What is the significance of the Roman Empire in biblical history? (2023)

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Question

What is the significance of the Roman Empire in biblical history? (1)

(Video) Roman Empire and Christianity | World History | Khan Academy

Answer

The Roman Empire was the human political entity that God used to prepare the world for the birth of the Messiah and for the spread of the gospel.

At the end of the Old Testament, Israel had returned from exile, Jerusalem had been rebuilt, and the temple had been reconstructed and was functioning again. The world power was the Median (or Medo-Persian) Empire. In the 400 years between the testaments, the Greek Empire rose to prominence under Alexander and then splintered upon his death. Israel was persecuted by the Seleucids, one of the splinter kingdoms of the Greek Empire based in Syria. The Seleucid ruler, Antiochus IV Epiphanes (“manifest god”) was especially brutal. He enforced Hellenization of the Jews and profaned the temple. His actions led to the Maccabean revolt in which Israel expelled the Greeks and gained their independence.

During the time of revolt, the Maccabees were supported by the up-and-coming Romans (1 Maccabees 8; 15:15–24). As the power of Rome grew, it became an empire and swallowed up Israel/Palestine. The Jews were allowed to maintain their religious practices as long as they did not make trouble for Rome. Rome placed a series of puppet kings (the Herod family) and military governors (e.g., Pilate, Felix, Festus) over various provinces of Palestine.

Although Scripture prophesied centuries before that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), Mary and Joseph were firmly established in Nazareth of Galilee (Luke 1:26). The Roman Empire moved them to the city where Christ was to be born. A decree of the Roman Emperor Augustus (Octavian) mandated that all should return to their home for registration so “So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child” (Luke 2:4–5). God used the decree of a pagan emperor to move Mary and Joseph into the place that had been prophesied. Certainly, Mary and Joseph could have chosen to go to Bethlehem on their own in order to fulfill the prophecy; however, the Roman emperor’s decree that set everything in motion demonstrated that Mary and Joseph did not manipulate events to “set up their son” as a potential Messiah.

One of the priorities of the Roman Empire (perhaps the main priority) was peace, which it accomplished with an iron hand. The Pax Romana (“peace of Rome”) guaranteed that people could live and travel within the Roman Empire in relative safety. Roads were constructed that made travel much easier, and a common language broke down communication barriers among various ethnic groups and provided something of a common culture. The apostle Paul traveled all over the Roman Empire on Roman roads and shared the gospel with diverse groups of Gentiles in the common Greek language. (The common trade language of the Roman Empire was Greek and was not replaced with Latin for several centuries.) Paul’s Roman citizenship allowed him to move about the empire more freely and provided him with an additional measure of protection (see Acts 22:22–29). Not only Paul, but many Christians spread out all over the Roman Empire, taking the gospel with them.

(Video) Ancient Rome & The Bible

It is commonly accepted that Rome was the primary persecutor of the church in the first century, but an examination of the evidence in the New Testament does not bear this out. Widespread persecution by the Romans did not occur until the time of Nero (the late 60s) and later emperors. The observable pattern in the New Testament is that Rome cared very little about Christians and only took action against them at the instigation of the Jewish authorities (see Acts 22:30). Rome often attempted to placate the Jewish authorities to keep the peace. The Roman governor Pilate wanted to release Jesus, but the Jewish authorities demanded His execution (Matthew 27:15–23). Likewise, Paul was most often opposed by his own countrymen who either took things into their own hands, stirred up the pagan populace, or appealed to the Roman authorities for help. This happened at Thessalonica (Acts 17:1–9) and at Corinth (Acts 18:12–17). The one time when Paul was arrested by the Roman authorities, he used his status as a Roman citizen to gain an apology upon his release (Acts 16:35–40).

When Paul was spotted in the Jerusalem temple, it was his countrymen who attacked him and the Roman authorities who arrested/rescued him (Acts 21:27–36). The Roman governor saved Paul from a plot by the Jews to kill him (Acts 23). Both Felix and Festus, Roman governors, are presented as being sympathetic to Paul but unwilling to release him because it would anger the Jewish leadership (Acts 24–26.) Ultimately, Paul appealed to Caesar, for he knew he could not get a fair trial in Jerusalem. In the final analysis, the Roman governor Festus and the Roman puppet king Agrippa agreed: “This man is doing nothing to deserve death or imprisonment” (Acts 26:21).

