Harmony of the Gospel (Conservative Version) shorter form Chapters 43-49
|Chapter 43||Historical texts|
After two years, Paul was released. Some would add the following text:
|Chapter 44||Historical texts|
The holy Apostles and disciples of our Savior, being scattered over the whole world, Thomas, according to tradition, received Parthia as his allotted region; Andrew received Scythia, and John, Asia Minor. Peter appears to have preached through Pontus, Galatia, Bithynia, Cappadocia, and Asia, to the Jews that were scattered abroad; who also, finally came to Rome in the days of Claudius, opposed the seducing spirits and doctrines of Simon Magus and his followers, and shepherded the Assembly there. You have also heard of the departure of Paul from the city of Rome when he journeyed on to Spain. Thus, from Jerusalem, even to Illyricum, Paul had fully preached the Gospel, and had Taught even imperial Rome, and carried the earnest persuasiveness of his preaching as far as Spain, undergoing innumerable conflicts, and doing signs and wonders.
Now, after preaching in Spain, when Paul was going to Macedonia, he urged Timothy to remain at Ephesus to charge certain people to not Teach any different doctrine, nor to occupy themselves with myths and endless genealogies, that is, with Jewish legends and spurious pedigrees added by false Judaizers to the Biblical scriptures.
Paul left Titus in Crete, that he might correct what was defective. He directed him to appoint Presbyters in every town, and Episcopes, blameless, hospitable, lovers of goodness, masters of themselves, upright, holy, self-controlled, holding firmly to the sure word as Taught, so that they may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also prove wrong those who contradict it.
Then after Paul had been in Rome, he returned to Spain, but whether he came from there again into these parts, we do not know.
Paul afterward wrote to Timothy in Ephesus, so that if he was delayed in coming to him, Timothy might certainly know how one ought to behave in the household of God, the Assembly, the pillar and foundation of truth, attending to the public reading of scripture, to preaching, and to Teaching, holding to it; for by so doing he will save both himself and his hearers from the wrath to come on the ungodly. He wrote the following letter:
Titus 1:5, 7-9 adapted
|Chapter 45||Historical texts|
Now this is the doctrinal instruction called "The Teaching of the Lord by the Twelve Apostles to the Nations", also called in Greek the "Didache", which means "doctrine".
Peter's hearers pleaded with Mark to leave a written summary of the Teaching of Peter, since he was a follower of Peter. The Apostle was pleased with their enthusiasm to have a written account of the Good News and he approved the reading of the book in the assemblies. Eusebius the Christian historian states that this same Mark is mentioned in Peter's first letter, and that it was composed in Rome, witnesses testifying that he indicated this city figuratively with the words,
Papias relates the tradition from John that Mark, becoming and being the interpreter of Peter, wrote down and recorded with great accuracy, but not, though, in order, whatever he remembered of the things spoken or done by our Lord. For he neither heard nor followed our Lord, but afterward, he followed in company with Peter; who gave him such instruction as necessary, but not in order to give a sequenced history of our Lord's utterances; who adapted his Teaching to the needs of his hearers, but with no intention of giving a connected account of the Lord’s discourses; and for this reason Mark has not erred in any detail, and committed no error while thus writing some things as he has remembered and recorded them. For he was carefully attentive to one thing, not to omit or pass by any thing which he had heard, and not to state any of them falsely in these accounts.
Now Matthew had produced his Gospel written among the Hebrews in their own dialect. So then Matthew composed his history giving the oracles of the Lord Jesus in the Hebrew language, and every one translated and interpreted them as he was able, while Peter and Paul proclaimed the Good News and founded the Assembly at Rome. After the departure of these, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, also passed on to us in writing what had been preached by Peter, his account of "the beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God."
Peter's hearers had pleaded with Mark to leave a written summary of the Teaching of Peter, since he was a follower of Peter. The Apostle was pleased with their enthusiasm to have a written account of the Good News and he approved the reading of the book in the assemblies.
And Luke, the companion of Paul, committed to writing the Gospel preached by Paul; and he added a second treatise on the spreading of the Gospel of Christ through the Acts of the Apostles by the descent in power of the Holy Spirit and his testimony to the truth in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth. Both of these volumes may be read together with profit as a single account of the history of the beginning of the perpetual establishment of the Holy Assembly of God's Church on earth.
The Gospel According to Luke chapters 1 through 9
Nero was now in the eighth year of his reign, A.D. 62, when Annianus succeeded the Apostle and evangelist Mark as Episcopos in the administration of the Assembly at Alexandria. He was a man distinguished for his piety, and admirable in every respect.
When Festus died in A.D. 62, Nero Caesar sent Albinus to Judea as procurator. But before he arrived, King Agrippa quickly appointed Ananus, a man inclined to rashness, to the high priesthood. He was a son of the elder Ananus called Annas, son of the same Annas before whom Christ Jesus was brought after he was taken in the Garden of Gethsemane. This elder Annas, after having been high priest, had five sons, all of whom achieved that office, which was unparalleled. This younger Ananus with characteristic rashness followed the Sadducees, who were heartless when they sit in judgment. With Festus dead and Albinus still on the way Ananus thought he had his opportunity. He convened the judges of the Sanhedrin and brought before them James, the brother of Jesus the Christ, the Anointed One, and certain other men, whom he accused of transgressing the law, and condemned them to be stoned to death.
The people of Jerusalem who were considered most fair-minded and strict in observing the law were offended. They privately urged King Agrippa to order Ananus to desist from any further such actions. Some of them even went to meet Albinus on his way from Alexandria, and informed him that without his permission Ananus had no authority to convene the Sanhedrin. Albinus angrily wrote to Ananus, threatening vengeance for this.
King Agrippa then deposed Ananus from the high priesthood, which he had held for three months, and replaced him with Jesus, son of Damnaeus, and after him Jesus son of Gamaliel. As a result these two high priests feuded, and typical of the lawless confusion in the city their supporters threw stones at each other. Nero then sent Gessius Florus as successor to Albinus.
When Albinus heard that Florus was coming to replace him, he cleared the prisons by executing those who deserved death, and after accepting a bribe, he released those who were guilty of lesser offenses. He thus infested the land with brigands. He also stole private property, burdened the nation with excessive taxes, and committed every sort of villainy.
