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Posted: 15 April 2007 04:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]
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Posted: 15 April 2007 06:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]
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[quote author=“George Benedik”][quote author=“rationalrevolution”]Umm.. after Christianity became the official religion of Europe, only two religions were allowed to exist in Europe, Christianity and Judaism. That’s why it is still around today, because it was one of two religions that were allowed to exist. All others were totally extinguished.

And why was Judaism allowed in Europe? I know exactly why it was allowed in Bohemia. It was very common for the Czech kings (John I, Charles IV, and others) to lock up the Jews and then set them free for a fee. Yes, they were persecuted for killing Christ, but how convenient (:!:) this was for those who were punishing them (and charging them money) for this crime over and over and over…

That is certainly a factor too. They were taxed more heavily than Christians, and ended up paying all kinds fo various additional fees that Christians didn’t have to pay.

In addition, over time, especially in the later Middle Ages, it allowed kings and Christians to have a functioning banking system without having to get their own hands “dirty”. According to Christian doctrine charging interest was basically a sin, but at the same time it is also economically essential. No banking system can work without it, so Jews were allowed to take over banking, which kept the banking systems working without Christians have to violate their own rules to make it so.

Unfortunately, this led to a lot of banking conspiracy theories and also distrust of banks, and corruption in the banking system due to it being consolidated in a few hands and being somewhat taboo and all kinds of things.

But yes, overall Jews paid a heavy material price for being Jewish, kind of like tobacco today. Basically, in Medieval times, Jews were the tobacco of the time, something that nobody liked, but the government made too much money off taxing and regulating them to get rid of them.

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Posted: 16 April 2007 04:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]
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The discussion of Judaism, Christianity and anti-semitism could have its own thread. I feel reluctant to drag the discussion further afield, but I want to suggest some alternative views. I would have posted earlier, but I work weekends and did not have an opportunity to refresh my memory on these topics.

Rationalrevolution claimed that “Jewish culture was a failing culture on the eve of the birth of Christianity” and “If not for Christianity [Judaism] would have either totally gone away or it would likely be obscure and little known about today.” I think that the first claim is one way of looking at the facts, but not the only legitimate way; the second claim ignores the existence of large population centers of Jews outside Palestine, and the reinventing of Judaism following the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple.

About the time of the destruction of the Temple there were 7 to 8 million Jews in the world, one-tenth of the population of the Roman Empire, only a third of whom lived in Palestine. Other large population centers were in Babylon and in Egypt. This was a time of ferment in the religion, with many factions, each advocating its own interpretation of historical Judaism. The destruction the Jewish Temple and state in the first two centuries of this era was a crisis that spurred the evolution of Judaism. Today we see two main survivors of that ferment and crisis, each defined by its central text: “New Testament” Judaism, also known as Christianity; and Talmud Judaism.

After the destruction of the Temple, the wisdom of sages up to that time was preserved and organized. Later commentaries and elucidations of that wisdom were codified into what became the Talmud, which has defined Judaism until this day. This Judaism survived and flourished, not because or in spite of Christianity, but in parallel to it. I suggest that Christianity defined itself more by its attacks on Judaism, than was Judaism defined by being the victim of Christianity.

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Posted: 16 April 2007 05:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 34 ]
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[quote author=“Acher”]About the time of the destruction of the Temple there were 7 to 8 million Jews in the world, one-tenth of the population of the Roman Empire, only a third of whom lived in Palestine.

I would have to see more data to support these numbers. I have never seen any estimate of the numbers of Jews in the Roman empire at that time, so I have nothing to go on, but I’d like to see something to back this up.

The Jewish diaspora was geographically large, but from what I have always seen, small in numbers of people, and even smaller still in the number of exclusively practicing Jews.

Other large population centers were in Babylon and in Egypt. This was a time of ferment in the religion, with many factions, each advocating its own interpretation of historical Judaism.

Yes, and actively integrating into the local cultures and adopting beliefs and practices of the other religions as well.

The destruction the Jewish Temple and state in the first two centuries of this era was a crisis that spurred the evolution of Judaism.

Yes, but there were many before this as well. The conquest of Alexander the Great, the end of the Hasmonean period, not to mention many internal struggles during the 2nd century BCE to 1st century CE.

This Judaism survived and flourished, not because or in spite of Christianity, but in parallel to it.

I don’t think that’s a statement anyone can support. To think that the survival of Judaism I had nothing to do with the dominance of Judaism II is just plain nonsense.

Prior to the rise of Christianity, all of Europe and the Mediterranean was religiously pluralistic, with the exception basically of a core of Jews. Judaism, while exclusive, was surrounded by pluralism. Every basically except the Jews accepted the worship of any and all gods. Different people and places favored certain gods or traditions, but there was nothing that said that a Roman couldn’t worship the Egyptian god Ra and also worship the Greek god Dionysus, and also worship the Roman god Jupiter.

Indeed this pluralism was actually a strength of the “pagan” system. One of the crises within Judaism was dealing with this pluralism, and Jews throughout the diaspora, while still calling themselves Jews and still engaging in some Jewish practices, also worshiped at the pagan temples, and also celebrated pagan holidays and also worshiped pagan gods.

This was one of the sources of conflict within Judaism, just like today in America there are Jews, especially of mixed marriages, who celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah.

Judaism was indeed being watered down and splintering during the few hundred years prior to Christianity.

When Christianity became dominant, though, it was also an exclusivist religion.

Not only did Christianity eliminate all of the other cultural competitors, but it established universal religious exclusivity, such that Jews, while oppressed, actually got the insulation that they wanted.

Prior to Christianity Jews were never insulated. They had to sort of try to insulate themselves, but the pluralistic world was always encroaching. With the rise of Christianity, that stopped, and Judaism developed from that point on in isolation and an insulated environment.

That period of isolation and insulation definitely strengthened Judaism, beyond it’s condition prior to that situation.

Example of one of many 3rd century synagogues that incorporated pagan imagery:

hammattiberiashelios_000.jpg

Prior to the destruction of the Temple there were no synagogues in Palestine, but after its destruction individual synagogues were built. Indeed most of the old synagogues found from prior to the 5th century contain pagan imagery.

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Posted: 16 April 2007 08:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 35 ]
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I wrote:

[Talmud] Judaism survived and flourished, not because or in spite of Christianity, but in parallel to it.

and RR responded:

I don’t think that’s a statement anyone can support. To think that the survival of Judaism I had nothing to do with the dominance of Judaism II is just plain nonsense.

What you say is similar to my reaction to your claim:

If not for Christianity [Judaism] would have either totally gone away or it would likely be obscure and little known about today.

(By the way, which is Judaism I, and which Judaism II?) That is why I referred to the Talmud, which defines Judaism today much as the New Testament does for Christianity or the Koran for Islam. The compilation began after the destruction of the Temple when Christianity was a developing, but not a significant cultural force. The Jewish academies in Babylon - where work on what would become the Talmud progressed - were protected from the actions of Constantine and his successors to promote Christianity (and oppress Jews) in the Roman Empire. Arguably, the spread of Islam contributed more to the continuance of Judaism than did Christianity. I am neither claiming that there was no interaction, nor that the interaction was inconsequential; however, I think it goes too far to claim that Talmud Judaism owes its survival to its Christian sister.

The population figures are from A History of the Jews by Paul Johnson, and are similar to those in a book of the same title by Solomon Grayzel. Wish had the time to track down some primary sources.

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