Inspired by a friend to further earlier conversation, I donâ€˜t profess this as any great mastery. It's a foundation to continueÂ discussion in a clean Comment section. Feel free to jump in with grounded info and I welcome correction of any materially misstated facts within the article.
Everyoneâ€™s entitled to their own opinion but only legitimately related opinion or questions are welcomed. This is not for contemptuous argument, doctrine bashing or a battle of wits, it's for intelligent discussion and reasonably formed and informed debate.
Reading History's Dates
Just an FYI for anyone who's as confused as I about historical dating. Without going into science and emporer changes that cause todayâ€™s calendar to be inaccurate, this is a simple guide for reading dates:
There is no year O. There is no difference between the acronyms A.D. & CE; or between the acronyms B.C. & BCE, in dating.
B.C. - means â€˜Before Christâ€™ and starts with Year 1
A.D.- means â€˜Anno Dominiâ€™ or â€˜Year of our Lord,â€™ it's the year of Christâ€™s birth, also starting with Year 1. (Commonly referred to as â€˜After Death,â€™ obviously inaccurate.)
CE - a recent term meaning â€˜Common Era,â€™ used in place of A.D.
BCE - a recent term meaning 'Before Common Era,' used in place of B.C.
We can guess how 'common era' changes came about and you're likely just as confused now as you were before if not more, given that 'Year 1' thing. Only politics could so complicate something so simple and early Roman emperors were no exception.
Footnote: In researching this I was astounded by The People's similarities throughout these years, to today (which I've not drawn attention to in this rendition). It's most interesting reading in more detail for those who think they've lost inspiration, see "More Reading" list at the bottom.
Jesus & the Roman Empire
Itâ€™s most widely accepted that Jesus Christ was born 4-6 B.C., two years before the death of the Roman Empireâ€™s Herod the Great. Precise calculations suggest Jesus was born in the month of September or October.
Christianity began in Judea (current day Israel) about 2,000 years ago with the teachings of Jesus and disciples who ultimately followed him. Judea was a cultural mecca of cities and farms. Click the map to enlarge and view the area.
Rome was under its first emperor rule when Jesus taught the â€œnew covenantâ€œ (New Testament). Jesus is known by Christians as the Son of God and of Man, conceived by God with the virgin Mary who married Joseph.
Jews hated Roman rule because it was a pagan reminder of their historical oppression and it violated their Torah (Old Testament) faith. The Romans worshiped a number of gods and superficial idols theyâ€˜d built to those gods. That was in direct conflict with the Jewish faith, which recognized the one and only God of the Bible.
"Torah" refers to the Five [Biblical] Books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. But the word "torah" can also be used to refer to the entire Jewish bible (the body of scripture known to non-Jews as the Old Testament and to Jews as the Tanakh or Written Torah), or in its broadest sense, to the whole body of Jewish law and teachings.
The start of Christianity is recorded in accounts of the New Testament but its history began with Old Testament prophecy. There are over 300 predictions of the coming of a Jewish Messiah that are recorded in the Old Testament, spanning more than 1000 years.
Some Jews saw conforming to the Roman Empire as their only hope. Others became religious zealots developing warlike guerilla resistances against Rome. Still others withdrew into the Judean wilderness to study Jewish law and wait for the coming of their Messiah, or savior, as promised in the Old Testament.Â
Isa 7:14 [OT] Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
Immanuel means "God with us". The Son of God had come to dwell with, or tabernacle on earth with, His people.
John 1:14 [NT] And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father) full of grace and truth.
Jesus was a Jew. He observed Jewish faith and was well studied in its law. A lowly carpenter by trade, in his early thirties Jesus traveled between villages teaching in synagogues, healing people and performing miracles, news of which traveled swiftly. He challenged established religious leaders to repent from their self-righteous and hypocritical ways and to realize that the Kingdom of God is rooted in service and love.
Jesus taught during Roman rule of Augustus, its first emperor from 27 BC through 14 AD. Jesus urged purification of the Jewish religion with a moral code of love, charity and humility. His teachings stirred the hearts of people and His healings grew in influence and ever-increasingly high demand as word of His news spread.
This created an instability that Jewish authorities feared. Faithful men, known as disciples, followed Him. Jesus taught them about the â€œnew covenantâ€ that God was bringing to humanity because men had fallen into so much sin theyâ€™d lost the direct relationship with God they'd had in Old Testament days.
