The Crusades

The Crusades

At the time just prior to the first crusade in 1095, there were three great powers in the European and Middle Eastern World; the Holy Roman Empire consisting of most of Western Europe; Byzantium, which included the Western part of the Asian Minor, Greece, and the Balkans, and Islam, which controlled Eastern Asian Minor, Persia, Syria, Palestine, Arabia, North Africa, and Southern Spain.

The Holy Roman Empire had its origin in the Carolingian empire of the Franks whose first mayor (“King”) was Charles Martel.  This included what is now Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium, and France.  When Martel died in 741, he was succeeded by his son, Pepin (The Short), whose major contribution to history was his invasion of Italy in 756 leading to the defeat of the Lombards who occupied Central Italy.  Pepin subsequently gave that land to Pope Stephen, II.  This became known as the “Donation of Pepin” and in return the Pope consecrated Pepin as king of the Franks.  Pepin died in 768 and his son, Charles, better known as Charlemagne, became king.  Charlemagne and Pepin expanded their empire by pushing the Muslims out of Southern France and Northern Spain during the latter part of the eighth century.  Charlemagne again invaded Italy in 773 in order to recover the papal territories donated by his father.  He also fought prolonged wars against the Saxons in the northeast.  Both he and Pepin cultivated good relations with the Pope and Charlemagne was crowned Holy Roman Emperor by Pope Leo, III in 800.

Charlemagne died in 814 and his son, Louis (the Pious), became emperor.  He continued the wars of attrition against the Muslims and Spain and repelled invasions by the Vikings in the north and the Magyars in the east.  Unfortunately, at the time of his death in 840, he had three adult sons and the empire was divided into three parts.  By that time the Holy Roman Empire consisted of a collection of Kingdoms with semi-independent rulers and could hardly be called an empire.  Ultimately, the emperor became a figurehead, elected by the various kings.  This situation inevitably led to civil wars and also strife with the papacy over the right of investure i.e. whether the pope or the secular rulers had the power to appoint bishops and archbishops.  This controversy continued for over 200 years.  This was important to the nobility because of the power wielded by these clerics.  The Vatican held that Ecclesiastic appointments should be made by the church.  The matter was not finally resolved until 1122 by the Concordat of Worms which provided for a distinction between the temporal and the spiritual powers of the Bishops.

Islam, on the other hand, after the defeat at Tours in 732, was slowly driven out of Southern France and Spain by the Christian emperors and kings of the west.  However, it was not until 1492 they were finally expelled from Spain.

In the Middle East, there was ongoing war between Byzantium and Islam.  In the 8th and 9th century, Arabs conquered Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, and Persia and established the Abbasid caliphate and moved the capital from Damascus to Bagdad.  In the 10th and 11th centuries, the Seljuk Turks came out of Asia and captured most of the Middle East, including Palestine, Syria, and western Asia Minor.  Most of these conquests were at the expense of the Byzantines.  The Battle of Manzikert in 1071 was a major defeat for Byzantium.  However, a few years later, the Byzantine emperor, Alexius I Comnenus regained some of the lost territories and revived the Byzantine Empire.

In 1095, the Byzantine emperor Alexius appealed to Pope Urban, II for help against the Muslims who were threatening Constantinople.  Urban felt strongly that the Holy Land should be controlled by Christians rather than Muslims.  He called for a council of the church at a town in France called Cleremont where he preached a sermon calling for a grand crusade to retake the Holy Land.  He was a gifted orator and his message was received enthusiastically which led to the first great crusade.  It should also be noted that those who “took up the cross” did not do so for altruistic reasons, but rather for the opportunity to plunder and establish new kingdoms for themselves.  The Pope also had ulterior motives.  In 1054, a schism had occurred in Christianity.  For years, the archbishop of Constantinople had opposed the authority of the Roman Pope over the Eastern Church which he led.  This came to a head in 1054 when Pope Leo IX and archbishop Cerularius excommunicated each other over the Pope’s efforts to control the Eastern Church.  This led to a separation of the Western or Roman church from The Eastern Orthodox rite of Christianity.  When the Eastern Emperor Alexius asked for help in 1095, Urban agreed to promote the crusade in return for Alexius’ help in reuniting the two branches of Christianity.  The Pope also benefitted from the crusade because it distracted the European nobility from the controversy over investure.  This was the setting for the beginning of the first crusade which began in 1096.  It was led by Raymond Count of Toulouse, Godfrey, Duke of Lorraine, and his brother Baldwin, Behemond of Taranto, and the papal legate, bishop Adhemar.  Their march across southern Europe to Constantinople was characterized by the usual plunder, rape and murder.

However, the so called People’s Crusade led by Peter the Hermit was far worst by comparison. Impoverished people living in miserable conditions looking for a better life in the Holy Land joined the movement.  Their progress eastward across Europe preceded that of the first crusade and there was great slaughter of European Jews, along with rape and pillage.  Alexius was horrified when that motley band arrived at his city and he shifted them across the Dardanelles to fight the infidels.  They were defeated and massacred in short order by the Muslims.  A few survived to reach the Holy Land and these were called “tafers”.  These survivors of the People’s Crusade were feared by everyone because of their religious fervor, which made them fierce fighters and their habit of killing everyone in any town or village they captured.

The main body of the crusaders arrived at Constantinople in 1097.  They took Nicea from the Muslims and returned it to Byzantium.  Baldwin and his troops then attacked and besieged Edessa, which fell later that year.  By that time, the Crusaders were quarreling among themselves and refusing to cooperate with Alexius.  They were more concerned about empire building for themselves than the crusades.  The remainder of the crusaders then attacked Antioch, which after a long siege fell in 1098.  Both Bohemond and Raymond vied to rule there, but Bohemond was finally selected to reign over that city.

The crusaders, led by Godfrey then went on to Jerusalem in 1099 and the city fell to them in June of that year.  This was followed by a massacre of almost the entire population.  The carnage included men, women, and children, both Jew and Muslim.  Godfrey was very pious and probably was the only leader of the crusades who was sincere in his religious motivation to reclaim the Holy Land for Christianity.  He declined the title of “King of Jerusalem” and preferred to be called “Defender of the Holy Sepulchre”.  He refused to wear a crown in the city where Jesus had worn a crown of thorns.  Unfortunately, he died one year later and his brother, Baldwin of Edessa, had no problem with being crowned as King of Jerusalem.

There followed almost 50 years of relative peace, during which the crusaders consolidated and expanded their kingdoms.  There was some fighting with disorganized bands of Muslims and even fighting amongst themselves.  They traded with the Arabs and even used them as mercenaries when they fought each other.  Palestine was then fairly peaceful and during that time pilgrims traveled safely to the Holy Land and Jerusalem.  This was made possible by two military orders of knights.  The Knights of St. John (Hospitallers) and the Poor Knights of Christ and the Temple of Solomon (Knights Templar).

All this came to an end in 1147, when the Muslim leader, Zengi, reconquered Edessa, which exposed and endangered the Northern flank of the crusader states.  The Pope at that time, Eugenius III, called for a second crusade which was then led by Louis VII of France and Conrad III of the Holy Roman Empire.  However, the armies of both of these kings were defeated before they even reached the Holy Land.  The crusader kingdoms in Palestine survived by hiring Turkish mercenaries to help them hold off Zengi and after his death, Saladin.  On July 4, 1187, a very large crusader army was decisively defeated at the Battle of Hattin and shortly thereafter Saladin retook Jerusalem.  The defeat at Hattin was due primarily to Saladin being able to choose a time and place for the battle, which was very much to his advantage.

The loss of Jerusalem led to the third crusade in 1189.  This was led by Frederick I, Barbarossa who died in route, Philip II, Augustus, who fell ill early and returned home, and Richard I (The Lion-Hearted) of England.  Richard fought Saladin for two years, conquering Acre and most of the coastline.  This was important because it allowed the great merchants fleets of Venus, Genoa, and Pisa to supply and support the crusaders and the Knights (for a price).

Saladin died in 1193 and the infighting among his family members led to disorganization of the Muslims.  Pope Innocent III felt that the time was right for another crusade.  In 1202, the fourth crusade was launched.  It was led by the Barons of Northern France and the Netherlands.  It never accomplished its purpose to reconquer Jerusalem.  The Venetians persuaded the crusaders to take the Christian Port of Zena for their use, which would be payment to the Venetians for their help to the crusaders.  This infuriated Innocent III and he excommunicated the whole army.  Instead of taking Jerusalem, they subsequently conquered Constantinople in 1204 and established a Latin Empire in Byzantium, which lasted until 1201, when Greek Orthodoxy was re-established in a significantly diminished Byzantine Empire.

