Third Paradigm is an out-of-the-box thinktank on community sovereignty and regenerative economics.
We look at how to take back our cities, farmland and water; our money, production and trade; our media, education and culture, our religion and even our God.
We present a people's history of the Bible and a parent's view on how to raise giving kids in a taking world.
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Welcome to the eighth episode of Third Paradigm. At the close of last week's program, we presented some first century history that contradicts the Biblical story of Jesus' birth. This week, which is a pivotal week in the history of Judaism, we'll look at the first six decades of the first century. We'll compare the Judaism of the revolutionary peasants with the Judaism of our current times. If they had succeeded, what would Judaism look like today? But we'll start with a poem from the Sufi poet Hafiz:
[Explosions in the Sky – Your Hand in Mine]
Your Hand in Mine, by Explosions in the Sky, is from the Friday Night Lights soundtrack.
Hafiz uses the term Christ interchangeably with the Sufi term, the Beloved. They're two ways of expressing a concept of God that includes all of humanity. It's the whole that's more than the sum of our parts, but incomplete without any one of us. Some believe that this breakthrough in Sufi consciousness happened around the same place and time as the Christ. Also in this fertile era and ground, the Bodhisattva movement was born. Before this, the objective of Buddhism was to purify your karma through successive rebirths until you no longer needed to be reborn, at which point you entered nirvana. The Bodhisattvas, however, were a group of monks who decided to "turn the boat around," and vowed not to enter nirvana until everyone did. In a sense, this was the same revelation as the Sufis. Hafiz describes a flash of recognition that the one being attacked is actually yourself - the self you love more than your own life, like a parent's love for their child. In that moment, the sword falls from the hand in horror. For the Bodhisattvas, like the Three Musketeers, their mantra was all for one and one for all. It wasn't an act of generosity, however, but was based in the mystical belief that the all was in each one and each was the all. It would be impossible to enter nirvana without everyone because there was no separate self.
At the same time that the Bodhisattvas were emerging in Buddhism and the Sufis were emerging in Islam, a new vision was opening up in Judaism. It was called the Fourth Philosophy, to distinguish it from the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Essenes, which were the three Hebrew sects. No written scripture has survived to tell us what they taught, so we can only infer their beliefs from their detractors. The core tenets were that no one was superior or inferior to you, that all people deserved freedom, and that there was no Lord but God. In other words, equalité, liberté, fraternité. The founders of this Philosophy were two teachers named Judas the Galilean and Zadok the Pharisee. Judas was a descendent of the Maccabees, the distinguished family that had led a prior revolt against the Seleucids. The time that they come into prominence is 6 CE.
After the death of Herod the Great, and the removal of Herod's incompetent son Archelaus, the Romans sent their own governor Quirinius to rule Judea. Direct rule meant direct taxation and Quirinius called for a census of property. For the wealthy, this may have meant leaving their comfortable estates and contending with thieves on the road. But for the peasant class, who owned nothing but their land, the threat was greater. Under the covenant, land belonged to future generations – in a similar way to the Native American tribes. It was forbidden to buy or sell it, because that would dispossess your children's children or someone else's, and would imply that it could be owned. God was seen as the owner of the land, and we but tenants – but secure tenants. This religious prohibition kept the Romans from being able to trick or buy the Judeans' land out from under them.
However the oldest trick in the book was usurping land through taxation. If only income was taxed, those who lived off the land could remain self-sufficient. But by taxing property in a non-monetary society, debtors could be put in prison and their lands seized. Centuries later, the de Boers used the same maneuver to force self-reliant Africans to go into the mines or lose their lands through taxation. It was an old trick, but a highly effective one in a ruthless sort of way.
Judas and Zadok called the census the first step into slavery and condemned all those who submitted to it. This created a hazard for the complacent middle-class. The resistors waylaid them on the road and often stole their clothes, depriving them of the symbol of their status. The word robber derives from the same root as robe because of this. In the Bible and in Jewish history, the insurgents are often called robbers or thieves. We'll look at the implications of that in another episode. But the name they chose to call themselves was zealots, a word that means literally to invite punishment. And invite punishment they did, in a way that was so radical it seemed like madness.
On top of the temple in Jerusalem, the Romans had erected a giant gilded eagle. This was both an insult and an injury. The eagle was the symbol of Roman rule, plus the Hebrew religion forbade any images, which were seen as idols replacing God. In the middle of the day, the students rappelled up the temple wall and started hacking off the eagle with saws and swords. It was the first-century equivalent of throwing a shoe.
Predictably, the Romans reacted. The teachers and students who enacted the deed were burned alive and the bystanders were executed. Although there's no record of what happened to Judas and Zadok, the next Passover was on red security alert because of the killing of the two teachers. What else did they expect? It seemed to be a pointless act of self-sacrifice, provoking the Romans with a public display in broad daylight. And so that ended the zealots.
