The Roman-Jewish War is generally dated between +/- 66 to 70 CE but this period is actually the massive, final stage of an insurrection that began with Rome’s installation of the non-Jew Herod as “king of the Jews” in 37 BCE. By the year +/- 30 CE the insurrection seems to have grown to a guerilla war against Rome and a revolution against the collaborationist Herodian regime. It appears that the insurrection itself may have been led by lower-level temple functionaries under the leadership of the man referred to as “James, the brother of Jesus” in Christian scripture. In Galatians 1:13 Paul describes himself a youthful revolutionary:
“you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it…”
According to Luke’s Acts Paul was also present at Stephen’s death by stoning following his trial for “blasphemy.” Not only was he enthusiastically supportive of Stephen’s punishment but immediately after describes how he went door to door hunting and arresting “Christians” in Jerusalem If events according to Acts are taken as “fact” then there is a problem with chronology since Stephen’s trial is generally ascribed to a much later date than Paul’s vision on the road to Damascus.
Neither Galatians nor Acts of the Apostles provides dates for Paul’s “anti-Christianism” but his activities must have preceded 33 CE, the year suggested for his mission to “Damascus.” And if we accept the chronology laid out for Acts then the date of Paul’s mission to Damascus roughly corresponds to the year of Jesus’ crucifixion. Which opens the question: Since neither “Christian” nor a “church of God” would have preceded or even immediately appeared following the crucifixion, who were the object of Paul’s “persecution”?
Accepting Paul in Galatians then his likely victims would not have been “Christians” but opponents of the insurrection: supporters of Rome and its Herodian collaborationist regime. And since a “Jerusalem church” would also not have preceded the crucifixion itself then the “church” and the mission of the Jerusalem leadership also demands redefining. James and the leadership were social revolutionaries, not religious reformers. And by this telling Paul’s conversion was not limited to religious reform, his anti-Judaism not just targeting Jewish religious practice: It was also political. Paul, who identified himself of Herodian lineage returned to his Herodian roots: Paul was/became counterrevolutionary.
VII. Paul, anti-Judaism, and the Jewish Problem
There is no way to establish a definitive timeline for Christian scripture, to separate history from literature since both are based on a scripture-determined narrative: a closed circuit. And outside of Paul’s epistles, and only half of those remaining documents collected in the Christian bible are considered by historians as authentic (not “historical” regarding the life and mission of Jesus for which he had no independent knowledge). What is important at this point in our discussion is not the definition of “historicity”, but the evolution and danger to Jew and Judaism emergent from that corollary of Christian Promise, its Jewish Problem.
Stereotypes are not dependent on evidence to be convincing. Were they influenced by “education” they might long-since have vanished with the “Age of Reason.” Such well-designed and intended efforts as those by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) intended to promote “understanding” of Jews by American Christians should, after a century of effort, show some measure of success in reducing antisemitism. Instead ADL statistics drawn from its annual polling of non-Jewish Americans begun in the 1960’s shows insignificant change, up or down, year to year. And many of those same Christian denominations previously most responsive and cooperative with ADL efforts are today at the forefront of political efforts, including BDS, to isolate and weaken if not destroy Israel, risen from the ashes of the West’s nearly successful final solution to its Jewish Problem.
Common Western stereotypes of Jews are inspired and justified by scriptural anti-Judaism. They reside just below social consciousness waiting to surface in response to such social stressors as economic distress or military threat. Seventeen centuries viewing Jews as mysterious and demonic (“John” gospel), as capable even of murdering God (all four gospels and Paul): many of the most potent stereotypes surviving today took final form during the Middle Ages, a time of radical social change, of intense superstition in which Satan was a living presence and Jews were suspected of sorcery, and worse. As appeared in Germany in the 1930’s and ‘40’s, and today reemerging in Europe, antisemitic stereotypes are effective as outlet for social frustration and rage.
How separate Paul’s intentions, whatever his motives, from their adaptation by the authors of the gospels; or the explanation of Christian scripture by theologians from Augustine to Luther to Presbyterian advocacy of Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS), the present-day effort to delegitimize Israel’s right to exist affirmed in the 2010 Vatican Conclave on the Middle East:
At the Special Synod of Bishops for the Middle-East
(Photo by Reuters)
In its closing statement the Church reaffirmed its continuing promotion of Jewish Problem as,
“We Christians cannot speak of the ‘promised land’ as an exclusive right for a privileged Jewish people. This promise was nullified by Christ... In the kingdom of God… there is no longer a chosen people.”