Ancient Jewish Communities



Jesus Christ is the core of the Christian Faith. Jesus Christ was born between 6 BC - 1 AD, and he was crucified in Jerusalem by the Romans between 29 - 33 AD.

Of course all the stories which are written about Jesus have come to us long after Jesus crucifixion and mostly from word of mouth with very little documentations. The discrepancy and the diversity of the recovered Gospels are self-evidenced of this fact. Also the disparities which exist about the year of Jesus' birth and even the year of his crucifixion are another reflection of the nature of the materials which are presented in the recovered Gospels. So nobody can claim any superiority or any advantage about the quality of the information which has been revealed by the recovered Gospels. Jesus Story is a very obscure story with very little material facts, but each author used mostly his own creative imagination to write his version of the story.

The validity of any such story would be tested with the various historical facts and also new archeological finds. In this regards I feel I have far more advantage over the ancient Gospel writers even though I live 2000 years after the actual events, because they only had few word of mouth and very little documentation to write their versions of Jesus story. But not only I can examine all their works which I can compare them with each other, I also enjoy various factual historic finds which allows me to make a better educated guess about all the material in order to reach a more plausible collusion which would be far more logical than any of those ancient versions.

There is also another factor in my favor; unlike the ancient Gospel writers which allowed their own political environment to influence their writings, and they used their Gospels to enhance their own local political movements, my version has to be totally unbiased and my motif has to be purely in search of the truth. I do have the world audience which will examine and critique each step of my analyses.

Jesus was a devoted Jew and he whole heartily practiced Judaism with utmost devotion, and he sacrificed his life for the ideals of Judaism which is portrayed in the verses of the Old Testament. In order to understand Jesus and his message first we need to understand Judaism and examine ancient Jewish communities in Palestine long before Jesus time. And also we need to examine the influences which the Romans' occupation caused onto the Jewish Communities in Palestine.

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Let us start by examining ancient Jewish communities in Palestine long before the arrival of the Romans on 63 BC.

Palestine were made of some small and weak city kingdoms. These city kingdoms were surrendered by powerful kingdoms. Hittite Empire in the north, Assyria and Summer in the northeast, and Babylonia in the east, and Egypt in the south. Of course these powerful neighboring kingdoms were reached to the height of their power at different periods.

Sometime Palestine was the battle ground in the wars between these big empires, And sometimes Palestine cities themselves were the targets of raids form the powerful neighbors. Besides of these powerful enemies there were wars and raids among the city states themselves. For these weak city kingdoms hostility and wars were facts of life. So they virtually were in constant state of war or preparing for defense of their city sates. Small city states like Jerusalem had to spend a big percentage of their resources for their security and even that was not enough, so they had to create some coalitions with the neighboring cities for their defense against outside invasions, and even that was not enough because from time to time a powerful king from Syria or Egypt or Babylon would invade them and destroy their livelihoods and take their youngsters for slavery.

In each of these invasions they would lose everything. Some of the people who had flea to the hills and the old and wounded people would start all over again and they would rebuild their lives. Under these constant threats of raids still they needed to deal with natural hardship of draughts and earthquakes which was devastated their lives once in while. The life in those little city kingdoms was very unpredictable and hard. The reason the people kept coming back and resettled in the same danger zone again and again was that they had no other choice. These were the only land available to them to settle and farm. They were resettling on those dangerous sites out of necessity.

With this background in mind we can think that the people on these cities had to act as a single unit, to have a chance to survive their hostile environment. These people had to take care of each other. Their own survival was depended on the well being of all the members of the community. Rich people would take care of the poor. All the people were needed to cooperate together to defend against their common enemies. This attitude of unity and cooperation was immortalized in their religions and in their social customs and social welfare. In Book of Deuteronomy we read:

Deuteronomy 15:7 If there should be a poor brother from one of your villages in the land that the Lord your God is giving you, you must not harden your heart or keep a clenched fist toward your poor brother. 15:8 Instead, you must open your hand to him and lend him whatever he needs. . . . 15:10 You must by all means give to him and not be upset by doing it, for because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you attempt. 15:11 There will never cease to be some poor people in the land; therefore, I am instructing you to make sure you open your hand to your fellow Israelites who are needy and poor in your land. 15:12 If your brother or sister Hebrew is sold to you and serves you for six years, then in the seventh year you must let that servant go free. 15:13 If you set them free, you must not send them away empty-handed. 15:14 You must supply them generously from your flock, your threshing floor, and your winepress as the Lord your God has blessed you, you must give to them.

. . . 24:12 If the person is poor you may not use what he gives you as security for a covering. 24:13 You must by all means return the item he gave you as security to him at sunset so that he may sleep in his garment and bless you for it; it will be considered a righteous deed by the Lord your God.

24:14 You must not oppress a lowly and poor servant, whether one from among your fellow Israelites or from the resident foreigners who are in your land and villages. 24:15 You must pay his wage that very day before the sun sets, for he is poor and his life depends on it. Otherwise he will cry out to the Lord against you and it will become a sin to you.

