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Violent Opposition to the Romans in the Days of Jesus (or Brian)?

This will be my last post on the conference dealing with the Life of Brian and the historical Jesus.   Here I would like to summarize one paper that I thought was unusually insightful, to give you an idea of the kind of thing that could be done on a topic like this.  As it turns out, it was the opening paper of the conference, and it was delivered by Martin Goodman, professor of Jewish Studies at Oxford.

I should begin by saying that scholars have their own internal ranking systems for who the really good scholars are, who the pretty good ones are, who the OK ones are, and who the rather miserable ones are.   It’s like most fields: outsiders have trouble knowing which is which.  (I couldn’t tell a mediocre physicist from a top-flight one if my life depended on it.)   With that said, Professor Goodman is at the top of the heap, a world-class scholar who is unusually gifted and knowledgeable about both Jewish and Roman antiquity.  He is the real item – and there aren’t, frankly, that many real items out there.

His paper, “The Life of Brian and the Politics of First-Century Judaea,” was short and to the point, and it wasn’t until near the end that I realized just how brilliant it was.   His overarching point was that the Life of Brian was remarkably on-target in its portrayal of first century Judaism as composed of various sects of highly militant Jews eager for the overthrow of the Roman empire; but this portrayal was true NOT for the days of Jesus around 30 CE, but only for the later period immediately before the Jewish uprising of 66-70CE.

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Argument Against Jesus’ Burial in HJBG, Part 1
Brian and the Apocalyptic Jesus Part 3

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Comments

  1. Matilda
    Matilda  June 30, 2014

    So, maybe there were many zealots but their mission wasn’t to overthrow the Romans, but perhaps they had some religious end of world agenda? Why does zealotry mean getting rid of the Romans? I think it could be dis-satisfaction with life as they knew it.

    • kidron  July 13, 2014

      Matilda, I agree with your assessment. Jesus was NOT trying to raise an armed revolt among Jews … as an apolcalyptacist he was expecting God to send armies of angels to correct all the wrongs in society. However, Jesus was a Zelot for the law of Moses. Part of his apocalyptic message was that his hearers should also beocome zealous for the law. One must also realize that for the Jews there was NO distinction between religious and secular. Their primary secular obedience was to the law of Moses.

      I know that many theologians would like to date the Dead Sea Scrolls to the Maccabean period, and indeed some of them do. However there are some which by their content date themselves to the time period of Jesus and his brrother James. These sectarians too were expecting God to intervene in Jewish history. They were quite specific in describing the mayhem and slaughter of the Romans (Kittim) by the armies of heavenly angels. As per their War scroll however, they expected to join in the fray and lived lives of exceptional purity to prepare them for the coming apocalyptic battle..

      I think that one draws a fine line between describing those at Qumran as religious zealots or militaristic zealots.

      • Scott F  July 14, 2014

        “zealous for the law”

        I have always found that reference in Acts 21, “You see, brother, how many thousands of believers there are among the Jews, and they are all zealous for the law…” to be quite intriguing. Why would Luke include such a comment without a condemnation from Paul if it weren’t considered proper behavior for an early Christian Jew?

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  July 15, 2014

          Luke went out of his way to show that Paul always was and always stayed a fervently devout Jew who never did anything contrary to the law. (Different authors had different views about what was “proper” in those terms)

  2. SidneyFinehirsh  June 30, 2014

    When I saw that you were posting on Martin Goodman, I have to admit I got a little shiver since I had previously commented on his presentation. How wrong was I going to turn out to be?

    But I hope your post might interest blog members to to read Goodman’s “The Ruling Class of Judaea: The Origins of the Jewish Revolt against Rome, A.D. 66-70.” The book goes through all the standard “wisdom” of the causes of the Jewish revolt in 67 CE, and discusses the lack of anti-Roman activities in the lead-up years. Goodman’s contention is the Judean aristocrats lacked the qualities sought by Rome for client state rulers. The result was intense and finally violent faction fight within the ruling class itself who then appealed for support to the Jewish masses on the basis of an anti-Roman agenda. The revolution is touched off by a joke by some young aristocrats that the Romans found insulting (Shades of Brian’s “Romanes Eunt Domus,”)

    The best part of the book is the interpretive analysis of the Josephus account of revolutionary Jerusalem that has the flavor of a on-the-scene journalistic report from the revolution itself. This is a book that deserves its reputation as a classic of Jewish history.

