Destruction of the Temple

caligulaAn 44 AD, after Herod Agrippa died, Palestine was ruled by a series of Roman procurators. Unlike Herod the Great, Herod Antipas, and Herod Agrippa, the procurators had little regard for the God of Israel, and believed themselves under no obligation to appease the religious sensibilities of the Israelites. As a result, those factions in the population which advocated violence against Roman authority grew stronger. Eventually a full-scale rebellion took place in 66 AD. In less than four years, Rome had smashed all resistance except for those remaining behind the walls of Jerusalem.

Titus, future emperor of Rome, surrounded Jerusalem with four legions (XII Fulminata, V Macedonica, XV Apollinaris, and X Fretensis). Within the walls Sadducee Jerusalemites and Zealots argued amongst themselves, unable to negotiate with the Romans. After six months of siege, Jerusalem fell and the inhabitants—men, women and children—slaughtered. It could have ended no other way for the experienced Roman army was twice as strong as those within the walls and experienced in taking fortified cities.  

The city of Jerusalem was completely destroyed in 70 AD, and the Temple, completed only six years earlier, was leveled. The ill-conceived war with Rome turned the Israelites from a major population in the Eastern Mediterranean into a scattered and persecuted minority.

Those Jews who had believed Jesus was the Messiah had scattered for the most part, long before Jerusalem fell. Initially, Antioch became a major hub of Christianity spreading the “good news.” Over in Rome, a flourishing Christian community existed years before Peter and Paul arrived and were martyred. Across the Mediterranean, in Alexandria, Mark the Evangelist helped form the Orthodox Church in Egypt. Alexandria became second only to Rome in Christian importance. Lessor Christian communities spread rapidly throughout Northern Africa, Europe and Asia. By the end of the 4th century, Christianity had become the official state church of the Roman Empire, replacing all other forms of religion practiced under Roman rule and Constantinople, home to the Eastern Church, challenged Alexandria in importance to Christianity.