) rebuilding Jerusalem as a Roman City (Aelia Capitolina), (4) building a temple to Jupiter on the temple mount, and (3) banning the Jews from the city.

The effectively permanent removal of Jews from Jerusalem this time around spurred many changes from a faith that previously (for many sects) depended significantly on the Temple to a faith that held a more transcendent view of God and the worship of a holy book rather than a holy sanctuary. One prime example was the rise of synagogues as alternative central gathering points for the faith, which were thought to have their origins in the 2nd temple period but became incredibly prominent upon the final destruction of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE. The Synagogue itself makes clear the prominent position of the scriptural text (Torah) at the center (within the ark), emphasizing the centrality of God’s word (“name”, if you will) over the concept of a divine “earthly abode”(the temple). Actual representations of the Temple within a Synagogue made clear the transition that had been made from a faith based on a temple to a faith that simply maintained it as a symbol and based itself on the discussion of the text that was based originally on the Temple. The synagogue was one of a few adaptations made in the shift from a Judaism based on strict temple sacrifice to a faith based on the interpretation of texts.

On point I found very interesting was the idea that Herod’s death in 4 BCE brings about the contradiction to the Christian BC/AD dating system, as it was known Jesus was born and lived under the time of Herod (who had commanded he [“the innocent”] be slain). This placed Jesus’s birth at around 5-7 BCE. In other words, Jesus was born “before Christ”. Interesting idea.

Lecture 12 – (11.1) Roman Jerusalem

•February 27, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Today, we discussed the arrival of Romans in Jerusalem and the Roman influence on Jerusalem, particularly on their influence on  the rise and reign of Herod the Great and his traits and legacy as a ruler over Jerusalem. We also covered the (lack of) real evidence for the existence of Jesus.

The man who brought Jerusalem to Rome in 63 BCE was a general named Pompey. However, although Roman rule of Palestine did begin as a result of his conquests in the region, it was made much simpler and didn’t take long due to the intense infighting between different Jewish sects (Pharisees and Sadducees primarily) that was already tearing the region apart. Pompey, in a way, “settles” the dispute between the brothers Hyrcanus II (favored Pharisees) and Aristobulus II (favored Sadducees), appointing Hyrcanus as “ethnarch” and the Idumean Antipater as procurator, with his songs installed as local rulers (Herod in Galilee). An Idumean was appointed by the Romans, as would be sympathetic to Roman interests, as they were already on the “outs” (the so-called “half-breed” Jews that were “judaized” by the Hasmoneans). From the chain of Idumean appointed rulers arose Herod, who took revenge upon his fathers murder and is backed by Romans to become king of judeau, and he subsequently takes control of Galilee, Samaria, and Idumea. Finally, he takes Jerusalem from the Parthians. Herod was a classic example of a “client king” employed by the Romans. He was (1) good and showed favor to Rome in order that he is not replaced and (2) was much more sensitive to the Jews than his Hasmonean predecessors and thus kept the chances of the revolt to a minimum. His knowledge of the Jewish tradition (as he was from Idumea, an area that had been forcibly “Judaized” by the Hasmoneans) allowed him to rule without as strongly provoking the Jews to rebel. He was a paranoid and impulsive king that ruled meticulously and was effective as a client ruler for Rome and although he was sensitive to their religious traditions and ideals, he was generally hated by the Jews. However, what Herod is most remembered for (due to their longevity, with many still standing today), is his massive building projects, which actually were appreciated by many Jews, as it gave them labor and a wage to live on. These projects included the construction of the Temple Mount itself (the entire retaining platform, including the cherished WesternWall, that covered >172,000 sq. ft. and was made with huge stones – a MASSIVE undertaking), a refurbished Temple (along with a “miqvah” – Jewish ritual bath), a Herodian Palace and Theatre, the Jerusalem Hippodrome (place for racing horses), the Antonia Fortress (place for Romans to stay on the Temple Mount), the Herodian Theatre (at Caesarea; far from Jerusalem – built to please Romans and had symbols that were far enough from Jerusalem to not anger sensitive Jews), the Caesarea Hippodrome, the Herodian aqueduct at Caesarea, and even the Herodian port at Caesarea Maritima. This last monument was built with new technology that allowed concrete to harden underwater. What we see from all of this is that Herod was a harsh dictator who was paranoid and ruled with an “iron fist” and way constantly balancing his favor with Rome and his subjects, but also in the meantime built some pretty cool monuments (which actually did help quell many of his subjects, who were happy to have work). The last monument we covered was the “Dr. Evil”-esque volcano layer of Herod, known as the Herodion.  This giant fortress embedded at the top of a mountain/hill he built was his ultimate get-away when things got hard in Jerusalem. Finally, we basically just went over the fact that there basically is no evidence for the presence of Jesus, and that current relics only hint at his existence and showed that people believed he existed.  The debate is to whether this absence of evidence is evidence of absence. The real answer, as we have mentioned in previous lectures, is that absence of evidence is evidence of nothing – we keep searching until we find something and meanwhile call things inconclusive.

