Posts Tagged ‘Josephus’

Geoffrey Alderman Accuses Tom Watson of Anti-Semitism for Talking about Christ’s Arrest

July 29, 2019

Geoffrey Alderman, a professor of Jewish history and columnist for the Times and the Jewish Telegraph, has made an official complaint to Jennie Formby accusing the deputy leader of the Labour Party of anti-Semitism. Why? In his Easter message, Watson referred to Christ’s arrest by a squad of Roman soldiers under the direction of the servant of the High Priest. Alderman states that

‘the allegation that Jews were Christ-killers, implicated in if not actually responsible for the death of Jesus, is widely regarded as an anti-Semitic trope’.

He then correctly states that it was condemned by the Pope at Vatican II in the 1970s.

While it’s amusingly ironic to find Watson, who has given so much aid and support to those fabricating false claims of anti-Semitism against decent, anti-racist people, both Jewish and non-Jewish, of anti-Semitism himself, the accusation is wrong and should be denied and rebutted.

Firstly, Alderman is absolutely correct that the accusation that Jews are Christ-killers has been responsible for much prejudice and often horrific persecution of Jews down the centuries. However, this does not mean that the description of Christ’s arrest and trial by the Sanhedrin and Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judaea at the time, are fictional and anti-Semitic themselves. Alderman’s accusation is therefore wrong and should be strenuously denied and refuted.

As Mike has said in his piece about the accusation, all the Gospels state that Christ was arrested by the Romans under the direction of the High Priest, tried before the Sanhedrin, before being passed in turn to Pontius Pilate for judgment. I realise that many people do regard the Bible as completely fictitious, and that there have been books written against the inclusion of the Jewish authorities in Christ’s arrest and execution in order to counter what many believe to be a source of anti-Semitism. These attempts are based on descriptions of the power of the Sanhedrin in the Talmud, which claim that the Temple authorities could not hold such trials and had no power to issue the death penalty for blasphemy unless the name of God was explicitly pronounced. However, while some of the Oral Law is ancient, dating back to the time Ezra according to scholars of Judaism, the Talmud itself was compiled over a period of centuries from the Second Century AD onwards. Jewish scholars have said that there is difficulty in assessing the truth of the passages about the Sanhedrin, as it is not clear which are historically accurate, and which an idealised picture of how the Jewish sages at the time of Talmud’s composition felt it should have operated.

Christ’s execution is mentioned by the Syrian Stoic philosopher, Mara bar Serapion, in a letter that may date from 73 AD. The letter discusses the disasters that befell the Athenians after they executed Socrates, and the Samian after they killed Pythagoras. He asks rhetorically

or what did it avail the Jews to kill their wise king, since their kingdom was taken away from them from this time on?

The ‘wise king’ is believed to be a reference to Christ. See Kevin O’Donnell, Introduction to the New Testament (Hodder and Stoughton 1999) 78.

There is also a garbled reference to Christ’s crucifixion on a charge of sorcery and leading Israel astray in the Talmud, see O’Donnell, above, 78.

Similar events are also recorded by Roman historians. There’s a passage in the Jewish historian, Josephus, I believe, which records how the Sanhedrin brought before the Roman governor a man, who had been prophesying the destruction of the Temple. They demanded the man be executed. Instead, the governor simply had the man flogged and then sent away.

This was an extremely dangerous and politically volatile time. The Temple hierarchy was bitterly resented by many Jews both for the corruption of some of its priests and officials, and their collaboration with Israel’s Greek and then Roman overlords. The books of Maccabees in the Apocrypha records the heroic resistance to Greek rule by Judas Maccabaeus. He and the Jewish people were provoked into rebellion by the attempts of Antiochus Epiphanes, the Greek general, who ruled the province under Alexander the Great, to stamp out their faith. Mothers were forbidden to circumcise their sons, the teaching of the Law was forbidden and copies burnt and the Temple was turned into a temple to Zeus. Although the Temple was restored and the Jews allowed to practise their faith freely once again, the situation remained tense. There were tensions between the Pharisees, the Jewish sect that stressed absolute obedience to the Law, and which believed in spirits and the resurrection of the dead, and the Sadducees, who did not, and who seem to have been largely aristocratic. Josephus records another Jewish uprising just before the time of Christ, which was crushed with the execution of 19,000 Pharisees.

The Talmud also contains passages, which are believed to date from this time, which rail against the corruption of the Temple clergy and High Priest. One is a heartfelt account by the author of how he was beaten by Boethus, a member of the Temple hierarchy, while other priests and leading officials used their office to extort money from ordinary Jews.

Moreover, it needs to be remembered that Christ and His disciples were almost all Jews. St. Matthew’s is the most Jewish of all the Gospels, and its writer frequently assimilates Christ’s teaching with those of the great Jewish sages. He was therefore part of a Jewish Christian community, which continued to observe the Mosaic Law.

It therefore seems very clear to me that the accounts of Christ’s arrest and trial are historically accurate and reflect the very bloody tensions within 1st century Judaism. And while they have been used to foment anti-Semitism, they are not themselves anti-Semitic. It’s clear reading them that the Sanhedrin and Pontius Pilate were responsible for Christ’s death, not the Jewish people as a whole.

I went to the same Anglican church school as Mike, and as he says, we were very definitely not taught to hate anyone because they were of a different religion. Indeed, the clergy and Christian laypeople, who taught at the school had a horror of religious violence and bigotry. Mike and his year were taken on visits to a synagogue and mosque. This didn’t happen to my year, but we were taught about Judaism in RE lessons. I also remember going down the stairs just as one of the RE teachers was going up them with a bearded gentleman carrying a menorah and other Jewish sacred objects, presumably to show them to one of the other classes. And some of the older pupils I know were taught about the Holocaust and its horrors.

