Before Jerusalem fell in 70 AD two bands of travellers passed through its gates. The disciples bore a new message to mankind, for Christianity had been born. The Pharisees, foreseeing the fate which they had brought on Jerusalem, removed to a new headquarters from which (as from Babylon of yore) the ruling sect might exercise command over "the Jews", wherever in the world they lived.
These two small groups of travellers were the vanguard of parties of light and of darkness which, like a man and his shadow, have gone ever since through the centuries, and ever westward.
The crisis of "the West" today traces directly back to that departure from doomed Jerusalem nineteen centuries ago, for the two groups bore into the West ideas that could never be reconciled. One had to prevail over the other, sooner or later, and the great bid for victory of the destructive idea is being witnessed in our generation.
In the centuries between the story of the West was always, in essentials, that of the struggle between the two ideas.
When "the Law" according to the Levites and Pharisees was in the ascendant, the West made slaves of men, brought heretics before an inquisition, put apostates to death, and yielded to primitive visions of master-racehood; thus the Twentieth Century was the time of the worst backsliding in the West.
When the West made men and nations free, established justice between them, set up the right of fair and open trial, repudiated master-racehood and acknowledged the universal fatherhood of God, it followed the teaching of him who had come to "fulfil the Law".
The Romans, when they took Jerusalem, struck medals with the inscription, "Judaea devicta, Judaea capta". This was a premature paean; Jerusalem might be ruined and Judea be empty of Jews, but the ruling sect was free and victorious. Its opponents around the temple had been swept away by the conqueror and it was already established in its new "centre", to which it had withdrawn before the fall of the city.
The Pharisees were as supreme in this new citadel as the Levites once in Babylon, but in the outer world they espied a new enemy. The sect which believed that the Messiah had appeared, and called itself Christian, did not acknowledge this enmity; on the contrary, its ruling tenet was "love your enemies". But as the first tenet of the Pharisaic law was "hate your enemies", this was in itself a deliberate affront and challenge to the elders in their retreat.
They saw from the start that the new religion would have to be destroyed if their "Law" were to prevail, and they were not deterred by the warning voices which (at this juncture as on all earlier and later occasions) were heard within their own ranks; for instance, Gamaliel's words when the high priest and council were about to have Peter and John scourged for preaching in the temple:
"Consider well what you are about to do. If this be the work of men, it will soon fall to nothing; but if it be the work of God you cannot destroy it".
The majority o the Pharisees felt strong enough, in their own manmade Law, to "destroy it", and if necessary to work for centuries at that task.
Thus the Pharisees, when they left the surviving Judeans to their fate and set up their new headquarters at Jamnia (still in Palestine), took their dark secrets of power over men into a world different from any before it.
Previously their tribal creed had been one among many tribal creeds. Blood vengeance had been the rule among all men and clans. The neighbouring "heathen" might have been alarmed by the especial fierceness and vindictiveness of the Judaic creed, but had not offered anything much more enlightened.
From this time on, however, the ruling sect was confronted by a creed which directly controverted every tenet of their own "Law", as white controverts black. Moreover, this new idea in the world, by the manner and place of its birth, was forever a rebuke to themselves.
The Pharisees in their stronghold prepared to vanquish this new force that had risen in the world. Their task was larger than that of the Levites in Babylon. The temple was destroyed and Jerusalem was depopulated. The tribe of Judah had long since been broken up; now the race of Judeans was dissolving.
There remained a "Jewish nation", composed of people of many admixtures of blood, who were spread all over the known world, and had to be kept united by the power of the tribal idea and of the "return" to a land "promised" to a "special people"; this dispersed nation had also to be kept convinced of its destructive mission among the nations where it dwelt.
"The Law", in the form that was already becoming known to the outer world, could not again be amended, or new historical chapters be added to it. Moreover, Jesus had addressed his rebukes specifically to the falsification of these "commandments of men" by the scribes. He had been killed but not controverted or even (as the growth of the Christian sect showed) given his quietus. Thus his arraignment of the Law stood and was so conclusive that not even the Pharisees could expect to convince anybody simply by calling him a transgressor of it.
Nevertheless, the Law needed constant reinterpretation and application to the events of changing times, so that the "special people" could always be shown that each and every event, however paradoxical at first sight, was in fact one of Jehovan fulfilment.
The Pharisees at Jamnia invoked once more their claim to possess the oral secrets of God and began, under it, to reinterpret the "statutes and commandments" so that these could be shown to apply to Christianity. This was the origin of the Talmud, which in effect is the anti-Christian extension of the Torah.
The Talmud became, in the course of centuries, "the fence around the Law"; the outer tribal stockade around the inner tribal stockade. The significance lies in the period at which it was begun: when Judea was gone, when "the people" were scattered among all nations, and when a new religion was taking shape which taught that God was the father of all men, not merely the patron of a selected tribe.
Looking back from this distance of time, the task which the Pharisees undertook looks hopeless, for the wish to become part of mankind must surely have had strong appeal to a scattered people.
The Pharisees, as the event has proved, were successful in their huge undertaking. The Talmud was effective in interposing a fence between the Jews and the forces of integration released by Christianity.
