Jewish Wars and the Birth of Christianity

From all this it becomes evident that the Jewish Wars - more particularly the First Jewish War of AD 66-74 - occupy a pivotal position in the history of early Christianity. The question is: what caused it? It is not possible to give a definitive answer to that question yet, though the Dead Sea Scrolls when studied alongside the Bible and other sources allow us to shed a good deal of light. In order to understand this, it is necessary to go to several works that are not widely known outside the narrow circle of Biblical scholars. A surprising fact that emerges from these sources is: where the Church makes Jesus a major figure and his brother James peripheral to early Christianity, these early sources make James an important leader without even mentioning Jesus.

To return to the cause of the Jewish War, Robert Eisenman suggests that it was the killing of James the 'Righteous' c. AD 64 that ignited it. Early Church historians like Eusebius, as well as a work known as the 'Recognitions of Clement' tell us that James, while preaching, was attacked by a band of intruders and clubbed to death.

The two accounts differ slightly, and also as to where exactly he died: the Recognitions claims that James was killed in the Temple, while Eusebius tells us that he was severely wounded and taken to Jericho not far from Qumran. He probably died later in convalescence for we hear no more of him. But both accounts essentially tell us that James was brutally attacked by an unnamed 'enemy' and his band of followers.

Eusebius is emphatic that the martyrdom of James was the main cause of the Jewish War of AD 66; this does not mean that it was the sole cause, but that it served as the flash that ignited it. And as authority Eusebius quotes Josephus. The passage in Josephus he referred to was later doctored by Christian scribes in their campaign to reduce the importance of James and also erase all traces of the Church's Qumranian ancestry. There can be little doubt that the passage as read by Eusebius did exist, for Origen, another early Church historian writing in the century before Eusebius, also refers to the same passage. It does not seem plausible that they came up with identical fabrications. It is clear that both Eusebius and Origen had access to the works of Josephus before Christian scribes went on with their usual work of doctoring them to conform to their propaganda. Forgery is a persistent problem in Christian history; we shall be taking a closer look at this problem later on, but the important thing to note is that the Jewish Wars played a key role in the birth of Christianity - a fact that the Church has sought to conceal.

Josephus tells us that the immediate cause of the war was that the Jews were unhappy with the new priest of Jerusalem. If this happened to be the one who replaced the martyred James, it makes perfect sense. James was regarded as a holy man, and his replacement by a political favourite would have been sufficient to ignite the fuse.49 It is clear from Roman records, and also from Josephus, that the region was seething with discontent. The killing of James was probably the last straw. What is interesting however is the role played by Paul.

Eisemnan's research also suggests that the attack on James was probably part of the rivalry between James and St Paul, with James holding out for the orthodox Jewish position against Paul's expansionist theocratic ideology. (See the section on Paul and Acts of the Apostles given in the next chapter.) Eisenman also notes that the story of the martyrdom of Stephen in the Acts refers probably to this attack on James by Paul and his minions. If his theory is right - and he bases it on very substantive research - Stephen was no more than a pseudonym used to conceal the murder of James.

Josephus also notes (Wars 2.411-18) that influential men - Herodian partisans in particular - invited the Romans into Jerusalem to put down the uprising. He mentions a mysterious 'Saul' who acted as intermediary. Could this be Saul of Tarsus - later known as St Paul? We shall see later that Paul was in all probability acting on behalf of the Romans in trying to contain the Jews of Jerusalem whose leader was James. The fact that the early Christians (or the Ebionites) were hostile to Paul is a matter of record though not widely known. Eisenman and Wise tell us:

Though there is more material about these Ebionites, they are certainly the community that held the memory of James in the highest regard, whereas Paul they considered 'the Enemy' or 'Anti-Christ (Eisenman and Wise, p. 234)

We should note that' Anti-Christ' here simply means one who was an enemy of the Qumranian messianic movement and not necessarily of Jesus Christ. (We shall see in the next chapter that 'Christ' was a generic title that was by no means unique to Jesus.) This opens up extraordinary possibilities. We should be able to learn a good deal more about the events that led to Eisenman's theory, or at least get a fuller picture with the help of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The point is: the birth of Christianity was no less a political than a religious event, and the Jewish Wars were very much part of it.

Unlike the Hindus who know all about the Mahabharata War and its relationship to the Bhagavadgita, few Christians today know anything about the Jewish Wars that played such a fateful role in the history of their religion. The Jewish Wars are of far greater significance to Christianity than the Mahabharata War is to Hinduism. The Mahabharata War provides only a setting for the Bhagavadgira which in reality is a summary of the Upanishads combined with Krishna's own principle of detached performance of duty. The Jewish Wars, however, influenced the course of Christianity in two fundamental ways.

49 At other places he mentions also other causes suggesting a general state of discontent in Palestine. There was probably no single cause, but the death of James, seen as the work of Rome carried out through their agent Paul probably was the last straw.

To begin with, early Christianity and the early Church of Jerusalem - both creations of members of the extremist Jewish sect whom we now call Qumranian Zealots - were destroyed in the First Jewish War of AD 66-74; the remnants of it disappeared in the Second Jewish War that ended in AD 135. As a result. the heresy propounded by Paul - the one to which the founding fathers of the early Church were bitterly opposed - was left without a rival. This heresy joined hands with Imperial Rome to become the theocratic world empire that is wrongly called the Roman Catholic religion: it is neither Roman, nor Catholic nor even a religion; it is a theocratic ideology of Middle Eastern origin without much in the way of Catholicism of spirit in it.

So the Qumranian Zealots, who saw themselves as 'Keepers of the Covenant' -the fundamentalist Jewish sect to which both Jesus and James belonged - perished in the Jewish War of AD 66-74; and the last remnants of it were wiped out in the war of AD 132-135. Simeon bar Kochba was the last of the early Christians. The so-called early Christian Church - that much misunderstood orthodox Jewish sect led by James - also perished with them. But by then, a highly resourceful and influential Roman citizen had appropriated the name of Jesus to propagate an expansionist theocratic ideology of his own as the religion of Christ - or Messianic Religion.

This was the real resurrection of Jesus - an obscure figure, if historical - to be exalted as the 'Only Son of God,' to become the object of adoration of more than a billion men and women the world over. The man who performed this miracle - the only authentic miracle of Christianity - was Saul of Tarsus, better known as St Paul. He created a world movement laying the foundations of a theocratic empire called Christianity that has nothing to do with the message of Jesus. We shall next try to understand how this came about.

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