Faith of the Apostles 1


A Space In Time

The history of the Jews is one filled with promise, contact and contract with God. It also deals with eternal imprisonment, always on the move unless captive in another people’s country. Always bound in slavery, and always being delivered.. By the time of our search, however, their religion and their laws were already solidly engrained within the people, written on hearts, minds, and tablets of stone by Moses. The work was done, finished, and in its final form.

Throughout their history, the Jewish people have experienced many ‘dispersions’, a term which comes from a Greek word meaning ‘to scatter..’ Some of these dispersions have been voluntary, while others have been forced upon them.

Voluntary movements were sometimes made by the Jews to escape the threat of destruction, as with those Judeans who moved to Egypt in the time of the prophet Jeremiah. Others left their homeland on various occasions with the expectation of pursuing an easier and more profitable way of life, as with the brothers of Joseph. Some migrants were most probably traveling merchants who chose to settle in a new homeland for business reasons, whereas others found themselves on foreign territory in a military capacity.

“And he put garrisons in Edom; throughout all Edom put he garrisons, and all the Edomites became servants to David. And the Lord gave victory to David withersoever he went.”

While all Jews regarded the land promised to them by God through Abraham as their natural home, no Jew was ever compelled to live in it for his entire life. In periods of economic hardship or political upheaval many Jews took advantage of the opportunity to leave and begin life afresh in another country.

But forced dispersion was another matter. Periods of captivity for the Hebrews may have begun as early as the invasion of Palestine by Shishak of Egypt, about 918 B.C..

“And it came to pass in the fifth year of king Rehoboam, that Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem; and he took away the treasures of the house of the Lord, and the treasures of the king’s house; he even took away all; and he took away all the shields of gold which Solomon had made.”

But most significant for Hebrew history were the fall of Israel to the Assyrians in 722 B.C. and the collapse of Judah before Babylonian and Chaldean attacks in 597-581 B.C. In 732 B.C. Tiglath-Pileser III had taken Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh captive to Mesopotamia when Damascus fell. A decade later the capture of Samaria resulted in the remaining Israelite tribes being carried away as captives to Assyria.

The end of national life in Judah began with the first attack on Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 597 B.C. The final attack came in 581 B.C.. By the end of this period, a total of some 4,600 prominent persons had been deported from Judah.

“This is the people whom Nebuchadrezzar carried away captive: in the seventh year three thousand Jews and three and twenty; in the eighteenth year of Nebuchadrezzar, from Jerusalem, eight hundred thirty and two persons; in the three and twentieth year of Nebuchadrezzar Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carried away captive of the Jews seven hundred forty and five persons; all the persons were four thousand and six hundred.”

This number probably did not include family members or servants. The total may well have been at least double the number recorded by Jeremiah. The dispersion actually began earlier in Judah, for early in his ministry Jeremiah reported that a significant number of Jewish emigrants lived in such Egyptian cities as Migdol, Tahpanhes, and Noph (Memphis). The prophet ministered to these people even before Jerusalem fell.

“…and they came into the land of Egypt; for they harkened not to the voice of the Lord; and they came even to Tahpanhes. Then came the word of the Lord unto Jeremiah in Tahpanhes, saying…”

“The word that came to Jeremiah concerning all the Jews that dwelt in the land of Egypt, that dwelt at Migdol, and at Tahpanhes, and at Noph, and in the country of Pathros, saying…”

But the settlement in Egypt was small compared to that in Assyria, Babylon, and Persia as a result of the deportation from Israel and Judah. Captives from the Northern Kingdom were apparently absorbed completely into their foreign surroundings. But a small group of Judeans ultimately returned from Persia to Judea as a result of the decree of Cyrus (538 B.C.). Those who remained behind in Babylonia formed the basis of the Dispersion that was well known in New Testament times.

“The Jews said to one another, “Where does this man intend to go that we shall not find him? Does he intend to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks and teach the Greeks?”

This dispersed Jewish community in Mesopotamia flourished into the medieval Christian period, maintaining its distinctive religious practices. It was here that the Babylonian Talmud, a work which formed the basis for law and faith in the community, was compiled. The Dispersion was certainly supported by conditions in the Persian Empire and in the later Greek Empire, as the character of the crowd at Pentecost illustrates.

