A History of New Testament Times in Palestine, 175 B.C.-70 A.D

By Shailer Mathews | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II
ANTIOCHUS EPIPHANES AND THE LOSS OF RELIGIOUS LIBERTY 1

THE dominance of the Hellenising party in church and state brought neither peace nor prosperity. Not only were the morals of the people degenerating, but the taxes levied by Syria were oppressive. Before the conquests of the Asmoneans the Jews were essentially an agricultural people,2 and, before the rise of the family of Joseph, included few, if any, rich men. In the absence of commerce, any considerable middle class could hardly have existed, and the nation as a whole seems to have been composed of fellaheen and aristocrats, priestly or professional. The two classes had different origins, different ambitions, and very possibly different languages.3 The supremacy of the Hellenistic elements of the aristocracy was, however, calculated to deepen the misery of the masses, since what little fellow-feeling there may have resulted from devotion to the law was of necessity lost.

Taxation.

____________________
1
General References: Schürer, The History of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ, Div. I. I. 199-218; Ewald, History of Israel, V. 293-302; Graetz, History of the Jews, I. 457-487; Renan, History of the People of Israel, bk. viii. chs. 10-14.
2
See the description of Jewish life in the first century of the present era, Josephus, Ag. Apion. 1 : 12.
3
Conder, Judas Maccabæus, 21 f. It is not impossible that heathen practices even persisted among the people. For their dishonesty, cf. Ecclus. 20 : 24.

-13-

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