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Introduction to New Testament: The World of the New Testament

Introduction to New Testament  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  1:00:02
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Really quite a small peace of land that is insignificant to most nations of the time.

Five Distinct Geographical Divisions

These fertile hills made areas like Bashan (in the north) and Gilead (further south) legendary for their grain, cattle, wine, olives, and timber. But the hills soon give way to desert.
The bleak wastes of the Syrian Desert formed a natural eastern boundary to the land.
A great geological fault splits the country. Through it, the River Jordan drops rapidly to the Dead Sea, 1,285 feet below sea level. The Dead Sea is 1,300 feet at its deepest.
The hill country of Judah held plenty of opportunities for guerilla warfare and was a formidable challenge for a would-be attacker. The hills were covered by woods. Galilee in the north was richly fertile, prosperous, and densely settled in Jesus' time.
Heavily populated in Old Testament times. Southern end of the plain dominated by the 5 cities of the Philistines. The straight coastline means there are no natural harbors.

Trade Routes

Israel will become an important piece of property because it houses many trade routes. The most important of these two are 1. Way of the Sea and The Kings Highway

Alexandrian Empire

When Philip of Macedonia was assassinated in 336 BCE his authority was claimed by his 20 year old Son. Alexander the Great. He was tutored by the Greek Philosopher Aristotle. He will conquered the known world, including Israel. Alexander will die at an young age.
Jerusalem will be Ruled by Egypt but will have the Seleucids to the north. Seleucids forced Hellenization that had started with Alexander.
Hellenization - “To Speak Greek”. The Greek Culture will be a great influence on the world. Including the Israelite society and our understanding of the Bible. Hellenization refers to the spread and embrace of the Greek Language, way of Life, Business, Education, and Philosophy. The Bible Itself was translated into Greek, LXX, Septuagint in 250 B.C.
Jesus and his disciples would have been able to speak in Greek. It was the language of trade. Though Jesus primary language would have been Aramaic.
Greek Philosophy Philosophy influenced the People as well. Example: Soul Is Greek, Nephesh is Hebrew meaning Being. Apple that Adam ate it is just a fruit in OT. Apple is from the Greek mindset.
Map taken from:

Alexander Video

Roman Empire

Map from:
Rome began as a small settlement on the east bank of the Tiber. Traditionally founded by Romulus about 753 BC. He ruled by kingship until 509, when Rome became a republic. Governed by a Senate under two counsels. It rapidly expanded conquering its neighbors and establishing the dominance of its language, Latin.
In the third to Second century Rome became a naval power defeating its rival Carthage in two Punic Wars. Moving into Syria, Macedonia, and Greece. Developing a well disciplined professional army. After class struggles, political rivalries, an civil wars, the republic came to an end. Pompy and Crassua and Julius Caesar moved for power. Julius Caesar the victor was assassinated in 44 BC. Mark Antony and Octavian would be the next to struggle for the thrown. Octavian became the victor. re-established the republic, taking the name “Augustus”. This marked the beginning of an empire that would last for many centuries

Early Empire 31 BC – AD 117

Augustus 27 BC – AD 14

Famous for establishing and maintaining peace. He set up administration reforms, including legal and financial reforms.
He was modest in his lifestyle. He preferred to be known as “Princeps” which means First citizen rather than emperor.
It would be during his life that Jesus would have been born.

Tiberius (14-37)

Stepson of Augustus tyrannical and his rule ended in an reign of terror.
Jesus Life time

Gaius (37-41)

May have been insane. Offended the Jews by ordering his statue be placed in the Temple at Jerusalem. He will be assassinated.

Claudius (41-54)

Provided stability with the development of the civil service, the strengthening of empire and the generous extension of Roman citizenship. He continued Augustus’ policy of allowing the Jews freedom of worship and was a friend of Herod Agrippa whom he set up as king over Israel. In the later part of his reign he expelled the Jews from Rome.

Nero (54-68)

Lead and eccentric and extravagant reign. One of the largest persecutions of Christian. The most famous event of his life was the great fire that burned Rome. Probably accidental though tradition held that he played his fiddle while it burned. He will blamed it on Christians.
With his death there was a civil war 68-69.

The year of four emperors (68-69)



Vespasian emerged victorious (69-79)
It was during this period Jewish revolt 66-70. Jerusalem was sacked by Titus, Vespasian’s son.

