Excuse me, Sir, but are you civilized?

July 25, 2021

Excuse me, Sir, but are you civilized?

by Naresh Jotwani for the Saker Blog

Washington Post recently ran an article with headline which contained the two phrases “civilized nations” and “deter Beijing and Moscow” (see a review here). Use of the latter phrase in the headline shows clearly that the phrase “civilized nations” here has undisguised, in-your-face geopolitical motivation.

But “civilized” and “deter” is in fact a very strange combination of words, tempting and encouraging us to dig deeper into the matter.

One must assume that, in geopolitics, it is “just another day at the office” for one power to attempt to deter another. If two powers are in a state of unstable equilibrium, but not yet openly at war, attempts to deter one another would go on. Such is life. Certain lines – red or otherwise! – must not be crossed, weighty pronouncements must be made, and “swords must be banged against shields”. All this is standard stuff which foreign office trainees must learn, and upon which their “superiors” must base their upward mobility.

Clearly physical power is the one deterrent we all know about, starting from our experiences in school. But what has “being civilized” got to do with all that? Makes you wonder.

Surely I would be deterred by a big guy carrying a big stick – regardless of whether or not he seems to be “civilized”. In the same way, I am also deterred by a growling dog – regardless of whether or not it is fed and groomed by a rich owner! Chengiz Khan attacked other countries with brutal physical force, without any claims of possessing “higher civilization”. Before the sack of Rome, Alaric behaved far more sensibly than the “civilized” ruling elite of Rome.

Around the same time, another article also appeared, this one on the subject of Russian history and civilization (a review here). This article was an honest attempt to educate others, but there was no sign of any attempt to deter anyone. Indeed a resplendent, vibrant, creative civilization attracts others, does not deter them. If a “civilization” is aiming to deter others, then what happens to all the talk of “civilizational values” and “soft power”?

We know that power flows through the barrel of a gun, but today do culture and civilization also flow through the barrel of a gun? Something is surely wrong here! Historically, have the “civilized” always won wars? How do we explain the very recent history of Afghanistan? Which “civilization” has been gaining the upper hand there? What did the “civilized nations” achieve there? Whom did they manage to deter? For how long?

***

What follows is a brief history of how we have got to where we now find ourselves. This is not a work of “academic scholarship” – but rather it connects various “dots” discovered by scholars. The connections are based on the play of human nature we see all around us today.

The word “civilize” derives from the Latin root “civis”, meaning “citizen”, and in this way it is predicated on the idea of a “city”. Nomadic tribes of a period earlier than, say, 10,000 years BC would not have such a word in their language, even while the concept of “fellow tribesman” would be internalized very well.

The earliest cities were in fact trading centres for the surplus primary produce of nearby hamlets and villages. Trading – that is, eminently sensible economic exchanges – happened long before the invention of writing and of money. People were smart even then.

Trade generated surplus wealth. Thus people in cities – that is, traders of one sort or another – were free to explore aspects of life other than the hard work of primary production. Philosophy, religion, politics, law, “higher” arts and literature … all these flourished. Individuals in the city cultivated themselves, while their fellow human beings “out there” cultivated the land. Paeans and hymns were dutifully sung to the glory of the city and her various “gods”.

It was not long before the cultivated ones thought of themselves as “superior” to the others. In any one-on-one interaction with a simpler human being, they could easily run circles around the latter – and probably also justify charging a fee for the privilege!

Aided by writing and money, political power of cities grew rapidly, and it soon reached a point at which cities deemed themselves to be “proud city states”. Thence arose class differentiation between “civilized” city dwellers and the rustic population outside, which was by then economically and politically dependent on the cities. City states eventually grew into empires, following the all-too-familiar dynamic of unlimited human greed and brutality.

The simpler rustic folk were divided into “subjects”, “serfs”, “slaves” … and so on; but when the rustic folk got into friction or warfare with the “civilized” ones, they were dubbed “barbarians”. The preferred words nowadays are “deplorable”, “backward”, “lower caste” et cetera.

This phenomenon has played out repeatedly in recorded history. The phenomenon is grounded in economic motivations, and therefore it also has huge economic consequences.

Before “civilizations” came into being – and therefore before the invention of money and writing – the relationships between primary producers and traders were simple and direct, as depicted below.

Even huge geographical distances could not block trade, since ships and caravans could be used. Traders were brave and ingenious. For probably a couple of millennia, mankind experienced a “golden age of trading”, during which benefits of trade accrued but without onerous economic exploitation, slavery, human trafficking, and so on.

Things changed after the emergence of money, writing and “civilizations”. Multiple layers of political, social, financial, legal and other services emerged, giving opportunity to every “citizen” to climb the hierarchy of choice, depending on his or her aptitude and talent. Of course the two most useful talents would be greed and cunning – but clearly any other talent could be put to use, for example physical beauty, or the ability to declaim in public.

Ever since then, members of the “civilized elite” of most “civilizations” have wanted to get into the act and take their cut. The main goal of such “civilized elite” is to grab every opportunity for easy money, with the view: “After me, the deluge!”

The situation thus evolved to what is shown below, in what is projected as “progress” or the “unstoppable march of human advancement”. Men and women high up in the “pecking order” of a “civilization”, puffed up with their own social position and self-importance, feel free to make profound pronouncements about “the masses” or “the common people”.

[Incidentally, how “civilized” can a society be in which we use the phrase “pecking order”? The verb “peck” applies to poultry birds, and is also seen in the phrase “hen-pecked husband”.]

So much for “civilized”, the word wrongly used in the Washington Post article.

***

Surprisingly, this discussion brings us close to Saker’s recent decision to write and share with us short vignettes about the teachings of Jesus Christ. How so?

Jesus Christ lived through a period of great turmoil in the region, as the ruthless might of the Roman empire came into contact with independent minded Hebrews. His message was of love and charity, rather than greed. He promised deliverance to his followers, mostly poor folk.

When does a poor person cry out for deliverance? For the many poor people that I know, a bit of poverty is alright if only they are allowed to live on in peace. None of them demands perfect economic equality. Many earn their livelihood working for richer people. “I am alright, Jack. Let me be!”, they say – as they adapt, cope and share.

But turmoil most definitely does occur when even the otherwise forbearing poor are in unbearable distress; that possibility can never be ruled out.

Turmoil did occur in the period when Jesus lived and taught. Therefore, his teachings include useful, practical sayings addressing the daily economic and political reality of the poor people who were his followers. We may consider just three of his many profound sayings:

Man shall not live by bread alone …

It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God.

Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s …

By the way, these themes are not readily found in Gautam Buddha’s teachings. Why? Buddha lived in pre-Alexander India. Specific instances of suffering which moved him, when he was a young prince, were disease, old age, death … All of which is really kid stuff compared to what the Romans and other people of the time did on a regular basis.

Gautam Buddha traced the roots of suffering to desire, whereas the followers of Jesus Christ suffered from extreme deprivation and cruelty. It would be inhuman to say that desire was at the root of their suffering, when in fact they desired only deliverance from extreme deprivation and cruelty. Buddha and Jesus Christ addressed two totally different audiences, separated greatly in time, space and economic/political conditions.

***

It’s time to turn our attention back to some economic and political realities.

It is much easier to make money otherwise than by being a primary producer, and typically every human being seeks the easier path rather than the harder one. Primary producers are therefore left further and further behind in the headlong societal rush towards material well-being. However, no self-respecting community or country should accept such a dire economic fate for a significant fraction of its hard-working members.

Political and economic measures must therefore address this issue in a fair manner, and also provide avenues open to all members to benefit from training, education and economic mobility. Any ideology – “capitalism”, “neo-liberalism” or whatever else – which violates this fairness criterion will enrich a very few but also doom the society. Any talk of “trickle down wealth” is no more than false propaganda; “trickle down” just does not happen.

The attitude of “civilizational upper-hand” displayed in the Washington Post headline leads to a bargaining tactic which goes something like this:

Hey, you! Every time we engage in any transaction, negotiation, discussion or collaboration, do keep in mind that – since I am more “civilized” – I am by definition superior to you. Is it not enough for you that I even deign to sit and talk with you?

As against this, realistic bargaining between parties must proceed only on the basis of specific strong and weak points of each party. Any presumed and self-proclaimed – but meaningless! – “civilizational superiority” has nothing to do with any real-life negotiation. Why introduce such a red herring of into “real-politik”? In today’s intellectually multi-polar, competitive world, the adversary easily sees through all such false pretences anyway.

The reality of being “civilized” – if indeed there is such reality! – must not depend on haughty self-proclamation. The word “civilized” must be defined in terms which are universal.

Our only “city” now is the entire Planet Earth. There are no outsiders, and therefore the word “civilized” has to have meaning not limited by this or that so-called great city of the past or present – whether that be Rome, Athens, Washington, Beijing, Jerusalem or Varanasi.

In that spirit, a simple test is proposed here for the reader’s consideration:

Regardless of how highly accomplished an individual may be – in music, literature, politics, law, science, wealth, beauty or any combination thereof – does the person “get it” and accept that the most deprived individual is also a human being deserving of dignity and respect?

Note that the word “charity” does not even occur here. Acknowledgement of the other person’s humanity is far more fundamental that any outward act of “charity”. It follows that laughing at deprived individuals or pouring scorn over them is not civilized behaviour.

Only if the above test is satisfied should a person today be considered “civilized”. Loud, self-serving proclamations do not count. This is a matter not of “politics” or “ideology”, but of humanity. Nobody need fly off at the handle shrieking “Buddha”, “Jesus Christ”, “capitalism”, “communism” or “socialism”! Humanity does not dwell in a person’s brain, wealth or loquacity, but deep inside the heart – or perhaps not even there.

Lest anybody misunderstand, none of the above is a justification for what does or does not happen in my own country. Wherever there are human beings, certain behaviour patterns are bound to be seen. Most of what is described here has gone on blatantly in India for many centuries, and at present there is an intense internal struggle in progress.

The point here is that any “civilization” worth its name should help temper economic injustice rather than exacerbate it. In times of huge diversity and change, an attitude amongst people of “us” versus “them” is inevitable. The key questions ask must be such as these:

What are the terms under which societal injustices and resentments are resolved? How exploitative are these terms? How is extreme deprivation avoided?

No society can be strong if brutal economic exploitation runs rampant amongst its people. The following paradox is too glaring to be missed:

“Leaders” who declaim the loudest about being “civilized”, and try to impose their “civilizational values” on others, represent the very same societies which are going through relatively rapid exacerbation of internal fissures. A recent extensive survey carried out in the UK reported that, according to most younger respondents, the number one priority of the government should be to protect the poorest, weakest and the most vulnerable. An overwhelming majority said “F**k them all” about their own political leaders. (A summary of the survey can be found here.)

Much should be expected from anyone claiming to be “civilized” today.

Today is Holy Paskha – Christ is Risen!

May 02, 2021

Χριστός ἀνέστη! Хрїстóсъ воскрéсе! المسيح قام! حقا قام!‎

11th century fresco of the Resurrection, Chora Church, Constantinople

Today is by far the biggest and most joyful day of the year for Orthodox Christians.  This is also the day when Christians greet everybody, regardless of their faith or lack thereof with the words “Christ is Risen!”.  The ancient tradition has many meanings, but one of them is the fact that Christ did not only resurrect for the pious believers, but for all of mankind and in His resurrection he “co-resurrected” all of humanity.  I think that it is therefore only appropriate for me to also greet you all with this ancient greeting – Christ is Risen!

For those of you more theologically inclined, regardless of your religion or denominaton, I am posting an except from the first epistle of Saint Paul to the Corinthians which has a profound exposition of the importance of the resurrection of Christ for all of mankind.

I will “see” you all on Monday, kind regards and have a peaceful and joy-filled Holy Paskha,

The Saker
——-

Saint Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians (chapter 15 verses 12-58)

Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?  But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty.  Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise.  For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen.  And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!  Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.  If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.  But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.  For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.  But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming.  Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet.  The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.  For “He has put all things under His feet.” But when He says “all things are put under Him,” it is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted.  Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.  Otherwise, what will they do who are baptized for the dead, if the dead do not rise at all? Why then are they baptized for the dead? And why do we stand in jeopardy every hour? I affirm, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.  If, in the manner of men, I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantage is it to me? If the dead do not rise, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!” Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.” Awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame. But someone will say, “How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come?”  Foolish one, what you sow is not made alive unless it dies.  And what you sow, you do not sow that body that shall be, but mere grain—perhaps wheat or some other grain.  But God gives it a body as He pleases, and to each seed its own body. All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of animals, another of fish, and another of birds. There are also celestial bodies and terrestrial bodies; but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another.  There is one glory of the sun, another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star differs from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption.  It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power.  It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.  And so it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual.  The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven.  As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly.  And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man. Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption.  Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—  in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.  For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.  So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.

An open letter from an Arab Priest to his holiness Pope Francis

Source

Wednesday, 08 July 2020

Your Holiness,

In the Open Letter I addressed to you from Damascus on March 13, 2020, I asked you this question:

“Do you still believe, until today, in the survival of Jesus Christ in the Arab World?”

