Herod and the slaughter of babies-- messianism too!!

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Kris
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Herod and the slaughter of babies-- messianism too!!

Post by Kris »

I was looking into Herod and the story that he killed all of the children under two due to his hearing that the king or Messiah had been born-- per the story in Matthew. But this didn't seem to have happened as no one else mentions it until years later when the gospels were familiar. I found this article on the subject that I thought was interesting as it mentions a supposed prophecy that the messiah would be arriving around the early first century or so. I have seen a lot of debate on this board about this topic and wanted to share. Does anyone think Herods slaughter was fact-based? Or a story that Matthew used to compare Jesus to Moses? What do you think about the prophecy?
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neilgodfrey
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Re: Herod and the slaughter of babies-- messianism too!!

Post by neilgodfrey »

Kris wrote:I was looking into Herod and the story that he killed all of the children under two due to his hearing that the king or Messiah had been born-- per the story in Matthew. But this didn't seem to have happened as no one else mentions it until years later when the gospels were familiar. I found this article on the subject that I thought was interesting as it mentions a supposed prophecy that the messiah would be arriving around the early first century or so. I have seen a lot of debate on this board about this topic and wanted to share. Does anyone think Herods slaughter was fact-based? Or a story that Matthew used to compare Jesus to Moses? What do you think about the prophecy?
What was the article you found? I understand that it is widely accepted that Matthew created the story of Herod massacring the infants to liken the circumstances of Jesus' birth to those of Moses'. Josephus paints a grim picture of Herod but does not indicate any awareness of this massacre. The story itself has the trappings of a traditional fairy tale. As for the prophecy itself, Matthew's narrative is one of the earliest instances of Christians reinterpreting Hebrew scriptures to point to Jesus.
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Kris
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Re: Herod and the slaughter of babies-- messianism too!!

Post by Kris »

So sorry-- I forgot to post the article!


http://www.livius.org/articles/religion ... e-messiah/?
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DCHindley
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Re: Herod and the slaughter of babies-- messianism too!!

Post by DCHindley »

Kris wrote:I was looking into Herod and the story that he killed all of the children under two due to his hearing that the king or Messiah had been born-- per the story in Matthew. But this didn't seem to have happened as no one else mentions it until years later when the gospels were familiar. I found this article on the subject that I thought was interesting as it mentions a supposed prophecy that the messiah would be arriving around the early first century or so. I have seen a lot of debate on this board about this topic and wanted to share. Does anyone think Herods slaughter was fact-based? Or a story that Matthew used to compare Jesus to Moses? What do you think about the prophecy?
The prophecy of a world leader arising from Judea was a general anticipation, probably encouraged by creative "pesher" like re-interpretations of certain Judean sacred texts, but also because of Hellenized Judean oracles put into the mouth of the Sibyls predicting a coming fruitful empire, and the desperate hopes of the non-elite under Roman rule who hoped they too would be allowed to participate in it if they were respectful enough.

As for Herod's supposed "slaughter of the innocents" you are correct there is no confirming account. We know from Africanus, though, that there were a category of folks, whom Africanus calls "desposyni," which he treats as relatives of Jesus, who told fibs (OK, "whoppers") about Herod to de-legitimize his claims to valid kingship (his dad Antipater was a temple slave of Ascalon brought up as an Idumean, and that Herod burned down the temple archives to destroy any hope of disproving this charge of illegitimacy). These things seem to have had more to do with Hasmonean polemic against him (the charge of being illegitimate) and perhaps also the war of 66-74 CE (the burning of the national archives by either the Zealots or followers of Simon Bar Giora, the context of who did this deed is vague in Josephus).

DCH
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neilgodfrey
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Re: Herod and the slaughter of babies-- messianism too!!

Post by neilgodfrey »

DCHindley wrote: The prophecy of a world leader arising from Judea was a general anticipation,
I think this idea has been increasingly questioned, though it seems to be still a majority assumption.

Divine prophecies and signs preceding the birth of a future hero were very common literary tropes in the literature of the ancient Near East and Mediterranean -- probably universally(?)
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MrMacSon
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Re: Herod and the slaughter of babies-- messianism too!!