I can show you many more passages like these which portray the need for strong bond between rich and poor and very conscious welfare system which was necessary for their common defense and common security.

Romans took over the Palestine in 63 BC. Going under Romans security umbrella changed all the social contracts of the communities. This new security changed the bond that existed among the local populations. The rich were not depended on the poor for their own security any more. Naturally this change on security arrangement changed the behavior of the rich toward the poor. They felt it was not their obligation to help the poor any more. Under the Romans rule the rich felt now they were free to expand and get richer. Besides there were new opportunity for safe and secure trades with the other territories, which were part of the Romans empire. Under the new environment the rich got richer and greedier. We see the vivid example of this situation even in today's US society! The richer a person or a corporation gets the stingier they become. You can call this "money fever"; which is a bug that gets into your blood whenever you start accumulating some money. This is the norm most of the time. Apparently Human Nature has changed very little for the past two thousand years!

Romans had very liberal policy regarding the locals' religions and their customs. The locals were free to practices their own religions and their own customs. The Romans did not impose their pagan religion on the occupied territories. As long as local population obeyed the Romans' rules they were free to take care of their own local customs anyway they wanted. Romans provided the security against all foreign aggressions and in return the territories supposed to pay taxes to the Romans and sometimes provide some soldiers to help Romans in their wars. This arrangement benefited both the Romans and the local people. The Romans benefited from the new allegiance and their taxes. For the local people this security was at bargain prices only if the local religions did not clash with the Romans' Pagan Religion! For the amount of the taxes which the locals had to pay to the Romans, the locals were getting a great deal, they were getting a great reliable security, plus the chance to trade with the other Romans' territories.

To validate what I just described, I look at the Israelites under the Romans rule. I only need to write about the "King Herod the Great" who ruled Palestine between 37 BC and 4 BC. King Herod did not have a proper blood line to justify his throne as the king of Jews, but under the great protection of Romans he managed to silence his opponents and took over all the smaller kingdoms and he consolidated all the Palestine territory under his rule. He became a powerful and rich king that he was given the title of "the Great" by the Jewish people. His other title was "The Builder". Because of the peace and the trades his kingdom became very rich. He built many fortresses and castles. King Herod had the ambition to be the greatest Jewish kings ever. He wanted his fame to surpass that of the King Solomon legacy. He built a new city port of Caesarea by the Mediterranean Sea. Caesarea was a busy port which was rivaling with Alexandria. This was great accomplishment which only a rich and powerful king like King Herod the Great could deliver. All this power and accomplishments were possible because of the security and trades which the Romans provided.

Romans established themselves in Palestine. Then, the Romans were the society elites. The rich were trying to show their friendship and their loyalties to the Romans. It was a great advantage to have the Romans' support. With Romans blessing the rich would have the influences to make better deals. To gain Romans' friendship the rich openly would participate in Romans' pagan religious rituals. This behavior would add more grievances for the dispossessed Jews, not only the rich got meaner they also were abandoning the Jewish God. So the Roman pagan religion was a serious challenge and competition for the Judaism Faith.

King Herod with his building projects, with the expansion of his territories, with the establishment of a sound bureaucracy, and with the development of economic resources, he did much for his country, at least on the material level. The standing of his country prestige at abroad and at home was certainly enhanced. However, many of his projects won him the bitter hatred amongst the orthodox Jews, who disliked Herod's Greek taste; a taste which he showed not only in his building projects, but also in several implementation of the Mosaic Law.

In order to show his loyalty and his gratitude to the Romans, King Herod built a temple for the Roman Goddess, Roma, in the city of Caesarea, which was the embodiment of the Roman Empire. In that temple he placed a statue of the Augusta; the embodiment of the living God. This was inconceivable for a Jewish king to build a temple for a pagan God. This was the greatest heresy against the Judaism. King Herod was hated by the poor Jews for his collaborations with the Romans, and catering and accommodating for Romans way of life. King Herod felt it was very important to make the Romans happy. In order to make his subjects happy King Herod took the task of rebuilding the Jewish Temple in the Jerusalem.

In 960 BC King Solomon (David's Son) built the First Temple. In 586 Kingdom of Judah fell to Nebuchadnezzer, King of Babylon, who captured and destroyed Jerusalem, including the First Temple, and exiled Jews to Babylon. King Herod rebuilt the Holy Temple for God of Israel, greater and grander than the First Temple.

As you see the rich and powerful they needed to have a cozy relation with the Romans. That was a practical behavior for the rich at that time. Even the Chief Priest of the Great Jewish Temple had friendly and accommodating relationship with the Romans.

All was fine and dandy for the rich, but the poor were suffering severely. Nobody paid attention to them except few political activists and militant groups and some preachers. For these poor and oppressed people the politics and the militancy and religion were all combined to achieve social justices and defending the Judaism. Under these situations many preachers were preaching against the social injustices and against the corruptions by the officials of the Jewish King and the violation of the Judaism. They were warning of the Gods fury against the people who were participating in pagan rituals. Jesus grew up under this intense environment.

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