Bible As History
by Werner Keller
9 of 10
357 -- DIGGING
UP THE NEW TESTAMENT
II -- In the Days of the Apostles --
THE STEPS OF ST. PAUL -- The
Tentmaker from Tarsus - Triumphal arch in Antioch - Galatia, a Roman
province - Wood digs in Ephesus - The temple of Artemis - The ruins
of the gateway of Philippi - In ancient Corinth - A meat-market
with a cooling system - "The Hebrew Synagogue" - A prisoner
on the way Rome.
ye shall be witness unto me, both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea,
and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth - Acts
I am a man which am a Jew of Tarsus, a city in Cilicia,
a citizen of no mean city." Thus Paul, who was by trade a tentmaker
(Acts 18:3), describes himself in Acts 21:39. Tersoos, a little
town of 20,000 inhabitants lying at the foot of the Taurus mountains
in the south of Turkey, has preserved none of its former glory.
Paul had every reason to laud his native city to the skies. An inscription
calls Tarsus "the great and wondrous metropolis of Cilicia",
and the Greek geographer Strabo 1 mentions that Tarsus
had a university to match those of Athens and Alexandria. The famous
teacher of the emperor Augustus, Athenodorus the philosopher, was
one of its sons. All that remains from the past is its tentmaking.
As in Paul's day, the material comes from flocks of goats who grow
magnificent thick coats among the Taurus mountains where the snow
lies right up to the month of May.
Long journeys by sea and land, such as Paul undertook,
were in those days nothing out of the ordinary. Roman roads were
in their way the finest that even Western Europe knew until the
railways began to be built in the 19th century. An inscription on
the tombstone of a Phrygian merchant in the heart of modern Turkey
proudly proclaims that in his lifetime he made seventy-two journeys
to Rome alone. The busy, well maintained Imperial roads were equipped
with halts for changing chariots and horses. Inns and hostelries
offered rest and refreshment to travellers. A special police force
was responsible for the protection of the roads against the attacks
The marvellous network of roads throughout the
vast empire - a masterpiece of Roman skill and organisation - together
with the Greek language which Paul could make use of on all his
1 -- 63 B.C.-A.D. 20.
358 -- as much to the speedy spread of Christianity as the widely
dispersed Jewish communities. "Jerusalem is not only the capital
of Judaea," wrote king Herod Agrippa I 1 to
the emperor Caligula, "but also of most countries in the world
through the colonies which it established in neighbouring lands
when it had the opportunity."
Even last century scholars had begun to search for
the cities in Asia Minor whose names have become so familiar to
the Christian world through the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles
of St. Paul. Where were the places whose inhabitants received the
famous Epistle to the Galatians?
In 1833, Francis V. J. Arundell, British chaplain
in Smyrna, discovered the ancient "Antioch in Pisidia"
(Acts 13:14) near the Turkish town of Yalovach. North of the Taurus
a great arched aqueduct sweeps down from the majestic scenery of
the Sultandagh mountains into the valley. In the early twenties
of this century scholars of the University of Michigan stood entranced
before the remains of monuments of unique beauty. In the centre
of the old city the archaeologists uncovered a broad flight of steps
at the top of which stood three triumphal arches. Marvellous reliefs
depicted the victories of the emperor Augustus on land, while a
frieze with Poseidon, Tritons and dolphins commemorated the naval
victory of Augustus at Actium. In the Roman quarters they found
the gaming tables where the soldiery whiled away their leisure hours.
The archaeologists were looking at the Antioch, so often mentioned,
where Paul founded a church on his first missionary journey (Acts
And they "came unto Iconium ... unto Lystra
and Derbe, ... and unto the region that lieth round about: and there
they preached the gospel" (Acts 13:51; 14: 6, 7).
Konia, 60 miles south-east of Antioch and main
station on the Anatolian railway, was the Iconium of Paul's missionary
activity. In 1885 Professor J. R. Sitlington Sterrett discovered
the remains of an altar in the mountains 25 miles farther south.
A thick stone slab bore a Latin inscription to the effect that a
Roman colony had existed on this site. He was able to decipher the
name "Lustra". 2
A day's journey farther on Sterrett also discovered
the ancient Derbe. These four cities - Antioch, Iconium, Lystra
and Derbe - belonged in Paul's day to the Roman province of Galatia,
the home of the "Galatians".