Post by MrMacSon »

Kris wrote:
... I found this article on the subject that I thought was interesting as it mentions a supposed prophecy that the messiah would be arriving around the early first century or so. I have seen a lot of debate on this board about this topic and wanted to share ...
DCHindley wrote:
The prophecy of a world leader arising from Judea was a general anticipation, probably encouraged by creative "pesher" like re-interpretations of certain Judean sacred texts, but also because of Hellenized Judean oracles put into the mouth of the Sibyls predicting a coming fruitful empire, and the desperate hopes of the non-elite under Roman rule who hoped they too would be allowed to participate in it if they were respectful enough.
If one clicks on the link Kris provided, then clicks on Bar Kochba, one sees: -

Simon ben Kosiba (132-135 CE)

Sources: 'Abot de Rabbi Nathan A 38.3; Babylonian Talmud, Gittin 57a-58b; Genesis Rabbah 65.21 (on 27.22); Lamentations Rabbah 1.16 §45 and 2.2 §4; Palestinian Talmud, Ta'anit 4.5 (commenting on Mishna, Ta'anit 4.6); Palestinian Talmud, Nedarim 3.8 (commenting on Mishna, Nedarim 3.10-11a); Seder Elijah Rabbah 151; letters from Wadi Murabba`at (ed. P. Benoit, J.T. Milik and R. de Vaux); fifteen letters from Nahal Hever (ed. Yigael Yadin); Appian of Alexandria, Syrian war 50; Cassius Dio, Roman history 69.12.1-14.3; Eusebius, History of the church 4.5.2 and 4.6.1-4; Fronto, Letter to Marcus Aurelius; Historia Augusta, "Hadrian", 14.2; Jerome, Commentary on Isaiah 2.15; Jerome, Commentary on Daniel 9.24-27; Justin the Martyr, First apology 31.5-6 and Dialogue with the Jew Trypho 108.1-3.

The story of Simon ben Kosiba's war against the Romans can be read here.*

Comment: Jesus of Nazareth and Simon ben Kosiba are the only Jewish leaders who are positively identified as Messiahs in the Jewish sources ...

http://www.livius.org/articles/religion ... en-kosiba/

[This webpage goes on to talk about aspects of descriptions of Bar Kochba...(maybe read below first before reading it)]
* I think more interesting commentary is on the webpage linked to there viz. -
  • "The story of Simon ben Kosiba's war against the Romans can be read here." --

After the [Cyrene & other North African] revolt of 115-117 CE, the Roman government took several anti-Jewish measures, and it looked as if the old nation had been destroyed. In 130, when the emperor Hadrian visited Judaea, he ordered the construction of a new city to replace the town that Titus had razed to the ground, Jerusalem. It was to be a Roman city, with a Roman temple dedicated to the Roman supreme god Jupiter (text).

The Jewish response to the rebuilding of Jerusalem was divided: although some found it intolerable that foreign religious rites should be performed in their city, others argued that pagans who wanted to sacrifice to the supreme God should not be hindered. This moderate point of view carried the day; after all, was it not written that the Temple was to be "a house of all nations"?

Two years later, Hadrian forbade castration and circumcision, making a law against a practice that had offended Greek and Roman sensitivities for a long time (more). There are indications that he did not forbid circumcision as such, but only the circumcision of boys who had not yet reached the age to consent with the operation; but whatever the precise meaning of the measure, the Jews explained this law as directed against them. Again, there were moderates and radicals; but this time the moderates received less support. As a fourth-century author put it:
  • At this time, the Jews started a war because they were forbidden to mutilate their genitals.Historia Augusta, Hadrian, 14.2.

