Book Reviews, Charles, Classical History, Ethnography, Islam & The Islamic World, Military History, Religion, The Orient, War
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For the Freedom of Zion: The Great Revolt of Jews against Romans, A.D. 66–74 (Guy MacLean Rogers)

Let’s talk about the Jews. No, not about how the Jews supposedly run the world (although there is some truth buried in that claim, to which we will return). I mean about the actual Jews, the past and present people who have been, arguably, more central to the story of mankind than any other people. This book, Guy MacLean Roger’s For the Freedom of Zion, exhaustively narrates the First Jewish-Roman War, A.D. 66–74, in which the Romans defeated a Jewish revolt, and during which the Romans destroyed the Second Temple. From it we can take both fascinating history and useful thoughts for today.

This war, sometimes called the Great Jewish Revolt, was one of three Jewish rebellions against Roman rule in the first centuries A.D. The others were the Kitos War (A.D. 115–117) and the Bar Kokhba Revolt (A.D. 132–135). These wars should not be confused with the earlier revolt, in the 160s B.C., of the Maccabees against their Seleucid Greek rulers, who were descendants of Alexander the Great’s generals, the Diadochi. The Maccabees became the Hasmonean rulers of Judea and the surrounding region, who ruled until they were defeated by the Romans some decades before Christ.

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The deep backdrop for the Great Revolt was the rule of Herod the Great, who lived (probably) from 71 B.C. to A.D. 1. As Rogers makes clear, Roman control of the provinces of the Roman East was complex, largely conducted through client kings such as Herod, but also through a variety of Roman officials with overlapping remits. This meant the exact interplay of authority was not always clear, even to those at the time, much less to us now. While Herod and his successors were wholly dependent on Rome for their authority, they could act independently, when not directly given orders from Rome with respect to a particular matter.

Herod ruled because he, and his father, had smoothly navigated the Roman civil wars, sequentially supporting winners. Augustus gave him large territories in the area south of Roman Syria and north of Egypt. Herod had a fascinating, and brutal, career, which Rogers covers in some detail, but for our purposes today, he matters because he managed to keep order in his lands, unlike his successors, and because he overhauled the Temple to please the Jews and to aggrandize himself. This was the Second Temple, which had been rebuilt in the sixth century B.C. after the original Temple, Solomon’s Temple, had been destroyed. Herod also expanded the Temple Mount, the giant earthwork on which the Temple and its grounds stood (now occupied by two Muslim holy places, the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa mosque). Christians, quite rightly, revile Herod as the man who, trying to kill the baby Christ, ordered the murder of infants, the Holy Innocents, in and around Bethlehem. He is a different Herod than his son Herod Antipas, also known as Herod the Tetrarch, who murdered John the Baptist and who repeatedly intersects with the work, life, and death of the adult Jesus Christ in the New Testament.

Herod was Jewish, more or less. He was actually Idumean (an Edomite, in Biblical parlance, and thus theoretically a descendant of Esau), from south of Judea, and the Hasmoneans had conquered and forcibly converted the Idumeans before Herod was born. Whatever his personal religious beliefs, and keeping in mind that a great many non-Jews lived in his lands, Herod was careful to not offend the Jews, while keeping even more careful to please the Romans, and most careful of all to kill off anyone who might threaten his throne, which mostly meant any Hasmonean he could get his hands on, including his wife and his sons by her. He spent vast sums all across his domain to build fortresses, palaces and monuments, and heavily patronized pagan shrines, along with the Temple. It is this success in ruling that Rogers contrasts with later rulers who were unable to competently manage Herod’s lands, ending in the Revolt.

After Herod’s death, and after some unrest, including the putting down in A.D. 4 of a minor rebellion by Publius Quinctilius Varus, famous for later committing suicide after losing three legions to the Germans in the Teutoburg Forest in A.D. 9, Augustus split up Herod’s kingdom. Two of his sons, Archelaus and Herod Antipas, got the areas where most of the Jews lived—the former got roughly one-half of Herod the Great’s kingdom, including Jerusalem and most of the major cities, and the latter one-fourth (hence his moniker “the Tetrarch”). The Tetrarch ruled the Galilee, that is, the smaller northern portion (which included Nazareth, where Christ grew up and near which he began his public ministry). Archelaus proved a bust, from the Roman perspective, so his portion was, within a few years, turned into a Roman province, of Judea. As a province, it received a Roman procurator, or governor, appointed from Rome, and at least partially responsible to the proconsul of Roman Syria. These men rotated, and were quickly replaced if they appeared not up to the job. One was Pontius Pilate, from A.D. 27 to A.D. 37 (who I recently discovered, though it is not mentioned here, is revered as a saint in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and the Coptic Church, and is generally regarded more favorably in the East than in the West, due to a tradition he converted and was later martyred).

Rogers spends the first third of the book describing the run-up to the war, skillfully interweaving places and people to give the reader a granular feel for the area. The reader feels like a fly on the wall. There are a lot of places and people, though; this book is not a casual read. The Great Revolt began in A.D. 66, after something more than a century of Roman rule, and it appears to have begun with civil conflict in the port city of Caesarea, fifty miles northwest of Jerusalem. (The attentive reader quickly notices how very small the Galilee is. And to a Christian, it is interesting how locations relevant to the Gospels show up in a secular context, from Emmaus to Mount Tabor.)

