Chapter Twenty Nine


       Gessius Florus was now Roman governor of Judea. This man's
outrages against the Jewish nation even outstripped those of Pontius
Pilate. In the twelfth year of Nero's rule, May, 66 CE, the long awaited
showdown between Rome and Judea began.

       In the city of Caesarea was a synagogue. Spitefully, the Greeks
of the city began to build a factory right adjacent to it. The Jewish
population wanted to put a stop to this building, and so they offered a
bribe to Gessius Florus to have the work ceased. He took the bribe and
told the Jewish citizens that he would take care of the matter, but he
then left Caesarea without doing anything about it. On a certain Sabbath
day, a Caesarean gentile, presumably one of the construction men working
on the factory, errected some sort of altar at the entrance of the
synagogue and began sacrificing birds on it. Some young violent Jewish
men wanted to attack the gentile to beat him up but, anticipating such a
reaction, this man had his own firends waiting to join in the
fisticuffs. Not being able to settle this peaceably, a Jewish delegation
left for Sebaste where Gessius was staying. Arriving there and reminding
him of the bribe he had accpted, Gessius had the Jewish delegation
arrested on charges of disturbing the peace. When word of this incident
reached Jerusalem, the mood turned ugly. It was one more incident to add
to the all the other Roman insults to the nation.

        Almost immediately, as though he planned to enflame the
dangerous mood of the people, Gessius ordered a certain sum to be taken
from the Temple and sent to him, claiming that Caesar himself had so
ordered. A riot broke out in the Temple. The men who had recently been
put out of work by cessation of Temple repairs became enraged that this
Temple treasury money should go to this evil governor rather than to
their starving families. There is every reason to believe that the
Nazarenes, who were present in the Temple each day, also took part in
the riot along with the various other messianic groups. Hearing of the
riot, Gessius immediately returned to Jerusalem. His soldiers were
ordered to charge into all gatherings of people in the City without
investigating whether or not they were peacefull. In retaliation, many
of the people openly cursed Gessius and made fun of him. Gessius ordered
all who had openly mocked and cursed him to be handed over to him by the
Jewish leaders. They advised him that, in view of the ugly mood in the
city, it might be better for him to forget about the insults, and not
stir up more trouble, thereby giving the Zealots an opportunity to cause
counter-trouble of their own. This request only served to infuriate
Gessius, and he ordered his soldiers to go about the streets killing any
and all Jews they might encounter. People on the streets were seized at
random and crucified. Gessius even ordered his soldiers to do what no
former governor had ever dared to do. He ordered the deaths of Jews who
were Roman citizens even though under Roman law, these Roman citizens
were not allowed to be killed without a chance to appeal to Caesar such
as Paul had done.

       At this time, the sister of King Agrippa was in Jerusalem
performing a certain vow of abstenence. Seeing the bloodshed rampant in
the City, she appealed to Gessius to cease, promising to restore the
mood of the people to submissiveness. But Gessius ignored her and even
threatened her life if she should continue to interfere. The next day,
crowds of people went crying and screaming through the streets because
of the deaths of their loved ones. Many of them again openly cursed
Gessius although the Sadducean leaders implored them to stop lest
Gessius should order even more deaths. Amazingly, Josephus reports, that
the leaders were able to calm the people down even after all these
outrages had occurred.

