The Population

The Population of Jerusalem

It is probably very hard to conceive Jerusalem during the time of Jesus without its many Gentile inhabitants. No doubt they were many foreigners performing in the great theater, conducting business in the many marketplaces, organizing the main events in the hippodrome, and serving in Herod's personal court as his bodyguard. After Archelaus was exiled in 6 A.D. the number of foreigners in the city greatly increased with the presence of the Roman army. Yet the city of Jerusalem was almost exclusively Jewish, and if we were to paint a picture of the foreigners we should probably paint them as specialists in various fields. As for the Jews the variety of people was immense for Jews "from every nation under heaven" would gather for the feasts, and many of them actually lived in the city as residents. If we were to walk through the streets of ancient Jerusalem we would find every degree of religion devotion, as well as the great many who were set in their Hellenistic ways and not practicing the keeping of the Law. Jerusalem, nevertheless was a predominantly Jewish city, but it's beautiful character belonged to the fact that is magnificent Temple was not only admired by the local Jews, but actually belonged to every Jew throughout the world. A great portion of religious devotion could only be performed in the Temple at Jerusalem, and the great Jerusalem Council, the "Sanhedrin", was the only central reference point in the entire world for the interpretation of the Torah. It is very interesting and ironic that even this body of rulers should have been called by a Greek name, because "Sanhedrin" is simply a rendering of synedrion, the Greek word for council. This central status of Jerusalem for international Jewry had many financial benefits. Unlike any of the cities in Syria it received annual Temple dues from a large and organized "Dispersion", and unlike other cities, it received an immense cash flow. It is very unlikely that this cash was held in safekeeping within the Temple vaults. The Temple no doubt served as a bank, and put the cash back into circulation by lending, and financing businesses. As a matter of fact, we learned from Josephus that Pontius Pilate caused a disturbance by "spending of the sacred fund called Corbonus on a water supply" (War 2:175). This action provoked a monstrous demonstration against his authority. It is interesting that the complaint was not because he had somehow managed to obtain money given to the Temple authorities, but that he had received money from the wrong fund. Nevertheless, the water supply probably double the population within Jerusalem, from around 35,000 to 70,000, throughout the reign of Herod the Great. It is probably very underestimated just how many non-Jewish admirers had come to Jerusalem as proselytes to worship at the Temple of the One and True God.