    My next project is Goodman’s “State and Society in Roman Galilee A.D. 132-212.” I understand that to be another classic.

  3. tawfiq  June 30, 2014

    What was your view of Prof. Steve Mason’s paper the next day?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  July 2, 2014

      It was a bit fast for me to follow — he zoomed through his power points so quickly that I couldn’t keep up. I wondered it he was giving a presentation that he had made in a different context and cutting it down to size as he went.

  4. Scott F  June 30, 2014

    How does this interact with the “apocalyptic preacher” view of Jesus? In part, preachers like him and John seem to draw on the resentment and shame of occupation. Of course, Jerusalem had been occupied on and off for some time. Was apocalypticism a simmering form of what exploded violently in three decades later?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  July 2, 2014

      Apocalpyticists did think that the world was an evil place and that God was soon to do something about it. But those like John the Baptist and Jesus — as I understand them — did not think that armed resistance was called for. God himself was going to intervene and take care of the Romans (and others).

      • Ethereal  July 20, 2014

        Jews were not all gnostics. For them- G+d created the Earth, & what G+d created, when assessed, was considered “GOOD”.
        “Preparation”, as promoted by John & Jesus, required an active participation- not passive. Perhaps this active participation was more about a battle for “Spiritual Will”- through conscious “peace-sewing”– a battle of the indomitable Will, rather than military Might?

        Besides that,
        Is it probable, as some have imagined, that crucifixion maybe something that Yeshua had witnessed in his formidable years? As it is an imaginable (mis)conception, that there were thousands of Jews strewn on crosses before Jesus began his ministry, an integral part of Jesus’ conditioning & subsequent ministry. “Take up your stauros [maybe construed as a political symbol]”- can be implied as taking up the political struggle of their time as being part of the religious experience.

        • Ethereal  July 21, 2014

          What about Judas the Galilean, who some revered as Moshiach. Judas, according to Josephus robbed the armory at Cephoras & tore down the golden eagle at the temple. He was considered the founder of zealotry? Anyways, Archelaeus did not handle these CHRONIC riots in Judea very well. Archelaeus massacred like a few thousand ppl or something like that? All preceding Jesus’ ministry. Actually the idea of Moshiach [anointed King] was nothing new to the Romans- & for Roman Occupation by the time Yeshua was on the scene- the title “Moshiach” had ominous allusions & threatening connotations. It’s ironic that Jesus’ alleged brothers had names shared by preceding Messianic Zealots in Judea- James, Simon, Judas.
          Herodians were the ruling class in Judea by the turn of the century. The Romans have been known to take advantage of vulnerable situations, annex, & farm taxes. Augustus sent Archelaeus to Gaul- due to his cruelty, Archelaeus was not very popular [nor other Herodians for that matter] & Pontius Pilot was the administered procurator in Judea [which probably was not the nicest guy either].

  5. BrianUlrich  June 30, 2014

    Interesting!

  6. RonaldTaska  June 30, 2014

    Wow! The idea that there was little Jewish rebellion during the life of Jesus is interesting and important especially for those who view Jesus as having been a political zealot. Thanks. It is always interesting to see things in a completely different way.

  7. TracyCramer
    TracyCramer  July 1, 2014

    Your mentioning Martin Goodman reminds me of how much your reading lists have helped direct my studies. (Meier, Sanders, Fredriksen, and others)

    To further our (my) studies:
    1. Would you give us a list of who you consider to be “top of the heap” scholars of the last 30 years or so?
    2. And then who you consider to be in the next tier of “pretty good” scholars?

    And as a future topic idea, perhaps, if you have or want to say something, what goes into a scholar deciding who are the great and pretty good scholars? Thank you, as always.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  July 2, 2014

      Ha! Top Heap. Here are a few: New Testament: E. P. Sanders; John Meier; Wayne Meeks; Bruce Metzger. Those active and on the scene now: Dale Allison; Dale Martin; Joel Marcus. Early Judaism: Shaye Cohen; E. P. Sanders; Seth Schwartz. NT Manuscripts: Eldon Epp; David Parker; Anne-Louise Luijendijk; Barbara Aland.

