Skip to comments.'They Show No Respect for Their Caesars'
Posted on 12/18/2006 5:49:10 PM PST by SJackson
|'They Show No Respect for Their Caesars'
by Gerald A. Honigman
Dec 18, '06 / 27 Kislev 5767
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Named for a local Bedouin tribe, the Tel El-Amarna tablets (which can now be found mostly in the Berlin and British Museums) were mostly the official correspondence between Pharaoh Amenhotep IV - Akhenaten - and his governors and vassals from places such as Canaan, Syria, Babylonia, etc. They date mostly from around 1380 BCE and were written in Akkadian, the language of diplomacy of the era.
So, what does all of this have to do with Chanukah?
Now, guess what repeatedly comes out in this official correspondence between Pharaoh and his vassals in Canaan and the surrounding areas? Complaints about invasions of the Habiru, the Hebrews.
While some scholars debate the details, most agree that the time - with even newer confirmations by excavations in Jericho - fits into the period of Joshua's conquests of Canaan.
Like many other accounts in the Hebrew Bible, we indeed have good supporting evidence from elsewhere to support the Jews' own version of these events. And what makes it even better is that this often comes from those viewing the events from the "other side" of the picture.
This is no small point. Corroboration is very important to any serious scholar. Not many religious texts can match the corroboration found for those of the Jews.
There are indeed many examples of this, but the one I'd like to review before tying all of this together is one of my favorites. It involves the Arab claim that they were the original "Palestinians."
There was no country or nation known as "Palestine" during the time of Jesus. The land was known as Judaea and its inhabitants were Judaeans - Jews. Tacitus and Dio Cassius were famous Roman historians who wrote extensively about Judaea's attempt to remain free from the Soviet Union of its day, the conquering Roman Empire. They lived and wrote during, or not long after, the two major revolts of the Jews in 66-73 CE and 133-135 CE. They make no mention of this land being called "Palestine" or its people "Palestinians." And they knew the differences between Jews and Arabs, as well:
Titus was appointed by his father to complete the subjugation of Judaea.... [He] commanded three legions in Judaea itself.... To these he added the twelfth from Syria and the third and twenty-second from Alexandria.... [A]mongst his allies were a band of Arabs, formidable in themselves and harboring towards the Jews the bitter animosity usually subsisting between neighboring nations . (The Works of Tacitus Vol. II, Book V)After the first revolt, Rome issued thousands of Judaea Capta coins, which can be seen today in museums all over the world. Notice, please - "Judaea Capta" and not "Palaestina Capta." Additionally, to celebrate his victory, the Arch of Titus was erected and stands tall in Rome to this very day.
When, some sixty years later, Hadrian decided to further desecrate the site of the destroyed Temple of the Jews by erecting a pagan structure there, it was the grandchildren's turn to take on their mighty conquerors. The result of the struggle of this tiny nation for its freedom and independence was, perhaps, as predictable as that which would have occurred had Latvia taken on the Soviet Union during its heyday of power. Unfortunately, two thousand years later, the Jews are still in that same struggle.
Listen next to this quote from Dio Cassius:
580,000 men were slain, nearly the whole of Judaea made desolate. Many Romans, moreover, perished in this war (the Bar Kochba Revolt). Therefore, Hadrian in writing to the Senate did not employ the opening phrase commonly affected by the emperors, "I and the legions are in health."The Emperor was so enraged at the Jews' struggle for freedom in their own land that, in the words of the esteemed modern historian, Bernard Lewis, "Hadrian made a determined attempt to stamp out the embers not only of the revolt, but also of Jewish nationhood and statehood... obliterating its Jewish identity." Wishing to end, once and for all, Jewish hopes, Hadrian renamed the land itself from Judaea to "Syria Palaestina" - Palestine - after the Jews' historic enemies, the Philistines, a non-Semitic sea people from the eastern Mediterranean or Aegean area.
So sorry, Arabs. Trying to hijack the latter's identity as you've tried with that of the Jews, won't work either.
Let's see what all of this has to do with Chanukah.
