Idea of a Jewish people invented

[size=150]Israeli best seller breaks national taboo :: Idea of a Jewish people invented, says historian[/size]
by Jonathan Cook
(Thursday, October 9, 2008)

"…if there was no exile, how is it that so many Jews ended up scattered around the globe before the modern state of Israel began encouraging them to “return”?

No one is more surprised than Shlomo Sand that his latest academic work has spent 19 weeks on Israel’s bestseller list – and that success has come to the history professor despite his book challenging Israel’s biggest taboo.

Dr. Sand argues that the idea of a Jewish nation – whose need for a safe haven was originally used to justify the founding of the state of Israel – is a myth invented little more than a century ago.

An expert on European history at Tel Aviv University, Dr. Sand drew on extensive historical and archaeological research to support not only this claim but several more – all equally controversial.

In addition, he argues that the Jews were never exiled from the Holy Land, that most of today’s Jews have no historical connection to the land called Israel and that the only political solution to the country’s conflict with the Palestinians is to abolish the Jewish state.

The success of When and How Was the Jewish People Invented? looks likely to be repeated around the world. A French edition, launched last month, is selling so fast that it has already had three print runs.

Translations are under way into a dozen languages, including Arabic and English. But he predicted a rough ride from the pro-Israel lobby when the book is launched by his English publisher, Verso, in the United States next year.

In contrast, he said Israelis had been, if not exactly supportive, at least curious about his argument. Tom Segev, one of the country’s leading journalists, has called the book “fascinating and challenging”.

Surprisingly, Dr. Sand said, most of his academic colleagues in Israel have shied away from tackling his arguments. One exception is Israel Bartal, a professor of Jewish history at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Writing in Haaretz, the Israeli daily newspaper, Dr Bartal made little effort to rebut Dr Sand’s claims. He dedicated much of his article instead to defending his profession, suggesting that Israeli historians were not as ignorant about the invented nature of Jewish history as Dr Sand contends.

The idea for the book came to him many years ago, Dr. Sand said, but he waited until recently to start working on it. “I cannot claim to be particularly courageous in publishing the book now,” he said. “I waited until I was a full professor. There is a price to be paid in Israeli academia for expressing views of this sort.”

Dr. Sand’s main argument is that until little more than a century ago, Jews thought of themselves as Jews only because they shared a common religion. At the turn of the 20th century, he said, Zionist Jews challenged this idea and started creating a national history by inventing the idea that Jews existed as a people separate from their religion.

Equally, the modern Zionist idea of Jews being obligated to return from exile to the Promised Land was entirely alien to Judaism, he added.

“Zionism changed the idea of Jerusalem. Before, the holy places were seen as places to long for, not to be lived in. For 2,000 years Jews stayed away from Jerusalem not because they could not return but because their religion forbade them from returning until the messiah came.”

The biggest surprise during his research came when he started looking at the archaeological evidence from the biblical era.

“I was not raised as a Zionist, but like all other Israelis I took it for granted that the Jews were a people living in Judea and that they were exiled by the Romans in 70AD.

“But once I started looking at the evidence, I discovered that the kingdoms of David and Solomon were legends.

“Similarly with the exile. In fact, you can’t explain Jewishness without exile. But when I started to look for history books describing the events of this exile, I couldn’t find any. Not one.

“That was because the Romans did not exile people. In fact, Jews in Palestine were overwhelming peasants and all the evidence suggests they stayed on their lands.”

Instead, he believes an alternative theory is more plausible: the exile was a myth promoted by early Christians to recruit Jews to the new faith. “Christians wanted later generations of Jews to believe that their ancestors had been exiled as a punishment from God.”

So, if there was no exile, how is it that so many Jews ended up scattered around the globe before the modern state of Israel began encouraging them to “return”?

Dr. Sand said that, in the centuries immediately preceding and following the Christian era, Judaism was a proselytising religion, desperate for converts. “This is mentioned in the Roman literature of the time.”

Jews travelled to other regions seeking converts, particularly in Yemen and among the Berber tribes of North Africa. Centuries later, the people of the Khazar kingdom in what is today south Russia, would convert en masse to Judaism, becoming the genesis of the Ashkenazi Jews of central and eastern Europe.

Dr. Sand pointed to the strange state of denial in which most Israelis live, noting that papers offered extensive coverage recently to the discovery of the capital of the Khazar kingdom next to the Caspian Sea.

