Pagan Anti-Semitism 

"The various forms of worship, which prevailed in the Roman world, were all considered by the people to be equally true, by the philosopher as equally false, and by the magistrate as equally useful." (Edward Gibbon, 'Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,' quoted by 155, Christopher Hitchens, 'god is not Great.')

This bon mot of Edward Gibbon remains as popular with atheists today as when first penned, so much so they back-date it into the Stoic philosopher Seneca's mouth. It is remarkable in that each individual clause is contrary to fact: the pagan peoples of antiquity did not regard competing pagan cults as "equally true," nor were the philosophers of antiquity unanimous either in preference for atheism or in demeaning the gods of the city, nor did the Roman magistrate consider 'foreign superstition' as equal in value to the usages instituted by the founding fathers. Roman law did not give protection to novel or foreign religion:

"The Roman Law concerning offenses against witchcraft and religion are summarized in Hunter's Roman Law, p. 1066, as follows:

"'Prophets were to be beaten and expelled from the city; if they came back they were to be imprisoned or deported. [...] Paul (a praetorian prefect) says that persons introducing new kinds of worship, unknown to custom or reason, disturbing weaker minds, were to be punished, if persons of rank, with deportation; if not of rank, with death.'" (quoted p. 111, Frank J. Powell, 'The Trial of Jesus Christ.')

Their intent in publicizing these historical 'facts' is to leave the reader with the impression that it was monotheists who invented intolerance: "As a matter of fact, intolerance is only essential to monotheism: an only god is by his nature a jealous god, who cannot permit any other god to exist. On the other hand, polytheistic gods are by their nature tolerant: they live and let live; they willingly tolerate their colleagues as being gods of the same religion. . .Hence it is the monotheistic religions alone that furnish us with religious wars, persecutions, and heretical tribunals. . ." (Dialogue, Arthur Schopenhauer, Collected Essays, Halcyon Classics, Kindle location 1886). So it is stated. Is it true? No Hindu mob has ever burned and looted a peaceful Muslim neighborhood? Really? One very efficient factual corrective to this willed-into-existence history is to study pagan anti-semitism. Why did so many pagan magistrates find it "useful" to forbid the practice of the Mosaic religion, as Gibbon lays down, and how many people were they willing to kill to make it happen?

The Maccabees

Alexander the Great conquered the ancient Near East. Upon his early death, his empire was dismembered and parcelled out amongst his generals, who founded dynasties. These families pursued a policy of Hellenization: they wanted to make their subjects into Greeks. They weren't looking for volunteers; they were fully prepared to murder those Jews who would not abandon the law of Moses. King Antiochus Ephiphanes required apostasy or death:

  • “Then the king wrote to his whole kingdom that all should be one people, and that all should give up their particular customs. All the Gentiles accepted the command of the king. Many even from Israel gladly adopted his religion; they sacrificed to idols and profaned the sabbath. And the king sent letters by messengers to Jerusalem and the towns of Judah; he directed them to follow customs strange to the land, to forbid burnt offerings and sacrifices and drink offerings in the sanctuary, to profane sabbaths and festivals, to defile the sanctuary and the priests, to build altars and sacred precincts and shrines for idols, to sacrifice swine and other unclean animals, and to leave their sons uncircumcised. They were to make themselves abominable by everything unclean and profane, so that they would forget the law and change all the ordinances. He added, 'And whoever does not obey the command of the king shall die.'”
  • (1 Maccabees 1:41-50).

The Maccabees did not aim to institute religious toleration. Their ideal was not that those Jews who wanted to adopt Greek paganism should be free to do so, rather, they sought to vindicate the Mosaic theocracy and restore sole worship of Jehovah to the temple. But neither had the Hellenists offered the choice of freedom of religion; the only choice the Hellenists offered was conformity or death.

Untroubled by violence provided only the victims are monotheists, Christopher Hitchens perceives the assimilationist Jews as the heroes of the tale:

"The Maccabees, who founded the Hasmonean dynasty, were forcibly restoring Mosaic fundamentalism against the many Jews of Palestine and elsewhere who had become attracted by Hellenism. These true early multiculturalists had become bored by 'the law,' offended by circumcision, interested by Greek literature, drawn by the physical and intellectual exercises of the gymnasium, and rather adept at philosopher. They could feel the pull exerted by Athens, even if only by way of Rome and by the memory of Alexander's time, and were impatient with the stark fear and superstition mandated by the Pentateuch." (Christopher Hitchens, 'god is not Great,' pp. 273-274).

The fact that these assimilationist Jews felt "the pull exerted by Athens" only when the alternative offered was death does not trouble this former Trotskyite.

