Saturday, July 12, 2008

CATHERINE M. BELL, a highly respected specialist in ritual studies, died in May. I have found her work very helpful and have used it in my own research (see here and here). Her premature death is a great loss to the field.

Requiescat in pace.
VISION OF GABRIEL WATCH: Messianic Jews enter the fray:
Headline News
Friday, July 11, 2008 Ryan Jones (Israel Today)

Messianic leaders say Hebrew tablet validates Jesus' claims

Israeli Jewish believers in Jesus say the recently publicized Hebrew tablet describing the death and resurrection of a messianic figure challenges centuries of teachings by rabbinic Judaism that the redemptive process of Jesus was a departure from biblical Jewish understanding.


But Gershon Nirel, a prominent Israeli historian and Jewish believer in Jesus, has a different take. He says the tablet is further evidence that Jesus was the kind of messiah Israel was waiting for, even if the rabbis now teach that Jesus failed to meet the biblical messianic criteria.

"Judaism is coming closer to the idea of redemption through the cleansing blood of Messiah, an idea that had been abandoned throughout the last centuries," said Nirel.

Israeli theologian and fellow Messianic Jew Tsvi Sadan added that even if Knohl's conclusions rub some believers in Jesus the wrong way, they still represent a step in the right direction.

"One can agree or disagree with Knohl’s conclusion, but the persistence of one of the leading Old Testament scholars in Israel today to prove that the death of the Messiah for Israel’s sake is not a Christian innovation is commendable in light of the tenuous relationship between the Jewish people and Jesus," explained Sadan.
Please don't get too excited yet. If the inscription turns out to be genuine and if it actually says what Professor Knohl thinks it says, then we can start debating what it means. For my part, it would not particularly surprise me if there were Jewish circles in the first century BCE who were anticipating a dying and rising messiah. The Myth and Ritual School, drawing mostly on evidence from the Psalms, has long argued that the death and resurrection of the Davidic king was an element of the cultic drama associated with the royal autumn (re-)enthronement festival in the First Temple period. This seems plausible to me, although it involves a lot of inference and lateral reading. But it remains to be seen whether older royal traditions of this sort are actually relevant to this particular text.

Background here and keep following the links back.

UPDATE (14 July): More here.
THE JOURNAL OF NORTHWEST SEMITIC LANGUAGES is now for sale in an electronic edition by Logos Bible Software.
A DEAD SEA SCROLLS EXHIBITION is coming to the Jewish Museum in New York. From the press release:

September 21, 2008 through January 4, 2009

The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls was one of the archaeological sensations of the 20th century. Objects of ancient religious observance and intense modern scholarly debate, these parchment texts were found, starting in 1947, in caves in the Judean Desert, east of Jerusalem and near the Dead Sea. Created over 2,000 years ago, the scrolls turned out to contain previously unknown Jewish compositions as well as the oldest surviving copies of the Hebrew Bible. When biblical scholars first learned of these texts, they were electrified by their potential for new revelations about Judaism and Christianity. Over time, some 900 separate scrolls were found in neighboring caves. They are collectively called the Dead Sea Scrolls. The new exhibition, The Dead Sea Scrolls: Mysteries of the Ancient World, features fragments of six scrolls, which have never been seen in New York City before. Three of the scrolls are being exhibited for the first time anywhere. Treasured and revelatory, the Dead Sea Scrolls on display, together with over 30 artifacts discovered at Qumran, near the caves where the documents were found, will provide unique insights into the lives of ancient peoples and the formulation of modern religious practice. A seven-minute film will further enrich the visitor experience. This exhibition represents the collaboration between the Israel Antiquities Authority and The Jewish Museum. All of the objects are from the National Treasures of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

PRESS PREVIEW - Wednesday, September 17, 10 am – 1 pm
And from the exhibit website:
The Jewish Museum’s exhibition will include six Dead Sea Scrolls. They represent the important transformation that occurred in Jewish worship from sacrifice to Bible study and prayer, the debates among Jewish groups of the Second Temple Period, and the indirect connections between the scrolls and early Christianity. The scrolls include a part of one of the earliest copies of the Hebrew Bible in existence, the Book of Jeremiah, which dates to 225-175 BCE and has never before been exhibited. Other texts that will be shown include an aprocryphal work, the Book of Tobit, which was rejected for the Hebrew canon but eventually accepted into the Christian Old Testament; an early example of a prayer from The Words of the Luminaries; and Aramaic Apocryphon of Daniel, which mentions a son of God. Also shown will be excerpts from two sectarian compositions, the Community Rule, which lays out the regulations for joining and being a member of a sect, and the War Scroll, which describes a great war at the end of days. Two of these scrolls have also never been exhibited, while three others have never been seen in New York.

