Lecture 14 – (13.1) Byzantine Jerusalem

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.


~ by Andru on March 2, 2011.

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