The Controversy of Zion

by Douglas Reed

p. 69 70

Chapter 11


The Pharisaic Phoenix

Then comes the familiar, recurrent paradox; the catastrophe of Judea, which followed within a few decades of the death of Jesus, was the triumph of the Pharisees, for it left them supreme in Jewry. By the crucifixion of Jesus they rid themselves of a “prophet and dreamer” who would have cast down their Law. The brief remaining years of Judea rid them of all other parties that contended with them for power under that Law.


After the death of Jesus the Pharisees, according to the Jewish Encyclopaedia, found “a supporter and friend” in the last Herodian king of Judea, Agrippa I. Agrippa helped dispose of the Sadducees, who disappeared from the Judean scene, leaving all affairs there in the hands of the Pharisees (whose complaint about the Idumean line, therefore, seems to have little ground). They were thus left all-powerful in Jerusalem, like the Levites after the severance of Judah from Israel, and as on that earlier occasion disaster at once followed. In rising, phoenix-like, from the ashes of this, the Pharisees also repeated the history of the Levites.


During the few remaining years of the tiny and riven province the Pharisees once more revised “the Law,” those “commandments of men” which Jesus had most scathingly attacked. Dr. Kastein says, Jewish life was regulated by the teachings of the Pharisees; the whole history of Judaism was reconstructed from the Pharisaic point of view Pharisaism shaped the character of Judaism and the life and the thought of the Jew for all the future…. It makes separatism' its chief characteristic.”


Thus, in the immediate sequel to Jesus's life and arraignment of the “commandments of men,” the Pharisees, like the Levites earlier, intensified the racial and tribal nature and rigour of the Law; the creed of destruction, enslavement and dominion was sharpened on the eve of the people's final dispersion.


Dr. Kastein's words are of especial interest. He had earlier stated (as quoted) that after the infliction of the “New Covenant” on the Judahites by Nehemiah, the Torah received a “final” editing, and that “no word” of it was thereafter to be changed. Moreover, at the time of this Pharisaic “reconstruction” the Old Testament had already been translated into Greek, so that further changes made by the Pharisees could only have been in the original.


It seems more probable that Dr. Kastein's statement refers to the Talmud, the immense continuation of the Torah which was apparently begun during the last years of Judea, although it was not reduced to writing until much later. Whatever happened, “the life and the thought of the Jew” were once again settled “for all the future,” and “separatism” was reaffirmed as the supreme tenet of the Law.


In AD 70, perhaps thirty-five years after the death of Jesus, all fell to pieces. The confusion and disorder in Judea were incurable and Rome stepped in. The




Pharisees, who had originally invited Roman intervention and were supreme in Judea under the Romans, remained passive.


Other peoples of Palestine, and most especially the Galileans, would not submit to Rome and after many risings and campaigns the Romans entered and razed Jerusalem. Judea was declared conquered territory and the name vanished from the map. For long periods during the next nineteen hundred years no Jews at all lived in Jerusalem (the Samaritans, a tiny remnant of whom have survived all the persecutions, are the only people who have lived continuously in Palestine since Old Testamentary times).


Dr. Kastein calls the seventy years which ended with the Roman destruction of Jerusalem “The Heroic Age,” presumably because of the Pharisaic triumph over all others in the contest for the soul of Judaism. He can hardly intend to apply the adjective to the fighting against the Romans, as this was so largely done by the alien Galileans, of whom he is no admirer.