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Old 04-12-2001, 11:17 PM   #11
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Layman:
Actually, stoning a peaceful group, although unusual for the Romans, would not be as unexpected from a zealous Jew convinced that the targets were guilty of blasphemy. And, we have no evidence of Roman persecution of Christians. After Jesus was killed, they did not persecute his followers. However, there is ample evidence that the Jews were persecuting the Christians. Paul's own testimony, both before his conversion and after it. The persecutions recorded in Acts. And Josephus' description of the killing of James, the brother of Jesus and leader of the Jerusalem Church at the hands of the high priest.

No, the Christians were being persecuted for religious reasons. Religious reasons that implied blasphemy.
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I see no reason to think that "religious reasons" and "political reasons" had a significant difference in first century Palestine. The Roman emperors claimed god-hood as did many rulers of the day. A traditional monarchy (like Israel) uses as its claim to power the theory of divine right. The Davidic line, while not precisely claiming godhood, did claim a special relationship with God. Please keep in mind that there was no division of church and state -- these nations were theocracies.

I'm not wholly disagreeing with you -- the narrative of the New Testament is definitely accusatory of Jews. It seems to me, though, that while there were surely those opposed to Jesus' claim of messiahood, there were also those who were sympathetic with Roman rule and benefited from being part of the largest hegemony on earth. After all, Jesus himself was crucified by the Romans for the crime of claiming to be "king of the Jews." He is depicted as being handed over by the Sanhedrin, but these Jewish worthies weren't above letting the Roman authorities do their dirty-work. Why was this? If they were, as you say, going around and stoning blasphemers as a matter of course, why did it require an official execution?

Acts, by the way, is about how the Aramaic (or traditional Jewish) party lost the leadership of the Christian movement to the Grecian (non-native Jews -- the first of which being Stephen but the greatest by far being Paul). I happen to suspect that this is why the Gospels and other works of the NT are Roman-friendly: at the time of their writing Israel was crushed. The Aramaic party was long gone and Christianity was already a Gentile religion residing in Rome. It's target audience and potential converts were Roman-born.

And please tell me that you understand Josephus was a man of mixed loyalties. We may not agree on Paul's real intentions or motives, but it's pretty clear that Josephus wasn't particularly loyal to the Jewish cause and his account is maybe a little -- let's just say 'forgiving' -- of the Romans as they laid waste the lands of his forefathers. This guy was partying with Roman nobility, after all.

So my assertion is that the Saddeucee leadership was pursuing these 'early Christians' not only because of their idolatrous views (after all, they weren't stoning the polytheistic Romans or Persian tourists in Israel -- that we know of) but because they and their comfortable position under the Romans were threatened by this messianic cult. They were acting in Roman interests.

But, you know, I wasn't there. I only have the New Testament to rely on, and that anthology can't even decide if Jesus rode one beast into Jerusalem or two.

[stoopid typos]

[This message has been edited by smugg (edited April 13, 2001).]
 
Old 04-13-2001, 05:24 AM   #12
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">I see no reason to think that "religious reasons" and "political reasons" had a significant difference in first century Palestine. The Roman emperors claimed god-hood as did many rulers of the day. A traditional monarchy (like Israel) uses as its claim to power the theory of divine right. The Davidic line, while not precisely claiming godhood, did claim a special relationship with God. Please keep in mind that there was no division of church and state -- these nations were theocracies.

