Monday, September 12, 2016
Acts of the Apostles and the riots of the Roman Peace
I am currently reading the New Testament more or less in the order that it was written. I began with the Acts of the Apostles, which discusses the missionary efforts of Jesus's followers after his ascension to heaven.
Taking the Acts as a historical document, I am very impressed by how chaotic social religious and political scene was in this era of "Roman peace." Many of you know that during this apostolic era was characterized by strong opposition to the new Christian movement by a variety of better established Jewish and Greek/Roman parties. It is remarkable how nervous the established powers seem to have been – how quickly they ran to the Roman authorities to denounce the new religious movement. There is a lot of actual fighting described or implied, and of course sometimes the opponents of the Christians got them imprisoned, beaten up, and murdered.
We have to wonder-- at least I do – whether the reaction by the established religious authorities was justified or completely out of proportion. Is there a big difference between these two alternatives? Either way it's not exactly happy days in the Eastern Mediterranean in the first century A.D.
You might well come away with a much more sympathetic understanding of Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor who did his best to stay out of the conflict between the established Jewish authorities in Jerusalem and Jesus's movement. It may have been commonplace to credit the Romans and their representatives with peace and reform, but if you were one of the governors mentioned in Acts, you probably felt that your office was like a wild horse, and you would be lucky to stay on it.