Little is known about the initial stages of the revolt. It seems that the spark was put to the tinder in the first months of 132, when the building operations in train to convert the ruins of Jerusalem into a Roman city, caused the tomb of Solomon to collapse. This was seen as a messianic omen. The Roman governor Tineius Rufus severely underestimated the situation.
  • Soon, the whole of Judaea had been stirred up, and the Jews everywhere were showing signs of disturbance, were gathering together, and giving evidence of great hostility to the Romans, partly by secret and partly by open acts; many others, too, from other peoples, were joining them from eagerness for profit, in fact one might almost say that the whole world was being stirred up by this business.Cassius Dio, Roman history 69.13.1-2; full story
To make things worse for the Romans, the Jews found a national leader, Simon, the son of a man named Kosiba. Some ofhis letters survive, making clear that he was firmly in charge on the first day of the month iyar of the first year of the revolt (3 April 132); he was still able to write on the fourteenth marhesvan of the fourth year (6 November 135). The opening phrases of a Jewish letter from this period deserves to be quoted. It runs 'On the twenty-eighth marhesvan of the third year of Simon ben Kosiba, prince of Israel...' and this style of writing indicates that Simon was seen as the lawful ruler.

... On some of his coins and in his letters, he calls himself 'Prince' (Nasi), a word that had very strong messianic connotations (cf. Ezekiel 37.24-25 and several Qumran documents). His loyal followers liked to make a pun on his name: his real name was Simon ben Kosiba, but he was usually called Bar Kochba (son of the star), which again is a messianic claim. Some miracles were attributed to him: there were reports that he had been seen spewing out flames (go here for a discussion).

Rabbi Aqiba, the president of the rabbinical academy at Yavne and the official religious leader of the Jews in this age, declared that the successful Jewish commander was the Messiah; at least two rabbis -rabbi Gershom and rabbi Aha- agreed, but others remained skeptical, and said that grass would grow in Aqiba's cheeks before the Son of David would come (text).

The revolt was clearly religious in nature. The rebels were convinced that this was the apocalyptic war that had been predicted by prophets like Daniel and Zechariah. Their coins show a star on top of and the Ark of the Covenant inside the Temple; the legend is written in archaic Hebrew letters. Some coins were struck with the legend 'Eleazar the priest', which strongly suggests that a new high priest was elected ...


From the account of the Greek historian Cassius Dio (Roman history 69.12.1-14.3) we can deduce that the ensuing war effort of the Jews was extensive, widely supported and fanatical. But they seem to have failed to take Jerusalem: this seems the only possible explanation for the fact that the rebel coins have been found everywhere in Judaea, except for its capital. On the other hand, there is some (non-conclusive) evidence that a new high priest was elected, which suggests that the Jews controlled the site of the Temple at least for some time.

However this may be, it is certain that Simon and his men were able to control the countryside. Legal documents signed by the 'prince of Israel' show that the imperial estates were confiscated and leased out to Jewish peasants.

Simon was so successful, that the emperor Hadrian was obliged to dispatch his best generals to suppress the rebellion. Julius Severus, the governor of Britain, was one of them. Technically, his new command was a demotion, because Britain was a very prestigious province; it indicates the severity of the situation. Other generals were Publicius Marcellus end Haterius Nepos, the governors of Syria and Arabia. Simon knew that the Romans would send a large expeditionary force, and prepared himself.
  • The rebels did not dare try to risk open confrontation against the Romans, but occupied the advantageous positions in the country and strengthened them with mines and walls, so that they would have places of refuge when hard pressed and could communicate with one another unobserved underground; and they pierced these subterranean passages from above at intervals to let in air and light.Cassius Dio, Roman history 69.12.3.
In December 133 or January 134, Julius Severus superseded Tineius Rufus as governor of the war zone. He commanded a large army. Three legions were deployed: VI Ferrata, X Fretensis -hastily strengthened with marines from Italy- and XXII Deiotariana. No less than seventeen auxiliary units are known to have fought in Palestine. Legion XXII was probably annihilated by the Jews, since there are no indications of its existence after this war. New reinforcements were sent, the legion II Traiana Fortis. There are indications that units from other legions were involved in the struggle, possibly III Cyrenaica, III Gallica and IIII Scythica. For the first time in more than a century, the Romans suffered from manpower shortage; two senators started to conscript Italian boys.

