50 AD to 70 AD, Psalm 50: Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving

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    Summary

This generation is from the years 50 AD to 70 AD.

According to our count, this generation is the 50th generation associated with Psalm 50. It is in this Psalm 50 that we therefore find an illustration of the facts of this generation.

This generation is that of the destruction of the second temple (70). The death of Agrippa I destroyed all hope for Judea of remaining a great power, which had become a Roman province. Agrippa II was raised in Rome. The kingdom entrusted to him is illusory, he does not question the vassalage of Judea to Rome.

During this generation and until the revolt of 66, many Roman procurators succeeded one another at the head of Judea pushing the exasperation of the Jews until the revolt of 66. Following a first victory against the twelfth Roman legion in 66, the revolt is gaining momentum.

But the Romans led by Vespasian then Titus then employed more adequate means. In 67, Galilee has already fallen and the fighting is concentrated on Jerusalem.

The insurgents of Jerusalem should have used the little time they had left before the clash with the Romans to strengthen their defenses and prepare the siege. Instead, the various factions were leading a fratricidal struggle for power, causing the premature death of many fighters and the destruction of food that would have held siege for many years.

The lack of effort to strengthen the fortifications will allow Rome to make a breach and end up rushing to the heart of the city. Jerusalem falls and in the confusion of the battle, the Temple is set on fire.

This event marks the end of the service of the priests in the Temples, which no longer exists. It is also the beginning of the survival of the Jewish people in exile, an exile which then begins, an exile much harsher than that of Babylon.

This shift is felt in the psalms, in the shift of the authors. Psalm 50, that of this generation, in fact, is declined by Assaf and thus breaks the series of eight psalms, from psalms forty-two to forty-nine which were the work of the sons of Korah.

These psalms, psalms forty-two to forty-nine, were, in a way, a plea for Korah, their grandfather who had opposed the high priest Aaron. Indeed in the forty-two generation, Aristobulus high priest, descendant of Aaron, had officially proclaimed himself king and thus cumulated the two powers, the religious and the political, justifying the complaint of Korah. In this generation, Aaron and his descendants are punished by losing the priesthood. This confirms the request of the sons of Korah for the last psalms of the first night watch, which ends at generation 49. The sons of Korah have fulfilled their mission.

This generation is shifting from worship centered on the temple and sacrifice to one based on a direct relationship with God based on prayer. The cantor, who was only accompanying the high priest, is projected in the foreground. It is for this reason that the psalm of this generation is declined by Assaf which takes the continuation of the psalms of the sons of Korah.

It was David who entrusted the direction of the songs of thanksgiving to the Lord to Assaf and his brethren. Assaf provides divine worship through his songs rather than through burnt offerings. It is therefore normal that he is the one who, through his psalm, inaugurates the era of exile, that associated with the last two night guards, those of exile without a Temple.

In the same psalm, he announces the end of sacrificial worship (sons of Korah) for the benefit of prayer (Assaf): « God, even your God am I. I will not reprove you concerning your sacrifices, neither are your burnt offerings before Me constantly. I will not take from your household a bull, from your pens any goats. (…) Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving And pay your vows to the Most High« .

It is naturally in this direction that Palestinian Judaism engages with the Pharisaic movement. Unlike the others, their religion is already that of the Book, and secondarily that of the Temple. In their eyes, the tradition of the Sages has more authority than the succession of priests.

While waiting for Judaism to be organized following the destruction of the second temple that will intervene in this generation, and therefore at the end of the sacrificial cult, another religion is born: Christianity.

After the death of Jesus, Christianity was only a Jewish sect that had attached to the Mosaic law the belief that Jesus was the much awaited Messiah. As Origen reminds us:  » Jews who believe in Jesus have not abandoned the law of their fathers; they live in accordance with it and their name comes from the poverty of this law. For the poor is called among the Jews « ebion » and those of the Jews who recognize Jesus as the Christ are called « Ebionéens« . And he adds: « Peter himself seems to have long observed the Jewish customs according to the law of Moses, as he had not learned from Jesus to rise from the literal law to the spiritual law. »

The first Christians from Judaism will soon be in the minority. Because many pagans are seduced by the nascent religion. Those who adopt the new religion are often those who were previously attracted to Judaism in general. Judaism was lawful religion in the Roman Empire at that time, the God of Israel was respected by many Romans who considered him as the only God or reserved him a place of choice in their polytheistic pantheon. Before the advent of Christianity, on the sidelines of Judaism and the Jews, lived many pagans faithful to the principles of Judaism, without being able to adhere to it, the « God-fearing ».

In relation to this potential clientele of Christianity, the first apostles tried, like the Jews before them, to convince them of the value of their message without calling into question the foundations of the original religion, the Jewish religion.

The resistance of the Jews to Christianity does not change the attitude of the first apostles towards them or the Mosaic law. The break is caused by Paul who refuses to see Christianity next to Judaism. Paul wants everyone to join Christianity. Thus the Jews’ resistance to Paul’s preaching draws his anger.

