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Barnabas found the church of Jerusalem in great trouble. The year 44 was perilous to it. Besides the famine, the fires of persecution, which had been smothered since the death of Stephen, were rekindled.

Herod Agrippa, grandson of Herod the Great, had succeeded, since the year 41, in reconstructing the kingdom of his grandfather. Thanks to the favour of Caligula, he had reunited under his sway Batanea, Trachonitis a part of the Hauran, Abilene, Galilee, and the Perea. The ignoble part he played in the tragi-comedy which raised Claudius to the empire, completed his fortune. This vile Oriental, in return for the lessons of baseness and 132perfidy he had given at Rome, obtained for himself Samaria and Judea, and for his brother Herod, the kingdom of Chalcis. He had left at Rome the worst memories, and the cruelties of Caligula were in part attributed to his counsels. His army, and the Pagan cities of Sebaste and Cesarea, which he sacrificed to Jerusalem, were averse to him. But the Jews found him generous, munificient, and sympathetic. He sought to make himself popular with them, and pursued a policy quite different from that of Herod the Great. The latter was much more mindful of the Greek and Roman world than of the Jewish. Herod Agrippa, on the contrary, loved Jerusalem, rigorously observed the Jewish religion, affected scrupulousness, and never let a day pass without attending to his devotions. He went so far as to receive good naturedly the advice of the rigorists, and was at the pains to justify himself against their reproaches. He returned to the inhabitants of Jerusalem the tribute which each family owed him. The orthodox, in a word had in him a king after their own heart.

It was inevitable that a prince of this character should persecute the Christians. Sincere or not, Herod Agrippa was, in the strictest sense of the word, a Jewish Sovereign. The house of Herod, as it became weaker, took to devotion. It held no longer to that broad profane idea of the founder of the dynasty, which sought to make the most diverse religions live together under the common empire of civilization. When Herod Agrippa, for the first time after he had become king, set foot in Alexandria, it was as a King of the Jews that he was received: it was this title which irritated the population and gave rise to endless buffooneries. Now what was a King of the Jews, if he did not become the guardians of the laws and the traditions, a sovereign theocrat and persecutor? From the time of Herod the Great, under whom fanaticism was entirely suppressed, until the breaking out of the war which led to the destruction of Jerusalem, there was thus a constantly increasing process of religious ardour. 133The death of Caligula (24th Jan., 41) had produced a reaction favourable to the Jews. Claudius was generally benevolent towards them, as a result of the favourable ear he lent to Herod Agrippa and Herod King of Chalcis. Not only did he decide in favour of the Jews of Alexandria in their quarrels with the inhabitants and allow them the right of choosing an ethnarch, but he published, it is said, an edict by which he granted to the Jews, throughout the whole empire, that which he had granted to those of Alexandria; that is to say, the freedom of living according to their own laws, on the sole condition of not abusing other worships. Some attempts at vexations, analagous to those which were inflicted under Caligula, were repressed. Jerusalem was greatly enlarged: the suburb of Bezetha was added to the city. The Roman authority scarcely made itself felt, although Vibius Marsus, a prudent man, of wide public experience, and of a very cultivated mind, who had succeeded Publius Petronius in the function of imperial legate of Syria, drew the attention of the authorities at Rome from time to time to the danger of these semi-independent Eastern Kingdoms.

The species of feudality which, since the death of Tiberius, tended to establish itself in Syria and the neighbouring countries, was in fact an interruption in the imperial policy and had almost uniformly injurious results. The “Kings” coming to Rome were great personages, and exercised there a detestable influence. The corruption and abasement of the people, especially under Caligula, proceeded in great part from the spectacle furnished by these wretches, who were seen successively dragging their purple at the theatre, at the palace of the Cæsar, and in the prisons. So far as concerns the Jews, we have seen that autonomy meant intolerance. The Sovereign Pontificate quitted for a moment the family of Hanan, only to enter that of Boëthus, a family no less haughty and cruel. A sovereign anxious to please the Jews could not fail, but 134to grant them what they most desired; that is to say, severities against everything which diverged from rigorous orthodoxy.