       Reinforcements of two cohorts were advancing into the City from
Caesarea, and Gessius ordered the people to salute them as they entered
the City, but he had ordered the soldiers not to return the greeting,
and to insult the people. When this happened, the people began to hurl
insults at the soldiers and at Gessius. This was the signal for the
soldiers to charge the crowds and to club them. At this point, some of
the Zealots shouted for the people to stone the soldiers. The enraged
crowds picked up this cry and began to attack the soldiers and pelt them
with anything that came to hand. This counter-attack spread throughout
the City, and the Romans found themselves retreating under the
overwhelming fury of the Jews. Even Gessius had to retreat to the
governor's palace. Gessius contacted the Sadducean leadership and told
them he would leave the City if they could quiet down the crowds and
re-establish their own control in place of the rising takeover by the
Zealots. They promised him that they would do this if he removed the
cohorts from Caesarea which had attacked the people. An agreement was
reached to do this, and Gessius departed Jerusalem. No sooner had he
departed than he sent word to his superiors that a Jewish revolt had
broken out. The Romans sent another large army into Jerusalem to
determine if this were true. At the same time, King Agrippa arrived in
the City and helped to cool tempers on both sides, advising the Romans
that the Jewish citizens were not against them but only against Gessius.
The people now wished to send a complaint against Gessius to the Emperor
but Agrippa reasoned that that would not help since Nero had hand-picked
Gessius. He therefore advised them to once again submit to Gessius since
revolt would do them no good - the Roman Empire was just too strong for
any revolt to be successful. He added that it was apparent to him that
G-d wanted the Romans to rule the world since He had done nothing to
hamper them in their continuous victories.

       The Zealots were in a war mood and they had high expectations
that the people would now back them in a revolt due to the recent
outrages of Gessius. They therefore took immediate action to make sure
that the people would not be swayed by King Agrippa who was well loved
by his people. A group of them headed south and captured the dessert
citidel called Massada, killing the Roman garison stationed there. At
the same time, they suceeded in convincing one Eleazar, a son of the
High Priest to have the daily offering for the Emperor ceased. Despite
pleas from the few remaining reasoned people in the City, the priests
listened to Eleazar and stopped the sacrifice for the government. (See
the story of Bar Kamtsa - JN28).

       In a matter of days, the spirit of insurrection spread.
Immediately the entire City was up in arms and the Roman fortress
overlooking the Temple court was seized, and the soldiers driven out of
the City. Reinforcements were sent to Massada to strengthen its
position. When word of the insurrection spread throughout the country,
the majority of the people rallied to the side of the rebels. Amazingly,
the Jews were even able to persuade their long time enemies, the
Samaritans, to join them in the uprising. The war had begun in earnest.
Of all the countries of the civilized world, Judea dared to do what no
other Roman subject people had done, to declare war on the supreme Super
Power of the day.

       Eusebius, chronicler of the history of the early Christian
Church, reports in his History of The Church, that

     "Furthermore, the members of the Jerusalem church, by means of an
      oracle given by revelation to acceptable persons there, were
      ordered to leave the City before the war began and settle in a
      town in Peraea called Pella. To Pella those who believed in Christ
      migrated from Jerusalem; and as if holy men had utterly abandoned
      the royal metropolis of the Jews and the entire Jewish land, the
      judgement of G-d at last overtook them for their abominable
      crimes against Christ and his apostles, completely blotting out
      that wicked generation from among men."
                               HISTORY, BOOK 3

       Just as we must reserve judgment when reading Josephus who was
very sympathetic to his Jewish countrymen, so must we all the more
reserve judgement when reading Eusebuis, who was not sympathetic to Jews
at all. His is the witness of an early Christian who wishes to dis-
associate any and all followers of Jesus from the Jewish nation. Whether
various members of the Jerusalem Church went to Pella or not is not the
major issue here but one of loyalty or disloyalty to the Jewish people
in their time of trouble. If by "members of the Jerusalem church",
Eusebuis means Jewish Nazarenes, then the judgment of Jewish history can
only be one of condemnation at their cowardice. If on the other hand, he
is refering to gentile followers of Paul, and I believe he is (as does
Brandon et al), then it is a telling indictment for our modern age. If
the offcial Church historiographer reports factually, then he means that
gentiles who had sworn loyalty to the "Jewish messiah" now left the
defense of the City entirely in the hands of Jews. If this is so, then
the modern day Christian churches have very little to say in the
determination of the fate of modern Jerusalem since only the descendants
of those who defended the City against the heathen morally can make a
legitimate claim on that detrmination. Further, if as Eusebius says, an
oracle was revealed to "certain acceptable persons" why does he not name
these persons. It would buttress his case of G-d's judgment against
Israel if he could show that these acceptable persons were important
Jewish Nazarene personalities such as John or the successor of James.
These would be the logical acceptable persons to receive such a
revelation. But since Eusebius remains silent about their identity, we
must assume he is NOT speaking about the Nazarenes at all, especially
when we remember that the Nazarenes always were IN SYMPATHY WITH THE
ZEALOT AIMS. We therefore reject this item of record as factual history,
or if it were then that it referred to Jews abandoning their fellow Jews
in a time of life and death crisis.