The exhibition will also include some artifacts from the site of Qumran. A jar and linen wrapper that protected the scrolls, the earliest phylacteries, dishes and vessels, and objects of daily life such as sandals, hairnets, and combs will illuminate the current scholarly debates over who used and who hid the scrolls.
I have already mentioned the Archaeology Zone children's exhibit currently at the Jewish Museum.
THE JEWISH TEMPLES at Leontopolis and Elephantine (in Egypt) are discussed in the Jerusalem Post by a fellow of the Albright Institute:
The papyrus path

It is not well known that there were two Jewish temples in ancient Egypt. They do not form part of our traditional history, which concentrates on the going down into Egypt and the coming out of it, as based on the Torah accounts, for which there is little or no contemporary corroboration. But the two temples, though well attested by contemporary sources, have received little attention from our tradition.

One of these temples has been known about for nearly 2,000 years from Josephus Flavius and the Talmud, and its site was claimed to have been found just 100 years ago, but it has now been lost again. The other was never known of till just a hundred years ago and its site has only recently been discovered. The first is the Temple of Onias at Leontopolis dating to about 200 BCE, and the second is the Temple of Elephantine dating to 300 years earlier, to about 500 BCE.

This is the first I've heard that the Elephantine temple has been discovered:
Over the next 40 years, the German team, later joined by a Swiss one, started to uncover the remains of many temples and what they called the Aramaic village of the 27th Dynasty, the Persian period of the fifth century BCE. In fact they were excavating the ruins of the Jewish houses that had been identified by Bezalel Porten, of the Hebrew University, based on the Aramaic papyri and, some 10 years ago, in the location suggested by the documents, they found the remains of the Jewish temple.

The evidence was only a few sections of wall and a fine paved floor, but it was exactly in the position suggested by the papyri, and it was of a quality higher than that of the adjoining houses. It had a chamber of two rooms surrounded by a courtyard of fine plaster paving, its dimensions quite unlike the Temple of Jerusalem but much smaller and similar to the size and proportions of the mishkan or Tabernacle of the Bible.

The temple had been described in the contemporary papyri, as at one stage the Egyptian priests of Khnum had had it partly destroyed and the documents contained an appeal to the Persian governor, then in Jerusalem, to have it restored. It was rebuilt three years later, though the courtyard had to be reduced to allow the temple of Khnum to expand, and the Jews had to agree to offer no more animal sacrifices.

MORE ON THE PRIESTLY VESTMENTS: Arutz Sheva has photos and video of kohanim being fitted for the priestly garments.

Background here.

(Heads up, Carla Sulzbach.)

Friday, July 11, 2008

AN ANTI-MESSIAH in the Vision of Gabriel? Steven Cook comments on this and it's an interesting element of the text, worth highlighting.

Background here.

(Via Exploring our Matrix.)

UPDATE (12 July): More here.
THE HADRIAN EXHIBITION at the British Museum is reviewed in a long article in the Independent:
Hadrian: The man behind the wall

His conquests were spectacular, his genius for PR unrivalled. But his contradictions were legion. Who was the real Hadrian? As the British Museum prepares for a major exhibition on the life of the Roman leader, Boyd Tonkin looks for answers in the ruins of his imperial retreat

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Aprudent but brooding second-in-command, he had to endure a long, anxious wait before he finally took charge. He began his reign, AD 117, with a controversial withdrawal from Iraq: too soft, said the imperial hardliners. A bloody insurgency, and the persistent threat of a rival power with deep roots in the Middle East, prompted him to cut Roman losses and redeploy the occupying legions. Peace with the Parthians still left him in charge of a 60-million-strong swathe of Europe, western Asia and north Africa.