Today, at the dawn of July 8, 2020, I see it my duty, as an Arab Catholic Priest, to ask you another, far more dangerous, question:

“Can you deny, as the supreme spiritual leader of the Church, that this specific Church has been,effectively, the single main cause of the gradual, profound, and general,excising of Christianity on the scope of the world, starting from the West—at whose headis, as usual, the United States of America—because of its unacceptable sliding into and collusion with the slime of politics and finance since the time of Emperor Constantine until today?”

Nonetheless, Jesus Christ has always been, and will forever be, unique in His beauty, truthfulness, love, and magnetism.

Your Holiness,

At the end of a text that I wrote on April 5, 2020, entitled: “An answer to a friend in the West,” I asked this question:”

In a week, we shall celebrate the resurrection of Jesus!

I wonder: When shall we celebrate the ‘resurrection’ of His Church?” 

As we shall, in three days, celebrate the Feast of the great Syrian Saints, Peter and Paul, I allow myself to call upon you, anew, to visit Syria.

Rest assured, though, that you will not have to kiss the hands of some rich people, nor the feet of some African Chiefs, but, very simply, a handful of Syria’s holy earth… I offer to you on a wonderful piece of Damascene Broquart cloth, while I am standing proudly near our noble President.

Your Holiness,

Damascus awaits you.

Perchance this would be the dawn of the hoped-for ‘resurrection’ of the Church.

Fr Elias Zahlaoui,

Damascus, July 8 2020

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The Goods, the Bad and the Ugly

August 08, 2019

by Jimmie Moglia (and Patrizia Cecconi) for The Saker Blog

The Goods, the Bad and the Ugly

In the instance, the goods are those boycotted by the BDS measure (Boycott-Divest-Sanctions), proposed in the American Congress .

The bad are the US congressmen and politicians who sold their soul to the Jews for thirty pieces of silver, and rejected even the symbolic and extremely platonic ‘non-binding’ initiative of boycotting goods tainted by crime, theft, barbarities of all sorts, and by the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians.

Actually, there is a better word for ‘soul’ as in ‘politicians who sold their soul’, but I will forbear to mention it out of my inviolable respect for the ladies. Even Tulsie Gabbard, who has made a name for herself as an enemy of the status-quo, chose to oppose the measure, demonstrating the type of caution that cowards borrow from fear and attribute to policy.

Finally, the ugly are the criminals who killed and stole – and continue to kill, maim, imprison, humiliate and steal from the dispossessed Palestinians and rightful owners of Palestine.

If we were not living in a world upside down, the considerations that follow would be unnecessary.

The term ‘Jews’ excludes those (few or many, it is difficult to say), who reject the ‘chosen people’ philosophy of their sect – a philosophy known to many, but not many enough – for its meaning, history and implications.

For the voice of their dissenters is irrelevant, considering that the Jews, as a political-social entity, are a monolith, practicing a cultural-political hegemony that only blindness can deny. Hence, to edulcorate the truth by a quasi-synonym (Zionists) will not, in my view, do justice to the real dissenters.

In fact, many suspect, with cause, that some fake ‘dissenters’ are planted in the right places to ‘cover all bases’ – the metaphor of ‘gate-keepers’ being most appropriate. For hegemony to appear not overly conspicuous it must simulate some kind of antithesis or opposition. Why? So that hegemony may seem a choice and not an imposition.

Quoting from a Jewish writer about Jews in the Middle Ages.

“Without in any way minimizing the force of these factors (earlier referred to by the author as “a sense of frustration and exasperation aroused by Jews at large”), we believe nevertheless that they do not tell the whole story or even the essential part of the story. The most vivid impression to be gained from a reading of medieval allusions to the Jew is of hatred so vast and abysmal, so intense, that it leaves one gasping for comprehension. The unending piling up of violent epithets and accusations and curses, the consistent representation of the Jew as the epitome of everything evil and abominable, for whom in particular the unbounded scorn and contumely of the Christian world are reserved, must convince the most casual student that we are dealing here with a fanaticism altogether subjective and irrational.” (Joshua Trachtenberg, “The Devil and the Jews”)

Yes, it is irrational, but the position regarding the issue was clearly first stated by Pope Callistus II in 1120 AD, with his Bull “Sicut Judaeis Non.” And I quote from the Encyclopedia Judaica,

“It was a general Bull of Protection for the Jews, who had suffered at the hands of participants in the First Crusade (1095–96) and were being maltreated by their Christian neighbors. It forbade killing them, using force to convert them, and otherwise molesting them, their synagogues and cemeteries.”

And it is a position – we may all agree – that all rational people continue to maintain 900 years later. But it was expected from the Jews, at the time and in return, that they would not corrupt the Christian world.

The idea of corruption arose clearly when Nicholas Donin, a Jewish convert to Christianity, translated the Talmud into Latin in the twelfth century. Here I quote from Wikipedia,

“Donin translated statements by Talmudic sages and pressed various charges against the Talmud by quoting a series of ‘allegedly blasphemous’ passages about Christianity. He also selected what he claimed were injunctions of Talmudic sages permitting Jews to kill non-Jews, to deceive Christians, and to break promises made to them without scruples.”

Note the inverted commas I added around ‘allegedly blasphemous,’ in view of what comes next.

The Catholic Church had shown little interest in the Talmud until Donin presented his translation. The Pope (now Gregory II) was surprised that the Jews relied on texts other than the Torah; texts that contained alleged blasphemies against Christianity. Equally surprised, we may add, are or would be many Americans today.

This lack of interest also affected, until then, the French monarchy that profited by the Jews’ money-making skills.

Given the astonishment generated by the translated Talmud, a debate was organized in Paris – it began on June 12, 1240. Donin represented the Christians. Four distinguished Rabbis represented the Jews, namely Yechiel of Paris, Moses of Coucy, Judah of Melun, and Samuel ben Solomon of Château-Thierry.

The four rabbis’ objective was to defend the Talmud against Donin’s accusations that it contained obscenities and blasphemies against the Christian religion and God. In one Talmudic passage, for example, reference is made to someone named Jesus, dispatched to hell to be boiled in excrement for eternity. The Rabbis denied that this is the Jesus of the New Testament, stating as a kind of proof that “not every Louis born in France is king.”

Interesting argument, contradicted by another contemporary Jewish scholar– more on this later.

Among the obscene folklore, there is a story that Adam copulated with each of the animals before finding Eve. And Noah, according to the Talmudic script, was castrated by his son Ham. Furthermore, by now and thanks to the diffusion of knowledge via the web, most readers are aware of what the Talmud considers ‘acceptable’ sex, for example, lowering the age of consent to a 3-year old girl.

I don’t know why, but the recent resurrection of the already well-known criminal porno-ring of underage girls in Epstein’s ‘Lolita Island’, comes to mind.

Until the debate of 1240, Christians associated the Jewish religion with the Mosaic faith of the Old Testament. Hence the Church, suddenly and officially, realized that the Talmud was the Jews’ equivalent of the New Testament.

It is usually believed that the crucifixion of Christ is the historical trigger of the inherent conflict between Jews and everyone else. Some prominent Catholic thinkers have advanced the thesis that by rejecting Christ, the Jews have rejected Reason, (also referred to as Logos), as the underlying principle on which Greek-inspired Western civilization was built. Lack of Reason leads to continual upheaval, as in Trotsky’s “permanent revolution.”

Maybe, but the issue precedes the birth of Christ. For example, in 59 BC Lelius, a Pompey’s lieutenant, brought a suit against Flacco, a pro-consul in Asia Minor. The suit had to do with the transport (or lack thereof) of Jewish gold to Jerusalem. Flacco chose Cicero as his defender.

Here are Cicero’s words in his related writing, “Pro Flacco.”

“Now as to the accusation regarding the Jewish gold – which is why this trial is held not very far from the Aurelian square (the Jewish quarter). Yes, for this accusation you (Lelius), have chosen this place and this assembly of people, because you know how great is their number, how great their unanimity of purpose and how much is their power in the assemblies. I will speak softly so as to be heard only by the judges. For individuals are not wanting, ready to incite these people (the Jews) against me and against any other respectable citizen. I don’t want to give them reason to facilitate their attacks.”

Advance the clock by 2060 years, and Cicero’s words could be applied almost verbatim to the US Congress, to the neo-cons, and to the objectively unbelievable proposition that any criticism of Jews amounts to ‘hate-crime,’ as does any reference to their history, or confutation of their documentably fantastic inventions of inexistent or unproven facts.

History is silent as to which seed was sowed, and to where, how, why and what created certain destructive characteristics of Jewish ideology. For all seed-sowings a mysterious thing, whether the seeds fall into the earth or into souls.

Maybe it was a little thing. For what we call little things are merely the causes of great things; they are the beginning, they are the embryos. It is the point of departure that may decide the whole future of an existence of a race or ethnic group. One single black speck may be the beginning of a decomposition, of a storm, of a revolution. From one insignificant misunderstanding hatred and separation may finally issue. An enormous avalanche begins by the displacement of one snow-crystal, and the conflagration of a town by the fall of a match. Almost everything comes from almost nothing. For accident plays a vast part in human affairs. Calculation has its uses but chance mocks it, and the result of a planned calculation is in no wise proportional to its merit.

It is a mystery. For it is in the origin of things that the great secret of destiny lies hidden, although the breathless sequence of after-events has often many surprises for us all. So that at first sight history seems to us accident and confusion; looked at for the second time, it seems to us logical and necessary; looked at for the third time, it appears to us a mixture of necessity and liberty; on the fourth examination we scarcely know what to think of it. For if force is the source of right, and chance the origin of the force, we come back to the first explanation, only with a heavier heart than when we began.

And equally, with a heavy heart, we observe that any effort at understanding the inner mechanisms of time and mind, whereby the US has become the secular arm of Israel, taints the researchers with anti-Semitism.

If the patient reader who read so far will catch his breath, I will now introduce Ms. Patrizia Cecconi, an Italian writer, a botanist and a strenuous defender of the cause of Gaza’s citizens and of Palestine at large.

In what amounts to a guerrilla of tactics, Patrizia has managed so far to reach Gaza and provide what help and support her organization makes possible. Among other things, she has published a very interesting and very well-written book titled “Vagando di erba in erba” (Roaming from herb to herb). In which Patrizia details an extended visit to the West Bank, using as a conductive theme, the description of Palestine’s natural flora, and the characteristic and beneficial uses of various wild plants. While, simultaneously, telling the reader of the life of the Palestinians she met, spoke with or was the guest of. I hope that the book may be available in English in the near future.

I will now translate the text of one of her recent articles published in Italy. The reported event – the destruction of Palestinian houses and apartment buildings in East Jerusalem, accompanied by the laughter of Israeli troops – almost coincided in time with the rejection by the US Congress of the BDS non-binding proposal.

The witness-reported Israeli laughter is not the first example of the lawless confidence of successful robbers. Some readers may remember the picnic tables and picnic chairs positioned above the wall dividing Gaza from the rest of Palestine. From where Israeli onlookers and tourists could watch Israeli soldiers gun down unarmed Palestinians, including women and children, as if they were pins in a bowling alley at a recreation center.

A Specter roams around… but it is not Communism

A specter roams around the Middle East, and from there, crossing seas and mountains, reaches everywhere, demonstrating the absolute inanity of the Universal Humanitarian Law and nullifying every rule of international legality, starting from the Geneva Conventions.

A specter that, with actual incontrovertible facts under our eyes, shows the useless foolishness of the United Nations Organization itself – reduced to be but a glass-palace shown to visiting school-children. Explaining to them how the dream of a “magnificent and progressive future” envisaged in those proud halls, was broken after three short years, thanks to self-declared birth of the Israeli State. A structure that, since its foundation, would ignore, dismiss, discard, disregard and trample-on all the United Nations’ principles and resolutions.

It would be reductive and factious to classify this statement as anti–Semitic. While not realizing, instead, the weight and danger – for the world at large – of Zionism’s long tentacles, obliterating universal humanitarian principles and every rule of international law. Any honest thinker, even minimally aware of reality, cannot but bitterly agree on the consequences of continuing to shelter Israel from the legal sanctions deserved by its criminal actions. Sanctions equally necessary to make that entity comply with the accepted standards of humanity, and to limit the horrendous damage, human and political it has produced for over a century.

For about 80 years, what occurred and occurs in 2000-year old Palestine, is an unrestrained use of power, applied in the name of Zionism. An ideology developed at the end of the 19th century by Austrian-born Theodor Herzl and later implemented in the establishment of the Israeli state, not respecting the UN Resolution 181, but through self-proclamation by Ben Gurion. This occurred shortly before the expiration of the British mandate, therefore outside the terms of the UN Resolution. Showing and declaring to the world that Israel stands above and beyond any human law, international or super-national. And making the only basis for the state’s existence a biblical tale that would entail or allow a “return to the Promised Land.”

What said above is not intended as a historical summary, but the not-to-be-forgotten basis for understanding Israel’s latest violation of international law and of the rights of the Palestinian people. Namely the recent demolition of large apartment blocks in Jerusalem, as part of the continuous, illegal and brutal confiscations of Palestinian property.