“And how is it that we hear each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians…”

Interesting light has been shed on a fifth century B.C. Jewish colony in Egypt by the discovery of the Elephantine papyri. These documents disclosed the existence of a Jewish trading community near Aswan that had its own temple worship. This community was also an important center for commerce in southern Egypt. With the rise of the Greek Empire, further Jewish settlements occurred in Egypt, along with a significant increase in the use of the Greek language across the Near East. One result of this was the translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek at Alexandria, Egypt. This version (called the Septuagint) became so popular that the New Testament writers quoted the Old Testament from it instead of using the traditional Hebrew text.

By 139 B.C., well into the uprising of the Maccabees, Jews who had migrated to Italy and settled in Rome were being expelled from the capital city. Even so, they had gained a foothold in Italy. By the beginning of the Christian period, colonies of Jews were scattered across the Near East and southeastern Europe. Although they were often disliked and sometimes persecuted, they managed to survive and prosper. By the time of Philo Judaeus (30 B.C. – A.D. 45), a Jewish philosopher of Alexandria, an estimated one million Jews lived in Alexandria. An equal number had settled in both Persia and Asia Minor, and about 100,000 lived in Cyrenaica and Italy. The Jews who were dispersed throughout the world in this manner outnumbered the Jews who remained in their native land of Palestine.

It would be of great value to note here that those Jews who did not return from the Dispora, were that race of people who later became the European Jews. Those who returned, though at odds with those who did not leave at all, were the Palestinian Jews. It is pointed out by many Christian theologians and historians, that Jesus’ ministry was a, ‘Palestinian mission’, and the church that survived at Jerusalem was the Palestinian Christian church founded by the Apostles.

“First, there were a great number of Jews, brought partly from Palestine, but largely also from those settlements in Egypt which had never returned to Jerusalem; these latter were the Jews of the Diaspora or Dispersion, a race of Jews who had not shared the Babylonian Captivity, but who were nevertheless in possession of the Bible and in close correspondence with their co-religionists throughout the world. These Jews populated so great a quarter of Alexandria that the town became the largest Jewish city in the world, with far more Jews in it than there were in Jerusalem.”

It must be noted that in Alexandria, the Greek influence in the world made itself known. Here, the Hebrew scriptures were freely translated into the Greek by Hellenistic Jewish scholars who had fallen away from the orthodoxy.

“We have already noted that they found it necessary to translate their scriptures into Greek… And there was a great population of native Egyptians, also for the most part speaking Greek… In Alexandria three types of mind and spirit met, the three main types of the white race; the clear-headed criticism of the Aryan Greek, the moral fervor and monotheism of the Semetic Jew, and the ancient tradition of mysteries and sacrifices that we have already seen at work in the secret cults and occult practices of Greece…”

This last, proved to be absolutely essential to the formation of the Gospels, and to our understanding of the form and context they now represent.

These colonies provided useful bases for evangelistic efforts by the Rabbi Saul (Paul) and later Christian preachers. Eventually Christian communities were established in those cities that had a large Jewish population. Thus, the Dispersion helped to prepare the world for the reception and growth of the Gospel.

And so for Jesus, John the Baptizer and their followers, these were the events of history that preceded them, they helped to form the circumstances that dictated to their lives. This includes the immediate history of their people; those things that most assuredly effected their thinking and their actions. This included their religion, politics, economics, and social existence. For the devout Jew, one could not distinguish between those areas of their lives, for all were one under the, Law of Moses.

In Jesus time, the Temple of Jerusalem was the chief house of God, it was also the Governor’s mansion. The High Priest and the Sanhedrin were the monarchs of the faith, and they were also the Supreme Court of the law and their politics.

The Greek language and philosophies, adopted by both Alexandria and Rome, were forced upon the Jews and the known world. The Empire was just beginning its 200 year Golden age. In the coming new epoch, a Greek religion which had died outwardly, took life and sprang into a flowering through its degrading of the Holy Scriptures, and the invention and formation of Paul’s new religion.

