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The 35th Generation
The School of Pumbedita
(4080 AM - 320 CE)
Rabba and the size of the Earth
Abaye and the Solar Cycle
Aha and the rotation of the Earth
(4080 AM - 320 CE)
The Council of Nicaea
(4085 AM - 325 CE)
(4090 AM - 330 CE)
(4091 AM - 331 CE)
The pilgrim of Bordeaux
(4093 AM - 333 CE)
The Tabula Peutingeriana
(4110 AM - 350 CE)
Hamnuna the Elder and the rotation of the Earth
(4110 AM - 350 CE)
Jewish revolt against Gallus
(4111 AM - 351 CE)
Hillel II and the Calendar
(4119 AM - 359 CE)
Emperor Julian "the Apostate"
(4122 AM - 362 CE)
The earthquake of 363 CE
(4146 AM - 386 CE)
Emperor Theodosius splits the Roman Empire
(4155 AM - 395 CE)
The Talmud of Jerusalem
(4160 AM - 400 CE)
The Vulgate translation in Latin
(4165 AM - 405 CE)
End of the Sanhedrin
(4185 AM - 425 CE)
Previous << Generation 35 >> Next
Hebrew years 4080 to 4200 (320 - 440 CE)
This Generation falls into the cycle of 7 generations which started with the 7th Generation of Lamech, followed by the 14th Generation of the Flood, then the 21st Generation of the Exodus which represented the first "return to Sion" (the Promised Land), followed by the 28th Generation of Sion which witnessed the second return to the Promised Land, after the Babylonian captivity.
Now this 35th Generation represents both the punishment of God against the last great empire, Rome, and the return to the faith for the Jews: after the destruction of their physical nation by Rome, their nation has become spiritual only, their faith, while Rome had to abandon their pagan religion and adopt a monotheist religion, Christianity. Most of the Book of the Zohar was also consigned before the end of this generation, until it will be revealed some 1000 years later by a Jewish scholar in Spain.
Rabba bar Nahmani was the head of the school of Pumbedita and one of the leading Amoraim of the third generation. It was a time when, after the completion of the Mishna in Judea, the Jewish community of Babylonia set themselves to the task of compiling the commentaries that completed the original work: this became the Talmud of Babylon, or Babli, which took several generations of disciples (called Amoraim) to complete. The main centers of Jewish life at the time were in the cities of Sura, Pumbedita (near modern-day Fallujah, Iraq) and Nehardea (near modern-day Ramadi, Iraq).
Babylonia, at the time, was under the Sassanid Empire, which replaced the Parthian Empire, while Rome lost these Eastern provinces and retreated to the borders of Syria-Palestina. The Sassanids offered religious freedom and one of their early leader, Shapur, had befriended one of the Talmudist of Babylonion, the amora Samuel (who died in 257 CE), and a later leader, Shapur II, renewed similar friendly ties with another amora called Raba (not to be confused with Rabba bar Nahmani). It is said that Shapur II who reigned all his life, from the moment he was born in 309 until his death in 379, had a Jewish mother. Here is an anecdocte about her:
Once a certain man was sentenced by the Court of Raba to receive corporal punishment because he had intercourse with a Gentile woman. Raba had the man punished and he died. The matter reached the ears of King Shapur [II] and he sought to punish Raba. Whereupon Ifra Hormuz, the mother of King Shapur said to her son: 'Do not interfere with the Jews because whatever they ask of their God He grants them.' The king asked her, 'For example?' - 'They pray and rain falls [she replied].' He retorted: 'This must have been because it is the season for rain; let them pray now, in the [summer] period of Tammuz for rain.' She sent a message to Raba: 'Concentrate now your mind and pray for rain.' He prayed but no rain fell. He then exclaimed: 'Master of the Universe, O God, we have heard with our ears, our fathers have told us; a work You did in their days, in the days of old.’[Psalms 44,2]. But as for us we have not seen [it] with our eyes. Whereupon there followed such a heavy fall of rain that the gutters of Mahuza [the place where Raba lived] emptied their waters into the Tigris. --- Talmud, Taanit, 24b
Raba and Rabba bar Nahmani's nephew, Abaye, are numerously quoted in the Talmud. Abaye's family was said to be descended from the priest House of Eli and thus were under the divine decree to live shorter lives than the other Levites. His uncle Rabba ben Nahmani died at the age of 40, in year 320, but Abaya died older in year 339.
