by MARCUS ELI RAVAGE
The Century Magazine
Volume 115, Number 3, pages 346-350
Part I: A Real Case Against the Jews
OF COURSE, YOU DO RESENT US. It is no good telling me you don’t. So let us not waste any time on denials and alibis. You know you do, and I know it, and we understand each other. To be sure, some of your best friends are Jews, and all that. I have heard that before once or twice, I think. And I know, too, that you do not include me personally—”me” being any particular individual Jew—when you fling out at us in your wholesale fashion, because I am, well, so different, don’t you know, almost as good as one of yourselves. That little exemption does not, somehow, move me to gratitude; but never mind that now. It is the aggressive, climbing, pushing, materialistic sort you dislike—those, in a word, who remind you so much of your own up-and-coming brethren. We understand each other perfectly. I don’t hold it against you.
Bless my soul, I do not blame anybody for disliking anybody. The thing that intrigues me about this anti-Jewish business, as you play at it, is your total lack of grit. You are so indirect and roundabout with it, you make such fantastic and transparent excuses, you seem to be suffering from self-consciousness so horribly, that if the performance were not grotesque it would be irritating.
It is not as if you were amateurs: you have been at it for over fifteen centuries. Yet watching you and hearing your childish pretexts, one might get the impression that you did not know yourselves what it is all about. You resent us, but you cannot clearly say why. You think up a new excuse—a “reason” is what you call it—every other day. You have been piling up justifications for yourselves these many hundreds of years and each new invention is more laughable than the last and each new excuse contradicts and annihilates the last.
Not so many years ago I used to hear that we were money-grubbers and commercial materialists; now the complaint is being whispered around that no art and no profession is safe against Jewish invasion.
We are, if you are to be believed, at once clannish and exclusive and unassimilable because we won’t intermarry with you, and we are also climbers and pushers and a menace to your racial integrity.
Our standard of living is so low that we create your slums and sweated industries, and so high that we crowd you out of your best residential sections.
We shirk our patriotic duty in wartime because we are pacifists by nature and tradition, and we are the arch-plotters of universal wars and the chief beneficiaries of those wars (see the late “Dearborn Independent,” passim, and “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”).
We are at once the founders and leading adherents of capitalism and the chief perpetrators of the rebellion against capitalism.
Surely, history has nothing like us for versatility!
But I tell you, you are self-deceivers. You lack either the self-knowledge or the mettle to face the facts squarely and own up to the truth. You resent the Jew not because, as some of you seem to think, he crucified Jesus but because he gave him birth. Your real quarrel with us is not that we have rejected Christianity but that we have imposed it upon you!
Your loose, contradictory charges against us are not a patch on the blackness of our proved historic offense. You accuse us of stirring up revolution in Moscow. Suppose we admit the charge. What of it? Compared with what Paul the Jew of Tarsus accomplished in Rome, the Russian upheaval is a mere street brawl.
You make much noise and fury about the undue Jewish influence in your theaters and movie palaces. Very good; granted your complaint is well-founded. But what is that compared to our staggering influence in your churches, your schools, your laws and your governments, and the very thoughts you think every day?
A clumsy Russian forges a set of papers and publishes them in a book called “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” which shows that we plotted to bring on the late World War. You believe that book: All right. For the sake of argument we will underwrite every word of it. It is genuine and authentic. But what is that beside the unquestionable historical conspiracy which we have carried out, which we have never denied because you never had the courage to charge us with it, and of which the full record is extant for anybody to read?
If you really are serious when you talk of Jewish plots, may I not direct your attention to one worth talking about? What use is it wasting words on the alleged control of your public opinion by Jewish financiers, newspaper owners and movie magnates, when you might as well justly accuse us of the proved control of your whole civilization by the Jewish Gospels?
You have not begun to appreciate the real depth of our guilt. We are intruders. We are disturbers. We are subverters. We have taken your natural world, your ideals, your destiny, and played havoc with them. We have been at the bottom not merely of the latest great war but of nearly all your wars, not only of the Russian but of every other major revolution in your history. We have brought discord and confusion and frustration into your personal and public life. We are still doing it. No one can tell how long we shall go on doing it.