In many cities in the Galilee and Judea, including Caesarea, Jews were not the majority, or even were only a small minority, and there was constant conflict between Jews and non-Jews, much of it over symbolic and religious matters. According to Rogers, a relatively minor conflict just spiraled out of control, due to a complex set of circumstances, including unclear lines of authority among the Romans and their client kings (by this time, Herod’s great-grandson, the last of Herod’s dynasty, ruled part of the relevant area) and longstanding grievances, both religious and nationalistic, of the Jews against the Romans. These included not only religious beliefs related to taxation being paid to Gentiles, but attempts by Roman governors to extract more money, and infighting and jockeying for position among the Jews themselves.

It seems pretty clear that Rogers glosses over many debated matters tied to this era. But that’s his prerogative as author, and not a defect of the book, any more than is his occasionally-evident anti-Christian animus. Still, the reader is never really clear, maybe because it wasn’t clear even at the time, what exactly the Jews wanted, or rather what the Jews who wanted to fight wanted. William Wallace-style freedom? Just to be left alone from interference, or financial exaction, or religious profanation? Dominion over Greater Israel? I’m just not sure.

As Rogers makes clear, many Jews at this time did not believe in any kind of coherent afterlife. Some did; the split between Sadducees and Pharisees, familiar to Christians from the Gospels, was in part a split over this question. This makes it even more impressive that the Jews were willing to die, often to the last man, and that they, or at least the fighting men, maintained extremely high morale. Perhaps this is not so surprising; mere freedom, aside from the promise of salvation, has been a powerful driver of men’s willingness to fight, at least in the West. This tendency seems to have been killed by the Enlightenment, along with much of the heroism in Western societies, for the freedom promised by the Enlightenment is not the freedom sought by the Jews. The freedom they wanted was not the freedom to do whatever they might feel like doing, which meant dying young would make your struggle pointless. It was instead ordered freedom, the freedom not to be a slave to a people not your own, for the nation to set its own destiny.

In any case, it is doubly hard to answer this question because we have only one major source for the history of the war, which otherwise would be nearly totally opaque to us, like so much in the ancient world. This source is Flavius Josephus, a Jew born in Jerusalem, of the priestly class. In the early days of the war, the Jews appointed Josephus general of the Galilee, and he ended up (as did the Jews during the war in almost all instances, seemingly unable to change tactics) besieged by the Romans, who were nothing if not expert siege engineers. Josephus (barely) survived the siege, though he was captured, and then through a combination of ingratiation and accurate prophecy he was spared, ultimately switching sides and attaching himself to the Romans. Later he wrote a detailed set of histories (and other books, such as Against Apion, a defense of Judaism), and it is those from which we draw most of our knowledge about the war. Josephus wrote for Jews, primarily, and his main message was that the defeat of the Jews was God’s will and God’s punishment, a focus which conveniently excused his going over to the Romans. No doubt he slanted his histories to support his premise, but in most of his details he has been proven accurate, or accurate enough.

Among the Jews, there were continual vicious struggles before, during, and after the war. Rogers refers to, for the entire eight years of the war, a parallel “civil war among Jews.” The Jewish leaders all seem to have been extremely ruthless, driven by religious and quasi-religious ideology more than practical concerns. Occasionally these power struggles touched those not directly involved; the High Priest Ananus, as Josephus relates, ordered the judicial murder of James the Just, “the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ,” in A.D. 62. (Christians appear little in these pages, however. They were still few, and it appears the Christian community in Jerusalem left before the final siege of the city, departing to, according to tradition, the village of Pella, now in Jordan.) But even as the Romans besieged Jerusalem, whose fall would seal the fate of the Revolt, the Jews (including the large party of Zealots) fought day and night among themselves inside the city, dividing it effectively into gang-controlled territories, when not sortieing out with fanatic bravery to attack the Romans. This failure of unity not only made the job of the Romans much easier at Jerusalem, it was a constant weakness of the Jews throughout the war. They seemed nearly totally unable to put aside internal differences to achieve a united front.

Rogers gives a year-by-year, blow-by-blow account of the campaign, which was originally (after a Jewish defeat of the Roman proconsul of Syria, in his failed attempt to snuff the rebellion by capturing Jerusalem with too few men) led by the general Vespasian, who then went to Rome to become Emperor, and left his son Titus (also later Emperor) to finish the job. Sometimes, perhaps, Rogers gives too much detail; he is a little strangely obsessed, both in the text and in detailed appendices, with precisely quantifying food and water used by the Romans. The Jews lost, but they made the Romans pay for every gain—the Romans ultimately devoted something like fifteen percent of all their fighting forces to crushing the Revolt.

Finally, however, the Romans overwhelmed Jerusalem, and they destroyed the Temple, in A.D. 70, while massacring thousands of men, women, and children. Why they destroyed the Temple, by whose order, and whether it could have been prevented are questions impossible now to answer. Rogers seems to think it was inevitable, given the nature of ancient sieges and Roman frustration at months and years of grinding siege warfare, and he is probably right. He finishes with the history of the Roman reduction of remaining fortresses, most notably Masada, located next to the Dead Sea, in southern Judea, in A.D. 73, signaling the effective end of the war. Masada is famous for being where the Jews, seeing inevitable defeat as Roman engineers raised a giant earth ramp toward their walls, killed their wives and children, drew lots for killing each other, and the last man killed himself. Maybe it didn’t happen exactly that way; maybe it did—though the earth ramp still exists, so that part at least is true.