Raba is mentioned in one portion of the Talmud about the size of the Earth:
Raba said: The world is six thousand parasangs and the thickness of the heaven [rakia’] is one thousand parasangs;[1a] the first one [of these statements] is a tradition, while the other is [based on] reason. --- Talmud, Pesachim, 94a
The parasang was a unit of distance used in Persia. It had the value of about 5.5 km. Other units widely used in the Talmud are the mil, which was a quarter of a parasang thus about 1375 m, and the cubit which was one 2000th of a mil, thus 0.69 m. But these values differ at times between regions. For example in Egypt the cubit was about half a meter. Yet, if we use the Persian measurement model, which was probably the one used by the Talmudists of Babylon, the world would have a circumference of 6000 parasangs which is equivalent to about 6000 x 5.5 km = 33,000 km. How does this number comply with Science? The circumference of the Earth is known to be of about 40,000 km, at the Equator latitude. But Pumbedita, which was located near today city of Fallujah in Iraq, is at the latitude of 33.35o, so the circumference of the eartn at this latitude is reduced by the factor of Cosinus (33.35o) = 0.8353. Thus the circumference of the Earth at the latitude of Pumbedita is 40,000 km x 0.8353 = 33,400 km. This value is very close to the tradition that Raba knew,[1b] without having been able to confirm it by measurement ! In comparison, Jerusalem is located at a latitude of 31.8o, giving a circumference of 34,000 km, which is close enough too.
About Abaye's knowledge of Astronomy, here is a passage of the Talmud that shows he was perfectly aware that the seasonal cycle was of 28 years:
Our Rabbis taught: He who sees the sun at its turning point [at the start of a new season, at every equinox or solstice], the moon in its power [at the Spring equinox, in month Nisan, the tides are the strongest on Earth due to the Moon], the planets in their orbits [according to a certain alignment], and the signs of the zodiac in their orderly progress [according to a slow movement now known as the precession of the equinoxes], should say: Blessed be He who has wrought the work of creation. And when [does this solar turning point happen]? — Abaye said: Every twenty-eight years when the cycle begins again and the Nisan [Spring] equinox falls in Saturn on the evening of Tuesday [the day when the Sun and the Moon were both created, thus initiating their combined effects to render a cycle], going into Wednesday.--- Talmud, Berachoth, 59b
This particular solar cycle, already known to the Sages of the Talmud, has only been officially discovered in 1843 when the German astronomer Samuel Heinrich Schwabe noticed it. This astronomical observation has been translated into the common calendar with the count of leap years: a leap year occurs every 4 years and adds one day to the calendar on that year; as this extra day could fall on any day of a week of 7 days, the cycle comes back to the same day after 4 x 7 years, thus 28 years.
Another contemporary rabbi of this time was Rabbi Aha ben Jacob who generally dealt with mysterious concepts and was also an exorciser. He commented on the opinion of the “Sages”, meaning the secular Jewish thinkers and the non-Jewish ones, about the Earth which was known at their time to be of round shape. The question evolved about whether the Earth was spinning and the rest was immobile, or the contrary:
Our Rabbis taught: The Sages of Israel [the Jewish philosophers] maintain: The Galgal is stationary while the mazzaloth [the stars] revolve; while the Sages of the nations of the world [the Greek and Roman philosophers] maintain: The Galgal revolves and the mazzaloth are stationary. Rabbi observed: This disproves their view: we never find the Wain [Ursa Major] in the south or Scorpio in the north. To this Rabbi Aha ben Jacob demurred: Perhaps it is like the pivot of a millstone, or like the door socket? --- Talmud, Pesachim, 94b
Some modern readers read this passage of the Talmud as saying that the ancient Hebrews also believed that the Earth was immobile and that the heavens evolved around it. This assumption was caused by a misinterpretation of the word Galgal which was thought to be the Earth (because since modern times, we know that the Earth rotates on itself). But nowhere in the Talmud is the Earth referred as Galgal. And the assumption is contradicted by the rest of the passage with the opinion of Rabbi Aha that the Earth spins around an axis, which can indeed be described as a millstone turning around a central pivot. So what is the word Galgal? It is used in the context of what the Greco-Roman world believed in these times, and more precisely since the Greek astronomer Ptolemy of Alexandria stated that the stars (the mazzaloth) were attached to a “ceiling” called firmament, which was stationary hence its name as derived from “firm”. The Jewish Sages explained their mistake by stating that it is the Galgal, and not the mazzaloth, which is stationary. The Galgal is what is now known as the "celestial sphere" (not the Earth itself). The "celestial sphere" is an imaginary sphere centered at the centre of the Earth with an imaginary radius (greater than the one of the Earth) and upon which the stars are observed. So the key point of the celestial sphere is that it uses a point of reference being the centre of the Earth as opposed to any observation point of a human located on the surface of the Earth. This is a key concept to explain, for example, the parallax which is the difference of angle between the observation from the surface of the Earth to the real location of a celestial object (Sun, Moon, stars, etc.) compared to the position (center) of the Earth. So when the Sages explained that the Galgal was stationary, they meant that the reference point centered on the Earth ought to be stationary for the purpose of observation of the celestial objects (this is notably important, for day to day Hebrew calendar, to determine the New Moon). And, similarly, in this observation, the stars would seem to be revolving. In contrast, the Greek and Roman astronomers believe the stars to be really stationary. The Ptolemaic system was later also endorsed by Christianity and was finally contradicted at the time of Copernicus.