On the island of Cyprus near the ancient town of
Paphos a Roman inscription came to light. It made mention of Paulus,
the proconsul who is described as "a prudent man" in the
Book of Acts (13:7), likewise the riot at Ephesus, as the New Testament
depicts it, has become a living reality, thanks to the tireless
efforts of the archaeologists.
"For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith,
1 -- King Agrippa (A.D.
37-44): see Acts 12.
2 -- i.e. Lystra.
p 359 -- silver shrines for Diana, brought
no small gain unto the craftsmen: whom he called together with the
workmen of like occupation, and said: Sirs, ye know that by this
craft we have our wealth." He then went on to incite them:
"not alone at Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia, this
Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people", and graphically
described how they would all be reduced to starvation as a result.
"Great is Diana of the Ephesians!" was the answering cry.
"And the whole city was filled with confusion: and having caught....
Paul's companions in travel, they rushed with one accord into the
theatre" (Acts 19:24 - 29).
This story fired an English architect J. T. Wood
with a desire to investigate the Temple of Artemis, 1
which was widely renowned in the ancient world. The British
Museum put funds at his disposal for this enterprise, and in the
beginning of May 1863 Wood landed on the coast opposite the island
of Samos. If he had not been so incredibly persistent and obsessed
with his purpose he might well never have achieved it. For six long
years he dug down doggedly through layer after layer of what was
left of the masonry of the old city - and found nothing. Eventually
while digging in the old amphitheatre, the site of the riot, he
found a signpost which put him on the right road.
An inscription listed several gold and silver images
of Artemis from two to six pounds in weight which were to be offered
as a gift to the goddess and placed in the temple. The vanity of
that Roman donor showed Wood the way to the fulfilment of his dream
without further ado. For in order to ensure that the greatest possible
number of people would admire his gifts he had described in detail
the exact route along which they were to be borne in solemn procession
on the goddess' birthday, from the temple to the ceremony in the
amphitheatre and back again.
They were to be carried in through the Magnesian
Gate.... Wood searched for the gate and found it, followed the prescribed
route and found himself a mile north-east of the city, at the finishing
point of the procession which was also the end of his own indefatigable
Under nearly 25 feet of soil and rubble he came
upon a magnificent pavement, the bases of massive pillars, and great
stone cylinders adorned with sculptures: the Temple of Artemis.
Dinocrates, the famous Alexandrian architect, had
designed the shrine; Alexander the Great had been responsible for
completing it in such splendour that in olden times the temple was
admired as one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
The foundations measured 390 feet long by 260 feet
broad, sheets of white marble covered the roof, and a hundred columns
65 feet high led the way into the interior of the temple, which
was extravagantly decorated with sculptures, paintings and gold
1 -- Artemis, the Greek goddess of
hunting, was called Diana by the Romans. Top
360 -- Thirty-five years later one of
Wood's countrymen, David G. Hogarth, found under the shattered altar
a large collection of statues of the goddess made of bronze, gold,
ivory and silver. They had been made by those craftsmen and workers
who scented in Paul's preaching of the Gospel at Ephesus a threat
to their livelihood and therefore responded to Demetrius with cries
of: "Great is Diana of the Ephesians."
we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the
Lord had called us for to preach the gospel
unto them. Therefore loosing from Troas - Acts 16:10, 11.
Where once the proud stronghold of Priam's Troy
held sway, St. Paul boarded a sailing ship for his first journey
to Europe. Near the fishing village of Kavalla 1
he set foot on European soil and set out on the ancient Via Egnatia
which climbed up into the wild mountains of Macedonia to Philippi.
Can anyone hear the name of this city without thinking
of the ominous words: "Thou shalt see me at Philippi"?
For it was here in 42 B.C. that the legions of Antony and young
Octavian won a brilliant victory over Brutus and Cassius, who had
assassinated Caesar in an attempt to save the republic of Rome from
dictatorship. But who reflects that it was outside the walls of
Philippi that St. Paul won for Christianity its first congregation
on European soil?
French archaeologists on the strength of the concrete
evidence in the Book of Acts excavated the Roman colony. They found
the old forum, the temples and public buildings, the pillared arcades,
the paved streets and squares with their rain-gutters still intact.