Holy, Holy, Holy

How did "Athens," or rather the monarchist Macedonians, work their magic and exert their "pull?" By inventive torture methods:

  • “For example, two women were brought in for having circumcised their children. They publicly paraded them around the city, with their babies hanging at their breasts, and then hurled them down headlong from the wall.
  • (2 Maccabees 6:10).

  • “Eleazar, one of the scribes in high position, a man now advanced in age and of noble presence, was being forced to open his mouth to eat swine’s flesh. But he, welcoming death with honor rather than life with pollution, went up to the rack of his own accord, spitting out the flesh, 20as all ought to go who have the courage to refuse things that it is not right to taste, even for the natural love of life...When he was about to die under the blows, he groaned aloud and said: 'It is clear to the Lord in his holy knowledge that, though I might have been saved from death, I am enduring terrible sufferings in my body under this beating, but in my soul I am glad to suffer these things because I fear him.'”
  • (2 Maccabees 6:18-30).

  • “It happened also that seven brothers and their mother were arrested and were being compelled by the king, under torture with whips and thongs, to partake of unlawful swine’s flesh. One of them, acting as their spokesman, said, ‘What do you intend to ask and learn from us? For we are ready to die rather than transgress the laws of our ancestors.’”
  • “The king fell into a rage, and gave orders to have pans and caldrons heated. These were heated immediately, and he commanded that the tongue of their spokesman be cut out and that they scalp him and cut off his hands and feet, while the rest of the brothers and the mother looked on. When he was utterly helpless, the king ordered them to take him to the fire, still breathing, and to fry him in a pan. The smoke from the pan spread widely, but the brothers and their mother encouraged one another to die nobly, saying, ‘The Lord God is watching over us and in truth has compassion on us, as Moses declared in his song that bore witness against the people to their faces, when he said, “And he will have compassion on his servants.”’”
  • (2 Maccabees 7:1-6).

The books of Maccabees form no part of the Protestant, nor the Jewish, canon of scripture. Readers who insist on canonical scripture can turn to the book of Esther, which describes how a pagan regime proposed to destroy the Jews:

"And the letters were sent by posts into all the king’s provinces, to destroy, to kill, and to cause to perish, all Jews, both young and old, little children and women, in one day, even upon the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month Adar, and to take the spoil of them for a prey." (Esther 3:13).

If this isn't antisemitism, what is it? Philosemitism it's not. Someone who wants to kill you isn't your friend.


The Diaspora

To what extent Roman magistrates in the Diaspora, such as Governor Flaccus, found it "useful" to allow practice of the Mosaic religion may be discovered by reading Philo's "Against Flaccus:"

Against Apion
Flavius Josephus
Against Flaccus
Philo Judaeus
Embassy to Gaius
Philo Judaeus
True Doctrine

  • “The mother was especially admirable and worthy of honorable memory. Although she saw her seven sons perish within a single day, she bore it with good courage because of her hope in the Lord. She encouraged each of them in the language of their ancestors. Filled with a noble spirit, she reinforced her woman’s reasoning with a man’s courage, and said to them, 'I do not know how you came into being in my womb. It was not I who gave you life and breath, nor I who set in order the elements within each of you. Therefore the Creator of the world, who shaped the beginning of humankind and devised the origin of all things, will in his mercy give life and breath back to you again, since you now forget yourselves for the sake of his laws.'

  • “Antiochus felt that he was being treated with contempt, and he was suspicious of her reproachful tone. The youngest brother being still alive, Antiochus not only appealed to him in words, but promised with oaths that he would make him rich and enviable if he would turn from the ways of his ancestors, and that he would take him for his Friend and entrust him with public affairs. Since the young man would not listen to him at all, the king called the mother to him and urged her to advise the youth to save himself. After much urging on his part, she undertook to persuade her son. But, leaning close to him, she spoke in their native language as follows, deriding the cruel tyrant: 'My son, have pity on me. I carried you nine months in my womb, and nursed you for three years, and have reared you and brought you up to this point in your life, and have taken care of you. I beg you, my child, to look at the heaven and the earth and see everything that is in them, and recognize that God did not make them out of things that existed. And in the same way the human race came into being. Do not fear this butcher, but prove worthy of your brothers. Accept death, so that in God’s mercy I may get you back again along with your brothers.'”
  • (2 Maccabees 7:20-29).