Around 320, in Christian Palestine, a Talmudist of the Third Generation by the name of Oshaia (also written Hoshaia or Oshaya) composed a midrashic work on the first book of the Torah, Genesis (Bereshit in Hebrew): it was called Bereshit Rabbah (or Genesis Rabbah in English). This paved the way to other works of this midrashic value (as opposed to halachic works which focused on the laws), made of tales, parables and commentaries that helped understand the Biblical text. This midrashic approach was, and still is, very popular in the broad part of the Jewish nation. In total, between the year 300 CE and the year 1000 CE, several works will be published as complement to the books of the Tanach (the Hebrew Bible) and compose today what is called the Midrash Rabbah.
Oshaia died in 350 CE and is buried in Peki'in, Galilee, Northern Israel.
Tomb of Oshaia in Peki'in, Israel (source: Avishai Teicher in PikiWiki)
In 325, Constantine convened a meeting of the Christian bishops of the empire in the city of Nicaea (modern-day Iznik in Turkey). The main goal was to define the perimeter of the Christian religion and clarify its difference compared to other religious beliefs such as Arianism (who was a prominent Christian movement at the time) and Judaism. The controversy with the various Christian movements was to decide the nature of Jesus in relation to God: the Council decided that God, His son Jesus and the Holy Spirit formed one single entity called God (this divine entity was called the Trinity), whereas Ariansim considered that Jesus was a human messenger of God and not the deity itself. In terms of art in Early Christianity, it also meant that Jesus was not represented in human forms but rather in allegoric figure such as the Lamb. Why the lamb? Because the sacrifice of Jesus was associated with the sacrifice of Isaac in the Biblical narrative: while the lamb was sacrificed instead of Isaac at the time of Abraham, Jesus was sacrificed to redeem humanity from the Original Sin. But the debate of Jesus in human form was to be re-opened again during the Council of Chacedon in 451 CE
Concerning the separation from the Jewish religion, the Council decided to set arbitrary new dates for the Christian religious festivals, breaking away from the traditional Jewish calendar. And to facilitate the adoption of the official religion throughout the Roman empire, these arbitrary dates were often picked acoording to popular pagan festivals so that the populations of the enpire won't fell they lost in the change of official religion. For example, the date of Chrismas was set to match the pagan festival of Sol Invictus (meaning Unconquered Sun). This festival used to mark the "victory" of the Sun over the period of darkness, and set at the time of the Soltice of Winter about the 21st December.
Slab dedicated to Sol Invictus with the Moon goddess behind, 2nd century BCE
(located at the Baths of Diocletian in Rome, photo: Marie-Lan Nguyen for Wikipedia)
The main contention with the Hebrew calendar was the set of the date of Easter, because Jesus was known to have been judged and crucified at the beginning of the Passover Jewish festival. So, until then, the Christians had to rely on the Rabbinic statement about the start of the month of Nisan, to calculate the date for Passover on the 15th of that month. In order to remove this dependancy to the Jewish religion, the Council of Nicaea decided that the Rabbinic Court could no longer be relied upon about these calendar matters, and that they should instead abserve the spring equinox by themselves to determine the correct date of the crucifixion of Jesus.
And in the first place, it seemed very unworthy for us to keep this most sacred feast following the custom of the Jews, a people who have soiled their hands in a most terrible outrage, and have thus polluted their souls, and are now deservedly blind. Since we have cast aside their way of calculating the date of the festival, we can ensure that future generations can celebrate this observance at the more accurate time which we have kept from the first day of the passion until the present time. --- Emperor Constantine, following the Council of Nicaea (to check the source, click here)
This deviation resulted into a Christian tradition to set the date for Easter on a Sunday, and it now rarely falls on a same day than the Jewish Passover. Also, an official text as above, declaring the Jews to be responsible for the death of Jesus, as understated by a people who have soiled their hands in a most terrible outrage, and who are now deservedly blind, created the context of the official hatred of the Jews by the Christian world. And, as Constantine, the Roman emperor, had adopted Christianity as the official religion, the empire could not be held responsible for any participation in the death of Jesus. It would not have been politicall correct ! It thus became a necessityto blame the Jews as a scapegoat.
The Council of Nicaea really marks the turning point: the Roman empire could become officially Christian and the Jews had to be the ones to carry the blame. Punishments were sure to follow next...