Ynet, the website of Israel’s most popular newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, headlined the story: “Russian archaeologists find long-lost Jewish capital.” And yet none of the papers, he added, had considered the significance of this find to standard accounts of Jewish history.

One further question is prompted by Dr Sand’s account, as he himself notes: if most Jews never left the Holy Land, what became of them?

“It is not taught in Israeli schools but most of the early Zionist leaders, including David Ben Gurion [Israel’s first prime minister], believed that the Palestinians were the descendants of the area’s original Jews. They believed the Jews had later converted to Islam.”

Dr. Sand attributed his colleagues’ reticence to engage with him to an implicit acknowledgement by many that the whole edifice of “Jewish history” taught at Israeli universities is built like a house of cards.

The problem with the teaching of history in Israel, Dr Sand said, dates to a decision in the 1930s to separate history into two disciplines: general history and Jewish history. Jewish history was assumed to need its own field of study because Jewish experience was considered unique.

“There’s no Jewish department of politics or sociology at the universities. Only history is taught in this way, and it has allowed specialists in Jewish history to live in a very insular and conservative world where they are not touched by modern developments in historical research.

“I’ve been criticised in Israel for writing about Jewish history when European history is my specialty. But a book like this needed a historian who is familiar with the standard concepts of historical inquiry used by academia in the rest of the world.”


A version of this article originally appeared in The National (www.thenational.ae), published in Abu Dhabi.

world.mediamonitors.net/content/view/full/55691

Any thoughts?

My thought would be is this reminds me of the “Allegory of the cave” by Plato". Which shadow provides the most comfort for one’s belief. If indeed a truth brings no solace in one’s on well being, why heed it?

Yes; I’ll have to read his book before having any serious thoughts.

Book title: Matai ve’ech humtza ha’am hayehudi? (When and How Were the Jewish People Invented?)
Enlish and other translations set for some time in 2009 by Verso.

Critics seem to be citing a few angles, for what it’s worth:

  1. Too much conspiracy hypothesis presented by Prof. Sand
  2. Prof. Sand is not a specialist in Ancient History or Middle East History, but rather European History
  3. Prof. Sand writes with an agenda of inspiring a multi-ethnic Israel

Thanks for the article Bob.

let me start here:
— Dr. Sand’s main argument is that until little more than a century ago, Jews thought of themselves as Jews only because they shared a common religion.
O- Hardly. Unless he cares to explain Nehemiah’s racial concerns and the jewish obssecion with genealogies.

— At the turn of the 20th century, he said, Zionist Jews challenged this idea and started creating a national history by inventing the idea that Jews existed as a people separate from their religion.
O- Nehemiah was already doing that more than 2,000 years before, and the Christian Old Testament gives itself to their (Zionist’s) narrations. It is interesting that this author has to dismanttle many things in order to make his Zionist conspiracy theory work. He has to demonstrate that David and Solomon’s kingdoms were legends and I don’t see how he can do that. Now I am not saying that you had always to be born a jew to be a jew but that jewish scriptures, older than the Zionist movement, already were concerned with racial boundaries. They saw foreigners as a treath to the jewish people’s integrity and not by what they believed but what they were. Sure, an equivalence is drawn between being and belief, so that if you were a foreigner you could only believe in strange gods while being a jew determined your belief in God as well. Yet this only calls for the diversification of the story or history, for you must account for proselytization. Is it so improbable to think that there were conflictive schools of thought within the israely society, then as like today? I think not. So it was not that the Zionist invented jewish nationalism so much as that they focused and promoted one vein of jewish history that was concerned with a people’s identity, if not necessarly “national” identity, rather than religious forms of identification. I believe this to be the case because nationalist movements merely choose a religion and are not the products of a religion. Within religions you may find, as we saw with Christianity, slavery of Christians BY other Christians, and the wars of Christians against other Christians even though they confessed the same faith in salvation by Jesus Christ. It is then, I think, at least probable that even in pre-Roman times there was at least an idea for a jewish state defined not by religion but by other means, such as birth and blood (and at times even language), at least in a part of the society, probably affluent and concerned with racial purity as well as the passage of property. A second group, perhaps of less means, more popular, became more interested with the expansion of the faith in a very communal form. In the first group you were a jew by birth- therefore you have minimal social responsibilities and could live a life of luxury. The second group was composed of jews by faith or confession and focused on social justice. Riches are not necessary were all all mandated to share and so the only requirement was to proselytise unto the rich classes. (By the way note that I am not providing any referrences for this attempt at armchairm history).

