The Ingathering of Israel

The Ingathering of Israel

When the Roman general Titus stabbed the curtain enclosing the holy of holies, Jewish legend says that blood oozed out from the gash. “I have killed the God of the Jews!” he blasphemed. “Where is their God, the rock in which they took refuge?”

Titus robbed the Temple of its sacred treasures, including the golden lampstand and the silver trumpets. His soldiers burned and tore down the Sanctuary. His exploits were memorialized in the Arch of Titus, a monument that still stands near the Colosseum in the city of Rome.

In the following decades, the Romans transformed Jerusalem into a Roman colony and renamed it Aelia Capitolina. For the next several centuries, the Romans banned Jews from entering the city. The Jewish people dispersed throughout the world. To the Romans, it seemed evident that their gods had defeated Israel’s God.

Christians in later generations saw the dispersion of the Jews as proof that God had abandoned them for murdering Christ. For example, John Chrysostom, an important church father from the fourth century, said:

If the present captivity of the Jews were going to come to an end, the prophets would not have remained silent on this but would have foretold it … If God had not deserted you once and for all, your enemies would not have had the power to destroy your city and leave your temple desolate. If God had not abandoned you, the ruin of desolation would not have lasted so long a time, nor would your frequent efforts to rebuild the temple have been in vain. (Against the Jews, Homily 6).

Martin Luther repeated this charge centuries later in his notorious work The Jews and Their Lies. He complained that Jewish people “cannot give up their insane raving boast that they are the chosen people of God, after they have been dispersed and rejected for 1,500 years!”

First Fruits of Zion