As we said from the outset, the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE was horrific, seismic, and transformative for all parties involved in this course. For the Romans, the successful conclusion of this major rebellion led credibility to a new dynasty that had no family ties to the previous Julio-Claudian Dynasty. So how would the Romans know this new dynasty was in some crucial sense legitimate in the eyes of the gods? Victory, of course!
The political value of Vespasian and Titus’ victory over the Jews cannot be underestimated. Beyond the material assistance of the Roman soldiers in Vespasian’s command in backing his bid for emperor, the victory in Judea allowed them a major cause for celebration and commemoration. War spoils and prisoners of war were used to begin construction on a massive amphitheater in the center of Rome, purposefully built over the former site of Nero’s sprawling palace. Now generally known as the Colosseum, its other name is the Flavian Amphitheater, and it remains one of the most impressive monuments of Imperial Rome. Another lasting monument is the Arch of Titus, commemorating Titus’ triumphal entry into Rome. As you can see in the picture to this post, the war spoils from the Temple are proudly paraded before the Roman populace as proof of Roman power.
For the Jews, this becomes a transformative period that will work a lasting change in the nature of Jewish piety. With the major cult center of the Temple now gone, the whole of Jewish religious life is reorganized without the pilgrimage center of Jerusalem at its heart. The Synagogue—already an established social and religious institution in many Jewish communities around the Mediterranean world—will now come to have the function it retains to this day. The old sectarian differences now give way to new social structures, and eventually Rabbinical Judaism will emerge as the dominant force in defining the Jewish religion.
For the early Jesus movement, the destruction of Jerusalem following some decades after the death of Jesus was both a crisis and an opportunity. On Thursday in particular, we’ll trace why this destruction is important in dating New Testament writings, and how it came to have new meaning as the movement transformed itself into Christianity.
For Tuesday 4/5 read in particular Josephus chapters 19-22 for the siege of Jerusalem, destruction of the Temple, and the Roman celebrations.
For Thursday 4/7 read Hayes and Mandel 207-215 ; and also Matthew 24-25, Luke 22, Luke 13.