His writ ran (to use their modern names) from Newcastle to Cairo; from Lisbon to Jerusalem; from Algiers to Brussels. From the border security system in remote Britannia that he supervised in 122, and which makes his name at least familiar to all, to the forests of Turkey and the waters of the Nile, this soldier- son of a Spanish-Roman clan spent half his time in office visiting the distant outposts of the empire. For 15 years, his slick PR machine celebrated peace and order across these realms in stone, coin and scroll. Then he unleashed a punitive campaign of massacre and expulsion against his Jewish subjects after a revolt in 132. Pretty often, he made it across to Greece: his cultural inspiration, his spiritual home, and the source of his trademark intellectual's beard.


At the other boundary of his power, Hadrian the tolerant multiculturalist provoked the Jews by building a pagan shrine above the ruins of the Temple of Jerusalem – destroyed after the earlier revolt, AD 70. In the 130s, his merciless suppression of the popular rebellion led by the messianic guerrilla chief Simon bar Kochba – "son of the star" – left more than half a million dead. In the aftermath, he wiped the name of Judaea off the map, Ahmadinejad-style. Henceforth, the land would be "Syria Palestina".

Does the modern notion of racial "anti-Semitism" have any relevance here? It's "certainly not correct", says Opper: the salient point is that "the Jews, like the Christians, could not accommodate the cult of the emperor". So the usual Roman tolerance of local deities abruptly ceased. For Anthony Everitt, "there was little in imperial Rome analogous to contemporary racism". Hadrian's near-extermination of Judaea "was the fate Rome invariably meted out to those who refused to march under its yoke". The refusal of Jewish monotheism to compromise with pagan norms, Speller underlines, meant that Roman "carrot and stick" business as usual would not work. Whatever the motives, the Jewish people had no deadlier enemy until the Third Reich. Still, almost 1,900 years later, the words of the Talmud curse Hadrian.

I'm not sure why monotheism is brought up as an issue here. The Romans actually had a policy of tolerance toward Jewish monotheism (although not toward the Christian Jesus cult). The issue in the Bar Kokhba revolt was political independence, not monotheism.

Background on the exhibition here.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF: KABBALAH from Time Magazine. Very brief: about three sentences cover the period before Madonnna.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

VISION OF GABRIEL WATCH: Time Magazine has a profile of the collector who obtained the Vision of Gabriel inscription. It has a little new information.
The Man Who Bought a Resurrection

David Jeselsohn has been an avid collector of Mediterranean antiquities all his life. But 10 years ago, his curiosity was aroused by a mysterious stone tablet with ancient Hebrew writing that appeared in London, offered by a reputable Jordanian dealer. Jeselson bought it and then, distracted by more collecting, forgot it. Today, however, some scholars say that the fractured, three-foot-long sandstone tablet challenges the uniqueness of the idea of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.


After the purchase, Jeselsohn stashed the tablet in his Zurich home and moved on to other collectibles. Then, three years ago, he invited an Israeli scholar, Ada Yardeni, to Zurich to examine writings on ancient pottery shells. The expert's eye, however, was drawn instead to the tablet with its 87 lines of Hebrew script. "She was fascinated" says Jeselsohn. "Yardeni said the writing was just like on the Dead Sea Scrolls."

The original dealer was vague about the tablet's origin. But Jeselsohn, who is also an expert on East Mediterranean antiquities, says that the ink writing could only have survived for 2,000 years if it were kept in an extremely dry climate, possibly along the Jordanian shore of the Dead Sea. Most likely, says Jeselsohn, the tablet was considered sacred and displayed upright in a public area such as a synagogue.

Interesting. Another illustration of how the historical value of unprovenanced antiquities is tragically reduced because of the loss of their physical context. It isn't obvious why someone would go to the trouble of putting a literary text like this on a stone surface. If the Vision of Gabriel is genuine and if we had the context it was found in, we might be able to say a lot more about its purpose, use, and background.

UPDATE: More here.
Jewish & Other Imperial Cultures in Late

An Online Exhibition from the Center for Advanced Judaic Studies 2007-2008 Fellows at the University of Pennsylvania.

