Monday, March 10, 2014

History Crash Course #33: The Great Revolt In a seemingly suicidal move, the Jews take on the mighty Romans.
A rebellion against Rome in the 1st century CE would be the equivalent today of Israel declaring war on NATO. That's how mighty Rome was.
So how did the Jews decide to take on such a seemingly suicidal challenge? This question has a number of answers. Into the equation enter:

  • Ideological differences between the pagan Greco-Roman world and the monotheistic Jewish world
  • The Jewish response to the Roman domination which led to strife among the various Jewish factions: the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Zealots
  • Roman persecution of Jews which started with taxation and ended with outright slaughter
We will look at them one by one.

Ideological Differences

 Like the Greeks, the Romans worshipped many gods. Not only that, whenever they conquered a swath of land, they simply added the conquered peoples' gods to the Roman pantheon. The Roman historian Varro writes that by the 1st century BCE they had in excess of 30,000 gods. (1)...

Jewish Strife
The Jewish reaction to the presence of the Romans ― who were dominating the Holy Land and worshipping idols ― had many faces.

 Hellenized and assimilated Jews
 The Sadducees.
 The Pharisees...

Roman Persecution
Adding fuel to the ideological fire was the way the Romans tried to extract money ― by taxation and sometimes outright looting ― from the local population. This was especially true of several of the governors (procurators) of Judea who were exceptionally cruel and avaricious. Josephus provides us with numerous examples of Roman mistreatment of the Jewish inhabitants of Judea:

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