At the western exit of the city a great colonial archway spanned
the Via Egnatia which soon afterwards crossed the swift narrow river
Gangites. "And on the sabbath day we went forth without the
gate by a river side where we supposed there was a place of prayer"
(Acts 16:13 - R.V.). On the banks of the Gangites Paul's first convert
was Lydia, the seller of purple.
By way of Thessalonica 2 and
Athens, where he preached only for a short time, St. Paul turned
his steps towards Corinth.
In 1893 dredgers cut a narrow channel through the
isthmus which joined the Peloponnese with the mainland and thus
realised a plan which was already in the minds of notable figures
in the ancient world, Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar. In
A.D. 63 Nero had indeed begun to put the plan into effect. After
a song in praise of Neptune in which he accompanied himself on the
harp, he dug the first sod with a golden spade. Six thousand Jews
had been commandeered from Pales-
1 -- One
of the many towns called Neapolis (new town) in Classical Antiquity.
2 -- Now
361 -- tine to cut the canal, which was
however very quickly filled in again when the suspicion was voiced
that a breach in the land might wash away the Peloponnese.
Three years after the first ship passed through
the new canal the American School of Classical Studies began to
search for the renowned and important trading and packing centre
of Corinth, where the wares of the ancient orient met those of Europe.
Here too the archaeologists followed the footsteps of St. Paul to
the places which if they could only speak could tell so much about
The road from Lechaeum, the west harbour, led into
the heart of the old city of Corinth. Through the great marble arch
of the Propylaeum it debouched into the market place, the agora.
In those days the business quarter lay to the west of Lechaeum street,
and colonnades led past its shops and up to the steps of the Temple
of Apollo. What aroused genuine admiration among the hygienically-minded
Americans was the ingenious system of water mains which they found
immediately under the houses which fronted the broad and handsomely
paved market place. It obviously provided the shops with a constant
supply of fresh mountain water to keep fresh such foodstuffs as
were liable to perish quickly. An inscription at this place dating
from the last years of the reign of Augustus actually mentioned
a " meat-market". The Christians in Corinth were allowed
to make their purchases in these shops without scruple. "Whatsoever
is sold in the shambles, that eat", is Paul's advice to the
church in I Cor. 10:25.
At the marble steps of the Propylaeum the excavators
found a heavy stone lintel on which they were able to decipher the
words "Hebrew Synagogue", clearly cut out in Greek letters.
The house in which Paul proclaimed the new doctrine must have stood
beyond the colonnade in the region of Lechaeum street. For "he
reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews
and the Greeks" (Acts 18:4). Among the ruins of the numerous
dwelling houses in the same quarter of the city must certainly be
those of the house of the Justus with whom Paul lodged, "whose
house joined hard to the synagogue" (Acts 18:7).
Finally the archaeologists found in the market
place a raised platform, on which a Latin inscription indicated
that it had been the rostra, the judgement-seat. "And when
Gallio was the deputy of Achaia, the Jews made insurrection with
one accord against Paul, and brought him to the judgement-seat,
saying, This fellow persuadeth men to worship God contrary to the
law." Gallio however declined to intervene "and drave
them from the judgement seat" (Acts 18:12-16).
The detailed reproduction of the trial scene made
it possible to establish the exact time that Paul spent in Corinth.
Lucius Junius Annaeus Novatus Gallio - which was the governor's
full name - was the worthy offspring of a highly respected family.
His brother, Lucius Annaeus Seneca, the great Roman philosopher
and tutor of Nero,
362 -- dedicated two books to him. 1
And the poet Statius called him the "beloved Gallio".
- Spread of Christianity in the Roman Empire. 45 A.D.-325 A.D. Top
In old Delphi a letter of the emperor Claudius
came to light from which it appeared that Gallio must have been
in Corinth from A.D. 51-52. The letter contains the words: "As
Lucius Junius Gallio, my friend the proconsul of Achaia,
2 wrote ... "and is dated at the beginning of
the year 52. According to a decree of Claudius newly appointed officials
had to leave Rome for their provinces on June 1. Gallio must therefore
have arrived in Achaia about July 1, A.D-51 . Paul "continued
there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them"
(Acts 18:11) until the Jews became incensed and dragged him before
the governor. Thus it is highly probable that the apostle went to
Corinth at the beginning of A.D 50.
