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"The beginnings of Jewish history in Iran date back to late Biblical times. The biblical books of Isaiah, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, Chronicles, and Esther contain references to the life and experiences of Jews in Persia. In the book of Ezra, the Persian kings are credited with permitting and enabling the Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild their Temple; its reconstruction was carried out "according to the decree of Cyrus, and Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia" (Ezra 6:14). This great event in Jewish history took place in the late sixth century BCE, by which time there was a well-established and influential Jewish community in Persia.
Persian Jews have lived in the territories of today's Iran for over 2,700 years, since the first Jewish Diaspora when Shalmaneser V conquered the (Northern) Kingdom of Israel (722 BCE) and sent the Israelites (the Ten Lost Tribes) into captivity at Khorasan. In 586 BCE, the Babylonians expelled large populations of Jews from Judea to the Babylonian
Three times during the sixth century BCE, the Jews (Hebrews) of the ancient Kingdom of Judah were exiled to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar. These three separate occasions are mentioned in Jeremiah (52:28-30). The first exile was in the time of Jehoiachin in 597 BCE, when the Temple of Jerusalem was partially despoiled and a number of the leading citizens exiled. After eleven years (in the reign of Zedekiah) a new Judean uprising took place; the city was razed to the ground, and a further exile ensued. Finally, five years later, Jeremiah records a third exile. After the overthrow of Babylonia by the Achaemenid Empire, Cyrus the Great gave the Jews permission to return to their native land (537 BCE), and more than forty thousand are said to have availed themselves of the privilege, (See Jehoiakim; Ezra; Nehemiah and Jews). CYRUS ALSO ALLOWED THEM TO PRACTICE THEIR RELIGION FREELY UNLIKE THE PREVIOUS ASSYRIAN AND BABYLONIAN RULERS.
Cyrus ordered the rebuilding of the Second Temple in the same place as the first but died before it was completed. Darius the Great, after the short-lived rule of Cambyses, came to power over the Persian Empire and ordered the completion of the Temple. This was undertaken with the stimulus of the earnest counsels and admonitions of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah. It was ready for consecration in the spring of 515 BCE, more than twenty years after the Jews' return from exile."
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Until the conquest of the Persian Empire by Alexander the Great, Jews indeed were permitted religious freedom and it is during this early period that
many people converted to the Jewish religion - although documentary evidence for this is scarce, barely existent. But we have to INFER conversions to Judaism based on population growth of the Jewish Diaspora.
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"The third ALIYAH [move to the Land of Israel] of the Jewish returnees was led by Ezra the scribe, in 458 BC. Around 5,000 Jews made ALIYAH in this wave of Zion Returnees.
The Talmud mentions that Ezra was delayed in making ALIYAH to the Land of Israel, because he had to stay alongside his Rabbi, Baruch ben Neriah, a disciple of Jeremiah and one of the leading figures among Jews, but too old and weak to make such ALIYAH to the Land of Israel. The situation was not easy at the time in the Land of Israel in many ways. The economic burden of heavy taxes was tough for the Jews there, politically; the harassments from various enemies had increased, and they even managed to influence the Persian Government to order the stopping of the construction works of refortification of Jerusalem's City Walls. Mixed marriage was a spreading phenomenon that was perceived as a major threat to the culture and the future of the Jews as a nation. Ezra, who was one of the greatest scholars of that generation, made ALIYAH in order to improve the situation for the Jews in the land of Israel, and indeed began a serious of initiatives upon his arrival in Jerusalem, that was to influence the life of the Jews there and the days of the Second Temple.
Ezra made ALIYAH with an official approval of the Persian Government and license to take out all donated money from exiled Jews and Government officials to the Holy Temple and Jews living in Israel. He was also permitted to transfer holy vessels to the Temple in Jerusalem, and a decree was given to the government treasurers to allocate them with money, wheat, wine and oil. In addition, everyone who served in the Holy Temple, the KOHANIM and the LEVI'IM were given tax exemption, and he was authorized to appoint magistrates and judges and to teach the law of God to the people of Israel, as well as the authority to impose penalties of confiscation, banishment or execution, if needed.
Along with other scholars, Ezra established the KENESET HAGADAL [Great Assembly], which served as the highest authority of deciders on the HALAKHA [Jewish law] in cases of religious laws and as a body of leaders to the nation of Israel. In addition, he served in the Holy Temple as the KOHEN GADOL [High Priest].