This year has been the Center's first sustained focus on Judaism in Antiquity, and we aimed to study in a decidedly interdisciplinary mode. Instead of a year on the rabbis and their world, we have focused instead on the imperial context of which Judaism was but one small piece. How does this perspective change the sort of evidence and questions we bring to this era of seminal transformation in Jewish culture, law, society, art, and practice? The idea has been to foster vibrant reciprocity. Scholars of early Judaism need to be regularly challenged by the data and complexity of Roman history, even, and especially, as Rome became a Christian empire. The group has also pushed Roman history to better take the measure of the vast, but often inaccessible, evidence of one of its own (uniquely vocal) provincial populations - the Jews. The conversation has been extraordinary, and is reechoed in the diversity and range of the fellows convened, several of whom are represented in this exhibit. I hope you enjoy it, and get at least some taste of what has been an extraordinary year. I want to extend my sincere thanks to David Ruderman and the Center for supporting the year, to Arthur Kiron for curating this exhibit, to Greg Bear for the title graphic, to Leslie Vallhonrat for designing the on-line version of the exhibit, and especially to Ra'anan Boustan, Oded Irshai, and Seth Schwartz. These remarkable and generous scholars, through many hours of conversation, came up with the call for this year and were essential in fulfilling its mission.

Natalie Dohrmann
(Heads up, Annette Reed.)

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

CONGRATULATIONS to Philip A. Harland, who just got tenure at York University.
VISION OF GABRIEL WATCH: Yesterday at the Jerusalem DSS conference Israel Knohl presented a paper on the Vision/Revelation of Gabriel, which generated lots more media attention:

A long and pretty good piece from Reuters: "Ancient text sheds light on Jewish-Christian links"

From the BBC: "Tablet stirs resurrection debate"

Some sensible commentary from the New York Sun: "Blurry 'Vision of Gabriel'"

The London Times gets the award for inflated headline of the week: "Dead Sea tablet 'casts doubt on death and resurrection of Jesus'" (Death too?)

A Catholic perspective from the CNA: "Scholars divided on interpretation of ‘Gabriel’s Revelation’ tablet"

A Southern Baptist perspective from the BP: "Archaeology & the Bible"

The Catholicism blog questions Knohl's agenda: "Shaking the Foundations of Christianity" (This would be a contender for inflated headline of the week if it weren't sarcasm.)

I think it's a pity that this story is overshadowing the Jerusalem conference. It would be nice to see some media attention to the papers that actually dealt with the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Background here.

UPDATE (10 July): More here.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

THE VISION OF GABRIEL (or Revelation of Gabriel) continues to get lots of media attention, much of it for all the wrong reasons. Three of the better articles:

Time Magazine: "Was Jesus' Resurrection a Sequel?"

A good overview of the issues, focusing inevitably on potential (and I suspect far-fetched - see below) comparisons with Jesus.


Lots of good links in this one.

The Telegraph: "Stone tablet 'redefines links between Judaism and Christianity'"

This one is interesting because it includes a note of skepticism about the inscription's authenticity:
An Israeli archeologist who asked not to be named doubted the authenticity.

"It's very strange that such a text was written in ink on a tablet and was preserved until now. To determine whether it is authentic one would have to know in which condition and exactly where the tablet was discovered, which we do not," she said.

But Yuval Goren, director of the archeology department at Tel Aviv university and a specialist in identifying forgeries, said he could not detect any sign of forgery in the text on the tablet.
For other reasons to be cautious, see here. I take no position on its authenticity at present, except to note that the majority view of people who have a right to an opinion is in favor of it.

Of greater interest than the media treatments, Ed Cook has a post at Ralph on the supposed reference to a resurrection after three days. He is skeptical. Recent media attention to this inscription reminds me of the hoo-haw in the early 90s over the so-called "pierced Messiah" text among the Dead Sea Scrolls. Upon a little reflection on the grammar and context, it became clear that it was the Messiah who was doing the piercing.

The Vision of Gabriel, assuming it is genuine, is important because it is a newly discovered apocalypse from the first century which is bound to tell us lots of interesting things about ancient Jewish theology, eschatology, angelology, and first-century Hebrew. The probability that it would also have a direct connection, let alone some sort of direct challenge, to the central Christian theme of Jesus' resurrection is low. The fact that this connection has been suggested for an ambiguious, damaged, and hard to read place in the inscription (as opposed to well preserved lines whose meaning is unambiguous) should make us very cautious.