Two years after the crucifixion of Christ the fanatical
persecutor of the Christians, Saul of Tarsus, was converted to Christianity
(Acts 6:3ff). Almost exactly thirty years later the great missionary
and evangelist embarked upon his last journey, this time as a prisoner.
In Judaea Festus had been procurator since A.D. 61. He sent Paul
to Rome to face a serious charge in the custody of the centurion
Julius (Acts 27:1). There Paul was allowed "to dwell by himself
with a soldier that kept him" (Acts 28:16).
"And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own
hired house, and received all that came in unto him, preaching the
kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord
Jesus Christ with all
1 -- De Ira
and De Vita Beata.
2 -- The Peloponnese was in Roman times the province of Achaia.
363 -- confidence, no man forbidding him."
With these words St. Luke concludes his narrative in the Book of
In the persecution of the Christians which took
place under Nero, Paul died a martyr's death. As a Roman citizen
he did not die on a cross like Peter but was beheaded. Top
364 -- Chapter
42 -- THE
DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM --
- The Jewish War - Fighting in Galilee - General Titus - -80,000
Romans advance - Order to attack - Parade outside the gates - 500
crucifixions daily - Jerusalem sealed off - The spectre of famine
- Castle of Antonia taken - The Temple in flames - The city is raised
- Triumph in Rome.
And as some
spake of the temple, how it was adorned with goodly stones and gifts,
he said, As for these things which ye behold, the days will come,
in the which there shall not be left one stone upon another, that
shall not be thrown down.... And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed
with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh.... For
there shall be great distress upon the land and wrath upon this
people. And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall
be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden
down by the Gentiles.- .Luke 21:5, 6, 20, 23, 24.
Countless royal palaces and castles, cities, mansions
and temples, buildings whose foundations were laid in the first,
second or even third millennium before Christ, have been wrested
from the past. Archaeology has used its spades and the sharp wits
of its experts to free them from the dust in which they have been
buried at a cost of untold effort. But the city and Temple of Jerusalem,
whose importance for posterity cannot be rated too highly, have
eluded the endeavours of the archaeologists: they have been blotted
out for ever from this earth. For barely within a generation after
the crucifixion of Jesus they suffered in "the days of vengeance"
(Luke 21, 22) the fate that Jesus prophesied for them.
Old Israel, whose history no longer included the
words and works of Jesus, the religious community of Jerusalem which
condemned and crucified Jesus, was extinguished in an inferno which
is almost unparalleled in history - the "Jewish War" of
Louder and louder grew the protests against the
hated Romans. In the party of the "Zealots" fanatics and
rebels banded themselves together, demanding incessantly the removal
of the foreign power. Every one of them carried a dagger concealed
under his cloak. Their deeds of violence disturbed the country.
Autocratic encroachment by the Roman procurator heightened the tension.
More and more supporters flocked to the side of the radicals.
365 -- This mounting anger broke into
open revolt in May 66, when the procurator, Florus, demanded 17
talents from the Temple treasury. The Roman garrison was overrun.
Jerusalem fell into the hands of the rebels. The prohibition of
the daily sacrifices to the emperor meant an open declaration of
war against the Roman world empire. Tiny Jerusalem threw down the
gauntlet at Rome's feet and challenged the great Imperium Romanum.
This was the signal for the whole country. Rebellion
flared up everywhere. Florus was no longer in command of the situation.
The governor of the province of Syria, C. Cestius Gallus, marched
to the rescue with one legion and a large number of auxiliary troops,
but was forced to retire with heavy losses. The rebels controlled
Being certain that Rome would strike back with
all its might, they hastened to fortify the cities. They repaired
the old defence walls and appointed military commandants. Joseph,
later known as Josephus the historian, was appointed commander-in-chief
of Galilee. On the Roman side, the Emperor Nero entrusted the command
to General Titus Flavius Vespasianus, who had proved himself a brilliant
soldier and distinguished himself during the conquest of Britain.
Accompanied by his son Titus, three of the best
legions in the army and numerous auxiliaries, he attacked Galilee
from the north.