Jesus was put to death about 30 AD. His followers believed he rose three days later, proving that He was the Son of God. The Christian faith, unlike any other religion, hinges on historical events. An example includes eye-witness accounts as evidenced by Paul in I Corinthians 15:3-6.
â€œFor I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that He was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, He was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.â€
Manuscript studies point to this scripture being written within a few years after Christâ€™s death. Paul, born Greek, ends this passage with â€œmost of whom are still living,â€ inviting people to confirm the facts for themselves. He wouldnâ€™t have if he was trying to perpetrate a myth or fraud. It is the historical validity that gives Christians their belief and a genuine and eternal hope.
The Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was â€œembroiled in mythâ€ with archeological traces of early settlements dating back to 750 BC. The myths are based on both fiction and history in stories passed down through the years.
Every Roman god served a purpose and had an office to fill. There were â€œdivisions of laborâ€ between them, some presiding over births; some over bakers and some over the bakersâ€™ ovens. Every vocation and household function had presiding gods and goddesses.
The rise of Christianity in the Roman Empire caused people to start questioning what they thought they knew. By 392 AD, Christianity was the official religion. As it spread Christianity connected with larger themes in Roman history.
Christianity comforted social grievances in an empire marked by inequality, especially among the poor. Slaves, dispossessed farmers and impoverished city dwellers found hope in a religion that encouraged a goodness of morals and after-life rewards for living morally.
The Christian faith answered cultural needs that Roman values, which stressed political goals and ethics about living in the world, did not. It also brought political benefits to the Romans as their empire grew and consolidated. The new faith was seen as universal, open to all, whether people followed the Jewish faith or not.
Belief in Jesus spread among Jewish communities in the MiddleÂ East, the Roman Empire and beyond. When His disciples realized that He was not returning to earth to set up the Kingdom of God, they fanned out to spread the news, particularly around the easter Mediterranean area.
The predominant language of the day was Greek. Paulâ€™s Greco-Roman culture helped to explain Christian beliefs in Greece and Italy as well as in the Middle East. Paul essentially created Christian theology as a set of intellectual principles; and some speculate that he emphasized womenâ€™s more subordinate role to men and the dangers of sexuality in the books of the New Testament.
By the 4th Century AD Christian writings were the only creative cultural expression of the Roman Empire. Theologians sought to explain issues brought up by the new religion; and to relate it to ethics and Greek philosophy. Just as the Roman Empire was in decline Christianity produced complex thought and elegant language, redirecting its culture and preserving earlier literary and philosophical achievements.
Christianity goes well beyond Rome and had more to do with opening a new era of history of the Mediterranean region than shaping the Roman Empire.
Todayâ€™s Conflicts between the Middle East and Israel & The West
In the Bibleâ€™s Old Testament book of Genesis, chapter 17, God promised Abraham that he would become â€œthe father of many nations.â€ Many today arenâ€™t familiar with the divisions hinged on that promise.
Abrahamâ€™s wife, Sarah, could not bear children so she gave to her husband her Egyptian maiden, Hagar. Hagar birthed Abrahamâ€™s son, Ishmael. Many years later Sarah gave Abraham a son named Isaac (described in the scripture below).
When dissention in the houshold grew, Hagar returned with her son to her homeland of Egpyt. By then Abraham and Sarah had located to Cannan (Israel), where they remained. Today Sarahâ€™s descendants are Christian and Hagarâ€™s are Muslim. Indeed Abraham was â€œthe father of many nations.â€
Genesis 17 (OT, KJV excerpted): And when Abram was ninety years old and nine the LORD appeared and said, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect and I will make my covenant between me and thee and will multiply thee exceedingly and thou shalt be a father of many nations. Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee.
And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee and I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.
And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house [and] which is not of thy seed. And God said unto Abraham, as for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be. And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her.
Then Abraham fell upon his face and laughed and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear? Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him.
And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation. But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year. And he left off talking with him.Â
Coming: What was Constantine the Greatâ€™s role in Christianity?
"From the time of Constantine onward, the worship of the Roman Catholic Church, in its forms and ceremonies, has been more clearly identified with the paganism of Ancient Rome, than with the religion of the New Testament. The customs of pagan religion were only baptized with Christian names."
Â -Paganism Surviving in Christianity By Abram Herbert Lewis "The Control of Christianity by the State Under Constantine and his Successors," Chapter X; pg. 210
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