We have been reading through David M. Carr’s Holy Resilience, where he highlights the role trauma has played in Jewish and Christian history.
Two more traumas mark the start of a new era for Judaism and Christianity. The main one was the +70 destruction of Jerusalem. This affected both religions.
It affected Judaism because it ended the Temple system and degraded the status of Judaism within the Roman Empire.
It affected Christianity (which was just a Jewish off-shoot at the time) by gradually removing it from its identity as Jewish.
A unique thing about the way Carr tells this story is that he uses the changes in the Roman poll tax on Jews to clarify what happened.
Before the Jewish Revolt and the destruction of Jerusalem, Jewish males between the ages of 20 and 50 payed a poll tax for the maintenance of the Temple. This was a special privilege for the Jews, which had the effect of exempting them from supporting temples to Roman gods and unifying Jews throughout the empire in their support for the Jerusalem Temple. Since the early Jesus followers were close to Judaism, they probably claimed the exemption from Roman religious taxation and supported the Temple.
In fact, all kinds of Jews existed. There were Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, Gnostics, and Jesus Jews. All were defined by their relation to the Temple.
After the Jewish War and the destruction of Temple, Rome imposed a new poll tax on all Jews, both male and female, between the ages of 3 and 60. They rubbed salt in this wound by using the tax to rebuild the temple to Jupiter in Rome.
Even though it was a humiliation, the tax also exempted Jews from the requirement to worship Roman gods. Jews were not even required to worship the emperor, just to pray for him.
This was a big factor in the separation of Judaism and Christianity. Increasingly, Christians were not Torah observant and were ethnically non-Jewish. In the second century the only people required to pay the tax were those who actually practiced a Jewish way of life. Thus, Judaism was a religion, not an ethnicity, and Christians were not included with Jews.
So the second trauma was that suffered by Christians from occasional severe persecutions which often involved being executed for not sacrificing to the emperor or Roman gods.
After the destruction of the Temple, Judaism adapted by becoming much more religiously united. The Temple had previously focused the diverse parties. But now the teachings of a central academy of rabbis united the faith. Judaism largely became identical with Rabbinic Judaism. In this they fell back upon the kind of adaptation to exile that existed during the Babylonian period.
Ezra had the support of the Persians and the Rabbis put forward a kind of Judaism that was recognized, and taxed, by Rome. Part of this accommodation was that Judaism avoided proselytizing and sometimes took Rome’s side against zealot-like resistance.
Christianity, on the other hand, spread by converting pagans. The anti-Christian writings often refer to Christianity as like a virus or an infection. This is why the Romans often felt that Christianity was dangerous.
In the Roman Empire it was one thing to be a recognized ancient faith with privileges and responsibilities. It was quite another to be a newfangled religious “superstition” urging people to give up their ancestral gods and communal loyalties (p. 214).
And the Romans were right to fear the viral nature of the Christian faith. It eventually overcame and largely replaced the traditional Roman religion.
So both Judaism and Christianity adapted and survived.