The Roots Of Judaism And Christianity Essay — страница 2

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control of Judah. When a new revolt broke out under Egyptian influence, the Chaldeans under Nebuchadnezzar II destroyed Jerusalem and burned the Temple (587 or 586 BC); the royalty, nobility, and skilled craftsmen were deported to Babylonia. Loss of state and Temple, however, did not lead to the disappearance of the Judeans, as it did in the northern kingdom. The peasantry that remained on the land, the refugees in Egypt, and the exiles in Babylonia retained a strong faith in their God and the hope of ultimate restoration. This was largely due to the influence of the great prophets. Their warnings of doom had been fulfilled; therefore, the hopeful message they began to preach was believed. The universal prophetic teaching assured Jews that they could still worship their God on

alien soil and without a temple. Henceforth the Jewish people and religion could take root in the dispersion as well as in the homeland. Cyrus the Great of Persia conquered Babylonia in 536 BC. Subsequently he permitted the exiles to return to Judah and rebuild the Temple. (Many chose, however, to remain in Mesopotamia, where the Jewish community existed without interruption for more than 2,500 years until the virtual elimination of Jewish presence in Iraq after World War II.) Leadership of the reviving Judean center was provided largely by returning exiles–notably Nehemiah, an important official of the Persian court, and Ezra, a learned priest. They rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem and consolidated spiritual life by a public ceremony of allegiance to the Torah and by stringent

rules against mixed marriage. In the following centuries leadership was provided mainly by priests, who claimed descent from Moses’ brother Aaron; the high priest usually represented the people in dealings with the foreign powers that successively ruled the land. Alexander the Great conquered Palestine in 322; his successors, the Macedonian rulers of Egypt (the Ptolemies) and Syria; vied for control of this strategically important area; eventually the Syrians won. Hellenistic influences penetrated Jewish life deeply, but when the Seleucid king Antichus IV tried to impose the worship of Greek gods upon the Jews, a rebellion ensued (168 BC). The popular revolt was led by the Maccabees, a provincial priestly family (also called Hasmoneans). By 165 they recaptured the Temple, which

had been converted into a pagan shrine, and rededicated it to the God of Israel. Hostilities with Syria continued; but Simon, the last of the Maccabean brothers, consolidated his power and was formally recognized in 131 BC as ruler and high priest. His successors took the title of king and for about a century ruled an independent commonwealth. Dynastic quarrels, however, gave the Roman general Pompey the Great an excuse to intervene and make himself master of the country in 63 BC. In subsequent decades a family of Idumaean adventurers ingratiated themselves with the successive Roman dictators; with Roman help, Herod the Great made himself ruler of Judea, eventually (37 BC) with the title of king. Able but ruthless, he was hated by the people, although he rebuilt the Temple with

great magnificence. The Romans allowed Herod’s sons less authority and in 6 BC put the country formally under the control of their own officials, known as procurators. New spiritual forces emerged during the Maccabean and Herodian periods. The leadership of hereditary priests was contested by laymen distinguished for their learning and piety, who won the respect and support of the people. The priestly conservatives came to be known as Sadducees, the more progressive lay party as the Pharisees. The latter came to dominate the Sangedrin, which was the highest religious and legal authority of the nation. Burdoned by excessive taxation and outraged by acts of brutality, the Judeans became more and more restive under Roman rule, all the more because they were confident that God

would ultimately vindicate them. Revolutionary groups such as the Zealots emerged calling for armed revolt. The Sadducees were inclined to collaborate with the Romans; the Pharisees advocated passive resistance but sought to avoid open war. In AD 66 the moderates could no longer control the desperate populace, and rebellion against Roman tyranny broke out. After bitter fighting the Romans captured Jerusalem and burned the Temple in 70; at Masada the Zealots held out until 73, when most of the 1,000 surviving defenders killed themselves to defy capture by the Romans. As a result of the revolt thousands of Jews were sold into slavery and thus were scattered widely in the Roman world. The last vestiges of national autonomy were obliterated. The Pharisaic leaders, shortly thereafter