Look back a little and see what has happened. Nineteen hundred years ago you were an innocent, carefree, pagan race. You worshipped countless gods and goddesses, the spirits of the air, of the running streams and of the woodland. You took unblushing pride in the glory of your naked bodies. You carved images of your gods and of the tantalizing human figure. You delighted in the combats of the field, the arena and the battle-ground. War and slavery were fixed institutions in your systems. Disporting yourselves on the hillsides and in the valleys of the great outdoors, you took to speculating on the wonder and mystery of life and laid the foundations of natural science and philosophy. Yours was a noble, sensual culture, unirked by the prickings of a social conscience or by any sentimental questionings about human equality. Who knows what great and glorious destiny might have been yours if we had left you alone.
But we did not leave you alone. We took you in hand and pulled down the beautiful and generous structure you had reared, and changed the whole course of your history. We conquered you as no empire of yours ever subjugated Africa or Asia. And we did it all without armies, without bullets, without blood or turmoil, without force of any kind. We did it solely by the irresistible might of our spirit, with ideas, with propaganda.
We made you the willing and unconscious bearers of our mission to the whole world, to the barbarous races of the earth, to the countless unborn generations. Without fully understanding what we were doing to you, you became the agents at large of our racial tradition, carrying our gospel to the unexplored ends of the earth.
Our tribal customs have become the core of your moral code. Our tribal laws have furnished the basic groundwork of all your august constitutions and legal systems. Our legends and our folk-tales are the sacred lore which you croon to your infants. Our poets have filled your hymnals and your prayer-books. Our national history has become an indispensable part of the learning of your pastors and priests and scholars. Our kings, our statesmen, our prophets, our warriors are your heroes. Our ancient little country is your Holy Land. Our national literature is your Holy Bible. What our people thought and taught has become inextricably woven into your very speech and tradition, until no one among you can be called educated who is not familiar with our racial heritage.
Jewish artisans and Jewish fishermen are your teachers and your saints, with countless statues carved in their image and innumerable cathedrals raised to their memories. A Jewish maiden is your ideal of motherhood and womanhood. A Jewish rebel-prophet is the central figure in your religious worship. We have pulled down your idols, cast aside your racial inheritance, and substituted for them our God and our traditions. No conquest in history can even remotely compare with this clean sweep of our conquest over you.
How did we do it? Almost by accident. Two thousand years ago nearly, in far-off Palestine, our religion had fallen into decay and materialism. Money-changers were in possession of the temple. Degenerate, selfish priests mulcted our people and grew fat. Then a young patriot-idealist arose and went about the land calling for a revival of faith. He had no thought of setting up a new church. Like all the prophets before him, his only aim was to purify and revitalize the old creed. He attacked the priests and drove the money-changers from the temple. This brought him into conflict with the established order and its supporting pillars. The Roman authorities, who were in occupation of the country, fearing his revolutionary agitation as a political effort to oust them, arrested him, tried him and condemned him to death by crucifixion, a common form of execution at that time.
The followers of Jesus of Nazareth, mainly slaves and poor workmen, in their bereavement and disappointment, turned away from the world and formed themselves into a brotherhood of pacifist non-resisters, sharing the memory of their crucified leader and living together communistically. They were merely a new sect in Judea, without power or consequence, neither the first nor the last.
Only after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans did the new creed come into prominence. Then a patriotic Jew named Paul or Saul conceived the idea of humbling the Roman power by destroying the morale of its soldiery with the doctrines of love and non-resistance preached by the little sect of Jewish Christians. He became the Apostle to the Gentiles, he who hitherto had been one of the most active persecutors of the band. And so well did Paul do his work that within four centuries the great empire which had subjugated Palestine along with half of the world, was a heap of ruins. And the law which went forth from Zion became the official religion of Rome.