The fifth crusade (1217-1221) was supposed to be led by the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick II.  By that time, it had been decided that the key to winning back Jerusalem and the Holy Land was through Egypt where most of the Muslim strength and reserve forces were located.  They took the main Egyptian port of Damietta, but were decisively defeated at the Nile.  They only escaped Egypt by giving back the port of Damietta in exchange for a safe conduct out of Egypt.  Later in 1229, Frederick II arrived upon the scene and negotiated a treaty with the Muslims in which he was given possession of Jerusalem and had himself crowned king.

In 1244, the Muslims again took Jerusalem and this led to the sixth and last crusade (1248-54).  This was led by Louis IX (St. Louis) and was a carbon copy of the fifth crusade; an invasion of Egypt, conquest of Damietta, defeat by the Muslims inland, and surrender of Damietta plus a huge ransom in order to escape.

There were no longer any large organized crusades.  Occasional small bands of crusaders continued to go to Palestine for several years, but they were absorbed in the existing crusader communities.  The crusader kingdoms, however, were slowly reduced by the Arabs until 1291, when the last crusaders were driven out of the Holy Land.

What did the crusades accomplish in almost 200 years of warfare?  Very little; the situation at the end of the crusades was substantially the same as at the beginning.  One beneficiary was the papacy.  Shortly after the end of the crusades in 1291, the issue of investure was decided (Concordat of Worms 1122).  Unfortunately, the church still had to contend with the powerful rulers of Western Europe; the Holy Land was not recovered and Eastern and Western Christianity not reunited.

The biggest loser was Byzantium, which lost a great deal of territory to the Muslims and was a far weaker empire at the end of the crusades than at the beginning.  In fact, Byzantium only survived another 200 years until the fall of Constantinople in 1458 to the Ottoman Turks.

The Muslims benefitted by discovering that they could defeat Western armies in battle and this encouraged them to embark on their subsequent wars of conquest against Byzantium and Southeastern Europe.  They also consolidated their hold on Palestine, Syria, Asia Minor, and Egypt.

The crusades, therefore, accomplished very little, most of which was negative.  How could the results fit into God’s plan?  If he really wanted the Holy Land to be in Christian hands, the crusades would have ended otherwise.  The only possible reason for the actual outcome would have to be God’s intention that the power of a corrupted, highly politicized Roman church be checked.  This presaged the reformation 200 years later, which occurred for the same reason.  Thus ended the crusades, a noble cause with base motivations.

Whose Land Is It Anyway?

Whose Land Is It Anyway?

Many Christians who believe that God gave the land of Israel to the Jews on the basis of God’s promise to Abraham, in Genesis 12:7 “And the Lord appeared unto Abraham and said, “unto thy seed will I give this land.”

Unfortunately, a great majority of the world’s population is either not Christian or Christians who do not believe the Bible. Many of them are progressive liberals who are actively pursuing a course of action to force Israel to give the territory they currently “occupy” to a group of Arabs who call themselves “Palestinians”. Therefore, in order to answer the arguments put forward by these people, it has become necessary to look for non-Biblical facts to support the Jewish claim to Judea and Samaria, the heartland of Israel.

First of all, it should be noted that it was the United Nations who established the state of Israel in 1948, when it partitioned Palestine in two states, Arab and Jewish. This partition was accepted by the Jews, but immediately rejected by the Arabs. The amount of land allotted to the Jews was far less than that given to them as a homeland by the Balfour declaration and successive “White Papers” issued by British. Nevertheless, the infant state of Israel was attacked by armies of five Arab nations. After a bitter struggle, Israel prevailed and with borders set at the Armistice lines actually wound up with more territory than it was originally given by the United Nations. Subsequent wars in 1967 and 1973 were also won by the Israelis’ who enlarged their state by capturing the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza, and Sinai. Israel later withdrew from the Sinai and Gaza and gave Palestinians in the West Bank civil autonomy. These are not the actions of conquerors or occupiers.

Palestinians claim that they are the descendants of the original inhabitants of ancient Palestine and there was no real Jewish presence in the land at that time. This is absurd. There is enormous archaeological evidence to the contrary, despite the attempts of Arab Palestinians to destroy or obliterate it. Contemporary historians, such as Josephus, Tacitus, and Eusubius all documented the presence of Jews in Palestine hundreds of years before Muhammad established the Muslim faith. Finally, even the word Palestinian is a misnomer. The Roman Emperor, Hadrian, after the second Jewish rebellion in 130 A.D., renamed Judea, Palestine, possibly referring to the Philistines, a tribe inhabiting the Mediterranean Coast during early biblical times near Gaza today. In fact, the British called the Jews Palestinians during their mandate and that term was only transferred to the Arabs after the establishment of the state of Israel. The people who call themselves Palestinians today are really descendants of those Arabs who migrated to Palestine in the late 19th and 20th centuries to obtain work provided mostly by Jewish immigrants.

Finally, is it reasonable to return land to former and probably current enemies so as to leave oneself indefensible? Should Italy return the South Tyrol to Austria? How about the United States giving back New Mexico, Arizona, and Southern California to Mexico? Or, how about China withdrawing from Tibet? Not a chance. And, in all of these cases, there are no threats from the proposed returned territories to the donors. In fact, almost everywhere in the world, at sometime or other, has been occupied by someone else and never restored or returned.

Who then has the greater right to the land of Israel? Both biblically and historically, it has to be the Jews.

A Little History Lesson – Can It Happen Again?

A Little History Lesson – Can It Happen Again?

In 1928, the German Republic was a very fragile democracy. Germany was laboring under the severe restrictions of the Treaty of Versailles and the effects of the recent hyperinflation, which wiped out the savings of a large part of the middle class. An election was held that year and the small national socialist (Nazi) party garnered 810,000 votes, only 3% of the total. In a parliamentary democracy, which Germany was at that time, the head of state, the elected president or hereditary monarch asks the leader of the party with the most members elected to the legislature to form a government. This is relatively easy when one party has a majority, but can be a real problem when the leading party only has a plurality.

The next election was held in 1930. The Nazi party increased its vote tally to 6.5,000,000, nowhere near enough to be a significant force in any government. Heinrich Bruening of the Catholic Center Party was asked by President Hindenburg to try to form a government. Hindenburg was Germany’s leading soldier in World War I and was the most popular man in Germany at that time. Bruening was unsuccessful, mainly because there were ten parties in the mix with constant bargaining, bickering, and catering to special interests. Hindenburg reluctantly appointed Bruening Chancellor and instructed him to rule by presidential decree.

Heinrich Bruening was not a popular leader. He was dubbed the “hunger chancellor”. Unfortunately, he inherited the Great Depression with its unemployment and lowered wages. In May of 1932, Bruening was finally forced out of office and new elections held. This election was marked by extreme violence, especially by members of the Schutzstaffel (SS), a military order originally designed for security purposes, but later much else and the Sturmabteiling (SA), essentially a paramilitary bunch of thugs intended for the intimidation, brutalizing, and even murder of opponents of Naziism. At one point, Marshall Law had to be imposed. Later, in 1932, another election had to be held and Nazis received over 16,000,000 votes and 230 seats in the Reichstag (The German Legislature). Other parties receiving a significant number of seats where the socialists, the communists, the Catholic Center, and the conservative German nationalists.

Hitler and the Nazis were close to a majority (37%), but not there yet. Hitler was unable to form a government because all of the other parties were either diametrically opposed to Naziism or were justifiably deathly afraid of it. The solution; another election held in November 1932. Much to the surprise of the Nazis, they lost 2,000,000 votes and 34 seats in the Reichstag, leaving them with only 196 deputies. However, this was still a significant Nazi plurality.

In January 1933, Hindenburg was finally prevailed upon to appoint Hitler as chancellor. Shortly thereafter, Hitler persuaded the conservative German National Party to vote with the Nazis to pass an Enabling Act, which allowed Hitler to rule by decree. On June 22, 1933, the socialist party was dissolved and many of its leaders jailed in concentration camps. The communists were either killed or jailed with the remainder leaving Germany. On June 29, 1933, as a reward for supporting the Nazis, the German National Party was also dissolved. The last to go was the Catholic Center Party, which dissolved itself later in 1933. It might be interesting to note that the Vatican signed a concordant (treaty) with Germany shortly thereafter, which was the work of the Vatican legate (ambassador), Eugenio Pacelli, later Pope Pius XII. German was then a one-party state and, thus, ended democracy and freedom in that country and the beginning of tyranny and despotism.