Herod Agrippa, in fact, became towards the end of his reign a violent persecutor. Some time before the Passover of the year 44, he cut off the head of one of the principal members of the apostolical college, James, son of Zebedee, brother of John. The offence was not re-presented as a religious one; there was no inquisitorial trial before the Sanhedrim: the sentence, as in the case of John the Baptist, was pronounced by virtue of the arbitrary power of the sovereign. Encouraged by the good effect which this execution produced upon the Jews, Herod Agrippa was unwilling to stop upon so easy a road to popularity. It was the first days of the Feast of the Passover, which were ordinarily marked by redoubled fanaticism. Agrippa ordered the imprisonment of Peter in the Tower of Antonia, and sought to have him judged and put to death in the most ostentations manner before the multitude of people then assembled.

A circumstance with which we are unacquainted, and which was regarded as miraculous, opened Peter’s prison. One evening, as many of the disciples were assembled in the house of Mary, mother of John-Mark, where Peter constantly resided, there was suddenly a knock heard at the door. The servant, named Rhoda, went to listen. She recognised Peter’s voice. Transported with delight, instead of opening the door she ran back to announce that Peter was there. They regarded her as mad. She avowed she spoke the truth. “It is his angel,” said some of them. The knocking was continued; it was indeed he. Their delight was infinite. Peter immediately announced his deliverance to James, brother of the Lord, and to the other disciples. It was believed that the angel of God had entered into the prison of the apostle and made the chains drop from his hands, and the bolts of the doors fall. Peter related, in fact, all that 135had passed while he was in a sort of ecstasy; that after he had passed the first and second guard, and gone through the iron gate which led into the city, the angel accompanied him the distance of a street, then quitted him; that then he came to himself and recognized the hand of God, who had sent a celestial messenger to deliver him.

Agrippa survived these violences but a short time. In the course of the year 44, he went to Cesarea to celebrate games in honour of Claudius. The concourse of people was very great; and many from Tyre and Sidon, who had difficulties with him, came thither to sue for pardon. These festivals were very displeasing to the Jews, both because they took place in the city of Cæsarea, and because they were held in the theatre. Previously, on one occasion, the king having quitted Jerusalem under similar circumstances, a certain rabbi Simeon had proposed to declare him an alien to Judaism, and to exclude him from the temple. Herod Agrippa had carried his condescension so far as to place the rabbi beside him in the theatre in order to prove to him that nothing passed there contrary to the law, and thinking he had thus satisfied the most austere, he allowed himself to indulge his taste for profane pomps. The second day of the festival he entered the theatre very early in the morning, clothed in a tunic of silver fabric, of marvellous brilliancy. The effect of this tunic, glittering in the rays of the rising sun, was extraordinary. The Phœnicians who surrounded the king lavished upon him adulations borrowed from Paganism. “It is a god,” they cried, “and not a man.” The king did not testify his indignation, and did not blame this expression. He died five days afterwards; and Jews and Christians believed that he was struck dead for not having repelled with horror a blasphemous flattery. Christian tradition represents that he died of a vermicular malady, the punishment reserved for the enemies of God. The symptoms related by Josephus would lead rather to the 136belief that he was poisoned; and what is said in the Acts of the equivocal conduct of the Phoenicians, and of the care they took to gain over Blastus, valet of the king, would strengthen this hypothesis.