The villages on the Lake of Galilee, where but
a few years earlier Jesus had been preaching to the fishermen, saw
the first of the bloody butchery. The whole of Galilee was subdued
by October 67. Among the crowds of prisoners marched Josephus, the
commander-in-chief. He was put in chains and conveyed to headquarters
at Vespasian's orders. From then on he saw the Jewish War from inside
the enemy's camp. Six thousand Jews went as slaves to build the
In the following spring the suppression of the rebels
in Jjudaea was resumed. In the midst of the fighting news came which
for the time being halted the campaign - Nero had committed suicide.
Civil war broke out in Rome. Vespasian awaited developments.
One after another three insignificant emperors lost their thrones
and their lives. At last the legions in the east stepped in. A year
after Nero's death the cry went up in Egypt, in Syria, in Palestine,
throughout the whole of the orient: "Vivat Caesar". Vespasian
became master of the Roman empire. From Caesarea on the coast of
Palestine, where the news reached him, he embarked without delay
for Rome, leaving his son Titus to finish the last act of the Jewish
Shortly before the full moon in the spring of 70
Titus appeared with an enormous army outside Jerusalem. Marching
columns filled the highways and byways leading to the city such
as Judaea had never seen before. They were made up of the 5th, 10th,
12th and 15th Legions, accompanied by cavalry, engineers and other
auxiliary troops, almost 80,000 men.
366 -- The Holy City was swarming with
people: pilgrims had come from far and near to celebrate the Passover.
Disputes between the extremists among the Zealots and the moderate
party interrupted the devotions: the wounded and the dead remained
Meantime the Romans moved into their camps in the
environs of the city. A call to surrender was met with derisive
laughter. Titus replied with the command to attack. The Roman artillery,
"scorpiones", quick-firing siege engines and "ballistae",
stone throwers, closed in. Every one of these heavy weapons could
throw stones weighing a hundredweight a distance of 600 feet. On
the north side the engineers were cracking open the Achilles heel
of the fortress. On the south, east and west sharp precipices protected
the ramparts. The north side was however unusually strongly fortified
by three massive walls. Battering rams and siege engines began to
crack and thunder as they attacked the foundations. Only when an
incessant hail of great stones came hurtling into the city, and
when night and day the heavy thud of the battering rams could be
heard, did civil war end within the fortress. The rival factions
came to terms. Simon bar Giora, leader of the moderates, took over
the defence of the north side, John of Gischala, leader of the Zealots,
took over the defence of the Temple area and the Tower of Antonia.
Roman siege technique during the conquest of Jerusalem. Top
By the beginning of May the siege engines had in
the space of two weeks made a gaping hole in the most northerly
wall. In five more days the Romans were through the second wall.
A determined counterattack put the defenders once more in possession
of the wall and it took the Romans several days before they could
recapture it. With that the northern suburb was firmly in Roman
367 -- Convinced that in view of this
situation Jerusalem would surrender, Titus called off the attack.
The grandiose spectacle of a great parade of his forces immediately
under the eyes of the beleagured people would surely bring them
to their senses.
The Romans doffed their battledress and polished
their full-dress uniform until it shone. The legionaries put on
their armour, their coats of mail and their helmets. The cavalry
decked their horses with the richest caparisons, and amid loud blasts
from the trumpets tens of thousands of warriors marched past Titus
and received their pay and ample rations in full view of the garrison.
For four days from early morn till dusk the sound of the tramping
feet of these unbeaten Roman columns echoed in the air.
It achieved nothing. Packed tight along the old
wall, on the north side of the Temple, on every roof, the people
spat hatred down at the Romans. The demonstration had been useless
- the beleagured garrison had no thought of surrender.
Titus made one last attempt to win them round.
He sent their captive countryman Flavius Josephus, the Jewish commander-in-chief
in Galilee, to harangue them under the fortress walls.
Josephus' voice hailed them from below: "0
hard hearted men, throw away your weapons, have pity on your country
that stands on the edge of the abyss. Look round and behold the
beauty of all that you are ready to betray. What a city! What a
Temple! What gifts from so many nations! Who would dare to let all
of this be given to the flames? Is there one of you who can wish
for all this to be no more? What more precious treasure could have
been given to man to preserve - You obdurate creatures, more unfeeling
than these very stones!."