The Jewish state is carrying out the project of the “greater Israel,” envisaged prior to the establishment of the state and consisting in the step-by-step annexation of all historic Palestine from the Jordan to the Mediterranean, on the ground that God had decreed and promised to Jewish men and women the right to occupy this land. [My note, as clearly stated in the 1982 Odet-Yinon Plan, Israel is supposed to extend from the Nile to the Euphrates. When, thanks to the efforts of President Jimmy Carter, Israel had to give up the illegally occupied Sinai, a day of mourning was declared in Israel. Israeli president Rabin paid with his life for that ‘mistake.’]

In Israel, religion and politics blend as required, ever since 1897, when Theodor Herzl, though an atheist, found the biblical narrative useful for the establishment of a racist state, so that the religious aura would become the trump card, having the force of all founding myths.

Of course, without the interest of the then great powers of having a ‘Western reference point’ at the gates of the Middle East, no Sykes-Picot agreement (1916), nor the Balfour declaration (1917) would have been possible. And without the Shoa of WW2 perhaps we would not witness the Shoa of the Palestinians.

We use the term shoah, meaning a “devastating storm,” leading to the elimination of a population. With Nazism, the population was defined by race and was identified with its religion. The intention was to physically remove every individual associated with the race. In Israel and with the ongoing massacres of Palestinians the intent is not based on race or religion, but rather on the goal of driving them out, and to fully occupy the ground on which they have lived for centuries, even before the emergence of Islam.

Some call it the “ethnic cleansing of Palestine,” tracing it back to the Nakba, the catastrophe of 1948. Others call it the ‘shoa,’ a Hebrew term, to make better understand the similarity between the Nazi-led and the Israeli-led ‘shoas’.

Yet all this does not disturb states that do business with Israel, even though they call themselves democratic, nor international and supranational organizations, even though their institutional representatives replenish their speeches with concepts such as ‘human rights,’ ‘justice’ and ‘peace.’

Israel benefits from a halo of false legality that, along with the tragedy of the (1972-born) Holocaust narrative, protects it as an unassailable armor. This is the will of the Israeli government, well supported by almost the entire population of approximately 9 million inhabitants. With the exception of twenty or so young activists plus a few journalists such as Gideon Levy or Amira Hass, who denounced the Israeli decision to destroy a dozen Palestinians apartment buildings, thus proceeding further on the path of destruction that has already affected tens of thousands of Palestinian buildings and homes.

It was an escalation beyond any possible justification, for the demolition affected even apartment buildings located in zone A – an area that, even according the Oslo agreements of 1993 (actually a trap to advance Jewish interests), should be under total Palestinian jurisdiction.

By so doing Israel, through Netanyahu, delivered a further kick to the law and to the already frayed Palestinian National Authority. Demonstrating once more, in the style of the “Iron Chancellor”, that agreements are but pieces of paper.

Israeli bulldozers and some 700 star-of-David-attired soldiers were ready to carry out the crime immediately after the Israeli Supreme Court, in total mockery of international legality, issued the predicted sentence of demolition. For in an act of foolish confidence the Palestinians had appealed to the (mock) Supreme Court.

In sum, like the Italian Jews, expelled from schools and jobs after November 1938, the Palestinians – in a tragic mockery that amuses the Israelis and is justified by sundry lackeys – saw their homes ‘legally’ demolished. This heinous abuse is repeated and recurrent. Between 1967 and 1973 Israel destroyed 9,000 homes, leaving thousands of Palestinian homeless, as documented by Jewish writer Felicia Langer in her book, “With My Eyes.” Then she left Israel because her action rarely had an effect on the rigged Israeli courts, though she unwillingly helped, by her legal attempts, to give a coat of legality to plain illegality, as the most recent case shows, with the Supreme Court deciding that it was legal to destroy the homes in East Jerusalem.

Did the (Italian) mass media adequately cover this umpteenth violation practiced on the Palestinians? – Did it note that by ridiculing international institutions, Israel removes from all citizens of the world the right to be protected by a Universal Law made mockery of? No the mass media was silent but for one ‘niche’ newspaper, “Il Manifesto,” that dedicated its first page to the event.

Therefore ‘mass-opinion,’ driven by the usual suspects concludes that the Palestinians built illegally, and that Israel, through its Supreme Court, has righted an illegality. We may wonder as to how many (Italians) may have thought that if we had an (Italian) Netaniahu there would not be so many building abuses (a plague in Italy).

While Israel will continue to do business with Italy and with other democratic Countries, the UN will issue a lamentation – it has already done so – and the European Union will issue their concern. In the end, the Palestinians will grow more desperate and understandably hateful of an entity that, for more than 70 years, humiliates them, stops them, injures them, kills them, expels them, and is even called democratic.

We saw the soldiers of the occupying army taking selfies and videos as they blew up the buildings, laughing and complimenting themselves. The Palestinians saw them too and we can imagine their feelings.

No one calls those soldiers terrorists, but according to Israel, terrorist is he who will rebel, perhaps with a stone or a kitchen knife, to this destruction of lives and rights.

Felicia Langer, the Israeli lawyer who left Israel shortly before she died, wrote, “The day will come when Israel will be forced to change its policy.” Perhaps it was an affirmation of faith, perhaps the desire to see justice triumph. But what we can see is only the multiplication of Israeli power and the contamination – as if it were a bacterium without an antibody– of every aspect of cultural, scientific, agricultural and industrial life everywhere in the world. With all this creating a kind of awe and discomfort that muzzles and prevents criticism. The fear refers to the anathema that condemns to isolation, anti-Semitism!

I wrote this before. Only independent newspapers can run the risk of an anathema without renouncing their function of making the truth known.

Here the truth is clear. Israel knows only abuse, and out of systematic abuse, only two results are possible, either resignation and flight, or resistance by all possible means, however right or wrong they may appear to our eyes as Western observers.

Meanwhile, while we write, the ten-story buildings with apartments adorned with velvet cushions, with curtains often bought in installments, with the tea glasses, the small cups for the ever-hot coffee, the dishes for the maqluba and the mussaqan, the rooms for the children , their games, their books, their clothes… all is now a pile of rubble. This is what the chosen people’s government wanted … except for twenty generous but impotent dissenters.

As for the rabbis of 13th century Paris, according to whom the Talmudic Jesus boiling in eternity in excrement is not the Christian Jesus, here are the thoughts of a Jewish scholar, Israel Shahak, a survivor of a WW2 concentration camp, who settled in Israel after WW2.

“Judaism is imbued with a very deep hatred towards Christianity, combined with ignorance about it. This attitude was clearly related to the Christian persecution of Jews, but is largely independent of them.

The deeply negative attitude is based on two main elements. First, on hatred and malicious slanders against Jesus. … The notion of collective and inherited guilt is both wicked and absurd. However, what is at issue here is not the actual fact about the Jesus, but the inaccurate and even slanderous reports in the Talmud and post Talmudic literature – which is what Jews believed until the 19th century and many, especially in Israel, still believe.

According to the Talmud, Jesus was executed by a proper rabbinical court for idolatry, inciting other Jews to idolatry, and contempt for rabbinical authority. All classical Jewish sources that mention his execution are quite happy to take responsibility for it; in the Talmudic account the Romans are not even mentioned.

… In addition to the above crimes they accuse him of witchcraft. The very name ‘Jesus’ was for Jews a symbol of all that is abominable, and this popular tradition still persists. The Gospels are equally detested, and they are not allowed to be quoted (let alone taught) even in modern Israeli Jewish schools.”

But even before Christ – we may add – some historians interpret the celebration of Hanukah, for example, as a reminder of the rejection by the Jews of any Greek influence (and therefore Greek thought and values) into their midst – that is the rejection of Reason. It is the same Greek influence that, along with Christianity, molded Western thought and civilization at large – now under attack.

Israel Shahak titled his book, “Jewish History, Jewish Religion – The Weight of Three Thousand Years.” I doubt whether any of the US politicians who voted down the non-binding BDS proposal knows that the book exists.

Though even if they did, gold trumps justice, especially among the rich. For many, a Congressional seat, with all its emoluments, benefits, guaranteed luxurious life and dream-like pension, is well worth the sale of their soul. As Romeo said to the struggling pharmacist who sold him the poison Romeo wanted,

“There is thy gold, worse poison to men’s souls,

Doing more murders in this loathsome world,

Than these poor compounds that thou mayst not sell.”

 

Pandering to Christian Zionism: Trump Outreach on Display in Washington

Philip Giraldi

Christian Zionist involvement in American politics on behalf of the Washington’s relationship with Israel does not serve any conceivable US national interests unless one assumes that Israel and the United States are essentially the same polity, which is unsustainable.

In Washington on the weekend after the Fourth of July, Israel was praised and Iran was condemned in the strongest terms, with a bit of a call to arms thrown in to prepare the nation for an inevitable war. It might just seem like a normal work week in the nation’s capital, but this time around there was a difference. The rhetoric came from no less than five senior officials in the Trump Administration and the audience consisted of 5,000 cheering members from the Christian Zionist evangelical group called Christians United for Israel (CUFI).

Christian Zionism is not a religion per se, but rather a set of beliefs based on interpretations of specific parts of the Bible – notably the book of Revelations and parts of Ezekiel, Daniel, and Isaiah – that has made the return of the Jews to the Holy Land a precondition for the Second Coming of Christ. The belief that Israel is essential to the process has led to the fusion of Christianity with Zionism, hence the name of the movement. The political significance of this viewpoint is enormous, meaning that a large block of Christians promotes and votes for a non-reality based foreign policy based on a controversial interpretation of the Bible that it embraces with considerable passion.

It would be a mistake to dismiss CUFI as just another group of bible-thumpers whose brains have long since ceased to function when the subject is Israel. It claims to have seven million members and it serves as a mechanism for uniting evangelicals around the issue of Israel. Given its numbers alone and concentration is certain states, it therefore constitutes a formidable voting bloc that can be counted on to cast its ballots nearly 100% Republican, as long as the Republican in question is reliably pro-Israel. Beyond that, there are an estimated 60 million evangelical voters throughout the country and they will likely follow the lead of groups like CUFI and vote reflecting their religious beliefs, to include Trump’s highly visible support for the Jewish state.

Trump’s reelection campaign is reported to be already “…developing an aggressive, state-by-state plan to mobilize even more evangelical voters than supported him last time.” This will include, “voter registration drives at churches in battleground states such as Ohio, Nevada and Florida.” Without overwhelming evangelical support, Trump reelection in 2020 is unlikely, hence the dispatch of all available White House heavyweights to CUFI’s annual summit at the Washington Convention Center.

Though it is an organization that defines itself as Christian, CUFI makes no effort to support surviving Christian communities in the Middle East as most of them are hostile to Israel. The group also supports war against Iran as a precursor to total global conflict. Hagee has explained that “The United States must join Israel in a pre-emptive military strike against Iran to fulfill God’s plan for both Israel and the West… a biblically prophesied end-time confrontation with Iran, which will lead to the Rapture, Tribulation, and Second Coming of Christ.”

CUFI operates out of the Cornerstone Church in San Antonio Texas. It was founded at the church in 2006 and is headed by John Hagee, a leading evangelical who has been courted both by the Trump Administration and by Israel itself, which presented him with a a Lear business yet complete with a crew so he would be able to do his proselytizing in some comfort. He frequently appears at commemorations in Israel, is a regular at the annual AIPAC meeting and has been a guest at the White House. He was present at the Trump administration’s ceremony last year when it moved the US Embassy to Jerusalem and gave a speech. He has said that “there has never been a more pro-Israeli president than Donald Trump.”

Present at the CUFI summit were Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Security Advisor John Bolton, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, and US negotiator in the Middle East Jason Greenblatt. Lest there be any confusion, the White House was represented by two Christian Zionists, two Jewish Zionists and John Bolton, who has been variously described. All five have been urging a military response against Iran for its alleged “aggression” in the Middle East. Israeli Prime Minister also addressed the conference via videolink, with his similar “analysis” of the Iranian threat. There were also a number of Republican Senators present, to include Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Roy Blunt and Tim Scott.

The speeches were all pretty much the same but perhaps the most suggestive was the 2,000 word plus exhortation delivered by Pompeo. His presentation was entitled “The US and Israel: a Friendship for Freedom.” He asked, in a speech full of religious metaphors and biblical references, his audience to “compare Israel’s reverence for liberty with the restrictions on religious freedom facing Christians and people of all faiths throughout the rest of the Middle East,” where “if a Muslim leaves Islam it is considered an apostasy, and it is punishable indeed by death.”

Pompeo was more interested in stirring up his audience than he was in historical fact. He said “In Iraq, Syria, and other countries in the region, the last remnants of ancient Christian communities are at near-extinction because of persecution from ISIS and other malign actors. And just one example: before 2003, there were an estimated 1.5 million Christians living in Iraq. Today, sadly, almost a quarter of a million.”

Pompeo, whose grasp of current events appears to be a bit shaky, did not mention two of the principal reasons that Christianity has been declining in the region. First and foremost is the Iraq War, started by the United States for no good reason, which unleashed forces that led to the destruction of religious minorities. Second, he did not note the constant punishment delivered by Israel on the Palestinians, which has led to the departure of many Christians in that community. Nor did he say anything about the reverse of the coin, Syria, where Christians are well integrated and protected by the al-Assad government which Pompeo and Bolton are seeking to destroy to benefit Israel.

