Chapter Thirty Two


       The decade between 70 CE and 80 CE was a traumatic one for the
Jewish people. The most important thing in the minds of the rabbis, who
were now the undisputed leaders of the people, was to establish a modus
vivendi with Rome. To that end, they perceived anything adding to the
perilousness of their situation as a thoroughly defeated and subjugated
nation under Roman hegemony, as a national threat, and did everything in
their power to distance the people from it. Therefore, they completely
eschewed the memory of the Zealots, whom they felt had brought disaster
upon the nation. Rabbinic Oral Tradition, the Talmud, has nothing good
to say about the Zealots. They are constantly described as men who tried
to force G-d's hand by rebelling against the government that He had seen
fit to give world domination to. The time of the messianic age was not
yet, in spite of the Zealot belief that it was immanent. Any and all
groups and movements that espoused the idea of the "End Time" were
looked upon with growing suspicion and hostility. The rabbis admonished
the people to avoid contact with any Jews who continued to preach that
they had secret and/or power to bring about the advent of the messiah.

       Around the year 80 CE, there appeared a second "history of Jesus"
which ultimately came to be known as the Gospel According to St.
Matthew. It is commonly held by New testament scholars that the author
of this book was a Jewish Nazarene, that it was written in the East, and
that its original language was Hebrew or Aramaic.

       The Gospel According to St. Matthew, as it has come down to
modern times, is a somewhat antisemitic work while paradoxically seeming
to be the most "Jewish" of all the gospels. A probable reason for this
is that the original author's reasons for writing it have been obscured
by later editorializing by the gentile Church after it had been taken
over and made part of Christian scripture. The Jesus of Matthew is much
more Jewish than that of Mark, although to be sure, there is still much
antagonism between him and Jewish leadership, and in the final analysis,
between Jesus and the Jewish people. It is Matthew who writes those
unahppy verses in the 23rd chapter, excoriating the Pharisees (rabbis)
in the harshest of terms, making them appear to be so completely devoid
of human compassion and caring. It is also Matthew who has given
Christians the rationale to continue to throw the term of Christ-killer
at Jews by his description of the Good Friday mob mindlessly screaming
at Pilate, "His blood be on us, and on our children" (27:25).

       As a Jew, "Matthew" is outraged that "Mark" has presented Jesus
as a messiah who does not identify with the Jewish people. Therefore he
makes Jesus as Jewish as possible. He begins his book with an elaborate
geneology showing Jesus' ancestry going back to David and Abraham. He
traces this geneology through Joseph, the husbandof Mary, an indication
that at the time of the original writing of the book, Joseph, and not
G-d, was held by the Nazarenes to be the father of Jesus. Further, he
has Jesus birthplace as Bethlehem without any indication that his family
had come there from Galilee. Jesus is presented therefore as originally
a Judean, not a Galilean, and therefore more believable as the messiah.
According to Matthew, Jesus and his family only moved to Nazareth when
Jesus was no longer an infant. It is Matthew who introduces Jesus as a
lawgiver (Sermon on the Mount) much in the manner of Moses. That is, he
presents Jesus as giving a more perfect Nazarene Torah, or better yet, a
Nazarene "Mishnah" to the Torah of Moses, one which is to rival the
Mishnah of the Pharisees. He does not try to cover up the fact, as Mark
does, that among Jesus' followers were several Zealots. And he STRESSES
the idea that Jesus' mission was only to the House of Israel (10:6). But
in that very same 10th chapter, words are put into Jesus' mouth that
there shall arise conflict between his followers and the rabbinic Jews,
someting that was actually taking place at the time of the composition
of the book. He continues to "prophesy" in the name of Jesus those
things that were presently occuring; the social and religious
ostracization of Nazarenes by their fellow Jews. Indeed, at this time,
the Nazarenes were being forced out of the synagogues and reviled as men
of Satan. Shortly, the antagonism between Nazarenes and other Jews began
to reach the point whereby each group referred to the other as "children
of hell" (Matthew 23:15;Tractate Avodah Zarah 17a). In the middle of the
following century, this expression was still being used by each group
toward the other as evidenced by the story of the controversy between
the wife of Rabbi Meir and a certain "Min" (see below) in which she
flung that curse at him. (Tractate Berachot 10a).

       In the that fatefull decade between 70 and 80 CE, the Nazarenes
refused to give up the belief that Jesus was the messiah, and that he
would descend from heaven as some semi-divine being to save Israel, only
now the Israel that would be saved would not be the entire nation of
Israel but only the "true believers", the true remnant of Israel. For by
now, the Nazarenes had come to believe that the reason for Jesus'
failure to appear at the time of the destruction was the UNBELIEF of
Israel and its leaders. Therefore, as "Jewish" as Matthew protests to
be, he is enraged at his people's refusal to recognize the king of the
Jews in Jesus. When Matthew sets up the antagonism between Jews and
Jesus, he does it with a twinge of sadness and regret that Israel will
continue to suffer for its refusal to recognize Jesus. He even
interjects a note of compassion for the suffering of Jerusalem (23:37).
Yet Matthew's anger at his fellow Jews is a family quarrel. But the
words that he uses in that quarrel were taken up by a non Jewish church
which incorporated them into its sacred scripture, and used them in the
antisemitic way that matthew never dreamed would ever happen. For one of
Matthew's reaons for writing his gospel was to counteract the unJewish
portrayal of Jesus by Mark. There was one important difference in the
timesof the writings however. When Mark wrote there was as yet no
antagonism between Jews and Nazarenes. When Matthew wrote, mutual
hostility was becoming a fact of life. The continued presence and
attitude of the Nazarenes as an anti-Roman secret society was a threat
to the Jewish nation which wanted to de-emphasise messianism of any
kind. The growing adoration of the absent Jesus, on the part of the
Nazarenes, as some divine figure, somehow sharing the glory belonging
only to G-d added to the growing antipathy on the part of rabbinic
Israel to their Nazarene brethren. A complete separation between the two
was becoming inevitable.

