Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Understanding Jewish War as a Second Century Literary Production

I want to give the reader some near contemporary references to the core portrait of Judaism as an irrational tradition. Origen explicitly dates Celsus to the Hadrianic and Antonine period (Contra. Celsum i.8). His writings, while generally tolerant of Jews and Judaism, only do so because it was felt in the contemporary age that they had paid for their irrationality through the holocaust that was the bar Kochba revolt (ibid viii.69). Nevertheless there is a repeated understanding in Celsus's writings that the Jews were under the power of an irrational Logos who established a sinister compact with Moses (ibid i.23). Celsus first argues that there was a 'true Logos' at the very beginning which instructed the oldest races but not the Jews (ibid i.14f). They remain under the power of a degraded logos which convinced brothers to fight one another (ibid v.59) - i.e. Cain/Abel, Jacob/Esau, Joseph/brothers etc. To this Judaism, the tradition which followed this false Logos began as a rebellion from the Egyptian state (ibid iii.5) and a straight line can be drawn from Moses to the recent bar Kochba revolt which Celsus references many times in many different ways:

Let this band (i.e. the Jews), then, take its departure, after paying the penalty of its vaunting, not having a knowledge of the great God, but being led away and deceived by the artifices of Moses, having become his pupil to no good end (ibid v:41)

and again:

You surely do not say that if the Romans were, in compliance with your wish, to neglect their customary duties to gods and men, and were to worship the Most High, or whatever you please to call him, that he will come down and fight for them, so that they shall need no other help than his. For this same God, as yourselves say, promised of old this and much more to those who served him, and see in what way he has helped them and you! They, in place of being masters of the whole world, are left with not so much as a patch of ground or a home (ibid viii:69)

I think there is good reason to believe that the original Jewish War, written a little over a decade after the failed Jewish revolt shared the same contempt for this Jewish. It was the way Jews were viewed after 135 CE - i.e. as irrational revolutionaries.

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