In order to answer the question posed in the title of this article, it is necessary to compare the socioeconomic structure in Germany in 1928-34 with that currently in the U.S. Many similarities and differences are present, which ultimately answer the question. Germany was in a severe depression in those years, as was the rest of the world. Unemployment was very high (15 to 20%) and the economy was stagnant, primarily because of the depression and the draconian reparations meted out to that country by the Treaty of Versailles at the end of World War I. In 2007-2009, the U.S. also suffered a severe depression-like recession with high unemployment of 10 to 12%, but began to slowly recover in 2009. The severity of that economic downturn in the U.S. was in no way comparable to that in Germany in 1933. The U.S. is an immensely wealthy country with the ability to overcome almost any adversity. Germany, on the other hand, was essentially bankrupt in 1933-1934.

In the 1930s, the middle class in Germany, having lost most of its wealth, was desperate. Today, this group in the U.S. has also suffered significant losses, but for the most part have recovered. This erupted into violence and a turn to Nazism in Germany, but except for the “Occupy Wallstreet” movement, there was little or no violence in the U.S.

However, there were some similarities in both situations. In Germany, wages and prices were lower while the U.S. taxes were increased, which is essentially the same thing. In both countries, restrictions were placed on banks and other financial institutions. The U.S. was able to afford to pump enormous amounts of money into the economy via the stimulus programs, which Germany in 1933 was unable to do.

Finally, Germany suffered from an unstable government with multiple political parties, each with its own agenda, making it impossible to accomplish anything substantive. In the U.S., we have two parties which cannot agree on anything, but ultimately they finally get things done.

Adolf Hitler came to power because he was able to get the Reichstag to pass an Enabling Act, which gave him the right to rule by decree with no checks on his power. This was possible because of the horrific conditions which existed in Germany during those years. In America today, we have a chief executive whose plans have been frustrated by a stubborn congress and an uncooperative supreme court. As a result, he has tried to implement his programs by executive order with only varying degrees of success. He may be a dictator in waiting, but he will have to wait a long time. The next election will tell whether his star is still rising or is beginning to fall.

Will conditions ever exist in the U.S. similar to that of Germany in 1933? That does not seem to be the case in the foreseeable future. The only scenario which might lead to this state would be a growth of the national debt to an unsustainable level. The government gets its income from collected taxes and finances its deficit by selling bonds to investors, other countries, and if necessary to itself through surrogate the Federal Reserve. This works only as long as the economy is growing. Sooner or later, there will be a downturn, leading to inflation, high interest rates, and inability of the government to pay the interest on its bonds or redeem them, ultimately leading to default.

When merchants stop accepting foods stamps; when welfare, disability, and social security checks stop coming, or when they are either uncashable or devalued by inflation to where they have little or no value, then we will become the Germany of 1933 and ripe for dictatorship. It’s a long way off, but could happen, unless we alter the course we are currently following. In other words, we must stop the profligate government spending of the last several years. There is an old saying that when the number of people riding in the cart outnumber those pulling it, the cart does not go anywhere.

What can we as Christian believers do to avoid these problems? First of all, the power or prayer is not to be disregarded and we should all pray that these events do not come about. I would recommend keeping some assets in precious metals, preferably silver since it can be spent more easily and getting as debt free as possible since interest notes will become astronomical with hyper-inflation. Finally we need to contact our elected representatives and urge them to vote against excessive and unnecessary government spending.

Be assured that God has a plan and we should make every effort to be a part of it.

Rome, the Church and the Rise of Islam

Rome, the Church and the Rise of Islam

From the death of Constantine in 337 until the birth of Mohammad in 570, enormous changes occurred in both the Roman Empire and Christianity. At his death, Constantine was sole emperor of the entire Roman Empire. Both the Western and Eastern portions of the empire were under constant pressure from Barbarian Tribes invading from the north. The eastern part of the empire also had to deal with the Persian Empire. After the death of the emperor Theodosius in 395, the empire was again divided into two distinct entities under his sons, Arcadius in the east and Honorius in the west.

The western empire fared poorly under relentless pressure from the north. Rome itself was sacked in 410 by Alaric the Goth and again in 455 by the vandals led by Genseric. The last Roman emperor of the west, Romulus “Augustulus” (Little Augustus), was deposed by the German, Otoacer, in 476. Fortunately, by that time, most of the Barbarian Tribes of Europe have been converted to Christianity. However, after the Western Roman Empire had been destroyed, the church remained and the people turned to the bishop of Rome for guidance and instruction in Christianity. Ultimately, the bishop of Rome became known as the father of the church or the pope.

The Eastern empire fared better than that in the west. It actually lasted over 1,000 years until the fall of Constantinople in 1453. It also suffered attacks by Barbarian Tribes from the north. A Roman army led by the emperor of Valens was decisively defeated by the Goths in the battle of Adrianople in 378, in which Valens was himself killed. Valens was succeeded by Theodosius who stabilized the eastern empire more by diplomacy than by force of arms and reached an agreement with the Goths. Nevertheless, by 402, the Goths were again on the march led by probably their most outstanding general, Alaric. They were defeated in 402 by the Roman General, Stilicho, and did not seriously threaten the eastern empire again, although Alaric, as previously noted, attacked and sacked Rome in 410. The other major threat to the Roman Empire were the Huns and their leader Attila who inflicted a serious defeat at Gallipoli in 447 upon the Byzantines, as the Romans of the east were becoming known. After being essentially bought off by Theodosius, they then turned their attention to the west.

After the death of Theodosius in 450, Byzantium came under constant pressure from the east by the Persian Empire. A three-year war was fought with Persia around 312, resulting in the loss of several provinces. In 527, Justinian began his 38-year reign. He was not popular, but had many great achievements. Under the leadership of his great general, Belisarius, the Persians under their king, Chosroes, were defeated in 532 and the lost territories regained. He also reunited the Roman and Eastern churches, published Justinian’s code, and dealt with the heresies that were causing dissention in Christianity. Africa was conquered in 533, the Goths driven out of Italy in 546, and another attack on Constantinople by the Goths repulsed in 559.

The major problem for Christianity during the reign of Justinian and his predecessors was the persistence of numerous heresies which continued to proliferate. Despite the council of Nicea in 325 and the council of Chalcedon in 451. The latter council was called by the emperor, Marcian, and was attended by hundreds of bishops from both east and west. It condemned Arianism, Monophytism, and Nestorism and affirmed the doctrine that Christ is one person with two natures, inseparably united in a perfect God and a perfect man, which is what Christians believe today. Arianism, which was previously described, placed Christ separately between father and man, inferior to the former and superior to the latter. This was very prevalent in the Western empire. Nestorism taught that Christ was not a single person, but possessed two distinct persons, both man and divine. This was a common heresy in the east. Monophytism believed that the Christ possessed a single nature, which was divine. This heresy was very worrisome to the orthodox Catholic Church because it was rapidly spreading, especially in Egypt and Africa. Fortunately, for the church, both the emperor and the pope were staunched orthodox Catholics. However, they were unable to completely stamp out the heretical beliefs. Justinian finally called for another council in Constantinople in 553, which confirmed the findings of the previous two councils and resulted in finally beginning to suppress the heresies in favor of the orthodox view of the Trinity. Today, there are still some people who adhere to the heretical beliefs, but they are few in number.

At the end of the sixth century, the eastern Roman Empire or Byzantium was still the dominant power in the Mediterranean world. It was bordered on the east by the Persian Empire. However, Byzantium controlled the Balkans, Asia Minor, Greece, the Greek islands, including Cypress and Crete, Palestine, Syria, and part of North Africa.

The Western Roman Empire was now divided among the various formerly Barbarian Tribes, which were now fortunately Christianized. Italy was taken by the eastern Goths (Ostrogoths) who settled among the native inhabitants. Southern France and northern Spain were occupied by the western Goths (Visigoths). Southern Spain and North Africa were taken over by the Vandals and the Burgundians were in eastern France. All of these tribes were Christian, although they were mostly Arians.

The Franks occupied northern France, Belgium, and the southern part of the Netherlands, the Frisians were in the northern Netherlands, the Saxons in the rest of the Netherlands, and the Anglo Saxons in Britain. All of these were still pagan Barbarians. This was the world into which Mohammed was born around 570.