The Romans looted everything worth looting in Jerusalem, and as shown on the Arch of Titus, took their spoils (including many slaves) back to Rome, celebrating a triumph. They executed a lot of Jews, too, but without any of the modern concept of “war guilt” or “war crimes,” even if Rogers occasionally nods at the idea, accusing Vespasian, for example, of “war crimes” for the massacre of prisoners. The idea that defeated enemies, or their leaders, should be punished for moral reasons after a defeat is a purely late modern one. Of course, the Romans executed some leaders of defeated peoples, either simply as a danger or as part of triumphs. But most leaders, and all common soldiers, who survived and were not sold into slavery were simply left to their own devices. In the modern world, we have absorbed the insane belief that anyone who loses a war, except for those pushing globohomo, is guilty of “war crimes.” It’s tedious.

What were the long-term effects of the Revolt? Ultimately, it and the two later failed revolts led to major Jewish depopulation of the Galilee and Judea, and the beginning of the Jewish diaspora (although the Jews for a long time maintained power centers in parts of the Middle East, including around what is today Yemen). And as Stephen De Young explains in The Religion of the Apostles, Jewish religious practice today, rabbinical Judaism, is quite different in both form and substance from many aspects of Second Temple practice. That practice revolved, naturally, around the Temple itself, so when it was destroyed, the history of Judaism became much different than what came before, and from what it might have been.

Quite logically, therefore, Rogers asks, “Will a trumpeter some day stand again at the southwest corner of another Temple on the Temple Mount and blow his silver trumpet at the beginning and end of Shabbat, telling Jews when to cease their work and begin it again?” That’s a good question. As a Christian, I don’t think the Messiah of the Jews is coming, or rather He has already come and will return to ring down the curtain of our world. (In fact, Christians, given the words of Christ, tend to take the destruction of the Temple as a sign of God’s displeasure with the Jews, and confirmation of Christ being the New Temple.) But today, after two thousand years, the Jews rule Jerusalem again, and at least some of them think that rebuilding the Temple is necessary for the Messiah to come, so what are they waiting for? This is not history Rogers explores in detail, but it is my understanding that Moshe Dayan, the atheist Israeli general responsible for the recapture of the Temple Mount (and all of East Jerusalem) during the 1967 Six-Day War, fearing Muslim reaction and not fearing God, pulled back from allowing Jews to occupy the Temple Mount after it was captured. The Jews instead allowed a Muslim foundation, a waqf, which since the Muslims unfortunately defeated the Crusaders in 1187 had controlled the Temple Mount, to maintain complete authority, with some minor Israeli policing presence. The Israelis, to this day, forbid anyone other than Muslims from praying on the Temple Mount, forcing Jews to only pray at the external base of the Western Wall, a retaining wall built by Herod the Great as part of his renovation. In other words, the Jews let their mortal enemies dictate their own religious practices in lands the Jews conquered and own by right. And the Muslims regularly engage in violence to ensure their supremacy over the Mount is never threatened, and they are not punished, rather catered to, by those in authority among the Jews.

Why? I don’t get it. To the victor go the spoils. No Christian holy place is on the Temple Mount, so I have no deep personal feeling about what should be done there. But my general sympathies lie with the Jews. I am strongly in favor of the Jews running the Middle East. Judaism is far more compatible with Christianity than Islam, and while no doubt if Greater Israel ruled the Levant, we might not always see eye-to-eye, we will generally get along. That is, and always will be, impossible with Islam. If I am honest, it certainly wouldn’t upset me if the Jews demolished the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa Mosque, and then rebuilt the Temple, though to be sure the blowback would be spectacular, and very dangerous for the Jews. Short of that, it seems strange to me the Jews don’t just kick the Muslims off the Temple Mount, and tell them who’s boss, allowing a handful of adequately obsequious Muslims up to the Mount on alternate Mondays. I’m sure it’s a lot more complicated than that in terms of Israeli politics, about which I don’t understand the first thing, though I do grasp it does not map neatly onto ours. No doubt there is not majority political support for such an action. But still, we can be sure the Muslims would do the exact same thing the Romans did, if the Temple still existed and the Muslims conquered it, and toadying to one’s enemies doesn’t seem sensible to me. It is never rewarded.

And, finally, let’s talk about the Jews in America. I get occasional comments complaining that I ignore the malign influence and power of Jews in the West, which to these commenters is manifest. Usually this is phrased as demands for me to address “the Jewish Question.” My usual response is that there isn’t a Jewish Question. “The Jews” is not an explanatory device for history; that Jews are an ethnocultural group of great importance is part of the mix, to be sure, but neither determinative nor something that requires or deserves obsessive focus. (Although, it also doesn’t deserve none, which is what it gets for the most part.) But denying there is a “Jewish Question” is not the same thing as denying the Jews are a people apart—they most definitely are. What does that mean for America?