       It is also prudent to consider that Eusebius is not always
writing dispassionately when he writes about Jews. Consider the

     "I must draw particular attention to (Josephus') statement that
      the people who flocked together from all Judaea at the time of
      the Passover Feast and - to use his own words - were shut up in
      Jerusalem as if in a prison, totalled nearly three million. It
      was indeed proper that in the very week in which they had brought
      the Savior and Benefactor of mankind, G-d's Christ, to His
      Passion, they should be shut up as if in a prison and suffer the
      destruction that came upon them by the judgment of G-d."
                               HISTORY, BOOK 3

      When news of the uprising at Jerusalem and the slaughter of Roman
soldiers reached Caesarea, the gentiles there began a pogrom which
resulted in the death of nearly every Jew in the City. In retaliation,
Jews attacked the gentile cities of Philadelphia, Gerasa, Pella, Gadara,
Kedesa, and Gaba, as well as several others, and killed as many of the
gentile inhabitants as they could. Enflamed by the violence, the Jews
finally were able to let out all of their accumulated hatred of Romans
and their gentile sympathizers, a hatred built up over more than half a
century. The Romans were shocked at the unexpected vehemence of the
fighting spirit of the Jews and fell back in retreat. In a matter of
weeks most of the Holy land, including Samaria, was free of Roman

        This early success appeared to be nothing other than a
manifestation of Divine will, and the precursor of the messianic age. We
have no reason to logically believe that the Nazarenes did not share in
these expectations, and that they fought alongside their fellow Jews, in
the hopes that Jesus would return with the clouds of heaven with an army
of angels to utterly defeat the retreating godless heathen who had
desecrated G-d's Holy Land for too long. The New Testament is naturally
silent about the war in general since it seeks to create a picture of
Christian pacificism totally separated from Jewish nationalism, but
reflections of that war can be found scattered throughout the Book of
Revelations as we sall see.

       The Emperor Nero had, through most of his reign, to deal with
rampant Jewish messianism, something which the Romans feared and
detested since they experienced no equivalent among any other subject
people, and since they had always granted special religious privileges
to Jews which they allowed no other subjects, it seemed to them that the
Jews were unappreciative and a nation of ingrates. They failed to
understand that the very religion to which they gave privileges itself
mitigated against their position as the Jews' overlords. Now on top of
all else Judea was in revolt. Nero realized that this revolt had to be
crushed since its success would lead to other subject nations attempting
to break away from the Empire.

       Nero therefore sent general Vespasian and his son Titus to lead
the Roman army's suppression of the revolt. Vespasian was a seasoned
veteran and it was he who had conquered and added the island of Britain
to the Empire. Vespasian arrived in Syria and he and Titus quickly went
on the offensive, advancing into Galilee. The more experienced and
better disciplined Roman army, under Vespasian and Titus, quickly
subdued the north country and prepared to lay seige to Jerusalem.

       In the City itself, the Zealots had made the Temple their
headquarters. Almost from the beginning of the outbreak of the war,
various factions in the City were fighting among themselves. As the war
progressed this in-fighting increased thereby weakening the Jewish war

       Josephus reports that there was an anonymous prophecy that if
ever the Temple should become polluted by Jewish blood at Jewish hands,
then G-d would cause the Temple to be burnt to the ground.
Notwithstanding, the Zealots did not refrain from killing their Jewish
opponents right within the Temple precincts during the fighting.

       In the meanwhile, those Zealots who held Masada raided the
surrounding villages and brought back their plunder to the mountain
fortress while more people of Zealot pursuasion continued to pour into
Mas ada as the north fell to the Roman army. There is a strong
possibility that during the entire duration of the war, many Zealot
sympathaizers among the Nazarenes may have also joined the stream of
people into Massada.