Ezra decided on many regulations of religious laws with the purpose of resuming public order in the aftermaths of the destruction of the first Temple and the Babylonian exile. Notably, strengthening Jewish relationship to Torah, strengthening Jewish identity, and preventing assimilation. He also revolutionized the usage of the Hebrew alphabet."
"Before the adoption of the present script, Hebrew was written by the ancient Israelites, both Jews and Samaritans, using the paleo-Hebrew alphabet. During the 3rd century BCE, Jews began to use a stylized form of the Aramaic alphabet, while the Samaritans continued to use a form of the paleo-Hebrew script, called the Samaritan script. The present "square script" Hebrew alphabet is a stylized version of the Aramaic alphabet which was adopted from that used by the Persian Empire (which in turn was adopted from the Arameans). After the fall of the Persian Empire, Jews used both scripts before settling on the Aramaic form. For a limited time thereafter, the use of the paleo-Hebrew script among Jews was retained only to write the Tetragrammaton [YHWH], but soon that custom was also abandoned."
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Many scholars, and Jewish tradition backs this up, think that the major redactor of the TORAH was Ezra. Ezra was instructed to uphold the religious text that he carried back with him from the Babylonian exile. According to the Biblical Book of Nehemiah, when Ezra read it to the assembled people returning from exile, many thought that certain things were new and had not been read before. In particular, a law concerning the Festival of Booths, [SUKKOT] is reported as never having been carried out before.
Ezra is highly respected in the Jewish tradition. His knowledge of the Torah is considered to have been equal with Moses. By the time of Ezra, there
were many variant versions of the TORAH in existence and it was his mission to standardize the whole text, thereby giving Jews one true version. He began this work but ultimately Ezra's standardization of the TORAH was not immediately successful and the entire Hebrew scripture was not standardized until around 200 CE by a hypothetical rabbinic Council of Yavneh [a city in Israel]. Proof of this is found in certain Biblical verses being quoted by both Jesus and Paul which are not found in our current version of the Bible. Additionally both the Septuagint and scriptures found written by the Essenes are not consistent with our Bible. Nevertheless, Ezra remains an important person in the history of the Jewish People and the Jewish religion. A traditional folkloric saying is that "had Moses never lived, HASHEM would have chosen Ezra to deliver the TORAH." The Christian "Old Testament" now reflects the text found in the current Hebrew Scriptures, probably under the influence of the translation commissioned by King James of England.
It is important for this essay to tell about the influences of Ezra on both the Bible and Jewish history because Ezra represents a severe deviation from the historic attitude of Jews to gentiles and to conversion. Before the rise of Greek and Roman civilizations, Jews had a positive attitude toward
gentiles despite having suffered at the hands of the Assyrians, Babylonians, and Persians. Both the Babylonians and Persians allowed religious freedom and considered the Jews just one people among many who had their own view of deity and religion. Neither of these nations opposed Jewish proselytization. The positive attitude toward gentiles can be found in several post-Biblical sources.
A MISHNAH in Sanhedrin 4:5 states that anyone who kills or saves a single human life, Jew or gentile, has saved or killed an entire world. The Talmud also states: "Righteous people of all nations have a share in the world to come" [Sanhedrin 105a].
In a book called [in English] SAYINGS OF THE FATHERS, chapter 1, verse 12; the famous Rabbi HIllel is quoted as saying, "Be of the disciples of Aaron.
loving peace, a pursuing peace, loving all humanity, and drawing them to the Torah."
Centuries later, Jesus commented on the attitude of the rabbis who "travel over land and sea to win a single convert" - Matthew 23:15
So why, in the midst of all this good will to nonJews, did Ezra oppose Jews marrying gentiles? The reason is that intermarriage of Jewish men and gentile women in Israel was so widespread that according to Nehemiah 13:24, the children of these marriages "could not speak the language of the Jews."
Not only was intermarriage occurring on a wide scale level without requiring the women to become Jewish but the children were being raised as nonJews
within the very Land of Israel, threatening the existence of the Israel Jewish community. The children couldn't speak Hebrew it at all. While their fathers were Jews, their mothers were either Moabites or Ammonites or Philistines. Not speaking "the Jews' language is symbolic of not doing anything
Jewish. Ezra therefore ordered that the men put away these wives.
Ezra 9:2 "For they have taken some of their daughters to be wives for themselves and for their sons, so that the holy race has mixed itself with the peoples of the lands. And in this faithlessness the hand of the officials and chief men has been foremost."