It’s not just America, but every society, where Jews are a people apart. This has always been true, and it’s why there are Jews today at all. As Hilaire Belloc said, “Did you ever see a Hittite walking down Main Street?” Jews have maintained a unique culture through thousands of years, which is an impressive accomplishment. Of course, being a people apart means that conflicts necessarily arise with the rest of whatever society Jews live in. These are exacerbated by that Jews are smarter and in many ways better than most people in most societies, and clannish, prioritizing other clan members, so they are almost always disproportionately successful wherever they are. For any such group to survive over time, it can never be fully absorbed into any society in which they live. This leads often, or always, to friction within the society, just as, say, Chinese success in Malaysia does (or for that matter Asian success in America), but to a greater degree, with resentments breeding on both sides. In more than one Western society, Jews have come to dominate elite professions to a degree that is societally corrosive. Moreover, as Paul Johnson points out in his A History of the Jews, the Jews, or some Jews, simply can’t help being resentful and coming into conflict with the rest of their society, something he ascribes, in part, to the culture of Jews, not just to competency-related structural factors.

That said, I just don’t think that Jews as Jews have some unduly malign influence on American, or European, politics. Certainly, individual Jews are extremely destructive (e.g., George Soros), and their being Jewish is not incidental. But there is no conspiracy of Jews; there is a conspiracy of the Left, that some Jews have joined. It’s a close call who is more destructive—Soros, or the Koch Brothers. Jews have certainly been over-represented in every Western destructive left-wing movement, because resentful Jews are attracted to them. And many Right movements exclude those seen as alien to the society, fairly or not. This is a tactical problem, in that it means a Right movement can appear to be in conflict with Jews more generally, even if that is not necessarily the case. But that a minority that sometimes feels itself outsiders joins destructive movements doesn’t mean that they created those; certainly, Jews did not create the Enlightenment, which is the root cause of our civilization’s discontents. If the Jews had disappeared in A.D. 74, our civilization would likely be in very much the same place we are now.

True, it is unfortunate that Jews don’t collectively disown truly disgusting men such as Jonathan Greenblatt, head of the so-called Anti-Defamation League, who presents himself as representing all Jews, and Jews who do not vocally disown and attempt to destroy Greenblatt and his many accomplices should not be surprised when anti-Jewish sentiment results. And it is also true that Jews often have dual loyalties. But so does anyone of concrete ethnic extraction. I would put Hungarian interests above any other than American interests, and I would interpret those interests as being as little in conflict as possible. Jews just do the same thing more, and more vigorously, than everyone else. That’s why they’re still here. You just have to understand that, as with any other human motivation, and work with it.

So that’s today’s discussion, of Jews past and present. As for the future? Well, we’ll see, won’t we?

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  1. The Jews tried to re-build the Temple under Julian the Apostate. Two earthquakes destroyed the construction attempts, could it have been Divine intervention? There is also quite a historical precedent of priests, theologians, and saints that predict that when the third temple is built, the reign of the Anti-Christ will be imminent. As a Christian, I cannot endorse the rebuilding of the temple as it is a direct affront to the kingship of Lord Jesus Christ who is the Temple. He is the cornerstone which the Jews rejected. I would much rather see the Dome on temple mount.

    • Charles Haywood says

      Yeah, I mention the Julian episode in my review of Wilken’s The Christians as the Romans Saw Them. Pagan sources agree that Julian was stopped from rebuilding the Temple. I don’t think rebuilding the Temple would really be an affront to Christ, less so than rejecting Him. And, as an accelerationist, if there is to be the Antichrist, he precedes the Second Coming, and really, that sounds like a fine solution to our problems.

      • orthanc says

        Julian the Apostate !! Gore Vidal was a big fan of JTA ( no shocker there ..) . Check out Vidal’s historical fiction book about the last heathen/pagan emperor of Rome “Julian: A Novel” .

        Very odd the Jews didn’t take back the all of the Temple Mount. They had WON but only the Western Wall they secured… Maybe because the Muslims outnumbered them then as now…

    • orthanc says

      Julian the Apostate !! Gore Vidal was a big fan of JTA ( no shocker there ..) . Check out Vidal’s historical fiction book about the last heathen/pagan emperor of Rome “Julian: A Novel” .

      Very odd the Jews didn’t take back the all of the Temple Mount. They had WON but only the Western Wall they secured… Maybe because the Muslims outnumbered them then as now…

  2. Marko says

    If the Jews had disappeared in AD 74, not only would the West be quite different (if not very different) but the history of Russia and Germany and the USA, to name but the biggest 3, would also be quite different, if not very. There may be a minority who latch on to destructive movements, but it’s not like the Jews just tried to get by with fringe political movements or modest bakeries. They were front and center in the two largest modern economic movements – Communism and Liberalism – and rather than cornering, say, the bakery market, or the diamond market for that matter, they went for global finance. Not to mention the academy and media as well.

    It may be true that pre-1960 the West’s problems were mainly due to WASPs and Catholics, but since the 1960s there has been every bit an overturning of Western culture and norms as Russia experienced 100 years ago. And I can’t imagine this timeline happening without our fellow Judean monotheists being an outsized part. Sure, we’d have other problems to deal with, but likely not the problems we have now. There would be problems dealing with the mere direction of our society, as opposed to dealing with fundamental overturning of our society.

    • Charles Haywood says

      Well, maybe. The actions of the Left in the twentieth century had plenty of Jews in them, but there was a straight line from the French Revolution to them, and that had nearly no Jews. The problem is the Left, not the Jews, though Jewish participation exacerbates the evils of the Left.