       Vespasian reached Caesarea and was prepared to march on Jerusalem
when he received word of Nero's death. A new Emperor, Galba, was on the
throne, and Vespasian decided not to acxt further until he might receive
a new directive from Caesar. He therefore sent his son Titus back to
Rome to receive Galba's instructions. However, after only seven months,
before Titus was able to reach Rome, Galba was assassinated and
succeeded by Otho.

       One would think that the death of Nero and the long respite that
Judea was having would have caused the Jews to fortify themselves for
the eventual continuation of the war, but it was not so. The
factionalism among the Zealot leadership increased, and a virtual Jewish
civil war broke out among them in the midst of the war against Rome.
Meanwhile Rome became embroiled in a civil war of her own. Otho ruled
for three months when his rule was challenged by one Vitellius. After a
battle in which Vitellius' army proved superior, Otho committed suicide
and Vitellius entered Rome at the head of his army.

       Meanwhile in Jerusalem itself, the various Zealot factions began
to conduct themselves as nothing more than criminals, according to
Jospehus, who details their atrocities, yet one can not always trust
Josephus to tell the whole truth when it comes to the Zealots whom he
blames for the destruction of Judea. The Zealots had sealed the City in
and would not permit anyone to leave or enter. There was present in the
City a Sage by the name of Yochanan ben Zakai who saw the that the war
leadership had fallen into the hands of unworthy men, and who did not
believe that Judea would ultimately win against Rome. Legend tells that
his disciples smuggled him out of Jerusalem so that he might approach
Vespasian with a request.

       Vespasian remained at Caesarea. News reached him that the people
were not happy with Vitellius as ruler, and that in many places he was
the favored choice as Emperor. Vespasian had never had any ambition
other than as a soldier but he personally did not like Vitellius and did
not cherish the idea of the man being Emperor.

       It is said that Rabbi ben Zakai approached Vespasian and hailed
him as Emperor. Vespasian said to him, "You are worthy of death. If
there is another man now sitting on Caesar's throne, then to call me
Emperor is treason. If I indeed am Emperor, then you, as a Jew, are a
rebel against me!". Said ben Zakai, "You are indeed Emporer and I come
to pledge my loyalty - only I ask you one favor." Vespasian said to him,
"If there is a jar of honey and a snake wraps itself around the jar, is
it not necesaary to smash the jar in order to kill the snake?" He
responed, "No Sire, one may take a sword and cut the snake, and preseve
the jar." Vespasian asked, "Shall I indeed kill the Zealots and not
destroy the City? How can that be?" Ben Zakai said to him, "If indeed,
you destroy our City, then we have only one thing left to sustain us,
our Torah." Vespasian asked, "What is the favor that you seek from me?"
Ben Zakai responed, "Spare the city of Yavneh, and the Sages that are
gathered there studying and teaching our Torah." Vespasian answered, "If
I truly am Caesar and can grant you this boon, then it is yours."
Thereupon Vespasian received the news that Vitellius had been
assassinated after eight months of rule, and that he, Vespasian, had
been declared Emperor.

       There have been, throughout the ages, people who have not
forgiven Ben Zakai his choice. They say that he ought to have asked
Vespasian to spare the Holy Temple, as well he may have. But if indeed
he could only ask for one thing then the proper thing to have asked for
was the preservation of the Law of G-d rather than the Building which
was only the physical manifestation of that Law.

       Vespasian, having granted Ben Zakai's favor, left the Holy Land
to return to Rome for his coronation, and sent his son Titus back to
bring the war to a completion. This time could have well used by the
defenders of the City to prepare for the oncoming assault. But instead
the warring factions of Zealots within the City were stooping to ever
more petty counter-productive measures such as setting fire to each
others food stores. It has been established by most historians that
Jerusalem could have held out for for more than the four years it held
out against the Roman superpower if it had only taken care of its food
supplies. Some have even claimed that the Romans could have been worn
down by a continuous siege going on for years, and that they would have
reached a point where they would have granted to the Jews most of the
terms wanted. But the Zealot infighting only weakened their fighting
ability and caused many of the people to turn away from them, especially
since they were treating the Temple with contempt by continuing to shed
blood within its precincts. The Zealots had by now alienated most
Pharisaic Jews by their actions, and probably also alienated whatever
Nazarene sympathy they might have had within the City.