Ezra 9:10-15 "And now, O our God, what shall we say after this? For we have forsaken your commandments, which you commanded by your servants the prophets, saying, 'The land that you are entering, to take possession of it, is a land impure with the impurity of the peoples of the lands, with their abominations that have filled it from end to end with their uncleanness. Therefore do not give your daughters to their sons, neither take their daughters for your sons, and never seek their peace or prosperity, that you may be strong and eat the good of the land and leave it for an inheritance to your children forever.' And after all that has come upon us for our evil deeds and for our great guilt, seeing that you, our God, have punished us less than our iniquities deserved and have given us such a remnant as this, shall we break your commandments again and intermarry with the peoples who practice these abominations? Would you not be angry with us until you consumed us, so that there should be no remnant, nor any to escape? O Lord the God of Israel, you are just, for we are left a remnant that has escaped, as it is today. Behold, we are before you in our guilt, for none can stand before you because of this."
Ezra 10:2-3 "And Shecaniah the son of Jehiel, of the sons of Elam, addressed Ezra: "We have broken faith with our God and have married foreign women from the peoples of the land, but even now there is hope for Israel in spite of this. Therefore let us make a covenant with our God to put away all these wives and their children, according to the counsel of my lord and of those who tremble at the commandment of our God, and let it be done according to the Law."
This is looked upon as an anomaly in Jewish history and later generations were cited as saying that since Ezra acted on his own initiative, without God
commanding him to do so, he might have attempted to encourage the husbands to have their gentile wives to become Jews. Traditionally the importance of the Book of Ruth is seen as an attempt to repudiate the attitude of Ezra. While the Book of Ezra refers to the Jews as "the holy race", the Book of
Ruth acknowledges the potential holiness of all races.
In 333 BCE, Alexander of Macedon conquered the Persian Empire, bringing Greek culture to Jews previously under the Persian sphere of influence.
The Greeks, unlike the Babylonians and Persians before them, dreamed of a world united by Helenization. The peoples of the ancient Middle East readily accepted Greek culture but the Jews resisted, seeing in Helenization a direct antithesis of what God willed in His TORAH. Alexander allowed his Jewish subjects to practice their religion unmolested. But his successors, the Seleucids who ruled in Syria, ultimately attempted a complete cultural and religious homogenization of all their subject peoples. including the Jews.
By the time that Antiochus IV Epiphanes [ca. 215-164 BCE], became ruler of the Seleucid Empire in 175 BCE, a segment of the Jewish population in Israel had long been Hellenizing. They had built a gymnasium, competed internationally in Greek games, "removed their marks of circumcision and repudiated the holy covenant" - Maccabees, 1:15.
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Antiochus pursued a Hellenizing policy with zeal, banning traditional Jewish religious practice. In 167 BCE Jewish sacrifice was forbidden, sabbaths and feasts were banned and circumcision was outlawed. Altars to Greek gods were set up and animals prohibited to Jews were sacrificed on them. The Olympian Zeus was placed on the altar of the Temple. Possession of Jewish scriptures was made a capital offence. The motives of Antiochus are unclear but some speculate that he may have been encouraged by a group of radical Hellenizers among the Jews.
After Antiochus issued his decrees forbidding Jewish religious practice, a rural Jewish priest from Modiin, Mattathias the Hasmonean, sparked the revolt against the Seleucid Empire by refusing to worship the Greek gods. Mattathias killed a Hellenistic Jew who stepped forward to offer a sacrifice to an idol in Mattathias' place. He and his five sons fled to the wilderness of Judah. After Mattathias' death about one year later in 166 BCE, his son Judah Maccabee led an army of Jewish dissidents to victory over the Seleucid dynasty in guerrilla warfare, which at first was directed against Jewish collaborators, of whom there were many. The Maccabees destroyed pagan altars in the villages, circumcised children and forced Jews into outlawry.
The revolt itself involved many battles, in which the Maccabean forces gained notoriety among the Syrian army for their use of guerrilla tactics. After the victory, the Maccabees entered Jerusalem in triumph and ritually cleansed the Temple, reestablishing traditional Jewish worship there and installing Jonathan Maccabee as high priest. A large Syrian army was sent to quash the revolt, but returned to Syria on the death of Antiochus IV. Its commander Lysias, preoccupied with internal Syrian affairs, agreed to a political compromise that restored religious freedom.