The Arabian Peninsula was inhabited primarily by nomadic Arabs engaged in commerce and regularly sending caravans both to the east and west. Most of the activity was along the coast, but there were two commercial centers in the interior, Mecca and Medina. The kingdoms of Yemen and Abyssinia were in the south and they both contended for domination of the area. Politics were tribal and controlled by the most powerful families. It was into one of the strongest of these that Mohammed was born. In his early life, he was orphaned and raised by relatives and was therefore able to participate in commerce and travel with the caravans to Syria and Yemen. Mohammad was always religious, but did not devote himself to it until after he married a wealthy widow around 590. Mohammed had his first vision around 610 and began to preach the new religion of Islam. Unfortunately, his wife and his uncle, who was a leader of Mohammed’s own Clan, both died in 619 and resistance to his teaching increased in Mecca after the loss of these protectors. Medina was a city to the north of Mecca which was having internal problems and appealed to Mohammed to migrate there and provide leadership. In 622, he and his followers did so and this was called the Hegira. This began a war between the two cities which culminated in the submission of Mecca to Islam in 629. In 630, Mohammed attacked the Byzantine and Persian empires with great success. He died in 632 and was succeeded by his father-in-law, Abu Bakr, who died in 634 after consolidating Islam in Arabia and the conquered Persian and Byzantine provinces. He was succeeded by Mohammed’s son-in-law, Omar, who ruled for ten years. During that time, Islam expanded rapidly. The Persian Empire, Palestine, and Syria were quickly conquered (635-638). Later, western expansion included Egypt and North Africa, as far as Tunisia (648). Later in that century and in the early eighth century, Islamic conquest included the rest of North Africa, Spain, and Southern France. The Arabs were finally defeated at the Battle of Tours in 732 by a combined Christian army led by Charles, the king of the Franks, later known as Charles Martel or Charles the Hammer.

Despite becoming the predominate religion of the entire Roman Empire, Christianity still faced many existential problems during those early centuries. In the west, the invading pagan Barbarian Tribes from Northern and Eastern Europe were held in bay by the empire until they had been Christianized by missionaries. When they finally overran Western Europe and Italy, they had by then become Christians and firmly established the church in those lands. If the Western Roman Empire had not held out until the fifth century and fallen sooner, these tribes would have remained Pagan and unable to later repulse Islam.

The eastern Byzantine Empire defeated the tribes attacking from the north and thus preserved Christianity in the east. Byzantium was then able to withstand the Islamic invaders from the south for almost 1,000 years until it too fell in 1453 to the Islamic Ottoman Turks. The important fact is that the Balkans, Greece, and Southern Europe were protected by the Byzantine Empire from Islam for most of those centuries. This enabled the Christian nations of Europe to finally unite to stop Islamic conquest by defeating them at Vienna in 1683.

Finally, the conservative orthodox Catholic view of the nature of the Trinity prevailed over all the heresies which evolved during those early centuries. This occurred primarily because of the steadfast adherence of the emperors, both east and west, and the pope to the true faith as taught by the apostles and their disciples.

The Roman Empire was finally gone, but its influence on Christianity will persist as long as the church exists. God used the Roman Empire to allow Christianity to survive, grow, and ultimately dominate the western world.

Constantine and the Fusion of Church and Empire

Constantine and the Fusion of Church and Empire

Most of the third century and the first three decades of the fourth were a time of slow deterioration for the Roman Empire and a gradual increase in the growth and power of the church. During that period, there were 30 men who claimed the title of emperor, only three of whom died of natural causes. The job of emperor of the Roman Empire was obviously a high-risk occupation. The church, on the other hand, continued to flourish, despite episodic vicious and merciless persecutions. However, from the death of Severus (211) and the beginning of the reign of Decius (240), a period of almost three decades the noted early church historian, Eusebius, lists no Christian martyrs for those years in the appendix to his “The History of the Church”. This could be due to the overall instability of the empire during those years. There were 11 emperors during that time, none of whom lasted more than six years, with the exception of Severus Alexander who reigned for 13 years and is generally considered one of the better emperors. It was during these years that Origin (185-254) felt by most church historians to be the most outstanding Christian writer and philosopher of his time produced most of his writings which were instrumental in refuting various heresies. The emperors during that time were probably too busy assassinating one another to be concerned about Christianity.

In 249, Decius came to power. He and his Caesar, Gallus, resumed the persecution of Christians (by this time emperors began to call themselves “Augustus” and designated a junior successor who was called “Caesar”). Eusebius lists 24 of the more prominent martyrs during this short reign, totaling only four years (249-253). There certainly must have been hundreds or even thousands more. Christians were tortured, mutilated, burned, and put to death in numerous horrendous ways. The purpose of these measures was to induce the Christians to renounce their faith and make sacrifices to the pagan Gods of Rome. Very few did so.

The reign of Decius came to an end after an invasion by the Goths across the Danube, during which a Roman army led by the emperor was disastrously defeated in battle near Phillippolis. This was followed by the fall of that major city to the Goths. Decius himself was killed shortly thereafter.

He was succeeded by his prefect, Valerian, who inherited an empire in great confusion and surrounded by enemies; Goths, Franks, Germans, and Persians. He managed to fortify and stabilize the empire and, thus, protected it from invaders. He himself was later captured by the Persians in 260 and, thus, became the only Roman emperor ever humiliated in this manner. The first three and a half years of his reign were relatively free of oppression for the Christians, but during the last three and half the persecution resumed. This was probably due to recession and inflation as well as the wars against the barbarian invasions. There had to be someone to blame and the Christians were convenient.

It was during these years that many new heresies emerged. Mani was a Persian who imitated Christ and thought that he was the Holy Spirit. He actually appointed 12 apostles. His followers were called Manichees. Another heretic, Novatian, dismissed the value of baptism and confession and taught that Jesus was not a merciful God. His followers were called “Puritans”. He was excommunicated by Dionysius, the bishop of Alexandria. Another heresy called “millennialism” was promoted by the priest, Nepos. He preached that the kingdom of Christ was here on earth. These and many other heresies, including Arianism and Gnosticism (see previous second century article), had to be dealt with by the church and its councils.

After the capture of Valerian, his son, Gallienus, became emperor. He was a weak, vain man who concerned himself with trivialities and seemed unconcerned about the loss of parts of the empire to enemies. After 15 years of mismanagement, his rule came to an end when he was killed by his own troops. The next two emperors, Claudias Gothicus and Aurelian, were strong rulers and defeated the invading Goths and Persians and re-established the empire with strong borders. During the reigns of these two emperors, Christian persecution was minimal and few martyrdoms occurred.

After the death of Aurelian, there were six relatively insignificant emperors over a period of nine years and the empire was relatively stable due primarily to the efforts of the two preceding rulers. This period of inactivity came to an end with the elevation of Diocletian to the imperial throne. Christians fared well during these years and for the first three years of the rule of Diocletian. At this point because of the perceived infiltration of the government by Christians, oppression began anew and continued until Constantine became emperor.

During the years preceding the rule of Constantine, there was severe persecution of the Christians by the various emperors, especially Diocletian, Maximian, Maximim, and Maximius. The number of martyrs increased dramatically. Churches were destroyed and Christian property confiscated. All of this ended with Constantine.

The Edict of Milan was promulgated in 313, which made Christianity lawful, not just tolerated. Contrary to popular opinion, it was not at that time made the official religion of Rome. Constantine himself also did not receive baptism until shortly before his death. During his reign, churches were rebuilt and Christianity flourished. Constantine built the St. Peter’s and St. John Lateran cathedrals in Rome, the church of the resurrection (later the Holy Sepulcher) in Jerusalem, and the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

In 324, the heresy taught by the Greek priest, Arias, which claimed that Jesus occupied a lesser position in the trinity than God the Father, but still superior to man, was gaining significant support among many Christian believers. In 325, the council of Nicea was convened, which declared Aryanism a heresy and excommunicated Arias. It is of interest to note that the date of Easter was set at that counsel to fall on the first Sunday after the first full moon, after the spring equinox. Formerly, Easter had been celebrated on the Jewish Passover, but by this time the church was entirely Gentile and was anxious to divest itself from all things Jewish.

In 330, Constantine established Constantinople, which became the capital city of the empire. He died in 337, accepting baptism and thus official conversion to Christianity on his death bed.

Two questions remain to be answered: 1) how and why did Christianity survive more than two centuries of vicious often barbaric Roman persecution and 2) how did Constantine overcome overwhelming opposition and legalize and promote Christianity in the empire?

The first question was partially answered in my recent article on the second century. Despite the persecutions, the church grew stronger and was able to do so because of the structure of the Roman Empire with its secure borders, a competent well-organized military, and an established infrastructure. Without these protections, Rome would have been quickly overrun by Barbarian tribes and the church with it. Rome was no friend to the Christians per se and did everything it could to crush them, but God was looking after his church’s incubator. This is even further demonstrated in the third century when on at least three occasions, after a succession of inept corrupt dissolute emperors, the empire seems to crumble; a strong leader arises and defeats the invaders, and again establishes secure borders. Examples would be Severus Alexander (222-35), Claudius Gothicus (260-70), Aurelian (270-75), and Diocletian (285-305).

