Preface

This book is not meant for technical scholars nor for students in theological seminaries, who ought to know all that is here given, though it is not always true of them. The average teacher in the Sunday school, the adult Bible class, boys and girls in the high schools, the first year or so in college, and preachers with little scholastic training are the classes kept in mind. The book is adapted for use in Sunday school and Bible institutes and in all teacher-training work. There are no references to books of any kind outside of the Bible. The chapters are divided into numerous paragraphs, each paragraph dealing with a single idea. The purpose of the book is to make the New Testament more intelligible and more easily taught to others. The connection in the whole wondrous story is duly emphasized. The author suggests that along with this book one will need for further study a "Harmony of the Gospels," like that of Broadus; a short life of Christ, like his own "Epochs in the Life of Jesus," or Stalker's "Life of Christ," and a brief life of Paul, like his "Epochs in the Life of Paul," or Stalker's "Life of Paul." The author's "John the Loyal" covers in detail the life of John the Baptist But by the help of the maps and a New Testament one can study this volume with no other books at hand. The Student's Chronological New Testament is specially adapted for the purpose. I love to think of the great multitudes of men and women who are eager to know about Christ and love to teach what they know. If in a humble way I can play the part of Aquila and Priscilla with any Apollos who has the gift of telling accurately the things about Jesus, I shall be repaid a thousandfold for writing these chapters. May the Spirit of Jesus help us all to know this wondrous story, to live it, and to tell it so as to win others to Christ.

A. T. ROBERTSON.

Louisville, Ky.

Directions for the Study of This Book

For those who wish to study the book as a part of the Convention Normal Course, the following directions are given:

1. Lessson Assignments. Ordinarily each chapter will constitute a suitable lesson assignment. Two or three lesson periods should be given at intervals to a review of the lessons previously covered. Thus classes meeting daily would complete the study of the book in about four weeks, while classes meeting once a week would require about four months.

2. Examinations—

(1) The teacher will conduct a written examination at the close of the study of the book.

(2) The questions will be selected by the class teacher in accordance with instructions given on page 273. The teacher will ask that each one sign this statement: "I have neither given nor received help during this examination."

(3) Members of the class will be asked to answer the questions at one sitting without the text-book or help of any kind.

(4) The class teacher will examine the papers of the class, and, on blanks which will be furnished for the purpose, will send the names of those who make the required grade of 70 per cent to the Baptist Sunday School Board, 161 Eighth Avenue, North, Nashville, Tennessee. The proper seal will be sent to be attached to the diploma.

(5) Individual students may pursue the study in their own way. When they are ready for the examination, they will apply to the Sunday School Board for a list of questions with necessary instructions. The questions will be selected from the list given on pages 273-284.

Part I.
The Background

CHAPTERS OF PART I

  1. The Roman World B.C. 5.
  2. Life in Palestine in the First Century A.D.

Chapter I.
The Roman World B.C. 5

1. On the Ruins of the Past

The Mediterranean world was Roman in B.C. 5, but this was true as the outcome of centuries of conflict and final victory. In North Africa, Carthage had finally been overcome by Rome as a result of the long Punic Wars. Greece and Macedonia had likewise been conquered by Roman arms. Then the western part of Asia Minor had come under the sway of the Roman eagle. The circle widened till Syria, Palestine, and Egypt were provinces of Rome in the east, while to the west Spain and Gaul were the spoils of Julius Cæsar, and even the Island of Britain became Roman. Only the Germans in the west, the Parthians in the far east, the Goths and Huns in the north offered serious resistance to Roman arms. The people of India and China seem too far away from the center of Mediterranean life to count. The Indians of North and South America were unknown. But even so, the world was very old, how old we do not know. Inscriptions in Egypt seem to some to show civilization 5000B.C. Tablets and monuments in Mesopotamia seem to show a like age there.

Roman Empire

Great nations had passed into oblivion. The empire of Alexander the Great rested upon centuries, if not millenniums, of Greek life reaching back beyond Troy to Mycenae and Crete and upon the Persian empire itself the heir of the Babylonians, Assyrians, Hittites, Phrygians, and other peoples of Asia Minor. The Romans became the heirs of the conquests of Alexander in Egypt, Syria, Asia Minor.

