A Response to David SkrbinaJames J. O'Meara
See James O’Meara’s review of The Jesus Hoax here and David Skrbina’s reply here.
First off, I want to relieve Prof. Skrbina of his concern over my “grudge” against him. I happened upon this book (and in a burst of synchronicity, was asked by our esteemed editor at Counter-Currents to review it), but was unfamiliar with Skrbina’s work to begin with. That, of course, means nothing, as I am not an academic myself. But a brief glance at his Amazon listing led me to take a positive interest in him, from his teaching at an institution just a few blocks from where my parents lived back in the day, to his other publications, which indicate a remarkable convergence of our interests, from Savitri Devi to pansychism. I am particularly interested in the latter — I think it is wrong, but important  — and was planning to write something on or around it soon.
And, obviously, we share an avocational interest in the origins of Christianity.
Prof. Skrbina is unhappy with my schematic of his argument (“a rather comical distortion”) and offers his own:
- If Jesus was a miracle-man, there would be contemporaneous evidence.
- There is no such evidence.
- Therefore, no miracle-man.
- Years later, Paul and the Gospel writers claimed there was such a miracle-man.
- They lied.
- And, they lied with an intent to benefit their fellow Jews. Hence it was a malicious lie, or a hoax.
I think my version, even if perhaps comical or distorted, does foreground the tone of his book, and its main argument, which for the purposes of a review I wanted to concentrate on. He does indeed set up his main premise by showing the miracle-working Jesus story can’t be true (including a helpful chart of miracles), but this is hardly controversial today. Thus, the first three steps provide a sound argument. And the next step is obviously true. But notice that the movement from step 4 to step 5 is exactly as I indicated in my review: the story is false, therefore someone lied; as is the step from 5 to 6: and they lied to benefit themselves, and hence maliciously.
Skrbina provides no evidence for either step. He seems to think step 5 is just obvious, and gets quite querulous, especially in his reply, to any other theory, such as a veridical account of a hallucination, or a cover-story for neophytes in a mystery religion; despite the overwhelming number of similar cases of each in history. 
And for step 6, the motive, he provides only evidence of the Jews being nasty people, and especially being liars. Of course, short of Philip Roth’s note in a bottle from Uncle Morty (“We did it. We killed Christ”), it’s hard to imagine what evidence there could be; perhaps the protocols of their secret meeting?
I want to address Skrbina’s assertion that I “claim without evidence” that there were admirers of the Jews in the Hellenistic world. I hyperlinked to a page in my review describing the well-known “God Fearers,” gentiles who were attracted to the supposedly strict morality of Jewish culture and the antiquity of their scriptures, and with plenty of citations; thus:
Over the last 50 years a growing number of scholars of Judaic studies and history of Judaism became interested in the subject of God-fearers and their relationship with Hellenistic Judaism and early Christianity.
As Jews emigrated and settled in the Roman provinces of the Empire, Judaism became an appealing religion to a number of Pagans, for many reasons; God-fearers and proselytes that underwent full conversion were Greeks or Romans, and came from all social classes: they were mostly women and freedmen (liberti), but there were also artisans, soldiers and few people of high status, like patricians and senators. Despite their allegiance to Judaism, the God-fearers were exempted from paying the “Jewish tax” (fiscus Judaicus).
The class of God-fearers existed between the 1st and the 3rd century CE. They are mentioned in Latin and Greek literature, Flavius Josephus’ and Philo’s historical works, rabbinic literature, early Christian writings, and other contemporary sources such as synagogue inscriptions from Diaspora communities [in] Palestine, Rome and Asia Minor. 
It was these God Fearers who provided the audience for Paul’s circumcision-and-kosher-free religion. Like being a pre-op transsexual, Paul’s version of Christianity allowed God-fearers to LARP as Jews, without surgery, thus allowing his version of Christianity to make great strides and eventually become dominant;  indeed, the existence of other strains of Christianity before and alongside Paul completely blows his “Paul dreamed it up” thesis out of the historical waters. 