The Secretary of State also delivered the expected pitch for four more years of Donald Trump, saying “But thank God. Thank God we have a leader in President Trump – an immovable friend of Israel. His commitment, his commitment – President Trump’s commitment is the strongest in history, and it’s been one of the best parts of my job to turn that commitment into real action.”

But it has to be Pompeo’s conclusion that perhaps should be regarded as a joke, though it appears that no one in the audience was laughing. He said “Our country is intended to do all it can, in cooperating with other nations, to help create peace and preserve peace [throughout] the world. It is given to defend the spiritual values – the moral code – against the vast forces of evil that seek to destroy them.”

It was a reiteration of Pompeo’s earlier “America is a force for good” speech delivered in Cairo in January. Nobody believed it then and nobody believes it now, given what has been actually occurring over the past 18 years. It would be interesting to know if Pompeo himself actually thinks it to be true. If he does, he should be selling hot dogs from a food truck rather than presiding as Secretary of State.

So, the bottom line is that the Trump Administration pandering to Hagee and company is shameful. Christian Zionist involvement in American politics on behalf of the Washington’s relationship with Israel does not serve any conceivable US national interests unless one assumes that Israel and the United States are essentially the same polity, which is unsustainable. On the contrary, the Christian Zionist politicizing has been a major element in supporting the generally obtuse US foreign policy in the Middle East region and vis-à-vis other Muslim countries, a policy that has contributed to at least four wars while making the world a more dangerous place for all Americans. Christian Zionist promoted foreign policy serves a particularly narrowly construed parochial interest that, ironically, is intended to do whatever it takes to bring about the end of the world, possibly a victory for gentlemen like Pastor John Hagee if his interpretation of the bible is correct, but undeniably a disaster for the rest of us.

Israeli Police Prepare for the Coming of the ‘Messiah’

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By Richard Edmondson

In the photo above we see Israeli Police Commissioner Roni Alsheikh along with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It is reported that Alsheikh is anticipating the coming of the Jewish messiah in the not-terribly-distant future and that he and his police forces are preparing for large crowds expected to converge upon the Jewish state when the glorious arrival takes place.

“When the Messiah comes, everyone will want to [approach] him so it will get very crowded,” he said. “That will be a time when we will have to be very strong in respecting our fellow.”

The police commissioner added: “Soon, God willing, we will need to start preparing for the security operation necessary upon the arrival of the Messiah.”

The story was initially reported January 2 by the Jewish website Breaking Israel News, (H/T Ariadna) and has since been picked up on a number of Christian Zionist sites, including the obnoxious World Net Daily (the WND is not exclusively Christian Zionist, but it does take that slant in a number of its articles).

“No one knows the day or the hour, but the Israeli police seem to believe the Messiah is coming soon,” the WND titillates in an article published January 8.

So are the Israelis planning to stage an “event” of some sort? Will the top rabbis in Israel hold a press conference at some point and designate a hired actor as the “messiah”?

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Israeli Police Commissioner Roni Alsheikh is shown here along with Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovich (immediately to Alsheikh’s left), who holds the official title of “Rabbi of the Western Wall,” and Israeli Chief Rabbi Itzhak Yosef (to Rabinovich’s left). The occasion for the group photo, taken on December 28, 2016, was the lighting of a large menorah at the Western Wall in observance of Hanukkah.

Or alternately–and let your imagination wander here–is a “messiah” of one description or another on the horizon?  Will it be a real messiah, a false messiah, or, possibly, an “antichrist”…or maybe even the antichrist?

Perhaps worth mentioning is that a long-standing tradition in Church history holds that the antichrist will be a Jew. This was discussed in a treatise entitled “Against Heresies,” written by one of the early Church fathers, Irenaeus, who served as bishop of Lyons in the latter part of the second century. And in Irenaeus’ view, not only would the antichrist be a Jew, but he would be a Jew specifically from the tribe of Dan:

[Let them learn] to acknowledge that he who shall come claiming the kingdom for himself, and shall terrify those men of whom we have been speaking, having a name containing the aforesaid number [666], is truly the abomination of desolation. This, too, the apostle [Paul] affirms: “When they shall say, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction shall come upon them.” And Jeremiah does not merely point out his sudden coming, but he even indicates the tribe from which he shall come, where he says, “We shall hear the voice of his swift horses from Dan; the whole earth shall be moved by the voice of the neighing of his galloping horses: he shall also come and devour the earth, and the fulness thereof, the city also, and they that dwell therein.” This, too, is the reason that this tribe is not reckoned in the Apocalypse along with those which are saved.

In the above, Irenaeus mentions three scriptural passages—I Thessalonians 5:3, Jeremiah 8:16, and Revelation 7:5-8. The first passage, from Thessalonians, does not specifically point to Dan, however, the latter two do. The passage from Revelation lists the tribes of Israel which would have the “seal of God” on their foreheads at the end of days. Curiously, Dan is omitted from the list.

The passage from Jeremiah 8, though singling out Dan in particular, also discusses the sins of the Israelite nation as a whole. For instance, verses 9-12 read as follows:

The wise shall be put to shame, they shall be dismayed and taken; since they have rejected the word of the Lord, what wisdom is in them?  Therefore I will give their wives to others and their fields to conquerors, because from the least to the greatest everyone is greedy for unjust gain; from prophet to priest everyone deals falsely. They have treated the wound of my people carelessly, saying, “Peace, peace,” when there is no peace.  They acted shamefully, they committed abomination; yet they were not at all ashamed, they did not know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; at the time when I punish them, they shall be overthrown, says the Lord.

Dan is fingered in other biblical passages as well. Let’s have a look at Genesis 49:1, 16-17:

And Jacob called unto his sons, and said, ‘Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you that which shall befall you in the last days…Dan shall judge his people, as one of the tribes of Israel. Dan shall be a serpent by the way, an adder in the path, that biteth the horse heels, so that his rider shall fall backward.

I often wonder why Christian Zionists don’t take biblical passages like these into consideration. In their blind support for Israel, Christian Zionists seem to have utterly cast aside the entire body of Jesus’ teachings. What happened to love? Where is compassion for “the least of these”? How is it possible, if you’re a Christian, to declare your allegiance to a country like Israel and to those “greedy for unjust gain” who so lavishly support it?

How also is it possible the human mind cannot reflect upon the sacking and burning of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Jewish temple in 70 AD…and wonder if it might not have been God’s punishment, God’s retribution, for the event which occurred in that very same city a mere 40 years earlier, an event which is observed today on the Christian calendar as “Good Friday”? But of course we live in a world of strictly-enforced political correctness, wherein pointing out things like this can get you branded an “anti-Semite” with significant repercussions. The early Church fathers were under no such constraints.

Another such father, though one who came along some 200 years after Irenaeus, was John Chrysostom, archbishop of Constantinople. In a homily entitled “Adversus Judaeos,” John referred to Jews as “the enemies of the truth,” and he warned especially against “Judaizers” within the Christian Church, i.e. those Christians with a predilection for observing Jewish festivals, attending synagogue services, etc. The views of such people were “an illness which has become implanted in the body of the Church,” he said, and he urged the members of his diocese, “When you observe someone Judaizing, take hold of him, show him what he is doing, so that you may not yourself be an accessory to the risk he runs.”

John Chrysostom would today be viewed as an “anti-Semite,” though as we look around at the current state of Christianity in the West, one might surmise it’s a pity the Church did not pay closer heed to some of his warnings.

All of this is not to say that what may be (or may not be) about to show up in Israel will be the antichrist or anything other than a hired actor. Certainly we should not dismiss the Zionist state’s proclivities for “waging war by way of deception.” Worth noting also is that there is very strong support in Israel now, including from Knessett members, to build a new Jewish Temple, and you can imagine how the two issues–the arrival of the “messiah” and the rebuilding of the Temple–would tie in and lend a synergistic effect to each other. Also, it doesn’t take much imagination to figure out as well what the impact upon, say, the BDS movement might be if millions of Christians around the world were to become convinced that their messiah had arrived.

“Religious Jews are more excited about Messiah’s return than Christians are,” says Jan Markell, a Christian Zionist author quoted in the WND story.

“Muslims are more anticipatory about their Mahdi’s return than are Christians about Jesus’s return,” she adds. “This shows the deplorable state of the church today that is ‘majoring in minors.’ They have their finance seminars and marriage conferences but have shoved the idea of the Lord’s imminent return not just to the back burner, perhaps to the back yard.”

That of course could change were the mass media to start hinting that something “strange” was happening in Israel, with thousands of people, including Christian Zionists like Markell, crowding excitedly around a new religious figure on the scene. Imagine CNN covering the story, or the treatment it might get from news anchors like Jake Tapper. Lots of grist for the fake news mill.

A bit more here from the WND story:

As a “pre-Tribulation” believer, Markell believes the rapture could occur at any moment. She calls for both increased attention by Christians to the subject of the end times and dedication to the Jewish state of Israel.

“In my lifetime, the biggest change in the church is the switch of church loyalty from Israel to the Palestinians,” Markell said. “This is called ‘Christian Palestinianism.’ Before the state of Israel was born in 1948, most evangelical churches embraced ‘Christian Zionism.’ They were loyal to the state of Israel even before it was formed.

“Today the religious left and others have swung support away from Israel to an ‘invented people,’ the Palestinians. Yasser Arafat was a superb salesman and sold the world on the idea that the Palestinians had their land stolen. Arafat was an Egyptian and there was no Palestinian people. Yet today much of the world believes the Jews live in ‘occupied territory’ rather than God-given land. This is the biggest change in my lifetime. I cannot believe what I am seeing.

“If the church were functioning properly, this confusion would never have happened, but the church shredded maps of Israel 25 years ago when it decided to be politically correct rather than biblically correct.”

I’m not sure what maps Markell is referring to, but I doubt she means these:

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It would be enormously helpful to modern day Christians if they understood that Jewish antipathy to Christianity did not arise as a result of the “anti-Semitism” of church fathers like John Chrysostom, and that it was present in Christianity’s earliest, most formative years, before the gospels were even written. A few passages from the Book of Acts help to underscore this. One of them is Acts 18:12:

While Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him into court. “This man,” they charged, “is persuading people to worship God in ways contrary to the law.”

Another is Acts 20:18-19:

When they arrived, he said to them: “You know how I lived the whole time I was with you from the first day I came into the province of Asia. I served the Lord with great humility and with tears, although I was severely tested by the plots of the Jews.”

Acts 21:30-32:

The whole city was aroused, and people came running from all directions. Seizing Paul, they dragged him from the temple, and immediately the gates were shut. While they were trying to kill him, news reached the commander of the Roman troops that the whole city of Jerusalem was in an uproar. He at once took some officers and soldiers and ran down to the crowd. When the rioters saw the commanders and soldiers, they stopped beating Paul.

Acts 22:21-22:

Then the Lord said to me, “Go, I will send you far away to the Gentiles.

The crowd listened to Paul until he said this. Then they raised their voices and shouted, “Rid the earth of him! He’s not fit to live!”

Acts 23:12-14:

The next morning the Jews formed a conspiracy and bound themselves with an oath not to eat or drink until they had killed Paul. More than forty men were involved in this plot. They went to the chief priests and elders and said, “We have taken a solemn oath not to eat anything until we have killed Paul.”

In the passages above, the one in Acts 18 takes place in Corinth; Acts 20 is a reference to events in the province of Asia Minor (the conversation specifically takes place in the coastal town of Miletus); the final three passages, in Acts 21-23, take place in Jerusalem. Thus it would appear that just about everywhere Paul went he encountered Jews who were hostile to him and his message. Perhaps not surprisingly then do we hear Jesus say, in John 15:18, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” And yet Christians today blame themselves for the rift that occurred between Christianity and Judaism and hold themselves responsible for “Christian anti-Semitism.”

Hatred for Christ–it does seem to peer “through a glass darkly” from time to time as we look about at the world these days–which brings us in a roundabout manner back to the topic of an antichrist/messiah/hired actor. Whatever it is the Israeli police commissioner may be anticipating, clearly there exists at least the potential for deception. Recently I published an article entitled Reality Reversal wherein I discussed the mainstream media’s tendency to invert reality into its mirror opposite. This it does in reporting on the Palestine-Israel conflict, as well as in a number of other areas–the war on Syria, for instance, or the mendacious inventions of “Russian aggression” churned out to no end. The article discusses in particular the comments of Caroline Glick, an editor at the Jerusalem post, who in a speech portrayed Palestinians as racists while casting Talmudic Jewish settlers as the embodiment of liberal tolerance. It also talks about the book, The Jewish Century, by Yuri Slezkine, who describes Jews as “Mercurian,” a reference to the Roman god Mercury who was thought of as the god of financial gain and whose attributes included trickery and eloquence. Mercury was also deemed the patron of thieves and travelers, and it’s interesting that Slezkine would advance a theory endowing Jews with the “Mercurian” denominator, for in doing so he seems to be at least tacitly admitting that anti-Semitism is given rise to by certain behaviors and practices of Jews–something we don’t commonly see from Jewish writers.