Also discussed, and which I found interesting, was the idea of whether Herod was a good or bad king. Despite being paranoid, slightly impulsive, only “half Jewish” and ruling over a Jewish people, and showing a clear divide in morality between pleasing the Romans and pleasing his actual subjects, I think overall I agreed with the side of Herod being a mostly good king. Relative to other kings of other eras, maybe not, but relative to the previous Hasmonean kings I think Herod shines and it becomes clear why Herod was considered “Great”. Here are some thing that made him seem good and which mostly rest on his accommodation of the Jews: he did NOT defile the temple, allowed Jews to select their high priest, married Hasmonean princess (married into Jewish line), offered relief during famine, was sensitive to only put inanimate objects on the coins (not people/faces), he did not build any pagan shinres/temples in Jewish areas, and he also, most importantly, benefited the people by providing them with labor as builders on his various construction projects. Despite the down-turn of Jerusalem since the conflict of the Hasmonean kings and factions, I would argue Herod gave Jerusalem relative relief and some growth that was needed.

Lecture 11 – (9.1) Hellenistic & (10.1) Hasmonean Jerusalem

•February 27, 2011 • 1 Comment

(9.1) Hellenistic Jerusalem

In the first part of today’s lecture, Dr. Cargill discussed the rise of Hellenism in Jerusalem and its pervasive influence on seemingly all aspects of Jewish society and culture. We covered the prolific Josephus, the rise of Alexander and his taking of Jerusalem from the Persians, the rise of the high priest over the royal line, Alexander’s death and subsequent division of the kingdom under the Ptolemies (Egyptians) (320BCE) and Seleucids (Syrians) (201 BCE), as well as the type of rule and influence each group had on the people of Jerusalem, specifically the Jews. Due to the Seleucids’ interest in Hellenizing Jews and turning Jerusalem into a Polis (Greek City), we discussed this concept of the “center of Greek life”, as well as the rise of some attributes of the city that began to provide evidence Jerusalem truly was becoming “Hellenized”. The hellenization of Jerusalem (201-164 BCE) becomes evident in that almost every aspect of Jewish life was affected by Greek culture (Architecture, Art, Coinage, Education, Entertainment, House Wares, Language, Literature, Philosophy, Recreation, Religion, Rhetoric). We see this change reflected in Jewish burial tombs  and inscriptions that were clearly impacted by hellenistic tradition. A prime example was in the sepphoris Mosaic, which showed Greek art and its depicted events as the centerpiece of a Jewish home. Greek Gods were depicted in various art forms (scultupre, architecture) and greek symbols (such as the Zodiac) even began to appear in places of worship! The effect of the Greeks on religion became even more prominent when the Bible was translated into Greek. The Greek Bible, the Septuangnit, became the most widely used Jewish bible (further evidence that hellenization had now made greek the primary language understood by Jews). The lecture ended with a more in-depth look at Seleucid rule, noting particularly the various insensitivities paid by the Seleucid rulers upon the Jewish people in Jerusalem (e.g. sacrificing a pig on the temple altar). Hellenization brought about many different reactions, with some Jews embrancing it and others resisting.  However, it becomes clear, especially as the aforementioned insensitivities of the Seleucid rulers intensified, that the resistance would eventually grow strong and conflict in the form of uprisings and revolts were soon to come.