The Jewish festival of Hanukkah celebrates the re-dedication of the Temple following Judah Maccabee's victory over the Seleucids.
Following the re-dedication of the temple, the supporters of the Maccabees were divided over the question of whether to continue fighting or not. When the revolt began under the leadership of Mattathias, it was seen, in the view of the author of the First Book of Maccabees, as a war for religious freedom to end the oppression of the Seleucids. However, as the Maccabees realized how successful they had been, many wanted to continue the revolt and conquer other lands with Jewish populations or to convert their peoples. This policy exacerbated the divide between the Pharisees and Sadducees under later Hasmonean monarchs such as Alexander Jannaeus. Those who sought the continuation of the war were led by Judah Maccabee.
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After defeating the Seleucid forces, Judah's nephew John Hyrcanus established a new monarchy in the form of the priestly Hasmonean dynasty in 152 BCE - thus establishing priests as political as well as religious authorities. Although the Hasmoneans were heroes for resisting the Seleucids, their reign lacked the legitimacy conferred by descent from the Davidic dynasty of the First Temple Era.
The Pharisee ("separatist") party emerged largely out of the group of scribes and sages who harked back to Ezra and the Great Assembly. It is difficult to state at what time the Pharisees, as a party, arose. Josephus first mentions them in connection with Jonathan, the successor of Judas Maccabeus ("Ant." xiii. 5, § 9). One of the factors that distinguished the Pharisees from other groups prior to the destruction of the Temple was their belief that all Jews had to observe the purity laws (which applied to the Temple service) outside the Temple. The major difference, however, was the continued adherence of the Pharisees to the laws and traditions of the Jewish people in the face of assimilation. As Josephus noted, the Pharisees were considered the most expert and accurate expositors of Jewish law.
The Sadducees were a priestly group, Aaronites, associated with the leadership of the Temple in Jerusalem. Sadducees represented the aristocratic group of the Hasmonean High Priests, who replaced the previous High Priestly lineage. The Hebrew name, TSDOKI, indicates that they were the followers of the teachings of the High Priest TSADOK, often spelled ZADOK, who anointed Solomon king at the start of the First Temple Period.
Sadducees followed the Hebrew Bible literally. They rejected the Pharisees' notion of an Oral Torah [the Talmud] which was completed by many Pharisee rabbis by 500 CE by which the Pentateuch could be explained hermeneutically, that is, on levels other than the literal.
John Hyrcanus was the son of Simon Maccabaeus and the nephew of Judas Maccabaeus, Jonathan Maccabaeus and their siblings. He attained to his father's former offices, that of high priest and king (although some Jews never accepted any of the Hasmoneans as being legitimate kings, as they were not lineal descendants of David). His taking a Greek regal name - "Hyrcanus" - was a significant political and cultural step away from the intransigent opposition to and rejection of Hellenistic culture which had characterized the Maccabean revolt against Seleucid rule. It reflected an emerging view that Judea, once having attained independence, had to maintain its position among a milieu of small and large states which all shared the Hellenistic culture. All subsequent Hasmonean rulers followed suit and adopted Greek names in their turn. John Hyrcanus was able to take advantage of unrest in the Greek world to assert Judean independence and conquer new territories. Hyrcanus' first conquest was an invasion of Transjordan [Ammon and Moab]. Hyrcanus also initiated a military campaign against the Idumeans [Edomites] in the Negev near Eilat. Hyrcanus then instituted forced conversions on the Idumeans, the Ammonites, and the Moabites. This was an unprecedented move for a Jewish ruler but Hyrcanus was probably motivated by the fact that these 3 nations had been Israel's enemies for centuries and by including them within the Jewish nation, their animosity and enmity would disappear. And he was correct. The Idumeans, along with the Galileans, became the most ethnically militant Jews of that era. Their later hatred or Rome as an oppressor of the Jews helped spark a disastrous war with the Roman Empire. Ironically, Hyrcanus sought good relations with the growing Roman Republic. Two decrees were passed in the Roman Senate that established a treaty of friendship with Judea. Although it is difficult to specifically date these resolutions, they represent efforts made between Hyrcanus and Rome to maintain stable relations. Also, an embassy sent by Hyrcanus received Roman confirmation of Hasmonean independence. Hyrcanus was an excellent case of a ruler backed by Roman support.
Alexander Jannaeus (also known as Alexander Jannai/Yannai), was king of Judea from 103 BCE to 76 BCE). Son of John Hyrcanus, he inherited the throne.