      Second Tier: I’m not going there! 🙂

  8. maxhirez  July 1, 2014

    “… the Python people were (errantly) reading the time of Jesus through the *lens* of the disaster that hit 35 or so years later. ”

    Fascinating point. As comedians I’m sure there were lots of facts that, intentionally or not, were temporally/geographically/culturally decontextualized for the sake of a laugh. I’m curious to know if you think they (and others who look to draw comedy from the era and region) missed any specific *accuracies* that could have been mined for a deeper gag.

  9. dick.pickett  July 1, 2014

    So, which of these would you recommend for background on Politics of First-Century Judaea?

    State and Society in Roman Galilee AD 132-212, 2nd edition, London 2000 ISBN 0-85303-380-3
    The Ruling Class of Judaea: The Origins of the Jewish Revolt Against Rome, A.D. 66-70 , Cambridge, 1987 ISBN 0-521-44782-8
    Mission and Conversion: Proselytizing in the Religious History of the Roman Empire, Oxford, 1994 ISBN 0-19-814941-7
    The Roman World, 44 BC-AD 180, London, 1997 ISBN 0-415-04970-9.
    (ed.) Jews in a Graeco-Roman World, Oxford, 1998 ISBN 0-19-815078-4
    (joint ed.) Apologetics in the Roman Empire: Pagans, Jews and Christians, Oxford, 1999 ISBN 0-19-826986-2
    (ed.) Oxford Handbook of Jewish Studies, Oxford, 2002 ISBN 0-19-829996-6
    “Judaism in the Roman World, collected essays, Leiden, 2007 ISBN 978-90-04-15309-7
    Rome and Jerusalem: The Clash of Ancient Civilizations, New York, 2007 ISBN 0-375-41185-2
    (joint ed) “Rabbinic Texts and the History of Late Roman Palestine”, Oxford,2010 ISBN 978-0-19-726474-4

  10. Fearguth
    Fearguth  July 1, 2014

    If Judea was relatively peaceful during Jesus’ lifetime, what happened between 33 and 66 CE that radicalized Judea and led to the Jewish revolt?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  July 2, 2014

      It’s really what happened in the mid-60’s. But it’s a very complicated story. I’d suggest you read Martin Goodman’s Ruling Class.

  11. ktn3654  July 2, 2014

    Lack of rebellious activity is not the same as lack of eagerness to throw out the Romans. There could have been plenty of Jews who hated the Romans, but who held back from outright rebellion due to lack of organization and fear of reprisals.

    What exactly would have happened around the year 50 to make Jews start hating Roman rule, if they had previously accepted it?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  July 2, 2014

      Not appreciating the Romans is not the same as urging armed rebellion! The problems started in the 60s — but it’s too complicated for a reply here. If you want a full discussion, see Martin Goodman’s Ruling Class.

      • Ethereal  July 24, 2014

        Excuse me Professor Ehrman, not thousands of messianic LEADERS, but thousands of messianic FOLLOWERS many of whom were massacred & many crucified- perhaps even something Jesus had witnessed in his early or formidable years. There were several legions dispatched from Syria, & were sent to Jerusalem, lead by the Roman general Barus to crush a revolt of about 20,000 troops, according to Josephus- all just to put down a “small time” uprising? Sepphoris was burned to the ground by Roman occupation. Judas the Galiean had 2 sons named “James” & “Simon”- MESSIANIC LEADERS [both names- also later given to Jesus brothers] who had lead a revolt around 48 C.E.- & were subsequently crucified by Rome- about 42 yrs after the revolt of Judas the Galiean- around the consensus- all incensed by the occupation of Rome accommodated by the corruption of the Herodians & the Sadducean High Priest- who did not take on the role of “priest”- in the subjective sense when people refer to the role of priest today- [hence the Pharisaic opposition]… Rather, the Sadducean High Priest assumed a role like the chief of police- whereas the role of the High Priest in the 1st century was not one of edification [I.e. like the religious role of the Pharisees]- whereas the populous had not taken their religious authority seriously- but rather the Sadducean High Priest assumed a political role- funneling taxes & had the authority arrest trouble makers- hence the Apostle Paul’s position as an arresting officer in relation to the Herodians [all of whom were granted Roman citizenship in perpetuity– even when Jews specifically were denied citizenship during the reign of Claudius- after Caligula & before Nero- who reigned from 41-51 C.E- who, sometime during his reign- exiled Jews living in Rome].

