Is There An Overlooked Græco-Judæan Military Ethos Originating in Sparta?
by Mark Mountjoy
It is amazing how fresh studies and review of ancient sources keeps revealing more and more information about the Biblical past and how, through continuous research, a more detailed picture of the newly founded second century B.C. Jewish state becomes clearer and clearer. While digging into Jewish antiquities to understand the rule and deeds of Jonathan Apphus, I ran across some comments in Josephus where Jonathan alleges to the Spartans that the Jews and the Spartans are of the same race through Abraham.1 When I read the pericope of Josephus' Antiquities of the Jews 13.5.8:163-168 I was surprised and stopped in my tracks!
In the epistle Jonathan notifies the Spartans that, because of envy the Jews have been compassed about with many wars by reason of the covetousness of Judea's neighbors, but now they have overcome them and have this occassion to renew their pledge of allegiance, kinship and mutual assistance. But the question that immediately presents itself is: How on earth are Jews related to Spartans and where is that information to be found in the "sacred writings"?
At this time, we do not know, but here's a comment on this enigmatic issue:-
"The Book, Sparta, by A.H.M. Jones, a Professor of Ancient History at Cambridge University, noted several things about Sparta. He states the Spartans worshipped a "great law-giver" who had given them their laws in the "dim past" (page 5 of his book). This law-giver may have been Moses. Professor Jones also noted the Spartans celebrated "the new moons" and the "seventh day" of the month" (page 13). Observing new moons was an Israelite calendar custom, and their observance of "a seventh day" could originate with the Sabbath celebration. Prof. Jones also notes, as do other authorities, that the Spartans were known for being "ruthless" in war and times of crisis. This sounds exactly like the Simeonite nature, which was given to impulsive cruelty, as the Bible confirms."2 3
This is very fascinating and perplexing stuff! It could easily be misused by Israel Only to prove their point, but, even if it is true that the Spartans were descendants of Abraham, that does not prove the Romans, Scythians, Babarians, Ethiopians, Libyans, females and slaves were, too. In fact, the Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, argues that faith and baptism into Christ make people one in Christ and Abraham's seed (Galatians 3:26-29 cf. Colossians 3:11). If Jonathan's comments are more than bare assertions, it merely proves that, somehow, Spartans are related to the Judæans.
On the other hand, it definitely shows that the Hasmoneans knew something that we now do not know and they deeply admired the military austerity and cruel grit the Spartans are so famously known for. I want to peer as far as I can into this whole thing about kindred relationship between these two peoples, if only to make some sense of it. Whatever comes up, there can be no question that the entire Bible affirms that one God made all mankind and to him we must give an account, whatever our DNA, ethnicity or social status.
In our research over the past thirty-eight years we have already reached the conclusion that the fourth principality of [shins] of iron was Hasmonean Judea (not the second century B.C. fledgling Roman Republic). We are well aware that practically the whole world (of Jews and Christians) consistantly proclaims the Roman Empire to be the fourth kingdom, but we do not believe that for one minute! In all this time nothing in Josephus, rabbinic, Roman or early Christian history convinces us that the fourth kingdom belonged to the Romans in any way, shape or form.
On the contrary, this new information only strengthens our convictions that the second century B.C. Jewish state drew its attitudes and way of conduct from a military source which would incline it toward a latent mercurial bellicosity that would detrimentally play itself out to the disadvantage and injury of the Jewish people all the way down to the sensitive preternatural events that occurred in the last one hundred years of the state, in the first and second century A.D.
1 Antiquities of the Jews 13.5.8:168 is the exact verse where Jonathan boasts of their common kinship. This information has no small implications for it can even shed light on a mysterious verse in Daniel 11:38 where it speaks of a ruler apostasizing to a god of forces and Martin Hengel's discovery of Rabbinic material showing that the Zealots were, somehow, entangled with a deity called Kosmoplastis or "World-changer"—"an abbreviation of a non-orthodox named of God or else a corrupt form of the Tetragrammaton. See Jerusalem Talmud, 27b, 29f." Martin Hengel, The Zealots, Investigations Into the Jewish Freedom Movement in the Period From Herod I Until 70 A.D., p. 67, T & T Clark, 1989. Other odd and cryptic verses remain to be scrutinized; these include John 8:38-44 and Revelation 13:4—all of which speaks of disbelief in the truth of Israel's prophecies and points to national idolatry and military misadventurism.
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