In yesterday’s post, I talked about the religious and political divisiveness in ancient Palestine that had to do with various groups of Jewish citizens: The Pharisees, Sadducees, Zealots and Essenes.
Fortunately, the belief in a cosmic struggle between Good and Evil carried with it a growing conviction that Good would ultimately triumph. Therefore, the experience of religious persecution, according to Julie Galambush in “The Reluctant Parting”, “proved to be the catalyst for a developing belief that those who died for their faith in this world would be rewarded in another world – life after death through resurrection.” Rather than being seen as unfortunate wretches who had been unaccountably forgotten by God, such people began to be seen as martyrs – religious heroes whom God would reward in the afterlife for their goodness and their faithfulness. The philosophical belief that God – and Good – would ultimately triumph over Evil, coupled with rising political tension with Rome and the anticipation of inevitable war, led to an increasingly ‘Apocalyptic‘ view of the world: in other words, many Jews in Palestine began to believe that the ‘End of the World’ (at least as we know it) was rapidly approaching. God was about to triumph over Evil, He would judge the wicked, He would reward the just, and a New Order would dawn.
As Galambush writes: “Messianic expectations, cosmic dualism, martyrdom, and resurrection – an entire constellation of beliefs absent from ancient Israelite religion – suddenly took center stage. In some respects Jewish life continued as it had done for centuries: the rituals in the Jerusalem temple followed forms set down in Leviticus, and the rhythm of Sabbath and the festivals went on as always. But in the final centuries before the Common Era, Jewish popular imagination had come to occupy a far more colorful religious landscape, one in which history was fast approaching its end.”