Titus 79-81

Judea became an imperial Roman province

Domitian 81-96

carried out public building program. But his rule ended with a reign of terror, claimed the title “lord and god”. Responsible for another major persecution of Christians

Nerva 96-98

Trajan 98-117

bother were peaceful and stable
It was against this political background that the New Testament were lived, and written

Roman Religion

Roman religion was originally animistic, involving spirits of woods, springs, mountains Etc. It became anthropomorphic (human like deities), Jupiter, Juno, Mars and Minerva identified with there Greek counterparts Zeus, Hera etc.
They were tolerant of other religions many worked their way into the religion one great family
Emperor worship, originated in the East. Hellenistic monarchs had long been recognized as divine “saviors”, in Rome it was restricted to dead emperors from ancestor worship or to his “genius” guardian spirit. Emperor often shared his cult with the goddess Roma personification of the power and spirit of Rome.

Roman Provincial Administration

Under the Empire provinces were of two kinds
public - governed by proconsuls under the authority of the Senate
Imperial - governed by legates appointed by the Emperor
both types of governor were of high rank. They were not allowed to be prosecuted for mismanagement until after their term of office, puppet kings under the Empire. Each province was governed different to allow for differences in taxation (what was best for the area), Religions practices and culture.
Laws were also different in each area. Roman citizens did not need to follow individual laws but only Roman Law

Palestine under the Roman Rule

Pompey captured Jerusalem 63BC. He entered into the Temple and appointed Hyrcanus as the high priest.
Julius Caesar appointed Antipater procurator of Judea. His son Herod who had been governor of Galilee, won the title “king of the Jews. He reigned from 37 to 4 BC extending his territories and restoring the Jerusalem Temple on a lavish scale under his rule Judea was materially prosperous be was also violent and cruel
Archelaus 4-6 - led during a time of upheaval, banished and Judea came under the rule of Rome directly.
Pontius Pilate governor of Judea from 26-36. governorship was marred by bloodshed including a massacre of some Galileans and the slaughter of many Samaritans
Herod Agrippa rules as King of the Jews (41-44)
AD 44 - Palestine rule returns to Roman governors
AD 66-70 - Jewish war ended with the siege and fall of Jerusalem. Jewish patriots held out at Masada until AD 73 committed suicide rather than submit to Roman rule
Ad 132-135 - Jerusalem became a Roman colony a place not inhabited by Jews any more

Major Philosophies during the time of Christ

(read some to get right)

Major philosophies during the time of Christ were Platonism, Epicurianism, and Stoicism. Gnosticism also began taking shape in the first Christian century but did not reach full development until the second century. The New Testament world did not experience these philosophies in delineated or pure form. Often philosophical ideas from different points of view overlapped. The people of the first century usually encountered these philosophies in popular forms or mixed with each other.


Plato (427–347 B.C.) proposed two worlds, or dimensions, of reality. First is the world of change or becoming. This world, our world, is in constant flux; entities are born and then die. It is a world of the senses, and the senses cannot be trusted for the perception of reality. The second dimension is the world of forms or ideas, a world of perfect and changeless prototypes or patterns. This world is true and real. All realities in the world of change are imperfect, material copies of the changeless types or forms. Even expressions of concepts in this life have behind them perfect forms. Court cases, for instance which express justice, share in the perfect form of justice. Such court cases are copies in this material world of the perfect form in the immaterial world.

For Plato, the soul of a person was a spiritual, eternal, and immaterial entity that resided in a physical body. The soul existed before the body and also survived the body at death. As it resides in the body, the soul has the capacity to remember, although imperfectly, the world of forms. Generally, the Platonic tradition has depreciated the body and exalted the soul, holding that the soul is central to identity, intellect, and character.

The Platonic concept of soul permeated much of the philosophical thought of New Testament times and even modern-day thinking. In the Jewish-Christian view, however, a person does not have a soul; a person is a soul. The whole person is involved in a unity of personhood. Sometimes the New Testament speakers or writers view a person from different perspectives, but the whole person is still meant. At the beginning of her song of praise, Mary knew that she was to bear the Christ-child; she said, “My soul glorifies, the Lord / and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (Luke 1:46–47). Mary referred to herself as “soul” and “spirit.” As is true with some Hebrew poetry, the second line of her song, which contains the word “spirit,” means the same as the first line, which has the word “soul.” In both cases Mary referred to her whole self, not a compartment or an element of her body.

At times Christians adapted certain concepts and ideas of Platonism to convey the truth of the Christian message to their contemporaries. The writer of Hebrews, in order to give a more pointed witness to his readers, may have employed Platonic expression in the statement, “They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven” (Heb. 8:5). Of course, in the heavenly sanctuary there is one high priest forever, the exalted Lord, as the context of Hebrews 7–8 makes clear. Such terminology and concepts were a point of contact between Christians and the world around them through which they gave convincing witness to Jesus Christ.