I really liked this lecture and thought it was well presented. Some high points were (1) the introduction of the term “Palestine” as having been derived from the Greek translation of the Hebrew “Philistine”, that began to be used with the territory. The etymology of this word in particular is interesting to know because it is heavily referenced in current talks of the Israeli-Palestine conflict and its definitely cool to know it had its origins in a Roman attempt to sort of punish the Jews. Also, to see (2) the way Greek culture became implanted into Jewish life I found very interesting. I especially found it interesting/slightly-disturbing to see that some Jews went all-out to the point of actually “reverse-circumsizing” themselves (epispasms performed). Last, I found it interesting to see how (3) insensitivity to Jewish culture served as a catalyst for increased tensions that would lead to uprisings/revolts. This theme of disrespect spurring conflict is a common one throughout history, and one I imagine we will encounter many more times as we continue our examination of Jerusalem and its people.

(10.1) Hasmonean Jerusalem

In the second part of today’s lecture, the Maccabean Revolt and the pros and cons of Jewish self rule under the Hasmonean kings was discussed. We discussed various important details of the revolt, such as the guerilla tactics employed by the conservative jews that started the revolt, the success of the revolt (by around 165/4 BCE) and the ensuing Jewish self-rule (as reflected in minted Jewish coins, the resuming of the sacrificial system, and the establishment of Hanukkah to commemorate their victory). We then covered the various details of Hasmonian rule (165/4-63 BCE), which becomes somewhat of an irony all together as the very Hellenization they revolted to oppose quickly becomes assimilated into the now Jewish rulers’ lives and imposed rule. This increased Hellenization of the Hasmonian rulers becomes evident in the assumption of the office of High Priest and King (which was completely contradictory to the Jewish idea of preventing meddling with the priestly line), insensitivity to Jewish religious tradition (the irony!), executing all opposition (the irony!), brutal territorial expansion (with nationalistic rather than religious motives), employment of mercenaries, and the forced “Judaizing” of surrounding gentile (“non-Jewish) regions (oh the irony!). The complete hypocrisy (in terms of the original motivation behind the revolt0 of much of rule under Hasmonean kings drove many Jews to break away and form their own sects and forms of Judaism separate from the new “Judaism” in Jerusalem under the Hasmonians (e.g. DSS sect that split off to form its own more “true” form of Judaism).  However, the population of people living in Jerusalem did rise significantly during this period as it was revived as a major urban center and became the center of religious life for the jewish community. The Hasmoneans also legitimized their ruling methods with the idea of restoring the priest and kingly lines as they were back in the time of David and Solomon.  Many commented that the Hasmonean priest-kings ruled Jerusalem like the time of David and Solomon, with all the same problems of that “Golden” Age. They also justified their rule with the idea that a messiah would one day come to replace them, but in the meantime they would resume their role, an ideology we see repeated throughout history as an excuse to remain in power. We then covered the changes in the erecting of walls that took place based on technological advances, such as brick and mortar, and how one can visibly discern the different eras of expansion on the walls of the Temple Mount. While the centrality of the Temple to faith and mindset was strengthened during this period, other practices of religious purity in life outside the Temple Mount began to develop, foreshadowing, in a way, the later break from Temple practices that would become necessity. This era of the strengthening of Judaism around the Temple and a growth of the priesthood that was the majority of the Hasmonean era came to a troublesome ending as the Sadducee and Pharisee split caused tensions that allowed an easy Roman conquest (by Pompey) in 63 BCE.

The most interesting part of this portion of the lecture for me was the talk of the increased centrality of the Temple for Jewish Identity. Because I am planning to write my paper about how the fall of both Temples altered the Jewish faith, I think to know why this destruction lead to so many differences requires this prior knowledge of how central the Temple became to the faith. Only with this knowledge can one understand why the loss of the Temple from Jewish reach could have spurred such large alterations to the faith. They had lost an arm of their previous faith and needed to restore it with something new to replace the gaping hole that resulted. I think its interesting to see how their dependence on the Temple early on may have been the reason the Temple was such a strong catalyst for so many significant changes in mindset after its loss.