Anatolian and Mythranistic sects flourished in the Empire. The Jews, as always, were in conflict with Rome, the Herodians, and themselves. The last resulted from a civil uprising against the continuation of the priesthood, the Judean aristocracy. Into all of this stepped a man who was the better of all the great names dominating the world; Joshua bar Joseph, God’s prophet, who was to be called by the Greeks, Jesus of Nazareth; Jesus who was called the Christ (Messiah).

To say that he was never swayed or influenced by the circumstances of his time, to say that he was never affected by the massive change, the personalities, and the events that surrounded him, would be to say that he was not human and that he never existed in time. But the records of his presence are fact. They are revealed in our time through the Bible and through history, both religious and secular. They are read in the sense of the age in which he lived, and we will find the marks on his life as well as all of mankind.

He was a human being who experienced all the emotions and desires of man. Beyond others, he bore with him the word of God. And if the Maccabees were gone, the spirit of their revolt dwelt on in a small land of hard-nosed, orthodox Jews, the Galileans.

Palestine was a nation held prisoner by the Roman fist, the Herodian puppets of the Empire, and the Hellenists. All of this effected the society and the man. Cities and Jewish landmarks were being renamed for Roman aristocracy, and the recent history of Palestine was no mystery to Jesus and his followers.

The attempted murder of thousands of Jews at the hour of the death of Herod the Great, which later lent itself as a major part of the well known, Christmas story, was not forgotten. The heroic actions of Salome, Herod’s sister, and her husband Alexis, were still fresh memories in the hearts of the Palestinian Jews, as were the successes of the Maccabees, and the atrocities of Archelaus, Herod Antipas, and the Roman procurators, Sabinus and Pontius Pilate.

Herod was almost seventy when he died in 4 B.C., (born in 73 B.C.). He was insane and eaten up with disease when he died. He had killed many, including those of his own family, (two sons that he had strangled), had married several times, (murdered his second wife and had her brother drowned,) and had initiated scandal and intrigue with Rome. But it must be understood that Herod was an Idumean, and not a Jew, nor were the Herod’s of that family name. They had no responsibility to follow Jewish law or their religion other than that which had been forced on them by a conquering race, on the pain of death.

“Once more the Jews had a king, and one worthy of the name. Despite his unpopularity, he was hated as a tool of Rome, as the one responsible for the fall of the royal house, as an Idumaean, not a Jew…”

Rabbinical schools today admit that forcing their ethics and way of life on the Idumeans, which was the first and last time they had ever embraced this practice, was one of the biggest mistakes they had ever made. It would not be surprising to find that Caesar had taken this into account in appointing Herod king over Judah.

One must understand that the weight of these events effected Jesus and his followers. In truth, his mission actually began in 168 B.C., for he was to be deeply touched, as was the entire country including the area known as Galilee, by the revolt of the Maccabees in that year. Palestine was already an occupied nation under the Roman empire. All their religion and government, though motivated by the High Priest and the Sanhedrin, were actually operated by permission of the Roman emperor.

Religious freedom and the right to a self-exercising free government was the bomb that waited to explode and was to be felt beyond the times of Jesus of Nazareth. If one does not know the history of the Jews during this era, no study of Jesus is legitimate. To take him out of context is to occasion immediate suspicion. He was not solely a religious figure, and at that, was subject to his environment, the desires of his people, and the will of Rome.

That one kept and permitted the use of the priestly garments and artifacts. That one meted out justice by allowing the puppet government to operate under its rule, for even the High Priest was chosen by the Roman Governor. He alone brought the word of Rome to Palestine in the city of Caesarea where the Herods were given permission to rule, permission that could only come from Rome.

But if this were a slight inconvenience, the fact that the Temple had been desecrated was even more of a problem. Alien alters had been set up in the Temple precincts, and the Jews could do nothing to stop the defilement of the Temple. Under Roman order, the Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes had set up an altar to the Greek God, Zeus. This Greek monarch defiled the Jewish religion just as the Seventy had defiled the word of God in creating the Septuagint. To the orthodox Jew, this was a blasphemy as great as any.

