Prolegomena to the History of Ancient Israel, by Julius Wellhausen, , at sacred-texts.com
Something still remains to be said with reference to the diaspora. We have seen how it began; in spite of Josephus (Ant., xi. 5, 2), it is to be carried back not to the Assyrian but merely to the Babylonian captivity; it was not composed of Israelites, but solely of citizens of the southern kingdom. It received its greatest impulse from Alexander, and then afterwards from Cæsar. In the Græco-Roman period Jerusalem at the time of the great festival presented the appearance of a veritable Babel (Acts ii. 9-11); with the Jews themselves were mingled the proselytes (Acts ii. 11), for even already that religion was gaining considerable conquests among the heathen; as King Agrippa I. writes to the Emperor Caius (Philo, Legat. ad Gaium, sec. 36), "Jerusalem is the metropolis not only of Judæa but of very many lands, on account of the colonies which on various occasions (ἐπὶ καιρῶν) it has sent out into the adjoining countries of Egypt, Phœnicia, Syria, and
[paragraph continues] Cœlesyria, and into the more remote Pamphylia, Cilicia, the greater part of Asia Minor as far as to Bithynia and the remotest parts of Pontus; likewise into Europe—Thessaly, Bœotia, Macedonia, Ætolia, Attica, Argos, Corinth, most parts (and these the fairest) of the Peloponnesus. Nor are the Jewish settlements confined to the mainland only; they are found also in the more important islands, Euboea, Cyprus, Crete. I do not insist on the countries beyond the Euphrates, for with few exceptions all of them, Babylon and the fertile regions around it, have Jewish inhabitants." In the west of Europe also they were not wanting; many thousands of them lived in Rome. In those cities where they were at all numerous they, during the imperial period, formed separate communities; Josephus has preserved a great variety of documents in which the Roman authorities recognise their rights and liberties (especially as regards the Sabbath rest and the observance of festivals). Of greatest importance was the community in Alexandria; according to Philo a million of Jews had their residence there under an ethnarch for whom a gerusia was afterwards substituted by Augustus (In Flac., secs. 6, 10). The extent to which this diaspora was helpful in the diffusion of Christianity, the manner in which the mission of the apostles everywhere attached itself to the synagogues and proseuchai, is well known from the New Testament. That the Christians of the 1st century had much to suffer along with the Jews is also a familiar fact. For at this period, in other respects more favourable to them than any other had previously been, the Jews had occasionally to endure persecution. The emperors, taking umbrage at their intrusiveness, more than once banished them from Rome (Acts xviii. 2). The good will of the native population they never secured; they were most hated in Egypt and Syria, where they were strongest. 1
The position of the Jews in the Roman Empire was naturally not improved by the great risings under Nero, Trajan (in Cyrene, Cyprus, Mesopotamia), and Hadrian. The East strictly so called, became
more and more their proper home. The Christianization of the empire helped still further in a very special way to detach them from the Western world. 1 They sided with the Persians against the Byzantines; in the year 614 they were even put in possession of Jerusalem by Chosroes, but were not long able to hold their own against Heraclius. 2 With Islam also they found themselves in greater sympathy than with Christianity, although they were cruelly treated by Mahomet in Arabia, and driven by Omar out of the Hejaz, and notwithstanding the facts that they were as matter of course excluded from citizenship, and that they were held by Moslems as a whole in greater contempt than the Christians. They throve especially well on what may be called the bridge between East and West, in Mauretania and Spain, where they were the intellectual intermediaries between the Arab and the Latin culture. In the Sephardim and Ashkenazim the distinction between the subtler Oriental and the more conservative Western Jews has maintained itself in Europe also. From the 8th century onwards Judaism put forth a remarkable side shoot in the Khazars on the Volga; if legend is to he believed, but little was required at one time to have induced the Russians to accept the Jewish rather than the Christian faith.
