The Roman Empire - In The First Century
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A short life and brutal death was enough to ensure that Jesus’ message of hope and everlasting life would spread across Judaea, across the Empire and ultimately, across the world.

One of the farthest corners of the Roman Empire, Judaea was a land of ancient traditions and religious fervor. Decades of Roman rule were causing ever more resentment.

Descent into chaos

Jesus was born to a family from a village called Nazareth, near the Sea of Galilee. As he was growing up, Judaea was collapsing into chaos. Its population had split into hostile groups. Preachers and prophets roamed the countryside, drawing enormous, passionate crowds.

At the age of thirty, Jesus joined one of these groups and was baptized in the Jordan River. Shortly afterwards, he began a ministry of his own. Like many other preachers, he traveled around Judaea, taking his message to the homes and synagogues of some of his country’s poorest people.

A new message

This message announced that there was a kingdom greater than Rome, that God would provide and that the poorest members of society would find relief and hope. It was a completely new message – one which excited his audiences.

Although his message was proving popular, the claim of his disciples that Jesus was the son of God offended many people. What’s more, his ideas were revolutionary and threatened to undermine thousands of years of social tradition.

Trouble in Jerusalem

In around 33 AD, Jesus traveled to the city of Jerusalem for the Jewish ceremony of Passover. There were thousands of pilgrims from around the world and the temple provided services for them to change their foreign money or buy animals to sacrifice.

Jesus was furious. He believed that trade like this corrupted the holy site. According to the Gospel of St John, he wrecked the stalls of the moneylenders and drove them all out of the temple.

Criminal or martyr?

This outburst enraged religious leaders and threatened to destroy the fragile peace imposed by Rome. Jesus was arrested on a charge of treason and was crucified, a common form of execution for condemned criminals. To the Romans, Jesus was a troublemaker who had got his just desserts.

To the Christians, however, he was a martyr and it was soon clear that the execution had made Judaea even more unstable. Pontius Pilate – the Roman governor of Judaea and the man who ordered the crucifixion – was ordered home in disgrace. By executing Jesus, the Romans had kick-started a brand new religion that, in time, would spread across Rome and, eventually, the world.

Where to next:
Religion in Ancient Rome – Early Christians
Religion in Ancient Rome – Paul
Enemies and Rebels - Josephus & Judea

Related Links:

Paul   Paul
Religion   Religion
The Roman Empire

Republic to Empire

Age of Augustus

Years of Trial

Empire Reborn


Social Order

Life in Roman Times


Enemies and Rebels

- Mythology
- Roman Gods
- Worship
- Jews in Roman Times
- Early Christians
- Augustus
- Philo
- Paul
- Jesus

The Roman Empire - In The First Century