March 1, 2016


          In the February installment I mentioned that the “Doomsday Clock,” which graces the cover page of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, currently stands at 3 minutes before midnight which symbolizes the advent of a global catastrophe. The Bulletin was founded jointly by Eugene Rabinowitch, professor of Botany and Biophysics at the University of Illinois, with physicist Hyman Goldsmith in the aftermath of the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The date of the 1st edition was December 10, 1945 and its rationale is expressed in the first sentences. Under the headline: PEARL HARBOR ANNIVERSARY and the MOSCOW CONFERENCE they wrote:


On this fourth anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack, American public opinion seems to be much more concerned with assessing the responsibility for the disaster which occurred four years ago, than with preventing a future “Pearl Harbor” on a continental scale which may occur four years from now. … This catastrophe will be inevitable if we do not succeed in banishing war from this world.


          The contributors to the Bulletin represent academia, including 18 Nobel Laureates, and they intend to warn our political leaders of the foreseeable consequences their decisions will have. It appears bi-monthly and by 1947 this informal group had become so concerned about the political direction the United States had embarked on, that they put a symbolic clock face on the cover of each issue that estimated the time left before a global nuclear catastrophe could be reasonably expected to occur. The clock was initially set at 7 minutes before midnight, and it has been updated on a yearly basis ever since. Originally the clock setting depended entirely on the nuclear issue but in 2007 the threat associated with climate change was added.

          The June 1947 date for adding the clock on the cover was not arbitrary but in response to the American foreign policy course that had been set during the previous 12 months, and especially in the first five months of that year. Let us now briefly review the antecedents. In February of 1945, at Yalta, Churchill and Stalin had agreed on mutual spheres of influence in Europe; the Eastern portion would be allotted to the Soviet Union and the Western to Britain. Churchill had assumed that Stalin would allow free parliamentary elections in Eastern Europe but when Stalin instead established “Peoples Democracies” in all the countries where the Soviet Union had soldiers on the ground (with exception of Germany and Austria which were occupied by the four wartime allies in their respective zones), he felt himself betrayed. His famous Iron Curtain speech at Westminster College on March 5, 1946 was intended to alert Americans to the danger they faced if the Soviet Union were to be allowed to persist in its efforts to subvert the “free world.” He was, of course out of office, and Clement Attlee had to deal with the problems Churchill had left behind.

Toward the end of the European phase of WWII a civil war erupted in Greece. The communist side was supported by Albania and Yugoslavia while the government received aid from Great Britain. Stalin honored the Yalta agreement and did not interfere. But the war had left the British nearly bankrupt and the Attlee government did not have the financial resources to keep up these costs. Foreign expenditures, which also included the ongoing war with the Zionists in Palestine and the turmoil in India, had to be drastically reduced and the U.S. had to step into the breach. This was the cause of the Truman Doctrine (March 1947) which initiated what later became known as the Cold War. Truman asked Congress for $400 million to support both Greece and Turkey against potential communist take-overs and his view was shaped by George Kennan’s (Ambassador to the Soviet Union at the time) “Long Telegram.” The content was classified but Kennan published his opinion in the July 1947 issue of Foreign Affairs under the pseudonym X. Détente, a relaxation of tensions, was to be replaced by containment, although a “rollback” was not necessarily envisioned. Nevertheless the Soviet system was seen as being permanently at war with capitalism and that it would use any and all means to gain the upper hand. This was to be avoided at all cost. That this was an assumption rather than fact and that the Soviet Union had prior to WWII peacefully co-existed with the West, even under Stalin’s rule, was not taken into account. As has been so amply demonstrated here and elsewhere, politicians and their propaganda machines elevate assumptions to dogmas that have to be adhered to. Thus 1946-1947 was the time frame when America embarked on its mission of preserving the “free world,” which also included military dictatorships as long as they were right- rather than left-wing. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, containment had lost its purpose and the time had come for “roll-back” with the destruction of any government that did not conform to Washington’s desires.

These years were also the origin of America’s current military strategy which pretends to have the ability to win wars on the cheap by strategic bombing. During WWII the U.S. also had accumulated a massive deficit and the military budget had to be reduced. The ensuing battle between Navy and Air Force commanders has become known as the Admiral’s Revolt. The Air Force insisted that future wars would be won by atomic annihilation of the enemy and there was, therefore, no need to spend much money on the Army and the Navy. The admirals obviously did not relish having their budget cut to the bone, especially when they already had commissioned the building of another aircraft carrier the U.S.S. Forestall. They insisted that the Air Force’s plan of strategic bombing, which foremost destroys civilian lives, is not only immoral but cannot achieve its objective of winning a war. Regardless of the merits of each case, bombers vs. carriers, the real question was which branch of the Pentagon should get the lion’s share of limited funds. The Air force won and the Forestall contract had to be canceled.  The National Security Act, which turned these policies into law, and also gave us the CIA, was introduced in the Senate in March of 1947 and signed by Truman in July.