If it were not pleonastic, one would call the war a disaster. The Romans experienced great difficulties when they tried to subdue Judaea, and they made some progress only after the emperor had personally come to Judaea. The Roman soldiers were used to fight full scale battles, but Simon evaded this kind of engagement. Hadrian's generals were forced to form smaller units to intercept small groups of rebels. In this war, the highest ranking officers had to stand by doing nothing, while the under-officers had large responsibilities. Famine, disease and fire proved better weapons than swords and lances.
  • Severus did not venture to attack his opponents in the open at any one point, in view of their numbers and their fanaticism, but - by intercepting small groups, thanks to the number of his soldiers and under-officers, and by depriving them of food and shutting them up - he was able, rather slowly, to be sure, but with comparative little danger, to crush, exhaust and exterminate them. Very few Jews in fact survived. Fifty of their most important outposts and 985 better known villages were razed to the ground. 580,000 were killed in the various engagements or battles. As for the numbers who perished from starvation, disease or fire, that was impossible to establish.Cassius Dio, Roman history 69.13.2-3.
It was the type of war the Romans tried to forget. When the Roman author Cornelius Fronto wrote a letter to the emperor Marcus Aurelius on the occasion of the destruction of a legion by the Parthians (in 162 AD), he compared it to the Bar Kochba revolt, implicitly admitting that the latter had been a defeat (text).
The Romans resorted to terrible atrocities to win the war. Bodies were left unburied for several years (text). There are three reports that children were wrapped in Torah scrolls and burned alive (Babylonian Talmud, Gittin 57a-58b; Lamentations Rabbah 2.2 §4; Seder Elijah Rabbah 151). This may be exaggerated, but the Roman legionaries were perfectly capable of acts like these. Many Jews started to regret the rebellion. A new pun on Bar Kosiba's name became popular: some called him Simon bar Kozeba, the 'son of the disappointment' ...


Slowly but surely, the Romans gained the upper hand. Simon made his last stand at Betar, three hours southwest of Jerusalem. The defenders are recorded to have caught the missiles from the Roman catapults and hurled them back. The siege lasted a long time, until the winter of 135/136 (Simon was still able to send letters on 6 November 135). The rebels never surrendered, but died from famine and thirst. Among the dead bodies, the legionaries recognized that of Simon, the son of Kosiba. When they brought his head to the emperor Hadrian, he said: 'If his God had not slain him, who could have overcome him?'

According to Jewish tradition, Betar fell on the ninth day of the month of Av. In the Gregorian calendar, this would be 25 July 136. The date is extremely suspect, however, because this is also the date of the destruction of the Temple in 70. Since Hadrian accepted the title Imperator ('conqueror') late in 135, we must assume that Betar was captured in November or December.

The anecdote about Hadrian's words on seeing the head of Simon, has caused some scholarly debate: was Hadrian really present? The answer is that he was. Roman texts use the expression expeditio Judaica, which can only mean that the emperor was present. Besides, there is an officer from the imperial guard, C. Arrius Clemens, who was decorated for war service in Judaea by the emperor.

This was not the end of the struggle, however. The recent discovery of a triumphal arch in the neighborhood of Skythopolis (Beth Shean), dedicated in 136 to the emperor by the Senate, proves that fighting continued in Galilee.
  • Many Romans perished in the war. Therefore, Hadrian, in writing to the Senate did not employ the opening phrase commonly affected by the emperors: 'If you and your children are in health, it is well; I and the army are in health.Cassius Dio, Roman history 69.14.3.]
After the Jewish defeat, Hadrian (the picture shows him killing a Jew) tried to root out Judaism. The prisoners were sold at Hebron and Gaza, each one at the price of a horse. He forbade the conquered to teach Mosaic law and to own scrolls. The province Judaea was renamed Palestine; Jerusalem was called Aelia Capitolina.

Pagan sanctuaries were erected right over places of Jewish worship: the temple to Jupiter was erected on the site of the Jewish Temple, Hadrian's equestrian statue being placed in the Holy of Holies; the goddess Aphrodite received a new home on the place where the sect of the Christians had venerated the tomb of Jesus, and before the southern gate of Aelia, the Romans erected a marble statue of a pig. (Text. This was the symbol of the Tenth legion Fretensis, but the insult was obvious and probably intended.) Even worse, the Jews were not even allowed to see their ancestral home town. Rabbi Aqiba violated this edict, and after some time in prison, the old man was tortured to death; at least nine other rabbis were executed, too.
  • The world was not to see Jewish armies anymore until 1915, when the British recruited a unit with the remarkable name of 'Assyrian Jewish Refugee Mule Corps', which was to play a role during the Dardanelles campaign.
After the death of Hadrian, reconciliation started. The new emperor Antoninus Pius allowed the burial of the dead and repealed the ban on circumcision that had caused the war (Digests 48.8.11). The rabbis started a self-critical discussion. Messianic claims in general were considered suspect. When Jehuda ha-Nasi composed that large collection of rabbinical wisdom, the Mishna, he left out many messianological speculations. Politically, Judaism was dead; there was to be no Jewish state for more than eighteen centuries. What was left, was the religion, which easily survived Roman paganism.