In the 1970s, while a graduate student at the Kevorkian Center For Near Eastern Studies, based at NYU's Washington Square campus, I had the privilege of having Dr. F. E. Peters as one of my professors. A leading expert of the ancient Near East, one of his specialties was ancient Greece. Fluent in the language and immersed in the primary sources, Peters's The Harvest Of Hellenism largely supports the Jews' own accounts of their struggle for independence against the Seleucid successors to Alexander the Great. After the latter's death, his generals fought for the pieces of the pie. Ptolemy wound up with one of the main prizes, Egypt.
Listen to these scattered quotes from Peters, who devoted a good portion of this over-800-page book to the same subject found in the Jews' own writings in the First and Second Books of Maccabees:
The Seleucids, like all other Hellenistic monarchs, with the exception of the Macedonian Antigonids, were worshipped as gods.... Jew and Hellene clashed on the issue of conduct.... Hellenism could allow almost any eccentricity in private behavior... however... the polis found it difficult to accept a large-scale and public refusal to share in its life and rites.Whatever else may or may not have happened in Judaea during the time of Antiochus IV Epiphanies ("the god made manifest"), and while the good professor takes issue with some aspects of the Jews' own accounts, both he and Jewish tradition agree that the clash above inevitably led to the first war ever fought, at least partially, over religious freedom.
Proclaiming yourself a god among pagans was one thing. They could just add Antiochus to a long list. But to do this among Jews, whose religion teaches that no man, regardless of how great, could be Divine, was explosive. Add to this Antiochus's attempt at squashing the Jews' efforts to retain their own way of life and religious practices, and the revolt of the Maccabees became inevitable.
Here's the Roman historian Tacitus (Volume II, Book V) again, writing on the same subject, after the Jews took on the Romans:
The Jews acknowledge one God only, and conceive of Him by the mind alone, condemning as impious all who, with perishable materials, wrought into the human shape, form representations of the Deity. That Being, they say, is above all, and everlasting, neither susceptible of likeness nor subject to decay. In consequence, they allow no resemblance of Him in their city, much less in their temples. In this way, they do not flatter their kings, nor show their respect for their Caesars.That above passage, by the way, explains the main schism between Judaism and Christianity as well.
At a time when the "Jew of the Nations" - who was making history and causing a revolution in religion, ethics and morality millennia before most peoples made their historical debuts - still has to fight for its rights among newcomers on the world scene, the story of Chanukah and its message of re-dedication is as important today as it was when Judah "the Hammer" took on mighty pagan rulers over two thousand years ago.
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I remember being at the British Museum a number of years ago and coming across tablets that represented the correspondence between the Pharaoh and his ambassador to what was later to become Israel. The ambassador wrote, (and here I'm paraphrasing a little, of course) "The Habiru hate the Arabs and the Arabs hate the Habiru, they're always fighting and I can't get them to stop. This is hopeless. I'm giving up and coming home." Some things never change.
Interesting. I enjoy reading articles like this one.
Herodotus had referred to a part of Syria as "Palaistine" in the 5th century (v.u.Z.), possibly meaning a smaller area than the territory included in the British mandate in 1947. Hadrian was a philhellene and may have picked up the name from Herodotus.
It's the old Issac and Ishmael thing. Why the hell don't we factor this into our middle east policy of creating representative government?
In AD 135, after putting down the Bar Kochba revolt, the second major Jewish revolt against Rome, the Emperor Hadrian wanted to blot out the name of the Roman "Provincia Judaea" and so renamed it "Provincia Syria Palaestina", the Latin version of the Greek name and the first use of the name as an administrative unit.
For now, I think their Caesar figurehead is a mad leprechaun on Fox News. ...or Buchanan, or Novak. Alright, their are too many to count. Maybe they're working from cells (groups with no obvious heirarchy) for now.
So who are the romans nowdays? Italians? Catholics? WHat?
...all who would try to ban public display of a menorah, IMO.