It is important for our citizenry, most of whom were not yet born when these fundamental policy decisions were made, to understand this background. The faulty doctrine of waging war by air power alone, with or without nuclear weapons is still with us and is likely to lead to the catastrophe all of us want to avoid. As mentioned, initially the doomsday clock was set at 7 minutes before midnight. The shortest time span, 2 minutes, was in 1953. The U.S. had successfully tested its first thermonuclear device, and the Soviet Union reciprocated nine months later. Thereafter the clock readings varied with the political events. The missile crisis of October 1963 was too short to affect the clock setting although it would have to have been less than 1 minute. It read 7 minutes at the end of the Carter administration but was moved to 4 after Reagan’s election who had promised an arms build-up. The hand was moved to 3 after the decision to deploy Pershing and medium range ballistic missiles in Europe but moved back to 6 after the treaty to eliminate medium range nuclear missiles was signed. In 1991, after the fall of the Soviet Union, it was set back to 17 minutes. But from 1995 on the slide to the current 3 minutes began because the nuclear issue, including its waste products, remained unresolved and global climate change has become a threat. As mentioned last month the atomic scientists may have to advance the clock to 2 or 1 minute, especially if one of the Republican candidates were to win the November elections because all insist that this is the “American century” and that we will bend the rest of the world to our will.

The Christian notion of a “doomsday” originated from The Revelation of St. John the Divine which forms the last chapter of the New Testament. I have discussed this document in The Jesus Conundrum as well as in “The Unholy Alliance” (May 1, 2002). Its antecedents were presented in Whither Zionism? and since this material is available on this site I shall procced only with a summary and some additional information that was acquired since the previous publications. The seminal text is the Old Testament Book of Daniel. According to Matthew and Mark its apocalyptic component was used by Jesus to warn his disciples about the impending disaster. The words are practically identical in these gospels indicating a common source. In the King James translation the key verse in regard to the event that will precede the disaster is:


When ye, therefore, shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel, the prophet, stand in the holy place (whoso readeth, let him understand). Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains … [Mtt 24:15-16] …, or … where it ought not … [Mark 13:14].


          The gospel of Luke omits the reference to Daniel’s prophecy and lists the warning as “And when you see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. …” (Luke 22:20). It is not contained in the gospel of John.

          Over the ensuing millennia a great deal of speculation, and subsequently scholarly investigations of this passage, has ensued. It is now agreed by the academic community that the Book of Daniel is not a “prophecy” in the sense the word is used today. Its author did not live in Persia during the Babylonian captivity predicting the future of Judaea, but referred to then current events in Palestine. Scholars observed that the apocalyptic portion of the narrative shows close correspondence to the persecution of the Jewish religion during the Maccabean wars and it ends just before the death of Antiochus IV Epiphanes (215-164 BC). The “fourth horn,” i.e. kingdom, referred to Greece and the wars of the King of the South against the King of the North were fought between Alexander the Great’s successors: the Ptolemy’s of Egypt and the Seleucids of Asia.

This leaves us with Jesus’ mysterious “abomination of desolation,” which Luther translated, from the Greek of the New Testament, as “Greuel der Verwüstung.”  It should be noted that the passage which occurs in Christian Bibles in Dn. 9:27 is now given various translations but the words “abomination of desolation” were taken from the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament that was used by the gospel writers. Scholars agree that this passage refers to the erection of a statue of Zeus in the Jerusalem Temple that bore the likeness of Antiochus IV. The Messianic Kingdom for the “Holy People” was supposed to arrive when this abomination was removed and the Temple rededicated to the service of the Lord.

          This event did take place in 163 BC and the Jewish state was re-established as a theocracy. But states have limited life expectancies, and internal squabbles with continuing civil wars made the country ungovernable. When the Roman general Pompey arrived on an inspection tour of the Near East responsible citizens appealed to him to bring order to the chaos. Jerusalem’s gates were supposed to have been opened for him but when his emissary arrived he found them locked. One of the warring parties had promised more then it could deliver and Pompey felt betrayed. He captured the city and laid siege to the temple where the rebels had barricaded themselves. Upon its capture Pompey paid a visit, but didn’t take any of its treasures. Nevertheless, Jewish nationhood had ended for the third time.