His likely full Hebrew name was Jonathan, and he may have been the High Priest Jonathan, rather than his great-uncle of the same name, who established the MASADA fortress. Under the name King Yannai, he appears as a wicked tyrant in the Talmud, reflecting his conflict with the Pharisee party.
Jannaeus expanded the Hasmonean Kingdom and established the city of Gamla in 81 BCE as the capital for what is now the Golan Heights. During the twenty-seven year reign of Alexander Jannaeus, he was almost constantly involved in military conflict. Jannaeus led a Judean army that conquered the entire coastal plain except for Ashkelon. He also conquered Western Samaria and Galilee.
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According to the Bible, Galilee was populated by the northern tribes of Israel ,principally Dan and Naphtali. By the time of the prophet Isaiah, Galilee had become a region populated by nonJews. Isaiah [8:23/9:1] refers to the region as GALIL HAGOYIM, "Galilee of the Gentiles." Galilee was conquered by the newly independent state of Judea under Jannaeus, and the region was resettled by Jews. The gentile residents of Galilee became Jewish under the forced conversion policy of Jannaeus.
Like the Idumeans, the Galileans did not resist becoming Jewish, even by force. In fact, they welcomed the prospect of becoming part of the powerfully
growing nation whose God was the only REAL God and whose destiny it was to be the world's leader under the kingship of the coming messiah. The descendants of the converted Galileans eventually became the leaders, along with the descendants of the converted Idumeans, of the revolt against Rome.
Both John Hyrcanus and Alexander Jannaeus initially favored the Pharisees, seeing them as upholders of the religion of Israel. But ultimately, the
Pharisaic Party fell out of favor with the Hasmonean kings. While the Sadducees saw nothing wrong with the forced conversion of the surrounding nations, the Pharisees looked upon it with disdain. They felt that only INDIVIDUALS should be converted, and with their full consent. Conversion of
nations went against their understanding of the TORAH. Conversion of nations to Judaism did not occur again until the conversion of the Mongol KHAZARS
in the 9th century CE, and that by the KHAZAR's own initiative. Conversion of nations, often forced, was taken up by Christianity, possibly encouraged by the verses found in Matthew 28:18-19 - "Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" and in Luke 14:23 "The lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled."
The final straw came when the Pharisees declared the kingship of the Hasmoneans invalid because they were priests and not descended from King David.
The Sadducees, themselves being priests, were willing to overlook the usurping of Jewish kingship by the Hasmonean priestly family. Supporting the Hasmonean kingship and the Hasmonean policy of conquest and conversion of enemies, the Sadducees became the new favorite party of the Hasmoneans.
Thereafter, a growing antagonism developed between the Pharisees [the rabbis] and the Hasmoneans. Jannaeus had about 800 Pharisees crucified on the charge of treason. Although the Jewish religion recognizes four forms of capital punishment, crucifixion is not one of them. Crucifixion was practiced by the Greeks and Romans and Jannaeus probably took it over from his Greek friends. Three centuries later, when the rabbis canonized the Hebrew Bible, the books of the Maccabees were excluded. Although they were included in Christian Bibles, ultimately they were removed from the King James translation along with all other books which the Jews had excluded. Their exclusion from all other non-Catholic Bibles followed suit. The rabbis further downplayed the Hasmonean military victories in the CHANUKAH festival, stressing instead the miracle of the 8 day burning Menorah.
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Incidentally, the Essenes also were so opposed to Hasmonean rule that they broke with Jewish society altogether, choosing to live a monastic lifestyle in the desert, in communities like Qumran, near the Dead Sea. Like many other Jewish sects, they believed that God's intervention in human history was close at hand.
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In the year 6 CE, Israel became a Roman province which the Romans renamed Palestine. This is alluded to in the Gospel of Luke by his mention of the census. Rome took a census of any new province it incorporated into the Empire.
Luke 2: 1,2 "In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire world. This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria."
Quirinius was governor of Syria between 12 BCE and 12 CE.
The Greek KOSMOS, translating the Hebrew OLAM, "world", probably means the Jewish world. Jews use the expression "the world" idiomatically to mean the Jewish world. Although Luke was gentile, his gospel draws on Jewish-Nazarene sources including knowledge of Hebrew and Aramaic.