  3. Polynices says

    Your closing comments are a really excellent, thoughtful description of Jews in the present day. Well phrased and sensible, not veering to either common extreme of too negative or too positive a view.

  4. Christian Orton says

    A bit related, have you ever studied or have an opinion of preterism?

    That being the view that Christ’s coming was not or ever intended to be an overtly physical return bringing about physical utopia on earth, but instead a judgment on the Old Covenant and full giving over to the New Covenant?

    Preterists believe this coming occurred in 70 AD in conjunction with the destruction of the temple as a clear sign (as Jesus prophesied) of the transition/coming. And they point to Josephus’ descriptions of phenomena in the clouds during the temple siege and destruction as minor evidence (I mention because of your statement that Josephus has been judged accurate enough in hindsight). And while preterists don’t believe in a physical coming, this event Josephus describes is merely signs like those that accompany most events in scripture when God executes his power and judgment.

    For me, it’s a compelling viewpoint, one I’ve studied quite a bit, and while I have struggles setting my feet firmly in any eschatological view, I do find preterist interpretation to make sense of a lot more scripture than the others.

    For example, Christ’s timestatements in the gospels given to that first century generation make more sense if you respect their context as applicable to that generation (and not, as the dispensationalists argue, that Jesus was really talking to some distant, future generation). In Matthew 10:23, he tells them they won’t go through all the cities of Israel before the coming. In Matthew 24:34, he tells them some of them won’t pass away until the coming. Really all of Matthew 24 deals with this. Beginning with him telling the audience that not one stone of the temple will be left upon another. They are puzzled and ask when this will occur and he describes his coming in the following verses until, again, he tells them some won’t die until it occurs. He even tells them to flee to the mountains when they see the signs he mentions. As you state in your essay, by the time the Romans arrived, many of the Jews were gone. Perhaps they listened?

    Anyway, just curious. If you’re ever interested (probably well down the line), I have some boom recommendations.

    • Charles Haywood says

      Only vaguely. It sounds interesting, but not interesting enough to spend a lot of time on, given my interests. I increasingly think such theological arguments are above my pay grade, and I will find out soon enough (but not too soon, I hope!)

    • David says

      Preterism is an old heresy (see 2 Timothy 2:17). And like all heresies it comes back again and again. Our times are too dangerous to be flirting with such things. Christianity isn’t an a la carte menu from which you can pick and choose what suits you.

      • Christian Orton says

        The interesting thing about that 2 Timothy passsage…why didn’t the author just say “You dummies, look around! Do you see any raised bodies? Why would you have ever believed Hymenaius and Philitus? I mean, we were super clear, right? Just look at all the other tombs! There’s still bodies, yes?”

        I think when reading scripture there’s a lot of paradigms we need to break out of. Ones we don’t realize we even have. I was raised Protestant, reformed Presbyterian, and even now I’m realizing how the dismissal (or omission) of Catholic or Jewish viewpoints and interpretations of certain parts of scripture impacted my foundation of my beliefs. Now, that I’m more open minded and can explore a bit more, scripture has been opening up again. That’s one reason podcasts have become so popular, the discussion from different perspectives allows people to examine their own blindspots and/or paradigms.

  5. Paul Cupp says

    With your voracious reading ability, it is now time for you to digest all three volumes of E. Michael Jones’ ‘Jewish Revolutionary Spirit.’ And also check out Brother Nathaniel, a fellow Eastern Orthodox.

    • Charles Haywood says

      What is Jones’s message, and how does it differ from my analysis?

    • Marko says

      EMJ is a click away from Kevin McDonald. (“The Marx of the Anti-Semites.”) Basically he’s the Catholic McDonald. He has some good cultural critiques, but he’s certainly in the camp of “Jews are to blame”. Which is a forgivable opinion, but both philo-Semite John Derbyshire and anti-Semite Mike Peinovich have said something to the effect of, “They are a small minority so why not just say no to them?”

      As for Brother Nathaniel…yikes. He was born into a Jewish family, renounced Judaism, became Orthodox, and now makes anti-Semitic videos. To the point I thought he was a Fed, though apparently not. He’s kind of a crank IMO.

    • Alex Sots says

      Brother Nathanael seems like a somewhat obscure figure, but I too would be very interested to someday read Mr. Haywood’s review of the JRS – a work which Dr. Jones considers to be his magnum opus.

  6. Zaphod says

    Given that Rabbinical Judaism is largely an evolutionary survival response to the destruction of the Second Temple, one can imagine plenty of rabbinical objections to the re-institution of the temple and the concomitant loss of rabbinical authority… or at the very least the upsetting of the tables and the forced scramble to recapture and hold authority.

    Additionally, should Temple Worship be re-established, Judaism would need to take a very good look at itself and subject itself to critique and deconstruction and reconstruction… and we all know just how much they love introspection and being shown the mirror. Ask one McCarthy, K., or the Orthodox Shade of Solzhenitsyn. The whole thing is just too complicated. What kind of Third Temple Judaism would you want? Pharisaic? Hellenised? Parkerised? And what would they stick in the Holy of Holies? A scale model of the USS Liberty? I’m assuming of course, that Indiana Jones was lying.

    Additionally, there’s a whole bunch of troublesome halachic observances and obligations currently under abeyance *because* there is no temple in Jerusalem. Just about nobody except for some impractical nutters wants them back. Plus animal sacrifices. Icky. What would PETA say?

