The Roman Empire

The Roman Empire

A bloody revolt in Judea brought relative independence to that region for a century (164-63 b.c.), until which time the Jewish government became so weakened by corruption and internecine strife that the Romans stepped in and annexed the area. Thus, all of the NT world came under the dominion of the Roman Empire. Greece and Asia Minor had already been brought under Roman rule during the previous century.

Romans rulers play a significant role in the historical narrative of the NT. They are directly associated with such significant events as Jesus' birth and his crucifixion, the death of James, Paul's arrest and his appeal to Rome.

Two other key influences attributable to the Roman Empire may be mentioned. (1) The legacy of Herod the Great, who ruled Judea and Galilee 37 B.C.-A.D. 4, cannot be overlooked. To him are attributed many building projects, such as the city of Caesarea and most especially the Second Temple. This was the temple of Jesus' day, subsequently destroyed by the Romans in a.d. 70. (2) The spread of Christianity in the first century presumes the Pax Romana and the Roman system of major highways, with the corresponding freedom of citizens like Paul to travel from one region to another within the bounds of the empire.

It must be acknowledged that Rome also represented a threat, first to Judaism and later to Christianity within the first century. (The former is illustrated by the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in a.d. 70; the latter is portrayed dramatically in the final book of the NT.) Thus, the Roman Empire left its mark on the NT in more ways than one.