I regret that Prof. Skrbina wants to revisit his comments on Prof. Price and Richard Carrier, as the nub of my criticism was that these comments had no business in his book at all. His description of Price in his reply is pure sophistry; he would have you think that Price is simply a “former Baptist minister who, for some reason, became agnostic regarding a historical Jesus” but refuses to assent to Skrbina’s “the Jews did it” thesis because “he is full-time in the ‘Jesus business’” and perhaps needs to make money to fund his old age; rather than being — unlike Prof. Skrbina — a full-time professor of New Testament studies and holder of two earned doctorates in the subject. He then weirdly criticizes Price for failing to “assert a positive theory about anything” or “hold any overtly controversial views,” as if having an open mind and admitting where one is ignorant are character flaws, and as if asserting controversial views was not a great way to sell books. 
As for Richard Carrier, Prof. Skrbina shows some uncharacteristic restraint; a glance at his Wikipedia page reveals many aspects of his private life that would make him persona non grata among readers here, but he confines himself to the usual academic slurs. He then offers some relevant criticism. Yes, Jesus from Outer Space is a silly title, but being someone who published a book entitled Magick for Housewives, I can hardly hold that against him.  Evaluating Bayes Theorem is beyond me (and most academic historians, apparently) but JfOS is intended as a brief, non-mathematical discussion of Mythicism, to which I recommend the readers here.
Then we get a sample of how Carrier and Skrbina differ on evaluating textual evidence. To show that Paul “believed in a flesh-and-blood Jesus,” Skrbina asserts that “Galatians calls Jesus ‘born of a woman’ (4:4).” Carrier devotes as many pages as Skrbina does to documenting how much the Jews were hated to an examination of Romans 1:3 and Galatians 3-4, emphasizing that the word Paul uses for “born” is never used by him to refer to human birth but rather to the “making” of a human, like Adam from the dust or Eve from Adam’s rib (a problem Christian scribes immediately realized, since Historicist Bart Ehrman says they attempted to “correct” the manuscripts they were copying ). The whole argument in Galatians is allegorical, with the ultimate goal of making Jesus’ birth a fulfillment of the prophecy that “David’s seed” would “eternally rule” (obviously false for several hundred years by then) through YHVH placing David’s sperm in a cosmic sperm bank and then using it to create a humanoid to insert into a virgin to be named later. Carrier may be wrong. But which author looks like “a Baptist preacher” quoting a passage in translation, and which looks like a serious researcher?
Wait a second, I hear you say, “cosmic sperm bank”? Ridiculous. Indeed, but plausible in the context of the “open-air insane asylum” of First Century Palestine.  Speaking of which, and in another synchronicity (and another reason I’m eager to read Prof. Skrbina on pansychicism), I was finally getting around to reading Carrier’s new book last night, and I marked this passage as “Carrier’s answer to Skrbina”:
What makes a theory plausible or implausible is not what we now in the modern age think is normal or weird, but what was normal or weird in the era and region this actually happened in. Too many scholars today seem to be relying on their modernist intuitions, balking at [or calling “lies”] all the weird things the ancients believed — which is exactly backward. All that weird stuff they believed back then was normal. So anything that coheres with it is plausible. That’s how plausibility operates in historical reasoning. Anything else is anachronism.
So I would suggest that Skrbina’s thesis, “This story is absurd, therefore whoever concocted it must have been lying” is not an argument, but an expression of chronological snobbery.  With, I think, the best will in the world, I don’t see that the absurdity of the Christian story entails it must be a lie; and, even if it is a lie, there are other, better argued-for suspects than Paul & the Gang, such as Joseph Atwill’s “the Romans concocted it with the help of Josephus” (Caesar’s Messiah) and Flavio Barbiero’s “the Jewish priests used it to take over the Mithras cult (The Secret Society of Moses; see Laurent Guyenot’s discussion here).
Still, as I said in my review, the book would be useful for someone interested in learning some of the basic issues and names in this area, as a preliminary to doing his own research, not unlike a mystery religion cover story.
* * *
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 See the critique offered by Bernardo Kastrup in Why Materialism Is Baloney: How True Skeptics Know There Is No Death and Fathom Answers to Life, the Universe and Everything (John Hunt, 2014). Discover Magazine says “Philosopher David Chalmers once suggested that a foray into panpsychism is nigh inevitable once one thinks seriously about consciousness. So perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that the idea is taking hold again. Though it is implausible, Chalmers writes, it is not any more implausible than other theories of consciousness.”
