I have been reading Plutarch’s *Lives* this week. A few observations:
Plutarch interprets Pompey’s actions with regard to Metellus (then praetor of Crete) in terms of Achilles. Plutarch also remarks of the pirates whom Pompey cleaned out of the Mediterranean that they “…knew neither god nor law.” Plutarch is interpreting events in Rome in light of a text (The Iliad) and a tradition (Roman paganism) much like later Western culture would use the Bible and Christianity to view current events. The points of reference were very different but the concern to maintain the old order is the same.
Pompey entered the Temple in Jerusalem after conquering the city while in Judea. Josephus writes of this event:
“Of the Jews there fell twelve thousand; but of the Romans very few. Absalom, who was at once both uncle and father-in-law to Aristobulus, was taken captive; and no small enormities were committed about the temple itself, which, in former ages, had been inaccessible, and seen by none; for Pompey went into it, and not a few of those that were with him also, and saw all that which was unlawful for any other men to see, but only for the high priests. There were in that temple the golden table, the holy candlestick, and the pouring vessels, and a great quantity of spices; and besides these there were among the treasures two thousand talents of sacred money; yet did Pompey touch nothing of all this, on account of his regard to religion; and in this point also he acted in a manner that was worthy of his virtue. The next day he gave order to those that had the charge of the temple to cleanse it, and to bring what offerings the law required to God; and restored the high priesthood to Hyrcanus…” (Ant. XIV.IV.4)
Many years later in A.D. 70 Titus entered the Temple as flames were beginning to consume it and again entered the Holy of Holies. Josephus says of Titus:
“…he went into the holy place of the temple, with his commanders, and saw it, with what was in it, which he found to be far superior to what the relations of foreigners contained, and not inferior to what we ourselves boasted of and believed about it;” (Wars VI.V.7)
An interesting aside: Plutarch says of Caesar and his army: “He himself, with his army close about him, as if it had been his own body…” That jumped out at me. We all know the metaphor of the Church being the Body of Christ. In this case the legions of Caesar are compared to his own body.