Every Jew in Israel, now Roman Palestine, felt bitterness, resentment, and anger at towards the new Roman masters but the Jews of Judea accommodated themselves to the new situation. They had experienced being under the domination of foreign rulers before and under the influence of the Pharisees, they were admonished to bide their time till God would send a messiah to free them. The Jews of Galilee and Idumea were not so accommodating. They had never known domination of Israel under a gentile nation, and their resentment led to outbreaks of violence against the Roman occupiers. The Galileans especially became odious to the Romans. There were weekly roundups of rebels and weekly crucifixions. In time, the name Galilean became synonymous with "rebel". This is reflected in Luke 13:1 - "Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices." Insurrection activity was bad enough in Galilee but for rebels to come to Jerusalem to act out could not be tolerated by the Roman governor. We assume this happened in Jerusalem because it was the only place where sacrifice could take place and it was the residence of the governor.
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A group arose among the Jews of Galilee: the Zealots (in Hebrew, KA-NA-IM). These anti-Roman rebels were active for more than six decades, and later instigated the Great Revolt. Their most basic belief was that all means were justified to attain political and religious liberty.
The Jews' anti-Roman feelings were seriously exacerbated during the reign of the half-crazed emperor Caligula, who in the year 39 declared himself to be a deity and ordered his statue to be set up at every temple in the Roman Empire. The Jews, alone in the empire, refused the command; they would not defile God's Temple with a statue of pagan Rome's newest deity. Caligula threatened to destroy the Temple, so a delegation of Jews was sent to pacify him. To no avail. Caligula raged at them, "So you are the enemies of the gods, the only people who refuse to recognize my divinity." Only the emperor's sudden, violent death saved the Jews from wholesale massacre.
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The Romans referred to the Jewish freedom fighters as LESTOI [muggers, highwaymen, brigands].
Mark 15:25-27 - "It was the third hour, and they crucified him. And the superscription of his accusation was written over, THE KING OF THE JEWS. And with him they crucified two LESTOI; the one on his right hand, and the other on his left."
Although the King James Bible translates the word as "thieves", modern translations correctly translate it variously as "criminals" or "rebels."
Nowhere in Roman literature is it mentioned that a common thief or robber was crucified. Common thieves were never crucified. Crucifixion was used as a visual sign for all to see what would happen to those who rebelled.
In the Christian narrative of the execution of Jesus, Barabbas, according to Greek texts Jesus bar-Abbas, BAR-ABBÂ, "son of the father", was the insurrectionary whom Pontius Pilate freed at the Passover feast in Jerusalem. The penalty for Barabbas' crime was death by crucifixion, but according to the gospels, he was set free when the people assembled outside Pilate's residence demanded is freedom. Mark 15:7 reports that "A man called Barabbas was in prison with the INSURRECTIONISTS who had committed murder in the UPRISING." The gospels report that Jesus died during an insurrection but it plays the insurrection and the insurrectionists down since the aim is to disassociate Jesus from his fellow Galilean freedom fighters.
Be all this as it may, Judeans in general and the Pharisees in particular felt disdain for Galileans because of their violent behavior and because of their lack of TORAH learning. The Pharisees considered them "AM-HA'ARETSIM [religious ignoramuses"].
It is to the credit of Jesus that he taught TORAH to his fellow Galileans or at least to those who became Nazarenes and followed him in his ministry.
Although it cannot be definitely proven, there is evidence that the Nazarenes were sympathetic to the Zealot cause. It is for this very reason that the authors of the gospels play down any aspect of Jesus' own antipathy to the Roman occupation but there is a sufficient number of verses in the gospels themselves which point to a Jesus very different from the one present by Christianity. And there is scriptural evidence that he and his Nazarenes shared the general Galilean anti-gentile attitude.
Matthew 17:24-26 "After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax came to Peter and asked, "Doesn't your teacher pay the tax?" When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. "What do you think, Simon?" he asked. "From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes-from their own sons or from others?" "From others," Peter answered. "Then the sons are exempt," Jesus said to him."
Matthew 10:5-6 "Twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: "Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel."
Matthew 15:21-26 "Jesus departed to the coasts of Tyre and Sidon. And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us. So he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Then came she, saying, Lord, help me. But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs."
It is therefore not surprising that Jesus and the Nazarenes, unlike the Pharisees, disliked the idea of Jews offering gentiles the opportunity to become Jews.
Matthew 23:15 "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are."
