Roman Influence on the Birth of Christianity

Submissiveness to Oppression

  • A dominant theme of Jesus’ teachings promoted submissive behavior towards oppression:

  • Jesus is quoted as saying:

    • “But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”[1]

    • “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”[2]

    • “Blessed are the meek, the poor, the peacemakers.”[3]

  • This is in direct contrast to the proud, priestly nature of the Jewish people (excerpts from Deuteronomy 7:6-24):

“For you are a people holy to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his own possession, out of all the peoples that are on the face of the earth. … the Lord set his love upon you and chose you. …the Lord your God will keep with you the covenant and the steadfast love which he swore to your fathers to keep; he will love you, bless you, and multiply you. You shall be blessed above all peoples. And you shall destroy all the peoples that the Lord your God will give over to you, your eye shall not pity them; neither shall you serve their gods… You shall not be in dread of them; for the Lord your God is in the midst of you, a great and terrible God. The Lord your God will clear away these nations before you little by little; you may not make an end of them at once, lest the wild beast grow too numerous of you. …not a man shall be able to stand against you, until you have destroyed them.”[4]

  • The Jewish God in the Old Testament demanded merciless behavior towards their enemies:

In 1 Samuel 15:3 God commands Saul, “Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have; do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.” Verses 8-9 says that Saul utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword, but he spared the king, Agag, and the best of the sheep, oxen, fatlings, and lambs to offer in sacrifice to God. Verse 23 states, “Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has also rejected you from being king.” In verse 25 Saul repents. In verse 30 he repents again. In verse 34 Samuel “hewed Agag in pieces before the Lord.” Eventually in 1 Samuel 31:4 since God has abandoned Saul, “Saul took his own sword, and fell upon it.”

  • The Old Testament is filled with stories of Jewish kings conquering foreign peoples, and God’s wrath upon peoples opposing Israel, and God’s wrath upon Isreal, herself, if and when they allowed outside influences to their culture/religion – far too numerous to reference here.

  • The very last book of the Old Testament, Malachi, chapter 3 verse 6 quotes the Jewish God as saying, “For I the Lord do not change.”

  • The passive, submissive tendencies of Jesus’ teachings offer clear advantages to Roman control.

  • The very last line in the classic movie, Ben-Hur, sums it up well. Throughout most of the movie the character Judah Ben-Hur (played by Charleston Heston) exhibits strong and violent hatred towards the Roman presence in Judea. But at the very end, immediately after hearing Jesus speak, a starry-eyed Charleston Heston says, “And I felt his voice take the sword out of my hand.”

  • The clear notion of different theologies was recognized very early on. In Rome around 140 ACE, two prominant leaders in early Christianity, Marcion and Cedro, taught that the gods of the Old and New Testaments were not the same.

[1] Matthew 5:39

[2] Matthew 5:44

[3] Matthew 5:3-10

[4] Excerpts from Deuteronomy 7:6-24


Historical Discussion
In Depth

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


John the Baptist

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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