A little more history for people…~TS
During the time of Christ and the early Church period there was a sizeable Jewish community in Rome, estimated at 40,000 Jews. Josephus mentioned a lawsuit that involved 8,000 Jews in Rome during the reign of Caesar Augustus (44 BC-14.AD), presumably adult men each with a family of at least four or five members. (Jewish Antiquities, Vol. II, p. 80) The number of Jews in Rome increased considerably after the mass deportation of captives from Jerusalem following its destruction in 70 A.D.
There was also a thriving Jewish community in the area which became the Vatican. According to “The Vatican & Rome as elements of apocalyptic discourse”: “The origins of the ‘Cittá del Vaticano’ are as an unpleasant neighborhood outside the city walls populated by Jews and beginning in the first century by (Jewish) Christians and still later by the persecuted Gentile converts to the Christian sect.” The Latin word “Vatican” means “divining serpent” (see Papal Crest Dragon):
“The word ‘Vatican’ literally means ‘Divining Serpent,’ and is derived from Vatis=Diviner and Can=Serpent. Vatican City and St. Peter’s Basilica were built on the ancient pagan site called in Latin vaticanus mons or vaticanus collis, which means hill or mountain of prophecy. Coins minted in Vatican City often bear the inscription ‘CITTÁ DEL VATICANO’, which means City of Prophecy.” (The Wine of Babylon)
The Jewish community in Rome dates at least as far back as the Maccabees, who had cordial relations with Rome and received pledges of Roman friendship and protection. (See: Jews become allies of Rome)
Jewish culture prospered in Rome during the early centuries of first millennium, even to the extent that Jews held government positions and received favored treatment from the Caesars. It was not until Constantine the Great, who reigned as emperor from 306 to 336, that Jews were proscribed from holding state offices, owning slaves or testifying in court against Christians, among other restrictions.
The Jewish Virtual Library reveals the influence and status of the Jewish community in Rome.
“The Jewish community in Rome is known to be the oldest Jewish community in Europe and also one of the oldest continuous Jewish settlements in the world, dating back to 161 B.C.E. when Jason ben Eleazar and Eupolemus ben Johanan came as envoys of Judah Maccabee. Other delegations were sent by the Hasmonean rulers in 150 and 139 B.C.E. After the Romans invaded Judea in 63 B.C.E., Jewish prisoners of war were brought to Rome as slaves, Jewish delegates came to Rome on diplomatic missions and Jewish merchants traveled to Rome seeking business opportunities. Many of those who visited Rome stayed and the Jewish population began to grow.
“While the treatment of Jews by the Romans in Palestine was often harsh, relations with the rulers in Rome were generally much better. Julius Caesar, for example, was known to be a friend of the Jews; he allowed them to settle anywhere in the Roman Empire. According to historians, when Caesar was assassinated by Brutus in 44 B.C.E., Roman Jews spent day and night at Caesar’s tomb, weeping over his death. His successor, Augustus, also acted favorably toward the Jews and even scheduled his grain distribution so that it would not interfere with the Jewish Sabbath. Two synagogues were founded by slaves who had been freed by Augustus (14 C.E.) and by Agrippa (12 B.C.E.)…
“From the second half of the first century C.E., the Roman Jewish community became firmly established. A majority of the community were shopkeepers, craftsman and peddlers, but other Jews became poets, physicians and actors… Evidence has been found that twelve synagogues were functioning during this period.”
Always industrious and enterprising, the Jews used Rome as a base to gain influence throughout Europe,. Their success was largely achieved through finance, and especially usury, the charging of excessive interest on loans by means of which wealthy Jews would eventually enslave the European monarchies. As the headquarters of the empire, Rome was strategic to the European operations of the Jewish elite.
The scheme employed in the takeover of Rome is revealed by the two Jewish “converts” to Roman Catholicism who became priests:
Usury for Power…
“The human causes of [the persecution of Jews], unique in history, are witnessed by the Jews’ insatiable appetite for turning to usury to gain power through betrayal in order to dominate, and whenever possible, to take over and overthrow the State.