This brings us to the second question. How did the Christian favoring Constantine emerge victorious over four other pagan emperors and go on to legalize Christianity in the empire, thus stopping all persecution and leading to the explosive growth of the church in the following centuries. An almost miraculous set of events in the early fourth century preceded this decision by Constantine. In 285, Diocletian became emperor and the following year divided the empire into East and West. He selected Maximian to rule the East as co-emperor and retained the western empire for himself. The most important event in the relationship between the church and Rome then occurred. For unknown reasons, in the year 305, Diocletian resigned and forced Maximian to do the same. Diocletian appointed Constantius to succeed him and Maximian chose Gallerius. Constantius died the following year and his son, Constantine, succeeded him. Gallerius picked Maxentius as his co-emperor who, after Gallerius’ death, became “Augustus” and chose Maximin as his “Caesar”. Not unexpectedly, this led to five civil wars and an 18 year period of confusion, war, and chaos. At one time, there were six different reigning emperors. When the smoke finally settled in 324, Constantine became sole emperor. Along the way in 312 he defeated Maxentius in the battle of the Milvian Bridge and became emperor of the Western Empire. This was another miracle in that Constantine had a far smaller and weaker army than Maxentius, but this was the battle before which he saw a vision in the sky consisting of a cross and the words “hoc signo vinces”, Latin for “in this sign conquer”. Many Theologians felt that this event greatly influenced Constantine’s later actions supporting Christianity.

What induced Diocletian and Maximian to resign the two most powerful positions in the world? What power intervened in Constantine’s most important battle which gave him mastery of the western empire when his forces were numerically and materially inferior to that of his enemy? The answer can only be that it was the time in God’s plan for Christianity to emerge out of an environment of oppression to dominate both Eastern and Western Roman empires for the centuries to come.

The Second Century: The Growth of the Church in a Pagan Empire

The Second Century: The Growth of the Church in a Pagan Empire

The end of the first century was marked by the assassination of the tyrannical and depraved emperor Domitian. The second century began with the ascension of Nerva (96-98) to the throne of the Roman Empire. During his short reign, he expanded the borders of the empire by victories in Germany and Pannonia (the Balkans), but more importantly severe persecution of Christians, which had occurred under Domitian, was prohibited. Nerva was followed by four emperors over a period of 80 years who also brought stability and peace within the borders of the empire, which allowed the church to grow and organize itself unimpeded. Nerva was succeeded by his adopted son, Trajan, who was first of the “adoptive emperors”. The practice of the throne passing to the oldest son of the emperor was done away with. Each ruler selected the man he felt best qualified to next lead the empire. This practice undoubtedly led to the stability seen during most of the second century. Trajan continued the prohibition of indiscriminate Christian persecution begun under Nerva. An excellent illustration of this is his response in 116 to a letter from Pliny, the younger, governor of Bithynia, asking how to deal with Christian persecution in his province. He replied that no Christian could be punished without a fair trial with evidence presented by the accusers and that a simple, often anonymous accusation was insufficient to merit convictions or punishment. Near the end of Trajan’s reign, there was a Jewish revolt in Egypt, Cyrenacia, and Cypress, which had to be put down by force. At that time, there was no fighting in Judea. Trajan also fought wars in the Middle East and further extended the borders of the empire as far as the Euphrates.

Trajan was succeeded by his adopted son, Hadrian (117-138). Early in his reign, he realized that the empire was overextended and could not be defended by the military forces available. He, therefore, withdrew the Roman legions stationed in Mesopotamia and parts of Germany, thereby consolidating the empire and fortifying its borders.

The second Jewish rebellion (130-135) also occurred during his reign. It began over a law that prohibited circumcision and also the establishment of pagan temples in Jerusalem. This war led by Bar Cochba lasted about five years. During this time, Christians were actually persecuted by the Jews, unless they denied Jesus Christ. Bar Cochba was finally defeated by the Romans in 135 after the siege of Betthera. Following this war, Hadrian banished all Jews from the sight of Jerusalem and renamed it Aolia Capitolina and also built a temple to Jupiter on the site of the Jewish temple destroyed in 70 by Titus. Jerusalem was recolonized by the Romans, but many Jews remained in Judea and Samaria, now renamed Palestine and annexed to the province of Syria. Persecution of Christians during Hadrian’s time was minimal. He forbade persecution of anyone without a trial. This was also in reply to a letter from another governor in Asia, Serennius Granianus, asking his advice in this manner.

The next two adopted emperors, Antoninus Pius (138-161) and Marcus Aurelius (161-180), were both men of wisdom and virtue whose primary concern was the happiness and safety of the people. During their reigns, there was peace and order within the borders of the empire. They were, as were their predecessors, absolute rulers, but they preserved the rule of law, civil procedure and personal liberties. Unfortunately, Marcus Aurelius made one serious mistake. He abandoned the adoptive formula for succession and allowed his son, Commodus, to ascend to the
throne following his death.

The reign of Commodus (180-192) was a disaster. During the first few years, he remained under the restraint of his father’s advisors, but after an assassination attempt he developed a severe paranoia and executed just about anyone who posed any threat, real or imagined. He also fell into a hedonistic, dissolute and sexually immoral lifestyle that rendered him both dangerous and ineffective. Ultimately, he was assassinated by his mistress and the captain of the Praetorian Guard who drugged him and then had him strangled. During his rule, Christians as well as everyone else were severely persecuted.

It fell to the Praetorian Guard to name the next emperor, and they selected an elderly general, Pertinax, who was about the only one left alive who qualified. He stopped all persecution and tried to do away with corruption and reform the government. This did not sit well with the guard and they in turn assassinated him (192). His reign lasted 86 days. The Praetorians then felt that it would be a good idea to auction off the empire to the highest bidder and a wealthy merchant named Didius Julianus became emperor (192). He lasted 66 days.

At that time, there were three armies in the provinces with generals who wanted the throne. After a series in battles, Septimus Severus, an African, became the last emperor of the second century (193-211). He was a strict disciplinarian and wisely disbanded the Praetorian Guard. During his time in power, he re-stabilized the empire and prevented persecution of the Christians.

Hopefully, this brief sketch of second century Roman history will enable the reader to appreciate the tranquil environment which existed in the first 80 years of the second century and to understand how it allowed the church to grow for the most part unhindered by severe persecution. There was, of course, some intermittent persecution of Christians, especially under Marcus Aurelius who disliked the Jews intensely, but nothing compared to the excesses experienced under Nero, Claudius, and Domitian in the tumultuous first century.

The church entered the second century after the death of the last of the apostles, John, in Ephesus, around the year 100. The work of the apostles was carried on by the apostolic fathers who were direct disciples of the apostles themselves. They included Clement and Hernas in Rome, Ignatius in Antioch, Polycarp in Smyrna, Barnabas in Alexandria, James, and then Symean in Jerusalem. These men were responsible for spreading the message of Christianity and for the growth of these
five major churches.

During the reigns of Nerva and Trajan, many exiled Christians, including John, were allowed to return to their homes and have their property restored. There was no significant persecution during that time. Nevertheless, martyrdoms still occurred. Symean was martyred at the age of 120 in 106, Ignatius in 110, and Polycarp in 156.

The apostolic fathers were followed by a group of men called the church fathers. These included Iraneus, Tertullian, Origin, and Clement (of Alexandria). They continued the teaching and work of the apostolic fathers. As the church continued to grow, leaders were appointed called presbyters (today’s priest) and deacons. From their members, a bishop was selected to preside over a group of churches and the surrounding countryside, which were then called dioceses. Today, this is called an episcopal form of government and is seen in some denominational
protestant churches and in the Catholic Church.

During the second half of the second century, two great heresies arose to challenge the church. The first of these was Gnosticism, which believed that Christ was not God and that God never walked on earth in human form. The best known of the Gnostics was a man called Marcion, but their best spokesman was Calcus who in 177 wrote “A True Discourse” against Christianity, adversely influencing many Christians. It was not until 247 when Origin wrote “Against Calcus” that a convincing and devastating answer was forthcoming. The other heresy at the time was Montanism, which held that the Holy Spirit did not come unto the apostles in the upper room and that it would come soon to all believers and that the end of the world was imminent. Two other Christian fathers who wrote extensively and effectively against these and other heresies were Iraneus who wrote “Against Heresies” and was martyred in 200 and Justin, author of “Apology”, also martyred in 166 and known thereafter as “Justin Martyr”.

The best known heresy was Arianism founded by the priest, Arius, which denied the trinity and taught that God the father was superior to God the son. However, this was more of a third century heresy which persistent to some extent for hundreds of years. It was the reason for the council of Nicea in 325, which will be discussed in a later article.