Decision was also made to build churches in places related to Jesus in Palaestina. Helena, mother of Constantine, accompanied Macarius (the Bishop of Jerusalem) back to the "Holy Land" after the Council and arranged to build the following churches:
- the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, after having found remains of the True Cross when Macarius destroyed the Temple of Aphrodites (built by Hadrian)
- the Pater Noster on the Mount of the Olives, on the place where the resurrected Jesus made his final Ascension to Heaven
- the Nativity church in Beth-lehem, built above the cave where Jesus was born
- the Church of Abraham in Alon-Mamre (Hebron) where an ancient oak was found and declared to be the Oak of Abraham
About the last church, it was chosen so because early Christians decided that this was the place where Abraham met the three angels who came to announce the coming birth of Isaac, as the three magii also came for the birth of Jesus. Eusebius for example mentioned it below:
The oak of Abraham [which is also Mamre, was pointed out up to the time of Constantine, emperor of Rome] and his tomb are seen there [a church has been constructed there by us]. The terebinth where angels were entertained by Abraham is openly revered by the people (in the vicinity as a religious place).--- Eusebius of Caesaria, Onomasticon, entry for Arbo' (Kiriat-Arba)
Abraham was considered as an important figure by the early Church, and until the time of the Crusades. Many of his actions were considered as pre-figurations of what was to come with Jesus.
After Helena's visit to Jerusalem in 325, the city started to gain in importance compared to Caesaria, which was the official capital of the Roman Palestine. More and more Christian pilgrims flocked to Jerusalem over the following years and Caesaria declined into a mere passage city. The land was considered Terra Santa, the Holy Land. A commerce of products issued from the Holy Land started to develop: olive oil, wine, etc. even relics. To transport the wine, new recipients called amphoras (with pointed bottoms) were created. The commerce of wine was so good that even the Nabataeans (in the Southern part of the land) started to settle down at the edge of the desert and grow vineyards. And, in order to faciliate their dealings, they also converted to Christianity.
In 330, Constantine moved the capital of the empire from Rome to Byzantium, an old but small Greek city, which had been rebuilt during the reign of Septimus Severius. Constantine probably liked the location of the city, at the entrance of the Bosphorus, linking Europe and Asia. After his death in 367, the city was renamed Constantinople in his honour, and will remained so-called even after the fall of the Byzantium empire in 1453 and its conquest by the Muslims. The city was only renamed Istanbul after the establishment of modern-day Turkey in 1923.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Year 4091 – 331 CE – Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus
An official religion also deserved an official documentation in form of a code. So, in 331, Constantine ordered fifty copies of the Bible, Old and New Testaments, in Greek language. The project was led by Eusebius of Caesaria. For the Old Testament, this was to be derived from the Septuagint. In Jewish Tradition, the original translation of the Septuagint has been lost, because the Christian Fathers, when they were tasked to write down an official Christian Bible (with both Old and New Testaments), were faced with multiple variations of the texts. In addition, they surely turned some of the original Greek translation of the Septuagint into revised wording in Greek that would be more appropriate to Christian readers: the aim of this official Christian Bible was to educate, as stated by Constantine himself to Eusebius:
It happens, through the favoring providence of God our Saviour, that great numbers have united themselves to the most holy church in the city which is called by my name. It seems, therefore, highly requisite, since that city is rapidly advancing in prosperity in all other respects, that the number of churches should also be increased. Do you, therefore, receive with all readiness my determination on this behalf. I have thought it expedient to instruct your Prudence to order fifty copies of the sacred Scriptures, the provision and use of which you know to be most needful for the instruction of the Church, to be written on prepared parchment in a legible manner, and in a convenient, portable form, by professional transcribers thoroughly practiced in their art. The catholicus of the diocese has also received instructions by letter from our Clemency to be careful to furnish all things necessary for the preparation of such copies; and it will be for you to take special care that they be completed with as little delay as possible.