I'm not wholly disagreeing with you -- the narrative of the New Testament is definitely accusatory of Jews. It seems to me, though, that while there were surely those opposed to Jesus' claim of messiahood, there were also those who were sympathetic with Roman rule and benefited from being part of the largest hegemony on earth. After all, Jesus himself was crucified by the Romans for the crime of claiming to be "king of the Jews." He is depicted as being handed over by the Sanhedrin, but these Jewish worthies weren't above letting the Roman authorities do their dirty-work. Why was this? If they were, as you say, going around and stoning blasphemers as a matter of course, why did it require an official execution?
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I donít know that weíre really too far apart on this issue. Paulís own testimony indicates he opposed Christianity due to religious reasons. Galatians 1:13-14 says:

ďFor you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it; and I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers.Ē

He is directly connecting his opposition to his way of life in Judaism. Its apparent that he was dealing with religious issues, not political ones. Paul says he was ďextremely zealousĒ for the Jewish traditions. Hence, we have him believing the earliest Christians were blasphemers. Jews didnít stone people for political differences. Stoning was provided for in the Mosaic Law for blasphemy, etc. Stephen was stoned because some Jews perceived he had blasphemed against the temple. Whether or not it was a legal execution at the time is debatable and is a separate issue.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Acts, by the way, is about how the Aramaic (or traditional Jewish) party lost the leadership of the Christian movement to the Grecian (non-native Jews -- the first of which being Stephen but the greatest by far being Paul). I happen to suspect that this is why the Gospels and other works of the NT are Roman-friendly: at the time of their writing Israel was crushed. The Aramaic party was long gone and Christianity was already a Gentile religion residing in Rome. It's target audience and potential converts were Roman-born.
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I donít think its quite as simple as this. We have the Ebionites still in existence in the middle of the second century and later. They were certainly still in the ďAramaicĒ category. There was no central headquarters for Christianity late in the first century in Rome. Christianity existed from Jerusalem to Alexandria to Antioch to Rome. Rome wasnít the only place considered to be a focal point. Iíll give one example. Ignatius was from Antioch, far from Rome. We have him writing to Rome (and other places) in an attempt to instate some sort of system of bishops. In the first and second centuries Rome didnít possess any special powers like it does today in the Catholic church.


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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">And please tell me that you understand Josephus was a man of mixed loyalties. We may not agree on Paul's real intentions or motives, but it's pretty clear that Josephus wasn't particularly loyal to the Jewish cause and his account is maybe a little -- let's just say 'forgiving' -- of the Romans as they laid waste the lands of his forefathers. This guy was partying with Roman nobility, after all.
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I definitely agree with you, but Iím not sure how this relates to the topic.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">So my assertion is that the Saddeucee leadership was pursuing these 'early Christians' not only because of their idolatrous views (after all, they weren't stoning the polytheistic Romans or Persian tourists in Israel -- that we know of) but because they and their comfortable position under the Romans were threatened by this messianic cult. They were acting in Roman interests.
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Obviously Jews wouldnít be stoning Romans. The Romans wouldnít stand for such a thing. The Romans called the shots in Palestine, not the Jews. However, the Romans did try to allow the Jews some latitude in ruling the people. For example, we know the Romans allowed the Jews to execute temple violators Ė Gentiles who proceeded beyond the court of the Gentiles within the temple could be killed for doing so.

Iím not seeing the evidence for the earliest Christians being violent and/or revolutionary. The Romans would have wiped them out if such a thing were true. We have absolutely no evidence for any Christian being executed by the Romans prior to Neroís persecution in 64 CE. However, we do have instances of Jews executing Christians. Stephen was stoned. James, the son of Zebedee, was wiped out by Agrippa (Acts 12) in about 44 CE. James, the brother of Jesus, was stoned by Jewish leadership (Josephus) in 62 CE.

The evidence we do possess tells us the earliest Christians were peaceful. The passages you listed have absolutely nothing to do with the earliest Christians being actively opposed to the Romans. The first group of passages you listed (Matt. 21:12, Mark 11:15, Luke 19:45-46, John 2:14-15) describes Jesusí activity in the temple. The passage says:
ďAnd Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold dovesĒ
He was pissed off about the commercialization, etc. of the temple. This has nothing to do with Christians opposing Rome after the death of Jesus.