During the second century, because of its struggles against Gnosticism and other heresies, a creed was developed, which is a summary of Christian beliefs and came to be called “The Apostles Creed”. The church adopted the creed at its official doctrine. During this time, a cannon was also developed, which was essentially a list of the books which belong in the New Testament. There were a large number of writings extent at that time and the church had to decide which of them was divinely inspired and could be included in the New Testament.

A question which must now be asked is: how could the church have accomplished all of these things while in a primarily pagan empire and in fact how to even survive the first century and the severe persecutions of the early emperors? The answer is obviously that this is God’s plan. He allowed the Roman Empire to come about and sent his son in the midst of that terrible first century for those who believed in him. What would be the probability that an insignificant Jewish sect born in that time would become a great religion ultimately dominating the known world. Obviously, Rome was created to provide an environment allowing Christianity to be born, survive, and ultimately dominate. Why Rome? Why not Alexander’s empire, Greece or Babylon, or Persia? None of these empires qualify because they were confined to the near East and South Eastern Europe. Rome included these areas as well as most of Western Europe, North Africa, and Arabia. Because of the need for Christianity to be spread to most of the world, an empire had to exist which encompassed those regions. It had to be Rome. There was no other before or since. This was God’s plan, not man’s.

Abominable Care Act

Abominable Care Act

As a physician, I have often asked what I think of the Affordable Care Act, also known Obama Care. Make no mistake about it. Obama Care is purposely designed to lead directly to only one conclusion – a single payer system administered by the federal government and mandatory for everyone. The socialists in Washington are trying to sell this monstrosity to the American Public by claiming it will cost the government less than what is currently being spent on Medicare and Medicaid. I know they feel they are the elite who know what is good for the rest of us gun toting, bible clutching ignoranimi. What else do they think we are, nitwits?

It does not take a genius to figure out that with Medicare borrowing from Peter to pay Paul i.e. using current income to pay benefits instead of putting it into the currently nonexistent “Medicare trust fund.” How may I ask would it save money to add 30,000,000 new beneficiaries to Medicaid and by promising Medicare patients that their benefits will not be cut, despite a hoard of baby boomers soon to be admitted to its roles. Obama Care will gradually lead to bankruptcy. Medicaid is not much better off. The states are currently going broke trying to meet their financial obligations under this program.

How will this miracle be accomplished? There is only one answer. Despite all the protestations to the contrary it can only be done by decreasing access and services. The traditional method is to institute a “gatekeeper”, usually a primary care physician or his designee, to screen all patients prior to any referral to a specialist with their expensive procedures and treatments. This has been tried and has never worked. Bureaucrats have many excuses for this failure. When you come right down to it, the reason is that people are not dumb. So much medical information has been disseminated via the internal and the media that patients know what kind of a doctor they need to see. If patients are forced to consult a gatekeeper prior to referral, offices will be overwhelmed with the surplus going to hospital emergency rooms. This will lead to month long delays for doctor’s office appointments or a 12 to 24-hour wait in the emergency room. Unacceptable! Patients will not tolerate it and not being dumb will find ways to circumvent it. Other unpalatable methods will be tried i.e. denial of expensive tests, procedures and treatments to very elderly patients, patients with incurable diseases, and patients with severe incapacitating disabilities. Don’t think it can happen here? Check England and its committee, which reviews these cases.

If previous experience is of any value, what will happen is that the cost of the bureaucracy and administration of the program will exceed any savings that the Affordable Care Act produces. Insurance companies trying to provide private policies and groups plans for employees cannot complete with plans subsidized by the federal government and ultimately will fail, leaving the entire market place to a single payer – guess who? Thus the financial burden will become unbearable, leading to drastic cutbacks in services in order to retain solvency. Don’t believe the projections of the congressional budget office. Remember that in 1966, Medicare cost $3 billion dollars with projected cost of twelve billion dollars in 1990 when in fact by that year it was $107 billion dollars and is currently over three hundred billion dollars.

At the present time, only about 30% of practicing physicians accept Medicaid patients. Almost all still accept Medicare. This will change. Almost no one will take Medicaid and large numbers of good doctors will opt out in any participation in government healthcare, reverting to boutique or cash only practices. Many of the best specialists will be in this category. I am sure that attempts will be made to force all doctors to participate and if successful will lead to salaried physicians and loss of their ability to make those decisions which they feel are best for their patients.

I became a doctor because I wanted to be in a profession in which I could make meaningful decisions, which would be of immediate and long-term benefit to other people. Obama Care is taking this away from me and others who feel as I do, which will lead to a decline in the number of altruistic caring, compassionate, and intelligent young men and women entering the medical profession. The result can only be a decrease in quality and humanity in medical care. Perhaps the Affordable Care Act should be retitled the “Abominable Care Act”.

Send In The Clowns

Send In The Clowns

The events of the last 18 months have convinced me that the very survival of the republic is in great danger. It all began with the massive stimulus bill enacted shortly after the TARP legislation which lead to a combined debt of over one trillion dollars, which our great grandchildren may or may not be able to pay. Unemployment is about as high now as when the stimulus was passed and the banks are again paying out huge bonuses to their high ranking executives. “Thank you Mr. Tax Payer”.

The next nail in our nation’s coffin was the “healthcare” bill passed by trickery, bribery, and devious legal maneuvers of doubtful legality. This was Chicago politics at its best and is what you get when political hacks are elected to higher office. The cost associated with this 2000 page monstrosity will far outstrip the estimates of the congressional budget office without significantly improving anybody’s quality of healthcare or access to it. You only have to look at what happened with Medicare when cost estimated for the first few years were exceeded by three or four times. We are about to witness the destruction of the finest healthcare system ever devised. Why else would wealthy and powerful people from countries with socialized healthcare flock to the United States for diagnosis and treatment. “Get in line, Sir. The doctor will see you in four months.”

American foreign policy over the last year and a half has been digging its own grave. The situation in the Middle East is deteriorating rapidly without any coherent strategy by the administration to counteract it, except to continue to pressure Israel, our only real ally in the region, to continue to make concessions to an enemy who concedes nothing! Israel withdrew from Southern Lebanon and gave away most of the West Bank and all of Gaza and what do they get in return? Rockets, missiles, kidnappings, suicide bombers, and daily threats of annihilation by an Iranian madman. Our policy towards Iran is pusillamimous at best. “Oh please, Mr. Ayatollah, stop making your atomic bomb or we will increase our sanctions and you won’t be able to import caviar, fur coats, or snow shoes”. Don’t the geniuses in Washington understand that once Iran gets the bomb, they can do what they want in the Middle East and anyone who tries to stop them can be threatened with atomic retaliation i.e. the bomb makes them golden. Goodbye Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. As far as Afghanistan is concerned, don’t the same geniuses remember that no foreign power has ever won a war in that country. Our only advantage is that our intentions are to ultimately leave them with a stable government of their own. Additionally, our foreign relations with Europe, Russia, Turkey, China, Mexico, and several South American countries have recently deteriorated significantly. What else can go wrong?

On immigration, there does not seem to be any coherent policy, except to sue the state of Arizona for trying to enforce federal law already in place. Nice rhetoric and propaganda designed to garner votes, but otherwise a hot potato that no one wants to handle. One party wants the immigrants here to vote for them. The other party wants them here for cheap labor, but both parties say we need to find a way to keep them out. Can anybody make sense of this? Therefore, nothing is done.

Cap and trade is also being pushed as part of the socialist/green agenda. This is just another way of saying tax and spend. If it passes, look for increased unemployment and decreased corporate profits.

Finally, we come to the giant oil spill. To paraphrase Winston Churchill whose bust incidentally was recently sent back to England by our White House, “never have so many been damaged by so few”. British petroleum is not innocent in this affair. They drilled too deep into a high pressure system without adequate safeguard and they should pay for it – that is if there is enough money in our world to do it. After it happened, however, our government’s response has been slow, slower and nonexistent. Our president says that he has been “on it from day one” and he has been; he sat on it and did nothing for several days, despite pleas from the governors of the affected states. Offers of help from other countries were turned down while we boondoggled around in a confused bureaucratic decision-making process which made almost no meaningful decisions for several days. Can you believe the Environmental Protection Agency refusing to allow a high tech European ship to skim oil because the water being returned to the Gulf still contained 1% oil, a level above their allowable, or preventing foreign ships from coming to help from approaching our coastline because of some archaic law. They should all have oil in their martinis in D.C. We seem more interested in fixing the blame than doing something about it.

The upshoot of all this is that America is going to go down the tube unless we do something to reverse the socialist agenda now being advanced. We have two opportunities do to this; one on November 2nd when it can be slowed and again in November of 2012 when it can reversed.

As it says in the song we don’t need to “send in the clowns, they are already here”.