While Jerusalem was particularly prosperous and peaceful, in A.D. 62, four years before the war and eight years before the Temple was destroyed, a common countryman, Jesus, son of Ananias, a plebeian and an husbandman, a common rustic, came to the Feast of Booths called Tabernacles, which is Sukkoth, at which it was customary for all to make tents at the Temple to the honor of God. He suddenly began shouting out: "A voice from the east, a voice from the west, a voice from the four winds, a voice against Jerusalem and the Temple, a voice against bridegrooms and brides, a voice against all the people."
He went through all the alleys day and night shouting this.
Some of the more distinguished citizens, irritated by the ominous cry, seized and beat him with many strokes. But without saying a word to defend himself, or particularly addressing anyone present, he continued to cry out the same message.
The rulers, believing the man was moved by a higher power, which was true, brought him before the Roman governor Albinus. And though he was scourged to the bone, he did not plead or shed tears, but, changing his voice to the most lamentable tone possible, he repeated with each stroke the words, "Woe, woe unto Jerusalem."
The procurator finally dismissed him as a madman; and every day he uttered these lamentable words. He spoke neither ill to those who beat him every day, nor good to those who gave him food; but he gave the same answer to all, as if this was his premeditated vow, "Woe, woe to Jerusalem!"
For seven years he continued his melancholy cry in the city, "Woe, woe to Jerusalem!"; and his cry was loudest at the festivals.
At the same time, in A.D. 63, the Temple was finally completed, leaving eighteen thousand workers unemployed, although they did pave Jerusalem with white stone. Many who could not hire themselves out as field workers were reduced to poverty. Many in their desperation joined with the brigands and robbers.
1 Peter 5:13
|Chapter 46||Bible texts|
When Onesiphorus arrived in Rome he searched for Paul eagerly and found him. He often refreshed Paul, and he was not ashamed of Paul's chains. He had also previously rendered him service at Ephesus.
At Paul's first defense no one stood with him; all deserted him. All in Asia turned away from him, among them Phygelus and Hermogenes. Demas deserted him and went to Thessalonica, Crescens went to Galatia, and Titus to Dalmatia. Paul sent Tychicus to Ephesus. And it seems that Onesiphorus died at this time, for Paul prayed that the Lord grant Onesiphorus to find mercy from the Lord on the Day of the Lord. Luke alone remained with him. But the Lord stood by him and gave him strength to proclaim the word fully, so that all the Gentiles might hear it. And so he was rescued from the lion's mouth.
He wrote the following letter:
What else needs to be said of Paul, who proclaimed the Gospel from Jerusalem to Illyricum and was afterward martyred in Rome under Nero?
Nero was the first Roman emperor to persecute the doctrine of Christianity, particularly at that time, when, after subduing all the East, he exercised his cruelty against all at Rome. Those who knew him, knew that there was scarcely anything great and good that was not condemned by Nero. Thus announcing himself publicly as the chief enemy of God, he was led on by his fury and the genius of the emperor to slaughter the Apostles. Thus Peter is said to have been crucified under him, and Paul to have been beheaded at Rome.
2 Timothy 4:20 adapted
|Chapter 47||Historical texts|
In A.D. 63, while Jesus the son of Ananias continued his melancholy cry in the city, "Woe, woe to Jerusalem!", the Jews completed the rebuilding of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, a work which was begun under Herod king of Judea in 27 B.C.. Ninety years was this temple in building, and now it was finished.
Now, according to Josephus, this Temple at the beginning was built upon a strong hill. The site was anciently a large threshing floor. At first the plain at the top was hardly sufficient for the holy house and the altar, for the area around it was very uneven, and like a precipice, a cliff; but when king Solomon, who built the Temple, had built a wall to it on its east side, there was then added one colonnade or portico founded on an embankment cast up for it, and on the other parts of it the holy house stood exposed; but in following ages afterward the people added new earthworks, new embankments, and the hill became a larger plain. They then broke down the wall on the north side, and included as much as was enough room afterward for the area around the entire Temple; and when they had built walls on the three sides of the Temple round about, from the bottom of the hill, and had performed a work that was greater than could be hoped for (a work of long ages, exhausting also all their sacred treasures, which were constantly replenished by votive offerings sent to God from the whole habitable earth), they then enclosed their upper courts with porticoes, and they afterward did as well with the lowest court of the Temple. The lowest part of this was erected to a height of four hundred twenty-five feet, in some places more; yet the entire depth of the foundations was not visible, for they brought earth, and filled up the valleys, desiring to make them level with the narrow streets of the city; in which they used massive stones of fifty-six and a half feet; for the vast sums of money they then had, and the generosity of the people, made this attempt of theirs succeed to an incredible degree; and what no one had thought could be accomplished, was, by perseverance and length of time, brought to perfection.
Now, the works above those foundations were not unworthy of such foundations; for all the porticoes were double, double colonnades, and the pillars supporting them were thirty-five and a half feet in height. These pillars were each of one whole stone, and that stone was white marble; and the roofs were adorned with cedar, elaborately carved. The natural magnificence, and excellent polish, and the harmony of joints in these porticoes, presented a sight that was very truly remarkable; nor was the outside adorned with the work of any painter or engraver. The porticoes of the outermost court were forty-two and a half feet broad, while its entire encompassing length around by measure was three thousand nine hundred and sixty feet, three quarters of a mile, including the tower of Antonia; and those entire courts open to the air were paved with stones of all kinds.