— Equally, the modern Zionist idea of Jews being obligated to return from exile to the Promised Land was entirely alien to Judaism, he added.
O- This is not true. Messianism did contain the idea of a return, not “obligated”, but to be expected. Unless the Zionists wrote the entire Bible…

— “Zionism changed the idea of Jerusalem. Before, the holy places were seen as places to long for, not to be lived in. For 2,000 years Jews stayed away from Jerusalem not because they could not return but because their religion forbade them from returning until the messiah came.”
O- Thus…the Zionists simply grafted this tradition and made it independent of messiahs. But Jerusalem was not a mere object of pilgrinage, like Mecca, but the place where jews lived and built their Temple. It may have become that after 70AD.

— “I was not raised as a Zionist, but like all other Israelis I took it for granted that the Jews were a people living in Judea and that they were exiled by the Romans in 70AD.
O- He is taking “exiled” as an official roman declaration. The fact is that after 70AD being a jew in Jerusalem may have made your life a living hell, full of opportunities for scapegoating and persecution. Under such circumstances there would be no need for a Roman official to exile a jew: They would probably have left out of their own will though feeling as if they had been forced out of their city, like an “exile”.

— “But once I started looking at the evidence, I discovered that the kingdoms of David and Solomon were legends.
O- Probably, but not the idea Romans had that Juda was populated by jews, whether because they had conquered Cannan or simply out-breed the other peoples or were the most organized in the region. The accomodations given to the jews by the Roman officials seem to indicate that at least in their minds the jews represented an ancient people and not just a parasite to the region. Why does the author ignore this? Because he has to deal quickly with this and dismiss any ancestral right the Zionists may have claimed, but aside from that, based on the Roman attitute towards jews I would say that David and Solomon were not just fantasies and legends, like Camelot and King Arthur.

— “Similarly with the exile. In fact, you can’t explain Jewishness without exile. But when I started to look for history books describing the events of this exile, I couldn’t find any. Not one.
“That was because the Romans did not exile people. In fact, Jews in Palestine were overwhelming peasants and all the evidence suggests they stayed on their lands.”
O- “Overwhelmingly”??? And how shall we defined the events of the second half of the first century? Landed persons did not revolt against Roman authorities en mass and even if the revolt was caused by a minority, you can go back to Maccabean rebellion and realize that there was an active jewish resistance that would have required drastic measures even against landed persons, causing some, if not all, of what I consider a minority, to opt for relocation to parts east, north and south.

— Instead, he believes an alternative theory is more plausible: the exile was a myth promoted by early Christians to recruit Jews to the new faith. “Christians wanted later generations of Jews to believe that their ancestors had been exiled as a punishment from God.”
O- Begs the question: If they stayed in Palestine then how could the Church say that they had been exiled? If they were land owners, and land being such a aprt of jewish theology, how could they claim that they were being punished?? Either they were gone and the lie could work or they stayed and the exile is a Zionist myth, suppressing the truth that the majority of jews never left their farms in Palestine after two unsuccessful jewish revolts against Roman authorities. Makes you wonder if the jews that revolted still considered those that stayed “jews” or “apostates”?

— So, if there was no exile, how is it that so many Jews ended up scattered around the globe before the modern state of Israel began encouraging them to “return”?
Dr. Sand said that, in the centuries immediately preceding and following the Christian era, Judaism was a proselytising religion, desperate for converts. “This is mentioned in the Roman literature of the time.”
Jews travelled to other regions seeking converts, particularly in Yemen and among the Berber tribes of North Africa. Centuries later, the people of the Khazar kingdom in what is today south Russia, would convert en masse to Judaism, becoming the genesis of the Ashkenazi Jews of central and eastern Europe.
O- So an overwhelming majority of land owning jews who were undisturbed by the revolt and were left alone after 70AD to live happily in Palestine then decided to close the farm so that they could go to Yemen and make converts??? The jews were never Christians nor Mormons. Even today they remain a semi-secluded religion. Jewish scriptures speak more about the efforts by the jewish community to defend itself against it’s neighbors than of it’s efforts to convert them to judaism.