Your next group of passages (Matthew 14:19, Mark 6:44, Luke 9:14, John 6:10) is even less indicative of conflict with Rome. These passages describe Jesus feeding a large group of people. There is nothing violent about a group of people sitting around eating fish and bread. The Romans would not be fearful of such behavior. The passage reads:
ďAnd he commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed, and brake, and gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.Ē

There is no hint in any of these passages to indicate Christians were gathering armies. If they were, then you can guarantee they would have been destroyed by the Romans just like Theudas and all of the other trouble-makers and messianic pretenders. The fact that there is not a hint of conflict between the earliest Christians and the Romans clearly indicates that Paulís (and other Jewish leaders) opposition to the earliest Christians was due to religious differences. The Christians were considered heretics due to the fact they were worshipping a man, and not YAHWEH alone.

Peace,

Polycarp



[This message has been edited by Polycarp (edited April 13, 2001).]
 
Old 04-13-2001, 08:18 AM   #13
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by smugg:
I see no reason to think that "religious reasons" and "political reasons" had a significant difference in first century Palestine. The Roman emperors claimed god-hood as did many rulers of the day. A traditional monarchy (like Israel) uses as its claim to power the theory of divine right. The Davidic line, while not precisely claiming godhood, did claim a special relationship with God. Please keep in mind that there was no division of church and state -- these nations were theocracies.

I'm not wholly disagreeing with you -- the narrative of the New Testament is definitely accusatory of Jews. It seems to me, though, that while there were surely those opposed to Jesus' claim of messiahood, there were also those who were sympathetic with Roman rule and benefited from being part of the largest hegemony on earth. After all, Jesus himself was crucified by the Romans for the crime of claiming to be "king of the Jews." He is depicted as being handed over by the Sanhedrin, but these Jewish worthies weren't above letting the Roman authorities do their dirty-work. Why was this? If they were, as you say, going around and stoning blasphemers as a matter of course, why did it require an official execution?

Acts, by the way, is about how the Aramaic (or traditional Jewish) party lost the leadership of the Christian movement to the Grecian (non-native Jews -- the first of which being Stephen but the greatest by far being Paul). I happen to suspect that this is why the Gospels and other works of the NT are Roman-friendly: at the time of their writing Israel was crushed. The Aramaic party was long gone and Christianity was already a Gentile religion residing in Rome. It's target audience and potential converts were Roman-born.

And please tell me that you understand Josephus was a man of mixed loyalties. We may not agree on Paul's real intentions or motives, but it's pretty clear that Josephus wasn't particularly loyal to the Jewish cause and his account is maybe a little -- let's just say 'forgiving' -- of the Romans as they laid waste the lands of his forefathers. This guy was partying with Roman nobility, after all.

So my assertion is that the Saddeucee leadership was pursuing these 'early Christians' not only because of their idolatrous views (after all, they weren't stoning the polytheistic Romans or Persian tourists in Israel -- that we know of) but because they and their comfortable position under the Romans were threatened by this messianic cult. They were acting in Roman interests.

But, you know, I wasn't there. I only have the New Testament to rely on, and that anthology can't even decide if Jesus rode one beast into Jerusalem or two.

[stoopid typos]

[This message has been edited by smugg (edited April 13, 2001).]
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Interesting points but you have utterly failed to demonstrate that the Romans were interested in persecuting early Christians. Certainly Jesus, who was being hailed as a Messiah, was executed by the Romans. But what is significant is that the Romans did not pursue the matter.

And certainly the undisputed Paulines were written well before the fall of Jerusalem. He makes it clear that he was "zealous for the law" when he was persecuting Christians. He nowhere states he was working in cooperation with Roman authorities because of concerns over Davidic messianic claims.

And I did not understand your point about Josephus. Are you saying that he invented the story about James' death at the hands of the Jewish High Priest? Simply because he has Roman sympathies? That is WA speculation based on no evidence that I can see. How many historians agree with you on that one?