Because of the resistance of the Jews to Christianity, Paul naturally turns to this reservoir of pagans already sensitized to Monotheism. Instead of merely allowing them to apply only part of the law, he prefers to declare it obsolete. If early Christians were representatives of a Jewish sect who had added to the Mosaic Law the belief that the long-awaited Messiah had been incarnated in Jesus, so it is Paul who presumably shifts this sect into the religion we know. It is especially in the Epistle to the Romans that Paul promulgates the foundations of Christianity: faith instead of law. It thus initiates the break between Judaism, the mother religion, and the emerging religion: Christianity.

Paul’s speech, intended for the Gentiles, seems to seal the decay of the people of Israel to the benefit of the Christians, the new Israel. But in a way the harm is done, what will hold the Christians, or at least the majority of them, during the twenty centuries that will follow is the final decay of the law and the Jewish people in favor of the faith and the Christian people, the new Israel.

Talk

The ferments of the revolt

It begins at the political level by the kingship of Agrippa II.

Agrippa II was raised in Rome. The kingdom entrusted to him is illusory, he does not question the vassalage of Judea to Rome. He will be a Hellenistic sovereign faithful to Rome who does not hesitate to put himself on the side of Rome during the uprising that begins in 66.

After the destruction of Jerusalem, he continues to rule Jewish provinces and dies without lineage around 92 without leaving great traces in history.

During this generation and until the revolt of 66, many Roman procurators succeeded one another at the head of Judea pushing the exasperation of the Jews until the revolt of 66.

The Jewish revolt actually breaks out in 66:

  • This[1] last period preceding the general conflict is characterized by a growing political tension which was almost necessarily to culminate in war. The procurators were almost all incompetent, occupied solely with exploiting the province financially and hurting (one would say, one would say) the patriotic and religious feelings of the Jews. The awakening of the « terrorist bands » – of the zealots, therefore, who were to end up raising the people against Rome – is a typical sign of this time.

The Jewish revolt

The Jewish revolt actually broke out in 66:

  • The[2] seizure of the procurator Gessius Florus (64-66) on the treasure of the temple marks the transition from subversive actions of isolated groups to a general open revolt. Flavius Josephus gives us the date: 16 Artemisis (April / May) 66. Florus had to retreat to Caesarea and left Jerusalem only a Roman cohort. The zealots seized Massada and Jerusalem, the captain of the Temple, Eleazar, whose father was Anania the high priest, ordered the cessation of the daily sacrifice due to Caesar. This initiative constituted the decisive act of the rebellion and the official rupture of the hierosolymitan cultic community of with the Roman authority.

Following a first victory against the twelfth Roman legion in 66, the revolt is gaining momentum.

But the Romans led by Vespasian then Titus then employed more adequate means. It was then three legions who tried to reconquer Judea accompanied by the twelfth legion that had been defeated by the Jews.

In 67, Galilee has already fallen and the fighting is concentrated on Jerusalem.

Besieged Jerusalem

The insurgents of Jerusalem should have used the little time they had left before the clash with the Romans to strengthen their defenses and prepare the siege.

Instead, the various factions were leading a fratricidal struggle for power, causing the premature death of many fighters and the destruction of food that would have held siege for many years.

The lack of effort to strengthen the fortifications will allow Rome to make a breach and end up rushing to the heart of the city. Mismanagement of food will kill many insurgents and weaken most others, greatly reducing their ability to fight.

This war in faction ruined Jerusalem long before the Roman assault. But Rome at the same time is also prone to civil war in succession battles after Nero’s death. Rome and Jerusalem, Jacob and Esau prove once more their twinness:

  • But[3] now sedition and civil war prevailed, not only over Judea, but in Italy also; for now Galba was slain in the midst of the Roman market-place; then was Otho made emperor, and fought against Vitellius, who set up for emperor also; for the legions in Germany had chosen him.

And even :

  • Now[4] (While the fire was kindled in Jerusalem), about this very time it was that heavy calamities came about Rome on all sides; for Vitellius was come from Germany with his soldiery, and drew along with him a great multitude of other men besides. And when the spaces allotted for soldiers could not contain them, he made all Rome itself his camp, and filled all the houses with his armed men; which men, when they saw the riches of Rome with those eyes which had never seen such riches before, and found themselves shone round about on all sides with silver and gold, they had much ado to contain their covetous desires, and were ready to betake themselves to plunder, and to the slaughter of such as should stand in their way. And this was the state of affairs in Italy at that time.
1024px-Arch_of_Titus_Menorah_22

The burning of the Temple

After a laborious siege, where the Jews tried belatedly against a fierce but useless resistance to the Romans, Jerusalem falls and in the confusion of the battle, the Temple is set on fire:

  • At[5] which time one of the soldiers, without staying for any orders, and without any concern or dread upon him at so great an undertaking, and being hurried on by a certain divine fury, snatched somewhat out of the materials that were on fire, and being lifted up by another soldier, he set fire to a golden window, through which there was a passage to the rooms that were round about the holy house, on the north side of it. As the flames went upward, the Jews made a great clamor, such as so mighty an affliction required, and ran together to prevent it; and now they spared not their lives any longer, nor suffered any thing to restrain their force, since that holy house was perishing, for whose sake it was that they kept such a guard about it.
  • And now a certain person came running to Titus, and told him of this fire, as he was resting himself in his tent after the last battle; whereupon he rose up in great haste, and, as he was, ran to the holy house, in order to have a stop put to the fire; after him followed all his commanders, and after them followed the several legions, in great astonishment; so there was a great clamor and tumult raised, as was natural upon the disorderly motion of so great an army. Then did Caesar, both by calling to the soldiers that were fighting, with a loud voice, and by giving a signal to them with his right hand, order them to quench the fire. But they did not hear what he said, though he spake so loud, having their ears already dimmed by a greater noise another way; nor did they attend to the signal he made with his hand neither, as still some of them were distracted with fighting, and others with passion. But as for the legions that came running thither, neither any persuasions nor any threatenings could restrain their violence, but each one’s own passion was his commander at this time; and as they were crowding into the temple together, many of them were trampled on by one another, while a great number fell among the ruins of the cloisters, which were still hot and smoking, and were destroyed in the same miserable way with those whom they had conquered; and when they were come near the holy house, they made as if they did not so much as hear Caesar’s orders to the contrary; but they encouraged those that were before them to set it on fire.

Before connecting the psalm to the tragic story of this generation that Jews commemorate each year on the anniversary of the destruction of the second temple, which coincides, according to tradition, with that of the first Temple and many tragic events for the Jews through their history, we must first look at the author of the psalm.

The Golden calf

This psalm, in fact, is declined by Asaph and thus breaks the series of eight psalms, psalms forty-two to forty-nine, which were the work of the sons of Korah.

These psalms were, in a way, a plea for Korah, their grandfather who had opposed the high priest Aaron. Indeed in the forty-two generation, Aristobulus high priest, descendant of Aaron, had officially proclaimed himself king and thus cumulated the two powers, the religious and the political, whereas these had always been separated since the couple Moses / Aaron.

This largely tormented generation, where Judea is a Roman province and King Agrippa II lacking scope can not prevent the imminent disaster, sees the high priesthood even more flouted on the eve of the siege of Jerusalem:

  • In[6] the fear and despondency of the people, the presumption and power of those factious (those who had taken power in Jerusalem) went to such an extent that they dared to even have the great priesthood. They rejected the families who had been accustomed to possess it successively, and established in this high dignity persons without name and without birth, in order to make them accomplices of their crimes; people unworthy of so great a honor, who could not refuse to obey those who had brought them up there.

The fiftieth generation is the first generation of the second watch of the night.

The first forty-nine generations corresponded both to the forty-nine curses of Leviticus which were ginned one by one for each generation, and to the forty-nine generations in which the Jews lived in the presence of the Temple (the exile of Babylon represents only a short episode where the divine presence was not really removed from the Jewish people, to judge only the prophets who accompanied the Jews in this deportation).

The fiftieth generation sees the end of the temple and the beginning of the true exile of Israel within the nations that lasts ninety-eight generations are the last two watches of the night.

The forty-nine curses of Leviticus have just freed the Jewish people from the sin of the golden calf, for which Moses symbolically sacrificed the two temples by breaking the two tables of the law.

The ninety-eight curses of Deuteronomy will wash the people of Israel of its two other major faults in the desert when it asks for lack of trust in God, water and is afraid of to establish in the promised land after the explorers’ expedition.

The importance of these faults is that, although the people of Israel have witnessed divine miracles in order to extract them from slavery in Egypt, they have vowed to return to Egypt and repel the promised land.

The first watch was intended to disgust the people of Israel idolatrous worship, comparable to worship of the golden calf so that it becomes a people faithful to the divine covenant.

Laws for exile

The curses of Deuteronomy that will take place during the last two night watches, during the long exile of the people of Israel within the nations, will eventually build a strong national identity to this people. In such a way that he no longer seeks his salvation except in the promised land by ceasing to be tempted to live among nations.

Leviticus describes in detail the sacrificial cult.

In Deuteronomy, which is a repetition by Moses of the law already enunciated in the other books of the Pentateuch, this one is nonexistent. Moses focuses on the laws that will remain after the destruction of the second temple, establishing if necessary laws of substitution for those dependent on the Temple.

Thus at the beginning of the Pentateuch, Moses recalls the events that brought the Jewish people to the threshold of the promised land, where they must abandon it. It also summarizes on this occasion, the exile of Israel when it evokes Esau, supposed to represent Rome dominant power throughout this exile:

  • And[7] the Lord spoke to me, saying,
  • You have circled this mountain long enough; turn northward.
  • And command the people saying, You are about to pass through the boundary of your kinsmen, the children of Esau, who dwell in Seir, and they will be afraid of you. Be very careful.
  • You shall not provoke them, for I will not give you any of their land not so much as a foot step, because I have given Mount Seir to Esau for an inheritance.
  • You shall buy food from them with money, that you may eat, and also water you shall buy from them with money, that you may drink.

Thus the future of Israel within the nations is traced: Israel will survive but can only survive as a pariah. He will only regain his dignity within the promised land, he will not be able to peacefully share the fate of nations within them.