Although these historical facts are not commonly brought to the attention of the public we should never forget them. In addition, we ought to remember that the original cause of the desecration of the Temple under Epiphanes IV was due to internal Jewish rivalries over the High Priesthood. Furthermore, we must realize that the Temple was not only a religious institution. It served as the central bank for the country and the High Priest was in control of finances. It is, therefore, no wonder that the position was highly desirable, frequently intensely fought, and occasionally killed for. The gospel narrative of Jesus chasing out the “money changers” needs to be seen in this light. It was probably this act more than any others that the Jewish authorities could not tolerate and which sealed his fate.

 The Roman occupiers had, like the Greeks before them, little taste for what may be called Jewish particularism. While they did not interfere with the religion they did not tolerate nationalistic aspirations. This applied also to their puppet King, Herod the Great, who rebuilt the Temple on a grand scale, and vigorously suppressed what we would today call “terrorists” or “freedom fighters,” depending upon which side one supports. His successors were incompetent and the Romans were asked to provide a procurator who would see to it that law and order prevailed again in the country. Augustus complied, but the Jewish petitioners had not carefully considered their request. The old saying: “be careful what you wish for because you just might get it” proved to be true. Some of the procurators cared little for the country and its people and were mainly concerned about enriching themselves during their tour of duty in that undesired posting.

Rebellions again arose which culminated in the Jewish War against Rome (66-73 AD) that was so eloquently reported by Josephus. This book should be a “must read” by every educated person, especially our politicians and current presidential aspirants. Although it is “ancient history,” human behavior has not changed in the intervening millennia and the current powers in Jerusalem seem to be bent on repeating the previous mistakes. Since the book is important in relation to current events I have excerpted the most relevant sections in Whither Zionism? and can be downloaded from this site. The destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. was not necessarily due to Roman malice; it again had been turned into a fortress where the rebels made their last stand. It was another self-inflicted wound.

It does not behoove us to blame the Romans for cruelty and lack of appreciation of cultural values because war is war. I have no doubt that the American forces would have destroyed Rome and the Vatican during WWII if the Germans had defended it to the last soldier instead of declaring it an “open city.” The leaders of Jerusalem’ revolt also had this option in 70 AD. They had previously used it on other occasions, but failed to do so at that time. A large part of the reason was their mental outlook. This is currently not properly appreciated, but highly important.

The rebellion received its spiritual nourishment through a variety of “prophetic” books that in retrospect can be regarded, from a secular perspective, as propaganda tracts. The apocalypse in the book of Daniel, written during Antiochus’ persecutions, was only the first of several other similar “revelations” during the 1st and beginning 2nd century AD; that of St. John was merely the Christian version. Their purpose was to strengthen the faithful during persecutions and thereby, directly or indirectly, create the mental climate for the wished for final result to take place. All of them painted the misery of the Jewish people in dire colors and foresaw a great war of “Good against Evil.” After much suffering and a variety of disasters it would end with the triumph of the “Holy People” and the messianic kingdom would then endure for eternity.

These nationalistic treatises fostered the hope that the Greeks, and thereafter the Romans, could be defeated. But this hope was unrealistic. It led to the disaster in 70 AD as well as the subsequent even worse one of the Bar Cochba revolt (132-136), who was hailed as the Messiah. His rule was short lived and resulted in the total destruction of the country which practically became uninhabitable. This was doomsday for the inhabitants of Judaea, except that the ending profoundly differed from what had been promised. Christians, for whom Jesus was the Messiah, refused to take part in the rebellion which cemented the final split between the two religions.

The St. John apocalypse follows the model of the preceding Jewish ones. It seems to have been written just prior to the Bar Cochba war and apparently refers to the era of Domitian’s persecutions. He did not distinguish between Christians and Jews and the former were merely regarded as a sect of the latter. When he titled himself Dominus et Deus noster - Lord/Master and our god, he became anathema to both Jews and Christians. For Jews the situation was even worse because rumor had it that he was about to repeat Antiochus’ mistake of erecting a statue of himself, under the guise of Zeus, in Jerusalem. This is regarded as having triggered the revolt.

When I first read St. John’s apocalypse, without awareness of the scholarly background that has been related above, I was struck that it consisted of two parts. The first one contains epistles to Christian communities in seven cities of Asia Minor, and the second apocalyptic visions. These conform to Jewish rather than Christian thought patterns. They are full of blood and gore and one meets a vengeful Yahweh rather than Jesus’ loving Father. Subsequent investigations showed that the author is indeed regarded as a Jewish convert who thought in Hebrew/Aramaic. Although the book is written in Greek the author had not properly mastered the language. This is in contrast to the writings of the gospel of John, the Greek of which is regarded as impeccable.

