Two decades ago, on the 900th anniversary of the Crusades, a Christian movement in England called The Reconciliation Walk sprung up, which was dedicated to apologizing for the mass murders the papal soldiers carried out against Jews and Muslims.
In addition to apologizing for the Crusades, over the course of his papal career, Pope John Paul II also made a slew of apologies for historic travesties, such as the Catholic Church’s role in the African slave trade, its role in the burnings at the stake and the religious wars that followed the Reformation, and the inactivity and silence of many Catholics during the Holocaust.
These apologies, among so many others, have proven that there are Christians out there who want to fix the mistakes that their ancestors made. The question is: Who will apologize for and fix events that Rome did before Christianity became its official religion?
On August 10, 1,900 years ago, Hadrian, considered the third of the “Five Good Emperors,” began his reign as Roman emperor. In the beginning of his reign, which began in the year 117, Hadrian proved to have been on good terms with the Jews who had remained in Judea after the destruction of the Second Temple in the year 70.
In 130, he was recorded as saying that he would like to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem, but was quickly convinced to retract that statement, being told that if the Jews were to rebuild the temple they would eventually rebel against the Roman Empire.
It is most likely that this story never happened, as Hadrian proved to have a complete reversal of thought regarding Jews and Jerusalem. Instead he forbade circumcision, built a temple to Jupiter on the Temple Mount and changed the name of the city to Aelia Capitolina. This in turn led to the three-year Bar Kochba Revolt, which restored Jewish independence for a short period, but ultimately was suppressed.
The Jewish people, God’s eternal people, could never be defeated. They may have been exiled, downtrodden and without any glimmer of hope for the next 1,800 years, but they would be back. One look at the world around us has proved that. The Roman Empire no longer exists, but the ancient Kingdom of David and Solomon has seen an unbelievable renaissance in the past 150 years.
But with one small act, Hadrian made a historic and historical distortion that affects all of us to this day. The lasting move that Hadrian made, the one that he is most remembered for, is the fake news that he created. The territory of Judea, the home territory of the kings of the united Kingdom of Israel, became Syria Palaestina, named after Israel’s enemy the Philistines, a biblical sea people, to mock the Chosen People, and subsequently the made-up terms of “Palestine” and “Palestinians” were born.
“The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel for our Arab unity,” he said. “In reality today there is no difference between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. Only for political and tactical reasons do we speak today about the existence of a Palestinian people, since Arab national interests demand that we posit the existence of a distinct ‘Palestinian people’ to oppose Zionism for tactical reasons.”
Hadrian wasn’t Christian, but Christianity could not have come into Rome centuries later if not for him. “The period of Hadrian was looked upon as the luminous point in a splendid epoch in which the truths of Christianity shone without any obstacle in all eyes. They owed some thanks to a sovereign whose defects and good qualities had had such favorable results,” wrote Ernest Renan in “History of the Origins of Christianity. Book VI. The Reigns of Hadrian and Antoninus Pius.”
As columnist Rusty Wright wrote, there has been a general trend of evangelical Christians distancing themselves from periods, such as the Crusades, that they believe don’t belong to their current practices or beliefs.
So who can we expect to apologize for Hadrian? Who can we expect to turn the clock back, to put the proper name back in its place? In truth, apologies aren’t necessary at this point. All that remains is to find out who is willing to right this wrong.
This was Rome’s attempt to wipe Judea, and by extension, the Jewish people off the map. This is akin to the world’s failure to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and of certain countries’ refusal to recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people.
Therefore it is incumbent on Christians, and especially friends of Zion, to understand that yes, they personally were not involved in this travesty, but they have a part to play, and they should not be running away saying, “Those Christians, or those Romans, are different. I’m not one of them.”
They must do all that they can to stop this injustice, which has gone on for far too long. The name “Palestinians” will never leave the media, just as the names “Ottoman-ruled Palestine” and “Mandatory Palestine” will never be erased from the history books. But by helping show the world that the Land of Israel belongs to the People of Israel, this whole chapter can finally be put to bed.
sign up to our newsletter