The pagans, upon encountering an unfamiliar, stranger god, used to rummage through their existing pantheon to find some already known deity with whom to amalgamate the one newly-discovered. The alternative, after all, was to let the number of known deities inflate toward infinity. Pagan theologians variously identified the living God worshipped by the Jews with Saturn (because 'Saturn's Day,' Saturday, was holy to Him), as Typhon (owing to the scurrilous story that the Jews worshipped an ass-headed idol), and Bacchus, god of wine:

  • “Here Symmachus, greatly wondering at what was spoken, says: What, Lamprias, will you permit our tutelar god, called Evius, the inciter of women, famous for the honors he has conferred upon him by madmen, to be inscribed and enrolled in the mysteries of the Jews? Or is there any solid reason that can be given to prove Adonis to be the same with Bacchus? Here Moeragenes interposing, said: Do not be so fierce upon him, for I who am an Athenian answer you, and tell you, in short, that these two are the very same. . .
  • “When all the company requested and earnestly begged it of him; first of all (says he), the time and manner of the greatest and most holy solemnity of the Jews is exactly agreeable to the holy rites of Bacchus; for that which they call the Fast they celebrate in the midst of the vintage, furnishing their tables with all sorts of fruits while they sit under tabernacles made of vines and ivy; and the day which immediately goes before this they call the day of Tabernacles. Within a few days after they celebrate another feast, not darkly but openly, dedicated to Bacchus, for they have a feast amongst them called Kradephoria, from carrying palm-trees, and Thyrsophoria, when they enter into the temple carrying thyrsi. What they do within I know not; but it is very probable that they perform the rites of Bacchus. First they have little trumpets, such as the Grecians used to have at their Bacchanalia to call upon their gods withal."
  • (Plutarch. Complete Works of Plutarch — Volume 3: Essays and Miscellanies (Kindle Locations 3417-3429). Symposiacs, Book IV, Question VI: What God is Worshipped by the Jews.).

None of these identifications is convincing to Bible-believers, but they are helpful to understanding gnosticism, an amalgam of pagan beliefs with Judaism and Christianity. The intent of the theologians who joined these disparate parts into one monstrous whole was in almost all cases to demote the God of the Old Testament, making Him at a bare minimum into a lesser, subordinate being, if not into an evil genie. The modern authors who rhapsodize so enthusiastically over gnosticism do not always stress this element, but it is always there. If it is possible to hate the God of Israel without hating the people of Israel, then the gnostics were not always anti-semitic; but some heresiarchs, like Marcion, made no effort to conceal their hatred of the people along with their God:

The spirit of Marcion, unfortunately, is not dead; he was not the first or the last gospel enthusiast who wanted a non-Jewish Jesus. The Nazis presented an 'Aryan Christ,' drawing from the Talmud and Jewish legends claiming that Jesus was the illegitimate offspring of the union of a German soldier named Panthera with Mary. 'Liberal' authors like John Shelby Spong have revived these legends, which have round about zero chance of being historical, in the present day. One of the 'Jesus Seminar's' leading luminaries, Burton Mack, remade Jesus as a Hellenistic Cynic Sage, by the same means as Marcion, namely expunging all the voluminous material from the gospels which make clear that Jesus was Jewish. This is accomplished by adopting the myth that the gospels grew by accretion, and are thus layered productions in the manner of a stalactite, so that by stripping away the subsequent upper layers (the unwanted material describing Jesus' Jewishness), one uncovers the pristine, original layer, the non-Jewish, or not very Jewish, Jesus:


From Julius Caesar on, the Roman Emperors were acclaimed as gods by their flatterers. Too impatient to wait for a post mortem apotheosis, Caligula demanded divine honors during his life-time. He wanted to install a giant statue of himself in the guise of Olympian Zeus in the temple at Jerusalem.

  • “Now Caius Caesar did so grossly abuse the fortune he had arrived at, as to take himself to be a God, and to desire to be so called also, and to cut off those of the greatest nobility out of his country. He also extended his impiety as far as the Jews. Accordingly, he sent Petronius with an army to Jerusalem, to place his statues in the temple, and commanded him that, in case the Jews would not admit of them, he should slay those that opposed it, and carry all the rest of the nation into captivity: but God concerned himself with these his commands."
  • (Flavius Josephus, The Wars of the Jews, Book 2, Chapter 10.1).

Lawrence Alma-Tadema, 41 A.D.
Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, 41 A.D.