The Roman authorities demanded absolute allegiance to Rome first and foremost. Because of the Jews’ longstanding “tradition” of monotheism, they were exempted from offering sacrifices to the emperor. Initially, Christians were considered members of a sect of Judaism and were given the same exemption. However, Jews began to more forcefully distance themselves from Christians, and Rome started to take a harder look at Christians. By the second century, Christians were persecuted as enemies of the state because of their refusal to honor the emperor as a deity. However, this persecution is not evident within the pages of the New Testament.

In AD 70, the Roman general Titus (son of Emperor Vespasian) laid waste to Jerusalem and destroyed the temple in fulfillment of Jesus’ pronouncement in Luke 21:6.

Three Roman emperors are mentioned by name in the New Testament. Augustus, already mentioned above in connection with the census that moved Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem for Jesus’ birth. Tiberius, who was emperor when John the Baptist started his public ministry (Luke 3:1). And Claudius is mentioned as the emperor who expelled all Jews from Rome (Acts 18:1). The Roman historian Seutonius is his work The Lives of the Twelve Caesars says that the expulsion was the result of Jewish disputes over someone called Chrestus. Many scholars believe that this may be a reference to Christ. Most Roman authorities were uninterested and uninformed with the particulars of Jewish disputes (see Acts 25:18–20), so it is understandable that they might get the name wrong. Within a few years, the Jews had returned to Rome.

In summary, the Roman Empire had a tremendous impact in the circumstances regarding Jesus’ birth and crucifixion, and unintentionally provided the necessary infrastructure to allow the apostles to spread the gospel throughout the Mediterranean world.

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Miscellaneous Bible Questions

What is the significance of the Roman Empire in biblical history?

FAQs

What was the significance of the Roman Empire? ›

A people known for their military, political, and social institutions, the ancient Romans conquered vast amounts of land in Europe and northern Africa, built roads and aqueducts, and spread Latin, their language, far and wide.

How did the Roman Empire become so significant? ›

Rome became the most powerful state in the world by the first century BCE through a combination of military power, political flexibility, economic expansion, and more than a bit of good luck. This expansion changed the Mediterranean world and also changed Rome itself.

What did Jesus say about the Roman Empire? ›

Earlier Jesus told his listeners, “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's; and to God the things that are God's.” —Matthew 22:21 (NASB). Jesus was clearly teaching obedience to the Roman laws and also to obey God's laws.

What is the Romans about in the Bible? ›

Romans explains how faith in Jesus justifies all people and creates a unified, multiethnic family and a path to righteousness. Romans explains how faith in Jesus justifies all people and creates a unified, multiethnic family and a path to righteousness.

What was the most important contribution of the Roman Empire? ›

The Lasting Contributions of Rome. The Romans invented cement, which was stronger than stone and designed huge arches and domes with it. They also used concrete to build more than 50,000 miles of roads. This helped unify the empire.

How did the Roman Empire help spread Christianity? ›

Its spread was greatly aided by the empire's political unification and extensive road system, as well as the belief among many Christians that the religion was something anyone could adopt, regardless of regional or religious background.

What was the most important reason for the Roman Empire's success and why? ›

The Roman Empire was so successful because of roman dominance in warfare and the stable structure of politics. The empire was impressive because the Romans were very practical and well organized people, they were ambitious and aggressive in obtaining anything the Romans craved.

What was the religion of the Roman Empire before Christianity? ›

The Roman Empire was primarily a polytheistic civilization, which meant that people recognized and worshiped multiple gods and goddess. The main god and goddesses in Roman culture were Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva.

Why was Jesus a threat to the Roman Empire? ›

From the point of view of Rome's immediate security needs, Pilate had Jesus crucified for a justifiable reason: He was a security risk. Pilate was acting in Rome's self-interest. In the context of the first century occupation of Palestine, this meant nipping any revolutionary action in the bud.

Who was the Roman that believed in Jesus? ›

Christian legend has it that Longinus was a blind Roman centurion who thrust the spear into Christ's side at the crucifixion. Some of Jesus's blood fell upon his eyes and he was healed. Upon this miracle Longinus believed in Jesus.

Who was Roman emperor during Jesus? ›

According to the Gospels, Jesus of Nazareth preached and was executed during the reign of Tiberius, by the authority of Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judaea province.