After going through these first porticoes, to the second court of the Temple, there was a stone partition all around it, whose height was four and a quarter feet: its construction was very elegant; upon it stood pillars, equidistant from each other, declaring the law of purity, some in Greek, and some in Roman letters, that no foreigner should go inside that sanctuary; for that second court of the Temple was called "the Sanctuary"; and was ascended by fourteen steps from the first court. This second court was foursquare, and had a particular wall of its own around it: although the height of its buildings on the outside was fifty-six and a half feet, this was hidden by the steps, and on the inside its height was only thirty-five and a half feet; being built facing a higher part of the hill with steps, it could not be entirely seen further inside, being covered by the hill itself. Beyond these fourteen steps was a distance of fourteen feet, all flat and smooth, where there were other steps, each seven feet apiece, leading to the gates, eight on the north and south sides, four on each side, and of necessity two on the east; for since there was a partition built for the women on that side, as the proper place in which they were to worship, there was of necessity a second gate for them: this gate was cut out of its wall, facing the first gate. There was also on the other side one southern and one northern gate, through which was a passage into the Court of the Women; as for the other gates, the women were not allowed to pass through them; nor when they went through their own gate could they go beyond their own wall. This place was allotted equally to the Jewish women of this country and those of other countries, provided they were of the same nation; but the wall was completely built on that side; but then the porticoes between the gates extended from the wall inward, before the chambers; for they were supported by very fine and large pillars. These porticoes were single, and, excepting for their size, were in no way inferior to those of the lower court.
Now nine of these gates were entirely covered with gold and silver, as were the jambs of their doors and their lintels; but there was one gate outside the inward court of the holy house, which was of Corinthian brass, and greatly excelled those that were only covered with silver and gold. Each gate had two doors, forty-two and a half feet high, and twenty-one and a quarter feet broad. However, within they had large spaces of forty-two and a half feet, and on each side rooms, and those, both in breadth and in length, were built like towers, and their height more than fifty-six and a half feet. Two pillars also supported these rooms, each seventeen feet in circumference. Now the size of the other gateways were equal to each other; but that over the Corinthian gate, which opened on the east facing the gateway of the holy house itself, was much larger; for its height was seventy feet ten inches; and its doors fifty-six and a half feet; and it was adorned in a most costly manner, having much richer and thicker plates of silver and gold than the other. The silver and gold of these nine gates had been poured on them by Alexander, the father of Tiberius. Now fifteen steps led away from the wall of the court of the women to this greater gate; while those that led there from the gates were five steps less.
As to the holy house itself, placed in the midst of the inmost court, that most sacred part of the Temple, it was ascended by twelve steps; and in front its height and its breadth were equal, each a hundred forty-one and a half feet; it was fifty-six and a half feet narrower in back, for in front it had what may be called shoulders on each side, extending twenty-eight feet four inches further. Its first gateway was ninety-nine feet high, and thirty-five and a half feet broad; but this gate had no doors; for it represented the universal visibility of heaven, and that it cannot be excluded from any place. Its front was covered with gold all over, and through it the first and more inward part of the house did all appear; which, as it was very large, so all the parts about the more inward gate appeared to shine to those that saw them; but, as the entire house within was divided into two parts, only the first part of it was open to view. All along its length it extended a hundred twenty-seven and a half feet high, its length seventy feet ten inches, and its breadth twenty-eight feet four inches; but that gate at this end of the first part of the house was, as stated, all covered with gold, as was the whole wall around it; it also had golden vines above it, from which hung clusters of grapes as tall as a man's height; but then, this house, being divided into two parts, the inner part was lower in appearance than the outer, with golden doors of seventy-seven feet eleven inches altitude, and twenty-two and half broad; but before these doors there was a veil equally large. It was a Babylonian curtain, embroidered with blue, fine linen, scarlet, and purple, and of a blending very truly wonderful. This mixture of colors was not without its mystical interpretation, but was a kind of image of the universe; for the scarlet seemed enigmatically to signify fire, the fine flax the earth, the blue the air, and the purple the sea; two of them having colors based on resemblance; but the fine flax and the purple have their origins as their basis, the earth producing the one, and the sea the other. This curtain also had embroidered on it all that was mystical in the heavens, except the twelve signs of the Zodiac, representing living creatures.
Any person who entered the Temple immediately stepped onto its floor. This part of the Temple was eighty-five feet in height, and its length the same; while its breadth was only twenty-eight feet four inches: there were no steps within the Temple, but the eighty-five foot length was divided again, the first part of it cut off at fifty-six and a half feet up to the veil, and it had in it three things that were very wonderful and famous among all mankind; the candlestick, the table of show bread, and the altar of incense. Now, the seven lamps signified the seven planets; for seven were springing out of the candlestick. Now, the twelve loaves that were on the table signified the circle of the zodiac and the year; but the altar of incense, by its thirteen kinds of sweet-smelling spices supplied by sea, signified that God is the possessor of all things that are, in both the uninhabitable and habitable parts of the earth, and that they are all to be dedicated to his use. But the second, inmost part of the Temple of all, was twenty-eight feet four inches in length, twenty-eight feet four inches in breadth, no mention of its height. No steps led up to it, but it was level with the holy place. This was also separated from the outer part only by a veil. It too is understood to be eighty-five feet in height. In this there was nothing at all. According to the law, into this second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood which he offers for himself and for the errors of the people. It was inaccessible and inviolable, and not to be seen by any; and was called the Holy of Holies.
Now, around the sides of the lower part of the Temple were little houses, with passages from one to another; there were a great many of them, and they were three stories high; there were also entrances into them on each side from the gate of the Temple. But the superior part of the Temple had no such little houses any farther up, because the Temple there was narrower, and fifty-six and a half feet higher, and smaller than the lower parts of it. Josephus gathered or concluded that the whole height, including the eighty-five feet from the floor, amounted to one hundred forty-one and a half feet.
Now the outer face of the Temple in front lacked nothing likely to surprise either men's minds or eyes, for it was covered all over with very heavy plates of gold, which, at the first rising of the sun, reflected a very fiery splendor, and made those who forced themselves to look at it to turn their eyes away, just as they would have done at the sun's own rays. But this Temple appeared to strangers at a distance like a mountain covered with snow; for those parts of it not gilt were exceedingly white. On its top were spikes with sharp points, to prevent any pollution of it by birds sitting on it. Some of its stones were sixty-three and three quarters feet long, seven in height, and eight and a half feet in breadth. Before this Temple stood the altar, twenty-one and a quarter feet high, equal in both length and in breadth, seventy feet ten inches. It was a square figure, with corners like horns; and the passage up to it was an imperceptible incline, without steps. It was formed without any iron tool, nor did any such iron tool so much as touch it at any time. There was a separating wall of partition, about seventeen inches in height, made of fine stones, and pleasing to the sight; this encompassed the holy house, and the altar, and kept the people on the outside off and away from the priests. Moreover, those who had gonorrhea and leprosy were entirely excluded from the city; also women, when their monthly periods were on them were shut out of the Temple; nor when they were free from that impurity, were they allowed to go beyond the limiting wall already mentioned; men also, who were not thoroughly pure, were prohibited from coming into the inner court of the Temple; no, even the priests themselves who were not pure, were also forbidden to come into it.