This was the beginning of our dominance in your world. But it was only a beginning. From this time forth your history is little more than a struggle for mastery between your own old pagan spirit and our Jewish spirit. Half your wars, great and little, are religious wars, fought over the interpretation of one thing or another in our teachings. You no sooner broke free from your primitive religious simplicity and attempted the practice of the pagan Roman learning than Luther armed with our gospels arose to down you and re-enthrone our heritage. Take the three principal revolutions in modern times—the French, the American and the Russian. What are they but the triumph of the Jewish idea of social, political and economic justice?
And the end is still a long way off. We still dominate you. At this very moment your churches are torn asunder by a civil war between Fundamentalists and Modernists, that is to say between those who cling to our teachings and traditions literally and those who are striving by slow steps to dispossess us. In Dayton, Tennessee, a Bible-bred community forbids the teaching of your science because it conflicts with our ancient Jewish account of the origin of life; and Mr. Bryan, the leader of the anti-Jewish Ku Klux Klan in the Democratic National Convention, makes the supreme fight of his life in our behalf, without noticing the contradiction. Again and again the Puritan heritage of Judea breaks out in waves of stage censorship, Sunday blue laws and national prohibition acts. And while these things are happening you twaddle about Jewish influence in the movies!
Is it any wonder you resent us? We have put a clog upon your progress. We have imposed upon you an alien book and an alien faith which you cannot swallow or digest, which is at cross-purposes with your native spirit, which keeps you ever-lastingly ill-at-ease, and which you lack the spirit either to reject or to accept in full.
In full, of course, you never have accepted our Christian teachings. In your hearts you still are pagans. You still love war and graven images and strife. You still take pride in the glory of the nude human figure. Your social conscience, in spite of all democracy and all your social revolutions, is still a pitifully imperfect thing. We have merely divided your soul, confused your impulses, paralyzed your desires. In the midst of battle you are obliged to kneel down to him who commanded you to turn the other cheek, who said “Resist not evil” and “Blessed are the peace-makers.” In your lust for gain you are suddenly disturbed by a memory from your Sunday-school days about taking no thought for the morrow. In your industrial struggles, when you would smash a strike without compunction, you are suddenly reminded that the poor are blessed and that men are brothers in the Fatherhood of the Lord. And as you are about to yield to temptation, your Jewish training puts a deterrent hand on your shoulder and dashes the brimming cup from your lips. You Christians have never become Christianized. To that extent we have failed with you. But we have forever spoiled the fun of paganism for you.
So why should you not resent us? If we were in your place we should probably dislike you more cordially than you do us. But we should make no bones about telling you why. We should not resort to subterfuges and transparent pretexts. With millions of painfully respectable Jewish shopkeepers all about us we should not insult your intelligence and our own honesty by talking about communism as a Jewish philosophy. And with millions of hard-working impecunious Jewish peddlers and laborers we should not make ourselves ridiculous by talking about international capitalism as a Jewish monopoly. No, we should go straight to the point. We should contemplate this confused, ineffectual muddle which we call civilization, this half-Christian half-pagan medley, and—were our places reversed—we should say to you point-blank: “For this mess thanks to you, to your prophets and to your Bible.”
Part II: Commissary to the Gentiles
You Christians worry and complain about the Jew’s influence in your civilization. We are, you say, an international people, a compact minority in your midst, with traditions, interests, aspirations and objectives distinct from your own. And you declare that this state of affairs is a menace to your orderly development; it confuses your impulses; it defeats your purposes; it muddles up your destiny. I do not altogether see the danger. Your world has always been ruled by minorities; and it seems to me a matter of indifference what the remote origin and professed creed of the governing clique is. The influence, on the other hand, is certainly there, and it is vastly greater and more insidious than you appear to realize.
That is what puzzles and amuses and sometimes exasperates us about your game of Jew-baiting. It sounds so portentous. You go about whispering terrifyingly of the Jew in this and that and the other thing. It makes us quake. We are conscious of the injury we did you when we imposed upon you our alien faith and traditions. Suppose, we say trembling, you should wake up to the fact that your religion, your education, your morals, your social, governmental and legal systems are fundamentally of our making! And then you specify, and talk vaguely of Jewish financiers and Jewish motion-picture promoters, and our terror dissolves in laughter. The Goi, we see with relief, will never know the real blackness of our crimes.