In the West the equal civil rights which Caracalla had conferred on all free inhabitants of the empire came to an end, so far as the Jews were concerned, in the time of Constantine. The state then became the secular arm of the church, and took action, though with less severity, against Jews just as against heretics and pagans. As early as the
year 315, Constantine made conversion from Christianity to Judaism a penal offence, and prohibited Jews, on pain of death, from circumcising their Christian slaves. These laws were re-enacted and made more severe by Constantius, who attached the penalty of death to marriages between Jews and Christians. Theodosius I. and Honorius, indeed, by strictly prohibiting the destruction of synagogues, and by maintaining the old regulation that a Jew was not to be summoned before a court of justice on a Sabbath-day, put a check upon the militant zeal of the Church, by which even Chrysostom, for example, allowed himself to be carried away at Antioch. But Honorius rendered them ineligible for civil or military service, leaving open to them only the bar and the decurionate, the latter being a privilegium odiosum. Their liberty to try cases by their own law was curtailed; the cases between Jews and Christians were to be tried by Christian judges only. Theodosius II. prohibited them from building new synagogues, and anew enforced their disability for all state employments. Most hostile of all was the orthodox Justinian, who, however, was still more severe against Pagans and Samaritans. 1 He harassed the Jews with a law enjoining them to observe Easter on the same day as the Christians, a law which it was of course found impossible to carry out. 2
In the Germanic states which arose upon the ruins of the Roman empire, the Jews did not fare badly on the whole. It was only in cases where the state was dominated by the Catholic Church, as, for example; among the Spanish Visigoths, that they were cruelly oppressed; among the Arian Ostrogoths, on the other hand, they had nothing to complain of. One thing in their favour was the Germanic principle that the law to be applied depended not on the land but on the nationality, as now in the East Europeans are judged by the consuls according to the law of their respective nations. The autonomy of the Jewish communities, which had been curtailed by the later emperors, was now enlarged once more under the laxer political and legal conditions. The Jews fared remarkably well under the Frankish monarchy; the Carolingians helped them in every possible way, making no account of the complaints of the bishops. They were allowed to hold property in land, but showed no
eagerness for it; leaving agriculture to the Germans, they devoted them selves to trade. The market was completely in their hands; as a specially lucrative branch of commerce they still carried on the traffic in slaves, which had engaged them even in ancient times. 1
Meanwhile the Church was not remiss in seeking constantly repeated re-enactments of the old imperial laws, in the framing of which she had had paramount influence, and which she now incorporated with her own canon law. 2 Gradually she succeeded in attaining her object. In the later Middle Ages the position of the Jews in the Christian society deteriorated. Intercourse with them was shunned; their isolation from being voluntary became compulsory; from the 13th century onwards they were obliged to wear, as a distinctive mark (more necessary in the East than in the West), a round or square yellow badge on their breast. 3 The difference of religion elicited a well-marked religious hate with oft-repeated deadly outbreaks, especially during the period of the crusades, and afterwards when the Black Death was raging (1348-50). Practical consequences like these the Church of course did not countenance; the popes set themselves against persecutions of the Jews, 4 but with imperfect success. The popular aversion rested by no means exclusively on religious considerations; worldly motives were also present. The Jews of that period had in a still higher degree than now the control of financial affairs in their hands; and they used it without scruple. The Church herself had unintentionally given them a monopoly of the money market, by forbidding Christians to take interest. 5 In this way the Jews became
rich indeed, but at the same time made themselves still more repugnant to the Christian population than they previously were by reason of their religion.
Having, according to the later mediæval system, no rights in the Christian state, the Jews were tolerated only in those territories where the sovereign in the exercise of free favour accorded them protection. This protection was granted them in many quarters, but never for nothing; numerous and various taxes, which could be raised or changed in a perfectly arbitrary way, were exacted in exchange. But in countries where the feeling of nationality attained to a vigorous development, the spirit of toleration was speedily exhausted; the Jews were expelled by the act of the state. England was the first kingdom in which this occurred (1290); France followed in 1395, Spain and Portugal in 1492 and 1495. In this way it came about that the Holy Roman Empire—Germany, Italy, and adjoining districts—became the chief abode of the Jews. 1 In the anarchy which here prevailed they could best maintain their separate attitude, and if they were expelled from one locality they readily found refuge in some other. The emperor had indeed the right of extirpating them altogether (with the exception of a small number to be left as a memorial); but, in the first place, he had in various ways given up this right to the states of the empire, and, moreover, his pecuniary resources were so small that he could not afford to want the tax which the Jews as his "servi cameræ" paid him for protecting their persons and property. In spite of many savage persecutions the Jews maintained their ground, especially in those parts of Germany where the political confusion was greatest. They even succeeded in maintaining a kind of autonomy by means of an arrangement in virtue of which civil processes which they had against each other were decided by their own rabbins in accordance with the law of the Talmud. 2
The Jews, through their having on the one hand separated themselves, and on the other hand been excluded on religious grounds from the Gentiles, gained an internal solidarity and solidity which has hitherto enabled them to survive all the attacks of time. The hostility of the Middle Ages involved them in no danger; the greatest peril has been brought upon them by modern times, along with permission and increasing inducements to abandon their separate position. It is worth while to recall on this point the opinion of Spinoza, who was well able to form a competent judgment (Tract. Theol. polit., c. 4, ad fin.):—"That the Jews have maintained themselves so long in spite of their dispersed and disorganised condition is not at all to be wondered at, when it is considered how they separated themselves from all other nationalities in such a way as to bring upon themselves the hatred of all, and that not only by external rites contrary to those of other nations, but also by the sign of circumcision, which they maintain most religiously. Experience shows that their conservation is due in a great degree to the very hatred which they have incurred. When the king of Spain compelled the Jews either to accept the national religion or to go into banishment, very many of them accepted the Roman Catholic faith, and in virtue of this received all the privileges of Spanish subjects, and were declared eligible for every honour; the consequence was that a process of absorption began immediately, and in a short time neither trace nor memory of them survived. Quite different was the history of those whom the king of Portugal compelled to accept the creed of his nation; although converted, they continued to live apart from the rest of their fellow-subjects, having been declared unfit for any dignity. So great importance do I attach to the sign of circumcision also in this connection, that I am persuaded that it is sufficient by itself to maintain the separate existence of the nation for ever." The persistency of the race may of course prove a harder thing to overcome than Spinoza has supposed; but nevertheless he will be found to have spoken truly in declaring that the so-called emancipation of the Jews must inevitably lead to the extinction of Judaism wherever the process is extended beyond the political to the social sphere. For the accomplishment of this centuries may be required.
