Book Excerpt: Revelation: The Way It Happened

In 70 CE, the Romans overpowered Jerusalem in a war that would set the stage for Christianity to emerge from the ashes of Judaism.

Josiah stood atop Mount Zion, the Temple mount, gazing out over the city of Jerusalem. A skyrocketing population in the weeks before the Passover feast had transformed two months later into a rising death toll; fewer and fewer Jews could be seen in the streets south of the Temple. The northern half of the city had fallen to the Romans, and only a single wall, running east to west through the middle of the city, separated the legionnaires from the hapless citizens and visitors.

For two months Josiah had been battling the Roman legions in Jerusalem, and the Jewish army had eventually been forced to retreat back to the Temple mount. Titus, the son of Caesar, now paraded his legions below, doing his best to demoralize the remaining Jews. Yet Josiah much preferred fighting the Romans to the lawlessness of the preceding civil war. Zealot factions had been killing other Jews for three years, filling the streets with piled bodies. Most families died slowly of hunger or disease, choosing at sword point to relinquish their food and possessions to the Zealots, who responded by isolating the young men of the family and skewering those unwilling to join in the war effort. They lay unburied as a deterrent to the disobedience of others; no one was allowed to remove them for burial under threat of the same punishment. Josiah knew what the scriptures said: At that time, friends shall make war on friends like enemies. Portions of the city began to stink so badly that people avoided many of the streets.

Josiah dug another piece of dried fish out of his pouch and began chewing on it. He glanced up at the Temple where the priests performed ritual sacrifices, even while the war continued. Many of the Jewish citizens still trudged up the south stairs that led to where Josiah stood on the 35-acre Temple courtyard and then up another flight of stairs to the great Temple itself. One of these travelers had been kind enough to share his meat, or Josiah would have gone hungry today.

He plodded over to the east side of the courtyard and peeked over the city wall to where the Roman encampments once sprawled outside Jerusalem. The city’s vineyards lay trampled. Most of the Romans had relocated inside the walls, but Jerusalem remained surrounded, leaving no escape. Catapults still hurled stones as big as Josiah’s torso over the Temple fortifications.

–Revelation: The Way It Happened, 2010, pp. 21, by Lee Harmon

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