Now all those of priestly stock, who could not minister because of some bodily defect, came inside the dividing wall of partition along with those who had no such imperfection, and had their share with them because of their priestly stock, but still used nothing except their own private garments; for no one but he who officiated had on his sacred garments; but then the priests who were without any blemish went up to the altar clothed in fine linen. They abstained chiefly from wine, out of the fear that otherwise they should transgress some rules of their ministry. The high priest also did go up with them; indeed not always, but on the seventh days and new moons, and whenever any Jewish festivals, celebrated every year, happened. When he officiated, he had on a pair of breeches that reached under his private parts to his thighs, and had on an inner garment of linen, together with a blue garment, round, without seam, with fringework, and reaching to the feet. There were also golden bells hung on the fringes, and pomegranates between them. The bells signified thunder, and the pomegranates lightning. But the belt that tied the garment to the breast was embroidered with five rows of various colors of gold, and purple, and scarlet, also fine linen and blue; with these colors the veils of the Temple were embroidered also. Similar embroidery was on the ephod, which was folded once, making it square; but the quantity of gold in it was greater. It was like a stomacher for the breast. There were two golden buttons on it like small shields, which buttoned the ephod to the garment: these buttons enclosed two very large and very excellent sardonyxes on the one part, having the names of the tribes of that nation engraved upon them: on the other part were hung twelve stones, three in a row one way, and four in the other: a sardius, a topaz, and an emerald: a carbuncle, a jasper, and a sapphire: an agate, an amethyst, and a ligure: an onyx, a beryl, and a chrysolite; on every one them was engraved one of the forementioned names of the tribes. A miter also of fine linen surrounded his head, tied by a blue ribbon, around which was another golden crown, in which was engraved the sacred Name; it consists of four vowels. However, the high priest did not wear these garments at other times, but a more plain habit; he only did it when he went into the most sacred part of the Temple, which he did only once a year; on that day when the custom is for all Jews to keep a fast to God. And this much concerning the city and the Temple.
Now, as to the tower of Antonia, it was situated at the corner of two joined colonnades, porticoes of the court of the Temple; that on the west, and that on the north; it was erected on a rock, seventy feet ten inches high, and was on a great precipice, an immensely steep cliff; it was the work of King Herod, intended as a demonstration of his natural greatness. First, the rock itself was covered over with smooth pieces of stone from its foundation, both for ornament and so that anyone who would either try to get up or to go down it might not be able to get a foothold. Next to this, and before coming to the edifice of the tower itself, there was a wall four and a quarter feet high; but within that wall all the space of the tower of Antonia itself was built up, to the height of fifty-six and a half feet. The inner parts had the largeness and form of a palace, partitioned into all kinds of rooms and other conveniences, such as courts, and places for bathing, and broad areas for camps; to such an extent that, by having all the conveniences that cities lacked, it might seem to be composed of several cities, but by its magnificence, it seemed to be a palace; and while the entire structure resembled a tower, it also included four other distinct towers at its four corners; and while the others were only seventy feet ten inches high, the one on the southeast corner was ninety-nine feet high, so that from there the whole Temple might be viewed; but on the corner where it was joined to the two porticoes of the Temple, it had passages down to them both, through which the guard went by several ways among the porticoes, with their arms, on the Jewish festivals, in order to watch the people, that they might not there attempt to make any sudden changes in the social order (for a Roman legion always lay in wait there in this tower); for the Temple was a fortress that guarded the city, as the tower of Antonia was a guard to the Temple; and in that tower were the guards of those three—the guards of the city, guards of the Temple and guards of the tower of Antonia. There was also a particular fortress belonging to the upper city, which was Herod's palace; but as for the hill Bezetha, it was divided from the tower of Antonia by a valley; and as that hill on which the tower of Antonia stood was the highest of these three, so was it adjoined to the new city, and was the only place that hindered the sight of the Temple on the north.
During this same period, the Roman-Parthian War of A.D. 58-63 finally ended. Now, about the same time, in A.D. 63, Vespasian obtained from Nero the proconsulate of Africa. He had married one Flavia Domitilla, who bore his sons, Titus and Domitian, and a daughter, Flavia Domitilla. He brought them with him. While in Egypt he was primarily concerned with raising money; and his exorbitant taxations and extortions, coupled with sales of imperial estates to speculators, caused great discontent among the Egyptians. As proconsul of Africa, his extreme financial rigor made him so unpopular that on one occasion the people pelted him with turnips. While there was no ground for suspecting that his motives and policies were for personal financial gain, a reputation for avarice and greed remained with him the rest of his life.
In the Levant, Gessius Florus, appointed by Nero, proved to be far worse than Albinus as procurator of Judea. He became a partner with the brigands to receive a share of the spoils, and openly showed his lawless wickedness before the nation. He stripped whole cities, ruined entire populations, and eventually compelled the Jews to go to war with the Romans.
Galatians 5:16-25 adapted
|Chapter 48||Historical texts|
Understand this one thing clearly: The works of the world, the flesh and the Devil are opposed to the works of the Kingdom of God, the Holy Spirit and the Lord Jesus Christ. We can plainly see from history how the government of the pagan Roman Empire under the Caesars is opposed to the apostolic doctrine and practice of the catholic church of Christ under God. While we are like sheep in the midst of wolves, we are not ignorant of the designs of Satan, so that we may be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.
About this time, in A.D. 63, Nero developed strange religious enthusiasms and became increasingly attracted to the Teachers and preachers of novel cults. Punishments were inflicted on the Christians, a sect seen as professing a new and disruptively harmful superstition unnaturally opposed to human nature, and to the worship of the gods. We were dismissed as fools by Stoics and Epicurians alike. The Apostle Peter was martyred under Nero as well as the Apostle Paul.