When reading the relevant literature I also noted that the St. John apocalypse bears a striking resemblance to that of Esdras and it seems that this book may have served as the main model. These studies of the origin of biblical writings are highly relevant for our time because our politicians are currently embarked on a course that will indeed lead to a similar disaster as befell the Jewish people nearly two millennia ago but on a much larger scale. The new Romans, the American people, have been yoked to the Israeli wagon under the term of the “Judeo-Christian” faith which demands our defense of Israeli policies regardless how harmful they may actually be, not only to their, but to our country and the world at large.

In the May 1, 2002 issue I described the “Unholy Alliance” between America’s “Evangelicals” and Jewish Zionists which is against our best national interest. We have forgotten George Washington’s admonition to stay away from foreign entanglements. We also have forgotten that the use of religion for political goals, especially nationalistic ones, has always led to catastrophes. Unfortunately, our Evangelicals have fallen victim to the same type of thinking that doomed Jerusalem nearly 2000 years ago. In the current presidential campaign the contenders chase not only after the Jewish but also the Evangelical vote with the latter group frequently acting more Jewish than Jews. There is dissent in Israel, as well as in our Jewish community, about its role towards the Palestinians and the world at large. But that no such thoughts are permitted in our political arena was made clear in the February 24 Republican debate. America must not be an “honest broker” between Jews and Palestinians but has to follow the dictates of the present day Maccabees. Yet, hardly any one of our politicians seems to have read what the Maccabean era was like and my effort to inform them by sending Whither Zionism? to all members of the Foreign Affairs and Armed Services Committees of the House and Senate, was a complete failure. I had spent my money on this venture because I thought that we have a Republic where the voices of citizens are listened to. The intention was to inform them that the unresolved conflict of the state of Israel with the conquered Palestinian people in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza was going to lead to a disaster. There was no reply to all these letters. But about a year and a half later I received a phone call from a senator’s aide who told me that the senator does not accept gifts and asked what he should do with the book: Read it! was my answer.

Most people watching last week’s Republican debate were probably unaware that the statements by four of the presidential aspirants reflected Zionist propaganda rather than facts, although it was proclaimed with great moral conviction. These would-be presidents of our country appeared to be completely ignorant of past history and that they were advocating a course that would lead to a re-enactment of past events. This bodes ill for our country. If as a result of these false policies a global doomsday in form of mushroom clouds were to arrive, our Evangelicals should now know that they would have had a major share in this disaster. The firm belief in the authenticity and applicability to our time of St. John the Divine’s visions is likely to become one of the catalysts for the catastrophe, since it includes the conviction that through these disasters the messianic kingdom will arrive. This is precisely what the Jewish leadership in the years between 66 and 136 expected and that outcome is known. Christians should not repeat this failed experiment. Global doomsday is not fore-ordained as St. John’s revelation wants us to believe. The future is still in our hands and we bear the responsibility for it.

Our Evangelicals, especially politicians, who claim to be “born again Christians,” should think again what the term actually means. A number of those who are in positions of power certainly don’t act according to what Jesus taught. Former President George W. Bush is a prime example. He publicly declared himself a “born again Christian” and refused to listen to the sage advice of his elders, including his father. He told us that he listens to “a higher father.” This could not have been the Father of Jesus because greed (Iraq’s oil) and pride (wiser than his father who limited the Iraq campaign to the liberation of Kuwait) are two of the seven deadly sins. The idea that once you have “received Jesus” you are saved for eternity, is a fruit of pride and should be abandoned. Our capacity to sin remains with us throughout our lives and only ceases at death. The “saving grace of Jesus” should be regarded as potential rather than an accomplished fact. It demands a conduct throughout our entire lives that makes us worthy of it. This is a day to day task rather than a single event of grace when thereafter it’s “business as usual.” Evangelicals, especially their leaders, should take these thoughts to heart, meditate on them, and then, hopefully, change their conduct to one that helps all and hurts none.

I have used the term sin, which may be objected to by non-religious persons, but this objection loses its value when one realizes that the New Testament was written in Greek and hamartánō, that has been translated as sin, means “missing the mark.” It can, therefore, apply to all endeavors that are commonly called misguided or wrong-headed. Jesus’ fundamental message was “Metanoéte, the kingdom of God is at hand.” Metanoéte was translated as “repent,” but it has a wider meaning in the sense of a commandment to “change thinking habits.” When one does so, one also realizes that the Kingdom of God need not be a geographic location somewhere in the universe but is an inner state of peace and contentment. It can then lead to a conduct, in Lincoln’s words, of “malice towards none, with charity for all.”  This is what we should strive for as it may be the only way to avoid the “prophesied” doomsday.

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