Easter and Passover: The Heart of the Matter in the Middle East

05/09/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

"... Judged the gods of Egypt." That, in my humble opinion, is the most problematic phrase in the Bible. The words come from the book of Exodus, when God himself, not the Angel of Death, goes forth to smite the firstborn of Egypt. He judged their gods. Now why exactly would he do that? The whole point of monotheism is that there is only one God and the rest are fictional.

So why bother? Was Hashem acting as an art critic? Did he merely go to the temples in Memphis and Karnack and say "This statue of Thoth is CRAP! FEH!!!!" Or did he actually grab Isis by the hair and crack her spine before sending her to Hell? 'Tis a puzzlement. The whole thing about Adonai "hardening Pharaoh's heart" is part of it. It's a sadistic thing. Forcing Pharaoh to permit the Egyptians to get clobbered again and again is something that the modern mind reels at. But the writer(s) of Exodus provide the answer, Hashem wants to "demonstrate his power." But to whom? This brings us back to the Osirus and his pals. this is Divine War and [The Tetragrammiton] is going to kick the asses of his competition! There was a time when the Israelites believed that the other gods were real as you or me.

Fast forward thirteen hundred years or so. Mediterranean civilization has collapsed and grown back. The great inland sea has become a Roman lake, and not very many people like it all that much, mainly because the eternal city sends a bunch of humorless thieves to plunder the provinces for the benefit of themselves and the Caesar family. One of these was a guy named Pontius Pilate, the most famous Roman in history. In the year 30 CE he ordered the execution of a certain malcontent named Jeshu be Yoseph, who a couple of days before had started a riot, or at least tried to, at the court of the Gentiles at the Temple of Hashem in Jerusalem, which was packed with people who were in town for the Passover Holidays mentioned above. The execution of someone like this was par for the course. The so-called Gospels mention that there were two guys executed for lesser crimes on the same day. The Romans were brutal and life was cheap. Heck, the Romans loved to see people kill each other so much, it became the form of entertainment. But that is besides the point.

The reason that the whole thing about the so-called trial and other event mentioned in the New Testament are questionable is the "driving out the moneychangers" from the Temple. That was an attempt to start a riot and this act of revolution was enough to get the guy crucified (capital punishment was standard practice for pretty much everything we'd consider a felony today). So why would the Cohens of the Ciaphas regime go for the "he's a false messiah" charge instead of that? I mean, the "he was beating up innocent businessmen" was far easier to prove and would get the job done getting rid of him just as well.

Well, the writers of the gospels were the anti-semitic Jews (except Luke, who was merely an anti-semite) and they wanted to explain the reason why there were still Jews. The reason was that the Jews were still there in order to tick off the Christians, and that was the official reason as late as the Pontificate of Angelo "Pope John XXIII" Roncalli. That was the 1960s. If you read the Koran, Muhammad ibn 'Abdullāh al Hashim rails against the "Hypocritical Jews" who didn't abandon their faith the moment he snapped his fingers. Had not Muslims been exempt from the heavy, heavy "dhimmi tax" the Caliphs would have been far less "tolerant."

Nations have longer memories than individuals. The problems of today can be traced back to events celebrated this week.