Roman Influence on the Birth of Christianity

John the Baptist

  • Prior to Christian baptism the Romans had a spiritual cleansing ritual in a river, the Jews did not. The Roman historian, Livy, wrote in The Early History of Rome, I.45:

“Surely you do not mean to sacrifice to Diana without first performing the act of purification? You must bathe yourself, before the ceremony, in a living stream. Down there in the valley the Tiber [River] flows.”

  • Two primary ways people in a conquered province could be productive subjects to the Roman Empire:

    • Pay taxes to Rome

    • Serve in the fielded Roman armies

  • Rome employed a unique and highly successful policy of enlisting men from the conquered provinces to serve in their fielded armies.

  • Maintaining extended armies was very expensive.

  • John the Baptist is documented as having baptized men from only two professions; tax collectors[1] and soldiers.[2]

  • When a tax collector asks what he must do to be righteous:

    • Most of the Jews probably expected John to say, “Stop collecting money for the defiled Roman government. Do not burden the people beyond their tithes to God and his Temple.”

    • But John publicly proclaimed, “Collect no more than is appointed you.”

    • This implies that the appointed amount is legitimate and proper.

  • When a soldier asks what he must do to be righteous:

    • Most of the Jews probably expected John to say, “Do not serve the defiled Roman armies. Provide service to God and his chosen people. Israel is the land God has promised to his people. Do the will of God and throw off the bonds of Roman occupation.”

    • But John publicly proclaimed, “Rob no one by violence or by false accusation, and be content with you wages.”

    • Having soldiers be content with their wages has obvious advantages to Rome.

    • In a stretch, the spoils of war had always been benefits meant for Roman soldiers and not for their foreign counterparts.

  • John publicly instructed two infamous occupations in ways conducive to Roman rule.

[1] Luke 3:13

[2] Luke 3:14

Overview (Home Page)

Historical Context

Dating the Gospels

I Was a Sunday-School Spy

The Crucifixion (animation)

Post Appearance of Jesus

Who Did Jesus Curse-Praise

Taxes to Rome

Submissiveness to Oppression


Admirable and Amazing Works

The Term Gospel

Jewish Judgment

Pilate's Defense (animation)

Roman Soldiers at the Tomb

Migration of Christianity to Rome

Irony of Faith

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