 The mystery religion example has been around from Osiris to Scientology; as for hallucinations becoming written accounts, Richard Carrier (we’ll get to him in a minute) points out that this has been the settled, orthodox, academic, century-long consensus for the Resurrection story, so why not extend it to the whole Gospel?
 For citations, see Louis H. Feldman, “The Omnipresence of the God-Fearers”, Biblical Archaeology Review 12, 5 (1986), Center for Online Judaic Studies. In my review I noted that Skrbina quotes Seneca on the Jews being lazy, due to the Sabbath; Feldman adds the passage that “the custom of this most accursed race has gained such influence that it has now been received throughout the world,” presumably by non-Jews who are “sympathizers.” So, if Seneca is an authority on the hatefulness of the Jews, then he also shows their customs were popular throughout the [Hellenistic] world. And again, I ask, does Skrbina work seven days a week? Should we?
 In The Jesus Hoax, he imagines Paul musing: “We need them [the goyim] to be pro-Jewish, but not make them Jews — no, that would never work. We need something new, a “third way” between Judaism and paganism.” (p. 69). In fact, Paul would have known that this “third way” already existed.
 Perhaps there were different versions of the hoax, being “test run”?
 On the other hand, he berates Price for his Christ Mythicism, a definite and controversial view if ever there was one.
 Retitled for the second edition as Mysticism after Modernism (Manticore, 2020). The (formerly) title essay dealt with the New Thought teacher Neville Goddard, and Constant Readers may recall that Neville (as he called himself) was already quite firmly in the Mythicist camp:
The Bible has no reference at all to any persons who ever existed or to any event that ever occurred upon earth. The ancient story tellers were not writing history but an allegorical picture lesson of certain basic principles which they clothed in the garb of history, and they adapted these stories to the limited capacity of a most uncritical and credulous people. Throughout the centuries we have mistakenly taken personifications for persons, allegory for history, the vehicle that conveyed the instruction for the instruction, and the gross first sense for the ultimate sense intended.
Thus begins “Consciousness Is The Only Reality” in Five Lessons: A Master Class (1948); reissued with a bonus chapter by Mitch Horowitz (New York: Tarcher/Perigree, 2018); reviewed here. Neville’s view illustrates that, despite being dismissed by Skrbina and others as an internet fad, the Mythicist view has a long and distinguished history, back to the 18th century, and was beaten back only recently in the mid-20th century by a counter-attack from church-affiliated schools and professors.
 The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture (Oxford, 2011).
 Was that Shaw or Nietzsche?
 Skrbina explaining why the Christian story couldn’t be ingenuous:
This is theoretically possible but highly unlikely. Even in ancient times, people were not idiots. How could a Mark accept, without any apparent evidence or confirmation, such fantastic tales? And accept them so completely that he would write them down as factual truth, as real and actual events? And then how could the same thing happen three more times, to three different individuals? Furthermore, the Rumor Thesis cannot account for Paul. He was too close to actual events to have innocently believed any such stories, which in any case could not likely have become so incredibly exaggerated in a few years. Paul was a clever man; could he really have fallen so completely for a bogus tale of a Jewish messiah, that he would dedicate his life to spreading the story? It seems highly dubious, to say the least. Are there other possible theses? Perhaps, but I am unaware of any other plausible options. I think we must opt for one of these four.
I suppose the difference between “possible theses” and “plausible option” is, lacking appeal to Bayes’ Theorem, simply whatever Skrbina’s “modernist intuitions” approve. As Kevin MacDonald (another philo-Semite?) pointed out in his review,
This is presented as an issue of cleverness, and it is certainly true that there is a small but consistent negative correlation between intelligence and religiosity. But the weakness of the association — explaining around four percent of the variance — indicates that there are plenty of intelligent people who are quite religious. This would have been even more likely in the ancient world — a context in which religion was taken very seriously, where miraculous events were taken for granted by many, and where there wasn’t already a long history of philosophical skepticism about religion, as there is in the contemporary West.
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Footnote  Was that Shaw or Nietzsche? [Re “open-air insane asylum”]
Probably neither, but George Bernard Shaw did say, “An asylum for the sane would be empty in America.” Ouch!
pansychism. I am particularly interested in the latter — I think it is wrong, but important — and was planning to write something on or around it soon.