Maybe at some point the Palestine-Israel conflict will be resolved. But the world has been trying to do that for close onto 70 years–and with people now relentlessly devoting themselves to standing reality on its head, the prospects for the future don’t look too good. In any event, we must become “watchers” and be alert, and in so doing dedicate ourselves to following Christ–at all times and to the best of our ability. Only by following Him do we gradually learn to see through all of the deceptions.

Israel was created to solve Europe’s ‘Jewish Problem’

Israeli professor Shlomo Sand is the author of several controversial books on Israel and Judaism. The list includes The Invention of the Jewish People, and The Invention of the Land of Israel. His latest book to propagate more myths about Jews, Israel and Holocaust is How I Ceased To Be A Jew.

What Shlomo Sand and other Zionist and the so-called “anti-Zionist” writers refuse to admit that Zionist Jews used Europe’s centuries-old Jewish Problem to establish a Jewish homeland in Muslim-majority historic Palestine and the western powers including the US, Britain and USSR helped them to achieve their dream.

Initially, a great majority of British Jews were against the creation a ‘Jewish homeland’ on an Arab land. However, British hardcore Christian Zionist leaders, such as, Lord Balfour, Lord Shaftesburry and Lolyd George were driven by their ‘messianic fantasy’ that once a great majority of world Jewry assemble in the Holy Land (Palestine), it will usher the second-coming of Christ. Over 65 million evangelic Christian still believe that when Christ appears he will convert Jews to Christianity in the Holy Land and the ones who refuse to convert would be put to death.

The distorted interpretation of the Jewish Bible (OT) has been and still remains central to Western support for the Zionist entity. This support has generated over $3 trillion American aid to Israel since 1970s excluding $3 billion annual military aid and over 38 American vetoes at the UNSC to protect the Zionistentity being dragged to some international body on charges of war crimes.

On September 16, 2014, Janet C. Phelan, an investigative journalist and author, published an informative post, entitled, The United States and Israel: A Dance of Deception in which she shed some light over the European’s hatred towards Jews, Zionism, Israel, Israel’s Dumb Iron Dome and the new Jewish religion, the Holocaust.

To understand the dysfunctional US-Israel relationship which has been plagued with self-deception, betrayal and false intent from its inception. To begin with, one must understand that the state of Israel was in large part created by those who despised Jews,” Phelan said.

In fact, Roosevelt’s own personal racial ideas might be considered to be somewhat aligned with Hitler’s. His refusal to raise immigration quotas for Jews helped to ensure that Jews would be trapped in Eastern Europe. As reported by Rafael Medoff, director of the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies in an article for the Los Angeles Times:  “In 1923, as a member of the Harvard board of directors, Roosevelt decided there were too many Jewish students at the college and helped institute a quota to limit the number admitted. In 1938, he privately suggested that Jews in Poland were dominating the economy and were therefore to blame for provoking anti-Semitism there. In 1941, he remarked at a Cabinet meeting that there were too many Jews among federal employees in Oregon. In 1943, he told government officials in Allied-liberated North Africa that the number of local Jews in various professions “should be definitely limited” so as to “eliminate the specific and understandable complaints which the Germans bore towards the Jews in Germany,” Phelan said.

Interestingly, Benjamin H. Friedman (died 1984), a Jewish defector, had called  FDR a Jewish Pawn along with presidents Wilson, Truman, Eisenhower, JFK, Lyndon Johnson and Nixon.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt was a captive of the Talmudists from the time he went to Albany as governor of the state of New York. President Roosevelt was long beholden to the Talmudists,” wrote Friedman.

Phelan claims that the American Jewish Congress (AJC) also collaborated with Nazis.

Phelan claims that the Zionist entity benefited from the 9/11 terrorist attacks the most. “The fact that the attacks of 911 were used as a rationale to go to war, first against Afghanistan and Iraq, then in a domino effect to attack Libya and threaten war against Syria and Iran, can only be seen as an effort to destabilize the entire region, an effort which may have fatal blowback for Israel,” She said.

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The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Blog!

Ted Cruz: Christians must support Israel

Rehmat’s World

Posted on September 12, 2014

On Thursday, Canadian-born American Senator Ted (Refael) Cruz with Cuban Jewish family roots, was booed offstage during a dinner for the Middle East’s Christian conference in Washington DC.

“Christians have no greater ally than Israel. Tonight, we are all united in defense of Christians. Tonight, we are all united in defense of Jews,” Ted Cruz said.

Ted Cruz, who is one of many Israel’s lackeys in the US Senate angered Christian audience including Lebanon’s ambassador in Washington, Antoine Chedid, when he started ranting Israeli hasbara lies about Jewish love for the Christians.

In 2012 former Israeli ambassador Michael Oren tried to stop Bob Simon’sreport on Christians’ plight in Israel scheduled to be aired by the CBS.

In addition to pleasing the Jewish Lobby, Cruz also evoked some of pastor John Hagee’s “religious” lies. He showed his “American Christian patriotism” by saying: “Those who hate Israel hate America. Those who hate Jews hate Christians. If those in this room don’t recognize that, then my heart weeps.”

“If you hate the Jewish people, you’re not reflecting the teachings of Jesus,” Cruz added. According to Jewish scholar, Benjamin Freedman, Jesus was notJewish.

Then Ted Cruz turned his wrath over to the supporters of Palestinian people, Hamas, Hizbullah, Iran and Syria. To add some spices to his “Zionist curry”, Cruz included Zionist-created Al-Qaeda and the ISIS terrorists among Israel’s Muslim enemies.

“Religious bigotry is a cancer with many manifestations,” he said. “ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, state sponsors like Syria and Iran, are all engaged in a vicious genocidal campaign to destroy religious minorities in the Middle East,” Cruz said.

Cruz’s comments on the region were too extreme for the audience, and provoked a round of cries that firmly asked him to leave.

“Stop it, stop it, enough,” and “Out, out, leave the stage!” were some of the shouts aimed at the senator, which prompted the In Defense of Christians (the sponsor of the said conference) president, Toufic Baaklini, to join Cruz on stage and ask the crowd to listen.

After failing in attempts to be heard, the senator announced “if you will not stand with Israel and the Jews, then I will not stand with you. Good night and God bless,” before walking off the stage, with some carrying on the shouts and others applauding his departure.

Lebanese Christian MPs Jean Ogassapian, Atef Majdalani and former MP Ghattas Khoury all left the conference in protest to Cruz’ Israeli propaganda. Patriarch Gregory III Laham also intended to leave but was persuaded by the Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai, a Zionist poodle, to stay.

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The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Blog!

A Man Who May Have Had a Good Idea

marcion

 

 

Why was the early Christian Church so in love with the Old Testament as to adopt it as sacred scripture? There was one man who warned them against it.

 

By Richard Edmondson

He was a native of Sinope, a predominantly Greek city and important commercial center on the south shore of the Black Sea. He lived roughly 85-160 AD, and during his lifetime he founded a church that grew astronomically in prominence, that had a powerful influence on the development of early Christianity, and which for several centuries would end up rivaling the Catholic Church. His name was Marcion. And it is worthwhile to ponder just how the world would be different today had the Marcionite Church, rather than the Catholic Church, prevailed and become the dominant strain of Christianity. For one thing, we can conjecture almost assuredly the state of Israel would never have been founded in 1948.

Marcion, you see, was deeply opposed to what he referred to as the “Judaizers” in the early Christian Church, and he advocated a Christian Bible wholly devoid of any part of the Old Testament, consisting solely of the Gospel of Luke and the letters of Paul. With amazing prescience, he seems to have instinctively realized the pitfalls that awaited the new faith should it try to reconcile and balance the vengeful God of the Old Testament with the God of love and compassion taught by Christ—pitfalls which indeed managed to trip the church at various times through the centuries, but which became so manifestly egregious in the latter half of the twentieth century that today we find Christianity swamped in a sea of irrelevance, unsure of what it even stands for, with people leaving the faith in droves.

And when you really, truly stop to think about it, the contradictions are so obvious they would seem all but insurmountable: the Christian God versus the Jewish God; a God of love versus one of wrath and vengeance; a God whose embrace of humanity is universal versus a partial and highly selective God who favors one people above all others. These are aberrations we hardly question today, but we have to remember that back in the second century things were very different. There was no such thing as an established “orthodox” wing of Christianity. What was “orthodox” and what was “heterodox” were still very much up in the air. Many people could not, and would not, adopt such incongruities in their views of God, and these were the people who flocked to Marcion’s churches—by the thousands, possibly even the millions.

Modern scholarship of the early Christian era is tainted to a certain extent by what has been referred to as “post holocaust biblical scholarship.” This is reflected in the fact that scholars today have a tendency to view Marcion as an “anti-Semite.” However, the prevailing view of him by scholars of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was quite different. In this essay I will rely in the main on two sources: Marcion: The Gospel of the Alien God, by Adolf Harnack, and Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew, by Bart D. Ehrman.

Born in 1851, Harnack was a German scholar, who taught at several universities, including the University of Berlin. His book on Marcion, published in 1920, remains a classic today, and is even cited by Ehrman (who does not quote from it directly, but who does reference it in a footnote). The latter is a professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina who himself has authored a number of books on Christianity and is considered one of the leading New Testament scholars today. Ehrman does not specifically use the word “anti-Semite”, but he does describe the Marcionite Church as “anti-Jewish,” and he asserts that Marcion himself “seems to have hated Jews and everything Jewish.” Harnack, for his own part, indeed acknowledges that Marcion waged a lifelong struggle against “pseudoapostoli et Judaici evangelizatores” [“false apostles and Jewish evangelists”], but this was because the doctrine they propounded, in Marcion’s view, “considered (Jewish) law and gospel as a unity and thus denied the essence of the gospel. Where separation was essential it had bound things together!”

Moreover, says Harnack, Marcion took up “the work and the struggle of Paul,” who had “abolished the validity of the Old Testament law”—Marcion, as a result, saw in Christ alone “the face of the gracious God,” knowing himself “inseparably bound to this God of goodness and mercy in faith and love.” But this God of goodness, it needs to be repeatedly emphasized, assuredly was not the Old Testament God; that God Marcion rejected outright.

In this essay, I will focus not only on Marcion, his beliefs, and the church he founded, but will also try and provide a comparative study of Marcion’s treatment by the two scholars in question, the one of the past, the other of the present.

Marcion’s Basic Beliefs: Two Gods

To the modern Western mind, the idea that there might be two Gods, as opposed to just one, and that large numbers of people could actually entertain and embrace such a view, probably sounds a bit bizarre. But again, this was the second century—a time when Greeks and Romans were worshipping multiple Gods, and the notion of two Gods was no more difficult to accept then than the idea of no God at all would be today. At any rate, this is the most fundamental aspect of Marcion’s belief system you have to understand: that there were two Gods moving and shaping events to one degree or another. One was a punitive, petty, and cruel God, who presided over a corrupt world. This was the God of the Old Testament, referred to by Marcionites as the “Creator God” (but his “creation” was a world far from perfect in their view). The other God Marcion saw as a redeemer, a God of love, mercy, truth, and compassion. This was the God of Christ. Marcion referred to him as the “Alien God”—“alien” in the sense that prior to Christ’s appearance on earth he had been unknown to humanity.

One of Jesus’ sayings Marcion seems especially to have zeroed in on was his teaching about the two trees and their respective fruits. Harnack puts it this way:

When he (Jesus) spoke of the two trees, the corrupt and the good, which are able to produce only such fruits as are given by their very nature, he can mean thereby only the two great divine authors, the Old Testament God, who creates nothing but bad and worthless things, and the Father of Jesus Christ, who produces exclusively what is good. When he forbids the placing of a new patch on an old garment and the pouring of new wine into old wineskins, he thereby strictly forbids his people in any way to connect his preaching with that of the Old Testament. (1)

Marcion viewed the Old Testament God not only as cruel, petty, and unmerciful, but also as the ‘conditor malorum,’ the author of evil, the one who incites wars, is deceitful in his promises, and is wicked in his deeds.” (2) Something about this obviously—given the Marcionite Church’s phenomenal success—resonated with large numbers of people at the time. You have to wonder why.

At any rate, the Old Testament, while parts of it may be worth reading, had to be wholly abandoned as sacred scripture. But since most of what was then “Christendom” equated the God of the Old Testament with the God of Jesus, the Christian faith suffered from a rather serious problem: it had become “Judaistic” almost to its core in the years since Christ. Marcion set about to change things. He founded a church—and he produced two great literary works. One of these was called Antitheses. No copy of it still exists today. But it was quoted by a number of early writers, such as Tertullian, whose works we do still have today. Here is how Antitheses is viewed by Ehrman:

Some of the book may well have consisted of direct and pointed antithetical statements contrasting the two Gods. For example, the God of the Old Testament tells the people of Israel to enter into the city of Jericho and murder every man, woman, child, and animal in the city (Joshua 6); but the God of Jesus tells his followers to love their enemies, to pray for those who persecute them, to turn the other cheek (Luke 6:27-29). Is this the same God? When Elisha, the prophet of the Old Testament God, was being mocked by a group of young boys, God allowed him to call out two she-bears to attack and maul them (2 Kings 2:23-24). The God of Jesus says, “Let the little children come to me” (Luke 18:15-17). Is this the same God? (3)

In other words, the God of the Old Testament and the God of Jesus were not merely separate deities, they were deities who were, at least to a substantial degree, antithetical to one another.

