The Life of Jesus in Harmony
Jews under Rome
Besides Christianity, the only major religion to survive the impact of Roman
domination was Judaism—symbolized by this seven branched candlestick, or
Menorah, from a relief in the ancient Palestinian catacombs of Beth Shetarim.
Scattered in small settlements throughout the Empire, and surrounded by pagans, the
Jews clung to their belief in one God, and to the literature, laws and language
which had united them as a people for some 1,300 years.
Although they lived under chronic suspicion for their strict adherence to a
monotheistic God, the Jews of Rome enjoyed periods of genuine toleration. Augustus
even decreed that synagogues were inviolable and that Jews were exempt from
appearing in court on their Sabbath
. Indeed, the growing dissatisfaction which many Romans felt toward the
proliferation of pagan cults led some to convert to Judaism.
Palestine, however, was a Jewish state which had been ruled by the Romans
since 63 B.C. Seething under the supervision of unpopular procurators, the Jews
rose up in fierce rebellion in 66 AD. But this uprising and other sporadic revolts
which followed were soon crushed by the legions. In 135 AD the Jews were
driven out of Jerusalem
and forbidden to re-enter—a dispersal that was to last until the 20th