By Shlomoh
April 1998

Until the 8th century BCE, there existed 2 Hebrew kingdoms. In the 8th century, the Assyrians destroyed the Northern Kingdom and caused the northern Hebrew tribes to disappear. Now there was only one Hebrew kingdom in the south and it took its name from its most dominant tribe, Judah. Although the population was made up of Israelites from the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, Levi, and Simeon, AND the various gentile inhabitants, the subjects of the kingdom now came to be known as Judahites, Judeans, or simply Jews (HEB. YEHUDIM).

A century and a half after the Assyrian destruction of the Northern Kingdom, the Babylonians came down and destroyed the Southern kingdom and carried the Jews away captive to babylon. Thus the Jewish Diaspora began. Unlike the northern Israelites who were completely wiped out by the Assyrians thru assimilation, the Jews in Babylon remained and kept their identity. Upon their return to the Land of Israel a century later, the Jews, now feeling threatened by the surrounding peoples, kept to themsleves as an isolated unit in the Land.

Some four centuries later (about a century and a half before the birth of Jesus), the Jews had become sufficiently strong so as to once again establish a kingdom under the Hasmonian kings. They once more became lords of the Land. It was during this period of Hasmonean rule that the other unfortunate occurence took place, the forced conversion of surrounding peoples. I am bringing this up because I want to contrast it with the forced conversion by the Christians on every people they conquered.

Two Jewish kings, John Hyrkanos and Alexander Yaneus, conducted wars against the surrounding peoples, and under the influence of the Sadducees, they forcibly converted, under pain of death, the Moabites, the Ammonites, the Idumeans, and the population of Galilee. This was completely against the Jewish law set down by the Pharisees who were the REAL religious leaders of the people.

The Pharisees said that it is impossible to convert nations, especially by force because the conversions are then invalid. They said that only INDIVIDUALS could be converted and only if they willingly sought to be converted. Matthew's Gospel itself says that the Pharisees traversed land and sea to make converts (altho the rest of the verse is anti-rabbinic). The Sadducees maintained that nations could be converted and supported the Hasmonean kings in this endeavor. The TALMUD has nothing good to say about these forced conversions. Herod Anipater II himself was a descendant of Idumean converts and was concerned that the people would not accept him as a real Jew. But because he was a pious man, both the Pharisees and the people rallied to his side and told him not to concern himself about his status. Indeed he was Jewish because his mother was born of a Jewish woman.

Contrast this abberation in Jewish history where rabbinic literature is embarrased by these four forced conversions with the literature of Christianity which praises the forcing of converts and supports the Inquisition, etc. And in those times and places where forced conversions were not praised, neither were they condemned by Pope, priest, or minister.

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