        It was not necessarily that Judean culture did NOT appreciate Rome, & actually despised Rome- this is given. It was the voluntary agreement that the Herodians had made with Rome- for symbiotic support- the political corruption- the tax farming- annexation- the virulence of the Herodian priesthood- the thorough, irreconcilable ruling class that was intolerably despised in Judean culture.

        Why was Archelaeus [- Herod’s son- 1 of the tetrarchs] removed or banished from Judea- & exiled to Gaul?- Archelaeus, who was considered cruel & inpt- even according Roman standards– when then Pontius Pilot was appointed the procurator by Rome.

        So then why did Caligula, according to Philo, complain about Pilot’s rule in Judea as something unjust and cruel- even according to the whimsical standards of Caligula??

        So the pattern of heightened Messianic expectation- & Messianic claims had threatening implications for Roman occupation given the preceding Messianic History in the first Century. Messianic expectations of the Judean culture, for the Romans & Sadducees, came with expectations for ” violent political unrest”. Why was John the Baptist beheaded? Why was Jesus put on trial, if he was a pacifist. Yet why aren’t the Pharisees involved? In Luke 13:31- Pharisees are warning Jesus of the Herodians [some suggest in hopes of steering Jesus to his death]? I assume it was because there was significant corruption- and a serious schismatic relation between religious authority & political authority of their time in the first century of Judea.

  12. SidneyFinehirsh  July 3, 2014

    Having just read Martin Goodman’s “The Ruling Class,” I heartily second your selection of this book as the history to read on 1st century Judea. Goodman makes good use of everything we really know about the period including a detailed look at Josephus — the essential source — but through a lens that views the Jewish historian with a healthy dose of the “criterion of dissimilarity.”

    I was also pleased to see you include on your list of top tier books the Columbia historian Seth Schwartz. The best introduction to his work is his latest book, published just last May: “The Ancient Jews from Alexander to Muhammad.” Obviously, this is a broader look at ancient Palestine than “The Ruling Class,” but it includes the innovative viewpoint of Professor Schwartz, particularly of Galilee from the 2nd through the 5th centuries. For those interested, you can check out the review I posted on Amazon. BTW: Schwartz was one of the last graduate students of Morton Smith.

    .

  13. madmargie  July 5, 2014

    I must be missing something. I bought the DVD to see what all the conversation was about and I thought it was pretty stupid. I couldn’t even finish it.

  14. madmargie  July 20, 2014

    Evidently! 🙂

  15. Ethereal  July 20, 2014

    Jews were not all gnostics. For them- G+d created the Earth, it was “GOOD”.

  16. Ethereal  July 22, 2014

    What about Judas the Galilean? There’s no doubt Romans were suspicious about Messiah claims- as the reputation precedes Jesus, even in his time. Any claim to Messiahship had portent connotations to the Roman occupation of the time. And what about others after Judas? James, Simon? Thousands were massacred , & thousands were crucified, no? All preceding, during, or after Jesus’ life? The opposition was against the Herodian ruling class, which were more Idumean than Jewish- their priest were recorded to have been imported from Egypt? Anyways people did not favor these virulent governors in Judea which had been accomadating for Rome, no doubt.

    So is it not sloppy scholarship to assert, that just because there was little record of violence, that by default there was peace- or at least passivity from 6-60 C.E.? Especially when the History & patterns preceding indicate just the opposite? Thousands of people partaking in uprisings “small time”? Talk about polemical scholasticism, & spiteful minimalization due to fundamental secular skepticism- geeez…

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  July 22, 2014

      I don’t think thousands of messianic pretenders were crucified. As I pointed out, Josephus was unable to come up with many examples. I’m not sure what is leading you to say that there were thousands. (I’m not sure which James you have in mind; Judas the Galilean and Simon during the Revolt are many decades apart, of course)

      • Ethereal  July 26, 2014

        NOT thousands of messianic LEADERS, but thousands of messianic FOLLOWERS many of whom were massacred & many crucified- perhaps even something Jesus had witnessed in his early or formidable years. There were several legions dispatched from Syria, & were sent to Jerusalem, lead by the Roman general Barus to crush a revolt WITH* about 20,000 troops, according to Josephus- all just to put down a “small time” uprising? Sepphoris was burned to the ground by Roman occupation.