It is very interesting to see how the Jews resisted this attempted profanation. Exemplifying the principle of non-violent resistance, they gathered together and staged a peaceful demonstration. A little leaven leavens the whole loaf; was this a reflection of the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, who preached non-violent resistance? Comic Rodney Dangerfield used to joke, 'I don't get no respect. I went to a fight and a hockey game broke out.' It's unsurprising to go to a hockey game and watch a fight break out; entropy increases. But it would be a neat trick to watch something as orderly and purposeful as a hockey game 'break out.' No one need teach a child how to throw a tantrum, but it would be surprising to notice the child playing checkers without being taught. Non-violent resistance requires discipline. Rioting requires none, it is just entropy. But who was teaching these people how to do non-violent resistance? It seems likely Jesus was part of a tradition of such teaching, because this behavior does not arise spontaneously. A similar occurrence is reported years earlier:

"Nay, besides the indignation which the citizens had themselves at this procedure, a vast number of people came running out of the country. These came zealously to Pilate to Cesarea, and besought him to carry those ensigns out of Jerusalem, and to preserve them their ancient laws inviolable; but upon Pilate’s denial of their request, they fell  down prostrate upon the ground, and continued immovable in that posture for five days and as many nights. . .Hereupon the Jews, as it were at one signal, fell down in vast numbers together, and exposed their necks bare, and cried out that they were sooner ready to be slain, than that their law should be transgressed." (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, Book 2, Chapter 9.2-3).

A 'sit-down strike' does not just happen. Some observers, like Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, deny that Jesus ever taught or practiced non-violence. Presumably on the same grounds (non-violence is 'immoral') no prior teacher could have so taught either. Then who was teaching the people to do it this way? Their behavior would be the classic case of going to a fight and watching a hockey game break out. When you see people actually practicing non-violent resistance, it is a safe bet that someone was teaching and promoting this highly orderly and highly disciplined behavior. They won over the Roman governor, to his peril. However, Caligula soon lay dead by an assassin's hand.

  • “But now the Jews got together in great numbers with their wives and children into that plain that was by Ptolemais, and made supplication to Petronius, first for their laws, and, in the next place, for themselves. So he was prevailed upon by the multitude of the supplicants, and by their supplications, and left his army and the statues at Ptolemais, and then went forward into Galilee, and called together the multitude and all the men of note to Tiberias, and showed them the power of the Romans, and the threatenings of Caesar; and, besides this, proved that their petition was unreasonable, because while all the nations in subjection to them had placed the images of Caesar in their several cities, among the rest of their gods, for them alone to oppose it, was almost like the behavior of revolters, and was injurious to Caesar.

  • “And when they insisted on their law, and the custom of their country, and how it was not only not permitted them to make either an image of God, or indeed of a man, and to put it in any despicable part of their country, much less in the temple itself, Petronius replied, 'And am not I also,' said he, 'bound to keep the law of my own Lord? For if I transgress it, and spare you, it is but just that I perish; while he that sent me, and not I, will commence a war against you; for I am under command as well as you.' Hereupon the whole multitude cried out that they were ready to suffer for their law. Petronius then quieted them, and said to them, 'Will you then make war against Caesar?' The Jews said, 'We offer sacrifices twice every day for Caesar, and for the Roman people;' but that if he would place the images among them, he must first sacrifice the whole Jewish nation; and that they were ready to expose themselves, together with their children and wives, to be slain. At this Petronius was astonished, and pitied them, on account of the inexpressible sense of religion the men were under, and that courage of theirs which made them ready to die for it; so they were dismissed without success."
  • (Flavius Josephus, The Wars of the Jews, Book 2, Chapter 10.3-4).

It's a shame the Jews did not continue with this approach, because the path of violent resistance meant death to all who took it:

"Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword." (Matthew 26:52).

Taking up the sword, even when in just vindication of outraged rights, embroils the swordsman in a never-ending cycle of atrocity and counter-atrocity. Fighting in the name of the brave Jewish martyrs who went to their death rather than accept forced conversion to Greek paganism, the Maccabees installed a regime which thereupon began to practice. . .forced conversion. The Jewish 'reconquista' of Galilee was accompanied by forced conversion, and in a dramatic illustration of the Biblical principle that "Whoso diggeth a pit shall fall therein: and he that rolleth a stone, it will return upon him" (Proverbs 26:27), the Hasmonaean rulers ventured to conquer what was never Jewish land, Idumaea, and force Judaism upon its inhabitants. The not-quite-converted Idumaeans included the family of Herod the Great, whose brutal inhumanity showed just how far forced conversion gets you in the spiritual realm. The Jewish liberationists of this era were fighting for freedom, but the means they adopted dragged them down to the same moral plane as the oppressors they sought to throw off. Did the Romans commit massacres? So did the Jews: "More serious was the insurrection of the Jews of Cyrene under Trajan (117 C.E.). This was quelled by Marcius Turbo, but not before about 200,000 Romans and Greeks had been killed (Dio Cassius, lxviii. 32). By this outbreak Libya was depopulated to such an extent that a few years later new colonies had to be established there (Eusebius, "Chronicle" from the Armenian, fourteenth year of Hadrian)." (Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906, Article 'Cyrene'). The Jews differed from the Romans, not in the amount of violence they were willing to deploy, even against the unoffending authochthonous inhabitants of Libya, but only in the success they achieved therefrom.

