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Fiscus Judaicus And The Parting Of The Ways, General Discussion


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BAR recently reviewed Marius Heemstra's book, Fiscus Judaicus and the parting of the Ways. I have the book borrowed from Trinity International Library for a few more days. I am so excited about the topic I am hoping to whet other appetites and further discussion. It was recently translated into English and is unavailable from my normal sources. And, is expensive. Hence, I have copied excerpts below more than the normal copyright probably allows. But, maybe this can get some discussion started. (I've had trouble formatting and lost a lengthy start into cyberspace. I'm sending this as is prior to another loss.)

 

 

The reform of the fiscus Judaicus by the emperor Nerva that I discussed in Chapter 3 led to the redefinition of the Jewish taxpayers: from "all members of the Jewish gens'' (as the Jewish tax had been introduced by Vespasian) to those Jews "who remained faithful to the customs of their forefathers", changing the definition of "Jew" from an ethnic one into a religious one instead. This means that those Jews who could not be captured under this definition (apostate Jews, Jewish Christians as members of mixed Christian communities) were explicitly exempted from the tax and were no longer regarded as Jews. This was probably good news for apostate Jews, but not for Jewish Christians, who remained strictly monotheistic and could face charges of atheism in the future. In Roman eyes they probably no longer followed their ancestral customs, but were actually fol lowers of a recently established religion of Jewish origin with a mission to spread their "atheism" among non Jews. This was a violation of the edict 'to the rest of the world" issued by Claudius, because the Jewish Christian mission to the nations automatically involved contempt of the religious observances of these nations, which was something Jews should refrain from. This "contempt" is found in many New Testament writings as was seen previously. pg. 154

 

It is not difficult to see that in the case of Jewish Christians the concerns of Jews and Romans ran parallel courses. For Jews the differences of opinion with these Jewish Christians were too large to keep them on board after the year 70, if they did not want to jeopardize their unity and their general privileged position in the Roman Empire. For mainstream Judaism the prominence of the Mosaic Law was elementary, whereas for many Jewish Christians the coming of Jesus as the Messiah had superseded this Law. Christians the coming of Jesus as the Messiah had superseded this Law. For the latter group this meant that Gentiles could become full members of the Christian communities (without first becoming Jews), If they converted to the God of Israel, whereas mainstream Judaism kept Gentile sympathizer at a greater distance. The fact that Christianity was a missionary movement, which was especially unwanted from a Roman perspective, was something non-Christian Jews would also take into account. As I concluded, this development could certainly have prompted the need for a sharper definition of an "orthodox" Jew on the part of mainstream Judaism, which then took on a more religious nature and became less ethnic, partly in contrast to the definition the fiscus Judaicus was using under Domitian. pg. 17

 

Ron

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... This may be particularly relevant today as we in the US approach our own 'fiscus twopercentus.'

 

Thanks for the welcome. Heemstra made reference to this in the context that not much has changed in the last couple millennia kind of like "follow the money." And, I agree. The book harbors on how decisions are made primarily with politics and economics in mind. As you are aware my skepticisms follow these lines. One primarily reads what one agrees with.

 

Here's hoping others will give their take. Probably not the place to say this, but this group seems much more mellow than the one we met on.

 

Ron

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One more try to see if I can get some interest in this topic and this book. Here is a link to an essay very much like a short summary of the book. It has nothing about the writing of Biblical Books prompted by the turmoil over the tax. A short 7 pages, but a very interesting read.

 

http://www.torahresource.com/EnglishArticles/Fiscus%20Judaicus.pdf

 

Ron

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