I hope you do, as I’m interested also. Before you do, you should read Pandeism: An Anthology (2017), edited by Knujon Mapson, which covers a related philosophy. What the hell is pandeism? The blurb says, “the proposition that the Creator of our Universe created by becoming our Universe, and that this proposition can be demonstrated through the exercise of logic and reason.”
Yes, I have the Pandeism anthology, and have read some of it. One part I’ve read is Bernardo Kastrup’s discussion of pandeism (he references Skrbina) and comparing it with his own version, which I prefer; an updating of Schopenhauer, based in contemporary cognitive science. It also provides a metaphysics for Neville’s New Thought methods. “Philosophy of mind” has come a long way from my grad school days, when Armstrong’s “materialist theory of mind” and tedious analytic discussions of “action theory” (“When does pulling the trigger cause X to die?”) were all the rage. Now it’s cool and hip!
And even if it is just a text, the character does show up how ordinary people get crucified by the usurious priests and weak vacillating front men they put up in front of the mob they riled up to a bloodlust.
Again, O’Meara seems to be caught up in the accusation that Paul is somehow the evil mastermind. As Skrbina says, we don’t know if Paul even existed or was a pseudonym for a cabal of Jews. The fact that there were multiple strains of Christianity brewing at that time suggests that a group of Jews were conducting a kind of A B testing in the ancient world to see what version of their new religion would stick. That “Paul’s” version came out on top rather than the others does not mean that the others were not also developed with the same fundamental goal of subverting the Roman populace with a Judeo-friendly religion, the message of Christianity being “all your pagan beliefs are false” and “we’re the new Jews, and we’re the good ones, but the old bad Jews can convert any time they please so love them dearly.”
‘The fact that there were multiple strains of Christianity brewing at that time suggests that a group of Jews were conducting a kind of A B testing in the ancient world to see what version of their new religion would stick.’
You have to keep in mind that this was in the age before smartphone, and United States government’s ABC agencies existed.
White people read the literature of their ancestors:
“OK, Homer was great, a sharp-eyed observer of war, power, and human nature, and he also gave a remarkably detailed, hyper-realistic description of bronze age material culture and environment. But on every second page he detours and describes imaginary beings, and their comings and goings and habits and character, and their flying chariots and metallic horses, and thunders which they drop from the sky to destroy cities and decide battles.
Homer was great, but also kinda silly, like all our ancestors. They confabulated like 4-year-old children who cannot yet differentiate between reality and the figments of their infantile imagination.”
To which other white people reply:
“Nooooo, not like that! Of course, our ancestors were talking nonsense, but it’s all allegorical. You know, Zeus burps and it’s a symbol of… whatever.”
In the meantime, our Judeo-Gnostic overlords read their literature:
“Our ancestors were serious people, and there’s no reason to believe they were stupid or lying. If they wrote about flying chariots and such, there must have been something there, and they gave the best description they could: flying chariots. It’s perfectly reasonable to assume that the Old Testament is a non-scientific but pretty accurate description of our history.
And if ourguys said we are the Chosen Ones, LOL, who are we to argue?
And if the Books say we are going to rule the world and make everybody else subservient to us, mega LOL, why not treat this as a screenplay for the future and start turning it into reality?…”
OK, so who is smart and who is stupid here? Which group has more common sense? Which one is more likely to succeed?
Actually, there is a white sub-group who are similar to Jews: white Christians. They read the New Testament, and in their heart — not the seat of emotions, but the core of their being — they recognize that it was written by honest men, that this is true, that this really happened.
The Church has a thesis about faith as an instrument for acquiring knowledge. Which means if you don’t have faith, you are kind of mentally handicapped.
Personally, I still remember the feeling in my chest when I read Mark 14:72 for the first time, at around age 10. This is true. There was a night, 2,000 years ago, somewhere in the Middle East… OMG, this really happened.
But the problem is, I had the same feeling reading other books from antiquity. Why are Christian fundamentalists, the only white people who still have functioning hearts and a capacity for passionate intensity, only capable of recognizing the truth in a single book that isn’t even ours?
Actually, I’m pretty sure our Judeo overlords believe Homer and probably even Mark. They just know what’s what, they know that this is war, and you don’t do your enemy a favor by giving him diplomatic recognition.
Illustration of the problem: St. Jerome and an Unknown, by (((Hungarian))) painter Ákos Birkás:
So who was Jesus, if we operate on the assumption that ancient literature, ours and theirs, is by-and-large true?
