Commissary to the Gentiles, 2

by (((Marcus Eli Ravage)))

But even these plots and revolutions are as nothing compared with the great conspiracy which we engineered at the beginning of this era and which was destined to make the creed of a Jewish sect the religion of the Western world. The Reformation was not designed in malice purely. It squared us with an ancient enemy and restored our Bible to its place of honor in Christendom. The Republican revolutions of the eighteenth century freed us of our age-long political and social disabilities. They benefited us, but they did you no harm. On the contrary, they prospered and expanded you. You owe your preeminence in the world to them.

But the upheaval which brought Christianity into Europe was—or at least may easily be shown to have been—planned and executed by Jews as an act of revenge against a great Gentile state. And when you talk about Jewish conspiracies I cannot for the world understand why you do not mention the destruction of Rome and the whole civilization of antiquity concentrated under her banners, at the hands of Jewish Christianity.

It is unbelievable, but you Christians do not seem to know where your religion came from, nor how, nor why. Your historians, with one great exception, do not tell you. The documents in the case, which are part of your Bible, you chant over but do not read. We have done our work too thoroughly; you believe our propaganda too implicitly. The coming of Christianity is to you not an ordinary historical event growing out of other events of the time; it is the fulfilment of a divine Jewish prophecy—with suitable amendments of your own. It did not, as you see it, destroy a great Gentile civilization and a great Gentile empire with which Jewry was at war; it did not plunge mankind into barbarism and darkness for a thousand years; it came to bring salvation to the Gentile world!

Yet here, if ever, was a great subversive movement, hatched in Palestine, spread by Jewish agitators, financed by Jewish money, taught in Jewish pamphlets and broadsides, at a time when Jewry and Rome were in a death-struggle, and ending in the collapse of the great Gentile empire. You do not even see it, though an intelligent child, unbefuddled by theological magic, could tell you what it is all about after a hasty reading of the simple record. And then you go on prattling of Jewish conspiracies and cite as instances the Great War and the Russian Revolution! Can you wonder that we Jews have always taken your anti-Semites rather lightly, as long as they did not resort to violence?

And, mind you, no less an authority than Gibbon long ago tried to enlighten you. It is now a century and a half since The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire let the cat out of the bag. Gibbon, not being a parson dabbling in history, did not try to account for the end of a great era by inventing fatuous nonsense about the vice and degradation of Rome, about the decay of morals and faith in an empire which was at that very time in the midst of its most glorious creative period. How could he? He was living in the Augustan Age in London which—in spite of nearly two thousand years since the coming of Christian salvation—was as good a replica of Augustan Rome in the matter of refined lewdness as the foggy islanders could make it.

No, Gibbon was a race-conscious Gentile and an admirer of the culture of the pagan West, as well as a historian with brains and eyes. Therefore he had no difficulty laying his finger on the malady that had rotted and wasted away the noble edifice of antique civilization. He put Christianity down—the law which went forth from Zion and the word of God from Jerusalem—as the central cause of the decline and fall of Rome and all she represented.

So far so good. But Gibbon did not go far enough. He was born and died, you see, a century before the invention of scientific anti-Semitism. He left wholly out of account the element of deliberation. He saw an alien creed sweeping out of the East and overwhelming the fair lands of the West. It never occurred to him that it was precisely to this destructive end that the whole scheme of salvation was dedicated. Yet the facts are as plain as you please.

Let me in very brief recount the tale, unembroidered by miracle, prophecy or magic.

For a good perspective, I shall have to go back a space. The action conveniently falls into four parts, rising to a climax in the third. The time, when the first curtain rises, is roughly 65 B.C. Dramatis persona; are, minor parts aside, Judea and Rome. Judea is a tiny kingdom off the Eastern Mediterranean. For five centuries it has been hardly more than a geographical expression. Again and again it has been overrun and destroyed and its population carried into exile or slavery by its powerful neighbors. Nominally independent, it is now as unstable as ever and on the edge of civil war. The empire of the West, with her nucleus in the City Republic of Rome, while not yet mistress of the world, is speedily heading that way. She is acknowledged the one great military power of the time as well as the heir of Greece and the center of civilization.

Up to the present the two states have had little or no contact with one another. Then without solicitation on her part Rome was suddenly asked to take a hand in Judean affairs. A dispute had arisen between two brothers over the succession to the petty throne, and the Roman general Pompey, who happened to be in Damascus winding up bigger matters, was called upon to arbitrate between the claimants. With the simple directness of a republican soldier, Pompey exiled one of the brothers, tossed the chief priesthood to his rival, and abolished the kingly dignity altogether. Not to put too fine a point on it, Pompey’s mediation amounted in effect to making Judea a Roman dependency.

The Jews, not unnaturally perhaps, objected; and Rome, to conciliate them and to conform to local prejudice, restored the royal office. She appointed, that is, a king of her own choosing. He was the son of an exciseman, an Idumean by race, named Herod. But the Jews were not placated, and continued making trouble. Rome thought it very ungrateful of them.

All this is merely a prelude, and is introduced into the action to make clear what follows. Jewish discontent grew to disaffection and open revolt when their Gentile masters began importing into Jerusalem the blessings of Western culture. Graven images, athletic games, Greek drama, and gladiatorial shows were not to the Jewish taste. The pious resented them as an offense in the nostrils of Jehovah, even though the resident officials patiently explained they were meant for the entertainment and edification of the non-Jewish garrison. The Judeans resisted with especial strenuousness the advent of the efficient Roman tax-gatherer. Above all, they wanted back a king of their own race and their own royal line.

Among the masses the rebellion took the form of a revival of the old belief in a Messiah, a divinely appointed savior who was to redeem his people from the foreign yoke and make Judea supreme among the nations. Claimants to the mission were not wanting. In Galilee, one Judas led a rather formidable insurrection, which enlisted much popular support. John, called the Baptist, operated in the Jordan country. He was followed by another north-country man, Jesus of Nazareth. All three were masters of the technique of couching incendiary political sedition in harmless theological phrases. All three used the same signal of revolt—“The time is at hand.” And all three were speedily apprehended and executed, both Galileans by crucifixion.

Personal qualities aside, Jesus of Nazareth was, like his predecessors, a political agitator engaged in liberating his country from the foreign oppressor. There is even considerable evidence that he entertained an ambition to become king of an independent Judea. He claimed, or his biographers later claimed for him, descent from the ancient royal line of David. But his paternity is somewhat confused. The same writers who traced the origin of his mother’s husband back to the psalmist-king also pictured Jesus as the son of Jehovah, and admitted that Joseph was not his father.

It seems, however, that Jesus before long realized the hopelessness of his political mission and turned his oratorical gifts and his great popularity with the masses in quite another direction. He began preaching a primitive form of populism, socialism and pacifism. The effect of this change in his program was to gain him the hostility of the substantial, propertied classes, the priests and patriots generally, and to reduce his following to the poor, the laboring mass and the slaves.

After his death these lowly disciples formed themselves into a communistic brotherhood. A sermon their late leader had once delivered upon a hillside summed up for them the essence of his teachings, and they made it their rule of life. It was a philosophy calculated to appeal profoundly to humble people. It comforted those who suffered here on earth with promised rewards beyond the grave. It made virtues of the necessities of the weak. Men without hope in the future were admonished to take no thought for the morrow. Men too helpless to resent insult or injury were taught to resist not evil. Men condemned to lifelong drudgery and indigence were assured of the dignity of labor and of poverty.

The meek, the despised, the disinherited, the downtrodden, were—in the hereafter—to be the elect and favored of God. The worldly, the ambitious, the rich and powerful, were to be denied admission to heaven.