Jesus and the Romans

Well, if he was in his early 30s at the time, that statement would still ring true. And Jesus started his ministry at about 30 years of age. Since Luke was a Syrian writing to Syrian Christians, he would have counted from late 27 A.D. to late 28 A.D.

Paula Fredriksen has written several books focusing on Jesus arrest and execution by the Romans. They did not see Jesus small following as a threat. They were familiar with Jesus’ teaching and did not deem him a threat either. They made an example of Jesus and crucified him to keep the peace in Jerusalem. They did not consider his followers as any kind of trouble or threat until much later.

The Roman leaders were encouraged in that by the High Priesthood, who saw the Christians as a threat. A former High Priest of the Second Temple was in Rome in Nero;s inner circle when Nero decided to persecute the Christians. (Hagan- “Fires of Rome”)

Jesus was not tried or convicted by a Roman court. In fact, as the story goes, he was found innocent of allegations of treason and sedition against Rome by Pilate and Herod no less than three times. The Romans didn’t believe the Jews so naturally they were not concerned with his followers.

Nero ruled twenty-five years after the crucifixion of Jesus. At the time of Jesus death, there was no concern from Roman leadership about Jesus’ puny following. They fully expected the fishermen and tax collectors to go back about their businesses. Not one was arrested or sought after because they were not deemed a threat.

Christians were never regarded as a threat by the Roman Empire, persay. The Romans were actually quite tolerant of other religions for the most part. The issue was that the Romans believed that any significant misfortune for the Empire was a sign that the pagan gods were displeased with them and so everyone was expected, legally required in some cases, to make recompense whether they were pagan or not. Those who refused offended the gods so were easy scapegoats in times of any prolonged problems in the Empire. Nero was a different animal altogether.


Is there a particular point you are confused by?

Well, for starters, how about some proof that the Romans executed anyone for not believing in one of their pagan gods?

And, by the way, calling Augustus or any Emperor a God doesn’t count. And requesting that they swear allegiance to the Roman Empire doesn’t count either.

Show me a situation where someone didn’t believe in Jupiter and so they were executed.

I didn’t make that claim. Is that directed at me?

Except that Jesus’s puny following didn’t just fade into the woodwork. Just mere weeks after the crucifixion they were publicly claiming that Jesus had been raised from the dead and, according to Acts, recruited thousands of new members into the kingdom that Jesus had promoted. What would it take to get a Roman response if that didn’t?

Except that Jesus’s puny following didn’t just fade into the woodwork. Just mere weeks after the crucifixion they were publicly claiming that Jesus had been raised from the dead and, according to Acts, recruited thousands of new members into the kingdom that Jesus had promoted. If the Romans executed Jesus on the possibility that he and a handful of devotees might cause trouble, then it seems the described post-Pentecost activities should have given them fits.

Jesus was executed because it pleased the mob and for no other reason. He wasn’t regarded as a threat or even a criminal by the Roman Empire and neither were his followers.

On the one hand, the Romans were so concerned about a mob that they could be cowed into executing an innocent man, but on the other they were unconcerned about a potential mob numbering in the thousands raised by the followers – and in the name of – the innocent man they had executed. I’m still not able to reconcile that incongruity.

There was a great influx of people in Jerusalem for the holy celebration of Pesach that had Pilate and Caiaphas worried about a riot. They killed Jesus to set an example and, as has been mentioned by EmperorNapoleon, to control the mob. Post resurrection, Jesus disciples were not on anyone’s radar screens.

Why do you think Our Lord, the Son of God, decided to become man under the rule of the Roman Empire? Why was it Rome that crucified Him?

Out of all the periods of human history, why did God determine from all eternity that He should become man as a subject of imperial Rome during the pax Romana, which lets remember had only been instituted by Emperor Caesar Augustus in the year BC 27? Christ’s birth was perfectly timed during the middle of the reign of the Empire’s first ruler, a period of unprecedented peace, prosperity and stability for the world of classical antiquity.

Dante had a very ingenious, if controversial, answer to this question in his De Monarchia:

CHAPTER XVI: Christ willed to be born in the fullness of time when Augustus was Monarch

  1. A phenomenon not to be forgotten attests the truth of all the arguments placed in order above, namely, that condition of mortals which **the Son of God, when about to become man for the salvation of man, either awaited, or ordained at such time as He willed.**1 For if from the fall [60] of our first parents, at which point of departure began all our error,2 we survey the ordering of men and times, **we shall find no perfect Monarchy, nor the world everywhere at peace, save under the divine Monarch Augustus.3 That [61] men were then blessed with the tranquillity of universal peace all historians testify, and all illustrious poets; this the writer of the gentleness of Christ4 felt it meet to confirm, and last of all Paul, who called that most happy condition “the fulness of the time.”**5 Verily, time and all temporal things were full, for no ministry to our happiness lacked its minister. But what has been the condition of the world since that day the seamless robe6 first suffered mutilation by the claws of avarice, we can read—would that we could not also see! O human race! what tempests must need toss thee, what treasure be thrown into the sea, what shipwrecks must be endured,7 so long as thou, like a beast of many heads,8 strivest after diverse ends! Thou art [62] sick in either intellect,9 and sick likewise in thy affection. Thou healest not thy high understanding by argument irrefutable, nor thy lower by the countenance of experience. Nor dost [63] thou heal thy affection by the sweetness of divine persuasion, when the voice of the Holy Spirit breathes upon thee, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!”

Now Christ willed to be born of a Virgin Mother under an edict of Roman authority, according to the testimony of Luke,9 his scribe, in order that the Son of Man, made man, might be numbered as a man in that unique census. This fulfilled the edict. It were perhaps more reverent to believe that the Divine Will caused the edict to go forth through Caesar, in order that God might number Himself among the society of mortals who had so many ages awaited His coming.10

  1. So Christ in His action established as just the edict of Augustus, exerciser of Roman authority. Since to decree justly presupposes jurisdictional power, whoever confirms the justice of an edict confirms also the jurisdictional power [128] whence it issued. Did this power not exist by Right, it would be unjust.

The Roman Empire eventually embraced Christianity as the state religion under Theodosius (around a century after Constantine became the first emperor to embrace the Faith as his personal religion), as we all know. This cannot have been coincidental.

In the West, the reconstituted Holy Roman Empire continued this legacy until it was dissolved in 1806, while in the East the Byzantine Empire carried the legacy of Rome until its dissolution in the fifteenth century. Christianity became synonymous with Rome, in time, and remains so today with our Holy Father the Roman Pontiff.

It is interesting that Jesus was born during the Pax Romana, the Golden Age. I’m not fully understanding what I’m reading from Dante’s conclusion, but thank you for bringing this up.
How ironic that those who sought to keep the peace intact crucified an innocent man, Our Lord, on the cross in order to do so.

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