543:1 Compare Schürer, Neutest. Zeitgeschichte (1874), sec. 31. The place taken by the Jewish element in the world of that time is brilliantly set forth by Mommsen in his History of Rome (book v. chapter ii.; English translation iv. p. 538 seq., 1866):—"How numerous even in Rome the Jewish population was already before Cæsar's time, and how closely at the same time the Jews even then kept together as fellow-countrymen, is shown by the remark of an author of this period, that it was dangerous for a governor to offend the Jews in his province, because he might then certainly reckon on being hissed after his return, by the populace of the capital. Even at this time the predominant business p. 544 of the Jews was trade. . . . At this period too we encounter the peculiar antipathy of the Occidentals towards this so thoroughly Oriental race and their foreign opinions and customs. This Judaism, although not the most pleasing feature in the nowhere pleasing picture of the mixture of nations which then prevailed, was, nevertheless, an historical element developing itself in the natural course of things,. . . which Cæsar just like his predecessor Alexander fostered as far as possible. . . .They did not, of course, contemplate placing the Jewish nationality on an equal footing with the Hellenic or Italo-Hellenic. But the Jew who has not, like the Occidental, received the Pandora's gift of political organisation, and stands substantially in a relation of indifference to the state, who, moreover, is as reluctant to give up the essence of his national idiosyncrasy as he is ready to clothe it with any nationality at pleasure and to adapt himself up to a certain degree to foreign habits—the Jew was, for this very reason, as it were, made for a state which was to be built on the ruins of a hundred living polities, and to be endowed with a somewhat abstract and, from the outset, weakened nationality. In the ancient world also Judaism was an effective leaven of cosmopolitanism and of national decomposition."
544:1 For a brief time only were they again favoured by Julian the Apostate; compare Gibbon, chapter xxiii.
544:2 Gibbon, chapter xlvi.
545:1 Cod. Theod., xvi. 8: "De Judæis, Cœlicolis, et Samaritanis;" Cod. Just., i. 9: "De Judæis et Cœlicolis." With regard to these cœlicolæ, see Gothofredus on Cod. Theod., xvi. 8, 9, and also J. Bernays, "Ueber die Gottesfürchtigen bei Juvenal," in the Comm. Philol in hon. Th. Mommsen, 1877, p. 163.
545:2 Gibbon, ch. xlvii.
546:1 Agobardus Lugdunensis, Die Insolentia Judæorum, De Judaicis superstitionibus. Agobard was no superstitious fanatic, but one of the weightiest and most enlightened ecclesiastics of the Middle Ages.
546:2 Compare Decret. i., dist. 45, c. 3; Decr. ii., caus. 23, qæst. 8, c. 9, caus. 28, qu. 1, c. 10-12; Decr. iii., de consecr., dist. 4, c. 93; Decretal. Greg. 5, 6 ("De Judæis, Sarracenis, et eorum servis"), 5, 19, 18; Extrav. commun. 5, 2.
546:3 Compare Du Cange, s. v. "Judæi;" also Reuter, Gesch. d. Aufklärung im Mittelalter, i. 154 seq. In spite of all the legal restrictions laid upon them, the Jews still continued to have great influence with the princes, and more especially with the popes, of the Middle Ages.
546:4 Decr. ii. 23, 8, 9. Alexander II. omnibus episcopis Hispaniæ: Dispar . . . est Judæorum et Sarracenorum causa; in illos enim, qui Christianos persequuntur et ex urbibus et propriis sedibus pellunt, juste pugnatur, hi vero ubique servire parati sunt.
546:5 Decretal. Greg. v. 19, 18. Innocent III. in name of the Lateran Council: Quanto amplius Christiana religio ab exactione compescitur usurarum, tanto gravisu super his Judæorum perfidia insolescit, ita quod brevi tempore Christianorum exhauriunt p. 547 facultates. Volentes igitur in hac parte prospicere Christianis, ne a Judæis immaniter aggraventur, synodali decreto statuimus, ut, si de cætero quocunque prætextu Judæi a Christianis graves immoderatasve usuras extorserint, Christianorum eis participium subtrahatur, donec de immoderato gravamine satisfecerint competenter. . . . Principibus autem injungimus, ut propter hoc non sint Christianis infesti, sed potius a tanto gravamine studeant cohibere Judæos.
547:1 The Polish Jews are German Jews who migrated in the Middle Ages to Poland, but have maintained to the present day their German speech, a mediæval South-Frankish dialect, of course greatly corrupted. In Russian "German" and "Jew" mean the same thing.
547:2 Stobbe, Die Juden in Deutschl. währ. d. Mittelalt., Brunsw., 1866.