In heartrending words, Josephus reminded them of
the great deeds of the past, of their forefathers, of their history,
of the mission of Israel - his exhortations and pleas fell on deaf
The battle began anew from the second wall and
surged against the castle of Antonia. The front was pushed forward
through the streets of the suburbs to the Temple area and the upper
part of the city. The engineers built ramps and auxiliaries dragged
trees for this purpose from far and near. The Romans proceeded with
all their tried methods of siege warfare. Their preparations were
constantly being sorely hampered by the determined efforts of the
defenders to upset them. Apart from wild sorties, no sooner were
their wooden ramparts in position than they went up in flames. When
darkness set in, the Roman camp was surrounded by swarms of figures
who had crept out of their hiding places or through subterranean
passages or over the walls.
Titus ordered reprisals to be made against these
half starved ghostly figures and against deserters. Anyone caught
outside - deserters, raiders or foragers - was to be crucified.
Mercenaries nailed 500 of them every day to crosses just outside
the city. Gradually a whole forest of
368 -- crosses sprang up on the hillsides till the lack of wood
called a halt to the frightful practice.
Tree after tree was sacrificed for crosses, siege
ramps, scaling ladders and camp fires. The Romans had come into
a flourishing countryside. Now the vineyards had disappeared as
had the market gardens, the wealth of fig-trees and olive-trees;
even the Mount of Olives no longer provided shade. An unbearable
stench hung over the bare and desolate countryside. The corpses
of those who had died of starvation and of those who had died in
battle, thrown over the ramparts by the beleaguered garrison, were
piled beneath the walls by the thousand. Who had the strength to
bury them in the traditional way?
during the siege by Titus, A.D. 70. Top
"No stranger who had seen Judaea of old, and
the lovely suburbs of its capital, and now saw this devastation,"
mourned Josephus, "could have restrained his tears and lamentations
at the hideous change. For the war had turned all that beauty into
a wilderness. And no man who knew these places of old and suddenly
saw them again could possibly have recognised them."
To seal off the city hermetically Titus ordered
the erection of a "circumvallatio". Working night and
day they constructed a massive high wall of earthwork in a wide
circle round Jerusalem, strengthened by thirteen fortified strong
points and guarded by a close chain of pickets. If so far it had
been possible to smuggle supplies and provisions into the city by
night by way of secret paths through tunnels or ditches, the "circumvallatio"
stopped even this last meagre reinforcement.
369 -- The spectre of famine haunted the city, which was filled
to overflowing with pilgrims, and death mowed them down in a dread
harvest. The craving for food, no matter of what sort, drove men
beyond all bounds and killed all normal feeling.
"The terrible famine that increased in frightfulness
daily annihilated whole families of the people. The terraces were
full of women and children who had collapsed from hunger, the alleys
were piled high with the bodies of the aged. Children and young
people, swollen with lack of food, wandered around like ghosts until
they fell. They were so far spent that they could no longer bury
anyone, and if they did they fell dead upon the very corpses they
were burying. The misery was unspeakable. For as soon as even the
shadow of anything eatable appeared anywhere, a fight began over
it, and the best of friends fought each other and tore from each
other the most miserable trifles. No one would believe that the
dying had no provisions stored away. Robbers threw themselves upon
those who were drawing their last breath and ransacked their clothing.
These robbers ran about reeling and staggering like mad dogs and
hammered on the doors of houses like drunk men. In their despair
they often plunged into the same house two or three times in the
one day. Their hunger was so unbearable that they were forced to
chew anything and everything. They laid hands on things that even
the meanest of animals would not touch, far less eat. They had long
since eaten their belts and shoes and even their leather jerkins
were torn to shreds and chewed. Many of them fed on old hay and
there were some who collected stalks of corn and sold a small quantity
of it for four Attic drachmas. - But why should I describe the shame
and indignity that famine brought upon men, making them eat such
unnatural things?" asks Josephus in his history of the Wars
of the Jews.
"Because I tell of things unknown to history,
whether Greek or barbarian. It is frightful to speak of it and unbelievable
to hear of it. I should gladly have passed over this disaster in
silence, so that I might not get the reputation of recording something
which must appear to posterity wholly degrading. But there were
too many eye-witnesses in my time. Apart from that my country would
have little cause to be grateful to me were I to be silent about
the misery which it endured at this time."