— One further question is prompted by Dr Sand’s account, as he himself notes: if most Jews never left the Holy Land, what became of them?
“It is not taught in Israeli schools but most of the early Zionist leaders, including David Ben Gurion [Israel’s first prime minister], believed that the Palestinians were the descendants of the area’s original Jews. They believed the Jews had later converted to Islam.”
O- Maybe to Christianity which believe in forced conversion but Islamic cities, like Cordova, were celebrated for their tolerance. Jews fleeing Christian persecutions fleed to Muslim cities not in order to become muslims themselves but to live as jews in muslim lands. But again, if they did when they did not have to, then I question again just how much of a jew (both racially and confessionally) they were to begin with.

— Dr. Sand attributed his colleagues’ reticence to engage with him to an implicit acknowledgement by many that the whole edifice of “Jewish history” taught at Israeli universities is built like a house of cards.
O- I would not take their silence as encouraging, for they might just be refusing to give literary tripe a day in the sun, it’s fifteen minutes of undeserving fame. Perhaps they feel there is nothing there to really overturn because it is so radical as to denounce itself. It is a provockative piece of work, I say, without reading it, but not a convincing work.

Really to ask where the discord and disharmony comes from.

Shalom

Hi TheStumps,

OK, those are good reasons to take what he says ‘with a pinch of salt’ …

Hi Omar,

I think that we have to differentiate here. What Sand seems to be saying is that the religion had always been central to Jewish identity and that for at least a century, there has been a movement towards agnosticism and atheism – especially after the Shoa. The interesting thing is that, although Zionism cites rights to Jerusalem and Israel because of Biblical sources, this can hardly be compelling to non-believers. Since then of course, the state of Israel has encouraged Jews, especially from former soviet countries, to find a national cohesion they haven’t had in the lands the came from.

There are questions that have to be asked of Judaism, just as it has been asked of Christianity. There seems to be a lot to be said for the idea that the Dispersion was less something that the peasants of the land, but more what the city-dwellers were subject to. Deporting the residents and replacing them with their own people is recorded in the Old Testament as the strategy of the Assyrians and (I think) of the Babylonians, but it doesn’t fit the Romans. Those Jews in Jerusalem and other main towns who did take flight were probably in fear of their lives rather than being deported by the Romans. If they had stayed they would have died.

Prior to Zionism, there were also a number of Jews who were buying land in Palestine, irrigating it and, in this way, gaining recognition and acceptance. The peaceful “occupation” would have probably been no problem. Jews and Arabs alike were Semites, and it is only through the mixing with other nationalities, especially eastern ones, that the “typical” Jew lost his likeness to the Arabs. It is quite feasible that those Jews remaining on the land at the time of the dispersion could, in the duration of time, blend in with Samaritans and others living in the country and after generations, accept Islam as a revival of abrahamic religion.

It is the enforcement of the British mandate and decisions made at the end of WWII that put the Palestinians at odds, and when shiploads of Jews came, the real conflict began. Unfortunately this is one of a whole string of mistakes that the British made in the Middle East – although the world community is also to blame.

There has been for some time indications that David and Solomon are exaggerations. In Egypt my wife and I spoke to experts who showed us that many of the stories of David have equivalents told of the various Pharaohs called Ramses. David is the prime subject for those people who show the contradictions of the Bible as history. Whether their kingdoms were as large and as controlled as claimed is questionable. There was a lot of compromising to do in order that the Jews could encourage travellers to pass through their country and thereby bring trade. David’s ability to wage wars seems to have been at a different level than suggested in the Bible, and Solomon’s wisdom still has to be affirmed by other sources than the Bible. Only the Ethiopian “Kebra Nagast” (about 700 years old) tells the story of the Queen of Sheba’s relationship to Solomon and differs to the biblical account.

But those scriptures are far older and after nearly two thousand years, what relevance could they have other than to believing Jews and Christians?

I agree that the past has shown some strange expressions of faith, but I still think that Sand is right about Jerusalem being more of a place that Jews yearned after, rather than a place Jews lived in. It is supposed to be the Messiah who will change that. It was the network of Jewish communities that enabled them to thrive despite a lot of oppression and hindrances by Christians, and their ability to blend in and make themselves useful in the towns and countries they lived in. Theirs was not a nationalistic idealism that be regarded as subversive, but an idealistic yearning.