The laws of Leviticus, although no longer relevant after the Temple is destroyed, will not be unnecessary. Their deep meaning, as well as that of other laws, will eventually attract the respect of nations:

  • Behold[8], I have taught you statutes and ordinances, as the Lord, my God, commanded me, to do so in the midst of the land to which you are coming to possess.
  • And you shall keep [them] and do [them], for that is your wisdom and your understanding in the eyes of the peoples, who will hear all these statutes and say, « Only this great nation is a wise and understanding people. « 

Moses also announces the exile of the people of Israel, if he does not respect the holiness of the land of Israel:

  • And[9] the Lord will scatter you among the peoples, and you will remain few in number among the nations to where the Lord will lead you.

Before setting forth the commandments of Deuteronomy, Moses remembers their validity through time, thus valid for faith for the stay of the people of Israel in the promised land and in exile among the nations.

  • This[10] is the commandment, the statutes, and the ordinances that the Lord, your God, commanded to teach you, to perform in the land into which you are about to pass, to possess it.
  • In order that you fear the Lord, your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments that I command you, you, your son, and your son’s son, all the days of your life, and in order that your days may be lengthened.

Moses recalls the substitutes for the laws which impose an addiction with the Temple of Jerusalem. The Jews in the desert had claimed to be able to eat meat, God allowed them to, although that removes the precepts of the future world. But only by respecting a minimum of laws designed to respect as much as possible the animal soul of animals considered pure enough to be eaten.

In particular, the rules of slaughter are strict and must be done in the temple.

However, because of the extent of the country at first, the slaughter is allowed elsewhere according to certain conditions. These rules established in Deuteronomy allow in fact especially to carry out a conformal slaughter during the exile.

  • When[11] the Lord, your God, expands your boundary, as He has spoken to you, and you say, « I will eat meat, » because your soul desires to eat meat, you may eat meat, according to every desire of your soul.
  • If the place the Lord, your God, chooses to put His Name there, will be distant from you, you may slaughter of your cattle and of your sheep, which the Lord has given you, as I have commanded you, and you may eat in your cities, according to every desire of your soul.

Assaf, the cantor

This generation is shifting from worship centered on the temple and sacrifice to one based on a direct relationship with God based on prayer. The cantor, who was only accompanying the high priest, is projected in the foreground.

It is for this reason that the psalm of this generation is declined by Asaph who takes over from the Psalms of the sons of Korah.

These challenged the power entrusted to Aaron and his descendants, they won because the prescriptions of Leviticus concerning the temple can not be held for nearly two thousand years.

Before discussing the destruction of the second temple, therefore, it is necessary to identify the role of Asaph in the priesthood.

These are the Chronicles which specify the family origin of Asaph and his role:

  • The[12] sons of Levi: Gershom, Kehath, and Merari. (…)
  • And these are the ones that David stationed to sing in the House of the Lord since the Ark was deposited.
  • And these are those who stood [at their stations] and their sons; (…)
  • And his brother (of Heman the singer) Asaph, who stood at his right, Asaph the son of Berechiah, the son of Shimea.
  • The son of Michael, the son of Baasiah, the son of Malciah.
  • The son of Ethni, the son of Zerah, the son of Adaiah.
  • The son of Ethan, the son of Zimmah, the son of Shimei.
  • The son of Jahath, the son of Gershom, the son of Levi.

Also:

  • And[13] [David] made himself houses in the City of David, and he prepared a place for the Ark of God, and he pitched a tent for it.
  • Then David said, « It is not proper to carry the Ark of God except the Levites, for the Lord chose them to carry the Ark of God and to serve Him forever. » (…)
  • And David said to the leaders of the Levites to station their brethren, the singers, with musical instruments, psalteries and harps and cymbals, resounding to raise a voice in joy.
  • And the Levites stationed Heman the son of Joel and of his brethren, Asaph the son of Berechiah, (the text completes the list of cantors).

And:

  • On[14] that day, David ordained to give thanks to the Lord by the hand of Asaph and his brethren.

Also:

  • And[15] he left before the Ark of the Lord Asaph and his brethren to serve before the Ark continually as every day’s work required.

The Psalms of Asaph are already mentioned by Hezekiah who calls him « Asaph the seer »:

  • And[16] King Hezekiah and the officer ordered the Levites to praise the Lord with the words of David and Asaph the seer, and they praised until they were joyful, and they bowed and prostrated themselves.

Assaf is still quoted in the days of Josiah. The latter realizes the faults of his people. He makes him celebrate the Passover, and thus he sanctifies him. This before the first temple is destroyed in the time of his successors who will not have his wisdom:

  • And[17] they cooked the Passover sacrifice with fire according to the law, and the hallowed things they cooked in pots and in cauldrons and in pans and carried them quickly to all the members of the people.
  • And afterwards, they prepared for themselves and for the priests, because the priests, the sons of Aaron were [engaged] in offering up the burnt-offerings and the fats until night; and the Levites prepared for themselves and for the priests, the sons of Aaron.
  • And the singers, the sons of Asaph were in their place according to the command of David and Asaph and Heman and Jeduthun, the king’s seer, and the gate sentries for each gate; there was no need for them to depart from their service, for their brethren the Levites prepared for them.