I think of "Rome" as the spirit and religion of ancient Rome. It's not only Catholic, and not all Catholics are on the bandwagon to destroy Judaism. Most of my dad's family was Catholic. A few years ago, an ex-relative who is a "holy roller" told me that "the Jews are going to hell" (very contradictory to her friendlier comments of the 1960s). That, after a few years of my study into the history of my former religion (including re-reading the "New Testament") and along with the rise in frequency of public comments against Judaism since the "Passion" play, prompted me to leave my former religion behind. I was a Southern Baptist for most of life, but thanks to Mel, Buchanan, Novak, some comments from television preachers against Jewish people over the past few years, a few relatives, our neighbors, and much study of the history of religion in Rome and Europe, I am no longer an xian. There's no way that I'll go back. I even renounced my boyo-hood.
Go ahead. Call me a "bigot." Many others here have.
"Bigot" aint even close to what I was thinking.
More like lost, confused, without a clue...
Christianity as I know it is not anti jew. Quite the opposite. The christianity I know is fiercely pro jew. THey (jews) are literally gods people as I understand the bible. Their only flaw being that they failed to recognize the savior for who he was. I was taught that gods chosen people will realize their mistake at the second coming and then convert to christianity and be saved.
According to what I've been taught, the proof that they are gods favorite is that they and their culture has survived to this day.
The Jews acknowledge one God only, and conceive of Him by the mind alone, condemning as impious all who, with perishable materials, wrought into the human shape, form representations of the Deity. That Being, they say, is above all, and everlasting, neither susceptible of likeness nor subject to decay. In consequence, they allow no resemblance of Him in their city, much less in their temples. In this way, they do not flatter their kings, nor show their respect for their Caesars.
That above passage, by the way, explains the main schism between Judaism and Christianity as well.
15Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. 16They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. "Teacher," they said, "we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren't swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are. 17Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?"
18But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, "You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? 19Show me the coin used for paying the tax." They brought him a denarius, 20and he asked them, "Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?"
21"Caesar's," they replied.
Then he said to them, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's."
22When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.
Named for a local Bedouin tribe, the Tel El-Amarna tablets (which can now be found mostly in the Berlin and British Museums) were mostly the official correspondence between Pharaoh Amenhotep IV - Akhenaten - and his governors and vassals from places such as Canaan, Syria, Babylonia, etc. They date mostly from around 1380 BCE and were written in Akkadian, the language of diplomacy of the era... Now, guess what repeatedly comes out in this official correspondence between Pharaoh and his vassals in Canaan and the surrounding areas? Complaints about invasions of the Habiru, the Hebrews. While some scholars debate the details, most agree that the time - with even newer confirmations by excavations in Jericho - fits into the period of Joshua's conquests of Canaan. Like many other accounts in the Hebrew Bible, we indeed have good supporting evidence from elsewhere to support the Jews' own version of these events. And what makes it even better is that this often comes from those viewing the events from the "other side" of the picture. This is no small point. Corroboration is very important to any serious scholar. Not many religious texts can match the corroboration found for those of the Jews.This topic, for obvious reasons.
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The period being discussed is a period in which there was a political vacuum both in Egypt (Ahhenaten had disrupted the state religion by basically firing all the priests except for those of Aten, the sun god, and there was literally turmoil in Egypt) and Babylon. In this vacuum, the lands between Babylon and Egypt could have a certain degree of autonomy. It is into this vacuum that the nascent Kingdom of Israel arose a flourished for a time.
The Amarna letters are what survives of the diplomatic archive of Amenhotep III, and his son Amenhotep IV, better known as Akhenaten. Hatshepsut (one of the predecessors during the 18th Dynasty) refers in her account of her trip to Punt to an official from the time of Solomon, successor to David. The term "Habiru" ("Apiru") doesn't refer to the Hebrews. Some recent authors have tried to make the early Kingdom synchronize with the Amarna period; the conventional pseudochronology doesn't work in any case.
The term "Habiru" ("Apiru") doesn't refer to the Hebrews.
Since this, if true, completely destroys the thrust of the article, you're kind of like obliged to give some evidence for your assertion.
I mean what's an outsider to think when one person says tis so based on such and such evidence and another says tis not so based on no evidence.