    And no, the Muslims wouldn’t be happy either. Of course if Hollywood had their way, they’d film Bouraq Back Mountain on top of it.

    • Charles Haywood says

      All true, but that things are complicated or opposed by the powerful does not preclude them happening, as all history shows.

  7. SlowlyReading says

    The Trumpeting Place inscription from the Temple, discovered by archaeologists, is pretty cool.

    There’s a long tradition of reading some/all of the darkly apocalyptic elements in the New Testament, from the Gospels to Revelation, as (partly) looking ahead to the catastrophic destruction of the Temple in AD 70. With or without divine intervention, it doesn’t seem surprising that people would have seen that coming in advance, given the general powder-keg / tinderbox atmosphere of the time.

    • Charles Haywood says

      Yes–although preterism doesn’t seem real attractive to me, and contradictory to most Christianity, but this sort of thing isn’t a big focus of mine.

  8. MBlanc46 says

    The most annoying thing about the good old JQ is that one is forbidden from addressing it in a rational and empirical manner. No group enjoys talking about themselves more than the group under discussion does, but heaven help him if an outsider dares express an opinion that is not hagiographic. The hammer comes down on him fast and hard.

  9. JohnOrthodox says

    Your apologia for modern Israel is strange, and a severe blind spot.

    The Christian population in modern Israel has been a complete massacre (90%+ reduction, unheard of under Muslims), while in Gods providence, He allowed, and He let, the Turks take over most of Orthodox Christianity – to prevent the poisoning of the faith from the perversions of the west. Turks produce martyrs, but left the dogmas of the Christian faith alone (the only faith, the Orthodox), crushing them under taxes. St Justinian and others Holy Roman (Orthodox, not pretend Franks in the west) righfully, and inspired by God, put in place laws against Jews owning Christians as slaves – they want to destroy them and their faith, same as today.

    Jews, putting the United States on a Zionist leash, have decimated so many Orthodox Countries, we should hearken to the Orthodox Saints who rightfully call Zionism out as a satanic empire, and that it will wane, taking along with it Freemasons and Kaballists – the middle-management of Zionists. Being a conscious Orthodox Christian, please read more of the Saints who have lived under the Turks, and under the Jews, and the modern Jews of today – who most recently have seized historical Greek Orthodox lands “illegally” (with the backing of the government).

    The Holy Fathers say the modern Jews, as from Revelation, are the synagogue of Satan. They do not have God the Father, because they reject the Son, and deny Him. There is no such thing as “abrahamic religions” because all religions are inspirations of the demons, and man made nonsense. There is only One Revelation, the Holy Trinity, and the Only-begotten Son and Lord Jesus Christ, who founded one Holy Orthodox Christian Church – everything else is a perversion.

    Most recently, blessed Father Athanasios and his revelation series, you can read, who is presenting the patristic consensus of the God-bearing Fathers – those enlightened by God. There is no “scholarly conjecture” in theology – there is only Illumination and Theosis, the direct experience of God. Western scholasticism is a piece of nonsense. You will also see, that unlike the modern westerns starting to realize every single poisonous institution – for whatever “coincidence” is over represented by Jews – our Holy Fathers do not attack them polemically. They are a lash against the faithful for our sins.

    They are not cursed from birth – they have choices to make, like everyone does – we have free, soverign will – read the Holy Fathers commentary on “His blood be upon us!” If they choose, they choose to take that curse, and unfortunately so many still seem to.

    • Charles Haywood says

      This comment is a fine foil for important thoughts:

      1) I have earlier talked about the strange tendency on display in many Orthodox to engage in a type of Stockholm Syndrome with respect to Muslims who rule the lands in which they are, for now, permitted to live. In my review of Bat Ye’Or’s The Decline of Eastern Christianity Under Islam:

      “Ye’or only touches briefly on another subject I find of great interest—why is it that the Christian churches of the East tend to aggressively oppose the Jews and Israel, when it is obvious their real enemy is Islam, and has been for well over a thousand years? She ascribes it both to traditional ‘Judeophobia’ of Eastern Christians and to Arab nationalism. As to the first, true, low-level conflict among Jews and Christians under Islam was endemic. This is not surprising, given that Jews and Christians traded abuse in the East when each was in power, and thereafter Muslim rulers often dexterously further encouraged such schisms in order to divide and conquer—easy to do, given the wholly justified complaints of both Christians and Jews, in which each stored up centuries of wrongs, great and small. And as to the second, in more modern times, the dead end of pan-Arab nationalism, wherein there was an embedded conflict with Israel, seemed to attract ‘Arab’ Christians.

      But that does not explain why non-Arab Christians, such as the Greek Orthodox, kowtow to Islam and pretend it is anything but their mortal enemy. Certainly the Ecumenical Patriarch, head of my own church, is sadly under the thumb of the Turks, perhaps explaining why he focuses on third-order issues such as environmentalism, rather than the existential threats facing all Christians today. And let’s not forget that George W. Bush is single-handedly responsible for the total destruction of the Christians of Iraq by Muslims—something Eastern Christian leaders say little or nothing about. I’m hardly an expert in the various threads among today’s Eastern Christians, to be sure, or who is an Arab (how can it be that most Eastern Christians are Arabs, any more than Turks are Arabs?), or many other relevant matters. Maybe it’s just as simple as that Eastern Christians who live in Muslim countries are relentlessly bombarded with propaganda, and they know that any swimming against the tide is both difficult and dangerous—most of all for Eastern Christian hierarchs, who hold themselves responsible for the safety of their flocks.”