“The scion of this stock was the wicked man, Antiochus Epiphanes, son of King Antiochus. He had been a hostage in Rome before he succeeded to the throne in the year 137 of the Greek Era.” (Footnote: that is 175 B.C.)

“At that time there appeared in Israel a group of renegade Jews, who incited the people. ‘Let us enter into a covenant with the Gentiles round about,’ they said, ‘because disaster upon disaster has overtaken us since we segregated ourselves from them.’ The people thought this a good argument, and some of them in their enthusiasm went to the king and received authority to introduce non-Jewish laws and customs… They intermarried with Gentiles, and abandoned themselves to evil ways.”

It would do one good, at this point, to realize that the Apocrypha is still an accepted part of the Holy Bible, and can be obtained in, The New American Bible for Catholics, The New English Bible, The Good News For Modern Man, and other editions. It is a far more important bridge between the Old and New Testaments than most give it credit for, especially now with the advent of new information concerning this period of Bible history

“On his return from the conquest of Egypt, in the year 143, (footnote: That is 169 B.C.), Antiochus marched with a strong force against Israel and Jerusalem. In his arrogance he entered the Temple and carried off the golden altar, the lamp-stand with all its equipment, the table for the Bread of the Presence, the sacred cups and bowls… ”

“The king then issued a decree throughout his empire; his subjects were all to become one people and abandon their own laws and religion. The nations everywhere complied with the royal command, and many in Israel accepted the foreign worship, sacrificing to idols and profaning the Sabbath.”

Conforming to, or even possessing a copy of the Law, meant death. Women whose children had been circumcised were put to death with their children, and their families were hanged. The penalty for any disobedience was death. And in all their history, how many times has this same race of men been subject to the attempts of genocide made against them?

“Yet many in Israel found strength to resist, taking a determined stand against eating any unclean food. They welcomed death rather than defile themselves and profane the holy covenant, and so they died. The divine wrath raged against Israel.”

Here, the prophecy of Daniel was to echo in the minds of all Palestine.

“On the fifteenth day of the month Kislev in the year 145, (footnote: That is 167 B.C.), ‘the abomination of desolation’ was set up on the altar. Pagan altars were built throughout the towns of Judaea; incense was offered at the doors of the houses and in the streets.”

“At this time a certain Mattathias, son of John, son of Symeon, appeared on the scene. He was a priest of the Joarib family from Jerusalem, who had settled at Modin. Mattathias had five sons, John called Gaddis, Simon called Thassis, Judas called Maccabaeus, Eleazar called Avaran, and Jonathan called Apphus.”

When, at the Temple in Modin, Mattathias and his sons were ordered to offer up a burnt offering to the Greek gods. The act that ensued began a war that lasted for the better part of one hundred years, and in the end would not only influence the orthodoxy that Jesus practiced, but the orthodoxy that Paul betrayed.

“To this Mattathias replied in a ringing voice: ‘Though all the nations within the king’s dominions obey him and forsake their ancestral worship, though they have chosen to submit to his commands, yet I and my sons and brothers will follow the covenant of our fathers. Heaven forbid we should ever abandon the law and its statutes. We will not obey the command of the king, nor will we deviate one step from our forms of worship.”

“As soon as he had finished, a Jew stepped forward in full view of all to offer sacrifice on the pagan altar at Modin, in obedience to the royal command. The sight stirred Mattathias to indignation; he shook with passion, and in a fury of righteous anger rushed forward and slaughtered the traitor on the very altar. At the same time he killed the officer sent by the king to enforce sacrifice, and pulled the pagan altar down.”

“Now Antiochus… being overcome with his violent passions, and remembering what he had suffered during the siege, he compelled the Jews to dissolve the laws of the country, and to keep their infants uncircumcised, and to sacrifice swine’s flesh upon the altar…”

The officer sent to force obedience to the king’s order was Bacchides.

“Accordingly Matthias, the son of Asamoneus, one of the priests who lived in a village called Modin, armed himself together with his own family, which had five sons of his in it, and slew Bacchides with daggers…”

Thus, this family of small village priests, instigated an uprising to defend Judaism against both the Seleucids, the Hellenist rulers of Syria-Palestine, and Jews who had become Greek assimilationists, and Hellenists. Their struggle and victories effected with an army of 6,000, eventually brought them to recognition as an independent Jewish state in 139 B.C.. The struggle against a hostile Greek world intent upon destruction of the Jewish religion, ended in 63 B.C. when Jerusalem was taken by the Roman armies under General Pompey.