Peace, Peace

Peace, Peace

Patrick Henry said, “peace, peace – but there is no peace”. That was in 1775 – 235 years ago. History always repeats itself. Transpose to the Middle East – 2010. Two implacable enemies, Israel and the Palestinians. One hating the other so much that it transcends all reason. With these two protagonists, there will be no peace until only one or the other is left standing.

Diplomats talk and talk and talk, but some disputes cannot be talked away. This is one of them. Eventually, there will be war and when it is all over, perhaps there will be a solution or perhaps not. There have already been six wars, the war for Independence, the Suez War, the 67 War, the Yom Kippur War in 1973, two Lebanese wars, and two infidatas without a resolution.

This is basically a land dispute with each side claiming, “This is my land”. The Palestinians are for the most part Muslim Arabs and believe on religious grounds that any land once possessed by them must be retained or reconquered if lost. All of Palestine, including Israel, will not satisfy them. They want the world. Everywhere they are victorious, they erect mosques, usually on the site of churches, monuments, or other symbols representing those whom they conquered (see mosque-World Trade Center). They are not reluctant to use terror, murder, rape, or even genocide to attain their goals. They preach hatred in their mosques and schools and urge even children to kill Jews whenever possible. The Israelis on the other hand just want to be left alone. They do not hate anybody. They have reached out to the Palestinians with economic and monetary aid, hoping for a path to peace. They have tried appeasement by returning South Lebanon, Gaza, and most of Judea and Samaria. All of these places rapidly became staging areas for further and more intense attacks upon Israel. This is the fruit of appeasement (see Hitler – Munich 1939).

How do you get peace out of a situation like this? You don’t. Eventually, the Palestinians and their Arab and Muslim allies will feel strong enough to defeat and overrun Israel. They won’t because they traditionally overestimate their own strength and underestimate that of their enemies. The next war will end up like all the rest, with Israel victorious and with Europe and the U.S.A. demanding they give it all back again. They shouldn’t, but they probably will, which brings us back to square one. For example, at the urging of President Obama, Israel declared a freeze on building in the West Bank ten months ago in an attempt to bring the Palestinians to the conference table. However, the Palestinians wanted a permanent freeze and refused to meet with the Israelis until last month and then promptly announced that they would leave the negotiations unless the freeze was extended. What were they thinking about for nine months? This is classic Arab obfuscation and deceit and an excellent example of their intransigence. They will never agree to anything, except the destruction of the state of Israel.

How could any intelligent, educated, even liberal-thinking person from academia, the media, or the entertainment industry have any doubt about who wants peace? This is a black and white issue. There is only one response and answer to this question.

So, when will we get peace? Only when the prince of peace returns and enforces it.

The First Century: Rome and Jerusalem

The First Century: Rome and Jerusalem

Geopolitical interactions between Rome and Judea in the first century, and their historical effect, bear similarity to events occurring today. The Middle East was then, as it remains today, a critical land bridge connecting Europe, Africa, and Asia. It connected Rome’s European empire with its African counterpart, and stood squarely astride three major trading routes: the Silk Road, the Via Maris, and the Trans-Saharan trade routes. The world’s commerce moved through the Middle East; control of that region resulted in control over a large part of that commerce. Rome dominated the western world. Its major enemy, Parthia, stood opposite in central Asia. The Middle East remains astride a major trade route today: the Suez canal, which joins Asian and Indian oceanic trade with that of the Mediterranean and Atlantic. The Middle East also serves as a connection between Eastern and Western culture. Finally, our modern economy is dominated by a dependence on fossil fuels, of which the Middle East is a principle supplier. In Roman times Egypt possessed a similar and equally valuable commodity: grain. It should come as little surprise, then, that the Middle East continues to exercise a significant influence over world events today as it did two millennia ago.

The history of the first century cannot be placed into context, however, without knowledge of the events in the preceding centuries. Under Kings David and then Solomon, Israel was a powerful Jewish state. After Solomon’s death circa 924 B.C., the kingdom divided into two smaller states, Israel in the north and Judah in the south. The Assyrians conquered Israel in the north in 722 B.C.; the southern state, Judea, did not fall to the Babylonians until 586 B.C. Those kingdoms, in turn, were defeated by the Medes and Persians and became part of the greater Persian empire. The Persians, in their turn, were conquered by Alexander the Great in 330 B.C.

The conquest of Persia, encompassing most of the Middle East as we know it today, was probably the single most important event in the history of Israel between the death of Solomon and the birth of Jesus. Alexander the Great spread Greek language, culture, and philosophy throughout the region, and established numerous cities. Greek culture was prevalent everywhere, and Greek was the official spoken and written language of the Middle East at the time of Jesus. Yet despite Alexander’s hellenization of the region, many Jews retained their Hebrew language and customs.

Alexander died at age 33 and his empire was divided between four of his generals. The area which we know today as Palestine was allotted to Seleucus, later known at the “King of Asia,” and who established the Selucid dynasty. It was Antiochus IV Epiphanes, his fourth generation great-grandson, who defiled the temple, causing the “abomination of desolation.” While trying to suppress Jewish religion and customs, he erected a statue of Zeus in the temple. Antiochus’ efforts resulted in the Maccabean revolt in 167 B.C. and the subsequent period of Jewish self-rule in Palestine until Roman conquest by Pompey in 63 B.C. The conquest of Jerusalem brought an end to the independent Jewish nation, which became a tributary of Rome.

In 37 B.C., Rome made Herod, an Idomenian, King of Judea. Sometimes known as Herod the Great, he ruled until his death in 4 B.C. This generally accepted historical date coupled with Biblical accounts, such as the story of the wise men, Herod’s plot, and the flight into Egypt, fix Jesus’ time of birth to approximately early in 4 B.C. or late 5 B.C.

Augustus was emperor in Rome at that time and it was he who ordered the census of the Roman Empire, which sent Joseph and his family to Bethlehem. The subsequent death of Herod was, therefore, propitious. Joseph’s choice of returning from Egypt to Nazareth is interesting. Augustus had divided the land among Herod’s sons; Judea to Herod Archelaus, Idomea to Herod Phillip, and Galilee to Herod Antipas. The Jews hated Herod Archelaus because he was a non-Jew from Idomea, a tyrant, and a hellenizer. Joseph, therefore, felt that it would be safer for his family to go to Galilee, which was under the rule of a far milder and more tolerant Herod Antipas. Nothing else was heard about Jesus until he is taken to the temple at age 12 by his parents and there he gives a strong indication of his knowledge and intelligence. Where was he the rest of the time until the beginning of his public life? Stories abound that he appeared in India, China, and Africa, but there is an interesting verse in the gospel of John which gives us a clue: “and the child grew in waxed strong and was in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel”. (Luke 1:80 KJV*). Of course, he could have been in other deserts in other lands, but given the circumstances of life and travel in the first century this would be highly improbable without the use of his divine powers which he was not yet ready to employ. (John 2:4 KJV).

Returning now to our objective, we need to know what else was happening in the Roman Empire which could affect future and then current events in Israel. The rule of Herod Archelaus in Judea was cruel and oppressive, so much so that in a rare show of unity both the Jews and the Samaritans sent a delegation to Rome to petition for his removal. Surprisingly, Augustus agreed. Archelaus was deposed and sent into exile in Gaul. Why did the emperor of the most powerful nation in the world agree to remove the man he himself had appointed only two years previously?

As already noted, Judah was extremely important strategically. In 53 B.C., a large Roman army (seven legions) led by Crassus was destroyed by the Parthians at the Battle of Carrhae. The Parthians at that time occupied much of modern Iran, Iraq, and Jordon. In 40 B.C., the Parthians invaded Judea and captured Jerusalem. Herod the Great went to Rome for help and in 37 B.C., with the assistance of two Roman legions, drove the Parthians out. Herod then became king of Judea until his death in 4 B.C.

Parthia was a major threat to Rome in the first century, primarily because it stood opposite the strategically critical land bridge connecting Europe and Asia with Africa. Rome could not allow its empire to be divided in half by a strip of land occupied by a powerful enemy. Judea was the buffer against Parthia. Rome had to control it and, to do so, had to pacify the Jews. For this reason, Augustus agreed to remove Herod Archelaus.

After removal of Herod Archelaus in 6 A.D., Judea became a procurational province with a Roman procurator (governor). Moderate unrest continued during the rule of the first four procurators. In 14 A.D., Augustus died; his grandson, Tiberius, became emperor. Lucius Aelius Sejanus, the commander of the praetorian guard, became a principal adviser to Tiberius and, therefore, probably the most powerful man in Rome at that time. Sejanus was very anti-Semitic. In 26 A.D., he prevailed on the emperor to appoint Pontius Pilate as procurator of Judea. Pilate’s job was to suppress the Jews and prevent them from conspiring with the Parthians against Rome.