There's an obscure passage in the Talmud which indicates the Rabbis got the Lord's message, but did not heed it. Rabbi Eliezer had to defend himself against charges of heresy. He was no Christian, but on one important point he was, it would seem, a fellow-traveller:

"Said R. Akiba to him, 'Master, wilt thou permit me to say one thing of what thou hast taught me?' He replied, 'Say it.' 'Master,' said he, 'perhaps some of the teaching of the Minim had been transmitted to thee and thou didst approve of it and because of that thou wast arrested?'

"He exclaimed: 'Akiba thou hast reminded me.' I was once walking in the upper-market of Sepphoris when I came across one [of the disciples of Jesus the Nazarene]  Jacob of Kefar-Sekaniah  by name, who said to me: It is written in your Torah, Thou shalt not bring the hire of a harlot … into the house of the Lord thy God.  May such money be applied to the erection of a retiring place for the High Priest?  To which I made no reply. Said he to me: Thus was I taught [by Jesus the Nazarene],  'For of the hire of a harlot hath she gathered them and unto the hire of a harlot shall they return.' [Micah 1:7]  they came from a place of filth, let them go to a place of filth. Those words pleased me very much, and that is why I was arrested for apostasy; for thereby I transgressed the scriptural words, Remove thy way far from her — which refers to minuth — and come not nigh to the door of her house,  — which refers to the ruling power.'" (Babylon Talmud, Abodah Zarah, 17a).

Though the passage is admittedly obscure and perhaps garbled, is there not a reminiscence of the debates which must have accompanied the decision to cease the daily sacrifices on behalf of the emperor and Rome? This was a declaration of war. But how to avoid it? The Romans contributed money to the temple. Rome is a harlot; on this point all are agreed: see the Book of Revelation. The identification of paganism with harlotry is an Old Testament commonplace. Is this monetary contribution not therefore the wages of harlotry? But James (whether any James we know or an unknown Christian of this name) did not shrink from accepting the implications of the Sermon on the Mount and the Lord's verdict on paying taxes to Caesar. Jesus showed the path of peace, which still remained open, but was not taken. The path chosen instead was military confrontation, leading in the end to national disaster, dispersal and dispossession at the hands of the pagan Romans.

These would be the same pagans the atheists are ever lauding for their toleration. The sooner the illusion of pagan toleration is debunked the better. Why is atheism so dependent upon an illusion? Isn't it better to face the full light of truth with open eyes?


70 A.D.

That the first and second Jewish revolts were holy wars on the native side cannot be overlooked. That their suppression, on the pagan Roman side, was something other than imperial business-as-usual cannot be overlooked either. The pagan Romans perceived Christianity as an existential threat:

"Titus is said, after calling a council, to have first deliberated whether he should destroy the temple, a structure of such extraordinary work. For it seemed good to some that a sacred edifice, distinguished above all human achievements, ought not to be destroyed, inasmuch as, if preserved, it would furnish an evidence of Roman moderation, but, if destroyed, would serve for a perpetual proof of Roman cruelty. But on the opposite side, others and Titus himself thought that the temple ought specially to be overthrown, in order that the religion of the Jews and of the Christians might more thoroughly be subverted; for that these religions, although contrary to each other, had nevertheless proceeded from the same authors; that the Christians had sprung up from among the Jews; and that, if the root were extirpated, the offshoot would speedily perish." (Sulpitius Severus, Sacred History, Book 2, Chapter 30).

If this understanding is correct, then the loss of Jewish national existence was collateral damage from an effort by the pagan Romans to extirpate Christianity. That's an awful shame if true, but of course the Christians never asked to be extirpated. The visceral hostility of the Talmud toward the 'minim' is understandable given that these people nearly got them all killed.


Nicolas Poussin, The Destruction of the Temple

Isis and Osiris

The notion that paganism was, in general, tolerant, whereas monotheistic religions are, in general, intolerant is very deeply rooted. The people who say these things are often aware of many instances where the pagans attempted to stamp out monotheistic religions like Judaism and Christianity, as well as pagan observances they disliked. Socrates was, after all, executed for failing to conform to the religion of the state. Yet they insist these many instances recorded in history are exceptions to the rule, while the actual rule is something different:

"The Tolerant State Persecutes the Benevolent Church: That Christianity should have been thus received in the Roman world is remarkable, because one of the most notable characteristics of the church was its benevolence, and one of the most marked characteristics of the empire was its tolerance. . .Not only was the church devoted to the practice of benevolence, but the state was committed to the principle of tolerance. The pagan state was tolerant of religious differences to an extent to which the Christian state, when its turn came, showed no parallel until very recent times. It is true that in the reign of Tiberius votaries of Isis were expelled from Rome; but that was on account of scandal." (The Early Church From Ignatius to Augustine, by George Hodges, Kindle location 350).

