Civil Right Activism of Jews during the Roman Empire of the New Testament Times


Jews were disagreeable people with other nations. Rightly so since it was biblically based. They were sometimes in disagreement with each other and rightly so since it was over a fundamental biblical principle of one side and a freethinking on the other. What was horrified to know, is that Jews of the First Century sometimes fought each other in factions. Violent and with bloody scenes. This was not biblically based and no faithful person should try to extrapolate heroism from this. Faithful people.

King Herod ruled in Jerusalem from 37 BCE – 4 BCE. He was a vassal King for the Roman Empire and the Roman Senate chose him to be the “King of the Jews”. He was a tyrant and killed anyone whom he suspected want to claim the throne from him. He killed all his relatives. He killed his wife, because she was a daughter of a Hasmonean King and all of her family members. He created an elite club that was only loyal to him known as the Herodians. The new high priests were from families that were not connected to the past dynasty. He died in 4 BCE and thus the year Jesus was born in Bethlehem.

Herod created economic problems. He had labor teams working for him in construction sites of his building mania. They became impoverished. So when he died, they riot and the violence in the region was not controlled. There were not proper leaders in the region and both labor problems and leadership vacuums created the riots among Jews. These days overlap with the first few years of Jesus’ life. The New Testament is silent about these tensions.

The Romans got interested more and more in the Eastern Mediterranean and they took the semi-independent Herodian dynasty and merged it into their empire around 6 CE when Jesus was ten.

This transition created an uprising by Judas of Galilee who reacted against the Census of Quirinius. The Romans put the revolt down.

The New Testament is silent about this. Jesus was 11 years old. There is no information from the New Testament whether it was considered right or wrong by Jesus or his parents or those associated with them to have struggles with labor in Herods time or reactions against a census around 6 CE. Nothing. The subject is Civil Rights Activism and Christianity of Adventism in 2020.

With Herod and Herod Archelaus out of the way the Jews instituted procurators called Prefects to rule the Judeans. These procurators respected the laws and customs of the Jews, allowing them to rest on Sabbath, not to participate in pagan rituals, and minting a con free of images. Any procurator that gave them problems on these matters were reported to the governor of Syria and such an official was removed. Roman Judea was a satellite of Syria.

This period was between 7 and 26 CE. It is the childhood days of Jesus when He was found in the temple teaching the leaders there with amazement by his mother and father and also the time Jesus spent with his father working as a Carpenter. The next year Jesus would approach John the Baptist, the cousin of His for baptism to start His ministry.

These years were relatively calm under the procurators.

But these years were not free from sectarian disputes between factions of the Jews. The Jews were supporters of Zaddisees, Pharisees, Samaratians, Zelotes, Herodians, Qumran sect, and mobs who could be engineered by these leaders for violent protests. If a dispute with someone came, like with Jesus when He became too popular in Jewish leaders eyes, they would call upon the volunteers of these activists to form a mob and demonstrate against Jesus.

The New Testament is full of descriptions of these mob-activists against Evangelism, the Truth, doctrines, Jesus, Paul and the other apostles. They got them accused, framed, punished, jailed, and killed. The New Testament is not in favor of any of these mob-activists no matter how sober the issue was.

Jesus died in 31 CE with these mob-activists demanding their rights to protests and scream.

In John 8 such a mob-activistic group brought a woman caught in adultery to Jesus to get her executed and Jesus trapped. They got themselves trapped since the Judge of the Universe saw their hearts and wrote on the ground their sins and one by one they disappeared. Jesus dismantled a mob-activism in John 8.

After 37 CE under Emperor Caligula tensions erupted again. The spread of Greek culture, the spread of Roman Law and the awareness of Jewish Rights created tensions.

The prefect of Egypt, Aulus Avilius Flaccus was not a favorite of Caligula. He was loyal to Tiberius. He conspired against Caligula’s mother and had connections with Egyptian separatists.

The timeline indicates that Jesus died seven years before, in 34 CE Stephen was martyred by Paul. The report on the conversion of Paul indicated that Paul was involved in Jewish Civil and Religious Right Activism against Christians around 34 CE. Again the New Testament does not take a favorable view of Civil Right Activism during this time. Surely, this was a time that a manual would have been floating around in Churches how to protest the Jewish upheaval against them. Silence is golden.  

