The Christian church was born in a world that was already old. Great empires such as Egypt, Babylon, Assyria, Persia and Greece had risen and fallen. The church was born in the Roman Empire, the greatest of the ancient empires that governed the civilized world. It was almost exclusively in that empire that the Christian church lived the first five centuries of its life.
The roots of the Christian church reach back deeply into the history and religion of Israel. Jesus said, “Salvation is for the Jews” (John 4: 22, Gal 3: 29). The earliest church was wholly Jewish, her saviour was a Jew and Jews probably wrote the entire NT. A brief note of Israel’s history is necessary here.
David founded the Kingdom of Israel around 1090BC. He reigned until about 960 BC. At the death of Solomon his son around 930 BC the kingdom split into two because of the rebellion of Jeroboam (1Kings 11: 26). The northern part called Israel, was taken into Assyrian exile in 721 BC while the southern part called Judah was taken into Babylon exile in 586 BC. In 539 BC Cyprus king of Persia conquered Babylon and allowed any exile who wished to return to Jerusalem to do so. These returnees in time rebuilt the wall of Jerusalem and the temple (Nehemiah 7:1). Ezra led a second set of the returnees and he re-instituted Israel’s observance of the Torah, Israel’s Law (Nehemiah 8). The Pharisees grew out of this movement. Around 334 BC Alexander of Macedonia conquered Greece. When he died in 323 BC his generals divided the empire among themselves. Egypt and Palestine came under the authority of Ptolemy. In 198 BC Palestine came under the authority of the descendants of Seleucid.
The Ptolemy Kings had permitted the Jews to practice their religion but the Seleucid pressed them to surrender their religion. An aged priest named Matthias and his four sons led a rebellion. Of these, Judah was the leader and together they are called the Maccabees i.e. men who fight violently. The Seleucid was subdued in 141 BC and Israel became independent again. In 63 BC, civil war in Palestine gave occasion to Rome to establish her authority there; therefore Israel’s rulers were appointed by Rome. In 37 BC, Herod the Great, during whose reign Jesus Christ was born, became the King with Rome’s approval. After his death, the kingdom was divided among his three sons:-Archelaus, Herod Antipas and Philip. Herod Antipas was the one who killed John the Baptist (Mat 14: 1). In 6 AD Archelaus was deposed and sent to exile, his area became a Roman province and ruled by Procurators. From AD 26 to 36 the procurator of Judea was a Roman named Pontus Pilate.
– gabriel ajibade