Pausing to think of a what might have been, but just for a moment…

Pausing to think of a what might have been, but just for a moment… September 7, 2012

According to somebody’s calculations this is the day in the year 70 that the general and later emperor Titus and his three Roman legions entered Jerusalem. They burnt the temple to the ground and sacked the city. This historian Josephus claimed over a million people died in the siege and sacking.

I noticed this, and paused to think of one of those great turning moments in world history.

Now, what happened to James the Just, the brother of Jesus, and leader of the Jewish Christian community there, and seen by some the leader of the Jewish Christian sect, is not clear, although Eusebius says he was murdered in the year 63, some seven years before the sacking of Jerusalem.

The headship of the Jerusalem church appears by that time to have passed to a cousin of Jesus, Simeon of Jerusalem.

The histories are a terrible jumble, mixing facts, possible facts, probable fictions, a mass of contradictions and are in fact often simply hagiographies of the winners of various struggles.

What seems to me to be true, however, is that there was in fact a religious community that followed the teachings of the prophet Jesus, and like many contemporary Hasidic and Sufi lineages, leadership was passed to a series of relatives. In this case, first James. Then Simeon.

From there in the chaos of the times and the Jewish revolts and the destruction of their holy seat, Jerusalem, this original and primary school of Christian followers was destroyed and its followers either killed or dispersed.

And in the wake of this destruction the convert community founded by Paul, with its heavy Hellenization, and increasingly centralized leadership structures, won the day among various contending Christian communities, becoming normative, and “orthodox.”

So a pause to think of what might have been.


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