During the restoration of the Temple, by Ezra, the descendants of Assaf are still present:

  • And[18] the builders laid the foundation of the Temple of the Lord, and they stationed the priests in their attire with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the Lord through David the king of Israel.
  • And they sang aloud with praise and with thanks to the Lord for it is good, for His kindness is eternal over Israel, and the entire people shouted with a great shout with praise to the Lord because the foundation of the House of the Lord was laid.

Likewise, during the inauguration of the walls of Jerusalem, by Nehemiah:

  • On[19] that day (priests perform sacrifices), men were appointed over the chambers for treasuries for the heave offerings, for the first gifts, and for the tithes, to gather in them from the fields of the cities the portions prescribed by the Torah for the priests and for the Levites, for the rejoicing of Judah was over the priests and over the Levites who stood [ministering].
  • And they kept the charge of their God and the charge of purification, and [so did] the singers and the gate sentries, according to the mandate of David [to] Solomon his son.
  • For in the days of David and Asaph, who were the leaders of the singers of yore and [who established] songs of praise and thanksgiving to God.

It is therefore normal that Asaph, who performs divine worship through his songs rather than holocausts, is the one who inaugurates through this psalm the time of exile, the one associated with the last two watches of the night.

Aaron

The service of the descendants of Aaron, who provided them with divine service by burnt offerings, was put to sleep as God had indicated in the sin of the golden calf when Moses had offered himself as an expiatory victim:

  • And[20] now, if You forgive their sin But if not, erase me now from Your book, which You have written. »
  • And the Lord said to Moses: « Whoever has sinned against Me, him I will erase from My book! »

And the one who got it wrong was Aaron. He did not hesitate to build the golden calf and he has no remorse in this regard, wanting to put the blame on the people of Israel. It is therefore the entire cult of the Temple, under the responsibility of Aaron, which fades in this generation, thus definitively washing the people of Israel of the fault of the golden calf.

Aaron is also punished by losing the priesthood, coming to confirm the request of the sons of Korah for the last psalms of the first guard of the night.

This guard was associated with the curses of Leviticus. It is naturally that the priesthood, which was described there, ends to make room only for the symbolism associated with it.

Moses at the sight of the golden calf, had broken the two tablets of the law, thus offering the two temples as an atonement.

The destruction of the second temple comes at a key moment, when the irrational (the service of the temple associated with Leviticus) gives way to the rational (Deuteronomy associated with exile). The Jews will now turn to the nations by paying the high price throughout the ninety-eight generations of the two corresponding guards of their new cohabitation.

This is what the beginning of the Psalm of this generation expresses:

(extract of the psalm 50 associated to this generation, verses 1 to 15 )

  • A song of Asaph; God, God the Lord, spoke and called to the earth, from the rising of the sun until its setting.
    • The message of the Ten Commandments and the Torah that will now be known to nations: « from the rising sun »: the east and hence Islam, « until the setting sun »: the West and hence Christianity.
  • From Zion, the finery of beauty, God appeared.
  • Our God shall come and not be silent; fire shall devour before Him, and around Him it storms furiously.
    • Here is announced the destruction of the second temple
  • He shall call to the heavens above and to the earth to avenge His people.
  • Gather to Me My devoted ones, who made a covenant with Me over a sacrifice. 
    • Here reference is made to the sin of the golden calf that has been so sanctioned and for which now the people of Israel are forgiven through the destruction of the second temple, which constitutes the sacrifice made by Moses.
  • And the heavens will tell His righteousness, for He is a God Who judges forever.
  • Hearken, My people, and I will speak, Israel, and I will admonish you; God, even your God am I.
  • I will not reprove you concerning your sacrifices, neither are your burnt offerings before Me constantly.
  • I will not take from your household a bull, from your pens any goats.
  • For all the beasts of the forest are Mine, the behemoth of the thousand mountains.
  • I know all the fowl of the mountains, and the creeping things of the field are with Me.
  • If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world and its fullness are Mine.
  • Will I eat the flesh of bulls or do I drink the blood of he-goats?
  • Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving And pay your vows to the Most High;
  • And call to Me on a day of distress; I will rescue you and you will honor Me. 
    • This part announces the end of the sacrificial cult that accompanies the destruction of the second temple. This should not be considered a punishment, for these sacrifices were not really a divine need but had been ordered to keep the people of Israel from idol worship. Today, the people of Israel are mature enough to worship their God without offering them sacrifices. Thus during all the exile, the people of Israel will be able directly to address their God by acts of grace without having to make offerings. The people of Israel are thus armed to survive exile.

The Pharisee movement

It is naturally in this direction that Palestinian Judaism engages with the Pharisaic movement:

  • The[22] situation of the Pharisees is significantly different (from those of other sects after the destruction of the Temple, the Essenes, the Zealots and especially the Sadducees). No doubt they have always remained hostile to foreign masters whose victory is in a sense their defeat. But this hostility in principle was doubled in practice, with great flexibility. As Guignebert puts it, “it was obviously full respect for their religion that they held above all else, and it does not seem exaggerated to say that political independence appeared to them first as a means – the best – to realize their ideal of pietists ”. The best, but not the only one. They had adapted from the Roman occupation. They will also adapt, as much as possible, better in any case than the other parties, because they are less bound than they are to places and things, to the complete ruin of the nation and to the old cult. . Unlike the others, they have, so to speak, a long-prepared spiritual position of withdrawal: the Torah. Their religion above all is already that of the Book, and secondarily that of the Temple, whose rites represent only one aspect of the Law. In their eyes, the tradition of the Sages has more authority than the succession of priests.