Israel had already been divided up by the Romans and partially given over to Herod and later his sons, who served as a ‘client kings’ or ‘ethnarchs’, given political leadership over the ethnic group of Jews and Samaritans. Herod (the Great) ruled with brutality but managed to sway the Sanhedrin through the rebuilding of the Temple. He wasn’t in any lineage to David but an Edomite, an ethnic group of people that are always explicitly mentioned in the Old Testament, even though they were often allies. Hadad the Edomite, however, was “an adversary to Solomon”.

The area of Decapolis, ten cities on the eastern frontier of the Roman Empire in Jordan, Israel, and Syria, had been extensively Hellenised. The ten cities were not an official league or political unit, but they were grouped together because of their language, culture, location, and political status. The Decapolis cities were centres of Greek and Roman culture in a region that was otherwise Semitic (Nabatean, Aramean, and Jewish). So you see that the national state that you imagine was not there.

If you call upon history before this period, you might as well give the Canaanites the same rights.

Shalom

Hi Bob,

— I think that we have to differentiate here. What Sand seems to be saying is that the religion had always been central to Jewish identity and that for at least a century, there has been a movement towards agnosticism and atheism – especially after the Shoa. The interesting thing is that, although Zionism cites rights to Jerusalem and Israel because of Biblical sources, this can hardly be compelling to non-believers.
O- It isn’t compelling. Their only right to the land is a promise God, their version of god, made to them. What if Allah had promised Jerusalem to Mohammed? But Zionism was using scripture not as a theological text but as a historical text, in all that atheism and agnosticism you mention, to prove the existence of a prior jewish state in the land of Palestine and thus encourage investment and immigration towards this land rather than Argentina and Uganda. The Zionist were shrewd in picking Palestine over the other options because of the appeal it would have to believers because jewish religion, in it’s prime, was a tribal religion which easily translates into the nationalism, a new religion, of the Zionists. The point is again that Zionism did not invent the idea of Solomon’s kingdom, nor the Cannan expansion. Neither did Zionism invent the idea of the jewish people. All of these concepts had a full life in scriptures codified some 2,000 years ago before theiir time. I can disagree with Zionism and even with Moses’ imperialism, but I also see these as human features we project onto God. Islam, for that regard, is just as bent on empire.

— Since then of course, the state of Israel has encouraged Jews, especially from former soviet countries, to find a national cohesion they haven’t had in the lands the came from.
O- And they were more than encouraged by a man and his policies: Hitler. There was already arab resistance to jewish immigration, prior and after the Balfour declaration. European jews were, at the time, perhaps happy enough to be assimilated into European countries rather than leave for a foreign desert, but the Nuremberg Laws and eventual genocide changed all of this.

— There are questions that have to be asked of Judaism, just as it has been asked of Christianity. There seems to be a lot to be said for the idea that the Dispersion was less something that the peasants of the land, but more what the city-dwellers were subject to. Deporting the residents and replacing them with their own people is recorded in the Old Testament as the strategy of the Assyrians and (I think) of the Babylonians, but it doesn’t fit the Romans. Those Jews in Jerusalem and other main towns who did take flight were probably in fear of their lives rather than being deported by the Romans. If they had stayed they would have died.
O- That is what I said.

— Prior to Zionism, there were also a number of Jews who were buying land in Palestine, irrigating it and, in this way, gaining recognition and acceptance.
O- Nor according to J.M. Roberts who says that there were anti-jewish riots (page 906 of his History of the World). They were westerners comming into a traditional society that also laid religious significance to the adquisition of land. It was a volatile situation from the start.