In 38 CE Caligula sent Agrippa to Alexandria to spy on Flaccus. The Greeks were happy. Now Flaccus did something bad. He placed statues of the emperor in the Jewish synagogues.

The New Testament is silent about this or what Christian should or should not do during this time. .

Extensive Jewish Civil and Religious Rights Activism led to riots in the city. Caligula got Flaccus removed and executed him.

During 35-38 CE Paul was at Damascus and in Arabia. Quite remote from these events. In the year 38 CE Paul escapes from Damascus during the reign of Aretas and first went to Jerusalem and then to Tarsus. Galatians said that after his conversion in 35 CE Paul visits Jerusalem “after three years” Galatians 1:18.

In 39 Agrippa accused Herod Antipas of Galilee and Perea that he was planning a rebellion against Roman rule with the help of Parthia. He confessed and Caligula exiled him. Agrippa got his territories.

The Jews and Greek cultures were different and in Alexandria in 40 CE riots erupted.

In the city of Jamnia someone erected a clay altar and Jews were angry and destroyed it. Caligula was furious and ordered a statue of himself to be placed in the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.

The New Testament is silent about this. Dr. Luke in Acts says nothing about it. If the abomination of desolation was looking for a fulfillment in after Jesus’ times, the New Testament authors could have pointed to this as the fulfillment, but they did not. Why? Because that was not supposed to be the fulfillment of the term “abomination of desolation” set up predicted in the Book of Daniel.

The Syrian governor Publius Petronius feared a civil war against the Jews and delayed the setting up of the statue for more than a year. Agrippa then convinced Caligula that it is not a good idea and that they should abandon the concept of the statue in the Jewish Temple. Caligula reversed the order.

In 44 CE James the brother of John was martyred. Peter was imprisoned over Passover Time and Agrippa I died.

Then Barnabas brought Paul to Antioch in 44 CE and Paul remained there one year (Acts 11:26). Thus between 44-45 CE Paul is in Antioch.

Paul’s First Missionary Journey was between 45-47 CE. Coming back to Antioch Paul remained there “in no little time” (Acts 14:28).

During this time of Paul’s stay in Antioch, two brothers, Jacob and Simon, caused uprising in Judea in the area of Galilee between 46-48. The Romans put down the revolt and executed the two brothers. The New Testament is silent about this. When it comes to Civil Right Activism, Christians of the New Testament including Jesus, were at the receiving end of it. No good word could be found to describe it.

The Jerusalem council was 14 years after Paul’s conversion in 49 CE (Galatians 2:1).

The ministry and books of Paul were written between 51 CE until he was taken prisoner due to Civil and Religious Right Activism among the Jews against Christians between 61-63 CE (Acts 28:30). Paul and Peter probably died in 67 CE.

The Roman policy changed with the institution of Gessius Florus as procurator (64-66 CE). Florus stole some of the temple treasury and murdered Jews who oppressed the desecration. If there was a time for the “abomination of desolation” of Daniel to be set up, here was the chance of the New Testament authors to connect the link. They did not. It was not to be connected at all.

The Jews went with Civil and Religious Rights Activists to Syria to Cestius Gallus. But he did not help them. A series of revolts erupted Florus tried to stop the riots and it got more violent.

There is ample opportunity for the biblical and New Testament narrative to fan out Civil Right Activism for Christians in support of the Jews and their religious rights denied. How did the Bible respond?

“Pray that your flight may not be on the Sabbath, Jesus said.”

Romans 13 Paul asked the rulers to be obeyed and members not to riot or protest.

Be patient with your trials and tribulations.

Take your sorrows to God in prayer.

In conclusion it appears that Ellen White and the Bible do not support any Civil Right Activism and that any Adventist who sides with BLMarxism is siding with Judas Iscariot the dagger carrier unconverted disciple of Jesus who was known to have stolen from the purse he was to carry.  

(Koot van Wyk reflecting on Civil Right Activism and the New Testament in South Korea on the 1st of August 2020).