Nero's vices gradually began to dominate him completely. He no longer tried to trivialize or hide or deny them, but he became more brazen, urged on by the genius of the emperor. His feasts began to last from noon to midnight. He sometimes drained the artificial lake in the Campus Martius or the other one in the Roman Circus and hold dinner parties there, with prostitutes and dancing girls from all over the city serving as waitresses. Whenever he floated down the Tiber to Ostia or cruised past the city of Baiae, he had a row of temporary brothels erected along the shore, where a number of Roman noblewomen, playing the role of madams, stood waiting to solicit his business.
Nero was not satisfied with seducing freeborn boys and married women. He tried to turn the boy Sporus into a girl by castration, and then later went through a wedding ceremony with him, which the whole court attended, complete with dowry, bridal veil, floral arrangements, musicians and lavishly dressed attendants. Then he brought him home and treated him as a wife. Many joked that the world would have been a happier place if Nero's father Domitius had married that kind of wife, because Nero would never have been born. He dressed Sporus in clothes normally worn by an empress, and took him in his own litter not only to every Greek legislative gathering and fair, but eventually through the market street in Rome called the Sigillaria, so-named because small decorative pottery pieces called sigillaria were typically sold there, and on the final day of the celebration of the Saturnalia gifts like these were exchanged—and there Nero kissed him frequently with a dramatic and loathsome display of amorous passion.
His lust for his own mother Agrippina was notorious, but her enemies, fearing that she would become even more powerful and ruthless than ever, would not permit him to consummate his passion for her; so he found a new mistress who resembled her exactly. It was said that he actually did commit incest with Agrippina herself every time they rode together in the same litter, and the condition of his clothes when he emerged was seen as proof of this.
He invented for himself a game in which he dressed in animal skins, then burst forth suddenly from an artificial cave and attacked the private parts of both men and women bound to stakes; then, when he had reached an aroused peak of frenzy from this, he allowed his freedman Doryphorus to have his way with him and to sodomize him. Doryphorus now married Nero just as Nero had married Sporus, and on the wedding night Nero imitated the screams and moans of a girl losing her virginity. It was said that he was convinced that no one could remain sexually chaste or pure in any respect and that most people concealed their secret vices. It was also said that, if anyone charged with obscene practices confessed to the charge, then Nero forgave him all his other crimes.
He believed that family fortunes were made to be squandered. He deeply admired his uncle Gaius Caligula merely because he had run through Tiberius's vast fortune, and he himself never hesitated about giving away or wasting money. He was most wasteful in his architectural projects. He built a magnificent house called the Passageway, stretching from the Palatine Hill to the Esquiline Hill. He spent eight hundred thousand sesterces a day on the visiting King Tiridates of Parthia, and gave him a parting gift of a hundred million. At dice he would stake four hundred thousand gold pieces on each spot of the winning face of the dice. He never wore the same clothes twice. He went fishing with a net made of gold strung with purple and scarlet cord. It was said that he seldom traveled with a train of less than a thousand carriages. The draft mules were shod with silver, the muleteers wore Canusian wool from Canusium, a town renowned for the quality of its wool, and he was escorted by mounted North African Mazaces, those people most famously known as Mazacian horsemen; his outriders wore jingling bracelets and medallions.
He had long coveted the sites of several granaries, which were solidly built in stone near the Passageway palace. In A.D. 64 he knocked down their walls with siege engines, and set fire to their interiors. Pretending to be disgusted by the drab old buildings and narrow, winding streets of Rome, he brazenly set fire to the city, causing the infamous Burning of Rome. During the fire Nero was at his villa at Antium 35 miles from Rome and therefore could not legally be held personally responsible for the burning of the city. Although a number of former Consuls caught his attendants trespassing on their property with tow and blazing torches, they dared not interfere. This terror lasted six days and seven nights. Many people took shelter in the tombs. A vast number of tenements burned down, houses of famous generals with their trophies, temples dating back to the time of the kingship with others dedicated during the Punic and Gallic Wars, and every ancient monument of historical interest that had survived to that time. The Passageway palace also burned. Nero, watching the conflagration from the tower in the Gardens of Maecenas, was enraptured by what he called "the beauty of the flames". He then put on his tragedian's costume, and sang in its entirety from beginning to end The Fall of Troy. Afterward, desiring to collect for himself as much loot as possible, he offered to remove corpses and rubble free of charge, but allowed no one else to search among the ruins, even of his own house. Then he established a fire-relief fund and insistently demanded contributions. This bled the provincials dry and reduced all private citizens to almost total beggary.
Nero’s reputation sank to a new low when he took advantage of the fire’s destruction. Nero had the city reconstructed in the Greek style, and began building a prodigious palace: the Passageway palace had burned, but he rebuilt it and renamed it Domus Aurea, The Golden House. A triple colonnade or portico ran for a whole mile along it, and a huge one hundred and twenty foot high statue of himself stood in the entrance hall, twelve stories tall. A vast, enormous pool, more like a sea, was surrounded by buildings resembling cities, and a garden of plowed fields, vineyards, pastures and woodlands full of roaming domestic and wild animals. Parts of this house were overlaid with gold, precious stones and mother-of-pearl. All the dining rooms had ceilings of carved ivory, with sliding panels that allowed a rain of flowers or perfume to suddenly shower down on the guests. The roof of the circular main dining room revolved slowly like the sky, all day and all night. When this was finished and Nero had dedicated it, he said, "Good. Now at last I can begin to live like a human being."
Had the Golden House been finished according to plan, it would have covered a third of Rome. This was not his only building project.
The Roman populace believed that he himself had started the fire in Rome in order to indulge his aesthetic tastes in the city’s subsequent reconstruction. According to The Annals of the Roman historian Tacitus and The Twelve Caesars of the Roman biographer Suetonius, Nero responded to public rumors that he was the arsonist by trying to shift responsibility for the fire onto the Christians, who were popularly thought to engage in many wicked practices, such as
The historian Tacitus said that Nero used the Christians as scapegoats for the great fire of A.D. 64. He was a young man when he witnessed this. Nero attempted to systematically exterminate all people who professed faith in the new-found Christian religion. Under Nero's evil rule, Romans witnessed the worst atrocities upon his victims. He did not just kill Christians, he made them suffer extremely. Nero enjoyed dipping the Christians in hot tar, and impaling them alive on poles around his palace; he would then light them on fire.