      While this is true, it does not directly answer your claims that Israel is worse for Christians than Islam, so let’s turn to that.

      2) The claim that “The Christian population in modern Israel has been a complete massacre (90%+ reduction, unheard of under Muslims)” is, um, bizarre. We can leave aside that nearly all the Middle East used to be Christian, and isn’t now, because of Islam. Just focusing on Israel, it’s trivially easy to find out that 2% of the population is Christian, about 185,000 people, and that percentage was 3% in 1949, although much less in absolute numbers. The reduction in Christianity from close to 100% to 3% was, obviously, due wholly to Islam.

      3) Your defense, contradictory to your claim that Islam is not to blame for ending Christianity and Christian lives, is that God “let the Turks take over most of Orthodox Christianity – to prevent the poisoning of the faith from the perversions of the west.” An original theory, that. To repurpose the apocryphal Vietnam quote, we had to destroy the religion to save it. Yeah, no.

      4) To the extent Orthodox countries have been “decimated,” though you don’t say which ones, it’s not because the “satanic empire” of Zionism has done it. What countries would that be? Armenia, maybe? Certainly Jews were very prominent in attempting to destroy Russia in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, but that’s not exactly a “satanic empire of Zionism,” it’s for the reasons I identified (and others specific to Russia, which Alexsandr Solzhenitsyn has covered at length).

      5) I understand there are some land disputes with the Greek Orthodox, and that some Orthodox Jews are known to abuse Christians. This is small beans compared to what Islam does on a regular basis, and has for 1500 years, to Christians, and to pretend otherwise is obtuse.

      6) Let’s not forget that a big reason that Islam was able to conquer was that various Orthodox and other (e.g., Monophysite) Christians cooperated with them, figuring (incorrectly) that Islam was just a Christian heresy and rule by Islam would be better than rule by Byzantium. Don’t see a lot of Jews involved in that (although it is true the Jews helped the Muslims conquer Spain).

      7) You don’t offer any cites to the “Holy Fathers” on what seems to be your core point. Certainly many of the Fathers noted that the Jews had rejected Christ; that’s not news. After all, they did, and do. I wouldn’t say every other Christian denomination is a “perversion,” and I doubt if you can get much patriarchal support for that claim.

  10. dog owners association of rome says

    There has not been a single continuous “jewish” people throughout history. You are falling for the PR of a specific 16th century banking clan, which decided to unite disparate merchant lines through historical reconstruction.

  11. Carlos Danger says

    As to Jews in today’s political world, New York Post columnist and recent New York to Florida transplant Karol Markowicz recently wrote an article called The New Jew that is interesting:

    Among other things, Karol Markowicz includes this joke making the rounds: “What is the difference between Donald Trump and a liberal Jew? Donald Trump has Jewish grandchildren.”

    She also says that the clunky word “antisemite” should be replaced by “Jew-hater”. I agree. People throw around accusations of antisemitism too casually. The starker term might stem that abuse. Few people hate the Jews, though some do, and those few should be called what they are.

    I was astounded when British MP Matt Hancock and PM Rishi Sunak accused MP Andrew Bridgen of being an antisemite for quoting an Israeli cardiologist as saying Covid vaccinations are the biggest crime against humanity since the holocaust.

    Antivax? Yes, certainly. Antisemitic (in other words, Jew-hating)? Not at all.

    • Charles Haywood says

      Yes, the accusation of “anti-Semite,” like “racist,” etc., has lost nearly all practical meaning.

  12. wes mouch says

    On the JQ you may want to consider reading Kevin MacDonald’s Culture of Critique available for free at

  13. Darryl says

    I do enjoy your book reviews and felt I should comment. There are two problems I view with your analysis on how Judaism interacts with a society. Well, really it’s one problem, the problem of definition. What is Judaism on both a Macro and Micro level in any given contemporary society? That’s a more difficult problem to address than you may think.

    The Macro level is easier to deal with. The assumption in your analysis of Jews is that they are a very successful minority population living in the diaspora among a distinct majority population. Which means you are dealing with the Jewish Diaspora and not Israel where Jews are the majority.

    There are many Diaspora populations globally that are distinct from an ethnic or religious majority in a society which provide a useful comparable. In some cases these minorities control a wildly disparate share of the capital, either social or fiscal, in that society. The Han Chinese vis a vis the ethnic Malays in Malaysia are one example of a diaspora population who share similar characteristics to that of the Jews in the West, but there are others. Which means “the Jews” may not be “the Jews” at all, but simply one example of a measurable human phenomena common across many societies.

    Has anyone of any repute studied this phenomena? Indeed yes. Yale Law Professor Amy Chua produced an extensive work on distinct minority ethno-cultural groups and their interactions with majority populations in capitalist democracies and used her research to produce the seminal 2005 work “World on Fire”, which I would strongly recommend to you.

    In her work, Chua identified the phenomena of “Market Dominant Minorities”, such as the Chinese in Malaysia, who come to control a disproportionate percentage of the capital stock in their societies and documented the effect of that control on the democratic process in that society. I would strongly recommend this work to you, because it can give you a more nuanced and informed view on the so-called “JQ”.