2. A Graeco-Roman World

The Romans conquered the Greeks, and yet in a true sense the Greeks conquered the Romans. The work of Alexander had already spread the Greek language and Greek customs over the eastern world. The unification of the world under Roman rule did not Romanize this world of Alexander so much as it Grecized the empire of Rome. Even the city of Rome itself had Greek teachers, Greek plays, and the Greek language was used by Paul when he wrote to the church in Rome. The result was a mingling of the two civilizations except in North Africa and the west (Spain, Gaul, Britain). The Romans made no effort to crush out the influence of Greek life and thought. On the contrary, they became imitators of Greece in literature and in philosophy. Thus Hellenism became the main characteristic of the Roman world. One could speak Greek and be understood almost anywhere. This koine (common language) was the lineal successor of the old Greek and is the language in which the New

Testament was written. It was the language of the common people, of business, of life, of literature (all save a few artificial imitators of classical literary Attic).

3. Education

It is a mistake to think of the Roman world as an illiterate age. There were many uneducated people, beyond a doubt, but the average intelligence was unusually high. There were great universities like those at Athens, Tarsus, Pergamum, Alexandria, with great libraries, as in Alexandria and Pergamum. Paul may have felt the influence of Athenodorus, the Stoic philosopher, at Tarsus. There were schools of oratory as at Rhodes, and special lecturers on philosophy or oratory who often traveled from city to city. In Alexandria grammar had received special attention and Greek philosophy was then studied with eagerness save by the Jews. The translating of the Hebrew Old Testament into Greek in Alexandria enabled the Greek-speaking Jews and Gentiles also to read for themselves the Old Testament. Books were more or less expensive, since they had to be copied by hand, but the scribes were quite expert and copy establishments (like our publishers) existed in various educational centers. The flourishing period of Attic culture was far in the past, but Greek writers of the koine, like Polybius, Diodorus, Strabo, showed that the language had not lost its power. The golden age of Latin literature had just closed. Cicero, Cæsar, Vergil, Tibullus, Lucretius, Cornelius Nepos, were all dead. Horace had died only B.C. 8. Livy is still living and Ovid is writing his poems at Rome. Juvenal and Tacitus are not yet born. Greek slaves of culture are school-teachers in Rome itself. The mental alertness of the first century A.D. may be seen in the fact that the Christians in the empire were chiefly from the middle and lower classes, and yet the Epistles of Paul were read in public meeting and were expected to be readily understood. There were plenty of uneducated people, as the papyri amply show, but education was emphasized, and in towns like Corinth with many "newly rich" often affected or imitated.

4. Philosophy

Greek philosophy was no longer a matter of mere academic interest, but had received a distinctly practical turn. The Stoics and the Epicureans divided honors for the popular favor. Paul disputed with them in the Agora of Athens (Acts 17:18) and all over the world were found exponents of these two systems. Socrates had called men away from mere speculation about the external universe to reflection on their own moral nature. "Know thyself," he had urged. Plato carried this idea further and urged beauty as well as duty. Aristotle sought to cover all human knowledge, both physics and metaphysics. In revolt from all this speculation, Epicurus and Zeno aimed to give philosophy a more practical turn. In the midst of a world of struggle Zeno, while pantheistic in theology, taught pride and self-control with many noble precepts (cf. Seneca, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius), but allowed suicide in case of failure. Epicurus, really atheistic as to the gods, urged pleasure as the main good and the importance of getting it while one had the chance. The outcome was widespread immorality. These two practical philosophers have today numerous advocates all over the world. In Alexandria the Jews of culture, like Philo who came in contact with the Greek philosophy, sought to combine it with the Old Testament. They explained Plato by means of Moses through the allegorical method of exegesis that passed over to the early Alexandrian teachers and preachers of Christianity. Philosophy is always a more important part in the life of the masses than they themselves know.