— The peaceful “occupation” would have probably been no problem. Jews and Arabs alike were Semites, and it is only through the mixing with other nationalities, especially eastern ones, that the “typical” Jew lost his likeness to the Arabs.
It is quite feasible that those Jews remaining on the land at the time of the dispersion could, in the duration of time, blend in with Samaritans and others living in the country and after generations, accept Islam as a revival of abrahamic religion.
O- Occupation was never peaceful, even in this case, according to Roberts. And though semites, they were also the Chosen People of God and often, though semite, concern with racial purity even from contamination from other semites. Why? because the semitic label was not one they used to identify themselves. They had subjugated the other semites of the land. For them there were jews and there were arabs, moabatites, phillistines, phoenicians etc, not one conglomerate of ONE people= Semites. This is true even of Arabs. They did not receive the jews with open arms saying: Ah here come our other semite brothers. No. They saw it as an occupation of Muslim Lands by European jews. Whether the "typical jew “lost his likeness” or not is quite impossible to know. It is not like the jews produced even one painting of David or Solomon during his reign. In fact, jewish culture, by itself, produced very little art. Sure they could have mixed, or they may not have mixed. But reading Nehemiah, and the rest of the Old Testament, I would conclude that they did not because it was a religious duty to not intermarry with the godless, the phillistines etc., and I am sure even the arabs. We need not presume a higher level of tolerance then than we see now. As far as accepting Islam, again, maybe, but Islamic lands did not require any compulsion to convert and so you could remain a jew under their rule (and just be annoyed by taxation), so that, I think, if they became muslims it was because they were not much of a believing jew to begin with. Men like Maimonides did not simply fade into the Islamic tide. By the way, the jews had no need for revivals, a very Christian idea, and so I don’t think that they saw Islam as a revival of their religion. They saw probably what we see, which is a pastiche, a plagilarism and that is why they upset Mohammed and he decide to borrow, after that, more from Christian misionaries who would at least entretain him in their hopes of using this erroneous but theistic view (as Paul had taught them) to introduce the correct view.

— It is the enforcement of the British mandate and decisions made at the end of WWII that put the Palestinians at odds, and when shiploads of Jews came, the real conflict began. Unfortunately this is one of a whole string of mistakes that the British made in the Middle East – although the world community is also to blame.
O- Again, the conflict already had started before the end of WW2. Arabs also were fond of the new religion of nationalism and thus they resisted, from the start jewish immigration (see J.M. Roberts “History of the World” page 904). If we have to day a “Palestinian Question” it is because we never resolved the “Jewish Question” or gave it the wrong (“Final”) “Solution”.

On a side note: How do states begin? How are nations or countries born and defined? War and violence. The US, for example, sits on adquired land. Same with China, India etc. Arabia is honest enough to be name after the ruling power of Saud. People forget that national identities are forged with hammer blows. That empires extend as far as their spear can reach or the spears of others that sympathise with them.
Suppose that we take this view at face value, i.e. there was a peaceful movement for integration, which, if it had been allowed to continue, would have created a pluralistic society, maybe like the one the world saw in Spain. The problem is that this was not a solution to the jews who would have had to live, again, as second class citizens in a foreign land not their own. They would have lived in peace arbitrarily. Who could afford any more pogroms? Who could afford trusting that another Hitler would not rise? That their rights would not again be in the hands of others whims. Humans are fickle, said Machiavelli and so the jews eventually learned, and so sonner or later even this integration (just as the Napoleonic one) would have failed leading to another round of persecution. Their best future was a city like those in Spain, where they would have “enjoyed” a second class citizenship and higher taxations- bearable, but not ideal as the Zionist saw. This would also be contingent on just how which Islamic rulers would prevail. Some call for toleration and others behead their non-believers.

— There has been for some time indications that David and Solomon are exaggerations.
O- The question is not whether They were exaggerated but whether there were Israelis states, even if moderate, in Palestine.

— In Egypt my wife and I spoke to experts who showed us that many of the stories of David have equivalents told of the various Pharaohs called Ramses. David is the prime subject for those people who show the contradictions of the Bible as history. Whether their kingdoms were as large and as controlled as claimed is questionable.
O- But the question we have to ask is not whether the kingdom of Israel and Juda were big or small but whether they existed at all in ancient Palestine because the issue here not necessarly the claims on borders which some jews even zionist would concede, but the declaration of Palestine as an ancestral israelite homeland. And if it was a forgery or exaggeration, I am left wondering why settle, in telling a tall-tale, to just this miniscule tract of land. It is far more likely that this land standing between two and sometimes three empires, was necessarly no man’s land where a group of nomads could craftily carve out their own state under the protection and patronage, even alliance, then as it is now, from one of those greater regional powers.

— There was a lot of compromising to do in order that the Jews could encourage travellers to pass through their country and thereby bring trade.
O- Israel is home to ancient ports and probably had traders visit them reguraly. Being so close to the greek lands, I don’t see isolation as possible, nor trade as difficult. On what basis do you think this not to be the case?