The fact of the matter is, there's nothing remarkable about it at all. The alien gods the Jews encountered were a mixed lot. Fire is a dangerous customer if it comes rushing up the stairs at you, though perhaps a fire extinguisher or sprinkler system would help more than a priests' incantations. In history, Jews were driven out of Babylon for refusing to worship. . .fire: "In 226 the old dynasty of the Arsacids, which had been favorable to the Jews, came to an end and was succeeded by the Sassanian dynasty, a succession of fanatical fire-worshippers. Ardashir I began the tradition of intolerance with an edict which called for the sacrifice, on the Magian altars, of a part of all meat intended for food. He prohibited the burial of the dead, since burial polluted the soil, and great numbers of bodies were flung out of their graves to satisfy his religious scruples. The synagogues were a standing eye sore to him, and many of them were burnt down at his orders." (Abram Leon Sachar, A History of the Jews, p. 150.) This once flourishing community, numbering perhaps a million at its height, ultimately fell into eclipse: "Under Yazdegerd II (438-57) it became a capital offence even to recite the Shma." (Abram Leon Sachar, A History of the Jews, p. 151). Christianity can be blamed for this, how? Fire can't really even be blamed for it. The Old Adam is to blame; people demand unanimity for their views. When they do not receive it, they get ugly. This is not a characteristic of one human group alone.

In theory, polytheism ought to be tolerant, because multiplying deities does leave open certain job opportunities for new recruits in the heavenlies. The Romans, at war with an enemy nation, would attempt to entice the besieged gods into deserting their people and coming over to the winning side. The resultant messy, bloated pantheon defied all efforts of the pagan theologians to rationalize it or scale it down to manageable size. But when it comes to religious tolerance, what is the actual rule? That the pagans attempted to stamp out even other competing pagan cults. . .but only for cause? In practice, paganism was not tolerant, no more than is Hinduism in our day. In the instance mentioned earlier,

"So when she had encouraged the young man, and gotten as much money as she required, she did not take the same methods as had been taken before, because she perceived that the woman was by no means to be tempted by money; but as she knew that she was very much given to the worship of the goddess Isis, she devised the following stratagem: She went to some of Isis’s priests, and upon the strongest assurances [of concealment], she persuaded them by words, but chiefly by the offer of money, of twenty-five thousand drachmae in hand, and as much more when the thing had taken effect; and told them the passion of the young man, and persuaded them to use all means possible to beguile the woman. So they were drawn in to promise so to do, by that large sum of gold they were to have. Accordingly, the oldest of them went immediately to Paulina; and upon his admittance, he desired to speak with her by herself. When that was granted him, he told her that he was sent by the God Anubis, who was fallen in love with her, and enjoined her to come to him. Upon this she took the message very kindly, and valued herself greatly upon this condescension of Anubis, and told her husband that she had a message sent her, and was to sup and lie with Anubis; so he agreed to her acceptance of the offer, as fully satisfied with the chastity of his wife. Accordingly, she went to the temple, and after she had supped there, and it was the hour to go to sleep, the priest shut the doors of the temple, when, in the holy part of it, the lights were also put out." (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book 18, Chapter 3, Section 4, p. 1128).

The young man got what he paid for; however, the truth got out, as it tends to do, and this rape by impersonation was discovered: "So he discovered the fact to the emperor; whereupon Tiberius inquired into the matter thoroughly by examining the priests about it, and ordered them to be crucified, as well as Ide, who was the occasion of their perdition, and who had contrived the whole matter, which was so injurious to the woman. He also demolished the temple of Isis, and gave order that her statue should be thrown into the river Tiber; while he only banished Mundus, but did no more to him, because he supposed that what crime he had committed was done out of the passion of love." (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book 18, Chapter 3, Section 4, p. 1129). And so the guilty were punished. . .except not only the guilty were punished. All devotees of Isis and Osiris, the vast majority of whose hands were clean of this sordid affair, suffered from the cessation of cult worship. The ever-tolerant Romans punished everybody for the actions of a few. What is more characteristic of bigotry? The Ku Klux Klan understands this reasoning. Who has ever responded to a sensationalistic crime committed by a white person by punishing the white community as a whole? In that case, everyone can see we punish the guilty, not the innocent. But Tiberius punished the entire Isis-worshipping community to put down a small conspiracy whose existence cannot have been known to more than a small number of the larger community of Isis-devotees.

When Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker got into trouble with the government for over-booking hotel rooms which had not even been constructed yet, people were outraged. But did we respond by expelling all Christians from the country? How is that fair? Punish the guilty, not the innocent. They did this kind of thing all the time, yet people want to praise their tolerance?

