Lecture 13 – (12.1) Jerusalem in Revolt

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.

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~ by Andru on March 1, 2011.

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