Two examples from our present time illustrate the effect of the Talmud, many centuries after its compilation. The brothers Thoreau in their books give the diligent student some rare glimpses behind the Talmudic walls; in one book they depict the little Jewish boy in Poland who had been taught to spit, quite mechanically, as he passed the wayside Calvary and to say, "Cursed be thou who created another religion". In 1953, in New York, a young missionary of the Moravian Church in Jerusalem described the seizure by the Zionists of the Moravian leper home there, called "The Jesus Mission"; their first act was to putty over the name "Jesus" which for more than a hundred years had been inscribed above its door.
Such incidents as these (and the ban on the mention of the name Jesus) derive directly from the teaching of the Talmud, which in effect was another "New Law" with a specifically anti-Christian application. For this reason the next period in the story of Zion is best described as that of the Talmudists, the former ones being those of the Pharisees and of the Levites.
While the Pharisaic Talmudists, in their new academy at Jamnia, worked on the new Law, the tidings of Jesus's life and lesson spread through the territories of Rome.
A Pharisee greatly helped to spread them; Saul of Tarsus set out from Jerusalem (before its fall) to exterminate heretics in Damascus and before he arrived there became a follower of Christ. He preached to Jew and Gentile alike, until he was prevented, and he told the Jews, "It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you; but seeing that ye put it from you and judge yourselves worthy of everlasting life, we turn to the Gentiles".
Dr. Kastein says of Saul, named Paul, that "he made all those whom he persuaded to believe in his prophecy renegades in the widest sense, whether they were Jew or Gentile".
However, what Paul (and others) said was in fact inevitable at that point in time, because men everywhere were groping towards the universal God and turned to the teaching of Jesus as growing things to the light. Possibly this impulse in men was also the reason why Jesus had to appear among the Judeans; the Judaic creed was tribalism in its most fanatical form, even at that time, and, as every action produces its reaction, the counter-idea was bound to appear where the pressure was greatest.
This was a fateful moment for that great area, then little known or populated, which today is called The West. Had not the disciples turned their faces westward, the term, "the West", and that which it denotes, might never have come about.
What is called "Western civilization" cannot be conceived without Christianity. During the nineteen hundred years which followed the death of Jesus the West improved so greatly that it left the rest of the world behind. In material things its advance was so great that at the time when this book was written it was on the brink of the conquest of space; it was about to open the universe to exploration by man. But that was much the lesser part of its achievement.
Its greatest improvement was in the field of the spirit and of man's behaviour towards man. The West established men's right to public charge and open trial, or release, (a right which was again in jeopardy in the Twentieth Century) and this was the greatest advance in the entire history of man; on the survival or destruction of this achievement depends his future.
The shadow that followed the disciples out of the gates of Jerusalem, before the Romans entered, also followed Christianity into the West and the Talmudic sect dogged it during all those centuries.
The West, in the Twentieth Century, became the scene of the struggle between the nations which had risen with Christianity and the sect dedicated to the destructive idea.
Not only the West is involved in its issue. About five hundred years after the life of Jesus the instinctive impulse of men to seek one God produced another challenge to Talmudic racialism, and this time it came from among the Semitic masses. The Arabs, too, attained to the concept of one God of all men.
Muhammad (dismissed by Dr. Kastein as "a half-educated Bedouin"), like Saul on the road to Damascus, had a vision of God. His teaching in many ways resembled that of Jesus. He held Jesus to have been, like Abraham and Moses, a prophet of God (not the Messiah). He regarded himself as the successor of Moses and Jesus and as the prophet of God, whom he called Allah. There was but one God, Allah, the creator of mankind, and Allah was not the tribal god of the Arabs, but the God of all men.
This religion, like Christianity, taught no hatred of other religions. Muhammad showed only reverence for Jesus and his mother (who are both the subjects of profane derision in Talmudic literature).
However, Muhammad held the Jews to be a destructive force, self-dedicated. The Koran says of them,
"Oft as they kindle a beacon fire for war, shall God quench it. And their aim will be to abet disorder on the earth; but God loveth not the abettors of disorder ".
All down the centuries the wisest men spoke thus of the tribal creed and the sect, until the Twentieth Century of our era, when public discussion of this question was virtually suppressed.
Thus was Islam born, and it spread over the meridianal parts of the known world as Christianity spread over the West and Buddhism, earlier, over the East. Great streams began to move, as if towards a confluence at some distant day, for these universal religions are in no major tenet as oil and water, and in the repudiation of master-racehood and the destructive idea they agree.
Christianity and Islam spread out and embraced great masses of mankind; the impulse that moved in men became clear. Far behind these universal religions lay Judaism, in its tribal enclosure, jealously guarded by the inner sect.
In the Twentieth Century this powerful sect was able to bring the masses of Christendom and Islam to the verge of destructive battle with each other. If the present generation sees that clash, the spectacle will be that of one great universal religion contending with another for the purpose of setting up the creed of the "master-race".
Towards this strange denouement, nineteen centuries ahead, the two parties of men set out from Jerusalem long ago.