The early Christians were suffering persecution at the hands of their Jewish counterparts, not the Roman authorities. Paul's first hand accounts explicitly state that he was persecuting Christians for religious reasons, and Paul's own letters show no signs of messianic revolutionary rhetoric. Which is not only significant because of his contact with early Christians, but because he makes it clear that he too suffered persecution at the hands of Jewish leaders. And given his lack of focus on a messianic revolutionary movement, why did he face persecution for Jewish leaders? The only answer is that he was suspect for religious reasons.
 
Old 04-16-2001, 02:44 PM   #14
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Iím quite surprised that nobody has presented any strong evidence to dispute the case Iíve presented which shows a few things that would have implications for the study of early Christianity.

First, Paul (prior to his conversion) believed Jesus existed as a real human being. Being active in Jerusalem less than two years after the death of Jesus, Paul would have been in a position to know what the Jewish leaders believed about Jesus. It is clear that they never doubted the fact Jesus existed.

Second, Christianity in its very earliest form was distinctly Jewish. It was an offshoot of traditional Judaism, not an amalgamation of mystery religions. This is clear from Paulís statements in regards to his disagreements with the first Christians. All of the first Christians were traditional Jews.

Third, opposition to the first Christians came from their fellow Jews, not from the Roman government. The Romans seem to group the earliest Christians together with other traditional Jews. The Romans generally do not appear to recognize Christians as a separate and distinct group until the time of Nero (60ís AD).

Fourth, the strong opposition from their fellow Jews indicates that the earliest Christians made radical claims regarding Jesus from the very beginning. Paulís animosity towards Christians came less than two years after the death of Jesus. This means the earliest Christians were not merely claiming Jesus was a good teacher or a prophet. These claims would not have aroused anger from the Jewish leaders. The first Christians were making claims considered to be blasphemous from the very beginning, less than two years after Jesus died. This disproves any theory which would say that the early Christians slowly grew the legend of Jesus into something outlandish. It appears their fellow Jews considered it to be outrageous from the very beginning.

More could be said, but Iíll wait to see if anyone has any response.

Peace,

Polycarp
 
Old 04-16-2001, 02:52 PM   #15
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Polycarp:
Iím quite surprised that nobody has presented any strong evidence to dispute the case Iíve presented which shows a few things that would have implications for the study of early Christianity.

First, Paul (prior to his conversion) believed Jesus existed as a real human being. Being active in Jerusalem less than two years after the death of Jesus, Paul would have been in a position to know what the Jewish leaders believed about Jesus. It is clear that they never doubted the fact Jesus existed.

Second, Christianity in its very earliest form was distinctly Jewish. It was an offshoot of traditional Judaism, not an amalgamation of mystery religions. This is clear from Paulís statements in regards to his disagreements with the first Christians. All of the first Christians were traditional Jews.

Third, opposition to the first Christians came from their fellow Jews, not from the Roman government. The Romans seem to group the earliest Christians together with other traditional Jews. The Romans generally do not appear to recognize Christians as a separate and distinct group until the time of Nero (60ís AD).

Fourth, the strong opposition from their fellow Jews indicates that the earliest Christians made radical claims regarding Jesus from the very beginning. Paulís animosity towards Christians came less than two years after the death of Jesus. This means the earliest Christians were not merely claiming Jesus was a good teacher or a prophet. These claims would not have aroused anger from the Jewish leaders. The first Christians were making claims considered to be blasphemous from the very beginning, less than two years after Jesus died. This disproves any theory which would say that the early Christians slowly grew the legend of Jesus into something outlandish. It appears their fellow Jews considered it to be outrageous from the very beginning.

More could be said, but Iíll wait to see if anyone has any response.

Peace,

Polycarp
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I would add this:

Fifth, we can judge from Paul's vigorous defense of his ministry against the Judaizers, what it was that the most conservative elements of Jewish Christianity disagreed with Paul about. The areas of disagreement with these members of the Jerusalem Church focused on circumcision and dietary laws. The conservative Christian Jews do not appear to have questioned Paul's rather high Christology or the reality of the bodily resurrection of Jesus.
 
