The most common anti-Semites are those who camouflage their disdain for Judaism by taking advantage of the expedient that it’s only their opposition to Israel that stokes their contempt. They’d have everyone believe that if only the Jews had no nation, if only they were subject to the continued expulsions, pogroms, genocides and second-class citizenship under which the Jewish people suffered for millennia, they’d then regard the Jews in a favorable light. Progressive voices in the West are happy to explain to the Jewish people that the sanctions, disinvestments and boycotts placed on the backs of Israelis isn’t the plain face of enmity, but just amicable nudges by friends who only wish the Jews to pull down their flag and take their place again in ghettos across the world.
Unfortunately, Jews being misled into supposing they have a right to their own state isn’t their only serious error; it is their very religion that has been weighed in the balance and found wanting as well—once again thanks to progressive scholasticism, always looking to correct Jewish blunders. Here, though, the Jewish people have company in their delusions. For among the many connections between Judaism and Christianity there is nothing quite so poignant as both religions having been founded by personages—Moses and Jesus Christ—who every holiday season avant-garde polemicists leap upon soapboxes to explain never even existed.
Christmas, therefore, is when another type of religious bigot reappears, giving us a respite from the anti-Israeli drumbeat throughout the rest of the year, to scold the two billion Christians on the planet for their unsurpassed lack of perception. Thankfully, the founders of all the world’s other great religions—Muhammad, Zoroaster, Buddha, etc.—have passed muster and so no one dares to portray them as figments of the imagination. But, with regard to Judaism and Christianity both, the condescending downgrading of Moses and Jesus into the realm of silly nonsense is broadcast with great abandon. For Moses, it’s enough that the details surrounding his birth bear resemblances to those of Sargon, the Great, the towering figure of Mesopotamia who flourished in the 23rd century BC. Since both babies couldn’t be found in a river in a reed basket, one of them has to go, and so Moses is perfunctorily demoted from prophet of God to Jewish fairy tale figure. Erasing Jesus of Nazareth from history should seem a much more difficult task, but one from which the anti-Christian academicians don’t shrink nonetheless.
In order for Jesus to vanish, though, quite a bit else must do so as well. Five of the most respected ancient historians circa 1st century AD—Tacitus, Josephus, Dio Cassius, Suetonius, Pliny the Younger — not only mention Jesus Christ in their annals but make reference to him in just that way that validates the passages. Tacitus, for example, gives Jesus exactly the kind of arrogant footnote a noble Roman would employ; it’s quite apparent the historian isn’t particularly thrilled to be granting this particular individual a coveted place in his annals. “Christus suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilate,” Tacitus writes. He’s hardly one of Jesus’ admirers, going on to explain that the “mischievous superstition” wrought by Christus’ followers had broken out in Judea and “the evil” had found its way to Rome, “where all things hideous and shameful become popular.”
For those who burn Israeli flags, pull down statues in America of founding figures, and who sneer at Western tradition, culture, and philosophy, offering the gravest insult possible to close to a third of the population of the Earth isn’t something to cause pause, but instead an occasion to revel. And, perhaps it’s also an opportunity to revisit why and how the Muslim world community has adopted such harsh blasphemy laws. Granted, leftist anti-religionists have exempted Islam from their icon-smashing of late. But, Islam is an old and wise tradition itself; it has recognized many deadly enemies in the past long before they struck. Muslims would be prudent to keep those faithless and godless voices who have cast Jesus and Moses into oblivion at arm’s length, for Muhammad will most certainly someday be next.
David Nabhan is a science and science fiction writer.