Freedom of religion is a relatively new thing. Through the ages, the powerful set what religion the masses followed.
15 Now when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music, if you are ready to fall down and worship the image I made, very good. But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?”
16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” Daniel 3:15-18
As we study the “fuse” of history concerning the coming of Jesus to earth, we look at how the Romans used a different technique on the nations they conquered. From, “Person of Interest, by J. Warner Wallace, pages 20-22,
As they annexed another culture, they would also annex their languages, traditions, and gods. Rome’s early strategy was simple: allow each people group to retain its gods and traditions and embrace these deities as part of the larger Roman pantheon. Rome had done this earlier with the gods of Greece and had, in fact, adopted the Greek gods as their own, “Romanizing” the Greek pantheon.
All they expected in return was for the annexed groups to submit to Roman authority and to make offerings (however nominal) to the Roman gods.
There was an exception: The Jews. “The Romans allowed them to retain their monotheism, recognizing Judaism as a legal religion. The Romans allowed the Jews to coexist among the conquered people groups, even though they would not worship the Roman gods. Rome tolerated Judaism, even if it didn’t trust it.”
During the first years of Christianity, Rome considered it a branch of Judaism and did little or nothing to stop its growth.
“A thirty-year window of opportunity opened to spread the message of Jesus (prior to Emperor Nero’s maltreatment of Christians in AD 64). And even though some Roman emperors in the years ahead would persecute Christians, others returned to a version of Roman tolerance, allowing Christianity to flourish in every region under Rome’s control.”
Jesus arrived at this point in human history, when the Roman Empire embraced a version of religious tolerance unique to the history of the ancient world, providing a small window of opportunity. This window allowed Jesus to preach a message his followers could communicate to the world.
Tomorrow, we will look at Jesus Himself–and the major gods who came before Him.
Abba, You have always have the bigger picture in mind. Even though Your chosen people, the Israelites, were under the control of the Romans, You worked everything together to bring about the perfect conditions for the Gospel of Jesus Christ to be spread quickly and efficiently. You are amazing! The more I learn, the more I am in awe of You, Abba. Praise Your name! Amen.