Was there a reason for Tiberius' indignation? There is always a reason. The Hutus of Rwanda attempted to exterminate the Tutsi population of that country in response to an attack on an airplane carrying the Hutu President of that country. But how is this a rational or just response to the provocation? Retaliate against those who carried out the attack, not every man, woman and child of similar ethnicity. These bigoted attitudes are evergreen. Why did the Romans attempt to exterminate the Druids of Britain? Because those religious votaries were icons of resistance. There's always a reason. The pagans who attempted to carry out genocide against the Jewish inhabitants of the empire while simultaneously attempting to stamp out Christianity cannot be made into our preceptors in the matter of religious toleration; they had no clue.


Christian Anti-Semitism

Christian history, tragically, displays many horrific acts of violence. Who or what is to blame? The Bible? The accusation that the Christians invented anti-semitism remains a favored indictment at the hands of enemies of the faith. Although the Jewish nation was nearly destroyed by the same pagan Romans who were simultaneously tossing Christians to the lions, blame falls squarely on the Bible, because it's all the Bible's fault, according to the Episcopal Bishop of Newark, N.J., John Shelby Spong:

  • “So the children of Abraham, the people who produced Jesus of Nazareth, suffered throughout Christian history, generation after generation, as the words of the Bible continued to wreak havoc against the Jews down through the ages. The face of anti-Semitism is now unmasked. It was and is a gift of the Christians to the world. It is the dark underside of the gospel of love. It is part and parcel of the Christian story. It is not a pretty, a noble or an inspiring picture.”
  • (Bishop John Shelby Spong, The Sins of Scripture, p. 198).

Anti-semitism is not the "gift of the Christians to the world." Why does this inaccurate charge remain the chief weapon of apostates like Bishop Spong? According to this Episcopal bishop, the New Testament is a school-house for hatred: "The book we call the 'Word of God' actually teaches us to hate, so to the anti-Semitism in the New Testament portion of the Bible I now turn." (Bishop John Shelby Spong, The Sins of Scripture, p. 192). No, the New Testament teaches us to love our enemies, and there was a lot to love while Simon bar Kochba was murdering those Christians who fell into his hands. Certainly his policy is understandable; these people were not open to his Messianic claim, endorsed by Rabbi Akiba, so he perceived them as his enemies.

"'There's pictures on the news of dead bodies every night,' chimed in Haldeman. 'A dead body is a dead body. Nobody knows whose bodies they are or who killed them.'" (Nixonland, by Rick Perlstein, p. 656).

Nobody thinks about this or cares about it nowadays. Yet the historical fact is that the synagogue sought to strangle its unwanted child, Christianity, while still an infant in the cradle. Notice in the early Christian report of the martyrdom of Polycarp, the anonymous author mentions the animosity of this group in particular:

"The centurion, therefore, seeing the opposition raised by the Jews, set it [Polycarp's dead body] in the middle and cremated it, as is their custom." (The Martyrdom of Polycarp, Section 18, The Apostolic Fathers, Lightfoot, Harmer, and Holmes, p. 142).

In the 'Eighteen Benedictions,' Jewish Christians standing in the synagogue were obligated to wish death upon themselves, saying, "For the apostates let there be no hope, and may the kingdom of the arrogant be quickly uprooted in our days; and may the Nazarim and Minim instantly perish; may they be blotted from the book of the living, and not be written with the righteous." When wishing wasn't enough, there was always Rabbi Akiba's fair-haired boy. The New Testament confirms Josephus and the Talmud on the source of this animosity. Christianity, not itself a legal religion until the fourth century, was by no means the instigator of hostilities.

Certainly confessing Christians have committed horrific atrocities against Jews and other religious minorities. As proof that "the words of the Bible" induce anti-semitic violence, people point out that the illiterate, semi-barbaric inhabitants of the German Rhineland a thousand years later committed acts of violence against Jews. For these benighted souls, it would have been a huge step upwards to read "the words of the Bible," and discover that God wants them to turn the other cheek. The New Testament is the remedy for violence, not its instigator. Local folk had been told by their preceptors that Jesus had died demanding vengeance: "'You are the children of those who killed our object of veneration, hanging him on a tree; and he himself had said: "There will yet come a day when my children will come and avenge my blood." We are his children and it is. . .therefore obligatory for us to avenge him. . ." (James Carroll, Constantine's Sword, p. 261). The New Testament was a closed book to these people. During this period, it was generally impossible for the laity, even if literate, to obtain a copy of the Bible in translation because it was proscribed by local ecclesiastical authorities, ostensibly to prevent heresy but more likely to forestall anyone noticing that the contemporary religion, which revolved around venerating physical remains of apotheosized local heroes known as 'saints,' and offering extravagant respect and perks to ecclesiastical authorities, bore little resemblance to New Testament religion. Had these people been able to read the New Testament, that would have changed their perspective 180 degrees. They would have discovered instead, "Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord." (Romans 12:19).