       So about the year 90 CE, the rabbinic leadership in Erets Yisrael
called for the complete separation from the people of Israel, the
sectarians kown as "Minim". This is a vague term, meaning simply people
who belong to an "unorthodox" sect. It was also a euphemism for
Nazarenes. At this time, a special prayer was added to the synagogue
liturgy. (Tractate Berachot 28b-29a) Known as the Malediction Against
the Minim, it was designed to keep them apart from the religious life of
the Jewish people. The reconstructed original formula was as follows:

    "May the apostates have no hope, may the dominion of wickedness be
     speedily uprooted inour days, may the Nazarenes and the Minim
     quickly perish and not be inscribed together with the righteous."

       Since this malediction became a required prayer, and the
Nazarenes (as MINIM) were unable to say it, it added to the antipathy
they already were feeling from their fellow Jews, and it kept them out
of the religious life of their people, and hence out of the social life
of their neighbors as well. After this time, the Nazarenes began to form
their own synagogues, most of these in the Galilee where they lived in
larger numbers than the south.

       Among the common people of the Jews, there may have still existed
friendships between Nazarenes and non-Nazarenes, but the rabbis felt the
Nazarenes to be a threat to the people, and they constantly admonished
them to have nothing to do with the followers of Jesus. The religious
difference between Nazarenes and other Jews however was not the sole, or
even perhaps not the most important reason, for rabbinic antipathy to
them. There were at least two other logical reasons for the continuing
widening of the gulf between Jesus's Jewish followers and the rest of

       The first reason was that, now after nearly six decades after the
death of Jesus, there was a steadily growing non Jewish religion which
apparently WORSHIPPED Jesus as a deity. The adherents of this religion
not only claimed that Jesus was the long awaited messiah of the Jews.
They openly and brazenly excoriated the nation of Jesus as spiritually
blind and satanic for continuing to reject him as the messiah. To the
people of Israel, this meant that the Jewish Nazarenes, by their belief
in Jesus as messiah, were religiously in league with the gentile
antagonists of Israel. Add to this, the fact that the Nazrarenes and the
Christian gentiles both claimed that the destruction of Jerusalem and of
the Temple was the result of the failure of Israel to accept Jesus as
the messiah. Many Jews still alive were able to remember the glory of
the City and the Temple as they stood, and the ruins of the City and
Temple now were still painfull reminders of Jewish humiliation at the
hands of the uncircumcized Romans. To have to hear from Jewish voices,
even if they were the voices of Minim, that the rejection of Jesus was
the ultimate cause of this national humiliation was just pouring salt on
wounds. Whatever doctrinal differences separated Nazarenes from
Christians, these were not taken note of by the people. But the common
pointing of the accusing finger by both groups, regarding the rejection
of Jesus was looked upon by Jews as equivalent, no matter that the
Nazarene accusation arose from frustration and the Christian, from
antipathy and hate.

       The second reason had to do with politics more than religion. The
Nazarene movement was still powerfull enough in the East to be able to
gain converts among both Jews as well as gentiles. Although the "Pillars
of the Church",that is, Peter, John, and James, were gone, there still
sat at the head of the Nazarene Church, a man of the family of Jesus.
(Eusebius, the famous historian of the Catholic Church, wrote in the
fourth century that, from the time of the death of Jesus to the reign of
the Emperor Hadrian (CE 132), 15 men of the house of Jesus ruled over
the Nazarenes. He gives a list of their names in Book 4 of The History
of the Church.) There were still living relatives of Jesus in Nazareth
as well as Capernum, and the Romans brought them in for interrogation
from time to time. (Eusebius: HISTORY, Book 3) Hegesippus, another
Church historian, who lived before Eusebius, tells that Jesus'
great-nephews, of the line of the line of his brother Judah, were
arrested and subjected to an inquisition by the Emperor Domitian
himself. Domitian questioned them about their belief in the so-called
Kingdom of G-d. When they replied that the knowledge of G-d's Kingdom
was G-d's alone, and that He would reveal this knowledge to men at the
Last Times, the Emperor decided that they were nothing more than
ignorant peasants and he released them. This political messianic focus
from the Roman overlords was most uncomformtable to a people trying to
distance themselves from political friction between themselves and Rome.
At a time when the Jews of Israel were attempting to prove themsleves as
docile and obedient sunjects of Caesar, the presence of a political
messianic organization within the country, whose power reached out into
the Eastern diaspora and who actively proselytized in the face of Roman
antagonism, was disquieting. The Nazarenes were now no longer what their
name implied, - no longer a "secret society", but rather a visible and
vocal entity to be reckoned with both by Jew and Roman.

       So the first Christian century drew to a close. It was a century
unlike any other, one that had seen great and dramatic events; - the
destruction of the greatest of jewish shrines, the Temple at Jerusalem,
and the rise of a new religion which, springing out of Judaism, was to
change the course of history, and to spread the knowledge of the G-d of
Israel throughout the world while paradoxically simultaneously spreading
the greatest of animosities towards the people of Israel thorughout the
world. As the century ended, it became increasingly evident that the
Jewish people as a whole, and those who were followers of the original
Nazarene, whether Jewish or gentile, were headed for an irrevocable
parting of the ways. Israel would continue on, wedded to its Torah. The
gentile followers of Jesus the Christ would grow to become the Roman
Catholic Church. The Jewish followers of Jesus would drift away from
both, would be pushed away by both to their ultimate extinction.

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