Marcion’s other great literary endeavor was not a work of his own composition, but rather a canon of other works—those he regarded as sacred and divinely inspired. And here it needs to be mentioned that Marcion is given credit for being the first Christian to put forth a New Testament canon. To be sure, it was not the same canon that would later be officially adopted by the Catholic Church; it consisted solely of the Gospel of Luke and the letters of Paul. But it is testimony to his influence upon early Christianity that his enemies took his ideas and built upon them—and yes, Marcion did have enemies. He was branded very much a “heretic” by those who made up what later came to be the “orthodox” wing of the church.

Another thing about the Marcion canon that very much needs to be kept in mind: Marcion totally rejected the assertion that Christ had in any way come to fulfill the law and the prophets. These and other similar claims found in the gospels were corruptions, he believed, added later by the Judaizers within the church. Likewise, he felt that certain passages within the letters of Paul had probably undergone similar treatment. Thus, he not only viewed himself as a critic, but also as a “restorer,” as Harnack describes it. In other words, his canon became what could almost be thought of as a whole new Bible, consisting of Pauline letters and a Gospel of Luke which had undergone revisions, emendations in which Marcion rendered them into what he believed were, or must have been, their original states—something seized upon by his critics, who denounced his refinements as nothing more than “adulterations.” For the church-going public it didn’t seem to matter. They flocked to Marcion’s banner by multitudes, which drove the critics into further fits of apoplexy. Early Christian apologist Justin Martyr, a contemporary of Marcion’s, complained that the heretic’s teachings were spreading to “many people of every nation.” (First Apology 26)

A couple of other things need to be said about Marcion’s basic beliefs: first that he was a Docetist, which has led some scholars to lump him in with the Gnostics, some of whom did indeed subscribe to Docetism. So what is Docetism? It is the view that Christ did not have a real, material body, and that he only appeared to be human. Human flesh, created as it was by the Creator God, was inherently unclean, something even the Creator God himself had come to recognize, or as Harnack puts it, “Even in the mind of his originator man is a spoiled creation, a monster.” For Marcion, this could not, in any way, describe Jesus.

The other thing that needs to be understood is Marcion’s devotion to the Apostle Paul. While Christ did indeed pick the original twelve disciples, they had failed to understand his true message. Why? In large part because they were followers of the Jewish God—a factor which hampered their ability to grasp Jesus’s true teachings. With the resurrection they finally seemed to have “gotten it,” and for a while indeed appeared set upon a trustworthy path, but in time their “Jewish identity” (as we might refer to it today) reasserted itself and they began to compromise on questions such as adherence to Jewish law. Thus, lest they botch things completely, Paul had to be specially called. His mission? To refute Jewish law and the Judaizers within the church.

Marcion’s Life and Times

Marcion’s hometown, Sinope, was on the shore of the Black Sea in what was then the province of Pontus. We know for a fact there were Jewish communities there at the time. Aquila, the protégé of Paul mentioned in Acts 18:2, was born in Pontus, while another Jew, coincidentally of the same name and known to have translated the Old Testament into Greek, was not only a native of Sinope but was in fact Marcion’s contemporary. This is mentioned by Harnack, who comments, “It is remarkable that from this city there emerged simultaneously the sharpest adversary of Judaism and the most scrupulous translator of the Jewish sacred scriptures.” (4)

In Pontus also was a strong Christian community, and apparently Marcion’s own father was a bishop in the early church. This would certainly explain Marcion’s extensive knowledge of the Old Testament. But Marcion and his father seem to have had a falling out, presumably over Marcion’s views of the Old Testament, and after leaving his father’s home, Marcion journeyed to Asia Minor, where he managed to acquire considerable wealth—apparently as a ship owner.

To understand anyone’s life, of course, requires an historical knowledge of the time in which they lived. The three major Jewish revolts against Rome probably had a great deal to do with shaping Marcion’s view of the world. The second and third revolts took place during his lifetime, while the first transpired to completion in the decade before he was born. Most likely even as a child, and certainly later as a young adult, he would have heard talk of these revolts. He would have listened as people expressed the opinion, for instance, that Jews are violent, that they hate non-Jews, and that they seem to feel entitled to disregard all laws other than their own. These are views that would most especially have been in vogue after the second revolt, which broke out when Marcion was approximately 30 years old.

The second Jewish revolt against Rome, also known as the Kitos War, took place in the years 115-117, and it seems to have been especially bloody. The revolt started in Cyrenaica, particularly its capital Cyrene, and from there spread to Alexandria, then to the island of Cyprus, and finally, in its latter stages, to Palestine. Accounts of it are available at Wikipedia and also at Historum. Both articles are sympathetic to the Jews (the Wikipedia account perhaps more so), but both make clear that Jews committed widespread atrocities, and both reference the writing of the Roman historian Dio Cassius (150-235 AD), who penned the following grisly and graphic (and perhaps somewhat sensational) account:

Meanwhile the Jews in the region of Cyrene had put one Andreas at their head and were destroying both the Romans and the Greeks. They would cook their flesh, make belts for themselves of their entrails, anoint themselves with their blood, and wear their skins for clothing. Many they sawed in two, from the head downwards. Others they would give to wild beasts and force still others to fight as gladiators. In all, consequently, two hundred and twenty thousand perished. In Egypt, also, they performed many similar deeds, and in Cyprus under the leadership of Artemio. There, likewise, two hundred and forty thousand perished. For this reason no Jew may set foot in that land, but even if one of them is driven upon the island by force of the wind, he is put to death. Various persons took part in subduing these Jews, one being Lusius, who was sent by Trajan. (5)

The Andreas mentioned by Dio Cassius was known also as “Lukuas,” and during the war he seems to have anointed himself with the title “King of the Jews,” probably in a bid to pass himself off as the Jewish Messiah (a tactic later used by bar Kokhba, the leader of the third revolt). “Lukuas definitely appears to have been grinding an axe of a religious nature—he is credited with destroying the temples and cult buildings of every Graeco-Roman god worshipped in Cyrene,” says the Historum article. “For good measure, Lukuas’ followers also destroyed Roman government buildings and burnt down the Roman bath houses of the city, apparently viewing these as symbols of government oppression and gentile influence, respectively.” We are also told that from Cyrene, Lukuas and his followers pressed on to Alexandria where the result was “an orgy of bloodshed and arson similar to that which had taken place in Cyrene.”

romanwar

Given that the revolt transpired in multiple locations (in addition to Cyrene, Alexandria, and Cyprus, violent rebellions also broke out in the Jewish population of Mesopotamia), this bloody uprising launched by Jews would have been widely talked about almost literally in every province of the empire, virtually everywhere, and most likely it had a profound impact on Marcion’s thinking. Perhaps now we may better understand how he came to view the Creator God as “the ‘conditor malorum,’ the author of evil, the one who incites wars, is deceitful in his promises, and is wicked in his deeds.” But more was to come.

The third Jewish revolt against Rome took place in Palestine in the years 132-136, led by Simeon bar Kokhba (also spelled Koseba, Kosiba, or Kochba), who also claimed to be the messiah. History buffs will of course remember that Jerusalem had been razed and the Jewish temple destroyed back in 70 AD, during the first Jewish revolt. In the intervening years, the city had remained pretty much in ruins, a status quo which continued through the Kitos War and even beyond. However after visiting Judea in 130, the Emperor Hadrian undertook to rebuild Jerusalem. He seems initially to have promised, or at least hinted, that Jews might be given permission to reconstruct their temple, but apparently decided on second thought that it might not be such a wise idea after all. A temple to Jupiter was built instead. Also large numbers of non-Jews began settling in the newly rebuilt city, and it seems a law against circumcision, or at any rate against circumcising babies, may have been passed as well.

Bar Kokhba and his followers launched their revolt in 132, establishing hideouts around the country, including a fortress at Betar (a village in the Judean highlands whose name would later be adopted by Zionists of the Jabotinsky movement in the twentieth century). Dio Cassius’ account of the war can be found here and includes the following:

At first, the Romans took no account of them. Soon, however, all Judaea had been stirred up, and the Jews everywhere were showing signs of disturbance, were gathering together, and giving evidence of great hostility to the Romans, partly by secret and partly by overt acts. Many outside nations, too, were joining them through eagerness for gain, and the whole earth, one might almost say, was being stirred up over the matter.

One group of people who did not join Bar Kokhba were the Christians. This was addressed by a number of early writers, including Justin Martyr, who, though no fan of Marcion, offers an especially interesting comment about the war in his First Apology: “For in the Jewish war which lately raged, Barchochebas, the leader of the revolt of the Jews, gave orders that Christians alone should be led to cruel punishments, unless they would deny Jesus Christ and utter blasphemy.”

According to Encyclopedia Britannica, “The war became so serious that in the summer of 134 Hadrian himself came from Rome to visit the battlefield and summoned the governor of Britain, Gaius Julius Severus, to his aid with 35,000 men of the Xth Legion.” The revolt was finally crushed in 136. According to Dio Cassius, 580,000 Jews were killed, as were many Romans. Fifty towns and 985 villages were destroyed. The Bar Kokhba revolt, keep in mind, was the third Jewish rebellion in 70 years, and by this time the Romans had apparently had enough: Judea was renamed Syria Palaestina, while Jewish law and the Hebrew calendar were annulled. Jews themselves were banned from entering Jerusalem (now renamed Aelia Capitolina) other than one day of the year.

The Emperor Hadrian

The Emperor Hadrian

For Christians who still, in spite of all this, clung to the Old Testament, contradictions quite naturally abounded. Marcion “saw the main body of Christendom around him in an internal struggle in which all seemed to be lost,” and initially he set out to change the church from within. That is to say, he went to Rome, where he met with church leaders and expressed his view that Christ had abolished the Old Testament and its God (6).

Because of historical records we know exactly what years Marcion was in Rome. He arrived in 139—three years after the Bar Kokhba revolt. Joining the Christian community there, he made a substantial donation of 200,000 sesterces, and remained in the city until the year 144. It was a five-year period in which he most likely produced his great work, the Antitheses.

Toward the end of his sojourn in Rome, Marcion requested a hearing before the church presbyters. It took place in July 144 and became the first Roman church council on record. But the church elders appear to have been totally unreceptive to his views. The council “ended with a sharp rejection of the unprecedented teaching,” the return of the 200,000 sesterces, and Marcion’s expulsion from the church. Harnack mentions that even though he departed Rome with what almost certainly was “a heavy heart,” nothing like rancor can be found in Marcion’s writings. “Even for the period after his break with the great church it is characteristic that not a single abusive or angry word about the church and its members is handed down to us.” (7) Needless to say, this charitable act of diplomacy was not returned in kind.

Leaving Rome in the year 144, Marcion returned to Asia Minor where he founded his new church. This seems to have occurred in a remarkably brief amount of time. In fact, later Marcionites would put the founding of their church as occurring exactly 115 years and six months after the death of Christ. In any event, Marcionism and the Marcionite Church became phenomenally successful, a fact which can be gauged by the number of early writers who wrote polemical treatises opposing the movement. Justin, Irenaeus, Clement, Tertullian, Hyppolytus, Origen, and others all denounced Marcion in writing. In fact, there was, as Harnack puts it, “an abundance of counterliterature composed everywhere.” Particularly was this true between the years 150 and 200, yet in this same period the church “spread throughout all the provinces of the empire,” Harnack reports.

Harnack’s Study on Marcion

Harnack’s study on Marcion is not without criticisms of its subject, though it is far more sympathetic than Ehrman’s. So let us take a look now at Marcion through the prism of Harnack’s monumental work. Perhaps the most obvious place to start would be the early Christian leader’s view of the two Gods as expressed through his book, Antitheses, a work which Harnack feels was intended to be a bedrock for the Marcionite community, and indeed its “creedal book.”

A reconstruction of Antitheses is not possible, the author informs us, in part because “not even the arrangement of the work is clear,” but a number of things can nonetheless be determined or gleaned based upon quotes from it found in the works of other early writers. For instance, we can safely deduce Marcion’s purpose in writing it was to “demonstrate the irreconcilability of the Old Testament with the gospel,” along with the latter’s origin from a different God. (8). We also know its opening lines: “O wonder beyond wonders, rapture, power, and amazement is it, that one can say nothing at all about the gospel, nor even conceive of it, nor compare it with anything.” Moreover there seems to have been a special emphasis on one word in particular—“new.” We can find references to “new God,” “new deity,” “the new kingdom,” “new and unheard of kingdom,” “new master and proprietor of the elements,” “novel doctrines of the new Christ,” “new works of Christ,” “new miracle,” and so on.

Harnack also proposes a series of sample antithetical statements that possibly or most likely were included in the work. Here are a few:
* Joshua conquered the land with violence and cruelty, but Christ forbade all violence and preached mercy and peace.

* Upon the exodus from Egypt the Creator-God gave Moses the charge, “Be ready, girded, shod, staff in hand, sacks on shoulders, and carry away with you gold and silver and all that belongs to the Egyptians.” But our Lord, the Good One, upon sending the disciples out into the world, said to them, “Have no shoes on your feet, no sack, no change of garments, no money in your purses!”