       Titus arrived and the siege of the Holy City began in earnest.
The battle began and within a very short time the Roman engines made
breeches in the walls. As his soldiers bgean to enter the City, so
Josephus informs us, Titus instructed them to do as little damage as
possible without endangering themselves, and to try to take the City
with as little killing as possible. We do not know if Josephus can be
relied on for accuracy when it comes to ihs descriptions of Roman
nobility in the war against Judea but he also adds that Titus instructed
the army, at all costs, NOT to do any damage to the Temple.

       The internicene fighting of the various Zealot groups had
destroyed much of the food supply in the City. The Romans had the City
surrounded and many of the people died of starvation. Jospehus reports
that the Zealots took all the sacred corn and oil from the Temple itself
and gave it to the people to eat and drink. After that was gone, people
went to the sewers to eat the refuse there.

       Titus, whether out of desire to avoid more bloodshed than
necessary, or desire to ensure that there would be no wearing down of
his army thereby giving some sort of victory to Judea, had offered the
Jews terms of peace; to wit, peace, self-rule, complete amnesty for all.
This offer was rejected by the Zealots who, sure of G-d's ultimate
intervention, wished to fight on. This rejection on the part of the
Jewish leadership incensed Titus and made him more determined to win. He
became secure in his belief that he would win when he began to first
hear reports of people eating their own dead children as had been
foretold by the prophets.

       While morale dropped lower and lower among the defenders of the
City, the Romans advanced. Within a few days, they took the Antonia
fortress which over looked the Temple. The Temple itself was the last
line of defense which the Romans had to take, and they knew that the
taking of it would be very difficult because the Zealots would fight
them down to the last man and never voluntarily surrender the Sacred
House to the uncircimcized.

       On the day that Titus was to attempt to take the Temple, he met
with his senior generals and ordered them to save the Temple from
destruction at all costs. His generals answered that this should be done
only on condition that the Jews would not use it as a place to ambush
the approaching Roman soldiers but if they did use the Sanctuary as a
place of military attack, then the Romans ought to be free to destroy
it. Titus was adamant about sparing the Holy Temple no matter what. This
is the testimony of Josephus. Yet there is another tradition based upon
the writing of a fourth century Christian author that tells the opposite
story. According to his version, Titus and his generals indeed met to
discuss the fate of the Temple, and their joint decision was that the
Temple SHOULD be destroyed. They reckoned that its destruction would
show that the Jews' G-d was powerless against the Roamn pantheon. This,
they agreed, would help to destroy both Judaism and Christianity, both
of which held this sacred building as the seat of its Divinity.

       Josephus reports that as the Romans fought closer and closer to
the Temple, one soldier spurred on by anger lifted up a burning torch
and threw it into one of the doors of the Temple, and that it
immediately cought on to some flamable material there and starting
blazing out of control. One soldier ran from the scene and informed
Titus of what was happening. Incensed, he ran to the scene of the
burning Temple and shouted orders for is men to put out the fire. Either
because they were unable to hear him over the din or because their
hatred of the Jews made them pretend not to hear him, they charged into
the Temple throwing more torches as they ran. Titus continued to order
his men to extinguish the flames but they continued to ignore him. Soon
the entire Temple Mount appeared to be one vast flame lighten up the
entire City.

       The Zealots took to the streets and contniued the fight. Titus
became enraged that not even the Temple burning had dampened their
rebellious nature. He now ordered his men to destroy whatever was left
of the City, to set it all ablaze. While the City burned, the Roman
soldiers set up their standards amidst the fire in the Temple, an act
idolatrous worship in the Holy Sanctuary of G-d.

       The Temple fire began toward dusk of the 9th day of the Hebrew
summer month of Av, and it continued burning most of the 10th. The
Zealots continued fighting on but now it was a hopeless fight. The
victory was now obviously with the Romans. The City was doomed.