--- Eusebius, Vita Constantini (Life of Constantine), IV, 36; for the full text online, click here
The two oldest copies of the Christian Bible date from the 4th century. One is known as Codex Vaticanus because it has been held at the library of the Vatican since the 14th century at least, and the other is known as Codex Sinaiticus because it was discovered in the Monastery of Mount Sinai in the 19th century, and was purchased by the British Library later on.[6a] It is not certain that these two copies were among the ones ordered by Constantine because they are not identical copies. If they are from this order, then the copists would have worked on different manuscripts and the resulted codices differed. The differences are more noticeable in the New Testament parts.[6b]
It may be in the context of this project of the official Christian Bible composition that a pilgrim travelled from Bordeaux, France, to the Holy Land. History has not kept his name but the notes he took of his itinary has remained, and has been known as Itinerarium Burdigalense. It is most probably the earliest account of a traveller to the Holy Land. Many will follow. The style is very brief, and the author was just noting distances and main references of the Bible about a given place. The account also mentioned that the tomb of David was in Beth-lehem, his birth place, as opposed to Jewish tradition which follows the Hebrew Torah that states he was buried in the City of David (the original city of Jerusalem):
Not far from thence[Beth-lehem] is the tomb of Ezekiel, Asaph, Job, Jesse, David, and Solomon, whose names are inscribed in Hebrew letters upon the wall as you go down into the vault itself. --- Itinerarium Burdigalense (for the full text, click here)
A map of Roman roads across the entire empire was first published in the 15th century CE. However it was based on a 6.75 meters long manuscript of the map from much older times, a time when Byzantium was just founded, and when the Roman empire had not split yet, thus to say it was probably dated around 350 CE. This timeframe also matches the efforts of Constantine and his successors to unify the new empire under one religion, one codex, and why not, one geographical map of their dominions.
This famous map also covers the Roman Palestine, former Judea province, with main cities and Roman distances between them. On the extract below, from left to right, we can see the following locations:
- Mons Syna: Mount Sinai
- Haela (modern-day Eilat): this is the ancient outpost in the gulf of Aqaba, where the 10th Legion Fretensis settled after they moved out of Jerusalem, where they had stationed since the capture of the city by Titus in 70 CE; it is known that this legion moved around 300 CE, so the map cannot be considered earlier than this date
- Addranam: probably an outpost in the valley of the Arava, north from modern day Eilat and Aqaba; two roads start from there, one along the Jordanian side passing though Petris (Petra), the other along the Negev desert probably following the spices road of the Nabataeans
- the Jordanian road splits at the southern side of the Dead Sea, one arm reaching Philadelphia (modern-day Amman), the other joining the previous Negev road and reaching Herusalem (Jerusalem) also called Aelia Capitolina
- then we can see Herichonte (Jericho), Scytopolis (Beth-Shean, capital of Palaestina Secunda, and capital of the Decapolis), Tyberias
- then from Tyberias to the Sea, we see Tyro (Tyre), Ptolomaide (Acre), Thora (Dora, modern-day Dor), Cesaria (capital of Palaestina Prima), Appolloniade (ruins of Appolonia in Israel, also known by its earlier name Arsuf), Joppe (Jaffa), Ascalone (Ashkelon)
- in the road between Jerusalem and Cesaria, we also notice the city of Neapolis (Samaria, Nablus, ancient Sichem)
What is important to note in this contemporary map is the relative importance of the city of Jerusalem, named Herusalem and Helya Capitolina in the map. In these times, the city was just a 'colony' where the 10th Legion had been stationed (but it was moved south already). The maor cities of the Byzantine empire in the region were Cesaria and Scythopolis (Beth-shean). But, obviously, since Christianity became the official religion, Jerusalem progressively gained back its name and its status of importance in the region, which had been lost since the days of the Roman empire.
The controversy about the Christian versus Hebrew calendar led some Jewish scholars to look more into these issues. The head of the rabbinical academy of Sura in Babylonia, Rabbi Hamnuna the Elder, explained the following in a book that has been lost but of which these details have fortunately been recorded in the Zohar:
In the Book of Rabbi Hamnuna the Elder it is explained further that all the inhabited world is circular like a ball, so that some are above and some are below, and the strange appearances of certain races are due to the nature of the air, but they live as long as other men. Further, there is a part of the world where it is light when in another part it is dark, so that some have night while others have day. Also there is a place where it is always day and where there is no night save for a very short time. All this account which is found in the books of the Ancients and in the Book of Adam is confirmed by Scripture, which says: "I will give thanks unto You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made, wonderful are Your works." [Psalms 139:14 -- also see other passages from the same Psalm 139] --- The Zohar IV, 10a
Without having travelled the seas, it was known to the Rabbis of these times that the Earth was round shaped, that it rotated around an axis which caused day and night in different parts of the world. Also that there are farthest parts of the Earth where days last longer and where the sun barely sets (as it is the case towards the Poles in the local summer time).
Animated view of the Rotation of the Earth
Emperor Constantius II, son of Constantine, pursued the policy of his father to promote Christian religion. This resulted in more pressing Christian proselytism in Judea which caused the Jews to rebel against religious persecutions. While he waged war in the East against the Sassanid Empire, he appointed his cousin Gallus to rule over Judea. A rebellion soon broke out and the Jews obtained some initial success. But Gallus sent his army commanded by General Ursicinus in 351 who finally crushed the revolt and destroyed many cities such as Tiberias, Sepphoris, and Diospolis (previously called Lydda and now Lod). Although some scholars consider that the destruction of these cities was caused not by the Roman campaign but by the massive earthquake which shook the Galilee and the rest of the Holy Land in 363.
