Christianity Through The Ages
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Throughout the spring semester, we have studied multiple empires and periods of time in the ancient world. Finally, we reached the point in time where historically Jesus was born, ministered, and was brutally killed. Although he was gone (in Heaven) the gospel was not. But what caused for there to be the right means in which the Messiah would come, minister, die, and for the gospel to spread? We must go back to the conquests of Alexander the Great and begin to review just how the right conditions came about. The way everything came in order for each of these developed much through the conquest of Alexander the Great, the Hellenistic era which followed that, and lastly, the Roman Empire. The Conquests of Alexander the Great have earned him the reputation of being one of the most successful and well known generals the world has ever seen which greatly contributed to the spread of the gospel and all that took place during the life of Jesus throughout the known parts of the world.
There were several reasons that his conquest’s proved to be useful in the rise of Christianity. At a very young age he had begun to He conquered more territory than had been seen in history up to that point. But what was land without the unification of it? Uprisings and rebellions amongst the people certainly wanted to be avoided especially since they had just been overtaken. So, Alexander unified them. This was key. The countries and regions that he had conquered were hellenized meaning that they were in a sense, made Greek. Much of the Greek culture spread throughout the new land, such as the very important aspects that were religion and language. A wide use of the same language enabled for better communication especially since there was such a variety of people groups under the same rule. Alexander’s established rule was initiated among the Eastern half of the Meditteranean including Greece, what was left of the mighty Persian empire, and stretching to various parts of the Middle East, along with Egypt eventually. Throughout the empire Alexandria became one of the more well known cities and over time it functioned as an epicenter for theological thought.
It also contained a large port for trade and trade largely connected many of the more important cities. The trade between them also caused for there to be a greater spread of the current events, news, and new ideas. All of these things that arose under Alexander’s rule helped for the right conditions to come about and become a base for what was going to happen later. In addition to the conquests of Alexander, while studying the Hellenistic era in the ancient world, there were many things that paved the road in order for the conditions to be right for the spread of the Gospel and all Jesus brought. Surprisingly, Alexander the Great had passed away at a pretty young age and this left what he was ruling with no ruler. The land he had conquered was split into four main kingdoms with the Ptolemaic and Seleucid empires being the most powerful. There were now violent transfers of power and both the Ptolemaic and Seleucid empires shared a border near Israel and Syria so they fought. Many years of fighting were shared between them and finally the Jewish revolted while under the corrupt Antiochus the fourth.
Antiochus completely disrespected and mistreated the Jews because he wished for Judaism to be wiped out and everything Greek to be put in its place. The Jewish were led mostly by Judah Macabbee in their uprising and that brought forth the name the Maccabean Revolt. The Jews showed their true power during this revolt and were in the winners. Because of what had occurred during the fighting the Jews came to some pretty important realizations and changes. After their victory, they saw that unification brought power and they were very confident and enjoying their freedom. As a unified people now they turned their attention back towards the Torah and reconnected with their religion (some had begun to drift because of Hellenization). This community was once again a nation who saw themselves as having a unique faith. Another realization that the Jews had was that it was their responsibility to protect themselves along with their religion, culture, and independence. They established some political figures known as the Pharisees and Saduccees.
The very fervent Pharisees, who play an important role during the time of Jesus, multiply and they believe in eternal life, unlike the Sadducees. Because of the people’s renewed faiths in God they now were expecting a Messiah to arrive. However, they expect this Messiah to bring political freedom and freedom from oppression. They expect a Messiah, who much like a warrior king, would establish a kingdom on this earth and accomplish what the Jews expected. All in all, the results of the changes in Jewish community helped make ready for the coming and life of the Messiah as well as his legacy (the Gospel). Lastly, certain developments during the time of the Roman empire allowed for there to be the correct circumstances for all that was to come. The time of Alexander the Great had passed and now the force to be reckoned with was the Roman Empire. All of the known world was theirs and throughout that land there was a lot of new transformations and infrastructure. The new reforms were spread out even to the client kingdoms. The tolerant Roman empire allowed for some of the client kingdoms to stay true to their religions and culture; even allowing some of the original leaders to remain in power.
One of these client kingdoms whose customs were respected was Judea. Within the client kingdoms there was extended citizenship and the most important piece of infrastructure was the famous Roman Roads. These were built out of many layers that were well put together and stretched inside the vast empire. Sure, they were exceptional roads but, what they brought was incredibly valuable to Rome and greatly impacted the spread of the Gospel. Because Rome was so dominant and powerful at the time the Pax Romana arose. This created safer means of travel which allowed for the amount of travel to increase. The travelers not only helped increase the trade but, since there was now a common language (Latin in the east and Greek in the west) communication between the people was now heightened. The people were not limited to trade but also could spread news, ideas, and overall just interact more. Also within the trade world there was now a common currency and more movement of people and items that were traded.
However, during this time, 95% of the population was Plebeian meaning the vast majority was poor. This was important because now they thought the expected Messiah would be able to deliver them from oppression and as Christianity spread it would be very prevalent in society. In the later years of Rome, the mighty empire began to weaken which in some ways benefited the church. Heresy had made for there to be a more structured church and organized community. When life around the Romans seemed to be falling apart, they could find the firm foundation they needed with the church. The church’s strong leadership and structure came at the right time. The church could even preserve some of the Roman culture such as law. Even within the mighty Roman Empire, the transformations and all that benefited Rome considerably assisted the settings for the Gospel to spread and for Jesus to come, teach, and pay the ultimate price for us.
From the conquests of Alexander the Great, to the time period of Hellenization, to the greatest empire the world has ever seen, it can clearly be seen that these all set the stage for what was to come. It would forever change the world and more; past present, and future. The Gospel. The Messiah and his ministries and death. After studying and looking at all three of these eras in ancient history, it is clear how there became means for the gospel to spread. God had a plan, just like he has always and will always have. From the Maccabean Revolt to the persecution of the church it all happened for a reason. We can look at the results of how the gospel spread. I mean we have access to the Gospel now partially because of even the little things that happened back then. It shows just how incredible the way God works is and more. “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”