Herod and Hadrian
Have the Gospels delivered us a fake Jesus?
Damien F. Mackey
“Allegorical or supposed “higher truths” exist in a dimension all their own
and a fake historicism confuses the unwary”.
At a site claiming and arguing the ‘Jesus Never Existed’:
we read of situations that are seemingly quite unfavourable regarding the reliability of the Gospels, but that actually need to be considered anew in a revised context.
Here are some excerpts to which I shall add my own comments wherever I consider necessary:
For two hundred years, the municipality of Aelia – the erstwhile city of Jerusalem – was demonstrably and triumphantly pagan, enjoying all the refinements of a Roman colonia.
It was also a garrison city for legio X Fretensis – the Roman legion which had destroyed Gamala, Qumran and Masada. In the siege of Jerusalem in 70 AD the Tenth had camped on the Mount of Olives, and rained ballisticae onto the city. In the war of 135 it had reduced the fortress of Betar, killing the messianic claimant and the last of his supporters. Post-war, legio decima was heavily involved in reconstruction, its expertise deployed in a vast number of public works.
This pagan past is dimly perceived today, even though the Roman imprint determined the size and layout of the city for more than a thousand years. “Pagan Jerusalem” is regarded by all and sundry as an alien interlude in an essentially Judeo-Christian story. Yet Aelia Capitolina is crucial in the history of Christianity. It was while Jupiter was venerated on “Temple Mount” and Venus honoured in the heart of the city that the fable of Jesus was given form and substance. It was upon, not the city of Herod, but the 2nd century city of Hadrian that the gospellers imposed their fable.
My comment: Indeed, that would all have been a “gospellers fable” if there really had been a “war of 135 [AD]”, but that supposed “war”, or revolt of the Jews, was the Maccabean revolt, but now projected onto a C2nd AD ‘screen’. See e.g. my article:
Sorting out the Jewish Revolts
“Pagan Jerusalem” was the effect of the paganising of the Jews under the influence of the Macedonian Greek king, Antiochus IV “Epiphanes”.
And it was at this very time that Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem, according to my article:
A New Timetable for the Nativity of Jesus Christ
So, regarding the above statement: “It was upon, not the city of Herod, but the 2nd century city of Hadrian that the gospellers imposed their fable”, this is partly right and partly wrong. For, according to this present series, Herod was Hadrian.
A Roman Colonia
“The whole nation (of the Jews) was prohibited from this time on by a decree, and by the commands of Adrian, from ever going up to the country about Jerusalem. For the emperor gave orders that they should not even see from a distance the land of their fathers. Such is the account of Aristo of Pella. And thus, when the city had been emptied of the Jewish nation and had suffered a total destruction of its ancient inhabitants, it was colonized by a different race, and the Roman city which subsequently arose was called Aelia, in honour of the emperor Aelius Adrian.”
– Eusebius, History of the Church, 39.6.3.
If 4th century Christian historian Eusebius is to be believed, the new city that Emperor Hadrian built upon the ruins of Jerusalem was colonized by a “new race of Gentiles“. When the gospels took the shape familiar to us today Jerusalem was a memory. In its stead stood the Romano-Hellenic city of Aelia Capitolina, a minor town of the province of Syria Palestina.
My comment: No, the “new race of Gentiles” was comprised of the apostate Jews of the Maccabean era now co-mingling with pagan Greek Gentiles. But Jerusalem was still there.
Coins issued by Hadrian confirm that Colonia Aelia Capitolina was founded about the year 132 AD, before, not after, the second war of the Jews. It was originally intended to be the emperor’s gift to the Jewish people ….
My comment: Obviously no coin issued by Hadrian would be marked with “the year 132 AD”.
The Seleucid Greek colony (“Colonia”) was a prelude to the Maccabean revolt now described:
But soon after Hadrian returned to the west resentful religious reactionaries placed themselves at the head of impoverished peasants and urban malcontents and began a well-planned second war against Rome. Evidently, in munitions workshops Jewish craftsmen had deliberately spoiled weapons intended for the Roman army and stored the rejects for future use.
My comment: Enter the revolutionary Maccabees, the most outstanding of whom would be Simon – who would become known as Bar Kochba (or ben Kosiba):
Three years of vicious warfare against rebels led by Simon ben Kosiba left the emperor furious with the Jews. When the revolt was eventually crushed, Hadrian wiped off Judaea from the map [sic]. Privileges which the Jews had enjoyed from the time of Julius Caesar were revoked.