After his campaign, Ursicinus ordered several thousands Jews to be executed, among which the leader of the revolt who was called Patricius (meaning Patrick) by the Greeks and Christians, but was referred as Rabbi Apotoriki in the Talmud (Baba Metzia 5a).
Probably due to the rising Christian persecutions, and defiance against the Jewish authority of the Sanhedrin, it was no longer possible for Jews to rely exclusivity on visual observations in Jerusalem to determine the time of their festivals. Importantly the date of Passover had become a contention with the Christians since the Council of Nicaea. The nassi Hillel II decided to set a Jewish Calendar based on lunisolar computations, a decision that proved important to Jewish communities in the entire Diaspora. The Hillel II principles of calendar computation are the same ones being used in modern-day State of Israel to determine the dates for Passover on the 15th of the month of Nisan.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~The emperor Julian, although being from the family of Emperor Constantine, his uncle, diverted from the nascent Christian state religion and wanted to restore the Roman pagan cult. He oppressed the Christians, who called him Julian the Apostate. Paradoxaly, he was rather lenient towards the Jews who he considered had been the victims of Roman policies thus far, so they rather called him Julian the Hellene (because he was keen about Greek philosophy, but also because Hellene was associated with the name Pagan in these times). In a letter to their community, lead by Hillel II, he announced that he will order to rebuild Jerusalem and its Temple, before setting off for his campaign in Persia:
In times past, by far the most burdensome thing in the yoke of your slavery has been the fact that you were subjected to unauthorized ordinances and had to contribute an untold amount of money to the accounts of the treasury. Of this I used to see many instances with my own eyes, and I have learned of more, by finding the records which are preserved against you. Moreover, when a tax was about to be levied on you again I prevented it, and compelled the impiety of such obloquy to cease here; and I threw into the fire the records against you that were stored in my desks; so that it is no longer possible for anyone to aim at you such a reproach of impiety. […] And since I wish that you should prosper yet more, I have admonished my brother Iulus, your most venerable patriarch, that the levy [“apostole”] which is said to exist among you should be prohibited, and that no one is any longer to have the power to oppress the masses of your people by such exactions; so that everywhere, during my reign, you may have security of mind, and in the enjoyment of peace may offer more fervid prayers for my reign to the Most High God, the Creator, who has deigned to crown me with his own immaculate right hand. […] This you ought to do, in order that, when I have successfully concluded the war with Persia, I may rebuild by my own efforts the sacred city of Jerusalem, which for so many years you have longed to see inhabited, and may bring settlers there, and, together with you, may glorify the Most High God therein. --- Julian, The works of the Emperor Julian, edit. And trans. By Wilmer Cave Wright, 1923, volume 3, p. 179, Lettter 51 “to the community of the Jews”, written from Antioch in late 362 CE or early 363 CE
The works of the reconstruction of the Temple started but were soon abandoned due to a massive earthquake which was considered as a divine omen, reminding the old prophecy that the Third Temple will not be built until the time of the Messiah. This earthquake occurred in May 363 and is known as the “Galilee Earthquake”.[8a] This earthquake destroyed the major city of Scythopolis (Beth-shean), which was capital of Palaestina Secunda. As the city appears in the Tabula Peutingeriana map, it proves that this map was somehow made before the city's destruction of 363 CE.
Fallen arch in Beth-shean (Scythopolis) - evidence of the Galilee earthquake of 363 CE
As of Emperor Julian, he was mortally wounded in battle in June 363 during his campaign in Persia. His body was taken to Tarsus and was later reburied in Constantinople where his tomb still stand today near Emperor Constantine and the rest of their family. Julian was the last non-Christian Roman emperor.
A cursing tablet has recently been discovered near the City of David, close to the Old City of Jerusalem, that contains a Greek inscription on lead metal from a semi Christian-Pagan woman called Kyrilla against so-called people she called "lennys". The tablet has been discovered along side other artifacts inside a big mansion belonging to this Kyrilla. The mansion was destroyed at the time of the earthquake, so seems contemporary to the reign of Julian. These "lennys" could have been the officers of Julian the "Hellene" who ordered to rebuild the Jewish Temple. Kyrilla's mansion may have been exposed to the works on the Temple Mount and part of it appropriated by those who officed on these works. A Christian woman may indeed have cursed Emperor Julian who was considered as apostate.[8b]
The cursing tablet, Greek inscription on lead
(photo courtesy: Robert Walter Daniel)
The Christian world had been composed in its early days by Jews exclusively: this was at the time of Jesus and his brother James the Just. Both being religious Jews had not cut off from Jewish traditions and the ones accepted in their circles were Jews or converted Jews. Paul the Apostle was the first one to convert Pagans, and to remove all Jewishness from being Christian: circumcision, dietary laws, respect of the Shbbat, and so on. Over time, the Roman empire turned Christian but there were still some pockets of Jewish communities who had been attached to the early principles of Christianity: for them, Jesus was the Messiah according to the Jewish Scriptures and messianic expectations. The harship endured by the Jews were just the signs of these messianic times.