Up to that time, the government had not clearly distinguished Christians from Jews; but by his organized persecution of them in reprisal for the burning of Rome, Nero initiated a precedent for the later Roman state policy of persecution of the Christians, earning him the reputation of Antichrist and the Beast in the Christian tradition.
When Nero found himself bankrupt and unable to provide either his soldiers' pay or his veterans their benefits, he resorted to bribery and blackmail. He imposed a death tax of five-sixths of an estate, seized the estates of those he deemed ingrates for not bequeathing him enough, and fined the legal specialists who had dictated and written such wills. He encouraged informants who testified with prejudice to words or deeds of anyone that could be interpreted as maiestas, which is, "debasing the dignity and majesty of the Roman empire": a crime punishable by loss of fortune, estate, freedom and even life. He took back those presents he had given Greek cities in acknowledgement of prizes won at musical or athletic contests, and finally robbed numerous temples of their treasures and melted down the gold and silver images of their gods, including the images of the household gods of Rome.
Nero also abused his power in the government, and committed the management of affairs to those vile wretches, Caius Nymphidius Sabinus and Ofonius Tigellinus, his unworthy freedmen, so that he might the more fully devote himself to his artistic, dramatic and musical endeavors.
In A.D. 65, Nero kicked Poppaea to death in a violent beating while she was pregnant. Thus, Poppaea died, and he subsequently married the patrician lady Statilia Messalina, whose husband he was obliged to murder before he could legally marry her.
Nero had many antagonists by this time. The great conspiracy to make Gaius Calpurnius Piso emperor in 65 reveals the diversity of his enemies—senators, knights, officers, and philosophers. That the conspiracy included military officers would have normally been interpreted as an ominous sign, but Nero did not panic. Slaves kept him out of danger by warning him of plots that were hatching among their masters, but he did not altogether abandon his lenient attitude toward the aristocracy. Out of forty-one participants in the Piso conspiracy, only eighteen died, either by his order or from fear, including Seneca and the poet Lucan; the others were exiled or pardoned.
After two conspiracies, one in Rome, and one in Beneventum, Nero resolved on a wholesale massacre of the nobility. Nothing and no one could restrain Nero from murdering anyone he pleased, on any pretext whatever. Those he ordered to commit suicide were never given more than an hour to settle their affairs.
In addition to the disasters of Nero's reign, in a single autumn thirty thousand deaths from plague were recorded at the Grove of Libitina. In the provinces huge numbers of Romans and their allies were massacred when two important British garrison towns were taken by storm. Proud Roman legions in Armenia were shamefully defeated and put under the yoke. Syria was almost lost at the same time. These humiliations were blamed on the anger of the gods, said to be aroused by the obstinate refusal of Christians to worship them, and only when they were entirely exterminated would the gods be appeased. Such was the state of affairs under the genius of the emperor.
During this period, Titus, the future emperor and son of Vespasian, one of Nero's generals, married twice. His first wife, Arrecina Tertulla, died and he had married the very well-connected Marcia Furnilla; and now about A.D. 65 his only child was born, a daughter, Flavia Julia; but soon afterward he divorced her mother, his second wife, Marcia Furnilla.
Meanwhile, in Judea, Cestius Gallus, the governor, desiring to inform Nero of the power of the city, who otherwise was disposed to scornfully despise that nation, petitioned the high priests, if the thing were possible, to take the number of their whole multitude. So these high priests, on the coming of their feast called the Passover, when they slay their sacrifices from the ninth hour to the eleventh, 3 P.M. to 5 P.M.—but so that a company not less than what they call a minyan of ten belong to every sacrifice (for it is not lawful for them to feast individually by themselves), and many Jews are twenty in a company—found the number of sacrifices was two hundred fifty-six thousand five hundred; which, by allowing no more than ten who feast together, amounts to about two million seven hundred thousand two hundred persons who were pure and holy; as for those who have leprosy, or gonorrhea, or women having their monthly periods, or those who are otherwise polluted, it is not lawful for them to be partakers of this sacrifice; nor indeed for any foreigners either, who come to Jerusalem to worship; and not one of these was counted among the whole number of the multitude.
And truly, while Cestius Gallus was governor of the province of Syria, no one dared do so much as send an embassy to him against Florus; but when he came to Jerusalem, on the approach of the feast of Unleavened Bread, a huge throng surrounded him of not fewer than three million: these besought him to commiserate the calamities of their nation, and cried out against Florus as the bane of their land, denouncing him as having ruined the country. Florus, who was at his side, scoffed at the protests, but Cestius promised the people greater moderation from Florus in the future, and he returned to Antioch. Florus accompanied him as far as Caesarea, scheming all the while to provoke the Jews to open revolt.
Now, Eusebius tells us that it is only right to show the gracious kindness of God's Providence in delaying the destruction of the Jews for forty years after their crime against Christ. During that period of time, most of the Apostles were yet still alive and dwelling in Jerusalem, as a bulwark against judgment providing powerful protection for the place, including James himself, "the Just", who is called the Lord's brother, whom Josephus mentions and Eusebius praises, the first Episcopos of Jerusalem and author of the Epistle of James, who afterward was slain for his witness to the Lord. For God was patient forty years, giving the whole of the people opportunity to finally repent of their misdeeds and thus find pardon and salvation, and also by sending miraculous warnings and signs of what would happen if they failed to repent. Members of the Jerusalem Assembly were then ordered by a prophetic revelation, given to those worthy of it, to leave the city and settle in a city of Perea called Pella. They migrated there from Jerusalem before the war in Judea began, so that it seemed as if, once holy men had deserted the royal capital of the Jews and the whole land of Judea, and this restraint had been removed, as Lot had removed from Sodom, then the judgment of God might finally fall on them for their crimes against Christ and his Holy Apostles, utterly blotting out all that wicked generation, that upon them might come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom they murdered between the sanctuary and the altar.
|Chapter 49||Historical texts|
Meanwhile, prolonged military operations by Corbulo eventually led in A.D. 66 to a new settlement in Armenia. Tiridates, a claimant to the throne, was recognized as king, but he was compelled to come to Rome to receive his crown from Nero. Despite this success, the provinces were increasingly in a state of unrest, for they were oppressed by governmental exactions, tribute payments, assessments and fees, to cover Nero’s extravagant expenditures on his court, new buildings, and gifts to his favorites. These gifts alone are said to have amounted to more than two billion sesterces, a sum that was several times the annual cost of the army. Marcus Cocceius Nerva is first mentioned as a favorite of Nero, who bestowed upon him triumphal honors in A.D. 66, when he was praetor elect. The poetry of Nerva, which is noticed with praise by Pliny and Martial, appears to have recommended him to the favor of Nero. Nerva was employed in offices of trust and honor during the reigns of Vespasian and Titus.
