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Quick Intro to the Bible

Quick Intro to the Bible

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How the Course of History

Paved the Way for the Acceptance and Spread

of the Gospel


Political Progression


The Greeks were great traders, and because the Greek language had become almost universal, this part of the scene was now set for the early Christians to take the Gospel out to the world.  There was no language barrier – no need to learn new languages and no need for translation. 


During the time of the Greek Ptolemys, the Scriptures were translated (in Egypt) from Hebrew to Greek (The Septuagint).


The Greeks were also great scholars, and the spread of Greek philosophy provided clear thinking strategies which later enabled people to understand the Gospel, and relate it to the Old Testament Law.  Its clear logic also helped, in the formulation of creeds and concise statements of faith, at a time when heresy would later challenge and threaten true belief.



The Romans were great organisers who built an excellent and extensive road system linking the whole Roman world.  They also organised a shipping system that served to link up many countries.  The ‘Pax Romana’ (Roman Peace) provided a unifying effect on the world, and provided the safety needed for the early Christians to travel about and take the Gospel out to the rest of the world.  Hence, a bit more of the scene was set for the spread of the Gospel.



Over the years, many of the Jews had become dispersed throughout the world.  This became known as the Diaspora (see the Schematic Diagram).  It meant there was a synagogue in most sizeable towns and many of these later provided starting places for the spread of the Gospel.  Even though some synagogues produced opposition, there were always many ‘God-fearers’ in the area who would not reject the Good News (There are examples of this recorded in the Bible.  See Acts 14:1-3 & Acts 17:1-4).  Again, we see how the scene is set for the spread of the Gospel.



Religious Progression


The Greeks worshipped a multitude of different gods, with a style of worship that was formal and empty, and many people turned to ‘mystery’ religions that were secret and exclusive.  As well as worshipping their multiplicity of gods, the Greeks also highly revered the form of the naked body.  This was strongly reflected in their painting and sculpture; also in the encouragement of nakedness during games and athletics in the arena.  (But this enthusiastic reverence for the naked body was an abhorrence in Jewish religion and culture.)  Some of the Greek philosophies almost became religions (ie the Epicureans who lived purely for the pleasure of life, and the Stoics who tried to live above life’s circumstances).  But none led to any deep satisfaction.



The Romans, too, had a multitude of different gods but also took on, and renamed, many of the Greek gods.  Added to this, each Roman family worshipped its own special ‘spirit god’ (these ‘spirit gods’ were called ‘lares’, ‘penates’ and ‘manes’).  Later, Emperor-worship was introduced – first in Rome, and was later enforced almost everywhere. But because the Emperors were cruel, ruthless, tyrannical, corrupt, and displayed open sexual laxity, paying homage to them became empty, and led to cynicism and a growing dissatisfaction.



The Jewish people had gradually become divided, and the divisions were deepening.  Groups and factions had formed (see the Schematic Diagram).

  • Hellenists were Jews who saw themselves as ‘modern’ or ‘progressive’, and who accepted much of the Greek philosophy and culture.
  • Hasidim (= ‘Pious Ones’) were originally a group of Jews who had strongly resisted the Greek culture that was being imposed on Jewish life, and many of them joined the Maccabean revolt against the Greek rulers.  This group later split into two, and became the sects of the Pharisees and the Essenes.
  • Pharisees (= ‘Separated Ones’) were originally part of the Hasidim group.  They were not priests, but they studied the Law, and considered their interpretation of it to be the only correct one.  They gradually added impossibly strict extensions to all the laws, and imposed these on the people.
  • Sadducees came from priestly families.  They rejected the Pharisees’ extensions to the Law, and also rejected the idea of resurrection.  They put great emphasis on Temple ritual, and used their priestly influence for political manipulation and gain.
  • Zealots were passionately nationalistic, and were constantly pushing to use guerrilla-style force to overthrow the Romans in order to try to establish God’s kingdom.
  • Essenes were a very exclusive sect.  They were originally part of the Hasidim group who were opposed to the influence of Greek culture on their Jewish religion.  They were also opposed to the corrupt Hasmonean priest-kings.  They were opposed to laxity in keeping God’s laws, but imposed even stricter rules than the Pharisees!  Disgruntled with everything, they eventually formed their own monastic-style communities in the desert.


The Jewish people had for many years, been deeply resentful of living under constant occupation, and their resentfulness had become deeper still with the superior attitude of the Romans.  Added to this, they were now becoming restless and discontented with their own religious life.  They had little or no respect for their own leaders.  Pilate was cruel and unpopular.  The Herods were suspicious murderers.  Caiaphas was a scheming and unscrupulous high priest.  Many of the Pharisees were hypocrites who scorned and despised the people.


And so, it was into this climate of religious confusion and growing disillusionment that Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, brought in his teaching of Light, Life, Joy and Peace.  Despite the fact that most of the pious religious leaders refused to recognise him, his early groups of disciples, who saw the implications of Jesus’ life and teachings, realised that the Old Testament Scriptures were encapsulated in this Man.  A ‘King’ had indeed entered our world, and he was not about to rule by force and fear, but by love and respect in the hearts of all who would follow. 


The Old Testament had been completed 470 years previously, and there had been no prophets since Malachi.  The Law had been given, and it had now been studied and meditated upon in the Temple and in Synagogues.  But by now, man-made rules had gradually been added to it, and traditions were being formed that did not really honour God.  The original Law had been excellent, and would have worked well if it had been kept, but because man is basically sinful, he did not keep the Law properly.  The result was that, the Law had become a mirror that showed up man’s short-comings (Galatians 3:19).  The Law had served as a custodian of God’s people, during their preparation for Christ (Galatians 3:23-24), and the details of the Law were a preparation, until Christ came and showed that the basic essence of the Law was to love God, and to love one’s neighbour.


In God’s perfect timing, the way was now open for the Gospel of Jesus Christ to be accepted by many, and taken throughout the world.




Schematic Diagram

Intertestamental Times

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Back to overview of the

New Testament

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(Literature form the time)

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