Early Christianity

While waiting for Judaism to be organized following the destruction of the second temple that will intervene in this generation, and therefore at the end of the sacrificial cult, another religion is born: Christianity.

After the death of Jesus, Christianity was only a Jewish sect that had attached to the Mosaic law the belief that Jesus was the much awaited Messiah.

Some ancient texts remind him:

  • He[23] (Origen) at least clearly saw and cleared the relationship between ebionism on the one hand to Judaism and on the other hand to the early Church. Responding to the pagan polemicist, who blames the Christians from Judaism for changing their name and their way of life, he declares: « Celsus does not know that those Jews who believe in Jesus have not abandoned the law of their fathers; they live in accordance with it and their name comes from the poverty of this law. For the poor is called among the Jews « ebion » and those of the Jews who recognize Jesus as the Christ are called « Ebionéens ». And he adds: « Peter himself seems to have long observed the Jewish customs according to the law of Moses, as he had not learned from Jesus to rise from the literal law to the spiritual law. » Then, according to the account of the Acts, a precise statement of the disputes between Palestinians and Hellenists in the first Christian community. This is the exact historical perspective, unknown to most ancient heresiologists.

The first Christians from Judaism will soon be in the minority.

The « God-fearing »

Because many pagans are seduced by the nascent religion. Those who adopt the new religion are often those who were previously attracted to Judaism in general.

Judaism was lawful religion in the Roman Empire at that time, the God of Israel was respected by many Romans who considered him as the only God or reserved him a place of choice in their polytheistic pantheon.

Before the advent of Christianity, on the sidelines of Judaism and the Jews, lived many pagans faithful to the principles of Judaism, without being able to adhere to it, the « God-fearing »:

  • Among[24] the pagans who turn to the God of Israel, several categories emerge. The God-fearing affirm their faith in the One God, attend synagogues, taste the traditions of Israel. They scrupulously respect the Noachian principles (seven basic laws that every man must obey without being a Jew) and the fundamental data of the Law of Israel. This statute includes an indisputable advantage: it does not entail the obligation of circumcision and therefore God-fears frequent the baths without any difficulty. There is, however, a flip side: pious Jews are still somewhat reluctant to associate with them. The first Christian communities will develop in large part thanks to the God-fearing.

In relation to this potential clientele of Christianity, the first apostles tried, like the Jews before them, to convince them of the value of their message without calling into question the foundations of the original religion, the Jewish religion.

Thus the speech of Peter to Cornelius, a non-Jew, but presumably a God-fearing, sums up divine justice as follows:

  • Then[25] Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism,
  • but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.

The ease of adherence to Christianity by the God fearing is evoked several times, especially for the conversion of Lydia:

  • On[26] the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. 
  • One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message

And also :

  • Now[27] those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews.
  • Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus.  

This greater permeability of the God-fearing than the Jews with the Christian precepts is also evoked in the Gospels:

  • Some[28] of (so little) the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number (compare to  » so little « ) of God-fearing Greeks and quite a few prominent women.

The resistance of the Jews to Christianity does not change the attitude of the first apostles towards them or the Mosaic law.

Paul

The break is caused by Paul who refuses to see Christianity next to Judaism.

Paul wants everyone to join Christianity. Thus the Jews’ resistance to Paul’s preaching draws his anger:

  • Every[29] Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.
  • When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah.
  • But when they opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent of it. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”

Because of the resistance of the Jews to Christianity, Paul naturally turns to this reservoir of pagans already sensitized to Monotheism. Instead of merely allowing them to apply only part of the law, he prefers to declare it obsolete.

If early Christians were representatives of a Jewish sect who had added to the Mosaic Law the belief that the long-awaited Messiah had been incarnated in Jesus, so it is Paul who presumably shifts this sect into the religion we know.

Faith and Law

It is especially in « Romans » that Paul promulgates the foundations of Christianity: faith in the place of the law and thus initiating the break between Judaism, the mother religion and the nascent religion: Christianity.

This[30] epistle was commented on by all the fathers of the Church: Origen, John Chrysostom, Theodoret, Ambrosiaster, Pelagius, Augustine, Abelard, Thomas of Aquinas, etc. For many, Luther’s commentary on the Epistle to the Romans is the starting point for reform (The Protestant Movement of Christianity).