The Maccabees deserted their homes and fled into the desert where they gathered an army which included the Hasidim, and proceeded to defeat both the Hellenistic rulers of Syria-Palestine, and the Roman legions sent against them. It was the same desert in which we find the priest, John the Baptizer, and his followers, in 29 A.D.

Between those many years the sons of Mattathias fought for religious freedom and a self-governing Palestine under Jewish rule. Judas, Mattathias’ son took over command of the army which now included all the Maccabees, the remnant of Herod the Great’s army, the mercenary host of the Hasidic Jews, and those Idumeans and Galileans who were ripe to overthrow both Rome and the Herods. Their headquarters were in the desert, the wilderness, along with those who had fled the Roman and Herodian domination, and as we now are aware, the communities of the Essences.

In 145 B.C. Judas Maccabaeus purified the temple of Jerusalem, cleansing it of the idols and altars that had been placed there. The wars lasted until 63 B.C., after which the Jews, though recognized as a free nation, were placed under the Roman heel and through Caesar, given a King who was not a Jew but an Idumean.

These were the same Idumeans whom Israel had defeated many years before, forcing them to recognize and follow Jewish law with all its rituals and in all its festivals. This included having their children circumcised after the Jewish fashion even though they were not Jews.

Turn-abouts was fair play. After 170 years of War, all involved over the Temple in Jerusalem, Palestine became a Roman province.

“Now after Pompey was dead, and after that victory Caesar had gained over him, Antipater, who managed the Jewish affairs, became very useful to Caesar when he made war against Egypt…”

In that moment, the Herod’s began their love affair with Caesar, and Rome. It was to continue beyond Jesus’ ministry and the rule of Nero. In approximately 54 A.D., Nero completed the rebuilding of the Jerusalem Temple. The destruction that had been in Jesus’ sight, the only memorial to the Pentecost slaughter, was repaired at last.

In 139 B.C. Judean ambassadors to Rome brought back a senatorial decree recognizing the independence of the Jewish state. It commended the Jewish people to the friendship of all kingdoms in the East within the Roman sphere of power.

The family ruled until 63 B.C. when Jerusalem was invaded and taken by the Roman general, Pompey. Once again darkness fell, and with a series of governors being appointed by Rome, who in turn selected the High Priest, we return to an age of despondency. But if Simon and the last of the Maccabees were gone, the zeal and the desire for freedom ran on. Calm appeared to be restored, but the bomb was set to growing and ticking. The revolution continued in the hearts and minds of the Palestinians, to be evidenced by their many riots and seditious acts of violence.

For Antiochus, we can only say that in his disregard for a people’s religious rights, he caused a nation to be born. Prior to his reign there was no real nation called, Palestine. Certainly there was no recognized Jewish society, or government formally acknowledged by the world. His acts of injustice and sacrilege set about a tide of events that led to violent revolt and Roman recognition.

If 63 B..C. saw the end of open warfare, it did not cease because of any armistice or agreement of parties. Pompey put down the revolution by armed force, and in entering the city of Jerusalem, occupied a nation, its religion, and its government. It is best to repeat what has already been stated about the deserts of Judea. In the wilderness, the remnant of the Maccabees and their followers hid from Rome. With them were the Zealots, freedom fighters, those Hassidic Jews who fought beside the Maccabee family, and the Galileans. The remnant of Herod the Great’s army had flown there, and among them resided the Essene community. More would later join their ranks.

In order to cement their rule, Hyrcanus, the last of the Hasmoneans, was left with a nominal sovereignty, but Antipater, an Idumean, wielded the actual power. In 47 B.C. Herod Antipater, father of Herod the Great, was made procurator of Judea by Julius Caesar. Antipater appointed his son, Herod, governor of Galilee.