        Judas the Galiean had 2 sons named “James” & “Simon”- MESSIANIC LEADERS [both names- also later given to Jesus brothers] who had lead a revolt around 48 C.E.- & were subsequently crucified by Rome- about 42 yrs after the revolt of Judas the Galiean- around the consensus- all incensed by the occupation of Rome accommodated by the corruption of the Herodians & the Sadducean High Priest- who did not take on the role of “priest”- in the subjective sense when people refer to the role of priest today- [hence the Pharisaic opposition]… Rather, the Sadducean High Priest assumed a role like the chief of police- whereas the role of the High Priest in the 1st century was not one of edification [I.e. like the religious role of the Pharisees]-whereas the populous had not taken their religious authority seriously- but rather the Sadducean High Priest assumed a political role- funneling taxes & had the authority arrest trouble makers- hence the Apostle Paul’s position as an arresting officer in relation to the Herodians [all of whom were granted Roman citizenship in perpetuity– even when Jews specifically were not allowed such priveledge [nor many Roman Centurions] citizenship during the reign of Claudius- after Caligula & before Nero-who reigned from 41-51 C.E- who, sometime during his reign- exiled Jews living in Rome].

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  July 27, 2014

          I’m not sure thousands of messianic followers were executed per se. Certainly thousands were killed in the political/military uprisings of 66-70 and 132-35.. But most of these were not following a messiah figure.

          • Ethereal  July 27, 2014

            Bar Kochba not Messianic? The death of leadership not significant? I.e. James the Tzaddik? Don’t conflate critical historical method with contrarian spite- w/ reluctance to consider.

  17. Ethereal  July 22, 2014

    The times must have been volatile as the earliest writer in the Bible- Paul writes in the 50’s as if the apocalypse was right around the corner. Is it possible that the polemical influences contributing to the Pauline Doctrines may have been asserting something apocalyptic of the like? Essenes? Or Zealots? Early Christians? Ebionites? Contributors to the Qumran Scriptures?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  July 22, 2014

      Apocalypticism can thrive in periods in which there is not politically violent unrest (as in 21st c. America e.g.!)

  18. Ethereal  July 26, 2014

    There is little documentation- so as a historian you got to put the pieces together before eliminating the impossible.
    Why did John the Baptist get executed?
    Why were Jews exiled from Rome by Claudius if they were not being trouble makers?
    Why were Messianic claims to Kingship so alarming, especially if Jesus was a pacifist, peace sewing preacher. If so why the passage-

    If you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. It is written: `And he was numbered with the transgressors’ ; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.” The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.” “That is enough,” he replied. (Luke 22:35-38, NIV)

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  July 27, 2014

      I’m not exactly sure what you’re asking. Jesus was executed for calling himself a king; the charge was political, of wanting to set up an alternative government to Rome in Judea. That made him an enemy of the state.

  19. Ethereal  July 27, 2014

    This is all around the consensus and after, all according Josephus- & with details in Philo. James the son of Judas the Galilean, was executed crucifixion style. His brother Simon was also executed as well as their following… Judas & his following were massacred- inciting a revolt that called for legions. I don’t know how you can compare that to 21st century idea of apocalypticism to the Romans taking advantage of a volatile situation through annexation & tax farming. Not to mention what was regarded as Holy land.

    Nevertheless, what they did, probably had something to do with revolutionary theology- or Messianic expectations- as inheriting the Maccabean legacy. Why was John the Baptist killed? Influence?
    Correct me if I’m wrong here- but crosses lined the road to Sephoris? Both names (tho names were common) were given to Jesus brothers. Judas happens to be the name attributed to Judas Maccabee. I think a significant question would be whether or not Jesus’ family celebrated Chanukah?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  July 28, 2014

      John was evidently killed because he seriously offended the local ruler. You shouldn’t do that.