Paul’s theory is simple: it is the law that creates sin (no law, no sin, yet Paul would not have been a follower of the Anarchic movement). His speech seals the break between the two religions, first of all by questioning the election of the Jewish people which can be contested by the pure-hearted pagan:

  • There[31] will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; 
  • but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.
  • For God does not show favoritism.
  • All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. 
  • For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. 
  •  (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. 
  •  They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.) 
  • This will take place on the day when God judges people’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.
  • Now you, if you call yourself a Jew; if you rely on the law and boast in God; 
  •  if you know his will and approve of what is superior because you are instructed by the law; 
  • if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark,
  • an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of little children, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— 
  • you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal?
  • You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples?
  • You who boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law?
  • As it is written: “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”
  • Circumcision has value if you observe the law, but if you break the law, you have become as though you had not been circumcised. 
  • So then, if those who are not circumcised keep the law’s requirements, will they not be regarded as though they were circumcised?
  • The one who is not circumcised physically and yet obeys the law will condemn you who, even though you have the[c] written code and circumcision, are a lawbreaker.
  • A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical.
  • No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God.

After this prelude, Paul can question the effectiveness of the law and declare it null and void in favor of the faith:

  • because[32] the law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression.
  • Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all.

He justifies through Jesus the passage from law to faith:

  • For[33] just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.
  • The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more,
  • so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The death and the resurrection of Jesus justifying, among others, this passage from the law to the faith:

  • The[34] death he died (Paul talks about Jesus), he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.
  • In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin (through the law) but alive to God (through faith) in Christ Jesus. (…)
  • For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.

Faith, because the law is now obsolete.

  • For[35] when we were in the realm of the flesh, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for death.
  • But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.

The New Israel

Paul’s speech, intended for the Gentiles, seems in the first part of his epistle to seal the decay of the people of Israel to the benefit of the Christians, the new Israel. The second part tries to restore the particular destiny of this one, or at least of a part (« the rest ») of this one.

But in a way the harm is done, what will hold the Christians, or at least the majority of them, during the twenty centuries that will follow is the final decay of the law and the Jewish people in favor of the faith and the Christian people, the new Israel.

Paul confirms the end of the law in favor of faith in the second letter to the Corinthians:

  • He[36] (Jesus) has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter (the mosaic law) but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
  • Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, transitory though it was,
  • will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious?
  • If the ministry that brought condemnation was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness!
  • For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. 

Also in the Epistle to the Galatians, in a context of stronger competition from Judaizing Christians (i.e. wanting to keep all or part of the law in addition to the Christian faith):

  • Before[37] the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed.
  • So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith.
  • Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.
  • So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 
  • for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 
  • There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 
  • If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

When Paul evokes the validity of the Old Testament he does not hesitate to use as an image the temporal character of David.

The fact that David was directly « involved » in Paul’s speech still justifies the fact that it is Asaph who declines this psalm, David being able to be labeled as « non-objectivity »:

  • “Now[38] when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his ancestors and his body decayed.
  • But the one whom God raised from the dead (Jesus) did not see decay.
  • “Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. (already opposition to salvation by faith – Christian – instead of salvation by law – Jewish –).

This freedom that Paul takes on the validity of the law, not hesitating to rely on the character of David attracts the wrath of Asaph, editor of this psalm, whose verses that follow are a judgment without complacency of Paul’s doctrine:

(extract of the psalm 50 associated to this generation, verses 16 to 19 )

  • But to the wicked man God said, « For what reason do you recount My statutes, and bring up My covenant on Your mouth?
  • For you hated discipline and threw My words behind you.
  • If you saw a thief, you agreed [to be] with him, and with adulterers is your portion.
  • You let loose your mouth for evil, and you accustomed your tongue to deceit.

Anger of Asaph all the more justified that Paul does not just sacrifice the law to allow the pagans to improve their knowledge of God, He does not hesitate to reject at the same time as the law his own people.

Paul does not hesitate in the letter to Titus to pronounce the rupture with his old people:

  • For[39] there are many rebellious people, full of meaningless talk and deception, especially those of the circumcision group.
  • They must be silenced, because they are disrupting whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach—and that for the sake of dishonest gain (many Christians did not hesitate to take rabbis as paying teachers).  (…)
  • This saying is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith 
  • and will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the merely human commands of those who reject the truth. 

It is this position that Asaph reproaches Paul for the following verses of the psalm. Because of these theories, the Jewish people were exposed to hatred on the part of Christians for nearly two thousand years, during the entire period of exile:

(extract of the psalm 50 associated to this generation, verses 20 and 21 )

  • You sit and talk against your brother; you slander your mother’s son.
  • You did these and I remained silent; you thought that I would be like you. I will contend with you and set up before your eyes.

In fact, Paul’s position was singular because most of the apostles wanted a Judaism-like Christianity that respected the law. But Paul’s choice is much more appealing to all candidates for Christianity from the pagan world.

Compared to this population, Christians of Jewish origin will quickly become a minority. Their will to keep the law will go out quickly in the new church. Already James worries in the name of all the Jews of Jerusalem attracted by the Christian faith of the eventual abandonment of the law of Moses resulting from the positions of Paul.

  • When[40] they heard this, they praised God. Then they said to Paul: “You see (James addresses Paul on his arrival in Jerusalem), brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the law.
  • They have been informed that you teach all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs (Jewish law). 
  • What shall we do? They will certainly hear that you have come, 
  • so do what we tell you. There are four men with us who have made a vow.
  •  Take these men, join in their purification rites and pay their expenses, so that they can have their heads shaved. Then everyone will know there is no truth in these reports about you, but that you yourself are living in obedience to the law (since he himself then makes cleansing offerings in the temple for the fulfillment of a vow like the four men and therefore complies with the law). 
  • As for the Gentile believers, we have written to them our decision that they should abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality.”