* The prophet of the Creator-God, when the people were locked in battle, climbed to the top of the mountain and stretched forth his hands to God, that he might kill as many as possible in the battle; our Lord, the Good, stretched forth his hands (to wit, on the cross) not to kill men but to save them.

* In the law it is said, “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,” but the Lord, the Good, says in the gospel, “If anyone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also.”

* Maledictio characterizes the law, and benedictio characterizes faith (the gospel)

* The creator of the world commands us to give to our brothers, but Christ simply says to give to all who ask. (9)
Marcion saw the Creator God as vengeful, wrathful and unmerciful, but perhaps most significantly of all he viewed him as ignorant. For instance, he had not known where to find Adam in the Garden of Eden, and had found it necessary to ask Adam whether he had eaten from the forbidden fruit. But even worse was his ignorance of the Alien God.

The utter ignorance of the World-Creator about the other God is the worst aspect of all his ignorance; it shows him to be inferior in the most extreme degree. But since, because he does not know the other God even the sphere and the nature of that God are incomprehensible to him, true goodness is also completely closed to him. It is true that he too has “goodness”, indeed is himself “good” [Marcion thought Jewish law had some just aspects to it, and gave the Creator God credit for that—ed.]; but this is a kind of goodness that, when measured by genuine goodness, actually does not even deserve this name. (10)

And be assured, this ignorance has its dark implications.

Marcion had darkened the picture of the World-Creator afforded by the Old Testament by defining, according to his own whim, in various passages the character of the creator of the world in terms of the character of the world. The wisdom of the creator of the world coincides with the wisdom of the world! Thus how contemptible is the wisdom of the creator of the world! God is the world, and the world is God—not in the pantheistic sense but in the ethical; each is the mirror of the other. (11)

Marcion saw the Creator God as possessed of a number of other qualities as well. These included his “evil partialities, pettinesses, and limitations; and finally his weakness and self-contradictions, his unprincipled whims, and his precepts and commandments which were so often ethically doubtful.”

By contrast, the Alien God is sublime, above every principality and power, a God of true goodness, who favors no one people over another.

By virtue of this goodness, this God is “blessedness and incorruptibility” which “brings no trouble upon itself or upon anything else” (Tertullian I 25); he is merciful love. But this God is so utterly and completely goodness alone, that is, love…that no other qualities are to be expressed concerning him, or that his other qualities form a unity with love. He is spirit, but “beneficient Spirit” (Tertulian I 19); he is “tranquil,” “mild,” “placid”; he simply does not become angry, does not judge, does not condemn. He is also “just,” but the justice in him is the justice of love. He is “wise,” and so on, but he is all of this because he is love, which as such incorporates all these qualities. For just this reason, however, there can be no work for this God other than self-revelation, and this in turn can be nothing other than redemption

But because the good God intended to redeem sinners, he brought his redemption to the whole of humanity; for they are all sinners. He knows no partiality for one people but brings a universal redemption. However, he also recognized that along with the world and its creator it is the law from which mankind must be redeemed; but because it is the law, it is also the lawgiver, for the two belong together. The law is the power of sin. The law has intensified the comfortless state of mankind. The law is a fearful burden. The law has made the “righteous” slavish, fearful, and incapable of the truly good. Thus it must be taken away, along with the entire book in which it is contained. The good God came in order to dissolve the law and the prophets, not to fulfill them. He does this by means of the gospel, in order to redeem souls. (12)

So there are two Gods, then, who in many respects are the “antithesis” of each other. But an important distinction to make is that Marcion did not regard the Old Testament God as the devil, or as pure evil. Rather he is simply the God of the law, and Marcion viewed the law, keep in mind, as not without some positive aspects, including a limited measure of justice. To be sure, the God who gave this law is petty, fickle, impatient, jealous, and warlike. However, Harnack also points out that “iustitia, in the sense of formal justice (‘an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth’) and in judicial practice, and miserable pettiness are the basic characteristics of the Creator-God, but wickedness is not.” (13)

But even if not wicked or wholly evil, this God does show malice in the following ways (emphases added):
1) In the creation of men, in that he formed man weak, helpless, and mortal and allowed him to be tempted; and it is also show in the fact that he even tolerates sin, death, and the devil (who indeed is his creature) as well as every kind of evil:

2) In the numerous punitive ills that he inflicts, in the disproportion of punishment to guilt, and in the sending of ills in general;

3) In the numerous examples of harshness, cruelty, warlike rage, bloodthirstiness, and so on;

4) In his practice of punishing the children for the sins of the fathers and allowing the innocent to suffer for the guilty;

5) In the hardening of the heart that he inflicts upon the obstinate;

6) In the jealousy with which he kept the first men from the tree of life;

7) In the partiality with which he favors those who worship him, even if they are wicked, allowing or even encouraging them in injustice, deception, plunder, and acts of violence of all kinds against his adversaries. (14)
Marcion died about 160, and despite all the official orthodox opposition—first against him, then against his church—it seems he did have a lasting impact upon the faith insofar as he managed to push Christianity in a certain direction:

Previously there had been a burning danger that the Old Testament would be explained, in part literally, in part allegorically, as the Christians’ basic document and that it would be recognized and the church would be satisfied with it. Now, to be sure, this danger still was not entirely eliminated and a satisfactory clarity had not yet been achieved, but the conviction that in the Old Testament “the ore still lies in the ground” and that it is the submission to servitude over against the New Testament’s submission to freedom gained a place and recognition for itself…

Marcion wanted to free Christianity from the Old Testament, but the church preserved it. He did not forbid his followers to pick up the book but even recognized that it contained material that was useful for reading. But he saw in it a spirit different from that of the gospel, and he wanted nothing to do with two different spirits in religion. Was he right or was the church, which did not detach itself from the book, right? The question must be posed, for we are confronted not by some theologian without following or influence but by the man who established the New Testament and created a great church that flourished for centuries. He may rightly lay claim to the honor of deserving to be taken seriously even today. There is not yet universal recognition of that philosophy of history that does justice in all circumstances to what has happened. (15)

Finally, Harnack goes on to conclude:

The Old Testament brought Christianity into tragic conflict; it was not to be resolved, in the second century and beyond that time, as Marcion would resolve it but rather as the church resolved it. From the close of the second century onward the church managed to cope with this problem and eliminated at least some of the oppressive difficulties and the sophisms with which people had been blinding themselves. Now it was permissible to distinguish levels and to place the Old Testament on the lower level; of course, this distinction continued to be threatened for—this seemed self-evident—there can be only one inspiration and only one law of truth that is established by that inspiration. (16)

Ehrman’s Presentation of Marcion

As previously stated, Ehrman, the contemporary scholar, sees Marcion as a Jew hater. Moreover, the view of the Old Testament God as a God of wrath Ehrman seems to regard as mere “notion,” rather than actual fact. He writes:

On the other hand, orthodox Christianity shared with (or borrowed from) the Marcionites the sense of the newness of God’s revelation in Christ; they accepted the idea of a closed canon of Scripture, the primacy of the literal interpretation of the text, and an emphasis on Jesus’ divinity. At the same time, they shared with (or inherited from) the Marcionites a disdain for and distrust of all things Jewish, along with the notion, still found among Christians today, that the Old Testament God is a God of wrath, whereas the New Testament God is a God of love and mercy. (17)

Ehrman’s views, then, seem to have been shaped, at least to some degree, by the post-holocaust biblical-scholarly perspective. That being said, however, his depiction of Marcion’s core beliefs, including his view of the two Gods, does not differ greatly from Harnack’s.
There are two Gods, then, and according to Marcion, Jesus himself says so. Moreover, Jesus explains that no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise, the old wineskins burst and both they and the wine are destroyed (Mark 2:22). The gospel is a new thing that has come into the world. It cannot be put into the old wineskins of the Jewish religion. (18)
And as to the precise nature of the two Gods, here again, we do not find striking differences:

The God of the Old Testament insisted that people keep his Law and penalized them when they failed. He was not evil, but he was rigorously just. He had laws and inflicted penalties on those who did not keep them. But this necessarily made him a wrathful God, since no one kept all of his laws perfectly. Everyone had to pay the price for their transgressions, and the penalty for transgression was death. The God of the Old Testament was therefore completely justified in exacting his punishments and sentencing all people to death.

The God of Jesus came into this world in order to save people from the vengeful God of the Jews. He was previously unknown to this world and had never had any previous dealings with it. Hence Marcion sometimes referred to him as God the Stranger. (19)

Ehrman also deals with Marcion’s esteem for the Apostle Paul in a manner worth noting:

As we have seen, Paul claimed that a person is made right with God by faith in Christ, not by doing the works of the Law. This distinction became fundamental to Marcion, and he made it absolute. The gospel is the good news of deliverance; it involves love, mercy, grace, forgiveness, reconciliation, redemption, and life. The Law, however, is the bad news that makes the gospel necessary in the first place; it involves harsh commandments, guilt, judgment, enmity, punishment, and death. The Law is given to the Jews. The gospel is given by Christ.

How could the same God be responsible for both? Or put in other terms: How could the wrathful, vengeful God of the Jews be the loving, merciful God of Jesus? Marcion maintained that these attributes could not belong to one God, as they stand at odds with one another: hatred and love, vengeance and mercy, judgment and grace. He concluded that there must in fact be two Gods: the God of the Jews, as found in the Old Testament, and the God of Jesus, as found in the writings of Paul. (20)

In Ehrman’s work, we also find the author venturing into areas Harnack does not go. For instance, he offers the view, perhaps correct, that the Marcionite Church probably never would have been accepted, because of its complete “novelty” and “newness,” as the official religion of the Roman Empire, this due to the fact that in ancient Roman culture, high value was placed upon ideas that were old and established. (21) It is worth mentioning here that many Romans were not terribly fond of Jews, and that Jewish expulsions from Rome took place in 19 AD and again in 49 AD, yet Ehrman tells us that credit was nonetheless given to the fact that Jewish scriptures were some number of centuries old. By adopting these scriptures as their own, the orthodox/catholic church “overcame the single biggest objection that pagans had with regard to the appearance of this ‘new’ religion.” Thus in laying claim upon the Old Testament, the Catholic Church had the advantage when Constantine came to power in the fourth century and designated them the favored religion of the empire, says Ehrman.

But what if the Marcionite Church had prevailed? What if it, rather than the Catholic Church, had emerged out of early Christianity as the dominant player? How would the world be different today? Ehrman calls it “rank speculation,” but does nonetheless offer some thoughts on this as well:

Had Marcionite Christianity succeeded, the Old Testament would be seen by Christians today not as the Old Testament but as the Jewish Scriptures, a set of writings for the Jews and of no real relevance to Christianity. So, too, Christians would not see themselves as having Jewish roots. This may well have opened the doors to heightened hostilities, since Marcion seems to have hated Jews and everything Jewish; or possibly even more likely, it may have led simply to benign neglect as Jews and their religion would have been considered to be of no relevance and certainly no competition for Christians. The entire history of anti-Semitism might have been avoided, ironically, by an anti-Jewish religion. (22)

Did Christians who expressed “anti-Semitic” views in the first through fifth centuries do so because they viewed Jews as “competition”?

Jerusalem, April 27, 2013: Ultra-Orthodox Jews dance around a bonfire on Lag BaOmer, a Jewish holiday that has been reinterpreted in modern times as commemorating the Bar Kokhba revolt.

Jerusalem, April 27, 2013: Ultra-Orthodox Jews dance around a bonfire on Lag BaOmer, a Jewish holiday that has been reinterpreted in modern times as commemorating the Bar Kokhba revolt.

Ehrman continues, over several passages, to speculate on what might have been, offering at one point the somewhat peculiar thought that Christians might perhaps have been more likely to adopt the practice of usury had there not been the constraints against it in the Old Testament:

Economic and political history might have turned out to be quite different, since there would have been nothing in the sacred Scriptures, for example, to oppose lending money at interest or to promote the system of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Who knows what would have happened to the environment, given the circumstance that so much of modern environmental concerns stem ultimately from a conviction, filtered through many layers, but with Judeo-Christian roots, that God is the creator of this world and that we are its caretakers. Different, too, would have been so much of modern socialism, even (odd as it may seem) so much of Marxist theory, as it is ultimately rooted in notions of economic justice, fairness, and opposition to oppression that trace their lineage back to the Hebrew prophets. (23)

The author also ruminates on the history of anti-Semitism, and here, perhaps especially, the “post-holocaust” perspective seems to appear:

If the Marcionite Christians had gained ascendancy, would people still ask, “Do you believe in God?” Or would they ask, “Do you believe in the two Gods?” Would anyone except scholars of antiquity have heard of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and John? Would we have an “Old” Testament? How would the social and political relations of Jews and Christians over the centuries have been affected? Would Christians who rejected the Jewish God and all things Jewish feel a need to polemicize against and attack Jews? Or would they simply ignore Jews as not presenting any real competition to their own claims of the knowledge of the other God, who saved them from the creator? Would anti-Semitism be worse, or would it be nonexistent? (24)

Note also, again, the use of the word “competition,” as if the problems between Jews and Christians have sprung mostly from competing with each other in the marketplace of ideas, causing Christians to “polemicize” and to “attack” Jews.

