Hindsight is 2019/19 A.D.

tiberius and Washington.png

The anti-Christian political climate behind the January 2019 berating of Catholic Teens & Christian schools in Washington D.C. ominously echoes the year Tiberius expelled the Jews from Rome 2,000 years ago, in 19 A.D.

We haven’t reached February yet, but if the pace continues, 2019 will be a record breaker–in the field of social media-driven popularization of open hostility toward orthodox Christianity in the U.S.A, that is.

Three events occurred in the space of three days. As journalists reported them, they revealed a common, determined effort to portray Christians–of the “non-progressive” kind–as Public Enemy #1. Regarding this, one writer said, “I don’t think that these incidents are engineered by some shadowy, devious figure behind the scenes. The “conspiracy” is less cinematic in scope and doesn’t involve much in the way of actual conspiring. The media is already on the same page;…”

And as I say, it is as if journalists are looking from side to side and giving each other a ‘thumbs up’, as castigating Christians becomes more fashionable.

Three Events
On January 16th, critics demonized second lady Karen Pence for accepting a teaching position at a private Christian School–the typical kind which upholds Judeo-Christian standards for behavior. Journalists, however reacted with shock, as if the school were an outlier.

On January 18th, major news networks largely ignored the number of people (an estimated 650,000) who gathered in Washington D.C. to March for Life.

Then, on January 19th, an online mob began to form. A group of teenagers became the subject of a social media “name and shame” campaign that snowballed. The teens were from Covington Catholic High School, Kentucky, and had attended the March for Life.

Prior to these events I had already promised  (on Jan 15th)  to tell the story of Tiberius’ 19 A.D. expulsion of the Jews from Rome. (I also include it in my upcoming book)

But before I could fulfill my promise, the common theme of intolerance for people of faith was already making headlines.

This article is not meant to rehash events recently reported (you can read about them here, here, and here), but, a quick summary will help highlight the similarities

January 19th, 2019, Washington D.C.

After the March for Life, the group of teens from Covington Kentucky were waiting for  transportation near the Lincoln Memorial as instructed. During this wait, a group of racial supremacists  hurled abusive slurs at the teens. After enduring the verbal attacks for an hour, the teens obtained permission to perform some high school cheers as a way of drowning out the profanity.

This prompted an individual from a third group to approach the teens. Chanting in a native language, this elderly gentleman beat a drum within inches of a young man’s face who stood there politely listening and smiling. Mobile cameras closed in on the elderly man and the sixteen year old.

Three minutes of this interaction, up close, and without the preceding context, went viral.

But the events as described in the preceding paragraphs is not the way it seemed in that three minute video. It was not the way it was initially reported, and it is not the version that the elderly man told. He was the first to be interviewed. According to the elder’s account–now thoroughly discredited– he was “surrounded by” the group of teens (he approached them) who had been chanting a political slogan (again the ample video evidence confirms this is not true).

Public outrage was vitriolic. The teens and their school were berated by an onslaught of online activism. Hollywood celebrities demanded they be ‘doxxed’. Some openly wished they be punched in the face, and others fantasized openly about their death, one through gruesome imagery . Their families became the object of numerous death threats. The students were denounced by their school, their diocese, politicians, and journalists from the left as well as the right.

It wasn’t until the next day that a second video surfaced discrediting the elder’s account and providing greater context for the confusing interactions.

Heather Wilhem from National Review summarizes:

Since Saturday night, the Washington Post’s one-sided version of events — made viral by a bloodthirsty Twitter frenzy — has largely unraveled. It turns out the story is far more complicated than it was initially made to seem. Oh, well: Sorry to single you out, kids! Too bad about the death threats! I mean, what high-schooler hasn’t had the producer of Beauty and the Beast tell the world via social media that they should be immediately fed into a woodchipper?

Many critics, some likely motivated by the threat of lawsuits, have since retracted and apologized. However, the first account, full of falsehoods, persists. As of January 28th, the teens continue to be eviscerated  (see  here and here.) How this will unfold remains to be seen.

These students from a Catholic school were not looking for trouble. Trouble came to them, and then lies were told, which led to the death threats.

History is riddled with persecution of the religious. Lets go back now, 2,000 years into the past, prior to Jesus’ public ministry years, when He might have been 23 years old.

19 A.D. Rome

In the year 19 A.D., an incident occurred involving 4 renegade Jews. Tiberius reacted. He gave the 30,000 to 50,000 Jews living in Rome [3] a date by which they were to leave or be enslaved for life. Those who burned their scrolls and renounced their religion could stay.