When Caesar was assassinated, Herod the Great fled from a civil uprising in Judea and remained in Rome until it had been put down. In 40 B.C. he was appointed King of the Jews, returned to Judea, and married Hyrcanus’ sister Mariamne, and appointed the Maccabean Aristobulus III, High Priest. Herod was King when Jesus and John were born in 6 B.C.. But there was much more fuel to be added to the fire before those 34 years passed.

A succession of Procurators were appointed to rule over Judea during that period. After Hyrcanus (of the Maccabees), there came Coponius, then Marcus Ambivious, Annius Rufus, who was procurator under Octavian, who was made Caesar Augustus by the Roman Senate.

Gessius Flores had been Procurator at this time, and his abuse of authority caused the Jews to revolt against Rome. Once again the nation was in arms. This man was replaced by Marcus Ambivious, followed by Coponius, and then Annius Rufus. Through these years, each Procurator appointed his own High Priest.

In 18 A.D., Valerius Gratus was appointed Procurator, and he ruled for eleven years, until 29 A.D. It is this date that is the most important of all. During his stay in Judea he appointed four different High Priests. It was a time of growing revolt, and the hitherto underground Zealots were beginning to come into active contact with the Romans and the Herodians. Ishmael was Valerius Gratus’ first choice as High Priest, then Eleazar Simon.

Gratus’ appointment came after the death of Octavian in 14 A.D.. When Tiberius came into rule in Rome, a new era of tribute and friendship with Rome flourished between the Herods and the Caesars. Far more open to flattery and homage, Tiberius involved himself with the Idumeans in courtships and marriages, in appointments, and in return, monuments were erected in Palestine bearing the name of the Emperor. Gratus also appointed a new High Priest, one Joseph Caiaphas. In 29 A.D. Valerius Gratus returned to Rome and the moment of the unveiling had come at last.

Pontius Pilate was named Procurator, by Rome. Chief among the ‘terrorists’, as Gibbon has so adroitly pointed out, were the Galileans. Pontius Pilate was a trouble shooter. He was sent to areas where the Empire had problems, and in 29 A.D., Rome was faced with a dire emergency in the middle east, Judea. As Procurator, Pilate’s task was to end the riots and the violence caused by the zealot Galileans, by any means necessary.

We know nothing of Jesus or his ministry before this date! We are aware of John the Baptist preaching in the desert, but not when. Probable dates are 20-29 A.D.. He had obviously grown into adulthood, and had an established organization and ministry of great number when Jesus came to him to be baptized. The Gospels only cover three to three and one half years of Jesus’ public ministry, and if he died in 30 to 31 A..D., we pick up his work in 28 or 29 A.D.. Where was he before all this took place? John’s Gospel, in speaking of the Baptizer, only speaks of the ministry after Jesus is baptized saying that Jesus and his disciples were preaching during the same time, although Jesus himself did not baptize.

“Now when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples)…”

Jesus had chosen the original of his disciples, the Apostles, from a people and an area well known to him. Andrew, Simon (Peter), Phillip, Bartholomew, James and John (Sons of Zebedee), Thomas, James, and Simon (Canaanite).

These men were Galileans, or held Galilean sympathies. Levi (Matthew) was chosen while he was in Galilee, and Judas is called a Galilean by Josephus. The people who were the center of the rebellion, the wars against the Romans and the Herods, came from Galilee, Judea, Idumea, and from beyond the Jordan. From Tyre and Sidon on the Mediterranean, and Jerusalem. That is why John was in the wilderness.

“In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of the region of Iturea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, in the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness…”

(The historical data of Luke tells us without doubt that it was 29 A.D..)

It was not an empty place, and in fact, it would have been difficult to find space in Jesus’ time. Now its numbers were added to by John and his disciples, along with the throngs that came to his ministry.

Jesus chose those he met along the Sea of Galilee. Simon was more than a simple fisherman, at the very least he owned a fishing boat, a large home, and supported a fairly good sized family. His brother, Andrew went with him. James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were apprenticed to their father, who was also no pauper, owning, at the least, a fishing vessel. These were chosen near Capernaum.