UPDATE: Professor Stephen A. Kaufman of Hebrew Union College e-mails:
Appreciate your continuing thoughts on the Gabriel stone. I would add a few comments:
a) in this day and age of computer graphics for everyone, producing a totally convincing and consistent ink text is not difficult. An inscribed one (i.e. Joash) is easily discovered to be bogus by those who know how to see. Until we see a complete scientific analysis, extreme skepticism over a totally new typology of document is warranted.
b) the argument about Gesenius grammar NOT being violated has to be ascribed to content as well. In other words, the fact that the text is overloaded with reference to "three days" SCREAMS forgery. An innocuous text would not.
UPDATE (9 July): More here.
REBECCA LESSES is in Jerusalem for the Qumran conference and she reports on a session on Women and Qumran.

Monday, July 07, 2008

BIBLICAL STUDIES CARNIVAL XXXI has been published by James R. Getz Jr. at the Ketuvim blog. It comes just after No. XXX, which was delayed. (N. T. Wrong has a theory why.)

(Via the NT Gateway blog.)
THE VISION OF GABRIEL INSCRIPTION has made a splash in the news (e.g., here, here, here, and here).

Meanwhile, the fourteenth anniversary of the death of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneersohn, has been commemorated recently. Shmuley Boteach reflects on another stone inscription about a risen Messiah.

Background here, here, here, and here.

UPDATE (8 July): The last link was wrong; now fixed.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

DISNEY WORLD WATCH OUT! Phoenician theme parks seem to be all the rage:
Tunisia.. an exotic blend for all tastes
Philippa Clarke finds the magic of Africa - without the long haul flight
5/07/2008 (The Mirror)

The fine white sandy beaches of the North African coast are interrupted only by lemon trees and olive groves.

The clear water of calm, summer seas lap the shores, and there's a smell of jasmine on the warm breeze.

Visitors to Tunisia could be forgiven for thinking they had died and gone to heaven when they arrive here.


Hammamet has developed over the last 40 years from a tiny fishing village to a thriving holiday destination.

Known as the garden resort, it's surrounded by olive, orange and lemon groves and lines of cypress trees. The theme park Carthage Land, and Blue Ice, the only ice rink in the country, are a major attraction for families. From Hammamet south to Monastir there's a wealth of resorts, from quiet to lively, and modest to luxury with casinos, theme parks, golf and water sports.

My emphasis. More here. Cross file under "can't make it up."
A MOVIE ON THE APOSTLE THOMAS is in the works in India:
Now, an Indian film on Apostle Thomas
July 6th, 2008 - 12:45 pm ICT by IANS Thaindian News)

By Papri Sri Raman
Chennai, July 6 (IANS) Who was the man who inspired the English term “doubting Thomas”? Was he a contemporary of Jesus, or a faithful disciple or a fourth century Christian merchant? Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi inaugurated an Indian project to film the life and times of Apostle Thomas, known popularly as St. Thomas, who straddles legend and history in Judea, Syria, Persia and several south Indian settlements in the early Christian era.

A self-acclaimed atheist, Karunanidhi said on the occasion: “Whether I am accepted by god is more important than whether I accept god.”

Paulraj Lourdusamy is chief researcher for the film to be produced by Santhome church. He has also written the script.

The Rs.500-million ($12 million) project is being supported by the St. Thomas Apostle of India Trust, set up by the Catholic Archdiocese of Mylapore.

The article claims that Jim Caviezel is considering reprising his role as Jesus for the film.
OLD NEWS FOR NEW. The New Zealand Herald has an article announcing the discovery of some new scroll fragments in the Judean Desert, but it appears to be misplaced news from a 2005 AP article. For earlier coverage see here and here.
AN EXHIBITION ON THE EMPEROR HADRIAN opens at the British Museum later this month. The Museum's director has an article profiling Hadrian and the exhibition in the London Times:
There’s more to Hadrian than wall-building
A military mastermind who retreated from Iraq, a politician motivated by peace, and a lover of Greek culture and Greek men - there’s more to Hadrian than wall-building, reveals the director of the British Museum

Neil MacGregor

We think we know the Romans. Countless books, films, plays and pieces of music have been inspired by an empire that, at its height, in AD117, stretched from the site of modern Glasgow in the north to the Sahara desert in the south, and from the Atlantic to Basra. Hollywood sword-and-sandal epics from Quo Vadis to Gladiator, as well as the BBC’s Rome, give us the impression of an empire at once brutal and noble, heroic and corrupt, bloody and decadent - an empire of slavery but also of many freedoms, of multiple identities, all drawn together in the service of Rome and its emperors. But how much do we know? It can be hard to glimpse the real empire through the histories that have survived the centuries, histories that are invariably biased depending on who wrote them, when and, above all, for whom.