Who was Romans written to in the Bible? ›

The epistle was addressed to the Christian church at Rome, whose congregation Paul hoped to visit for the first time on his way to Spain.

Who made Romans in the Bible? ›

Who wrote this book? The Apostle Paul is the author of the Epistle to the Romans (see Romans 1:1). In writing this epistle, Paul used the assistance of a scribe, Tertius, who wrote his own greeting to the Roman Saints near the conclusion of the epistle (see Romans 16:22).

Who created Romans in the Bible? ›

The book of Romans was written by the apostle Paul in approximately 57-58 C.E. as a letter, or epistle, to the church in Rome.

What are 3 contributions of the Roman Empire? ›

10 inventions to thank the Roman Empire for
  • Cement. When you visit Rome, you'll see some stunning and impressive ancient structures still standing in some shape or form. ...
  • The Aqueduct. ...
  • Sanitation. ...
  • Roads. ...
  • Social care and welfare. ...
  • Julian Calendar. ...
  • Elements of surgery. ...
  • Elements of the modern legal system.
16 May 2017

What did the Roman Empire give us? ›

From military structures such as forts and walls (including the spectacular Hadrian's Wall) to engineering feats such as baths and aqueducts, the most obvious impact of the Romans that can still be seen today is their buildings. Most buildings in Iron Age Britain were made of timber and were often round in form.

What was the most important part of Roman society? ›

The most important division within Roman society was between patricians, a small elite who monopolized political power, and plebeians, who comprised the majority of Roman society.

Why is Rome important to Christianity? ›

Rome is an important place of pilgrimage, particularly for Catholics, because that is where the Pope resides in the Vatican . Catholics believe that Jesus appointed Peter as the leader of his disciples . Tradition says that after Pentecost and time spent in Jerusalem, Peter went to Rome and became the first ever Pope.

What was the major impact of Christianity on the Roman Empire? ›

Christianity affected the rulers of Rome, it went against the rule of Rome saying that you must worship the Roman gods and emperors, and it caused many people to suffer and parish. Once Roman emperors and rulers found out about Christianity, they were enraged. Emperors like Nero had strong feelings against Christians.

Why is ancient Rome important to us today? ›

Elements of ancient Rome exist in our daily lives and are visible throughout our modern infrastructure, government, and culture. Similar to our modern world, the Romans held cultural events, built and stocked libraries, and provided health care.

Was Christianity changed by the Roman Empire? ›

In 313 C.E., Roman emperor Constantine the Great ended all persecution and declared toleration for Christianity. Later that century, Christianity became the official state religion of the Empire. This drastic change in policy spread this relatively new religion to every corner of the Empire.

Did Christianity originate in the Roman Empire? ›

Christianity began as a Second Temple Judaic sect in the 1st century in the Roman province of Judea, from where it spread throughout and beyond the Roman Empire.

Did Christianity Cause the fall of the Roman Empire? ›

So no, the rise of Christianity was not the sole cause of the fall of the western half of the Roman Empire but may have played a role in the larger picture. However, although Rome fell in 476 CE, that was not the end of the Roman Empire. In 395 CE, the Empire had been split for the last time in two.

What was 3 reasons for the downfall of the Roman Empire? ›

Instead many historians point to a number of different problems combined that brought about the fall of the Roman Empire. There were 3 main reasons for the fall of Rome which are: political instability, economic and social problems, and finally a weakening of the frontier or border.

What was the biggest threat to the Roman Empire? ›

The ancient Greeks and Romans had many enemies. Yet one of their greatest, most enduring foes were the nomadic Scythians.

What did the Romans have against Jesus? ›

The charge under Roman law was treason, and under Herodian law blasphemy against the Temple. The evidence against this anarchist was so strong that authorities of both the Roman State and the Kingdom of Herod concurred with the arrest and execution, and he was subjected to trial by both governments.

What did Jesus say about Caesar? ›

"Render unto Caesar" is the beginning of a phrase attributed to Jesus in the synoptic gospels, which reads in full, "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's" (Ἀπόδοτε οὖν τὰ Καίσαρος Καίσαρι καὶ τὰ τοῦ Θεοῦ τῷ Θεῷ).