Levi (Matthew), was the son of Alpheus. A tax collector, there is more to indicate that he was a man of means rather than a commoner. Thomas, Thomas who was called Didymous Judas Thomas, is also named as the author of, The Gospel According to Thomas, of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

“One of the twelve Apostles of Jesus, and called also Didymous; he was zealous and inquisitive, yet at first incredulous at the report of the resurrection of Christ.”

“These are the secret words which the Living Jesus spoke and Didymous Judas Thomas wrote.”

And of his many followers one may remark on James’ mother Mary, who was present at the crucifixion. Also of great importance to later tradition is, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary and Martha, Lazarus’ sisters. Unnamed are the many women who followed, and attended to, Jesus and his camp.

Thaddeus is another disciple, Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, the man of Kerioth, also called a man of Galilee, who was purported by Josephus to have been an active revolutionist in Jerusalem. There has always been a question as to the personage of Judas, who he was and where he came from. If Josephus’ contentions are correct and his Judas is the disciple of Jesus, large questions arise over just how deeply Jesus was involved in the political controversies of his time.

“For before these days Theudas arose, giving himself out to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him; but he was slain and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. After him Judas the Galilean arose in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him…”

Is this same Judas who followed Jesus? He was very active in Sephoris. He was aligned and active in the works of the revolutionists starting 4 B.C.- 3 B.C. Historically, Judas, a Galilean, was in a state of revolt with Rome about the audit. Theudes, Thaddeus, and Judas were described as ‘thieves’, insurrectionists. They led several bands of men who were remnants of Herod’s army against Rome and Herod Antipas. Simon, one of their followers burned several royal houses.

“…yet there was one Judas, a Gaulonite, of a city whose name was Gamala…”

“Since St. Luke once, (Acts V. 37,) and Josephus several times previously calls this Judas a Galilean, but here a Gaulonite, of the city of Gamala; it is a great question where this Judas was born, whether in Galilee on the west side, or in Gaulonites on the east side of the river Jordan.”

In discussing Jewish philosophies of the time, Josephus reports on four.

“The Jews had for a great while three sects of philosophy peculiar to themselves; the sect of the Essenes, and the sect of the Sadducees, and the third sort of opinions was that of those called Pharisees…”

“But of the fourth sect of Jewish philosophy, Judas the Galilean was the author.”

Was this the mysterious, Judas, whom Jesus chose to be among his inner circle? Modern theologians lead us to believe that he attempted to force Jesus’ hand by giving away his location on that fateful night, to make him accept the position of leadership in Judea and Palestine and take up arms against the oppressors..

“And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword…”

“But one of those who stood by drew his sword…”

“Lord, shall we strike with the sword? And one of them struck the slave of the high Priest…”

“Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s slave…”

Every Gospel tells the same story, there were weapons within Jesus’ group and those ready to be used. If it was Judas’ intent to force Jesus into action, it would seem that he might have had good cause to think he would succeed.

“For Judas and Sadduc, who excited a fourth philosophic sect among us, and had a great many followers therein, filled our civil government with tumults at present, and laid the foundation of our future miseries…. because the infection which spread thence among the younger sort, who were zealous for it…”

A younger man, politically active and with a mission that ignored death in any form, including the death of allies and friends, who were considered heroic martyrs. God, and God alone, was their one master, the God of Israel. If this is the same Judas, the disciple, his character and temper fit well with the activities of those Palestinians who thronged to the call of Jesus, the Galilean.

Having chosen these, Jesus’ ministry as known to us, begins. He had, of course, been in a mission in the north much like John’s long before we hear of him at the baptizer’s camp outside Jerusalem.

At this same time, the only person who had any respect in the Palestinian mind, who could direct them in more peaceable ways, Salome, Herod’s sister, died. Enters Pontius Pilate, who profanes the Temple, exacts new taxes, and murders thousands who refuse to follow Roman rule under his influence. Of these matters we will make lengthy note in this treatise, for Jesus speaks openly of them.

Now, at the crux of a new century, in the midst of all these events, Jesus and his followers, soon to be an army, enters the political fray in total innocence, seeking to bring peace to a tired people and a fractured nation.

FEATURE: Roman Religion

Explore the core beliefs of Roman Religion, beyond the mythology, in our section Roman Religion.