  20. Ethereal  July 27, 2014

    Messianic claims had portent, threatening connotations or implications to Rome. Undoubtedly. Otherwise Fascist Rome did not care what you believed- as long as you did not start trouble- and pay your taxes. The reputation for violent unrest precedes Yeshua.
    If Josephus or Philo is the source for disambiguation- then yes, the corruption was prevalent- pervaded the religious & political institution– the taxes were exorbitant [as you may know upsets people even today], Fascist Rome was putting down threats- utilizing the Herodian office. And yes there were thousands massacred and some crucified, all before the Jewish wars- 66-70- according to Josephus. People just do not get treated that way today, or ever; unless of course was an attempt to suppress.
    You cannot pretend to separate their Faith from their National identity- as to suggest Faith was only 1 option among a multiplicity of other options- as if Judeans in the 1st century were always discouraged to do anything valiant- due that they were cowardly coerced into passivity- as logic had yet to be a reason to cop out — especially considering the living conditions of those who had not benefitted from political/religious corruption- probably the majority- hence the message to the “the meek”- & the message to the poor- who really did not have much to lose.

    • Ethereal  July 28, 2014

      I’m sorry about my anxious remarks. I’m just trying to figure the historical ambiguity concerning Jesus identity. I do try to stay in line with a devotional study in respect to some form of Liberal Theology- Deist, Unitarian or whatever.
      I’m just curious, it seems your implying Jesus was a pacifist? How does that resolve with his followers who carried weapons in the their cloaks- despite that it could have been for self defense- do you think Jesus approved due to extenuating circumstances? What about the few subtle references to swords and stuff? Just metaphors?

      • Bart Ehrman
        Bart Ehrman  July 28, 2014

        I”m rethinking my view of Jesus as a pacifist, because of some of the research done by my friend DAle Martin, who teaches NT at Yale.

  21. SidneyFinehirsh  July 27, 2014

    One of the pleasures on being at the Brian conference in London last month was the opportunity to ask questions directly to the host of great scholars in attendance without being a scholar oneself. So after Martin Goodman presented his thesis that Judea was pretty quiescent during the first century CE until 66, I asked him how a country under occupation could be peaceful — there must have been at least a high degree of resentment against the Romans among the Jewish population.

    I thought his response was a profound description of how historical analysis should be done. He said, “There may have been discontent, but we have no evidence for it.”

  22. Ethereal  July 28, 2014

    Haha. Right.!
    Well, isn’t it possible that the reason may have been because the Herodians, who lead from mere position- a position that was not acquired by the favor of Judean people [but rather as beneficiaries to Roman curia/rule], may have felt threatened by the heavy leadership of John who had greater influence & consent amidst freely willing masses. How do you think all those people felt when their venerable leader was put down?

    A kind of grass roots type of movement- which are phenomenal occurrences throughout history.

    Despite John’s remark about the the unacceptable behavior of the Herodians [Josephus gives his remark about it] ruling in violation to Torah was not consensual- at least not before adherents.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  July 29, 2014

      They were probably devastated.

      • Ethereal  July 30, 2014

        Ha ha… But of course. Very insightful & empathetic Professor Ehrman. Do you ever pause to think whether your speculative conjecture is overly excessive?

        Isn’t it possible that this could have been a veritable excuse for insurrection- violent unrest- etc? Or been one of the straws [can’t say it was the last] that broke the camels back?- as their Faith & loss of religious leadership may have been the indicative reason for resistance & revolt, I.e. “revolutionary theology”- star prophecy, etc- or w/e theological dictum that may have required/implored humans to take an active role as having means to participate- whether in a battle of military might, or of Spiritual Will?

        Isn’t it perfunctory scholarship to assert, that just because there was little record of violence, that by default there was peace- complacent tolerance- or at least timid passivity from 6-60 C.E.?

        Suppression is a conspiratorial aspect of history, not to say that suppression has not or does not phenomenally occur. We may never know what happened to all those documents that were accessible to Eusebius. Or why we do not know or have any accessible source copies of Hegisepus for instance- if copies were made. Except what reason may there have been to copy those documents deemed heretical?