Old 04-17-2001, 06:36 AM   #16
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Polycarp, this is an interesting thread. As we can gather from Paul's unquestioned letters that he was converted just a very few years after Jesus died and that there were Christians around at the time that he was persecuting, we can conclude there wasn't much difference between Pauline and non-Pauline Christianity. Otherwise there would have been a lot more evidence for it.

The idea of a gradual accretion of mythology being responcible the start of Christianity for begins to look untenable.

Yours

Bede

Bede's Library - faith and reason
 
Old 04-17-2001, 12:06 PM   #17
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Hyam Maccoby, in The Mythmaker: Paul and the Invention of Chrisitianity, proposes the following alternative scenario:

Paul may have been working as a paid agent of the High Priest's police force, or so it would seem based on how actively involved he was in the persecution of Christians. The High Priest was beholden to Rome, and thus would naturally have been opposed to any Messianic movement. However, in order to legitimize this opposition in the eyes of Jews, it was necessary for the High Priest and his associates to trump up charges of blasphemy.

Maccoby hypothesizes that the opposition to Christianity really came, all along, primarily from Romans and not from Jews. After all, the very idea of a "Messiah," as commonly understood by Jews, was inherently political and nationalistic.

According the Maccoby, the idea that Christ's kingdom was "not of this world" was a later invention by Paul and his followers, partly for the very practical purpose of fending off Roman disapproval of Christianity. Likewise, the New Testament portrayal of Jesus and the early Christians as being persecuted primarily by Jews rather than by Romans was another invention by Pauline Christians for this same practical purpose.
 
Old 04-17-2001, 01:23 PM   #18
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Paul may have been working as a paid agent of the High Priest's police force, or so it would seem based on how actively involved he was in the persecution of Christians. The High Priest was beholden to Rome, and thus would naturally have been opposed to any Messianic movement. However, in order to legitimize this opposition in the eyes of Jews, it was necessary for the High Priest and his associates to trump up charges of blasphemy.

Maccoby hypothesizes that the opposition to Christianity really came, all along, primarily from Romans and not from Jews. After all, the very idea of a "Messiah," as commonly understood by Jews, was inherently political and nationalistic.
According the Maccoby, the idea that Christ's kingdom was "not of this world" was a later invention by Paul and his followers, partly for the very practical purpose of fending off Roman disapproval of Christianity. Likewise, the New Testament portrayal of Jesus and the early Christians as being persecuted primarily by Jews rather than by Romans was another invention by Pauline Christians for this same practical purpose.
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Interesting theory. Unfortunately, there is NO evidence to support your theory. In fact the evidence contradicts it.

Youíre saying Paul was a paid agent of the High Priestís police force and that he actively persecuted Christians while in this role. However, Paul later joins the movement he was once persecuting. Hello ? Am I missing something? There is absolutely no reason for Paul to join the Christian movement. He had nothing to gain by doing so. Paul didnít say, ďHmmmÖ This is a really nice job working for the High Priest, but I think I want to join the Christians so I can get myself beaten, stoned, and/or killed.Ē In addition, he not only converted to Christianity but he traveled all over the Roman Empire trying to get others to join the movement. During this time he was beaten, shipwrecked, and imprisoned. He never thought, ďHeyÖ What am I doing this for?Ē

There is absolutely NO evidence to indicate Christianity was a political or nationalistic movement. If youíll provide some, then we can discuss it.

In addition to the above details, youíre saying that all of the early Christians changed their beliefs because of Paul. Hello again? These people wouldnít be following the advice of a guy who had been trying to throw them in jail or kill them. This is exactly one of the reasons why you find Paul being treated with skepticism by the early Christians. Paul tells us as much in Galatians.