http://www.livius.org/articles/concept/ ... sh-wars-8/?
davidbrainerd
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Re: Herod and the slaughter of babies-- messianism too!!

Post by davidbrainerd »

DCHindley wrote:
The prophecy of a world leader arising from Judea was a general anticipation, probably encouraged by creative "pesher" like re-interpretations of certain Judean sacred texts, but also because of Hellenized Judean oracles put into the mouth of the Sibyls predicting a coming fruitful empire, and the desperate hopes of the non-elite under Roman rule who hoped they too would be allowed to participate in it if they were respectful enough.
This general expectation with no proof that becomes "fact" due to wishful thinking sure is cool. In the future it will be said that it was the general expectation from the time of Jesus until 2010 that homosexual marriage would become accepted. Why not? General expectations need no proof, merely fanciful assertion. Whatever you want bad enough to have been the general expectation becomes the general expectation.
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maryhelena
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Re: Herod and the slaughter of babies-- messianism too!!

Post by maryhelena »

Kris wrote:I was looking into Herod and the story that he killed all of the children under two due to his hearing that the king or Messiah had been born-- per the story in Matthew. But this didn't seem to have happened as no one else mentions it until years later when the gospels were familiar. I found this article on the subject that I thought was interesting as it mentions a supposed prophecy that the messiah would be arriving around the early first century or so. I have seen a lot of debate on this board about this topic and wanted to share. Does anyone think Herods slaughter was fact-based? Or a story that Matthew used to compare Jesus to Moses? What do you think about the prophecy?
There is no evidence that Herod slaughtered young children in Bethlehem. However, re Josephus, at Herod's siege of Jerusalem in 37 b.c.e young children were slaughtered. If this was in fact so - then there would be an historical link between Herod and the slaughter of innocents. The gospel writer, Matthew, has simply woven this historical event into his Jesus birth narrative - a birth narrative set in a different time but a time period still linked to Herod.

Antiquities book 14 ch.16
  • And now all parts were full of those that were slain, by the rage of the Romans at the long duration of the siege; and by the zeal of the Jews that were on Herod’s side: who were not willing to leave one of their adversaries alive. So they were murdered continually in the narrow streets, and in the houses by crowds; and as they were flying to the temple for shelter: and there was no pity taken of either infants, or the aged: nor did they spare so much as the weaker sex. Nay although the King sent about, and besought them to spare the people, yet no body restrained their hand from slaughter: but, as if they were a company of madmen, they fell upon persons of all ages, without distinction.
Of course, if one is opting for a historical Jesus then what Josephus says about the slaughter of innocents in 37 b.c.e. has no relevance. However, once the gospel Jesus figure is viewed as ahistorical then a wider field of research opens up. Questions arise as to how the gospel writers created their Jesus figure. Yes, OT figures and OT prophecy were utilized - but so too was Jewish history. And after all, what is OT prophecy without history......can't have one without the other.....

Jeremiah has used Rachel weeping for her children in connection with the fall of Jerusalem to Nebuchadnezzar. The siege of Jerusalem by Herod in 37 b.c.e. would have been a similar case of much weeping on the part of 'Rachel' for her young children. Bethlehem is in Matthew's birth narrative as a prophetic element. History, re Josephus, places the slaughter of young children at the hands of Herod during his siege of Jerusalem in 37 b.c.e.
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DCHindley
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Re: Herod and the slaughter of babies-- messianism too!!