Who was the Roman ruler in Bethlehem? ›

Herod the Great
Herod
Roman client king of Judea
FatherAntipater the Idumaean
MotherCypros
ReligionSecond Temple Judaism
10 more rows

Who was Jesus father? ›

According to the Gospels, Mary, a virgin betrothed to Joseph, conceived Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit – and therefore Christians consider Jesus the Son of God. However, most Christians understand Joseph to be a true father in every way except biological, since Joseph was the legal father who raised Jesus.

Why was Romans written in the Bible? ›

The Epistle to the Romans is the sixth book in the New Testament, and the longest of the thirteen Pauline epistles. Biblical scholars agree that it was composed by Paul the Apostle to explain that salvation is offered through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

What is the main message of Romans? ›

The global message of Romans is that all people everywhere have free access to the riches of God's grace in Christ as they respond in faith to the gospel. In his own Son, God has made a way for lost people to be restored to him—lost people whether they are Greeks or barbarians, wise or foolish (Rom. 1:14).

Who wrote Romans in the Bible and why? ›

Who Wrote This Book? The Apostle Paul is the author of the Epistle to the Romans (see Romans 1:1). In writing this epistle, Paul used the assistance of a scribe, Tertius, who wrote his own greeting to the Roman Saints near the conclusion of the epistle (see Romans 16:22).

When was Romans written in the Bible? ›

When Was Romans Written? The Apostle Paul wrote his epistle to the Romans before the end of his third missionary journey (around A.D. 57–59; approximately twenty-five years after the Resurrection of Jesus Christ). He was in Corinth at the time and had not yet made his last trip to Jerusalem.

Who Wrote the Bible? ›

Even after nearly 2,000 years of its existence, and centuries of investigation by biblical scholars, we still don't know with certainty who wrote its various texts, when they were written or under what circumstances.

Was Israel part of the Roman Empire? ›

Judaea, now part of modern day Israel, had been a Roman ally since the second century BC and became a Roman province in 6 AD.

What nationality were the Romans in the Bible? ›

The early Romans were part of the Latin homeland, known as Latium, and were Latins themselves.

Who planted the church in Rome? ›

The claims that the church of Rome was founded by Peter or that he served as its first bishop are in dispute and rest on evidence that is not earlier than the middle or late 2nd century. Words of John 21:18, 19 clearly refer to the death of Peter and are cast into the literary form of prophecy.

When was the Roman civilization very important? ›

From its founding in 625 BC to its fall in AD 476, the Roman Empire conquered and integrated dozens of cultures. The influence of these cultures can be seen in objects, such as oil lamps, made and used throughout the Empire.

How did the Romans impact us? ›

The Roman influence in modern buildings can be seen both in terms of design—domes, pillars, arches—and in terms of material such as tiles, bricks and concrete. In addition, several structures, such as sports arenas, spas, supermarkets, and even apartment buildings are modeled on Roman originals.

Is the Roman Empire the most important empire to have existed? ›

The Roman Empire was the largest empire of the ancient world. Its capital was Rome, and its empire was based in the Mediterranean area. The Empire started in 27 BC, when Octavian became the Emperor Augustus. It fell in 476 AD.

What was the most important event in Roman history? ›

1. Rome was Founded (753 B.C.E) Top on the list is the origin of the founding of the city. There is an ancient tale that explains the origin as having been founded by two brothers, Romulus and Remus.

What can we learn from the Roman Empire? ›

From culture to religion, technology and language, the Romans' legacy still thrives to this day.
...
Here are just some of those which stood out for me:
  • Know that good fortune doesn't last forever. ...
  • Be bold in your leadership…but keep your feet on the ground. ...
  • Learn from your competitors. ...
  • Invest in building a strong culture.
28 May 2019

What are 3 things that the Romans are known for? ›

  • 13 Things The Romans Did For Us. Published: 14 January 2022. ...
  • Fast Food. It might seem a modern marvel, but the Romans were the first to introduce street stalls and 'food on the move' as we might think of it today. ...
  • Advertising and Trademarks. ...
  • Plumbing and Sanitation. ...
  • Towns. ...
  • Architecture. ...
  • Roads. ...
  • Our Calendar.
14 Jan 2022

What were the two most important values of the Roman Empire? ›

In Aeneid, the first two of the ancient Roman virtues are fides and pietas. Fides means “faithfulness,” sticking to a task and seeing it through to the bitter end, not quitting. Pietas translates as “piety,” which referred to doing the right thing.

Videos

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