At this time the people of Judea were readily won over by impostors and false prophets, liars against God, but gave no heed or credit to visions and signs which foretold the approaching desolation of judgment. Phenomena had occurred, which this nation, prone to superstition, but despising all religious rites, did not think it appropriate to respond to with offering and sacrifice. As if struck by stupidity, and possessing neither eyes nor understanding, they ignored the signs of God.
Josephus gives us an account of them. At one time a star, in appearance like a sword, stood over the city, a comet, which was observed for a whole year. And again, before the revolt and before the disturbances that led to the war, when the people had gathered for the feast of Unleavened Bread, on the eighth of the month Xanthicus, in April, at the ninth hour of the night, 3 A.M., a light shone around the altar and the Temple so brilliant that it seemed to be bright day; and this continued for half an hour. This seemed to the ignorant a good sign, but was interpreted by the sacred scribes as portending those events which very soon took place. And the very massive bronze eastern gate of the inner Temple, which rested on iron-bound hinges, with bars sunk deep in the ground, and was closed with difficulty every evening by twenty men, was seen at the sixth hour of the night, 12 A.M. midnight, to open by itself. And not many days after the feast of Unleavened Bread, on the twenty-first of the month Artemisium, in May, a marvelous vision was seen which was beyond belief. The phenomenon might seem to be a fiction if it had not been related by those who actually saw it and the calamities which followed had not corresponded to it. Before the setting of the sun chariots and armed troops were seen on high throughout the whole region, wheeling through the clouds and encircling the cities—armies were observed joining battle in the skies, the fiery gleam of weapons, the Temple illuminated by a sudden radiance from the clouds. And at the feast of Pentecost, when the priests entered the Temple at night, as was their custom, to perform the services, they said at first they perceived a movement, a stir and a noise, the doors of the inner shrine were suddenly thrown open, and then a voice of more than human tone like a great multitude, was heard to cry out, saying, "Let us go hence."
According to the interpretation of the pagan Tacitus, the voice cried out that the Gods were departing. At the same instant there was a mighty stir as of departure.
A few attached a fearful meaning to these events, but most held to a firm conviction that in the ancient records of their priests was contained a prediction of how at this very time the East was to grow powerful, and rulers, coming from Judea, were to acquire universal empire. Josephus says that a certain oracle was found in their sacred writings which declared that at that time a certain person should go forth from their country to rule the world.
The common people, blinded as usual by ambition, had interpreted these mighty destinies as referring to themselves, and they could not be brought to believe the truth even by disasters foretold to them by Christ. Because they refused to love the truth and so be saved, therefore God sends upon them a strong delusion, to make them believe what is false, so that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth, but neglected the weightier matters of the law, justice, mercy and faith.
The war in Judea that Florus was scheming to provoke actually began in A.D. 66, the second year of Florus's procuratorship, and the twelfth year of Nero's reign. It was touched off by a Greek who refused to sell to the Jews at any price his land near their synagogue in Caesarea, and to insult them had begun to erect some workshops there which left the Jews only a very narrow passageway to get to their place of worship. Florus stopped some youths who hotheadedly interrupted the construction. Then he accepted a bribe of eight talents from the Jews to stop the builders—but he did nothing and left for Sebaste, leaving the riot to run its course.
The next Sabbath, a local troublemaker mockingly sacrificed some birds over an inverted pot at the synagogue entryway, and was attacked by a youth for this blasphemy. Florus's Master of Horse, commander of his cavalry, removed the pot and attempted to stop the commotion. The Jews then fled with their copy of the Torah to Narbata, about seven miles away, and sent a delegation to Florus in Sebaste to protest and to remind him of the bribe they had paid him. He then imprisoned them for stealing the copy of their law from Caesarea.
When this news reached Jerusalem, the people restrained their outrage, but Florus, disappointed that they did not riot, and to make them revolt, then took eighteen talents from the Temple, claiming governmental necessity. The people rushed to the Temple shouting insults. Then, instead of preventing war in Caesarea, Florus marched on Jerusalem, expecting to have opportunity to pillage the city. The inhabitants of Jerusalem mocked Florus with applause when he arrived, but he sent a centurion with fifty horsemen to order them to stop, and they went home dejected and in anxiety.
The next morning at the palace, when he summoned the chief priests and leaders to hand over those who had mocked him, or face his vengeance, they said he should rather forgive and not make the many innocent suffer for the few offenders, to preserve both the city and the peace of the nation.
Florus, inflamed, shouted orders to his soldiers to plunder the upper market and kill everyone they encountered. They not only sacked the market, but massacred everyone in the houses. The streets were red with the blood of three thousand six hundred men, women, and children who were slaughtered and crucified. King Agrippa was away, but his sister Berenice, being in Jerusalem, was so horrified that she several times sent Florus messengers imploring him to stop, and even came before him herself, barefoot and kneeling, to make appeal; but he refused, and she even had to flee into the palace to save her own life.
The next day, the chief priests begged the multitude to stop their lamentations and not to curse Florus, to avoid provoking him further. Out of respect for them the crowd complied. Florus was disappointed, so he tried again. He told the chief priests that to prove they were peaceful the people were to go out and welcome two cohorts advancing from Caesarea. Then he sent word to the cohorts to completely ignore the greetings of the people, and ordered that, if they ridiculed him, to attack.