Of course, what would seem to be the most glaringly obvious historical outcome—the history of Zionism and the founding of the state of Israel—is the one Ehrman doesn’t get into. (Perhaps for American university professors it’s too hot to handle.) But without an Old Testament, there would never have been a view of Jews as “God’s chosen people,” and without this, there would have been no significant Christian support for a state of Israel. Early Christian Zionists such as Cyrus Scofield and John Nelson Darby would not have had a leg to stand on; and John Hagee would perhaps be a used car salesman today; Theodor Herzl probably would never have gained much of a following other than among Jews, and the Balfour Declaration well may never have been issued by the British government. In short, it’s possible to conjecture that had the Marcionite Church prevailed, there would be no state of Israel today.

The Marcionite Church and Marcion’s Legacy

That Marcion’s church became as popular as it did, spreading “throughout all the provinces of the empire,” is all the more astounding when you consider that the master’s teachings included renunciation of material comforts and an overall ascetic lifestyle, including sexual abstinence. Here is how Harnack puts it:

Maracion absolutely forbade marriage and all sexual intercourse among his believers, and therefore he baptized only such catechumens and admitted to the Supper only such as took the vow of remaining unmarried or such married people as pledged a complete separation from that time onward. Thus he staked the life and growth of his communities exclusively on the winning of new members, for the believers were not permitted to reproduce. (25)

One reason for this was the usual motivation—liberation from sinful flesh—embraced by Buddhism and other religions. But Marcion had a second purpose in mind as well: that “one should not help to enlarge the realm of the World-Creator but one should rather restrict it, insofar as it lies within human capacity to do so.” Thus Marcion and his followers were in protest against the God of this world, and their renunciations were a “sign of deliberate abandonment of that God and withdrawal from his company.” This abstinence extended also to certain types of food and drink, and Harnack tells us that the Marcionites most likely were vegetarians as well (though he believes they did allow the consumption of fish).

But there was more. It appears Marcion taught his followers—in this era of on-again/off-again persecution of Christianity under various Roman emperors—a willingness to undergo martyrdom for the faith. And many in fact did. But none of this seems to have hampered the momentum. People flocked to Marcion’s churches:

Justin’s statement that Marcion himself had already disseminated his teaching “throughout the whole human race” is confirmed by the testimonies that we possess with reference to the second half of the second century for Asia, Lydia, Bithynia, Corinth, Crete, Antioch, Alexandria, Rome, Lyons, and Carthage…Everywhere people were writing against the dreadful devilish sect which already in the second century was proclaiming its teaching even in the Latin language and by the beginning of the third century at the latest in the Syriac language as well. (26)

The community’s worship services were open to anyone and everyone, and reportedly one could see Marcionite churches in cities as well as the countryside. All of these churches, so far as is known, remained united in their rejection of the Old Testament God as well as their affirmation of the Alien God.

The danger that this church presented to Christianity was greatest in the generation between 150 and 190. In this period it and it alone was actually a counterchurch: this observation is evident from the abundance of opposing writings, and it can be read from the nature of the opposition offered by Justin and from the work of Celsus as well. Justin counted Marcion among the demonic new founders of religions with a Christian adornment. Celsus often spoke as though there were only the two churches, the “great church” and the Marcionite, and alongside them only the Gnostic underbrush. (27)

In the latter half of the third century the movement began to recede in the west, but still held on strong in Cyprus, Palestine, and in Syriac-speaking areas, including parts of Syria, all the way to Persia and Armenia. Harnack tells us it was particularly popular in Cyprus, which had undergone such ravages in the Kitos War, and that the city of Salamis “was simply besieged by Marcionites.” Laodicea in Syria, near the present day city of Latakia, seems to have been a large center as well, and there even were such things as “Marcionite villages” scattered here and there. By the fourth century orthodox Christians were still writing polemical tirades against Marcion, though by the middle of the fifth century the faith had receded in the east as well. Why? Certainly the fourth century designation of Christianity (i.e. the Catholic version) as the official religion of the empire had much to do with it—Harnack speaks of certain church bishops who began persecuting, or in some cases converting, Marcionites in the years after this. Changing perceptions of Jews may have been a factor as well. The revolts of the late first/early second centuries had receded into dim historical memory, and doubtless Jews were no longer regarded as the threat they once had been. We also can’t ignore divisions within the church itself. Marcion died about 160 AD, and while the church continued to revere his name and memory, there arose different “schools” within the faith which put forth variations on his principle beliefs. This became especially true from the third century onward. Yet Harnack tells us that even outside the church, the Antitheses continued to be read “by those who had freed themselves from the Old Testament.”

So what can we say about Marcion’s legacy and his contributions to the development of Christianity? Certainly one of his most lasting contributions is the high value he placed upon the letters of Paul, which resulted in an elevating of Paul’s status in the early church and probably also was a decisive factor, maybe the decisive factor, in the inclusion of the Pauline letters in the New Testament canon. The following quote from Harnack’s book states the case very well:

For decades, copies of Paul’s epistles were lacking in catholic churches…But furthermore, it is both obvious and highly important that Irenaeus, the founder of the church’s soteriological doctrine, as well as Tertullian and Origen, developed their biblical teachings about goodness and righteousness, about the creator God and the redeemer God, and so on, in the struggle against Marcion and in that process learned from him. Finally, it was through Marcion also that Paul was recovered for the great church, Paul who, for example, had been altogether pushed aside by such a teacher as Justin and whom the Roman Christian Hermas had utterly ignored. (28)

Moreover, it was only after Marcion that those in the “great church” began adopting the idea of the church itself as the “bride of Christ,” and only post-Marcion did they begin the practice of combining congregations into an actual community, a community united on the basis of a fixed doctrine rooted in the New Testament—just as Marcion had done. And herein lies what probably is Marcion’s single greatest, most lasting contribution of all—the concept of a fixed New Testament canon.

Marcion’s Relevancy Today

Marcion saw himself called to liberate Christianity from a crisis of identity. It is a crisis which has continued to plague the church over the years and is today more serious than ever. We find ourselves caught up in the “contradictory drama” of worshipping a dual purpose God, a God of discrimination, whose partisanship and favoritism are reserved either exclusively, or mainly, for one people, but who somehow also poses himself as a God of universal love and a God of all. The thermodynamics of this have led the Christian faith into a state of entropy—a problem compounded by the fact that when we look around today we see Jews in the state of Israel committing horrendous crimes against humanity.

To help clarify some of this, I will use a metaphor which Harnack uses—that of the “halfway house.” Think of someone who has been confined for a great long time in a prison or a mental institution. Upon release, he/she might reside for a while in a “halfway house” prior to making the full leap back into society and a life of freedom. In terms of liberating Christianity from its slavery to the Old Testament, Paul in essence represented the halfway house. It is true he invalidated Jewish law, but at the same time he was “grounded in the soil” of the Old Testament, as Harnack puts it. As a result he could not break from it entirely. Marcion, on the other hand, though fully admiring of Paul, wanted to take things further—out of the halfway house and into complete freedom and independence from the yoke of Judaism and its angry God. (29) In the interest of Christianity’s newness, “it’s unambiguous nature,” and its power, Marcion desired to take the “decisive step” of separating the gospel from the Old Testament. But the church, then as now, was beset with “Judaistic pseudoapostles” who were determined to keep it and retain it as part of their “holy scripture.”

“If one carefully thinks through with Paul and Marcion the contrast between ‘the righteousness that is by faith’ and ‘the righteousness that is by works’ and is persuaded also of the inadequacy of the means by which Paul thought that he could maintain the canonical recognition of the Old Testament, consistent thinking will not be able to tolerate the validity of the Old Testament as canonical documents in the Christian church.” (30) So says Harnack in the final chapter of his book, and he is right. “Consistent thinking” can only reach the conclusion that Marcion did—that the gospel, with its message of love and mercy taught by Christ, is and must be regarded as a thing separate entirely from the Old Testament. Harnack adds: “If Marcion had reappeared in the time of the Huguenots and Cromwell, he would once again have encountered the warlike God of Israel whom he abhorred, right in the very middle of Christendom.”

And so it is today, with Christian Zionists applauding every Israeli aggression in the Middle East, only with one very major difference: with a Nile-to-Euphrates agenda spelled out in the book of Genesis, and in a world with a nuclear-armed Jewish state, and with AIPAC-like lobbies reaching into virtually every Western country, the problem has truly reached crisis proportions—not only for Christians, but for all peoples on the planet.

monsternation

Earlier I offered a critique of Ehrman’s analysis of “what might have been” had the Marcionite church prevailed, coming to the conclusion that in all likelihood the modern-day state of Israel would never have been born. One can of course carry the conjecture further: without the establishment of the state of Israel, there would have been no Nakba, no Deir Yassin massacre, no 1967 war, no 1973 war, and no pro-Israel lobby in America today. Without the pro-Israel lobby, the wars in Iraq would possibly have been averted. The half a million Iraqi children, whose deaths the Jewish Madelaine Albright felt were “worth it,” could well still be alive. The Palestinians would have a state of their own, would therefore not be subject to having their homes bulldozed or destroyed by bombs, conceivably there would be no blockade of Gaza, no checkpoints in the West Bank or mothers giving birth at them, and no apartheid wall. The Palestinians who were killed in the first Intifada, the second Intifada, those who perished in various Israeli missile attacks on Gaza, including Operation Cast Lead, would either still be alive today or else possibly have died of natural causes.

Who else would have been spared besides Palestinians and Iraqis? Without a state of Israel, would there ever have been a 9/11 attack? And without 9/11 would thousands of Americans, Afghans, British, Pakistanis, Libyans, and people of other nationalities have died in the ongoing wars that have been fought since then? Moreover, without Israel, and without, by extension, a pro-Israel lobby, would we have leaders pushing even now to take us into new wars? These are questions which legitimately should be asked. Also—was Jesus correct in saying that it’s possible to judge a tree by the fruit it produces, and if so, was Marcion right in zeroing in on this statement and making of it what he did? This, too, is a legitimate question.

“Marcion’s heretical tradition is flooding the entire world”—so lamented the ancient writer Tertullian in approximately the early third century. But maybe at last it is time for Christianity to give Marcion his due, to finally come to recognize that Jesus was indeed something “new” entirely, that his teachings were an “antithesis” if you will, a complete, total, outright departure from the Old Testament, and that in separating the two Marcion may well have had the right idea.

__________________________

When published in the original German, Harnack’s work, Marcion: The Gospel of the Alien God, included appendices that apparently covered multiple pages. The modern American edition excludes these appendices and offers the following editor’s note by way of explanation: “Because of the length and complexity of the appendices to Harnack’s Marcion and because scholars will need to consult those appendices in the original form in which Harnack presents them, the editor and translators have decided not to include the appendices in the present edition. References to them, however, have been retained as an aid to further study.” An English edition of the book with the appendices included would obviously be helpful for further understanding of Marcion’s theology. Hopefully the current publisher, or some other, will undertake to publish one.

Endnotes:

1. Harnack, Adolf, Marcion: The Gospel of the Alien God, translated by John E. Steely and Lyle D. Bierma, Wipf & Stock Publishers, Eugene, Oregon, 1990, p. 22.

2. Ibid, p. 58.

3. Ehrman, Bart D., Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew, Oxford University Press, New York, 2003, p. 106.

4. Harnack, p. 15.

5. The Jewish Encyclopedia acknowledges Dio Cassius as “the most important source” on the Kitos War, though expresses the view that the ancient Roman’s account is “exaggerated,” according to Wikipedia.

6. “Abolishing” the Old Testament outright probably was not Christ’s intention. However, his conflicts with the Jewish establishment are well known. Also it should be kept in mind that the leaders of the Jewish revolts were for the most part of the Zealot sect of Judaism, which was closely aligned with the Pharisees. As I discussed in a previous article, the Zealots took their name from the Old Testament character Phinehas, who in Numbers 25 bursts into a tent and drives a spear through an Israelite man and Moabite woman, ending up being described as “zealous” for his God for so doing. The Zealots of Jesus’ day were known to have preached that Jews should obey no laws other than those given them by God.

7. Harnack, p. 17.

8. Ibid.

9. Ibid, p. 60-62.

10. Ibid, p. 71.

11. Ibid, p. 71-72.

12. Ibid, 81-82.

13. Ibid, p. 69.

14. Ibid.

15. Ibid, p. 131, 133-134.

16. Ibid, p. 134.

17. Ehrman, p. 252.

18. Ibid, p. 106.

19. Ibid, p. 105.

20. Ibid, p. 104-105.

21. Ibid, p. 111-112

22. Ibid, p. 111.

23. Ibid.

24. Ibid, p. 247.

25. Harnack, p. 96.

26. Ibid, p. 99.

27. Ibid, p. 100.

28. Ibid, p. 131.

29. Harnack believes Paul would have looked upon Marcion and seen him as “his own authentic pupil” in many respects, but absolutely would have “turned away in horror” at his concept of the two Gods and his complete rejection of the Old Testament.

30. Ibid, p. 133.

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