He was the son of a god. Like other half-breeds described by our ancestors, he probably had pretty amazing talents. Also, he was probably helped by his father. We aren’t sure who this father was, but Jesus clearly believed he descended from the same individual who boasts in the Old Testament of terraforming Planet Earth.
(He might have been tricked though by another similar entity.)
So he went about doing whatever he had to do, pretty much undisturbed for three years, and then one day he went to Jerusalem, and kicked the dove-sellers and the money-changers out of the Temple.
The dove-sellers sold doves to the poor to be sacrificed at the altar.
The money-changers exchanged Roman currency to Hebrew currency, since the Jews had to pay their taxes in shekels. The justification was that the Roman money had the Emperor’s face on it, and it wasn’t kosher enough for the Temple.
Essentially, this was an early form of central banking. You can use whatever currency you wish in your dealings with others, but when it comes to paying your taxes to us, you have to pay with money that you buy from us.
So Jesus disturbed the business of the most powerful people of the land, and within a week he was dead. He was 33. In any decent country we would consider him at least an ally, and would name streets after him, and commemorate his birthday and the day of his execution.
There are many problems with Christianity, and we may regret buying into it. But at the time when we adopted it we needed the statecraft of antiquity to form our new states, and we could only acquire it through Rome and Byzantium. In my country Latin was the official language until 1844. All my ancestors were Christians for a 1,000 years.
White people who mock the religion, art and culture of their ancestors, those who join the Jews in a contest spitting on the graves of their ancestors are retarded, to say the least.
This is somewhat Off Topic, but what does O’Meara think of the theory that Phoenician colonies (including merchant quarters of non-Phoenician cities throughout Mediterranean) and the remnants of Carthage converted en masse to Judaism after the definitive fall of Carthage . . . .
That is, once Carthage fell, Jerusalem was now seen at the center of Semitic civilization, and so Phoenicians began to identify with Judaism and its one God. (Ba’al and other gods now discredited.)
So far as I can tell, the first scholar to advance this theory was Georg Rosen, a German Jew, in the early 20th century. The following is from an academic review article published in 1930, which I am lifting from a JSTOR preview, as it nicely states the thesis —>>>
“Georg Rosen conceived the idea of explaining the rapid growth of Hellenistic Judaism as a result of the spread of the Hebrew religion among other Semites, and particularly among the Phoenicians, already scattered about the Mediterranean in pre-Christian times . . . . [His] main thesis is that the so-called Diaspora was more a spread of the Jewish religion than a multiplication of the Jewish race. Colonization and natural increase are thought to be quite insufficient to account for the numerous adherents of Judaism throughout the Roman world at the beginning of the imperial period. There must have been a large accession of proselytes, particularly from among the Phoenician emigrants, who culturally were nearest akin to the Jews. The theory is offered to explain the rapid disappearance of the large Phoenician population scattered around the Mediterranean before the Romans gained the ascendancy.” See https://www.jstor.org/stable/1196127?seq=1
The “Phoenicians Became Jews” theory also does much to explain the origin of the Sephardic communities in Spain. Simply put, the Carthaginian colonies in Spain converted to Judaism.
The overall model is this ===
(1) Phoenicians establish colonies throughout the Mediterranean, from circa 900 BC down to 146 BC, in Cyprus, Sicily, Sardinia, the Maghreb, the Balearic Islands, southern Iberia, plus many smaller “trading post” communities.
(2) From early on, Judean merchants have a presence in these colonies, but probably a small presence.
(3) After the Fall of Carthage, the larger Phoenician populations convert to Judaism.
Now for Salo Baron’s take ===
“In the Hellenistic-Roman period the Phoenician colonies, in particular, not only persisted all over the Mediterranean but perhaps even grew in size and affluence after the loss of all political power by their mother country . . . . These outposts of the ancient Canaanite race constitute more than a parallel, however. The Phoenician colonies and especially Carthage, the largest among them, with her dependencies offered a vast field of activity to Jewish propagandists. Even after the Punic Wars, Carthage was not such a deserted region as would appear from Roman literary records. Excavations make it ever clearer that a flourishing Semitic civilization persisted in North Africa for centuries after the destruction of the capital by Scipio. There the Jews began to play a prominent part. The families of the Phoenician slave traders, often permanent or temporary owners of Jewish captives, may have been exposed to Jewish habits and ideologies more than any other group of the population. Being of a closely related racial and linguistic stock, conversion to Judaism would have transformed them almost instantly into full-fledged Jews. Greeks and Romans often would not become full proselytes because of the necessity for circumcision . . . . The Phoenicians, however, had practiced circumcision for ages.