We cannot make it out. Either you do not know or you have not the courage to charge us with those deeds for which there is at least a shadow of evidence and which an intelligent judge and jury could examine without impatience. Why bandy about unconvincing trifles when you might so easily indict us for serious and provable offences? Why throw up to us a patent and a clumsy forgery such as the Protocols of the Elders Zion when you might as well confront us with the Revelation of St. John? Why talk about Marx and Trotski when you have Jesus of Nazereth and Paul of Tarsus to confound us with?
You call us subverters, agitators, revolution-mongers. It is the truth, and I cower at your discovery. It could be shown with only the slightest straining and juggling of the facts that we have been at the bottom of all the major revolutions in your history. We undoubtedly had a sizeable finger in the Lutheran Rebellion, and it is simply a fact that we were the prime movers in the bourgeois democratic revolutions of the century before the last, both in France and America. If we were not, we did not know our own interests. But do you point your accusing finger at us and charge us with these heinous and recorded crimes? Not at all? You fantastically lay at our door the recent great War and the upheaval in Russia, which have done not only the most injury to the Jews themselves but which a school-boy could have foreseen would have that result.
But even these plots and revolutions are as nothing compared with the great conspiracy which we engineered at the beginning of this era and which was destined to make the creed of a Jewish sect the religion of the Western world. The Reformation was not designed in malice purely. It squared us with an ancient enemy and restored our Bible to it’s place of honour in Christendom, The Republican revolutions of the Eighteenth century freed us of our age-long political and social disabilities. They benefited us, but they did you no harm. On the contrary, they prospered and expanded you. You owe your pre-eminence in the world to them. But the upheaval which brought Christianity into Europe was – or at least may easily be shown to have been – planned and executed by Jews as an act revenge against a great Gentile state. And when you talk about Jewish conspiracies I cannot for the world understand why you do not mention the destruction of Rome and the whole civilization of antiquity concentrated under her banners, at the hands of Jewish Christianity.
It is unbelievable, but you Christians do not seem to know where your religion came from, nor how, nor why. Your historians, with one great exception, do not tell you. The documents in these case, which are part of your Bible, you chant over but do not read. We have done our work too thoroughly; you believe our propaganda too implicitly. The coming of Christianity is to you not an ordinary historical event growing out of other events of the time, it is the fulfilment of a divine Jewish prophecy – with suitable amendments of your own. It did not, as you see it, destroy a great Gentile civilization and a great Gentile empire with which Jewry was at war; it did not plunge mankind into barbarism and darkness for a thousand years; it came to bring salvation to the Gentile world!
Yet here, if ever, was a great subversive movement, hatched in Palestine, spread by Jewish agitators, financed by Jewish money, taught in Jewish pamphlets and broadsides, at a time when Jewry and Rome were in a death struggle, and ending in the collapse of the great Gentile empire. You do not even see it, though an intelligent child, unfuddled by theological magic, could tell you what it is all about after a hasty reading of the simple record. And then you go on prattling of Jewish conspiracies and cite as instances the Great War and the Russian Revolution! Can you wonder that we Jews have always taken your anti-Semites rather lightly, as long as they did not resort to violence?
And mind you, no less an authority than Gibbon long ago tried to enlighten you. It is now a century and a half since The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire let the cat out of the bag, Gibbon, not being a parson dabbling in history, did not try to account for the end of a great era by inventing fatuous nonsense about the vice and degradation of Rome, about the decay of morals and faith in an empire which was at that very time in the midst of its most glorious creative period. How could he? He was living in the Augustan Age in London which – in spite of nearly two thousand years since the coming of Christian salvation – was a good replica of Augustan Rome in the matter of refined lewdness as the foggy islanders could make it. No, Gibbons was a race-conscious Gentile and an admirer of the culture of the pagan West, as well as an historian with brains and eyes. Therefore he had no difficulty laying his finger on the malady that had rotted and wasted away the noble edifice of antique civilization. He put Christianity down – the law which went forth from Zion and the word of God from Jerusalem – as the central cause of the decline and fall of Rome and all she represented.