Additionally, the Roman Senate voted to enlist 4,000 young Jewish men into military service. They were sent to Sardinia, a place the Romans would prefer not to send their own sons. Sardinia had a high rate of malaria. This was in essence a retaliatory act of discrimination.

Tacitus, callously described the assignment as ‘a cheap sacrifice should they die from the pestilential climate’, an attitude too close to that of the bullying celebrities of 2019, and yet greatly subdued in comparison.

Why did Tiberius take such harsh action? [4] There are two easily identifiable reasons: A previous incident with the Egyptian Cult of Isis, and the anti-semitic influence of his trusted friend, Sejanus.

Paulina, Decius and the Priests of Isis
Actually, both Judaism and the Egyptian cult of Isis were banished around the same time, but Isis came first, setting the stage.

In Rome there was a young woman, married, rich, beautiful, modest, of good reputation and high rank, who caught the eye of a man named Decius Mundus. Her name was Paulina, and she was a worshipper of Isis. Decius was a man ‘high in the equestrian order’.

Decius was so enamored with Paulina that he offered 200,000 drachmae if she would spend the night with him. She refused repeatedly. Decius finally decided that he’d rather starve to death than be deprived of the object of his infatuation. His father’s freedwoman, Ide was distraught by Decius decision and offered him a solution. Decius agreed. He gave her 25,000 drachmae which she would pay to the priests of the temple of Isis, if they could con Paulina into spending the night with Decius.

These priests took the money, and the eldest of them went to Paulina with a story. She was told that the god Anubis had fallen in love with her, and had requested her presence overnight at the temple.

With her husband’s approval, Paulina went to the temple of Isis where Decius was waiting. She believed that it was the god Anubis and not Decius who took advantage of her naivete in the darkness.

For days, Paulina did not keep quiet about the supposed ‘honor’, much to the amazement and disbelief of her hearers. But three days later, Decius bragged to her face that she and the priests had saved him 175,000 drachmae.

Mortified and filled with disgust, Paulina spoke to her husband demanding that action be taken. Her husband, Saturnus, reported the priests to his friend, Tiberius, the Emperor.

The Emperor had Ide and the priests crucified, their temple burned, and the statue of Isis thrown into the Tiber, and yet, he only subjected Decius to banishment, deciding the crime he committed ‘was done out of the passion of love’. I would suppose that his rank as Equestrian had something to do with it too. (call it ‘equestrian privilege’?)

The Jews are Expelled
Tiberius, then, had no patience for eastern religions when another friend of his with a similar name, Saturninus, came with a complaint from his wife, Fulvia. She was a Jewish proselyte. She too came from a prominent family, and she too had been conned: not out of her dignity, but of her possessions.

Who conned Fulvia?

The main culprit was, as Josephus tells us, a Jew who’d been banished from his home country but was, at the time, living in Rome. This person professed to be a teacher of Moses’ law. He found three other young Jews of dubious character, and the four of them together persuaded Fulvia to send gold and purple cloth to the Temple in Jerusalem. She gave generously to the four who never intended to sent it.

Blame it on the foreign religions. Tiberius banished the entire Jewish population in Rome, and sent 4,000 young Jewish men where Romans preferred not to send their own.

Similarities 2,000 years apart
Two groups of young men from two major religions, in two capital cities, two thousand years apart. In both cases, lies stacked on top of lies, caused the court of public opinion to blame their religious upbringing.

Lies of Sejanus
According to Philo of Alexandria, Tiberius discovered 13 years later that what he’d been told about the Jews were ‘inventions of Sejanus’. (Sejanus had tried to overthrow Tiberius, who, in turn had Sejanus executed in 31 A.D.) Tiberius then sent orders for his governors to respect jewish customs, around 32 A.D.[2]

Let us hope, and pray that people in the U.S. who value life and family today do not have to endure the pains that the Jews, and later, the Christians, endured due to the policies and attitudes of Roman leaders such as Sejanus, Caligula, and Nero, and, in 19 A.D. Tiberius.

Unlike the Christians and Jews under Roman rule, we have two things they did not have: Freedom of Speech, and the right to vote.

[1] handed down to us by Tacitus, Josephus, and Suetonius,
Josephus (Antiquities XVIII. 5),
Suetonius (Vit. Tiberius. 36),
Tacitus (Annals, ii. 85)

[2] Philo, EMBASSY TO GAIUS, XXIV. (159) 

[3] Edmundson, George, The Church In Rome in the First Century, 1913 Longmans, Green and co, Public Domain, 

[4] The best answer would require a more complete understanding of first century Judaism and its relationship to the occupying power, but that is beyond the scope of this article. See Edmundson ibid, p1ff

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s