One of this Judeo-Christian community was in the city of Antioch, which had had a large Jewish community from the times of the Greek conquest. But one of the Christian Fathers, called John Chrysostom (347-407), was determined to change the situation. He was a skilled preacher and also wrote against the acceptance of Jews inside the Christian community if those people would not renounce to their Jewish faith. In truth, the situation of these Judeo-Christians was offering impossible dilemma since the Council of Nicaea decided to cut off all Jewish features from the Christian life. Festivals were no longer falling on the same date, for exemple for Passover and Easter. The writings of Chrysostom were considered as some of the first "antisemitic" publications, although the term didn't formally exist until the 19th century.
A few months before his death in 395, Theodosius took two major decisions: first, he imposed that Christianity becomes the only authorized religion of the Roman Empire (thus making all other religions illegal), and second he decided to split the Empire between his two sons, Honorius in the West and Arcadius in the East. This divide between East and West has remained the same until today, of what is the divide between the Eastern and the Western church.
Chrysostom speaks to the Judeo-Christians in Antioch (photo: Albert Benhamou, from Beth Hatfusoth)
After the death of Julian in 379, the Roman empire went through some turmoil again, but it was reunified once more under the reign of Theodosius, whosucceeded Julian and reigned until 395. He however had less and less control over the power of the religious Christian leaders. In one example, a mob incited by the bishop of Callinicum (north-western Mesopotamia, in today's Syria), attacked the Jews and burned down their synagogue in 388. Theodosius issued a decree that the Bishop would rebuild it at his own expense. But the bishop of Milan, Ambrose, issued a protest to the Emperorin which he barely hid some possible divine threat or curse upon the ruler:
Shall the Jews write this inscription on the front of their [rebuilt] synagogue: “The temple of impiety, erected from the plunder of Christians”? But, perhaps, the cause of discipline moves you, O Emperor. Which, then, is of greater importance, the show of discipline or the cause of religion? It is needful that judgment should yield to religion. Have you not heard, O Emperor, how, when Julian had commanded that the temple of Jerusalem should be restored, those who were clearing the rubbish were consumed by fire? Will you not beware lest this happen now again? For you ought not to have commanded what Julian commanded. But what is your motive? Is it because a public building of whatever kind has been burnt, or because it was a synagogue?--- Ambrose, Letter XL, letter to Emperor Theodosius, to read it online, click here
Theodosius finally cancelled his decree and the synagogue was never built again.
In 382, Jerome (or Hieronymus) was given the task to translate the Bible in Latin, and did so by basing his work on the Greek version, the Septuagint. He completed it in 384 but was expelled from Rome a year later and settled in Bethlehem. Then he improved his knowledge of Hebrew language and set to the task to re-translate the entire Bible into Latin but directly from the Hebrew Scripture, thus hoping to eliminate the mistakes caused by the Greek translation as they had been exposed in previous attempts to translate the Bible from the Greek (these early translations into Latin form what is called the Vetus Latina). Jerome completed his work in 405, and this translation formed the base of what became the official Latin version of the Bible, called the Vulgate. And it remained so for about 1000 years, until the King James Version of the Bible.
The Roman Empire at the death of Theodosius, 395 CE
Efforts to compile the additions to the Mishna were led by Jewish scholars (the so-called Amoraim) in parallel in both religious centers of Judea and Babylonia. But religious pressure and persecutions were harder in Judea under the Christian authorities. So the scholars of Judea were eager to complete their work at the soonest, so that study and faith could be strenghtened. They completed their version of the Gemara (addition to the Mishna) around 400 CE in the city of Tiberias, where the Sanhedrin had moved from Sepphoris after the death of Judah ha-Nassi (the Prince) in 219 CE: the Mishna combined with their work is called the Talmud of Jerusalem, in reference to the scholars from Judea and to avoid confusion with the Talmud of Babylon (which was completed 100 years later and is more exhaustive). Although the Talmud of Babylon became the official Talmud, the Jerusalem version has nonetheless laws that are more pertinent to the life in Judea as the Holy Land.
