Roman Attitudes to Jews

Almost all of the Roman views were negative…

1 ) The Sabbath – taking one day off ever seven days was considered lazy

2 ) Circumcision – Having a long foreskin was deemed glorious

3 ) Food Laws – [See quotes below]

4 ) Serperate – They always banded together and didn’t integrate well into the culture unless they didn’t want to be part of their own people

General Information/Evidence

…if is logical that what the sea brings forth should be wholesome and well-perfected, since the sea sends us air that is healthful because of its lightness and purity. ‘You are right,’ said Lamprias, ‘but let us add a little to our speculations. My grandfather used to say on every occasion, in derision of the Jews, that what they abstained from was precisely the most legitimate meat.’ (Plutarch, Mor. 669)

“The Jews apparently abominate pork because barbarians especially abhor skin diseases like lepra’ (Plutarch, Mor. 670)

“I believe the feast of the Sabbath is not completely unrelated to Dyionysus” (671)

“Some who have had a father who reveres the Sabbath, worship nothing but the clouds, and the divinity of the heavens, and see no difference between eating swine’s flesh, from which their father abstained and that of man; and in time they take to circumcision. Having been wont to flout the laws of Rome, they learn and practice and revere the Jewish law, and all that Moses handed down in his secret tome, forbidding to point the way to any not worshipping the same rite!” (Juvenal)

“Along with other superstitions of the civil theology Seneca also censures the sacred institution of the Jews, especially the Sabbath. He declares that their practice is inexpedient, because by introducing one day of rest in every seven they lose in idleness almost a seventh of their life, and by failing to act in times of urgency they often suffer loss.” (Juvenal)

“You know what a big crowd it is, how they stick together, how influential they are in informal assemblies… But to resist this barbaric superstition was an act of firmness, to defy the crowd of Jews, when sometimes in our assemblies they were hot with passion, for the welfare of the state was an act of the greatest seriousness… [Israel is a state] so given to suspicion and calumny!… Jews and Syrians, themselves peoples born to be slaves. (Cicero)

“They sit apart at meals and they sleep apart, and although as a race, they are prone to lust, they abstain from intercourse with foreign women; yet among themselves nothing is unlawful!” (Tacitus)

“For Liber established festive rites for a joyous nature, while the ways of the Jews are preposterous and mean” (Tacitus)

Issues in Paul’s letter to the Romans…

Romans 1,3,11

Romans 1:14-16 – “14 I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish. 15 That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are at Rome. 16 I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.”

Romans 3:27-31 – “27 Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what law? On that of works? No, but on the law of faith. 28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law. 29 Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, 30 since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. 31 Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.”

Romans 11:13,17-20 – “13 I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I make much of my ministry… 17 If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, 18 do not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. 19 You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.“ 20 [&]… they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid.”

What’s the application?

1 ) Cultural bias can be the underlying reason for spiritually justified racism.

2 ) Remembering God’s overarching plan – is a useful humbler.

3 ) When our denomination triumphs over another, don’t get proud!