“In every country, this immutable law of Hebrew prosperity in every country is always to the detriment of the well being and liberty of the inhabitants. Many years before Rome fell into the claws of history, the famous Lemann brothers, who converted from Judaism and became priests of the Catholic Church, in one of their works, which merits meditation, wrote:
“‘O Israelites of Rome, we understand the attitude of our people. If you are conceded the right of possession which you invoke, we wager that, within thirty to fifty years from now, Rome will be in your hands.’ (ff. Rome et les juives. ‘Rome and the Jews’)
“And so the prophecy came to pass. The city of Rome fell quickly into the abyss, and was economically and materially subjugated to the Jews, as were all of the major cities of the great nations of Europe.” (La Civilta Cattolica)
It was into this prospering Jewish community at Rome that the Gospel of Jesus Christ made an entrance, for the it is recorded in Acts 18:2 that, while in Corinth, Paul “found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla; (because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome:) and came unto them.”
A Commentary on Romans by James R. Edwards alludes to the tensions between the Jews and Gentile converts in Rome who, at the council of Jerusalem, as recorded in Acts 15, had been officially released from the Mosaic Law.
“The Edict of Claudius. Claudius, who ruled Rome from AD 41 to 54, found the Pax Romana threatened by Jewish disturbances from Rome to distant Egypt. In his first year of office he imposed a restraining order on the Jews, ‘forbidding them to meet together in accordance with their ancestral way of life.’ Eight years later, in AD 49, he cracked down on foreigners in general. The Roman historian Suetonius says, ‘Since the Jews constantly made disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, (Claudius) expelled them from Rome.’…
“The expulsion of Jews from Rome dramatically changed the constituency of the fledgling Christian communities there. A movement that from its inception had identified more or less with Judaism was now confronted with a predominantly, if not exclusively, Gentile Christian membership. Freed from the influence of scrupulous Jewish Christians, particularly in dietary matters, the Gentile Christian communities would have grown numerically stronger. But more importantly, they more than likely developed a distinctly antinomian consciousness during the absence of their Jewish Christian counterparts. How long this situation lasted we cannot say, but the five years between the proclamation of the edict in AD 49 and Claudius’ death in AD 54 is a reasonable guess.
“This changed when Claudius died and the edict lapsed. It is not difficult to imagine the difficulties which must have ensued when Jewish Christians returning from exile tried to reestablish themselves in Christian communities that had since matured in Gentile character, especially regarding laxness toward the Torah. Paul’s greetings at the end of Romans seem directed to several different (house) churches (see 16:5,14,15), the existence of which may be evidence of tensions between Jewish and Gentile Christians. If our dating of Romans is correct – and the date cannot have been more than a year or two away from AD 57 – then Romans was written only a few years after the onset of this social and religious maelstrom.” (pp. 8-11)
A maelstrom indeed ensued when Claudius was succeeded by the Emperor Nero who, in A.D. 64, launched the fierce persecutions of Christians that would continue for two hundred and fifty years.
A World History website ascribes the Great Fire of Rome to Jewish fanatics, who shifted the blame to the Christians:
“An official investigation concluded that the fire had been started by Jewish fanatics. This put the Jewish community in Rome in danger, and Jewish leaders in Rome may have tried to avert this danger by describing to authorities the difference between themselves and the Christians. The leaders of Jews in Rome could reach the emperor, Nero, through his new wife, Sabina Poppaea. Nero learned of the separate identity of those Jews who were followers of Jesus, and he put blame on them for the fire.”
It was Constantine the Great whose Edict of Milan in 313 ended the persecution of Christians and legalized the worship of Jesus Christ. At the same time, Constantine also obstructed Jewish ascendancy in the Roman Empire.
“The Jewish position in Rome began to deteriorate during the reign of Constantine the Great (306-336), who enacted laws limiting the rights of Jews as citizens… Some of the relevant decrees in these codes include prohibitions against making proselytes, intermarriage, owning slaves (slave labor was very common and this prohibition severely restricted the economic life of the Jews), holding any esteemed position in the Roman state, building new synagogues and testifying against Orthodox Christians in court.” (Jewish Virtual Library)
Was there an inverse relationship between the two traditions – Judaism and Christianity – so that the expanding influence of one negatively affected the numerical growth of the other? And can it be that Constantine’s conversion and outlawing of Jewish operations against the Christians is the reason this Roman emperor consistently receives bad press from the intellectual community?