5. Religion

The growth of philosophic studies caused a tendency to scepticism concerning the gods of Egypt, of Babylonia, of Phrygia, of Greece, of Rome. Socrates and Plato created a yearning after one God rather than faith in many. There were still gods in plenty, but no longer the childlike faith in them seen in the Homeric poems. The forms of worship were kept up, but even the priests would wink at each other on the street. Julius Cæsar, Cato, the elder Pliny, Lucretius, Varro, were all sceptics. Cicero was in doubt. The Emperor Augustus, though superstitious, was an unbeliever and was himself the chief object of worship in the empire. Inscriptions show such terms as Lord, Saviour, and even God, applied to him. He allowed himself to deified and to be worshiped with images and temples dedicated to him. This "emperor-cult" was at first the chief enemy of Christianity and early brought the Christians into collision with the Roman authorities. But there was intense dissatisfaction and yearning for a better faith, as it was voiced by Vergil in his fourth Eclogue, perhaps under the influence of the Septuagint (Isaiah). The Eleusinian mysteries of Greece had taught men a secret faith of hope, and out of the East later (first century A.D.) came other mystery—religions like Mithraism which for a couple of centuries challenged Christianity in its fight for the masses. These mystery religions had their redeemer-gods (like Isis and Osiris)—a doctrine of salvation, a baptism of blood (Tauro-bolium), and a sacred meal and other secret and initiatory rites with magical powers. The votaries held secret meetings at night and had ecstatic experiences that led to immorality. In fact, the worship of Aphrodite and Isis had a system of priestesses that made immorality a part of the worship. There were many religions and very little religion. Men were "without Christ, having no hope and without God in the world" (Ephesians 2:12).

6. Morals

There was ethical teaching in abundance, some of it very good as in the Stoic philosophy. But there was no real connection between religion and morals. Indeed, the gods themselves were thought to consort at will with women and were utterly mythical. As already stated, immorality was a regular institution in the temple worship of Aphrodite, Astarte, Isis, and other goddesses, as in Buddhist temples in India today. The old Roman divinities were not quite so lewd as those of Assyria, Egypt and Greece, but the Orontes overflowed the Tiber. With Greek and oriental philosophy and religion the old Roman sturdiness of character broke down and divorce, once unknown in Rome, became the rule. The picture of Pompeian life preserved on the walls of houses in Pompeii by the ashes of Vesuvius is so vile that women are not allowed to see it. Seneca will lament: "Vice no longer hides itself; it stalks forth before all eyes. Innocence is no longer rare; it has ceased to exist." Infanticide was so common that nothing was thought of it any more than in China and Japan before Christianity entered these lands. The empire was said to be crimsoned with the blood of infants. Paul's indictment of the Roman world in Romans 1 and 2 is recognized today as true of China. "The whole world lieth in wickedness" (I John 5:19).

7. Society

There were wheels within wheels then, as now. The old Roman republic had given place to the great empire. The simple habits that had made the Romans great had vanished. The generals and political leaders became extremely rich as a result of the Roman conquests. Of the eighty-five million people in the empire only seven million were in Italy. There were six million slaves in the empire. There was a large freedman class who had purchased their freedom or had been set free. The plebeians were free-born and held themselves above both freedmen and slaves. There was no middle class in Roman society, but two great extremes of wealth and poverty. The few were rich, the many were poor. The nobles were wildly extravagant and feasted out of gold dishes. Once Cicero and Pompey came uninvited to the house of Lucullus and found him feasting on a four thousand-dollar meal. The masses were pauperized for the few who ground them to the earth. "The masses in Rome clamored for bread and games, free food and free shows at the cost of the state. The gladiatorial shows grew in size and in horror to satisfy the blood-thirstiness of the populace. They were "living pictures" rather than moving pictures of cruelty. Licentiousness and cruelty grew apace. Small farms disappeared and great landed estates took their place. People crowded to the cities. Trade guilds were organized as a defense against the capitalists. There were burial clubs and all sorts of fraternal organizations, traveling craftsmen of various sorts. Then the race problem was acute. The Jews stood aloof from the Gentiles and were cordially disliked by them in return. The Greeks spoke of others as barbarians. The Romans who were citizens held themselves above those who were not, freedmen, s