My comment: For my doubts on the historicity of ‘Julius Caesar’ and of some of the textbook Roman Republican history, see my “A New Timetable” article above, and see also:
Horrible Histories. Retracting Romans
Except for the ninth of Av, the day of mourning, the Jews faced penalties for even laying eyes on the city. Under the edicts of Hadrian the Roman administration made no distinction between Judeo-Christians and orthodox Jews – all were expelled.
Not to be thwarted, the emperor pressed ahead with his plans for the new city. His architects marked out a colony extending further north than the earlier [sic] Herodian city – its full extent is yet to be established. But Aelia would no longer be a city for the Jews. Under new Roman laws they were forbidden to live in the city or anywhere between Jerusalem and Hebron. Capital punishment faced any Jew who so much as stepped foot in the city. The Aelia which arose would make no concessions to the Jews.
The city itself, no longer the hub of a theocracy, took on the status of a minor provincial town. No major trade route passed its way and rabbinic Judaism established itself elsewhere. Caesarea, the provincial capital, became the city of choice for both the Jewish elite and ambitious artisans, attracted by the thriving port and Hellenistic lifestyle. Aelia, lost in the high country, was on the road to nowhere.
But Aelia was a city with a dimly perceived “past” that would colour a wondrous tale of a saviour god. Who would have anticipated that within a few centuries this minor provincial town would flourish as the “centre of the earth” and enjoy the dubious honour of being the maelstrom of conflict and war for the next two millennia?
Jesus in the city of Hadrian?
“Jerusalem … was so thoroughly laid even with the ground by those that dug it up to the foundation, that there was left nothing to make those that came thither believe it had ever been inhabited.” – Josephus, War VII.1,1.
“And Jesus answering said unto him, Seest thou these great buildings? there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.” – Mark 13.2.
My comment: This prophecy of Jesus was fulfilled to the letter, and there was no subsequent destruction of Jerusalem in 135 AD, in some imaginary, so-called Second Revolt:
“… there shall not be left one stone upon another”. How to explain Jerusalem today?
The whole world knows that the gospel pageant is set in the first half of the first century. Rather more pertinent is determining precisely when and by whom the fabulous tale was concocted [sic]. The inspired religious writers of the second century [sic] – who quite possibly had no familiarity with real Jerusalem at all – would have been very aware that the city had changed drastically in a century of turmoil and war. But, in fact, that hiatus helped to establish their salvation drama as a cosmic event. The gospellers’ Jerusalem was no mere geography but was the Holy City, a sacred mountain where God had communed with his chosen people.
Aelia’s existence on the ruins of Jerusalem – erasing all that had gone before – underscored the transcendent and timeless nature of the gospel message. Divinity had intruded briefly into human affairs and, for the Christian story writers, the comings and goings of Jesus had been a sacred drama, occurring not in simple past and common place but in “sacred time” and “sacred space“.
Sacred space is replete with a Holy of Holies, hallowed ground, Paradise, and – inevitably – an Abode of the Damned. Sacred space has place for a “centre”, “four corners” and the “ends” of the earth and for a firmament that “divides the waters from the waters” (Genesis 1.6). In sacred space zodiacal coordinates and the position of the stars have meaning (“And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars” – Luke 21.25.)
Sacred time is no less a departure from rationality – and is certainly not linear, chronological and unidirectional. What importance has normal time to eternal truths or eternal beings? – a day is as a year or a millennium. Sacred time has an “In the Beginning”, an “End Time”, a “time before time”, “first and last days” and, by inference, an indeterminate “meantime”. The once and future king is always with us, his pithy “wisdom” statements are true now, have always been true, and will remain true for all time. The superhero who utters them does so in times past, present and future. In this quirky universe Joshua can make the sun stand still and a sacrificial redeemer can still live two thousand years after his death, forever dying and resurrecting.
Allegorical or supposed “higher truths” exist in a dimension all their own and a fake historicism confuses the unwary. The problem arises when the theological dreamscape is misinterpreted as literal truth and lesser minds impose the cosmic event onto a real geography and intrude a holy pageant into real history. ….
My comment: In a properly revised context, it will clearly be seen to be, not a mental imposition by “lesser minds, but “a real geography and … real history”.