I also believe that the myth that the Jews were responsible for the death of Christ has largely been laid to rest. Many of the Christians I know have very positive attitudes towards Jews and Judaism because of their religion. Where anti-Semitism does exist, I believe it largely comes from other reasons, like all the stupid, murderous conspiracy theories that try to tell you the Jews hate Whites and are importing Blacks to destroy the White race and enslave gentiles. And so, like Mike, I’m left wondering why Professor Alderman has chosen to accuse Tom Watson of anti-Semitism because of this. And so I agree completely with Mike’s conclusion:

Tom Watson is a wrong ‘un, no doubt. But to demonise him by trying to stir up animosity between Jews and Christians is completely unacceptable and I hope everyone of both religions condemns his words.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/07/29/this-anti-semitism-complaint-against-tom-watson-should-not-stand-up/

 

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Vox Political: Saudis Want Britain to Respect them for Executions, Because it’s the Law

January 16, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political has a report from the Independent, reporting that Adel al-Jubair, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, has given a press conference recognising that the kingdom has an image problem over its use of the death penalty. They criticise the West for its outrage over this, saying that their use of the death penalty should be respected because ‘it’s the law’. They also state that they don’t disrespect us for not having the death penalty’.

See Mike’s article at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/01/16/saudi-arabias-foreign-affairs-minister-urges-britain-to-respect-the-kingdoms-use-of-the-death-penalty/

Way back on 26th August 2014, The Young Turks did an item on their show commenting on the Saudi use of the death penalty. After first discussing ISIS’ beheading of a suspected informer, they remarked on how Daesh weren’t alone. Saudi Arabia also inflicted the death penalty. That month the state had executed 23 people, often for minor or trivial offences. Four men from the same family were killed for importing marijuana. Another man was executed because he practised ‘black magic sorcery’. And another man, who was mentally ill and suffered from auditory hallucinations, was also killed for drugs offences.

It’s unclear whether any of these people were actually guilty. It is common practice in Saudi Arabia to force confessions from the accused. In the case of the mentally ill man, the son states that it was he, who actually did the crime. He has been sentenced to 11 years or so and something like 1,000 lashes. When the family members complained to Amnesty International, they were threatened by the authorities.

The Turks’ quote Said Boumaha, Amnesty International’s deputy director in the Middle East, on the illegality of most executions, which take place far beyond the actual remit of the law. Saudi Arabia is one of the leading practitioners of the death penalty. It is the fourth on the list of countries with the most use of the death penalty. No. 3 was Iraq in 2012, #2 was Iran, and no. 1 was China. America was no. 5. They condemn the various miscarriages of justice which have sent innocent people to the chair or the gas chamber in America, including cases where the mentally subnormal have been killed. The Turks state that it is hypocritical for America to condemn atrocities committed by Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria, while refusing to condemn the Saudis for their use of the death penalty.

Here’s the video.

It isn’t just the use of the death penalty in Saudi Arabia, which appals and offends. Most Brits would probably vote to reinstate the death penalty if they could. This would be a mistake. There have been too many miscarriages of justice to ensure that it would only be the guilty, who would meet the hangman. Exonerating a person after their death does not bring them back, nor is it much comfort to their bereaved. As for it being a deterrent, Pierrepoint, Britain’s last hangman, stated that in his experience it had no deterrent value whatsoever. It was merely a state sanctioned form of revenge. He later changed his mind shortly before his death, but this observation – from the man, who actually did the job, deserves serious consideration.

What is particularly horrific about the death penalty in Saudi Arabia is the medieval brutality of the executions. In the West since the Enlightenment, it’s been intended to be quick and painless. Hence the limitation of the methods of execution to hanging, electrocution and gassing. These can be horrific enough. There’s a film, starring Michael Caine as a attorney, which contains a scene in which his character explains just how horrific the electric chair can be. There are two electrodes, attached to the heart and the head. The shock from one stops the heart, while the other destroys the brain. If the electrode on the head works, but the other doesn’t, the result is a blubbering vegetable. Other results can include the executed man literally frying, and cases where the liver has shot out of the man’s body through the force of the electric shock.

As for hanging, before the invention in the 19th century of the ‘long drop’ method, which breaks the criminal’s neck, death was by strangulation. This was slow and agonising. Recent films set in the past, which have hanging scenes show the friends and family of the executed man running forward to grab his legs. This is actually historically accurate. They did so in order to put their weight on the man’s body to hasten his death. Other results of the asphyxiation was that the eyes would pop out, along with a tongue that would go black. The reasons why the condemned traditionally wore the black mask was not to save them from the terrible sight of the hangman and his tools in the last moments of their lives. It was to conceal their faces, with the hideous rictus of death, and stop it from scaring the crowds.

Execution in Saudi Arabia may be worse, much worse, than this. Their methods of putting someone to death include crucifixion and beheading. In the latter, the brain may live on several seconds or even moments afterwards, so the victim may well be conscious as their head separates from their body. And scientists have also suggested that it may be accompanied by excruciating pain.

And very little needs to be said about how horrific and barbaric crucifixion is. There’s a reason the Romans used it so much on their enemies: it was the most painful, drawn-out and humiliating form of execution they could devise.The victim dies from slow asphyxiation over hours or, in some cases, days. It was used on Spartacus and his followers, and by the Romans, when they conquered Palestine. According to the Jewish historian Josephus, the Romans put to death 19,000 Pharisees when they suppressed a Jewish revolt.

Given the rampant injustice in its application, and the sheer horrific nature of the means of carrying it out, I see absolutely no reason why anyone should respect the death penalty, whether in Britain, America, Saudi Arabia or anywhere else in the world.