Sometimes one has a chance to glimpse the real emotions of ordinary Romans, living their lives under this extraordinary empire. The Vindolanda tablets, housed in the British Museum, slightly predate the emperor Hadrian and his instruction to build his eponymous wall separating England from Scotland (Caledonia) in AD122. Vindolanda fort already existed, first constructed in the late first century. Soldiers from all over the empire were billeted there, of Celtic, Germanic, North African or Syrian origins: a multi-national force guarding the extremes of the realm. Excavations at the fort in 1973 revealed an extraordinary cache of wooden writing tablets, official military documents and personal letters concerning the day-to-day issues of life in the army. They reveal complaints about the cold, illnesses, receipt of care parcels providing socks and underpants, invitations to birthday parties and so on. These truly are the humble building blocks of history and are surely similar to the e-mails and text messages soldiers send home from Iraq today. At their most basic, they show how little has changed in nearly 2,000 years. There is another connection between these two regions: for the north of England and Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq) were once the northern and eastern borders of the Roman empire, under the enigmatic emperor Hadrian.

In many ways, Hadrian seems familiar to us. There is a perception of him - given to us via the Victorians and then Marguerite Yourcenar’s ever-popular fictional autobiography of the emperor (1951) - that he was somehow different, a maverick, a Greek-loving peacenik more interested in architecture and boys than in securing the legacy of mighty Rome. But how true is this portrait, and what of Hadrian’s legacy? Why is he still important now? These are the questions an exhibition at the British Museum is seeking to address. A huge number of archeological finds connected to Hadrian and excavated over the past 30 or so years have inspired a new scholarship and allowed a reassessment of his character.


A truer glimpse of Hadrian’s character can be seen in the material borrowed from Israel for the exhibition. These loans include a magnificent bronze head and torso of Hadrian in military uniform; though his pose seems casual, he is every inch the tough military leader, a trait he exhibited to shocking effect during the second Jewish revolt (AD1325). Hadrian’s apparent banning of circumcision and his probable encroachments in Jerusalem unleashed a storm, led by Simeon Bar Kokhba, that cost Rome up to three legions. Hadrian decided to remind Judea that Rome was an imperial power that could brook no dissent: the proud rebels were mercilessly crushed, costing the lives of almost 600,000 Jews. It is no wonder that in the Talmud, Hadrian’s name was followed by the simple injunction “May his bones rot”.

Read it all. The exhibition was announced back in January. For more on the Vindolanda finds (and a little more on Bar Kokhba), see here. And for more still on Bar Kokhba, see here.

UPDATE: Bad link now fixed. Sorry about that.

UPDATE (11 July): More here.
THE VISION OF GABRIEL has made it into the New York Times:
Tablet Ignites Debate on Messiah and Resurrection

Published: July 6, 2008

JERUSALEM — A three-foot-tall tablet with 87 lines of Hebrew that scholars believe dates from the decades just before the birth of Jesus is causing a quiet stir in biblical and archaeological circles, especially because it may speak of a messiah who will rise from the dead after three days.

If such a messianic description really is there, it will contribute to a developing re-evaluation of both popular and scholarly views of Jesus, since it suggests that the story of his death and resurrection was not unique but part of a recognized Jewish tradition at the time.

The tablet, probably found near the Dead Sea in Jordan according to some scholars who have studied it, is a rare example of a stone with ink writings from that era — in essence, a Dead Sea Scroll on stone.

It is written, not engraved, across two neat columns, similar to columns in a Torah. But the stone is broken, and some of the text is faded, meaning that much of what it says is open to debate.

Still, its authenticity has so far faced no challenge, so its role in helping to understand the roots of Christianity in the devastating political crisis faced by the Jews of the time seems likely to increase

(Heads up, Eibert Tigchelaar.)

Background here and keep following the links back.