Please provide some evidence to support your assertions regarding the following:

1. Christianity was a nationalistic movement.
2. The initial opponents of Christianity were the Romans, not the Jews.
3. Your criteria for determining when a writer is fabricating something. Is it merely when the testimony contradicts your pre-existing theory?

Peace,

Polycarp
 
Old 04-18-2001, 02:24 AM   #19
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Hi Smugg,
Not meaning to cut in here on your discussion but I would like to point out that Pilate, the Roman procurator over Isael, according to scripture, wanted to release Jesus, having found no fault in Him. He was accused of claiming kingship over Israel which would have violated Roman authority but, apparently, the Jews couldn't make a case strong enough to convince Pilate. I have to agree with Polycarp that the christians persecution was, initially, religiously motivated, although I agree with you that, for the Jews during this period, there was a fine line between religion and politics.
Of course, we know that later on their persecution bcame political when Nero blamed them for Rome's burning.
 
Old 04-18-2001, 03:07 AM   #20
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by rainbow walking:
Hi Smugg,
Not meaning to cut in here on your discussion but I would like to point out that Pilate, the Roman procurator over Isael, according to scripture, wanted to release Jesus, having found no fault in Him. He was accused of claiming kingship over Israel which would have violated Roman authority but, apparently, the Jews couldn't make a case strong enough to convince Pilate. I have to agree with Polycarp that the christians persecution was, initially, religiously motivated, although I agree with you that, for the Jews during this period, there was a fine line between religion and politics.
Of course, we know that later on their persecution bcame political when Nero blamed them for Rome's burning.
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rw: Also wasn't the final charge, for which they managed to secure Roman permission for crucifixion, that He would tear down the temple and rebuild it in three days? Weren't there witnesses to this effect? So Christ was crucified for threatening the temple. But was initially charged with claiming to be king of Israel. It was the Jews, or I should say, the ruling party of Jews, who were very unhappy with the sign Pilate had nailed to the cross proclaiming Christ to be king of the Jews in three languages.

The Jews, if I remember, had to proclaim their allegiance to Ceasar when they first brought Christ before Pilate charging Him with sedition. So I see Pilate, in nailing that sign on the cross, as letting everyone know to whom these ruling Jews proclaimed allegiance. Thus their immediate displeasure and request it be removed. These Jews were walking a tightrope between the will of their people and Rome. Knowing their history and expectation of a messiah to liberate them from their enemies, any sign of allegiance to their enemies would or could be percieved as traitorous to their own heritage. These Jewish rulers thought of themselves as the only buffer between the continued existence of Israel as a nation and Roman destruction. That is why the high preist made the statement/prediction that it would be expedient for one man to die rather than the entire nation perish...such was their political perception of the situation.

What cannot be dismissed is that the Romans were, at this point in their history, only interested in one thing: PROFITS. That was what initially sent them out as a conquering force. In as much as a nation could pay them tribute said nation was allowed some degree of autonomy. Remember the incident in the temple when Christ challenged the money changers? How do you think Israel paid tribute to Rome? They had very little by way of economy outside of the tourism and donations made by the multitude of pilgrimages from people all over the world. Thus the Roman emblem attached to the temple gate became an issue immediately of economics for the Jews. Knowing this would destroy their credibility in the eyes of the world and thus threaten their capacity to pay tribute in exchange for limited autonomy.

Now look at the earliest records of the church, how that everyone gave all into a common pool to be distributed as needed. See any economic threat to the Jewish leadership's ability to pay tribute, in such practices?

For these Jews religion was business and business was politics. The christians were a threat to business for the Jews and ultimately, for the Romans, however, there is evidence to suggest the Romans had all but lost their patience with the Jews anyway, that these Jewish rulers were on their last legs and behind in their payments. The Romans were not adverse to out right plunder when the pickings got slim. And the procurators position hinged on producing profits to be sent back to Rome. Failure could mean death or, in the least, re-assignment to some remote corner of the empire. One almost gets the impression Israel was more a punishment/banishment for Pilate than a promotion.
 
 

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