Post by DCHindley »

davidbrainerd wrote:
DCHindley wrote:
The prophecy of a world leader arising from Judea was a general anticipation, probably encouraged by creative "pesher" like re-interpretations of certain Judean sacred texts, but also because of Hellenized Judean oracles put into the mouth of the Sibyls predicting a coming fruitful empire, and the desperate hopes of the non-elite under Roman rule who hoped they too would be allowed to participate in it if they were respectful enough.
This general expectation with no proof that becomes "fact" due to wishful thinking sure is cool. In the future it will be said that it was the general expectation from the time of Jesus until 2010 that homosexual marriage would become accepted. Why not? General expectations need no proof, merely fanciful assertion. Whatever you want bad enough to have been the general expectation becomes the general expectation.
Regardless, I stand by my generalization. Statements about a future establishment of a Judean "world empire" (I am not saying "kingdom of God" or "Messianic kingdom", just a change from the Roman led empire to a Judean led empire) are in fact to be found in the Sibylline Oracles, which scholars of this sort of thing are pretty sure were written by Hellenized Judeans, probably not based in the homeland. That Tacitus and Josephus also seem to agree that there were "vague" rumors floating about that a Ruler of the world would arise from Judea, means that this was at least how the Romans spun the rumor to their advantage. What form these "rumors" actually had among Judeans, Greeks and Romans is anyone's guess (it may not have been the same from one group to another, or even one region to another), but was probably not what the victorious Romans wanted to allow to fester. It was redefined by the victors.

It is true that it is merely my conjecture (Neil, I need acronym help!) that the pre-victory form of these "rumors" in Greek areas resonated with the non-elite classes, but it is in light of the fact that Josephus said the unlearned Judean masses had started some of them by misinterpreting the Judean national scriptures. So, some "ignorant" Judeans misinterpret national literature to create strange rumors about coming Judean world domination, which the unlearned masses among the Greeks & Romans would interpret according to how they felt they were being treated by the Roman empire.

There were pockets of glee, as "all of Achaia" was decreed tax free in the 1st century CE, and all Roman colonies and some Greek cities in Asia were also tax free, IIRC. However, for the less well connected cities and especially for the local agrarian and retainer/artisan classes, things may have not seemed very rosy. I personally do not see the bleak ground-into-the-earth peasant class believed in by many, but still they may have simply wanted more say in how they were taxed and governed. The Judean God was said to be a God of just relations, so maybe they could get a better deal from the leaders of this proposed new world empire, who worshipped that same God. In that respect, many may actually have looked forward to this change of affairs.

DCH

PS: ICNOHN ("in case no one has noticed"), the word "illuminati" has not appeared anywhere in this post for a good reason. What hopes and ambitions that Judeans and non-Judeans held to almost 2000 years ago on the eve of a destructive Roman-Judean war has nearly nothing to do with modern Jewish-Gentile dialogue, which is more about shared ethical heritage than spite or distrust, at least since the post WW2/Soviet era forced us to pick and choose our friends in the Middle East.
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Re: Herod and the slaughter of babies-- messianism too!!

Post by neilgodfrey »

DCHindley wrote: It is true that it is merely my conjecture (Neil, I need acronym help!) that the pre-victory form of these "rumors" in Greek areas resonated with the non-elite classes, but it is in light of the fact that Josephus said the unlearned Judean masses had started some of them by misinterpreting the Judean national scriptures. So, some "ignorant" Judeans misinterpret national literature to create strange rumors about coming Judean world domination, which the unlearned masses among the Greeks & Romans would interpret according to how they felt they were being treated by the Roman empire.

There were pockets of glee, as "all of Achaia" was decreed tax free in the 1st century CE, and all Roman colonies and some Greek cities in Asia were also tax free, IIRC. However, for the less well connected cities and especially for the local agrarian and retainer/artisan classes, things may have not seemed very rosy. I personally do not see the bleak ground-into-the-earth peasant class believed in by many, but still they may have simply wanted more say in how they were taxed and governed. The Judean God was said to be a God of just relations, so maybe they could get a better deal from the leaders of this proposed new world empire, who worshipped that same God. In that respect, many may actually have looked forward to this change of affairs.
U. (Understood) But after two recent threads where I was in the thick of debating this question I am now trying to catch up with other stuff so may raise your point and discuss again at a nfd (near future date).
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