When some of the Jewish rebels started shouts against Florus, the troops surrounded and beat them with clubs while the cavalry trampled those who fled. More were crushed to death at the city gates as they ran to get inside. The troops running after them entered with them and tried to seize the Temple and the Antonia fortress. At the same time Florus and his men burst out of the palace to reach the fortress, intending to pillage it, but they were unable to cut their way through the people blocking the streets, and others from the roofs also assaulted the Romans with stones and various missiles. Florus ordered a return to the palace, and he and his men returned, but the rebels were blocking the porticoes connecting it to the fortress, and he was unable to plunder the Temple treasure.
When order had been restored, Florus then informed the city leaders of Jerusalem that he would leave. On their promise that they would keep the peace, he left one cohort in Jerusalem and returned with the rest of the troops to Caesarea. He then sent a report to Cestius Gallus accusing the Jews of revolting and causing all the crimes and bloodshed. The magistrates of Jerusalem and Berenice also wrote to Cestius about what Florus had done.
Cestius sent a tribune, Neapolitanus, to investigate. On the way he met King Agrippa returning from Egypt and informed him of his mission. A deputation of priests and leaders, arriving at Jamnia to welcome Agrippa, paid their respects and reported what Florus had done to the people. Agrippa concealed his compassion, to avoid supporting their desire for revenge. As they approached Jerusalem the people and the widows ran to them, wailing and lamenting, with many begging Agrippa for relief from Florus, and reporting to Neapolitanus the miseries he had caused. Seeing the city was peaceful, Neapolitanus went to the Temple. He commended the people for their loyalty to Rome, and urged them to maintain the peace. In the Court of the Gentiles he participated in the Temple worship, and then returned to Cestius.
Agrippa did what he could to keep the people from sending a mission to Nero to accuse Florus, to discourage them from war. The people accepted his counsel, and he, and Berenice, and they, all went to the Temple and began rebuilding the demolished galleries. The magistrates collected forty talents from the villages, and the danger of war seemed averted. But when Agrippa urged the people to obey Florus while awaiting the time that Caesar would send a replacement, they threw stones at the king and expelled him from the city. Agrippa withdrew in a fury to his own territory.
Then Eleazar, son of the high priest Ananias, lacking all reverence, and against all tradition and precedent, and opposing the chief priests and experts of the law, persuaded those who offered the ritual sacrifices presented by the people and the Gentiles to accept no offerings from any foreigners. He impiously suspended all sacrifice on behalf of the emperor and Rome, while the most rebellious Jews attacked and captured the fortress Masada and killed the guards. The Temple priests and the revolutionary party would not listen to lawful counsel. The leading citizens saw that they could not stop the revolt and that they themselves would be first to suffer Rome's vengeance. They sent a deputation to Florus and a deputation to Agrippa, requesting them to send an army to crush the rebellion. Florus was secretly delighted, and sent them away without an answer. Agrippa immediately sent two thousand calvary to help, and they immediately engaged the rebels.
For seven days neither side prevailed, and then a fierce attack by the sicarii under a base-born Jew named Menahem from within the Temple overpowered the royal troops, forcing them to retreat from the upper city. The residence of the high priest, and the palace of Agrippa, and the public archives containing the records of creditors, were set on fire. The chief priests and leaders hid in sewers or fled with the king's troops to Herod's upper palace and shut the gates. Then the attackers assaulted the upper palace.
Menahem took his followers to Masada, stripped the armory there, and returned to direct the siege. As the siege continued day and night, many of the attackers were killed by arrows and stones. After two days of attacks, the fortress Antonia was captured. The garrison soon sued for terms. The rebels granted safe passage to the royal troops, who withdrew. Their despondent Roman allies retreated to Herod's three towers, Hippicus, Phasael, and Mariamme. Menahem's men killed everyone in the palace. They killed the garrison, and torched it. Ananias the high priest and his brother Ezechias were apprehended near the canal in the palace and put to death.
The low-born Menahem began to be an unbearable tyrant over the people. He was wearing royal robes when he was attacked in the Temple by the higher-born Eleazar and his party, who had revolted from the Roman tyranny. They killed every one they caught, and dragged Menahem to public execution, and put him to death by multiple tortures.
Another Eleazar, son of Simon, a relative, escaped with a few others and became the despot ruler of Masada. Metilius, commander of the Roman garrison, concerned for the lives of his men, and being hard pressed by this Eleazar's siege, asked to be spared if he and his men surrendered arms and property. This was agreed. But as soon as they came down and laid down their arms, they were massacred, and Metilius alone escaped death by promising to become a Jew and be circumcised. This took place on the Sabbath.
War was now inevitable; for at the same time the Caesareans slaughtered all the Jews in Caearea, twenty thousand in one hour.
The whole province became a horror of bloody reprisals and slaughter, Jews against Jews who had armed themselves in defense against attack, Greeks and Romans killing Jews, and Jews killing them, in city after city, even in Egypt. Agrippa attempted to negotiate with the Jews in Jerusalem, but his emissaries were slain. Cestius, Florus and Tyrannius Priscus alternately gained and lost against the Jews. Ten thousand five hundred Jews were massacred by the people of Damascus.
Simon, son of Giora, caused such havoc in his own territory that Ananus, the ex-high priest, and his leaders sent an army against him. He fled with his marauding band of revolutionaries to Masada and plundered Idumea instead, where the people had to protect themselves by raising an army.
At this time Josephus son of Matthias, in favor with many of the people, became chief general and governor of the Jews in Galilee.
John of Gischala then seized power in Jerusalem, and after plotting to turn the people against Josephus by accusing him of plotting to become an absolute tyrant, he was discovered to be a treacherous schemer and fled to his town of Gischala. Many Galileans wanted to burn him and the town, but Josephus offered his partisans five days to abandon his cause. Three thousand of them joined Josephus. But John sent emissaries to Jerusalem, still warning that Josephus would become a tyrant. Josephus meanwhile reproached all the rebels for their rebellion. Using various stratagems multiple times to make them think he had superior forces, he promised pardon to any who would assist him. Various leaders were thus enticed to come over to him; and, being unwilling to put anyone to death, once he had them all, he imprisoned them. Galilee became quiet, and the Jews began making preparations for the impending struggle against Rome. The walls of Jerusalem were repaired and engines of war were constructed. Weapons and armor were forged and the young were trained for combat.
First Edition completed and finished 16 February 2018 - Friday after Ash Wednesday