150 AD to 170 AD, Psalm 55: Edom.

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Ruins_of_the_Temple_of_Serapis_with_a_column_from_an_early_Christian_church,_Aelia_Capitolina_(15522626940)This generation is that of the 150s and 160s.

At the level of the Roman Empire, this generation is straddling the reign of Antoninus Pius (138/161) and that of Marcus Aurelius (161/180).

 

Hadrian_founder_Aelia_CapitolinaThe situation of the Jews in Judea after the defeat of the revolt of Bar Kokhba is most terrible:

  • The [1] consequences of the uprising were perhaps even more catastrophic and resounding than those of the first war. On the side of the Romans, Hadrian again acclaimed himself as emperor, but he renounced, however, his triumphal parade and contented himself with awarding his victorious general Julius Severus the triumphal ornaments. The omission of the usual formula « mihi and legionibus bene » (me and the armies, we are in good health) at the end of the report that Hadrian sent to the senate also indicates how much the victory was dearly gained. For the Jews of Palestine, both immediate and longer-term consequences were undoubtedly worse. Dion Cassius writes: « Fifty of their principal fortresses and nine hundred and eighty-five localities were destroyed, five hundred and eighty thousand men perished in the attacks and the combats. But the number of the victims of hunger, sickness, and iron was infinite, so that Judea was soon to be turned into a desert, as had been predicted, before the war. For Solomon’s tomb, which they revered, crumbled by itself. Many wolves and hyenas rushed screaming into their cities. Even if the figures given by Dion are exaggerated, the fact remains that the losses among the population and the destruction throughout the province will have been considerable. According to Jerome, many Jews were sold into slavery; there were so many, it seems, that the price of the Jewish captives on the slave market of Hebron made a free fall not to exceed that of a horse . The economic structures of the country had collapsed. The entire cultural and economic life of the Jews of Palestine was transferred to Galilee.
  • Artist's_reconstruction_of_life_in_a_Roman_cardo_of_Jerusalem_during_the_Aelia_Capitolina_period_(15607472376)Jerusalem was definitively transformed into a Roman colony with the official name of Colonia Aelia Capitolina (Aelia in reference to the surname of Hadrian: P. Aelius Hadrianus, Capitolina in reference to Jupiter Capitolin). Access to the new Roman city was forbidden to the Jews on pain of death. Aelia thus became an entirely pagan city, without doubt equipped with public buildings and temples in relation. However, there is no more faith in Dion’s words today that a pagan temple dedicated to Jupiter Capitol was erected on the site of the destroyed Jewish Temple. On the other hand, it is undeniable that a statue of Hadrian stood in the center of Aelia, which is enough to profane the Jewish Jerusalem. As a result, we are rightly talking about a total paganization of Jerusalem.
The whole of this situation is recalled in the beginning of the psalm of this generation:

(extract of the psalm 55 associated to this generation, verses 1 to  9 )

  • For the conductor, on neginoth, a maskil of David.
  • Incline Your ear, O God, to my prayer and do not disregard my supplication.
  • Hearken to me and answer me; I lament in my speech and I moan,
  • From the voice of the enemy, because of the distress of the wicked; for they accuse me of iniquity and they hate me with a vengeance.
  • My heart shudders within me, and terrors of death have fallen upon me.
  • Fear and trembling come upon me, and horror overcomes me.
  • And I said, « If only I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest.
  • Behold I would wander far away; I would lodge in the desert forever.
  • I would quickly find myself a refuge from a sweeping wind, from a tempest. »

symbole christianisme primitifThe place will not remain empty very long, Christians of pagan origin not concerned by the prohibitions of Hadrian unlike the Judeo-Christians can settle there:

  • By [2] elsewhere, at a time when there is still no precise anti-Christian legislation (on the Roman side), the Ebionites (more generally, the Judeo-Christians) fall, as Jews, because circumcised , under the blow of the prohibition made by Hadrian to all Israel to penetrate and live in Jerusalem / Aelia. The Holy City is no longer their city. The great church can then replace them. It was in the aftermath of the war that a Christian community of gentility was organized in Jerusalem, under the government of Bishop Marcus. This installation at such a time, has symbolic value. It consecrates both the bankruptcy of Judeo-Christianity, denied on one side as it is on the other (by the Jews), and the irreducible opposition between Christianity and Israel: it is among the misfortune of Jews, and as in the waggons of Rome, the Christians who came from paganism, adopted in the place of the rebellious people, make their entry into Zion.
It is this opportunism of the first pagano-Christians who take their distance with the Jews and the Judeo-Christians at a time when they are in a particularly vulnerable position that the continuation of the psalm condemns:

(extract of the psalm 55 associated to this generation, verses 10 to 12 )

  • Destroy, O Lord, divide their tongue, for I have seen violence and strife in the city.
  • Day and night they surround it on its walls, and iniquity and sin are in its midst.
  • Destruction is within it, and blows and deceit do not move out of its square. 
    • Jerusalem is forbidden to the Jews, the Christians not concerned by this prohibition can wave there in the middle of the Roman pagans on which they will now bring their effort of conversion for the race to the political power.
The nascent Christianity had already, while still purely Judaeo-Christian, disassociated itself from the Jews during the revolt of 66 (the one that preceded the destruction of the Temple), preferring to flee to Pella in Transjordan rather than to fight in Jerusalem. . Here again, Bar Kokheba’s revolt serves the political opportunism of the new religion:
  • It [3] should be remembered that at this time (before the revolt of Bar Kokheba) nothing differentiated a Jew from a Judeo-Christian. Both attended the synagogue and respected the ritual observances of Judaism. Thus, in this climate of daily contact, one can only assume that factors of doctrinal influence, the very ones against which the Sages (Jews) intended to fight.
  • From a political and social point of view, we can finally underline that progressively Judeo-Christians inevitably leave the framework of Jewish society and are engaged in an ascent towards autonomy and the quest for power in the empire. As such, Jewish continuity necessarily becomes of a minority and closed type.
It is this « betrayal » of those whom the synagogue had continued to accept within it that the following of the psalm evokes:

(extract of the psalm 55 associated to this generation, verses 13 to 15 )

  • For no enemy reviled me that I should bear it; my enemy did not open his mouth wide against me, that I should hide from him.
  • But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend,
  • That together we would devise counsel; in the house of God we would walk with a multitude.
This rise of Christianity, of pagan-Christianity, at the expense of Judaism will be decisive in the history of the Jewish people during the rest of the night and will be the cause of many misfortunes for the chosen people.
Rome, the symbol of Esau who lives by his sword, will long experience the Jewish people but without being able to make him renounce his faith. Because the descendants of Jacob know that the dawn will eventually point to the horizon.
It is on this determination that the psalm ends:

(extract of the psalm 55 associated to this generation, verses 16 to 24 )

 

  • May He incite Death upon them; may they descend to the grave alive, for there are evils in their dwelling, in their midst.
  • I shall call to God, and the Lord will save me.
  • Evening, morning, and noontime, I speak and moan, and He hearkened to my voice.
  • He redeemed my soul with peace from the battle that came upon me, because of the many [people who] were with me.
  • May God hear and answer them, and the One who dwells from time immemorial forever, for there is no passing for them, and they did not fear God.
  • He stretched forth his hands against him who was at peace with him; he profaned his covenant.
  • Smooth were the buttery words of his mouth but his heart was set on war; his words were softer than oil, but they are curses.
  • Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will bear you; He shall never allow a righteous man to falter.
  • But You, O God, shall lower them to the Pit of Destruction; men of blood and deceit shall not live half their days, but I will trust in You.

 

 

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[1] Peter Schäfer / History of the Jews in Antiquity / Chapter: « The Bar Kokheba Uprising » (French: « Histoire des Juifs dans l’antiquité »/Chapitre : « Le soulèvement de Bar Kokheba » (P185/186) ).

[2] Marcel Simon / Verus Israel / Chapter « The Church and Israel » (French: « Verus Israel »/Chapitre « L’Église et Israël » (p.39) ).

[3] Dan Jaffé / Judaism and the advent of Christianity / General Introduction (French: « Le judaïsme et l’avènement du christianisme »/Introduction générale (p. 39/40) ).