Younger Brother Say Not Three
Incomprehension Pure Words
Reversion to the Mean Mass Guilt
Changes Beautiful Words
The Evidence The Messiah
Christians United Conspiracy Theory
Must Not, Therefore Did Not
Jacob's Son On the Cross
Anachronism Wrong Day
Was Dead But Lives Appropriation
Saved by the Blood Rabbi Gamaliel
Hyam Maccoby

Mass Guilt

Is it possible to lay a guilt trip on people over events to which not only did they not contribute, but nor did they condone, nor were they even aware of?:

“In fact, when I tell these precious people about the horrors of 'Christian anti-Semitism,' they are absolutely shocked, having never been exposed to it before.” (Brown, Michael L. (2012-04-03). The Real Kosher Jesus: Revealing the mysteries of the hidden Messiah (p. 12). Strang Communications. Kindle Edition.)

First they are to feel shocked, then they are expected to feel guilty, then they must pay reparations. This seems to me to paint with too broad a brush. Certainly Jesus of Nazareth cannot be held responsible for atrocities committed by people like Peter the Hermit, who never knew Him, nor is the New Testament responsible, which never suggested any such course of action, nor the Holy Spirit who never inspired murder. Who then is responsible for it? The people who promoted and carried out these things, of their own will, on their own authority. That ain't us.

Here in Maine there was the case some years back of Katherine Hegarty. Mrs. Hegarty was shot and killed by her local police, in her own home. The police entered her home without a warrant. How can this be? Under the legal doctrine that the police may enter any place to protect the public: for instance if a sniper is shooting out of an upstairs window, no one need obtain a warrant before rushing up the stairs to stop him. But Mrs. Hegarty was asleep in her bed when the police entered her home; they had to wake her up to kill her, unfortunately her first waking act was to grab a gun. In other states people have rioted over much less, but Maine people don't know enough to riot, evidently. Though Mrs. Hegarty was no angel, to say that Mrs. Hegarty was a threat to the public while she was asleep is stretching it. To say that American Christians, who know nothing of Peter the Hermit, are personally responsible for Peter's crimes, is a similar stretch. When people first need to be informed what they're guilty of, because they knew nothing of it, then they are not guilty. The lynch mob explains, 'Maybe you didn't do it, but someone much like you did.' While guilt is big business, they should refrain. Otherwise we have fallen under the justice ministry of the Queen of Hearts.

Some people nowadays insist that this next figure was a Christian. However, the case that he wasn't is more than just Allied propaganda. Joseph Goebbels found something just a bit 'off' in the Sermon on the Mount:

"Every evening I read the Sermon on the Mount. I find no consolation in it, only despair and shame. Something is wrong about it." (Joseph Goebbels, 'Michael: A German Fate,' excerpted p. 104, Nazi Culture, by George L. Mosse).

And who can blame the Nazis for finding the Sermon on the Mount not quite to their purpose. They sought, not to close the churches, but to change the content of their proclamation, away from this type of thing:

  • “But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.”
  • (Matthew 5:39).

. . .and more in the direction of race, blood, and soil, and the eternal struggle for the survival of the fittest, themes not actually found in the gospel proclamation. It's true that Germany had a long history of anti-semitic proclamation in a religious, Christian context; no less a figure than Martin Luther wrote an anti-semitic screed in his later years. But the specific form of anti-semitism that motivated the Nazis was cast more in terms of racial hygiene. To determine whether one is dealing with religious persecution or some other form of human cruelty, one can ask, how were converts treated? To which group were they presumed to belong? In Nazi Germany, anti-semitic persecution did not touch off a wave of phony conversions, because it actually made no difference. While certainly many nominal Christians took part in the atrocities, to their eternal shame, Adolf Hitler himself was not much impressed with the religion:

It is instructive to see how the Enlightenment philosophes who are so loud in their denial that pagan religions can persecute did when the baton was handed over to them. What did they do? They crammed those Roman Catholic priests who would not take the civic oath into boats, withheld food and water, and then poked holes in the boats so that the unfortunate monotheists all drowned. They invented a preposterous, though unexceptionably pagan, religion, imposed it upon the public, willing or unwilling, and did away with all who would not bow down. Unfortunately, the propensity to silence those individuals who will not agree with you by force is not withheld from any of God's children, from Cain on down, and certainly not from atheists: