Divine Empowerment of Leaders

Divine Empowerment of Leaders, Study of Luke(Page 3)

By Allen Quist 

Historical Setting

As God prepared Luke to record His message, He had already prepared the Roman Empire as the setting for spreading His message (Witherington 69) in three ways: the Roman political system with relatively safe travel, the common Greek language and culture, and a scattered Jewish population. The Roman political systems allowed a free flow of people throughout the vast empire because of good roads, relative peace, and lack of borders. To defend the expanse of the Roman Empire, communication and travel had to be fast and reliable (Vos 489). To do this, the Romans developed a network of quality-built stone and gravel roads throughout the empire (Vos 386). The Roman Peace (Pax Romana) was the period following centuries of battle resulting in an empire without internal borders and with enough military control to reasonably preserve law and order (Vos 386). The Roman Peace made possible relative safe commercial and personal travel (Brisco 190-192).

While Greek was not the only language in the Roman Empire, it was the common one. Vos explains when the Romans defeated another nation; they commonly absorbed some of the defeated nation’s culture (383). However, the Greek culture and language absorption was so thorough historians refer to those times as the Greco-Roman culture (Brisco 190). The Jews, who lived in areas remote from Palestine, referred to as Hellenized Jews, had embraced the Greco-Roman culture and adopted the Greek language (Vos 383-384).

For the years leading up to this time and through defeat at the hands of various nations, God had scattered his people far beyond their original borders throughout the area surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. The Romans had conquered the Greeks who had come into power following their defeat of the Persians, who had crushed the Babylonians, the empire responsible for Jerusalem’s eventual defeat (Brisco 156-197).

Scattering the Jews began with their exile to Assyria and Babylon. Though some of the Jews returned to Palestine during the Persian rule, many stayed in Assyria and Babylon because they had homes, families, and good jobs or businesses with little reason to uproot (Bruce 56). Other Jews moved away from Palestine during the Greek and Roman rule because the Jews enjoyed the benefits of freedom to travel, to set up businesses, and to do commerce throughout the Roman Empire (Vos 385).

With the ideal physical setting now in place for spreading of God’s message, Edersheim paints a word picture of the times and culture surrounding the day of Pentecost in Jerusalem. To the Jewish people, Jerusalem was their “common centre,” the “city of God, the joy of all the earth, [and] the glory of His people Israel” (ch. VI). Edersheim explains how potentially up to 200,000 Jewish people would be in Jerusalem for the festival. They would have come praying for the restoration of Israel and the Jews living outside Palestine to return home. To these people there was a common Next Pagebond, the Messiah who would return and with the return would restore Israel’s kingdom (ch. VI; Baskin). These Hellenized Jews were at Pentecost in Jerusalem with a reliance on the Greek language and the Septuagint and separated from many of the non-biblical traditions blocking receptivity to the gospel they were about to hear (Vos 386).

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