Judaism in the Beginning of Christianity

By Jacob Neusner | Go to book overview

1
THE WORLD
OF
JESUS' PEOPLE

Israel in the
Land of Israel
Rome in Palestine

JERUSALEM AND THE TEMPLE

From near and far pilgrims climbed the paths to Jerusalem. Distant lands sent their annual tribute, taxes imposed by a spiritual rather than a worldly sovereignty. Everywhere Jews turned to the Temple mountain when they prayed. Although Jews differed about matters of law and theology, the meaning of history, and the timing of the Messiah's arrival, most affirmed the holiness of the city Isaiah called Ariel, Jerusalem, the faithful city. It was here that the sacred drama of the day must be enacted. And looking backward, we know they were right. It was indeed the fate of Jerusalem which in the end shaped the faith of Judaism for endless generations to come—but not quite in the ways that most people expected before 70 C.E.

How had Jerusalem cast its spell upon the Jews of far-off lands, to bring them together in their hearts' yearning? For centuries Israel had sung with the psalmist, “Our feet were standing within thy courts, O Jerusalem.” They had exulted, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem! May all prosper who seek your welfare!” Jews long contemplated the lessons of the old destruction. They were sure that by learning what Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and(Second)Isaiah taught about the meaning of the catastrophe of 586 B.C.E., by keeping the faith that prophecy demanded, they had ensured the city's eternity. Even then the Jews were a very old people. Their own records, translated into the language of all civilized people, testified to their antiquity. They could look back upon ancient enemies now forgotten by history, and ancient disasters, the spiritual lessons of which illumined current times. People thought that they kept the faith by devotion to the holy city, to the sacred Temple, to divinely ordained rites of service, to the

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