Josephus, whose own family suffered with the defenders,
was not afraid to describe an inhuman occurrence which proves that
the raging famine had begun to cloud the brains of the blockaded
Zealots were foraging through the lanes of the city
in quest of food. From one house came the smell of roast meat. The
men plunged into the house at once and were confronted by Maria,
daughter of the noble line of Beth-Ezob in Transjordan, an extremely
wealthy family. She had come to Jerusalem on pilgrimage for the
Passover. The Zealots threatened her with death unless she handed
over the roast meat to
370 -- them. With a wild look she gave them what they asked
for. Aghast, they found themselves looking at a half consumed infant-Maria's
Soon not only the whole city learned of this, but
the news also seeped out through the walls to the Roman camp. Titus
swore that he would bury this dreadful deed under the ruins of the
Many fled from death by starvation under cover
of darkness and ran into the arms of an equally cruel fate. The
story had got around among the Romans' auxiliaries that fugitives
from within the walls always carried gold and jewels, which they
had swallowed in the hope of preserving them from being seized by
strangers. If any of these unsuspecting people were caught they
were felled to the ground and their bodies slit open in the endless
quest for plunder. In one night 2,000 alone lost their lives in
this way. Titus was furious. Without mercy he got his cavalry to
decimate an auxiliary unit. An order of the day made the crime punishable
by death. But it was of little avail, the slaughter continued secretly.
Meantime day and night the battering rams were
hammering on the suburbs of Jerusalem. New ramps were laid down.
Titus was in a hurry. He wanted to end this frightful nightmare
as quickly as possible.
At the beginning of July his soldiers stormed the
Tower of Antonia. The castle, on whose "Pavement" Jesus
of Nazareth had been sentenced to death, was razed to its foundations.
Its walls abutted on the north wall of the Temple.
It was now the turn of the Temple, that powerful
and extremely well fortified complex of galleries, balustrades and
forecourts. The commander-in-chief discussed the situation with
his officers. Many of them wanted to treat the Temple like a fortress.
Titus opposed them. He wanted if possible to spare this famous sanctuary
which was known throughout the empire. For the last time his heralds
demanded that the rebels should surrender. Once more the answer
was a refusal. Titus then finally embarked upon the attack against
the sacred precincts.
An incessant hail of heavy stones and a rain of
arrows showered down upon its courts. The Jews fought like men possessed
and did not yield an inch. They relied on Yahweh hastening to their
aid at the last moment and protecting his shrine. More than once
legionaries on scaling ladders reached the perimeter wall. Every
time they were thrown back. Rams and siege engines were powerless
against these walls. It was impossible to shatter the vast stone
blocks of which Herod had built the Temple. In order to force an
entry Titus set fire to the wooden Temple gates.
Hardly were they consumed when he gave instructions
to put out the flames and make a passage for the legionaries to
attack. Titus' order of the day read "Spare the sanctuary".
But during the night the fire had reached the inner court and the
Romans had their hands full to put it
371 -- out. The beleaguered rebels profited by this favourable
opportunity to make a violent attack. With remorseless slaughter
the legionaries drove the Jews back, and pursued. them through the
courts. In wild tumult the battle raged round the sanctuary. Carried
away by excitement, "one of the soldiers, without waiting for
orders and without any sense of the horror of his deed, or rather
being driven by some evil spirit, seized a blazing torch and, hoisted
on the shoulders of one of his comrades, flung it through the Golden
Window that opened into the rooms which lay beside the Holy of Holies".
These rooms were panelled with old wood and contained,
as well as highly inflammable materials for the sacrifices, jars
of holy oil. The flaming torch found instantaneous and ample fodder.
Titus saw the flames springing up and tried to check the spread
of the fire.
"Caesar 1 then commanded
that the fire should be put out, calling in a loud voice to the
soldiers who were in the thick of the fighting and giving them a
signal with his right hand. But they did not hear what he said for
all his shouting. . . . And since Caesar was unable to restrain
the hot rage of the soldiery, and since the flames were spreading
further and further, he entered the Holy Place in the Temple together
with his commander and viewed it and all its contents.... But since
the flames had not yet reached the inner rooms, and were still devouring
the rooms that surrounded the Tabernacle, Titus, assuming, as was
indeed the case, that the Tabernacle itself could still be saved,
hurried away and made every effort to get the soldiers to put out
the fire, giving orders to Liberalius, the centurion and to one
of his own body guard, to beat the soldiers with staves if they
refused and by every means to restrain them. But however great their
enthusiasm for Caesar and their dread of what he had forbidden them
to do, their hatred of the Jews and their eagerness to fight them
was equally great.