    Now, as for the micro-level, it is necessary to define Judaism. By your own admission modern Judaism shares very little with the religion of antiquity. In reality, the term Judaism in the modern sense is a bit of chimera; the religion is actually a grab-bag of sects with widely diverging customs and practices. As different, say, as Quackers are from the Russian Orthodox in Christianity. Each sect interacts with their host society quite differently and there is far less interaction between the sects themselves as one might think. The ultra-Orthodox rarely break bread with Reform Judaism.

    I have quite a unique perspective on this issue (very unique actually) and detailing it would take some effort. I may make an effort post on my perspective if you provide one of your brilliant and polite responses to this comment. Maybe. It would take a lot of effort.

    Thank-you for your work. I enjoy it a great deal.

    • Charles Haywood says

      Thank you—I am a sucker for compliments, as I always say!

      I’d say we seem to agree more than you think. Jewish “outsiderness” is certainly “one example of a measurable human phenomena common across many societies.” It’s the most extreme example, though, and it’s unclear how that could happen unless “the Jews” are a distinct group. It’s not just religion and culture, of course; the physical appearance of Jews is consistent with historical descriptions, and both genetic defects passed down and DNA markers show clearly that the Jews are an identifiable group (with non-zero admixture, of course).

      I have a copy of World on Fire, though I haven’t read it. I don’t see how that contradicts anything I said, though.

      Reform Judaism isn’t Judaism at all; it’s just a club for Jews. That’s obvious to anyone with any religious knowledge. I think you exaggerate, other than the abandonment of Second Temple Judaism for rabbinical Judaism, the heterogeneity of actually-religious modern Jews. There are plenty of irreligious Jews, and quasi-religious Jews. But the religion itself is quite coherent, and even if there are divisions within religious Jews as far apart as the Quakers and the Orthodox, which I doubt, after all both those are Christian denominations.

      The effects we are talking about within a society have little to do with religion, though. When we talk about Jews in this sense, we meant the ethnic/cultural group, some members of which are religious, but all of which regard themselves as Jews, and share (on average) the superior characteristics that tend to lead to success, along with actively clannishly helping other Jews in preference to non-Jews, which tends to reinforce that success (as you say, not dissimilar to the Chinese in Malaysia, not that I’m an expert on that). Pretending this is not true is silly. It does not excuse Jew-hating, of course, but as I said in the piece, it tends to lead to resentment—both from the “host society,” and by some Jews themselves, because nobody likes to be treated as an outsider, especially when one is successful by the “host society’s” supposed standards.

      Not sure if this is responsive—hope it is!

      I have quite a unique perspective on this issue (very unique actually) and detailing it would take some effort. I may make an effort post on my perspective if you provide one of your brilliant and polite responses to this comment. Maybe. It would take a lot of effort.

  14. Y. 2% minority who want to stay a separate minority and not melt into majority. Clannish. Resentment on both sides. Every 100 years or so a progrom somewhere in the world. That’s reality.

    Perhaps unimportant in the grand scheme of things (y, you are correct, enlightenment is more important than this derivative discussion), but if you live in the past 70 years or the next few decades, this scheme is important to your own life. So one could perhaps pursue this line of thought: in reaction to the above reality, jews since 1950s sought and succeeded at changing the west into a minority structured society:

    Karl Popper > Soros as most prominent zealot of KP but there are many others = open society, pluralism, tolerance, multi-culti, diversity is our strength = then no one cares any more about that 2% if there are now handfuls of distinct minorities at 2 to 15%.(ny & ca = majority are minorities). This thought fomented far weirder and prominent “cultural minorities” so we do not notice anymore that persistent 2%.

    Frankfurt School = all jews who came to USA universities to spread CRT = teaching everything but the minority is ugly/oppression = defense of the minority structured society (the 2%) by subverting the foundations of majority held arguments and beliefs

    These two new (albeit IMO superficial and highly derivative) thinking since 1950 has profoundly changed daily life and thought in America and changed it into a minority-structured world. Who thrives and flourishes and who doesn’t, is the real question to ask when looking at any structure.

    What should not affect our daily life, but in any case these 2 following facts are very funny because it’s both obvious but no one says it out loud:
    Biden (does he run things?) cabinet: chief of staff=j; sec of state=j; the buck of federal law enforcement stops at the j: ag=j, homeland security=j, sec=j, DNI=j, irs under sec of treasury=j. American Indians are also 2% of population, think of punch line to the jokes if Indians were now in all these positions! 2% means 1j in the cabinet per 2 administrations. Diversity? use arithmetic.

    Ukraine was a large part of the Pale. Russia as orthodox Christians allowed j to only live west of the Dneiper in the Pale and they could not participate in the society of the russian empire. For example, 1940s Chernitvsi was 70% J; Lemberg/Lviv was 25% J; Odessa 50% J. Most Jewish area in the world compared to almost any time/area in history. Many(most?) J in USA have (great) grandparents who came from these lands. So as irish Americans were partial in the north Ireland disputes in the 70s, you perhaps partial to Hungary, many J in America are to ukraine for same reason – while most Americans would (should?) normally not care about n.Ireland, Hungary or Ukraine. But Zelensky is J comedian wearing Castro garb. Their hero.

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