But Asaph, in the name of God, does not want to ban people of good will, including the Gentiles who turn to Christianity. Those who will know how to preserve justice and who praise God, whatever his liturgy, will be recognized by God as the just.

This is expressed in the conclusion of the psalm of this generation:

(extract of the psalm 50 associated to this generation, verses 22 and 23 )

  • Understand this now, you who forget God, lest I tear [you] to pieces, and there will be no one to save [you].
  • He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me; And to him who orders his way aright I shall show the salvation of God.

This obviously applies to the Jewish people who, deprived of sacrificial worship, establish, under the aegis of the Pharisaic movement, a worship based on prayer, the synagogue and therefore thanksgiving. It is from this movement that the lineages of rabbis who succeed each other in order to establish Jewish orthodoxy are born.


[1] « History of the Jews in Antiquity » by Peter Schäfer, French translation by Pascale Schulte, Chapter « From Herod to the First Jewish War ». (French reference: « Histoire des Juifs dans l’Antiquité », Chapitre « D’Hérode à la première guerre juive », p 140 ).

[2] « History of the Jews in Antiquity » by Peter Schäfer, French translation by Pascale Schulte, Chapter « The First Jewish War ». (French: « Histoire des Juifs dans l’Antiquité », Chapitre « La première guerre Juive », p 145 ).

[3] Flavius Josephus/The War of the Jews/Book 4:9

[4] Flavius Josephus/The War of the Jews/Book 4:10

[5] Flavius Josephus/The War of the Jews/Book 6 :4  (5/6)

[6] Josephus Flavius / Jewish Wars / Book Four / Chapter 11. (French: Flavius Josèphe/Guerre des Juifs/Livre quatrième/Chapitre 11 ).

[7] Devarim – Deuteronomy – Chapter 2, verses 2 to 6

[8] Devarim – Deuteronomy – Chapter 4, verses 5 and 6

[9] Devarim – Deuteronomy – Chapter 4, verse 27

[10] Devarim – Deuteronomy – Chapter 6, verses 1 and 2

[11] Devarim – Deuteronomy – Chapter 12, verses 20 and 21

[12] Divrei Hayamim I – I Chronicles – Chapter 6, verses 1 to 28 (extracts)

[13] Divrei Hayamim I – I Chronicles – Chapter 15, verses 1 to 17 (extracts)

[14] Divrei Hayamim I – I Chronicles – Chapter 16, verse 7

[15] Divrei Hayamim I – I Chronicles – Chapter 16, verse 37

[16] Divrei Hayamim II – II Chronicles – Chapter 29, verse 30

[17] Divrei Hayamim II – II Chronicles – Chapter 35, verses 13 to 15

[18] Ezra – Chapter 3, verses 10 and 11

[19] Nechemiah – Nehemiah – Chapter 12, verses 44 to 46

[20] Shemot – Exodus – Chapter 32, verses 32 and 33

[22] VERUS ISRAEL by Marcel Simon,  » The religious and political framework / Aftermath of crisis: Palestinian Judaism « . (French reference: « VERUS ISRAËL », « Le cadre religieux et politique/Lendemains de crise : le Judaïsme Palestinien », page 29).

[23] VERUS ISRAEL by Marcel Simon, « Contacts and Syncretisms / Destinies of Judeo-Christianity ». (French: « VERUS ISRAËL », « Contacts et Syncrétismes/Destinées du Judéo-Christianisme », page 286).

[24] « The world where Jesus lived » by Hugues Cousin / Jean-Pierre Lémonon / Jean Massonnet (Cerf editions), Chapter « The Jews in the Roman Empire / the Diaspora » (french reference : « Le monde où vivait Jésus » de Hugues Cousin/Jean-Pierre Lémonon/Jean Massonnet (éditions Cerf), Chapitre « Les Juifs dans l’empire romain/la diaspora » (p. 65))

[25] Acts, chapter 10, verses 34 and 35

[26] Acts, chapter 16, verses 13 and 14

[27] Acts, chapter 11, verses 19 and 20

[28] Acts, chapter 17, verse 4

[29] Acts, chapter 18, verses 4 to 6

[30] According to the introduction to the « Epistle to the Romans » of the TOB version of the New Testament (reference French version).

[31] Romans, Chapter 2, verses 9 to 29

[32] Romans, Chapter 4, verses 15 and 16

[33] Romans, Chapter 5, verses 19 to 21

[34] Romans, Chapter 6, verses 10, 11 and 14

[35] Romans, Chapter 7, verses 5 and 6 (see also the development by Paul on the whole of chapter 7)

[36] 2 Corinthians, chapter 3, verses 6 to 10

[37] Galatians, Chapter 3, verses 23 to 29

[38] Acts, chapter 13, verses 36 to 39

[39] Titus, Chapter 1, verses 10, 11, 13 and 14

[40] Acts, chapter 21, verses 20 to 25