“Most decisive seems to have been the social situation confronting these colonists after the loss of national independence of their mother cities of Tyre, Sidon, and Carthage. While tenaciously clinging to their ethnic and economic peculiarities, these Phoenician ghettoes in Rome and Alexandria, in Persia and in Spain, gradually developed the characteristics of a nationality without state and territory. Hard pressed, this race could have quite naturally have adopted the patterns of belief and behavior developed by a related people through centuries of similar experience. Thus it came about that, in the centuries following the annihilation of Phoenician and Carthaginian political power, these Semites, carrying with them a considerable admixture of native blood (in North Africa especially Berber), swelled the ranks of Jewish converts with a related type of people. That is why there are extant Jewish records from an early period only of those western districts previously under Carthaginian rule. Nor was Rab’s choice of localities purely accidental when he declared that ‘from Tyre to Carthage they know Israel and their Father in Heaven’. In short, a vanishing world factor, the Phoenician, disappeared with the new world factor, the Diaspora Jew.”
Citation taken from Salo Baron, A Social and Religious History of the Jews, Volume 1, published 1952, pages 175 to 176.
I will now quote at length from Shlomo Sand, who relies in this pasage on the work of the French historian Marcel Simon —>
“The successful spread of Judaism in the Maghreb was probably due to the presence of a Phoenician population in the region. Although Carthage was destroyed back in the second century BCE, not all its inhabitants perished. The city was rebuilt, and was soon an important commercial port once more. Where, then, did all the Punics–the African Phoenicians–who populated the coastline go? Several historians, notably the French Marcel Simon, have suggested that a large number of them became Jews, accounting for the distinctive strength of Judaism throughout North Africa.
“It is not beyond reason to assume that the close resemblance of the language of the Old Testament to ancient Phoenician, as well as the fact that some of the Punics were circumcised, helped promote mass conversion to Judaism. The process may also have been stimulated by the arrival of captives from Judea after the fall of the kingdom. The old populace, originating from Tyre and Sidon, had been hostile to Rome for a very long time, and probably welcomed the exiled rebels and adopted their particular faith. Marcel Simon suggests that the philo-Jewish policy of most of the Severan emperors, a dynasty originating in North Africa, might also have contributed to the popularity of Judaization.
“North Africa was one of the outstanding successes in the history of proselytization in the Mediterranean region. Although in the third and fourth centuries CE, as noted in the previous chapter, the rate of conversion to Judaism slowed down in Egypt, Asia Minor, Greece and Italy–the heart of ancient Western civilization–along the coast of the Maghreb the communities of believers in Yahweh did quite well. Archaeological and epigraphic evidence depicts thriving Jewish religious life. Archaeological excavations near ancient Carthage uncovered a number of tombs from the third century CE inscribed in Latin characters, or even Hebrew or Phoenician, with images of candelabra engraved alongside. Also all over the region a large number of tombstones have been found at the graves of proselytes with Greek or Latin names, and their religion is always stated beside the non-Hebrew names . . . .
“[Tertullian] was especially concerned about the strength of Judaism in his native city of Carthage. His extensive knowledge of the Old Testament and Jewish tradition indicates the strength of the local Jewish religious culture. His sharp attacks against the proselytes also testify to the popular appeal of this movement. He sought to explain the success of Judaism, in contrast to that of persecuted Christianity, by noting that it was a legal religion in Roman law, hence easier to adopt. He showed respect for the Jews, especially the Jewish women for their modesty, but fiercely attacked the Judaizers.”
HG Wells also endorsed this theory, from his Short History of the World, published in 1922 —->
“After the fall of Tyre, Sidon, Carthage and the Spanish Phoenician cities, the Phoenicians suddenly vanish from history; and as suddenly we find, not simply in Jerusalem but in Spain, Africa, Egypt, Arabia, the East, wherever the Phoenicians had set their feet, communities of Jews”
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