The death of Herod Agrippa I. led to the end of all independence for Jerusalem. The administration by procurators was resumed, and this régime lasted until the great revolt. This was fortunate for Christianity; for it is very remarkable that this religion, which was des-tined to sustain subsequently so terrible a struggle against the Roman empire, grew up in the shadow of the Roman rule, under its protection. It was Rome, as we have already several times remarked, which hindered Judaism from giving itself up fully to its intolerant instincts, and stifling the free instincts which were stirred within its bosom. Every diminution of Jewish authority was a benefit to the nascent sect. Cuspius Fadus, the first of this new series of procurators, was another Pilate, full of firmness, or at least of good-will. But Claudius continued to show himself favourable to Jewish pretensions, chiefly at the instigation of the young Herod Agrippa, son of Herod Agrippa I., whom he kept near to his person, and whom he greatly loved. After the short administration of Cuspius Fadus, we find the functions of procurator confided to a Jew, to that Tiberius Alexander, nephew of Philo, and son of the alabarque of the Alexandrian Jews who attained to high position, and played a great part in the political affairs of that century. It is true that the Jews did not like him; and regarded him, not without reason, as an apostate.

To put an end to these incessantly renewed disputes, recourse was had to an expedient based on sound principles. A sort of separation was made between the spiritual and temporal. The political power remained with the procurators; but Herod, king of Chalcis, brother of Agrippa I., was named prefect of the temple, guardian of the pontifical habits, treasurer of the sacred 137fund, and invested with the right of nominating the high-priests. At his death, in 48, Herod Agrippa II., son of Herod Agrippa I., succeeded his uncle in his offices, which he retained until the great war. Claudius, in all this, manifested the greatest kindness. The high Roman functionaries in Syria, although not so strongly disposed as the emperor to concessions, acted also with great moderation. The procurator, Ventidius Cumanus, carried condescension so far as to have a soldier beheaded in the midst of the Jews, drawn up in line, for having torn a copy of the Pentateuch. But all was in vain; Josephus, with good reason, dates from the administration of Cumanus the disorders which ended only with the destruction of Jerusalem.

Christianity took no part in these troubles. But these troubles, like Christianity itself, were one of the symptoms of the extraordinary fever which devoured the Jewish people, and the Divine work which was being accomplished in its midst. Never had the Jewish faith made such progress. The temple of Jerusalem was one of the sanctuaries of the world, the reputation of which was most widely extended, and in which the offerings were the most liberal. Judaism had become the dominant religion of several portions of Syria. The Asmonean princes had forcibly converted entire populations to it (Idumeans, Itureans, &c.). There were many instances of circumcision having been imposed by force; the ardour for making proselytes was very great. Even the house of Herod aided powerfully the Jewish propaganda. In order to marry princesses of this family, whose wealth was immense, the princes of the little dynasties of Emese, of Pontus, and of Cilicia, vassals of the Romans, became Jews. Arabia and Ethiopia contained also a great number of converts. The royal families of Mesene and of Adiabene, tributaries of the Parthians, were gained over, especially by their women. It was generally admitted that happiness was found in the knowledge and practice of the Law. Even when 138circumcision was not practised, religion was more or less modified in the direction of Judaism; a sort of monotheism was becoming the general spirit of religion in Syria. At Damascus, a city which was in nowise of Israelitish origin, nearly all the women had adopted the Jewish religion. Behind the Pharisaical Judaism there was thus formed a sort of liberal Judaism containing some alloy, which did not know all the secrets of the sect, brought only its goodwill and kind heart, but which had a much greater future. The situation was, in some respects similar to that of Catholicism of to-day, where we see, on the one hand, narrow and haughty theologians, who, of themselves, would gain no more souls for Catholicism than the Pharisees gained for Judaism; on the other, pious laymen, in many instances heretics, without knowing it, but full of a touching zeal, rich in good works and in poetic sentiments, wholly occupied in dissimulating or in repairing by complaisant excuses the faults of their doctors.