       To anyone watching this scene of horror, it could only seem as
though the G-d of Israel had been bested by the Roman gods. To any
surviving Nazarene left in the City, there must have been wonder at this
complete desecration of G-d's House. G-d had not sent Jesus down from
the clouds of heaven to save the City and the people of Israel from the
heathen. Later they would rationalize it in the only way they could.
Those who decided to continue believing in Jesus as messaiah had to
conclude that Israel had not been worthy to be saved because as a nation
it had not accepted G-d's messiah in the form of their resurrected

       As the Temple became completely consumed, Titus in frustrated
anger, ordered the entire City set to the torch. Thus did the Second
Commonwealth of Israel come to an end in the inevitable confrontation
between Rome and Judea. Jewish captives by the thousands were brought to
Rome, laying the ground for the great European Ashkenazic community.
Ritual objects taken form the Temple, including the great Menorah were
paraded in Rome. In memory of the Roman victory, Titus had an arch built
which bears his name. The arch still stands in Rome today while the
Romans and their Empire are gone. Jews are forbidden to walk underneath
Titus' arch by common Jeiwsh consent. The descendants of those Jews who
fought to defend the City live today, many of them in that same
Jerusalem which Rome destroyed. The fortress of Masada, in the Judean
dessert, held out for a few years more before also being captured by the
Romans, but not before all the defenders put themsleves to death rather
than wind up in the hands of the hated enemy. Of the defenders of
Masada, there were various Jewish groups, including Essenes and
Nazarenes. These all died with the capture of the fortress.

       For the Nazarenes that witnessed the City's destruction, it was a
severe religious and psychological blow, one which they had to adjust to
if they were to remain committed to the belief in Jesus as messiah of
Israel. Many who had believed in him now gave up their belief and turned
to the Pharisees as the now undisputed leaders of the Jewish people. The
study of Torah by the nation as a whole would now become the pre-eminent
religious activity of Israel as they continued to await the coming of
the messiah and the Kingdom of Heaven.

       As to those Nazarenes, what is totally baffling is that they left
us no documentation of their own regarding the War and the City's
destruction. How is it that they could be silent about so vital an event
in the history of their people? Why do we have no letters from the
Mother Church? Unfortunately there is no satisfactory answer, and we
await the possibility that archeological digs going on today in the Holy
City will unearth some Nazarene testimony regarding those long ago

       As to the New Testament, why does IT not speak of the War in
greater terms than a mere oblique reference in Revelations 13:1-8, and
a supposed prophecy from the mouth of Jesus, found in Luke 21:24.

       Again, we find only the judgment of classical Christianity as ex-
pressed by Eusebius:

     "Such was the reward of the Jews' iniquitous and wicked treatment
      of G-d's Christ. It is worthwhile to set alongside it our Savior's
      absolutely true prediction, in which He reveals those very things
      in His prophecy."
                          HISTORY, BOOK 3

       So was the Holy City of G-d burned to the ground and completely
destroyed, all its inhabitants removed. This was in the year 70 CE. It
was at this point that the Judeo-Nazarenes were holding the day against
the Christianity of Paul. It was from Jerusalem, from the Mother Church,
that the Nazarene leadership was successfully spreading a movement that
was as anti-Roman as any that the Zealots had started. In fact, as I
have stated, it is the considered opinion of many New Testament
scholars, most notably Brandon, that the Zealots and the Nazarenes had
ALWAYS been in sympathy, and as I have demonstrated earlier, Jesus
himself had drawn to him several Galilean Zealots as his followers. Now,
on the eve of this success of Nazarenism over Paulism, history (or G-d)
intervened. With the destruction of Jerusalem came the destruction of
that very Mother Church which had launched both international Nazarenism
and international Christianity, and now no longer under the control of
Jewish leadership, Christianity would continue to drift away from its
Jewish origin until it would become an identity separate from and
antithetical to the Jewishness that produced it. But the Roman defeat of
Judea and the destruction of Jerusalem would not spell the end of the
Jewish followers of Jesus the Nazarene. They would continue on for at
least three more centuries, spurned by both Jews and Christians.

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