        Is there any evidence- or reason to suggest- that such such vital, historical documentation may have been intentionally disposed of, edited, excised, or obfuscated in attempt to suppress the critical opposition impertinent, according to the impetus of the “orthodox” agenda?

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  July 31, 2014

          Like most historians, I *constantly* question my views, assumptions, claims, views, and conclusions. Would that more people did! My view is that if you want to put forward a theory — such as that there was a lot more violence in 6-66 CE than we have a record of — you need either to cite evidence or give an argument.

    • SidneyFinehirsh  July 29, 2014

      Ethereal

      The reason we have no evidence of discontent before 66CE, is simply that George Gallup wasn’t born yet.

      We have no way of knowing the sentiment of the masses of Jewish farmers and tradesman because they were illiterate. They did not record their thoughts and discontents as did the small circle of scribes and elite commentators such as the authors of the Gospels. The best we got is some papyri from the 2nd century that tell us that some ordinary Jews used Roman rather than Jewish courts. Christian writers may not have cared for the Herodians, but Jewish writers of the Mishna looked back on them rather fondly — glorified the Temple that Herod built and considered Agrippa I as a pious King. But all that tells us nothing about what the Jew in the streets (and the fields) thought in 1st century until they actively, en mass, engaged in revolution.

      Your generalization, “A kind of grass roots type of movement- which are phenomenal occurrences throughout history” is just that, a generalization. We can never know if it applies to any specific period of time in any historical period without evidence.

      Reading your own beliefs into history is precisely the error committed by Christian Fundamentalists and ideologues of all strips.

      • Ethereal  August 1, 2014

        Generalization, yea- perhaps I am internalizing a bit. But definitely not in favor of Rabbinic or Christian or Islamic view point. I think there is a paradox. It may be difficult to Understand the development of doctrines & theology without knowing History. It will be difficult to fully appreciate the value of Historical phenomenon without sympathizing or empathizing with what people believed. That is doing our best to Understanding their perspective- perhaps enabling one to discern from the lesson- what a person got right, or what that same person may have gotten wrong. That’s the question for me, when taking on a devotional observation- What is the lesson- what is relevant?

        John the Baptist: is a historical figure- & a significant grass roots leader. All that Im saying, is that such devastation subsequent to unjust punishment of such pietistic leaders may have been significant reasons for insurgence, or uprising.

  23. Ethereal  August 1, 2014

    I was just kidding Ehrman, from what I can tell, which is obviously very limited- I sense conservative scholarship, shrewd & precise- very understandable & palatable for lamens like myself. Coming from me, it is likely the least of commplements. Why I can appreciate your scholarship.  I was only responding to your laconic response.

  24. Ethereal  August 1, 2014

    Plus- what about Josephus, Philo, & the Dead Sea scrolls? What about the patterns preceding- before and after that mysterious time from which there is so little to extract [6-66 C.E.]? Or Roman records- Archelaeus was removed from Judea- so was Pontius Pilot- why? Cruelty? Jews were removed from Rome during the reign of Claudius. Why? Anti-Semetism- or because they were being trouble makers- oor? Its just simply interesting to me.

  25. Ethereal  August 5, 2014

    Couldn’t you presume just the inverse: “There may have been complacent peace, but we have no evidence for it”?? Tacitus was not the only witness. History is hardly empirical- it has even been said that “poetry is history”- the record- the literature & iconic art is history. History is a matter of probability- as Ehrman has mentioned before- especially when one is not generalizing. Probability is like statistical reliability. Even trust- in source, reputation & credibility, no?

    The stats precede the latter. The Roman Centurions did not have a reputation for being all too “nice”. Of course they did not want “widespread slaughter”- as much as they probably wanted to annex- farm taxes, & complacent submission.

