Don’t Get Caught Up In The Jewish (Clap)Trap
By Amos Wittenberg, UK
Don’t Get Caught Up In The Jewish (Clap)Trap!
Let me picture for you a culture moving inexorably towards its final phase of decadence and decay.
Divorce is becoming the rule rather than an exception. People routinely kill their children. Politicians are mistrusted and corrupt. The economy is a mess. Arrogance and insolence are rife. The old religion is cracking under the strain of scepticism and the old gods are no longer taken seriously. Cults and weird worship attract followers in all strata of society.
And somewhere in this terminally ill world there is a group of people who keep themselves apart from all this and quietly go about their lives. They never followed the old gods but continue to insist that everyone else is completely mistaken in just about all received wisdom. Their families are intact. They love their children to a fault and will do anything to make sure they get the best possible education. They home-school them and hire private tutors.
The general feeling towards these people is pretty negative. They are a disquieting element, a people that ignore the accepted norms.
Nevertheless they are not a particularly rebellious element. They follow a policy of “live and let live”, or rather “live and let die”. They do not try very hard to convince the rest of society to follow their ways for they have learned the hard way that this simply does not work.
Instead, they tell their children that the Creator has charged them with the task to be a light for the world. That the Creator has told them that their job is to sanctify His Name by sanctifying their own God-given life. By what they don’t eat but even more by what they do eat and how they eat it. They tell each other legends about their ancestor, an Aramaic nomadic chieftain who opened his house to strangers to give them food and then, after the meal, did not accept payment for the meal but insisted that his guests would give thanks to their Maker for the food they had enjoyed. They also have elaborate rules regarding how to do business, how to keep their sexual life in good order, calling marriage and marital intimacy “holiness”. In fact they seem to have rules for just about everything. They surround themselves with symbols to make sure that they never forget that once upon a time they were also almost totally immersed in the Hobbesian jungle of survival of the most brutal.
They also have a most extraordinary way of recalling their history. They do not boast about their great and glorious kings of the past – although they had kings like that. On the contrary, they have kept a meticulous record of all the scandals, all the terrible mistakes, all the awful crimes, and even of minor misdemeanours committed by their ancestors. They know that they themselves are constantly making similar mistakes. They are so aware of their fallibility that they confess their sins on a daily basis – six days a week – and plead with their Maker to forgive their transgressions, not for their own sake but for the sake of His Name. Nevertheless, they are not obsessed with their sins. Instead they are obsessed with the tiniest minutiae of their ancestral rules and regulations and talk about these things all the time. In fact, their greatest pleasure in life is vigorous debate between themselves about these matters.
These people are found all over the known world. There is not a city of importance where they don’t have a place where they come together and read from a scroll in which they have meticulously recorded hallowed words from long long time ago. Words, they claim, that were given to them to preserve forever. Words, they claim, that are a source of living water, a tree of life, more precious than all the wealth and all the treasures in the whole world. Words, they claim, that are the very words of the Creator Whom they call the Living God.
This group of people is not very numerous. They are in fact a minority. They have suffered tremendous losses during their history that goes back many centuries. They have experienced attrition on a frightful scale. A full 80% have disappeared and assimilated in the maelstrom of the general populace. But still they are convinced that one day these lost souls will come back. Even stronger, they firmly believe that this “way” will one day be all-overpowering. That their God – Whom the world around them sees as their tribal deity but Who, they stubbornly insist, is in fact the Only One Living God – will lead all mankind to join them in a reconstituted world of true peace, never to be broken again. When justice will flow as a mighty stream and righteousness as an ever-growing well. This they believe contrary to all available evidence. These people are not normal. They are bonkers.
But more and more people in the decaying world around them find themselves mysteriously attracted to these people and to the Words they have preserved. They do not quite understand what this is all about but they somehow feel that something very different is going on here. It is not that these strange people are better, cleverer, healthier, have superior DNA, possess magical powers or are privy to secret knowledge. Mind you, there are some in this decaying world who actually do think that the strangers are possessors of occult knowledge but they are in a minority. Most of those attracted to the “way” of the strangers are actually people who try to preserve their sanity in the mad world around them and suspect that the strangers’ God is indeed to be feared and loved. For this reason they are known as “God-fearers”. A considerable numbers of these God-fearers join the strangers and become strangers themselves (in Hebrew: גרים [gerim]), taking on the discipline of all the rules by which the strangers live and sharing in whatever price the strangers pay for their opt-out life.
You may think that I was talking of today’s world, today’s society, today’s problem and, you guessed it, “Jews”, or more correctly, the remnant of faithful Israel.
I was talking about the Greco-Roman world of the first and second centuries of the Common Era.
