Wednesday, 10 February 2016

The tragedy of Calvary. Part 22.

The tragedy of Calvary: or the minute details of Christ's life from Palm Sunday morning till the resurrection and ascension taken prophecy, history, revelations and ancient writings
by Meagher, Jas. L. (James Luke), 1848-1920

Herod did everything to foster the friendship of Augustus Caesar, his patron, who loved peace and hated war, and who found the Jewish king a useful ally on the borders of the Orient. In the year B. C. 23, Herod sent his two sons by his slaughtered queen Mariamne to Rome for their education. The emperor received them with open arms, showered honors on them, and gave them every faculty for enjoying the high pagan life then prevailing in the midst of the Mistress of the World. They formed a close friendship with their tutor's son, whom Virgil flattered in his infancy by applying to him in his fourth Eclogue the Messianic hope of Israel. 1 It was Herod himself who took his sons to Rome, and there he was rewarded by a gift from Augustus of the districts of Lebanon, Ituria, Traconitis and the rich plains of Hauran, where Abraham once lived before setting out for Palestine. The latter regions swarmed with robbers, but on his return the enterprising king soon reduced these bandit tribes to subjection.

A year after Herod reported in person his success to Agrippa, Augustus' minister, then living at Mitylene, where he went to meet him. After years Herod went to Antioch to pay respects to Augustus in person, and there he received from him the districts of Ulatha, and Panias, which he united to the Jewish kingdom.

Herod now reigned over a kingdom larger than ever ruled by any Hebrew king ; the glory of David and Solomon was eclipsed. From Lebanon to the river of Egypt on the south, and from the sea-coast on the west to the regions of the deserts of the East stretched the Hebrew kingdom, and he was the representative of Rome in all these vast regions, and his consent was to be received before any Roman consuls or governors could do anything,

In the year B. C. 24, Herod married a Hebrew maiden, another Mariamnc, daughter of Boethus, a priest descending from a rich Jewish family of Alexandria. He called her the "fairest woman in the world." He deposed Jesus, son of Phabi, who was high priest at the time, and placed the mitre of Aaron on the head of his father-in-law. Boethus. The latter was a learned man, a great addition to the Sadducee priesthood, but in politics he was a Herodian. Thus Herod, as a wise politician, strengthened his influence with Rome on one hand, and with the Hebrews on the other.

From the days of the Greek conquest under Alexander, and from the time that Pompey swept over Palestine and the Levant, Greek and Roman ideas, laws, customs and civilization had encroached on Judaism. Little by little the strong conservatism of the Jew had been breaking in the country ; although Jerusalem under the Rabbis, the Pharisees, and Sadducees remained intensely Jewish.

Greek was the language of the Roman court, Herod introduced it into his court, and soon it was spoken by the upper classes, as French is to-day by the courts and nobles of Europe. Latin was spoken by the Romans in his dominions and also by the middle classes. But He brew remained the language of the temple priesthood, and that of the Rabbis of the synagogues while the Ara-mean, or the Syro-Chaldaic, was spoken by the Jewish lower classes. This was the reason that the inscription on the cross of Christ was written in these three languages, so that all could read it, and know why Christ was condemned to death. This was why St. Matthew's Gospel was first written in the Aramean, why the other Evangelists composed the Gospels in Greek, and other parts of the New Testament were in Latin.

Then Herod began to foster Greek and Roman customs. When he rebuilt Samaria he called the city by the Greek name of Sebaste, had Greek coins struck, and allowed them to build pagan temples. At Panias, later named Caesarea Philippi, resting on one of the southern slopes of Lebanon, he erected -a beautiful temple of white marble to his patron Augustus. Then he built another to him at Samaria, surrounding it with beautiful approaches. In heathen style, at Jerusalem, he began the restoration of the palace of the Machabees with decorative rows of pillars, wide porticoes and baths calling one wing Caesar and the other Agrippa. On a hill, at the mouth of a deep gorge leading to the Dead Sea, where he had successfully defended himself against the Parthians, he planned a Roman castle, rising like an Italian citadel and called it the Herodium.

On the coast of the Meditereanean he built a new city and called it Caesarea, to flatter the emperor Caesar. He repaired the aqueduct Solomon made and projected others. The chief old stronghold of the Machabees, the Baris, on the high rock to the northwest of the temple he restored, extended till it became like a city, and called it the Antonia. There he lived in Oriental splendor, and there took place the trial of Christ we will relate in a later chapter. Temples to Neptune, Apollo, Hercules, Bacchus, Minerva, Victory, Astarte and other deities adorned the cities he built; but they were not allowed in Jerusalem, for the Jews would die as martyrs before they would allow the Holy City to be thus profaned.

But on the upper Tyropoeon valley he built a theater where tragedies were played, and an amphitheater for games for the numerous heathen converts to Judaism, who flocked there during his reign. German, Gaulic, and Thracian troops served in Herod's armies ; his coins bear Greek inscriptions; foreign elements gained a footing in spite of Rabbinical and Pharisaical denunciations; the outer court of the temple was thronged with heathens at the sacrifices and feasts ; the Ptolemies enriched it with costly gifts; Sosius, when he aided Herod to take the city, gave a golden crown for the altar of incense ; Augus tus and his empress presented costly wine-jars ; Agrippa, Herod's friend, had a daily sacrifice offered in the temple for Augustus ; the example of the emperor was followed by numerous heathen men of wealth and influence, and the temple became a gathering-place for all the nations Rome had subdued at the time Christ walked the earth. Herod's religion was a strange mixture of Judaism and heathenism. Although he laid out vast sums on the Temple, wherein Moses' beautiful and striking Liturgy, was celebrated twice a day, in the other cities he founded or rebuilt, pagan gods were worshiped. Gaza, to the south, adored Jupiter, as the rain god, who fertilized the earth; there rose statues of the Victory-bringer Apollo the Sun, Hercules, Fortune, lo, Diana, Juno, and Venus. 2 Ascalon adored Jupiter, Neptune, Apollo, Minerva, the Sun, and Astarte the Oriental Venus the goddess of adultery and impure love. The rocks at Joppa bore the image of Andromeda. At Dora, to the north of Caesarea, rose a laurel-crowned Jupiter. At Ptolemais was the goddess of Fortune, Jupiter, Apollo, Diana, Venus, Pluto, Serapis, Cybele and other divinities. In Tyre were statues of Baal ; " Lord," and Astarte, the Oriental name of Venus. One was Nemrod, founder of the Babylonian empire, who induced the seventy-two families to rebel against Sem, his grand-uncle, heir of Noe, and built the tower of Babel, and rejected the religion of Adam. He was the founder of paganism, and for that sin the language were changed and the nations scattered, Astarte was his mother Betis whom he married, and she was called Astarte by the Orientals, Venus by the Romans, and Athene by the Greeks. 3

Damascus bowed down before statues of Jupiter, Hercules, Bacchus, Diana, Minerva, Fortune, Victory, or other divinities in its temples built or restored by Herod. Even the emperor, his patron, was not forgotten, and at Panias, later named Caesarea Philippi, Herod constructed a temple to Augustus, although the old worship of Pan, as the first name indicates, was not entirely neglected. There also Astarte, with her horn of plenty, and other heathen divinities had their votaries.

1 Grantz, Vol. III., p.. 308.

Schurer, p. 369.

Athene was Minerva; Venus was Αφροδίτη