So far so good. But Gibbon did not go far enough. He was born and died, you see, a century before the invention of scientific anti-Semitism. He left wholly out of account the element of deliberation. He saw an alien creed sweeping out of the East and overwhelming the fair lands of the West. It never occurred to him that the whole scheme of salvation was dedicated. Yet the facts are as plain as you please.
Let me in very brief recount the tale, unembroidered by miracle, prophecy or magic.
For a good perspective, I shall have to go back a space. The action conveniently falls into four parts, rising to a climax in the third. The time, when the first curtain rises, is roughly 65 B.C. Dramatis personae are, minor parts aside, Judea and Rome. Judea is a tiny kingdom off the Eastern Mediterranean. For five centuries it has been hardly more than a geographical expression. Again and again it has been overrun and destroyed and its population carried into exile or slavery by its powerful neighbours. Nominally independent, it is now as unstable as ever and on the edge of civil war. The empire of the West, with her nucleus in the City Republic of Rome, while not yet mistress of the world, is speedily heading that way . She is acknowledged the one great military power of the time as well as the heir of Greece and the centre of civilization.
Up to the present the two states have had little or no contact with one another. Then without solicitation on her part Rome was suddenly asked take a hand in Judean affairs. A dispute had arisen between two brothers over the succession to the petty throne, and the Roman general Pompey, who happened to be in Damascus winding up bigger matters, was called upon to arbitrate between the claimants. With the simple directness of a republican soldier, Pompey exiled one of the brothers, tossed the chief priesthood to his rival, and abolished the kingly dignity altogether. Not to put too fine a point on it, Pompey’s mediation amounted in effect to making Judea a Roman dependency. The Jews, not unnaturally, objected; and Rome, to conciliate them and to conform to local prejudice, restored the royal office. She appointed, that is, a king of her own choosing. He was the son of an excise-man, an Idumean by race, named Herod. But the Jews were not placated, and continued making trouble. Rome thought it very ungrateful of them.
All this is merely a prelude, and is introduced into the action to make clear what follows. Jewish discontent grew to disaffection and open revolt when their Gentile masters began importing into Jerusalem the blessings of Western culture. Graven images, athletic games, Greek drama, and gladiatorial shows were not to the Jewish taste. The pious resented them as an offence in the nostrils of Jehovah, even though the resident officials patiently explained they were meant for the entertainment and edification of the non-Jewish garrison. The Judeans resisted with especial strenuousness the advent of the efficient Roman tax-gatherer. Above all, they wanted back a king of their own royal line.
Among the masses the rebellion took the form of a revival of the old belief in a Messiah, a divinely appointed saviour who was to redeem his people from the foreign yoke and make Judea supreme among the nations. Claimants to the mission were not wanting. In Galilee, one Judas led a rather formidable insurrection, which enlisted much popular support. John, called the Baptist, operated in the Jordan country. He was followed by another north-country man, Jesus of Nazareth. All three were masters of the technique of couching incendiary political sedition in harmless theological phrases. All three used the same signal of revolt – “the time is at hand”. And three were speedily apprehended and executed , both Galileans by crucifixion.
Personal qualities aside, Jesus of Nazareth was, like his predecessors, a political agitator engaged in liberating his country from the foreign oppressor. There is even considerable evidence that he entertained an ambition to become king of an independent Judea. He claimed, or his biographers later claimed for him, descent from the ancient royal line of David. But his paternity is somewhat confused. The same writers who traced the origin of his mother’s husband back to the psalmist-king also pictured Jesus as the son of Jehovah, and admitted that Joseph was not his father.
It seems, however, that Jesus before long realized the hopelessness of his political mission and turned his oratorical gifts and his great popularity with masses in quite another direction. He began preaching a primitive form of populism, socialism and pacificism. The effect of this change in his program was to gain him the hostility of the substantial, propertied classes, the priest and patriots generally, and to reduce his following to the poor, labouring mass and the slaves.