One of the most extraordinary examples of this pen-chant of religious souls towards Judaism was that given by the royal family of Adiabene, upon the Tiger. This house, Persian by origin and in manners, and in a measure acquainted with Greek culture, became wholly Jewish, and affected extreme devotion; for, as we have said, those proselytes were often more pious than Jews by birth. Izate, the head of the family, embraced Judaism through the preaching of a Jewish merchant named Ananias, who, having occasion to enter the seraglio of Abennerig, King of Mesene, to prosecute his pedlar business, had succeeded in converting all the women, and constituted himself their spiritual preceptor. The women put Izate into communication with him. Helen, his mother, had herself instructed in the true religion by another Jew. Izate, with the zeal of a new convert, desired forthwith to be circumcised. But his mother and Ananias earnestly dissuaded him against it. Ananias proved to him that the keeping of 139the commandments of God was more important than circumcision, and that one could be a good Jew without submitting to that ceremony. Tolerance such as this existed only in the case of a few of the more enlightened minds. Some time after, a Galilean Jew, named Eleazar, finding the King one day engaged in reading the Pentateuch, proved to him from texts that he could not observe the law without being circumcised. Izate was persuaded by him, and underwent the operation immediately.

The conversion of Izate was followed by that of his brother Monobaze and almost the whole of his family. About the year 44, Helen established herself at Jerusalem, where she had erected for the royal house of Adiabene a palace and a family mausoleum, which still exists. She made herself to be beloved of the Jews by her affability and her alms. It was a source of great edification to see her, like a devout Jewess, frequenting the Temple, consulting the doctors, reading the Law, and instructing her sons in it. In the plague of the year 44, this holy woman was a god-send to the city. She bought a large quantity of wheat in Egypt, and dried figs in Cyprus. Izate, on his part, sent considerable sums to be distributed amongst the poor. The wealth of Adiabene was expended in part at Jerusalem. The son of Izate came there to learn the usages and the language of the Jews. The whole of this family was thus the resource of the city of mendicants. It acquired there a sort of citizenship; several of its members were found there at the time of the siege of Titus; others figure in the Talmudic writings, and are represented as models of piety and disinterestedness.

It is in this way that the royal family of Adiabene belongs to the history of Christianity. Without in fact being Christian, as certain traditions would have it, this family represented, under various aspects, the promises of the Gentiles. In embracing Judaism, it 140obeyed a sentiment which was to eventuate in Christianizing the entire Pagan world. The true Israelites, according to God, were rather those foreigners animated by so profoundly sincere a religious sentiment than the malevolent and roguish Pharisee, to whom religion was but a pretext for hatred and disdain. These good proselytes, although they were truly saints, were by no means fanatics. They admitted that true religion could be practised under the empire of a code of civil laws the most unduly adverse. They separated completely religion from politics. The distinction between the seditious sectaries, who were savagely to defend Jerusalem, and the pacific devotees who on the first rumour of war were going to flee to the mountains, became more and more manifest.

We see at least that the question of proselytes was put forward in a similar manner, both in Judaism and in Christianity. On both hands the necessity for enlarging the door of entrance was felt. For those who were thus situated, circumcision was a useless or noxious practice; the Mosaic rite was simply a sign of race, of no value except for the children of Abraham. Before becoming the universal religion, Judaism was compelled to reduce itself to a sort of deism, imposing only the duties of natural religion. There was thus a sublime mission to fulfil, and a part of Judaism in the first half of the first century lent itself to it in a very intelligent manner. On one side, Judaism was one of the innumerable forms of natural worship which filled the world, and the sanctity of which came only from what its ancestors had worshipped; on the other, Judaism was the absolute religion made for all and destined to be adopted by all. The frightful outbreak of fanaticism which gained the upper hand in Judea, and which brought about the war of extermination, cut short that future. It was Christianity which undertook the work which the Synagogue had not known 141how to accomplish. Leaving on one side all questions of ritual, Christianity continued the monotheistic propaganda of Judaism. That which made up the strength of Judaism amongst the women of Damascus; in the harem of Abennerig, with Helen, with so many pious proselytes, composed the force of Christianity in the entire world. In this sense the glory of Christianity is really confounded with that of Judaism. A generation of fanatics deprived this last of its reward and prevented it from gathering the harvest which it had sown.

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