But wait. No, it didn't. From this spark, which seemed calculated to attract the most brutal attempt to stamp it out, a fire was started that spread throughout the occupied territories. It raged for the next six decades, uniting the peasant classes across racial and religious lines against the Roman Empire. It wasn't a wimpy peace movement that said pay Caesar what's his and turn the other cheek; it was an armed insurgency. Nations joined together to protect each other's sovereignty. But the strangest thing of all wasn't their courage – it's that it was characterized by a complete fearlessness, an utter disregard for their own safety. How did the violent reprisal against the first zealots end up removing the fear of punishment? It seems to defy explanation. When we come back, we'll look at what happened during the next 60 years. But now, in honor of zealots everywhere but especially in Palestine today, we'll hear Bruce Cockburn with a rare acoustic recording of "If I Had a Rocket Launcher."
[Bruce Cockburn – If I Had a Rocket Launcher]
Thank you to Skidmark Bob for finding this version of Bruce Cockburn's "If I Had a Rocket Launcher." And I'm grateful to Cockburn for daring to say out loud what is the greatest heresy in the empire, which is that people have a right to use violence to defend themselves against violence. Those who face death or torture in order to defend others are heroes, not terrorists. In the first half of the first century, these zealot heroes dropped like flies. Their method was to swarm the Romans but to kill themselves or each other rather than being captured alive. Throughout the countryside, the homes and silos of collaborators were put to the torch. At religious festivals, they developed a sly way to deal with the elite who were betraying them into the hands of the Romans. They would use the crush of the mob to slip a short dagger, called a sica, into the traitor's heart, and then melt back into the crowd. From this, they became known as sicarii. Sicarios is a Latin term that means assassination. By transposing the first two letters of Judas Iscariot we get Judas Sicariot or Judas the assassin.
In 44-46 CE the second leader of the revolution appears, Theudas. Curiously, his name combines the first part of theo, which means God, and the ending of Judas. Like John the Baptist, he led a vast number of followers to the Jordon and was beheaded by the governor, who at the same time crucified two of Judas the Galilean's sons. Then in the 50's, an unnamed Egyptian prophet stormed Jerusalem with 30,000 people. Many were killed, but he escaped unharmed. Finally, in 64, another son of Judas named Menahem emerges. In an unprecedented victory for the oppressed, he ousts the Romans from all of Judea and reclaims the temple. Strangely, he's then killed by the other rebel leaders. Doing the math, if Judas' wife wa pregnant with Menahem at the time that Judas was killed, it would make Menahem 58 when he wins Judea's independence, which seems rather long in the tooth for a zealot warrior.
History has dismissed this victory as a temporary fluke, but for three years the entire system of imperialism was shaken. How did a small, poorly equipped guerilla force defeat the mighty Roman army? If Judea could do it, why not Samaria or Egypt? The empire seemed in chaos. In one year, there were four Caesars. To make a modern comparison, it was a worse threat to imperialism than a successful and sovereign Vietnam was to the US 2000 years later.
When the general who had fought the Judeans became Caesar, he sent his son Titus to use any means necessary to conquer the upstart again. Even though it was the conquest of a sovereign country, they called it the war of the Jews as if they had provoked it. In the same way, we call it the Vietnam or Iraq war even though we're the ones attacking them. So in 67, Rome surrounded Jerusalem during Passover, trapping more than a million people inside. For four months, the Jews were held under siege in an attempt to starve them out, much like the Gaza strip over the last two years.
But not everyone was against the Roman resurgence. During the siege, a rabbi named Johanan ben Zakkai snuck out from behind the Jerusalem walls. He went to Titus and proclaimed Caesar to be Lord – the very thing that the zealots would never say, even under torture. He implored him to be allowed to take a group of his students and leave to preserve the Jewish religion. What Johanan promised in return we'll never know, but Titus granted his request. The religious leader and his followers deserted, leaving his people to their fate. Soon after, the Romans found a way to breach the wall into Jerusalem. The stench of dead and bloated bodies met them, yet the soldiers slaughtered until the streets ran red and they were exhausted from killing. Over the next months, trials were held to enslave those who could work, separating mother from child. Those who were worthless were killed, and those judged responsible were tortured. During this time, tens of thousands more died of starvation, either because food was withheld or because they refused to eat.
Even after this event – facetiously called the fall of Jerusalem although I'd say it was pushed – the zealots took over Masada and spread their message of liberation to Egypt. But so-called "Jews of reputation" ratted them out to imperial guards. As their children were burned at the stake and "all manner of vexations were brought to them," even the children wouldn't declare Caesar to be God. According to amazed witnesses, the fire seemed to bother them not at all, even as if their souls gloried under it.
Obviously, these are not the stories of Judaism we've heard. When I ask myself why my Jewish friends, good, kind, caring people, are blind to the massacre of Palestinians, I think it's because they've been lied to - by the media, the Israeli lobby, their religious leaders, and even their scriptures. This week is the moment in history when every Jewish person decides whose side they're on. Will they be a Roman collaborator and Nazi sympathizer, or will they stand up for the Jews who, in this case, are Palestinians. It's important to hear the news from the other side, before it comes out in a war trial. Until next week, this has been Tereza Coraggio from Free Radio Santa Cruz in a sobering new year. Thank you to Skidmark Bob for music, production, and editing. We'll leave you with a performer who says that the word you need to know is occupation. And I would add that there aren't two sides to an occupation any more than I can walk into your house with a gun and kill you in self-defense.
[David Rovics – They're Building a Wall]
Thanks for listening.