What the Jews did was establish about half of the narrative foundation of the Western World.
Their Old Testament, combined with the New, were received as Holy Scriptures by the Church, which, after Constantine, dominated European cultural development for over a thousand years.
Long about 1500 or so, the Protestant Reformation began the process of unshackling the chains of dogmatic error that the Catholic hierarchy had, over 1400 years, lapsed into. Then Reformation disruption of Papist hegemony broke ground for another new emphasis—the Renaissance. This humanist arts movement unearthed the quasi-dormant other half of the Western cultural narrative, the ancient Greeks, most notably Homer, Herodotus, Plato and Aristotle. On the coattails of the Greek philosophers, the Roman writers, most notably Cicero, Cato and Virgil later appended their contribution to the philosophical and governmental legacy of ancient Greece. It later became a bedrock of Western culture and government.
That ancient Greek heritage had initiated an idea called democracy, which was later amended to Republic by the Romans in their Empire.
Judeo-Christian Religion, Greek Democracy and Roman Republic became the religious, philosophical and governmental foundations upon which the Western World was established in Europe and beyond.
In the early stages of Western history, during the period of the Roman Empire, along came a Roman general named Titus. In 70 a.c.e., he ran most of the Jews out of Israel, their homeland, and he sent his soldiers to Jerusalem to destroy the Jewish Temple, even though it had had been constructed by one of the Romans' own puppet kings, Herod.
Titus apparently thought it was a notable accomplishment that he had expelled most of the Jews out of their own ancient capital; the Hebrews had previously managed to reclaim Jerusalem after the Babylonian emperor Nebuchadnezzar had expelled them about 670 years earlier.
Titus’ Roman victory over the Jews was thought to be quite impressive by his successors. A few years after he died, his brother Domitian commissioned the Arch of Titus to be constructed in the main area of Rome. Among the conquests of Titus depicted in stone on the Arch, the plundering of Jerusalem is plain to see.
In this picture that I snapped, the Jewish Menorah can be plainly seen. To the victor goes the spoils, eh? The Roman big shots must have thought themselves something special after they ran those upstart Jews out of Jerusalem back in the day. The Jews were infamous among several historical empire-builders for being ungovernable.
One reason that Titus and Nebuchadnezzar and Antiochus and their ilk had so much trouble governing the Jews was because the people of Israel always insisted on being free.
This whole idea of freedom, around which Western culture revolves, originated largely with the Jews.
Long about 1400 or so years b.c.e., Moses rounded up the Jews and lead them out of the slavery that Egyptian pharoahs had inflicted on them.
This turned out to be a major event in world history.
Why? Because Moses and some of his people wrote a book about it. We know it as the book of Exodus. Along with the other books of the Torah/Pentateuch/Old Testament, it later became an international best-seller for many and many a year, many and many a century and several millenia of time.
What later became the Bible was passed down through the ages to many and many a person and group of persons to read and spark inspiration.
That spark of freedom that enabled the Jews to throw off the bondage of Pharoahic slavery—it has been an inspiration to many freedom-seeking people throughout history.
Case in point, within our lifetime. (All ye Boomers out there, hear ye, hear ye. . .)
Dr. Martin Luther KIng, Jr., on the night before he was assassinated, declared this message to his people in Memphis, and ultimately via audiotape to America, and to the world:
“I’ve been to the Mountaintop. . . I’ve seen the Promised Land . . .”
Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn't matter with me now, because I've been to the mountaintop.
And I don't mind.
Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!
We can see that Dr. King was inspired by Moses. A long time ago, I wrote a song about it. Mountaintop
And we know from the Hebrew scriptures that Moses was inspired by God.
Now this may seem a little old-fashioned to you, a little bit religious. But this religious thing is much more than belief in God. It's not just out-of-style old hat. Faith also includes the idea of freedom. It also includes the idea of freedom of religion , freedom to believe what you need to believe, and freedom to act on what you believe to be true. It goes way back, way back . . .
Here’s another example from American history. A hundred and fifty years ago when black folks in this country were still enslaved . . . in a situation not unlike what the Jews had found themselves in ancient Egypt, one of those black former slaves, Harriet Tubman, started a secret society for the purpose of providing an escape for self-freed slaves who wanted to come up to the free states.
The name that was given to Harriet’s clandestine network was the Underground Railroad. Have you heard of it?
I’m here to tell you that the Underground Railroad has been transporting people from bondage to liberty for a very long time.
Last century, freedom-seeking people did another version of it to smuggle the children of Israel out of the Nazi Third Reich. Have you heard of it?
But know this: it’s still going on.
Underground Railroad Rides Again.
And we can thank the Jews for that, because way, way back in the day . . . they started it; they started the freedom track that runs through human civilization. The first one ran from Egypt to the Promised Land, and its been going, whenever needed, under the radar ever since.
It will never be shut down.