After his death these lowly disciples formed themselves into a communistic brotherhood. A sermon their late leader had once delivered upon a hillside summed up for them the essence of his teachings, and they made it their rule of life. It was a philosophy calculated to appeal profoundly to humble people. It comforted those who suffered here on earth with promised rewards beyond the grave. It made virtues of necessities of the weak. Men without hope in the future were admonished to take no thought for the morrow. Men too helpless to resent insult or injury were taught to resist not evil. Men condemned to lifelong drudgery and indigence were assured of the dignity of labour and of poverty. The meek, the despised, the disinherited, the downtrodden, were – in the hereafter – to be the elect and favoured of God. The worldly, the ambitious, the rich and powerful, were to be denied admission to heaven.
The upshot, then, of Jesus’ mission was a new sect in Judea. It was neither the first nor the last. Judea, like modern America, was a fertile soil for strange creeds. The Ebionim – the paupers, as they called themselves – did not regard their beliefs as a new religion. Jews they had been born, and Jews they remained. The teachings of their master were rather in nature of a social philosophy, an ethic of conduct, a way of life. To modern Christians, who never tire of asking why the Jews did not accept Jesus and his teachings, I can only answer that for a long time none but the Jews did. To be surprised that the whole Jewish people did not turn Ebionim is about as intelligent as to expect all Americans to join the Unitarians or the Baptists or the Christian Scientists.
In ordinary times little attention would have been paid to the ragged brotherhood. Slaves and labourers for the most part, their meekness might even have been encouraged by the soldier class. But with the country in the midst of a struggle with a foreign foe, the unworldly philosophy took on a dangerous aspect. It was a creed of disillusion, resignation and defeat. It threatened to undermine the morale of the nation’s fighting men in time of war. This blessing of the peacemakers, this turning of the other cheek, this non-resistance, this love your enemy, looked like a deliberate attempt to paralyse the national will in a crisis and assure victory to the foe.
So it is not surprising that the Jewish authorities began persecuting the Ebionim. Their meetings were invaded and dispersed, their leaders were clapped into jail, their doctrines were proscribed. It looked for awhile as if the sect would be speedily wiped out. Then, unexpected, the curtain rose on act three, and events took a sudden new turn.
Perhaps the bitterest foe of the sectaries was one Saul, a maker of tents. A native of Tarsus and thus a man of some education in Greek culture, he despised the new teachings for their unworldliness and their remoteness from life. A patriotic Jew, he dreaded their effect on the national cause. A travelled man, versed in several languages, he was ideally suited for the task of going about among the scattered Jewish communities to counteract the spread of their socialistic pacifistic doctrines. The leaders in Jerusalem appointed him chief persecutor to the Ebionim.
He was on his way to Damascus one day to arrest a group of the sectaries when a novel idea came to him. In the quaint phrase of the book of Acts he saw a vision. He saw as a matter of fact, two. He perceived, to begin with, how utterly hopeless were the chances of little Judea winning out in an armed conflict against the greatest military power in the world. Second, and more important, it came to him that the vagabond creed which he had been repressing might be forged into an irresistible weapon against the formidable foe. Pacifism, non-resistance, resignation, love, were dangerous teachings at home. Spread among the enemy’s legions, they might brake down their discipline and thus yet bring victory to Jerusalem. Saul, in a word, was probably the first man to see the possibilities of conducting war by propaganda.
He journeyed on to Damascus, and there, to the amazement alike of his friends and of those he had gone to suppress, he announced his conversion to the faith and applied for admission to the brotherhood. On his return to Jerusalem he laid his new strategy before the startled Elders of Zion. After much debate and searching of souls, it was adopted. More resistance was offered by the leaders Ebionim of the capital. They were mistrustful of his motives, and they feared that his proposal to strip the faith of its ancient Jewish observances and practices so as to make it acceptable to Gentiles would fill the fraternity with alien half- converts, and dilute its strength. But in the end he won them over, too. And so Saul, the fiercest persecutor of Jesus’ followers, became Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles. And so, incidentally, began the spread into pagan lands of the West, an entirely new Oriental religion.