    Ex. Josephus, TheJewish War 2.224, describes how in 53 CE a Roman soldier caused a riot in Jerusalem- by bending over- bare ass mooning & farting at a crowd of Jews gathered around the Temple during Passover.
    Procurators in Judea were removed, in the instance of Archelaeus- son of Herod- Pontius Pilot- Cumanus. Why? (A question of probability). Vespasian, later, [probably] could not wait to pull Roman Centurions out of Judea. Probably because they were ill mannered bullies looking to antagonize. I mean the Jews are only human. You think they were willing to tolerate such blatant indecency on one of their great venerated festivals- often still venerate
    d in the Christian tradition today? Times were much more hostile. After a riot ensued- so many were put down [Josephus-perhaps emphatically- estimated that 10,000 were massacred]. It did not take long before the feast became a cause of mourning for the whole nation [Jewish Wars 2.227]. An estimation 2,996 died on 9/11- which is stated on stickers- “we will never forget!”- so to put in comparative perspective- a death toll significantly less- which does not make it any less heinous or tragic.
    Not to mention the looting [2.228]. They tore up their sacred book of Torah- & burned it [2.229].
    So maybe it is a mistake to view Judea in the time of Yeshua as a chronic, “seething pit of desperate Jews eager to rise up in violent insurrection against the Romans”- but it would be just as perfunctory, to assert there was pervasive peace. That is to say, that- shephards were merrily feeding their flocks on the hillside. Wouldn’t it be naive to suggest that Jews were all handing out daisies to Roman Centurion- welcoming their occupation?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 5, 2014

      Newspapers, magazines, and historians — ancient and modern — tend to report events (wars) rather than non-events (peace).

      • Ethereal  August 5, 2014

        Given the account in the Wars 2.226-229- peace, certainly would be an anomaly worth recording- as it is a matter of religious/political/foreign relations.

        I’ll reaffirm– Perhaps it is a mistake to view Judea in the time of Yeshua as a chronic, “seething pit of desperate Jews eager to rise up in violent insurrection against the Romans”- but it would be just as perfunctory, to assert there was pervasive peace. That is to say, that- shephards were merrily feeding their flocks on the hillside. Wouldn’t it be naive to suggest that Jews were all handing out daisies to Roman Centurion- welcoming their occupation?

        • Ethereal  August 5, 2014

          Both are phenomenal. Which is probably more natural? Especially when the forces have such vitriolic potential. When there is a clash of standards. Clash of values.

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  August 6, 2014

          I don’t know anyone who suggests that!!

  26. Ethereal  August 7, 2014

    Of course not! The last suggestion is just as ridiculous as the 1st suggestion that this post is basically disputing, refuting, or debunking.

    That whole epistemology of knowing what is, by eliminating what it is not- is not free from assertion. We are still left with a historical vacuum- without the supplement of resolution. If all that critical scholars can do here is arbitrarily tell us what probably is not historical- without telling us what is historical- then why don’t you quit your job? Aren’t you finished with the deconstruction? Next subject- next book? If the sources are all the same- discounting the human faculty of imagination & where we place our trust; discounting Osmosis of Faith & Hermetic speculation- scholars arbitrarily set the boundaries for what we can & cannot know- given all the sources available to usual- yet distinct people that are all subject to the natural limitations of human intelligence.

    • Ethereal  August 7, 2014

      I was saying Roman standards & Jewish standards of this time were obviously opposing. Roman Centurions were obviously patronizing, condescending, indecent- yet secular & tolerating. The forces at play had such vitriolic potential. It was not one extreme or the other- both opposing forces phenomenal- yet we are left with a paradoxical interlude! A vacuum of historical despondency! What’s the point!? Believers are only left to reconcile with Faith in G+d. It should not bother an agnostic to abandon the topic altogether. What does it mean but scoff, scorn, folly, or rubbish?

  27. Ethereal  August 7, 2014

    I was saying Roman standards & Jewish standards of this time were obviously opposing. Roman Centurions were obviously patronizing, condescending, indecent- yet secular & tolerating. The forces at play had such vitriolic potential. It was not one extreme or the other- both opposing forces phenomenal- yet we are left with a paradoxical interlude! A vacuum of historical despondency! What’s the point!? Believers are only left to reconcile with Faith in G+d. It should not bother an agnostic to abandon the topic altogether. What does it mean but scoff, scorn, folly, or rubbish?

  28. WadCheber  January 15, 2015

    Yes, Galilee and Judea 35 years before the revolt was peaceful and calm, just like France showed no signs of an impending revolution in the 1770’s, such as, I don’t know, many Frenchmen joining a revolution in the American colonies of their own accord. And America itself was totally at peace with no tension between north and south in the 1830’s.

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