Gamaliel VI was the Sanhedrin's last nassi. He came to office in 400 but was executed in 425 by Theodosius II for erecting new synagogues contrary to the imperial decree. Then, with his death, the title of nassi became illegal which defacto meant the closure of the Sanhedrin institution. Further, an imperial decree in 426 diverted the patriarchs' tax (post excessum patriarchorum) into the imperial treasury so that the Jewish religious institution could not have any financial resource to be maintained.
This ordeal was one of the main reasons why the religious schools of Judea were eager to complete the so-called Talmud of Jerusalem. The Talmud contains a prophecy of the time when this event actually happened:
R. Hanan b. Tahlifa sent [word] to R. Joseph: I once met a man who possessed a scroll written in Hebrew in Assyrian characters. I said to him: ‘Whence has this come to you?’ He replied, ‘I hired myself as a mercenary in the Roman army, and found it amongst the Roman archives. In it is stated that four thousand, two hundred and thirty one years after the creation the world will be orphaned.'--- Talmud, Sanhedrin, 97bThe orphanage refers to the assassination of the last nassi and the end of the Sanhedrin institution. The year 4231 AM corresponds to 471 CE. The Sanhedrin was brought to an end in 425 CE by the Roman Empire which also collapsed 50 years later (a Jubilee cycle) in year 475 CE, maybe as a divine punishment !!
Practically, this discriminacy against the Jewish communities of the Roman empire meant that the Christian leadership wanted to terminate the Jewish religion. Yet, it continued to survive in the midst of the political and religious ordeals, but not in the historical homeland of the Jewish people, from which they were excluded by the Roman then the Christian rulers.
The last blows of the Roman empire against the Jewish institution corresponded to the time when the empire was being attacked by many waves of Barbarians coming from Central Europe. They originated, for some of them, from the old tribes of Scythians and other people who moved from the Caucasus region into the European continent. Others came from Asia, such as the Huns. Invasion after invasion, the Roman empire was losing ground, especially the Western Empire, being first exposed to the blows from hords coming from Northern and Central Europe.
The bell tolled with the Sack of Rome by Alaric the Visigoth in 410. This sent a shockwave throughout the entire empire, although the capital of the Western Empire had been moved to Ravenna at the time, which was more defensible than Rome. But Rome had remained the seat of the papaucy. So the shock was more felt by the Christian world because it seems that the City of God had fallen. One of the Chritian Fathers, Augustine, who lived in Hippo which is in modern-day Algeria and converted to Christianity in 386, conforted his brethren by stating that God only had a heavenly city, which was in the heart and love of his followers, and that such heavenly city will ultimately prevail over the earthly ones.
The war against Alaric had the consequence to pull Roman armies out of Britain, as they were recalled to stop the invasion of mainland Italy. But to no avail. So the Roman rule over Britain ended about the time of the sack of Rome, in 410. The Visigoths then moved to Iberia and settled their kingdom there.
Then the Huns, an Asian people who had settled in Central Europe, went westward, burning and killing on their way. They salvaged the central European regions for many years, leaving no place completely safe except for the large cities. They were ultimately stopped by a Roman army in Gaul in 451 and retreated back to their base in modern-day Hungary.
[1a] Rashi assumed that this measurement must have referred to the diameter of the Earth; but this does not make sense in the context of this commentary which compared this measurement to walking distances, thus it must have referred to a circumference rather than a diameter
[1b] Some believed that Rabba found out about the radius of the Earth from the work of Greek astronomer Ptolemy of Philadelphia (ca. 200 BCE); but this is not the case for two main reasons: (a) Ptolemy had his own method and result about this measurement, different from Rabba who referred to 6000 parasangs, and (b) the Talmud does mention that this knowledge was passed to Rabba by tradition whereas the second assertion is mentioned to be known by reason (meaning the human discoveries such as the Mesopotamians and the Greeks had)
 It was the Patriarch Hillel II, who was then about 70 years old and who will die two years later
 These taxes were paid by the Diaspora Jews in support for the patriarchate in Judea
 The destroyed city was inhabited since the repression of Bar Kochba revolt in 135, during the reign of Hadrian
 To check the date of Passover from year 2000 CE, click here
[6a] The Codex Sinaiticus has been posted online by the British Library; to view it, click here
[6b] To read more about the differences between the two codices, click here
 God intervened in His creation every 7 generations of mankind, as it is shown in various pages of this site; to check this cycle, click here
[8a] Confirmation of this massive earthquake have been found in the excavations of Hippos-Sussita, a city built in the 2nd century BCE on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee and destroyed by the two subsequent earthquakes of 363 CE and 745 CE; for read more information about this discovery, click here for an article of October 2014
[8b] For more information on this discovery, see articles dated about October-November 2013 from Live Science and City of David
 Rabba bar Nahmani is said to have lived 40 years and Abaye 60 years (Talmud, Yevamoth, 105a)
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