Upon the execution of Jesus, leadership of the Nazarenes fell on his brother James [YAKOV]. The New Testament book called ACTS OF THE APOSTLES [MA'ASEI HA-SHLUCHIM in Hebrew], there is a story of James' meeting with Paul in which James tells of his unhappiness that Paul's association with gentiles has caused him to discount the TORAH.
Acts 21:20-21 "James said to Paul: "You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have [become Nazarenes], and all of them are zealous for the TORAH. We have been informed that you teach all the Jews who live among the gentiles to turn away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs."
The relevance of all of this to our subject is to show that while the very Galilean children of converts shunned the gentiles from whom they were descended, most other Jews welcomed gentiles to the TORAH, to being Jewish.
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"Some of our greatest Rabbis have been converts and children of converts. For example, the great and famous Rabbi Akiva, one of the most pivotal Rabbis in the entire Talmud, was the son of converts. The incomparable Unkelos was himself a convert, and he wrote a translation of the Five Books of Moses that is considered one of the most important commentaries on the Torah ever written. " - http://www.beingjewish.com/identity/race.html
"A famous TALMUD Rabbi Reb Meir Ba'al Ha-Nes was reputed to be descended from the family of the Roman Emperor Nero". - http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20080509073206AAKScB5
"In the time of the Mishna (250 BCE to 200 CE) there were many Greek and Roman converts to Judaism. Shmaya and Avtalyon, the teachers of Hillel, were converts. Rabi Akiva was descended from a father who was a convert. In fact his "pedigree" in the Talmud traces itself back to Sisera, the Canaanite general slain by Yael in Devorah the prophetess' war against Yavin, the Canaanite king of Chatzor. Rabi Meir was descended from the Roman emperor Nero's family and Onkelos, the great translator of the Bible from Hebrew into Aramaic was also descended from the Roman royal family. Other great rabbis of the Mishna are mentioned as being descended from converts." - http://www.rabbiwein.com/Jerusalem-Post/2005/02/38.html
By the first century CE, the Jews of the Land of Israel had an ambivalent attitude toward gentiles, primarily because their land was dominated by Romans and because the Greeks and the Romans both brought in Greek speaking peoples from all over the empire and many of these were unfriendly to the Jewish natives, often provocatively so. The Jews of the Diaspora however had a positive attitude toward gentiles, inviting them to share in the festival activities and to attend synagogue services. It was during this period that many gentiles became what are known as YIREI SHAMAYIM, "Fearers
of God". These were people who judaized but did not actually convert. Judaization consisted of incorporating Jewish customs and beliefs in their daily lives, and the children of these God Fearers often became Jews. During this period, many Jews harbored messianic and apocalyptic [end-time] hopes, and they wished to have as many gentiles accept the TORAH and become Jews in order to enjoy the Kingdom of Heaven as Jews. This positive attitude prevailed at least up to the 4th century when the Roman Empire became Christian or up to the 5th century when the Empire became Roman Catholic. As soon as the bishops seized temporal power, they issued stringent laws forbidding conversion to Judaism, making it a capital crime. Nevertheless, during the first Christian millennium, as Jews spread through Italy, France, and Germany, many gentiles continued to convert to Judaism. And even among
gentiles who did not convert, Judaizing Christian sects emerged throughout the Christian world. This ultimately led to the Catholic Church instituting
what became known as the Inquisition. Gentiles who Judaized were condemned as heretics and burned at the stake. Jews, especially in the Iberian peninsula, were arrested as agitators and provocateurs, leading good Catholics to renounce their faith and become Jews. They were then put on trial and also burned at the stake or forced to convert to Catholicism.
Conversion to Judaism became a crime all over Europe and by the 15th century, rabbis had begun to make conversion difficult if not impossible. if a gentile DID become Jewish and it became known, the authorities punished the entire Jewish community of that town or city. Gentiles were told that it was too dangerous for them to be Jews and anyway, as Judaism then taught, the righteous of all nations have a share in the World To Come. Any person practicing the 7 laws of Noah would enter the Kingdom of Heaven. It was not necessary to become Jewish to earn a place in the coming age.
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The 7 Laws God gave to Noah and his sons.
1. It is forbidden to mistreat animals or practice cruelty to them.
2. It is forbidden to profane the name of God
3. It is forbidden to steal
4. A community must establish courts of law to deal with criminals
5. It is forbidden to murder
6. Rape and incest are forbidden
7. Idolatry is forbidden
Any person or community adhering to these laws would earn a place in the Age To Come.
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