It is difficult to resist the suspicion that Jews, certain of whom held positions in the Roman state before Constantine, may have been behind the persecution of Christians, accusing them to the Roman emperors as the Jews accused Paul and Silas to the rulers of Thessalonica, “…these all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus.” (Acts 17:7) The issue of allegiance to Jesus Christ as God in preference to Caesar also recalls the charge which the chief priests and scribes leveled against Jesus Himself when He stood before Pilate: “We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that he himself is Christ a King.” (Luke 23:2)
Having failed to eradicate Christianity by way of extermination, is it possible the Jews then tried to destroy the Christian faith by other means? In very fact, this was the case, according to Maurice Pinay:
“Gnosis…for rising Christianity was a more threatening internal danger than the grave external intrigues which were then represented through the frontal attacks of the synagogue and its intrigues. The latter attained, as we have already observed, that the whole power of the Roman Empire was applied with its terrible persecutions, as a result of which there were so many martyrs for Christianity. These facts prove, that from its first beginnings onwards the activity of the Jewish ‘Fifth Column’ which had penetrated into its interior, was far more dangerous than that of external foes.” (The Plot Against the Church, p. 268)
Although Constantine restricted Jewish power and influence, the last of his direct descendants to become Roman Emperor favored the Jewish religion to the extent that he made plans to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple of Solomon. The deeds of Julian the Apostate are favorably recorded by Jewish historians such as H. Graetz, whose History of the Jews was cited by Pinay:
“In the year 360 Julian, a cousin of Constantine, was proclaimed Roman Emperor by the army. Constantine, who had prepared for battle against him, died on the way; this made easier the final victory for Julian and his proclamation as Emperor of the Orient and Occident. The policy of Julian had three principle aims: I. To renew the Pagan belief and to again declare it a state religion of the Empire, so that Rome which according to his view had declined through Christianity, might return to its old glory. II. To destroy Christianity. III. To concede to Jewry its old positions, from which it had been expelled by Constantine and his sons; even the rebuilding of the Temple of Solomon was to be arranged…
“The famous Jewish historian says of Julian:…that Julian paid great admiration to the Jewish religion and confirms that ‘the period of government by Julian…was a time of highest fortune for the Jews of the Roman Empire…’
“Graetz likewise establishes that Julian called the leader of Jewry in the Empire, the patriarch Hillel, literally ‘his respected friend,’ and promised him in a personal letter to make an end of the misdeeds committed by the Christian Emperors against the Jews. Further, Julian made all necessary preparations in order to begin the rebuilding of the Temple of Jerusalem. He addressed a letter to all Jewish congregations of the Empire, in which he spoke in friendly way of the leader of Jewry in the Empire, the Patriarch Julos (Hillel), as his brother. He promised the abolition of the high taxes laid upon the Israelites by the Christians, guaranteed that in the future none should accuse them of blasphemy, promised freedom and security and promised to have Jerusalem rebuilt at his expense, as soon as he returned victorious from the Persian war. For the rebuilding of the Temple of Jerusalem Julian commissioned his best friend, Alypius of Antioch, to whom he gave instructions to spare no expense, and commanded the governors of Palestine and Syria, to assist with everything necessary…” (pp. 285-6)
The death of Julian in 363 A.D. curtailed plans for rebuilding Solomon’s Temple; however, the Jewish Virtual Library boasts of a Hebrew revival in Rome in the centuries which followed:
“During this period there was a revival of Hebrew studies in Rome, centered around the local yeshiva, Metivta de Mata Romi. A number of well-known scholars, Rabbi Kalonymus b. Moses and Rabbi Jacob ‘Gaon’ and Rabbi Nathan b. Jehil (who wrote a great talmudic dictionary, the Arukh), contributed to Jewish learning and development. Roman Jewish traditions followed those practiced in the Land of Israel and the liturgical customs started in Rome spread throughout Italy and the rest of the world.”