Epicureanism, named after its founder, Epicurus (342–270 B.C.), contrasts with Platonism. Epicurus rejected Plato’s ideas about the senses. He believed that the senses should be trusted in determining reality. Epicurus taught that pleasure was the purpose and goal of a person. Reason should lead an individual to simple, natural, and necessary pleasures. Later Christians would find wisdom in the Epicurean Effort to seek wise virtues.

Epicurus held an interesting belief about the gods. Gods did exist and were national and temporal, but had minimal participation in human life. They concerned themselves primarily with their own pleasurable fulfillment. In other words, Epicurus allowed the existence of gods in his thought system, but they made no difference to human life. A human being, even the soul, consisted of atoms. Body and soul disintegrated at death, leaving no possibility for an afterlife. Many sophisticated people found Epicurus’ philosophy attractive amid the fantastic religious claims of that day, especially since the gods of many religious systems appeared implausible.


The name for Stoicism came from the place where the adherents met: a stoa, or porch, in Athens. Zeno of Cyprus (336–263 B.C.) was their founder. Stoics believed that divine reason pervaded the whole material world and that humanity’s goal should be to live in cooperation with that divine reason. The soul was the divine spark in a person’s body. The Stoics believed that when the divine spark, or soul, was in right relationship to the divine reason, a person could live above the circumstances of life in a steady, stable existence. Even today, a person who seems to be relatively unaffected by emotions, keeping equilibrium amid positive and negative circumstances, may be said to be “stoic.”

Stoics believed that living in harmony with their own natures and the nature around them determined their destiny. According to their thought, divine reason (logos) pervaded all things. To be in harmony with the divine reason, humans needed to accept their destinies in order to be set free from the destructive excesses of life. Also, embracing virtue, they believed, freed them from the passions that led to life’s destructive excesses. The divine reason which pervaded all things, made a unity of all things. People who were in harmony with divine reason were also one with each other, which meant that they were brothers and sisters.

With a strong moral emphasis and its attempt at unity of thought, Stoicism became a widely accepted philosophical approach to life. However, Christianity provided the superior and realistic unity with God in Jesus Christ. Also, Christianity challenged the unhealthy repression of emotion and the Stoics’ unhealthy belief that people’s lives were determined by natural law. Some first-century Christians admired the Stoic call for courage in the face of difficulty and suffering. Paul preached to those holding this philosophy as well, as is indicated in Acts 17:18.


Gnosticism is a modern term given to philosophic ideas present in the first century. These ideas became somewhat more systematized in the second century. The term arises from the Greek word gnosis, which means “knowledge.” Adherents of this diverse philosophical approach put great emphasis upon knowledge and reason. Also, they had a dualistic world view which posited the spiritual and the material (or matter) in opposition to each other. The spiritual was good and the material was evil. On the other side stood evil, darkness, and manifestations of unrighteousness. To some adherents, an evil god, who belonged to a hierarchy of intermediary beings between the good god and creation, created the world. Since creation had an evil source, all matter inherently was evil.

Gnostic groups, therefore, rejected the belief that the creation of the world was a good act by a good and sovereign God. Furthermore, they rejected the humanity of Jesus since they believed that the word of God could not become flesh in Jesus of Nazareth. After all, flesh was matter, and matter was evil.

Human beings also were of a dual nature in the Gnostic view. They were composed of matter; therefore, they were evil. Within the evil body was a divine spark, which was good, deposited in some who had been especially elected by the deity. The human body, evil as it was, imprisoned the divine spark. Since human beings could think and reason, however, the elect had a route of escape. Special knowledge and secret rituals could awaken the divine and enable the elect to overcome the evil deity who had created them. They then could live in relationship to the good god and be reunited with him at death. Not just any knowledge would do, however.

To some gnostic groups Jesus was the source of a revealed knowledge that came from outside the created order. They could then lay claim to a body of revelation that included but went beyond the witness and teachings of the apostles and traditional teachings of the church. “Christian” Gnostics convinced some Christians to follow their heretical teachings.

The Gospel of John, Colossians, 1 and 2 John, and 1 and 2 Timothy countered heretical teachings and beliefs influenced and sometimes dominated by proto-Gnostic ideas. Gnostic ideas became attractive to many who labeled themselves as Christians in the latter part of the first century and in the second century. The ideas were attractive in part because they enabled people to fit certain Christian beliefs into a complex of Greek philosophical ideas which dominated the scene at that time. Christian converts were in danger of being enticed away to such “hollow and deceptive philosophy” (Col. 2:8), so leaders such as Paul met the challenge head-on with sound teaching and preaching of the gospel.

Sometimes we think Christians had an easier time proclaiming the gospel of Christ in the first century than we do in our scientific, skeptical age. But on every hand were those, such as the Epicureans, who scoffed at the claims of Christianity. When Paul proclaimed the resurrection at Athens, for example, the Epicureans and others ridiculed him (Acts 17:18, 32).

Jewish religion in Palestine

Judaism primarily is a way of life rather than an accepted set of doctrines. They had a certain amount of doctrinal diversity but were Unified by being Gods Chosen people. God the one true God Chosen them to fulfill a singular destiny To be the People of God. Living the Shema
Deuteronomy 6:4–5 LEB
4 “Hear, Israel, Yahweh our God, Yahweh is unique. 5 And you shall love Yahweh your God with all of your heart and with all of your soul and with all of your might.
They believed that they were Placed in Palestine, Land God gave them this land and it was the only true place of worship. This is what unified them.
Messianic Fervor - At the time of Jesus the people were looking for a deliverer from Roman oppression a Messiah.
Synagogue served 4 basic function
Social Interaction
Torah - Law/Instruction primary religious text
Temple central to the worship of YHWH. Place of worship and sacrifice. Under construction for 46 years at time of Jesus. (important for some of Jesus Teachings)
Priest - Intermediaries between God and man
Festivals - Leviticus 23 - List of the six holidays and holy days
Sabbath - Rest - celebrated weekly
Passover – Unleavened bread and first fruits - Reminder of the deliverance from Egypt
Pentecost – Feast of weeks - celebrated the grain harvest and came fifty days after Passover. Pentecost - Greek “fiftieth”
Rosh Hashannah – Feast of Trumpets - New Year “Head of the year”
Yom Kippur – Day of Atonement - Day when the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle to make atonement fro the sins of the people
Succoth – Feast of Tabernacles -Remind them of the deliverance out of Egypt
They had allowed Idol worship and false God’s into their midst before - Syncretism, adoption of false worship into ones own. They had paid for it and they refused to let this happen again. This is important for understanding the way Jesus was foreseen amongst the Jews. Now they are under Roman rule and looking for a way to understand Why.

Religious Groups of the Second Temple period

Best known of the religious groups. one of the most influential relatively small 6000 people. Generally depicted as opponents of Jesus. Critical of his behavior Hostile in there questions. Their Piety is attacked as hypocritical. their spiritual leadership is declared bankrupt
Specifiers - of the correct understanding of the divine requirements
primarily concerned with ritual purity and tithing
Purity had to do with
what you could and couldn’t do
on what day you could do that
How many steps you could walk on the Sabbath before it was work
Origin and precise nature undetermined faded into oblivion after the destruction of Jerusalem - AD 70
Priestly aristocracy
Rejected almost everything of the Pharisees. didn’t believe in angels or spirits
last judgment
life after death
or a coming Messiah
Believed that the soul perishes along with the body once you die that’s it.
hold to a strict understanding of the law
4000 people
Separatist - leading themselves from their own communities. They would go off to the desert and live in communities separate from everyone else. They were a strict highly disciplined community. They devoted their lives to study of Scripture. They devoted their lives to the study of the Scripture copying of their own documents, prayer, frequent ritual washing
Strict predestinarians - believing in the preexistence and immortality of the soul
Legalistic in matters of ritual purity
righteous remnant living in the last days and looked for a political Messiah or Messiahs and the end of the age
God is their only Ruler and Lord - wanted political rule
not beyond dying for their cause they were the minority terrorists group
Apocalyptic Movement
Apocalyptic - “To Reveal” the information of their literature was thought to be a special revelation from God. Unveiling hidden secrets of the universe especially dealing with the end of the age
Stress on sovereignty and transcendence of God
Description of the Cosmic struggle of good and evil
Dominance of mood of strain and tension with pessimism concerning the present
Expectation of the ultimate triumph of God
De-emphasize on human wisdom and strength
mixed population both racially and religiously
Jews and Gentiles intermarrying
They set up their own temple on Mount Gerizim
Bad blood between the Jew and Samaritans
Samaritans aren’t allowed to worship in the Temple
Religiously they saw themselves as Jews
but did not acknowledge the Jerusalem temple
using only their version the Pentateuch as their Bible
Didn’t believe in resurrection

Jewish Lit

Old Testament Translated to Greek in 250 BC
Apocrypha - 14 books written between 200 BC and AD 100 deal mainly with the religious ideas and history of the Jews
Pseudepigrapha writings from 200 BC – AD 200 falsely ascribed to well known ancient persons. Pseudepigrapha means “Falsely Titled” collection of many different types of books
Talmud - Jerusalem Talmud and the Babylonian Talmud. Rabbinic teachings throughout the ages
Midrash - Jewish commentaries of sorts
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