— But those scriptures are far older and after nearly two thousand years, what relevance could they have other than to believing Jews and Christians?
O- They had relevance because others defined this people by these scriptures, for better or worse. It was not an identity they could shed or were allowed to shed and so, even to the unbelieving jews (the number is not clear) Jerusalem represented a homeland because the scriptures were a combination of history and theology. It attempts to tell, like Herodotus after, the story of the known world. Even if the covenant had failed, even if the supernatural is taken out, enough was left to make a case for a jewsih homeland in Palestine.

— I agree that the past has shown some strange expressions of faith, but I still think that Sand is right about Jerusalem being more of a place that Jews yearned after, rather than a place Jews lived in. It is supposed to be the Messiah who will change that.
O- Yearning in expectation, but always within the bounds of history, meaning that they yearned for a messianic delivery and a return to Palestine, not just as a simple yearning but as a vivid future life within Jerusalem’s walls. I am sure that for a great majority of poor jews Jerusalem was a name, but to rich jews (probably Zionists) jerusalem perhaps spoke to their blood, just as later former-greeks would flock to Greece to reclaim it and the Crusaders towards Jerusalem and now Al Qaeda with the south of Europe. It is their Land by “Divine Right”.

— It was the network of Jewish communities that enabled them to thrive despite a lot of oppression and hindrances by Christians, and their ability to blend in and make themselves useful in the towns and countries they lived in. Theirs was not a nationalistic idealism that be regarded as subversive, but an idealistic yearning.
O- Anti-semitism would change that. We saw that with the Romans, resistence movements, messainic movements, rose against the occupation. After the destruction of the Second Temple, religious and political center of the jewish state, of course the jews that were left were more careful about calls for a return to Jerusalem or the claims of messiahship, but this does not affect my argument that Jerusalem was a Jewish city prior to Ottoman rule, prior to Mohammed’s conquest and so there were grounds to call for a “return” by the Zionists. Subversion was not invented by Zionism but was essential to the jewish establishment (Maccabes) and faith.

— Israel had already been divided up by the Romans and partially given over to Herod and later his sons, who served as a ‘client kings’ or ‘ethnarchs’, given political leadership over the ethnic group of Jews and Samaritans.
O- And Herod was opposed by politically by jews. Why, if as you say, they had no political pretensions to the rule of Jerusalem but only idealistic ones??

— Herod (the Great) ruled with brutality but managed to sway the Sanhedrin through the rebuilding of the Temple.
O- Which was seen as a travestry by certain jews, Jesus included, for it exchanged true power for apparent power.

— He wasn’t in any lineage to David but an Edomite, an ethnic group of people that are always explicitly mentioned in the Old Testament, even though they were often allies. Hadad the Edomite, however, was “an adversary to Solomon”.
O- Herod was not the head of the jewsih state. he was not the messiah or annointed kind of God, but a puppet of foreign occupators which archeologically we can see was hated to no end even if he built much of what we see today in the holy land.

— The area of Decapolis, ten cities on the eastern frontier of the Roman Empire in Jordan, Israel, and Syria, had been extensively Hellenised. The ten cities were not an official league or political unit, but they were grouped together because of their language, culture, location, and political status. The Decapolis cities were centres of Greek and Roman culture in a region that was otherwise Semitic (Nabatean, Aramean, and Jewish). So you see that the national state that you imagine was not there.
O- The frontiers may have been exaggerated, the capital was not and that is my point.

— If you call upon history before this period, you might as well give the Canaanites the same rights.
O- Why not? But, alas, they did not survive as a cohesive people. Perhaps they shoul have killed Jesus and then they would have survived as the killers of God.

The truth will first piss you off and then it will set you free.

Okay, let’s go off into a hypothetical here. Let’s say without an iota of a doubt through some scientific discovery the Book of Genesis in the Bible was largely correct about the creation of this world in it’s accounts. People who had comfort with no belief of a God and had their thoughts set directly through previous scientific conclusions, would that ‘truth’ set them free? Please for the sake of this argument address directly to this question.

What if the discovery is that god is a giant armadillo.
A debunking of the moses story will end christianity, judism, and islam. That would set many free.

Somehow, I knew you wouldn’t address the question specifically. That lends me to believe you wouldn’t be set ‘free’ on hearing that.

We may never get to the point of no doubt. All qualms should be analyzed, and there will always be a uncertainity in any idea. And those that do not heed it , live as prisoners.

If my imprisonment is the result in believing in Christianity, then I will happily wear these shackles. I would rather be a ‘slave of God’s Love’, than be a ‘Master of Doubt’.