The nations that controlled the nation of Israel prior to and during the writing of the New Testament affected the political and cultural climate in which it was written. The influence of the Greek religion and the relationship between Jews and Gentiles is an underlying theme throughout the New Testament. Roman rule in Israel and the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in a.d. 70 are significant to both Judaism and Christianity. The four main groups in Judaism were the Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, and Zealots.
NT Survey—Historical & Religious Background for NT
No Separation of Church and State in the Ancient World
Old Testament period ended with Malachi approximately 425 BC
Malachi was written through Persian occupation
Persian rule after Alexander The Great conquered the Eastern world in 331 BC
Alexander died 8 years later North and South Kingdom of Israel divided between Tolome and Seleucus.
Greek rule brought Greek culture, religion and language
Jews of the day spoke mainly Aramaic (similar to Hebrew) Hebrew and some spoke Greek.
Roman Empire still kept Greek Language and culture in place due to its unifying effect
Greek Religion posed conflict with Judaism which increased between 330-160 BC
Increasing demands from Seleucid empire to cease exclusive Jewish religious practices and adopt Greek practices
These demands led to guerrilla warfare led by Judas Maccabeus who fought a war of independence from 167-164 BC which eventually led to the total independence from Seleucid power and influence by 142 BC.
This independence lasted almost 100 years being referred to as the Hasmonean dynasty
64 BC saw a large conservative backlash against Greek customs
This freedom won is celebrated by the Hanukah
A result of the conservative backlash was a deepening enmity of those considered Gentile
Rome conquers Jerusalem under Emperor Pompeii in 63 BC Roman rule continued until the 5th century AD
Up until the mid 60’s AD the fact that there was Roman rule was more of a benefit than a negative for the church.
The retention of Greek as a common language meant that there was no need to translate the Scriptures
Roman transportation was state of the art
The Jews were granted self-government which means the Jews (and by extension the church [seen as a Jewish sect]) where exempt from the obligations of Emperor worship.
Pax Romana—Roman legal system had proved to be advantageous to the church on more than one occasion.
AD 64 under Nero Rome was more of a negative than a positive
70 AD was the date of the crushing of the rebellion of the Jewish people, who where forced into exile, it was also the time that the church was no longer recognised as a Jewish sect and not privy to the priviliges the Jews enjoyed.
Graeco Roman World: Types Of Beliefs
Classical Mythology: Greek Gods etc diminishing in the first century because of scientific research into before inexplicable phenomena.
Emperor Worship: The belief of the Emperor’s deity
Mystery Religions: Small elitist religions that members became thus through initiation (today’s version skull and bones
Philosophy: consisting of Epicurians, Stoics, Cynics. Members usually upper class, so very elitist.
Gnostics: Belief that anything material was inherently evil and only spirit good. Ignored the concept of bodily resurrection from the dead. Held a belief that there was a divine spark in every human being that must be fanned into flame through secret knowledge.
Jewish Religious Leaders
Pharisees: knew the law of Moses, tended to self righteousness, Interpreted the Law for the people. Their worship model used by early church.
Sadducees: Believed the opposite of the Pharisees. Denied life after death making it easier for them to compromise with any current political leaders. Group died out after 70 AD
Essenes: where the aesthetics of ancient Israel, they look for 2 Messiahs one Kingly and one Priestly, they believed that the answers to the woes of Israel was simply to keep the law better than any one had before
80%-90% of people where the common people, not belonging to any Religious affiliation, it is of these people that the early church mainly consisted.
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