Unfortunately for Paul’s plan, the new strategy worked much too well. His revamped and rather alluring theology made converts faster than he had dared hope, or than he even wished. His idea, it should be kept in mind, was at this stage purely defensive. He had as yet no thought of evangelizing the world; he only hoped to discourage the enemy. With that accomplished, and the Roman garrisons out of Palestine, he was prepared to call a truce. But the slaves and oppressed of the Empire, the wretched conscripts, and the starving proletariat of the capital itself, found as much solace in the adapted Pauline version of the creed as the poor Jews before them had found in the original teachings of their crucified master. The result of this unforeseen success was to open the enemy’s eyes to what was going on. Disturbing reports of insubordination among the troops began pouring into Rome from the army chiefs in Palestine and elsewhere. Instead of giving the imperial authorities pause, the new tactics only stiffened their determination. Rome swooped down upon Jerusalem with fire and sword, and after a fierce siege which lasted four years, she destroyed the nest of the agitation (70 A.D.). At least she thought she had destroyed it.
The historians of the time leave us in no doubt as to the aims of Rome. They tell us that Nero sent Vespasian and his son Titus with definite and explicit orders to annihilate Palestine and Christianity together. To the Romans, Christianity meant nothing more than Judaism militant, anyhow, an interpretation which does not seem far from the facts. As to Nero’s wish, he had at least half of it realized for him. Palestine was so thoroughly annihilated that it has remained a political ruin to this day. But Christianity was not so easily destroyed.
Indeed, it was only after the fall of Jerusalem that Paul’s program developed to the full. Hitherto, as I have said, his tactic had been merely to frighten the conqueror, in the manner of Moses plaguing the Pharaos. He had gone along cautious and hesitantly, taking care not to arouse the powerful foe. He was willing to dangle his novel weapon before the foe’s nose, and let him feel it’s edge, but he shrank from thrusting it in full force. Now that the worst had happened and Judea had nothing further to lose, he flung scruples to the wind and carried the war into the enemy’s country. The goal now was nothing less than to humble Rome as she had humbled Jerusalem, to wipe her off the map as she had wiped out Judea.
If Paul’s own writings fail to convince you of this interpretation of his activities, I invite your attention to his more candid associate John. Where Paul, operating within the shadow of the imperial palace and half the time a prisoner in Roman jails, is obliged to deal in parable and veiled hints, John, addressing himself to disaffected Asiatics, can afford the luxury of plain speaking. At any rate, his pamphlet entitled “Revelation” is, in truth, a revelation of what the whole astonishing business is about.
Rome, fancifully called Babylon, is minutely described in the language of sputtering hate, as the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth, as the woman drunken with the blood of the saints (Christians and Jews), as the oppressor of “peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues” and – to remove all doubt of her identity – as “that great city which reigned over the Kings of the earth”. An Angel triumphantly cries, Babylon the great is fallen” Then follows an orgiastic picture of ruin. Commerce and industry and maritime trade are at an end. Art and music and “the voice of the bridegroom and of the bride” are silenced. The gentle Christian conquerors wallow in blood up to the bridles of their horses. “Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets; for God hath avenged you on her.”
And what is the end and purpose of all this chaos and devastation? John is not too reticent to tell us. For he closes his pious prophecy with a vision of the glories of the new – that is, the restored – Jerusalem: not any allegorical fantasy, I pray you, but literally Jerusalem, the capital of a great reunited kingdom of “the twelve tribes of the children of Israel”.
Could any one ask for anything plainer?
Of course, no civilization could forever hold out against this kind of assault . By the year 200 the efforts of Paul and John and their successors had made such headway among all classes of Roman society that Christianity had become the dominant cult throughout the empire. Meantime, as Paul had shrewdly foreseen, Roman morale and discipline had quite broken down, so that more and more the imperial legions, once the terror of the world and the backbone of Western culture, went down to defeat before barbarian invaders. In the year 326 the emperor Constantine, hoping to check the insidious malady, submitted to conversion and proclaimed Christianity the official religion. It was too late. After him the emperor Julian tried to resort once more to suppression. But neither resistance nor concession were of any use. The Roman body politic has become thoroughly worm-eaten with Palestinian propaganda. Paul had triumphed.