"In addition the hope of booty spurred many
of them on. They had the impression that all these rooms within
were full of gold, and they saw that all around them was made of
pure gold.... Thus the Holy Place was burnt down without Caesar's
In August A.D. 70 Roman legionaries erected their
banners in the sacred precincts and sacrificed before them. Although
half of Jerusalem was in the hands of the enemy, although ominous
black columns of smoke rose from the burning Temple, the Zealots
would not surrender.
John of Gischala escaped with quite a large band
from the Temple area into the upper part of the city on the western
hill. Others fled into the strong towers of Herod's palace. Once
again Titus had to deploy his engineers, artillery, siege engines
and all his brilliant technical skill. In September these walls
too were forced, and the last bastions conquered. Resistance was
finally at an end.
Murdering and plundering, the victors took possession
of the city
1 -- Titus
became Emperor in 79. Top
372 -- that had so fiercely and bitterly resisted them and cost
them so much blood and time. "Caesar ordered the whole city
and the Temple to be razed to the ground. He left standing only
the towers of Phasael, Hippicus, and Mariamne and part of the city
wall on the west side. This was to provide quarters for the garrison
that was to remain behind."
The legion that occupied the garrison in this dreadful
place for sixty long years bore the symbol "Leg XF", which
meant "Tenth Fretensian Legion". Their home station was
on the "Fretum Siciliense", the straits of Messina. They
left behind them in and around Jerusalem thousands upon thousands
of indications of their presence. Gardeners and peasants still find
occasionally small tiles with the legion's number and its emblems
of a galley and a boar.
The loss of life among the Jews was unimaginably
high. During the siege, according to Tacitus, there were 600,000
people in the city. Josephus gives the number of prisoners as 97,000,
not counting those crucified or ripped open, and adds that within
a period of three months 115,800 corpses were taken out of one of
the city gates alone by the Jews.
In the year 71 Titus paraded his great victory
over Jerusalem in a gigantic triumphal procession through Rome.
Among 700 Jewish prisoners John of Gischala and Simon bar Giora
were marched past in chains. Amid great rejoicing two other costly
trophies of pure gold were born in procession,
the seven branched candlestick and the table of the shewbread from
the Temple at Jerusalem. They found a new home in the Temple of
Peace in Rome. Both these accessories of Jewish ritual can still
be seen on the great arch of Titus which was erected to commemorate
his successful campaign.
On top of these desolate and cheerless ruins, on
which neitherjews nor Christians were allowed to set foot on pain
of death, the emperor Hadrian 1 built a new Roman
colony: Aelia Capitolina. The sight of a foreign settlement on this
sacred Jewish soil provoked yet another open rebellion. Julius Severus
was summoned to Judaea from his governorship in Britain and smashed
the last desperate attempt of the Jews to regain their freedom.
But it took him three years to do so. The emperor
Hadrian then erected a race-course, two baths, and a large theatre.
A statue of Jupiter was enthroned above the ruins of the Jewish
Temple as if in derision, and on the site which Christian tradition
believed to be that of the Holy Sepulchre, strangers climbed the
terraced steps to do homage at a shrine of the pagan goddess Venus.
The greatest part of the population of the Promised
Land, which was not massacred in the bloody Jewish War of 66-70
and in the Bar Kokhba rebellion of 132-135, was sold into slavery:
"And they shall fall by the edge of the sword and shall be
led away captive into all nations."
Archaeologists have found no material evidence of
1 -- A.D.
373 -- in Palestine after the year 70, not even a tombstone
with a Jewish inscription. The synagogues were destroyed, even the
house of God in quiet Capernaum was reduced to ruins. The inexorable
hand of destiny had drawn a line through Israel's part in the concert
But by then the teaching of Jesus was well started
on its irresistible and victorious journey, uniting and giving new
life to the nations.