It is estimated that 8-10% of the population of the Roman Empire was made up of Jews. Reasonable assumptions about birth-rates and estimates of the rate of attrition among the “native” Judean and Babylonian Jewries cannot explain this number. There is very convincing evidence that there were huge numbers of converts to Judaism in that period. Among the “Sages of Israel”, the scholars who started to record the oral tradition in writing and provide the Jewish people with the wherewithal to continue living as Jews after the collapse of the last Jewish commonwealth, there are a significant number of converts. One of them, Rabbi Akiva, was arguably the greatest of the Tannaim [the sages of the Mishna]. But besides him we encounter Onkelos (Aquila), R’ Meir, Ben Bag-Bag, Ben He-He, Shmaya, Avalyon. These were sages, leaders of the people, “doctors of the law” as they are called elsewhere. They are, obviously, only the tip of the iceberg.
And then there were entire city-kingdoms that joined the Jews: Queen Helena of Adiabene and her brother/husband (yes, an incestuous marriage!) Monobaz became Jews. Helena moved to Jerusalem and lived and was buried there. Their sons Izates II and Monobaz II continued in their parents’ way. Adiabene was a bastion of Jewish life and morality in the middle of the Hellenised world of northern Iraq.
The merchant cities of Syria and Arabia had large Jewish populations, not readily explainable by mere migration but very probably made up of converts with a minority of Judean Jews who fled the Roman sphere after the disasters of the first and second centuries (the Jewish War and the Bar Kochba Revolt). In the pre-Islamic period we find the following Jewish Arab tribes in the Arabian peninsula:
• Banu Aws
• Banu Harith
• Banu Jusham
• Banu Najjar
• Banu Ghifar
• Banu Qaynuqa
• Banu Sa’ida
• Banu Shutayba
• Banu Kinanah
• Jafna Clan of the Banu Thal’aba
• Banu Zaura
• Banu Zurayq
• Banu Qurayza
• Banu Nadir
• Banu Juw
Now, why does this post have the title “Don’t Get Caught Up In The Jewish (Clap)Trap!”? What is my point?
Well, something happened in that first and second century in the Greco-Roman world.
Someone invented a religion which we may call “Judaistic Paganism”. Some pagans saw all these Jews all over the place in the Roman world as a potentially mortal threat to the commonly accepted way of life. Or some pagans realised the magnetic attraction of Jewish symbols. Or someone was high on the Roman equivalent of crack cocaine. Or someone saw that the pockets of Messianic fervour in the Jewish Diaspora in the run-up to the revolt of 66 CE were spelling trouble for the established order, as Robert Eisenman hypothesises. Whatever. We will probably never know what really happened.
We do know the outcome. This “Judaistic Paganism” – probably evolving from a small Messianic group among Judean Jews during the reign of the Herodians that was hijacked by unscrupulous dream merchants – became the dominant power of the Roman world.
What the “Paganism” part of it was, we all know: human sacrifice, dying and rising saviour god, theophagy [Wikipedia: a word of Ancient Greek origin that means “the feeding on a god” or “eating/devouring god”, from θεός (Theós, “god”) and the suffix -phagy (to feed on, to eat/devour)], mystical communion with a spiritual mediator with privileged access to the godhead, journeys to heavenly realms, raptures etc. All fine and well if Paganism is your cup of tea.
But what is the Judaistic part of it?
• A fair amount of Jewish moral and ethical lore is certainly part of it, albeit in garbled and sometimes well nigh unintelligible form;
• The adoption of terminology from Judaism: God, saviour, anointed, Israel, redemption, son, sin, atonement, sacrifice, satan. Every single one of these words was thoroughly redefined to mean something almost, but not quite, entirely unlike the original – apologies to the late great Douglas Adams for stealing his brilliant phrase;
• The theft of the Jewish preserved “sacred writings”, first in the form of a wholly misleading Greek translation, the so-called Septuagint, falsely “sold” as a “Jewish translation” (it is not: the real Jewish translation was only of the Pentateuch and is lost; what is now called the Septuagint is a product of Christianity), then in the form of the even more misleading Latin translation, the Vulgate, then in the form of the translations from the period of the Reformation, based on the real Tena”ch (which was preserved ONLY by the Jews) but heavily tainted by deliberate and easily spotted mistranslations, and in our own days by assorted inventions by Yawshuaists of various ilk;
• The wholesale incorporation of Jewish history as a mere prelude to Christianity, most radically in the form of the True Israel according to the Spirit;
• The most Judaistic element of Christianity is its Jew hatred. That sounds crazy but it is true. Exactly BECAUSE Christianity claims a “Judaistic” pedigree, it MUST hate the Jews, just like a phony pretender to the throne of the Tsars HATES a real descendant of the Romanovs.
Analogies are always incomplete and misleading if taken to absurd extremes.
But anyone with eyes in his head can see that all the “Messianic Judaism”, “Hebrew Roots”, “Sacred Name”, “YawhooShooWa”, “Rabban Yeshua”, “Netzarim”, “Restored Ebionite Messianic Kingdom Brethren”, and what have you, are just the 21st century equivalent of “Jewish” Gnosticism, Pauline Christianity, Johannine pseudo-Jewish neo-Platonism, and, yes, Islam.
What have almost all these sects, inventions, feverish fantasies and historical revisionisms have in common? They HATE Judaism and they HATE real Jews.
Don’t fall into the trap. It is not a new trap. It is as old as the way to Rome.