Pilate went about his job with vigor. While Roman headquarters were in Cesarea, Pilate stationed troops in Jerusalem. This infuriated the Jews because the legionary banners displayed in Jerusalem bore portraits of the emperor, which was a violation of Jewish law concerning worship of idols. Pilate also massacred a mob in Galilee which had become disorderly during a holiday. But the best known episode during his governorship was the trial and crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth in 29 A.D. Jesus was handed over to Pilate by the Pharisees who feared that Jesus would destroy their power over the people with his teaching. Pilate allowed him to be executed in order to pacify the Jews and prevent them from seeking help from Rome’s enemies. What must astound many Christians today is that this earth-shaking event went virtually unnoticed when it occurred. The only contemporary reference is in book XVIII of Antiquities by the Jewish historian, Josephus, who mentions both Jesus and John the Baptist. The spread of Christianity throughout the world over the next 400 years makes the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ the most important event in human history.

Following the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, the leadership of the community of believers fell to Peter and James. The first believers were all Jews and in fact worshiped in the synagogues or temple with the nonbelievers. For this reason, the Romans regarded the followers of Jesus as just another Jewish sect. Nevertheless, the believers were persecuted as heretics by the regular Jewish community. Saul of Tarsus, a rabbi, was especially vigorous in this persecution. However, in 37 A.D., he had a miraculous conversion to Christianity. In that same year, Tiberius died and his grandson, Gaius “Caligula” became emperor. His brutal reign lasted only four years until he was assassinated. His Uncle Claudius then became emperor in 41 A.D. During these years, civil unrest persisted in Judea, despite its succession of procurators.

Claudius appointed Herod Agrippa I, grandson of Herod the Great, as king of all four tetrarchies. Herod Agrippa had some degree of success, but unfortunately died suddenly in 44 A.D. Judea again reverted to a procurational system and Cuspius Fadus was appointed procurator. Subsequently, civil unrest resumed. The Jews did not like the Romans or anyone else ruling them, showing no respect for their customs and religious practices. One particular episode demonstrates this situation. Caligula, who was probably quite mad, decided he was a god in 39 A.D. When he ordered statues of himself to be placed in the temple, it enraged the Jewish population of Judea. To prevent the situation from getting out of hand, Petroneus, the legate in Syria, petitioned Caligula to change the orders. Although Petroneus was instead condemned to death, Caligula was assassinated shortly thereafter, invalidating the order.

Meanwhile, Paul “nee Saul” finally managed to convince the believers in Jerusalem of the sincerity of his conversion. In 45 A.D., he set out on his first missionary voyage to Antioch and Asia Minor. He made second and third voyages in 49 A.D. and 54 A.D. Paul met with great success and Christian congregations sprang up throughout Asia Minor. When Claudius, who was no friend of the Jews or Christians, expelled the Christians from Rome in 49 A.D., they fled to join Paul and his disciples, Aquila and Priscilla, in Asia Minor.

When Paul returned to Jerusalem after his first voyage, the Counsel of Jerusalem was held, during which Paul managed to convince the Jewish believers that there was a role for the Gentiles in their movement, which did not require circumcision or rigid adherence to the dietary and other laws. This greatly helped him and the other evangelists in bringing Christianity to the Gentiles.

In 62 A.D., Paul was imprisoned in Rome. However, in the years just prior to and after, he wrote his epistles to the various congregations he had established. Most of these letters have survived and serve as a significant guide for the Christian faith today. He was finally executed in 67 A.D.

In 54 A.D., Nero became emperor. He was no more a friend to Christians and Jews than Claudius and in fact blamed the great fire of Rome on them. He persecuted them vigorously and was responsible for the deaths of Peter and Paul. In 68 A.D. Nero’s own guards rebelled. In fear of what could happen to him if he was captured, he committed suicide in 68 A.D. Rome, which had suffered through two probably insane and one inept emperor, was too preoccupied during those years to concern themselves about what they considered a minor Jewish sect and, thus, allowed it to flourish.

Conditions in Jerusalem in those years were also chaotic. There was a riot in the temple in which 13,000 people were trampled. Priests leading various sects were at war with one another, and bandits and assassins roamed the streets. During this period, James the Good, brother of Jesus and leader of the Christians, was arrested. The procurator, Festus, had died, and in the absence of Roman authority, Annas, the high priest, had James stoned to death before the new procurator, Lucceius Albinus, could arrive. Annas was later promptly deposed.

Roman rule was very unpopular throughout Judea and Galilee, especially in Jerusalem. The onset of the Jewish rebellion occurred in 66 A.D., when the procurator of Judea, Gessius Florus, seized part of the temple treasury and allowed his troops to loot sections of Jerusalem. The Jews rose up in anger and drove Florus out of the city. Jews from Galilee and elsewhere in Palestine joined the revolt. The governor of Syria, Castius Gallus, attempted to intervene with the 12th legion, but was defeated at the gates of Jerusalem. The victory encouraged the rebels. In February 67 A.D., finally sensing the danger of the revolt, Nero, who was still emperor, appointed Vespasian to the command of a large Roman army. By June 69 A.D., all opposition in Judea and Galiliee had been overcome and Vespasian was at the city walls of Jerusalem.

Again, events in Rome profoundly affected the operations in Palestine. After Nero’s suicide late in 68 A.D., he was succeeded by a general from Spain, Galba, who in turn was himself assassinated a few months later. Otho became emperor and Vitellius, another general, marched south from southern Europe where he defeated and killed Otho in a decisive battle. Vespasian himself was then proclaimed emperor by his troops. While his son, Titus, remained in Palestine with the army, Vespasian marched on and defeated Vitellius in battle. Vespasian thus becomes the fourth emperor in a year, and the year 69 became known as “the year of the four emperors.” Little was accomplished at Jerusalem during that tumultuous year.

Once Vespasian established himself and stabilized the empire, he appointed Titus commander of the army in Palestine and ordered him to conquer Jerusalem. The one-year delay in the attack on that city had resulted in little benefit to the Jews; they had continued to fight amongst themselves. John of Gischala led gangs of Zealots who killed or suppressed more moderate Jews. Two other factions were also present in Jerusalem at that time. Fighters loyal to Simon Ben Giora or to Eleazar, son of Simon, fought each other in the streets for control of the city.

In the spring of 70, Titus began his attack. By the end of May, the great wall was breached. By August 30th, the Romans had reached the temple. There was little cooperation between the various Jewish factions and late in the day, the temple fell and burnt to the ground. Whether the burning was intentional or inadvertent has never been completely ascertained. Titus did not order the burning, but could not stop it. The temple fell on the ninth of the Jewish month of Av, which is the same day that the first temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. Thus ended the Jewish revolt of 70 A.D.

The apostles and disciples spread Christianity throughout the Roman Empire during the remainder of the first century A.D. Thomas went to Parthia, Andrew to Scythia, Titus to Crete, Timothy to Ephesus, John to Asia Minor, Mark to Egypt, and Peter throughout Asia Minor and southern Europe. The Gospels, Acts of the Apostles, and the rest of the New Testament were written during this time. Peter finally reached Rome where he and Paul laid the foundation for the church.

The first century was also a time of great persecution of Christians and Jews, especially under Domitian, who was emperor from 81 to 96 A.D. John was exiled to Patmos where he wrote the book of Revelations. After the death of Domitian, John returned to Ephesus where he died around 100 A.D., the last of the apostles.

There are some interesting similarities between the first and 21st centuries. In the first century, the world’s greater power of Rome defended Judea (Israel) against its greatest enemy at that time, Parthia. Rome saw Israel as a buffer state between it and the Parthians. Judea also occupied a critical geographic location between Asia/Europe and Africa. In the twenty-first century the United States, as a great western power, is in a similar position as Rome. Iran and the Muslims occupy a role similar to the Parthians in that they seek to establish a unified state, albeit an Islamic one. Similarly, in the year 69 A.D., Rome endured four incompetent, ineffective emperors. Had that not occurred, Vespasian would have taken Jerusalem with much less loss of life and very likely without destruction of the temple. Today many see the United States’ current president as an inept and ineffective leader. Where will he lead us? Finally, in 48 A.D, a council was held on Jerusalem in which a vote was taken as to whether Gentiles would be allowed to join the Christian movement. In May 1948, a vote was held in the United Nations to allow a Jewish nation to be formed and join that organization. It should also be noted that another vote will be taken in late September 2011 to divide that nation. History does, it seems, repeat itself.

* = Correction: Luke 1:80 (KJV) refers to John the Baptist not Jesus. This does not change the overall sense of the paragraph.