9: Ancient Israel


The Arch of Titus
A representation of the Ancient Romans stealing the riches of the destroyed Jewish Temple.
Rome, 82 CE

Key Terms

  • patriarch
  • Tanakh
  • Torah
  • monotheism
  • Exodus

I. Historical Context of Early Jewish Civilization

  • Period of the Patriarchs
    • Adam: God’s creation
    • Noah: God’s protection
    • Abraham: God’s covenant
  • Period of the Exodus
    • Moses: God’s deliverance
  • Period of the Conquest of Canaan
    • The Judges: God desires justice
  • United Monarchy
    • The Kings: Saul, David, Solomon
  • Divided Kingdom and Exile
    • 586 BCE: Babylonians take Jerusalem
    • King Solomon’s temple destroyed
  • The Return to Israel
    • 516 BCE: Persia overthrows Babylon; Return to Israel
    • 515 BCE: 2nd Temple
    • 37 BCE: Rome has control of the region, calls it Palestine
    • 19 BCE: Herod expands 2nd Temple
    • 70 CE: Jerusalem sieged by Rome, temple destroyed
  • The Beginning of Rabbinic Judaism
    • Transition from Temple Judaism to Rabbinic Judaism
    • 100s CE: Temple worship abandoned
    • Rabbis role in Jewish communities
    • Oral tradition recorded

II. Politics

  • A. Roman Oppression
    • Widespread poverty
    • Heavy taxation
    • Frequent revolts

  • B. Jewish Reaction
    • Messianic expectation
    • Jewish Zealots envisioned the Messiah as a military leader
    • Jewish Pharisees envisioned a righteous worldly ruler
    • Essenes envisioned a supernatural messenger from God

  • C. Christian Reaction
    • Jesus as the Christ of Faith
    • Spiritual deliverance from sin
    • Physical deliverance from Rome

The Shema

Hear, O Israel,
the Lord our God is One.

Deut. 6:4

III. Religion

The Covenant

I will be your God;
you will be my people

Exodus 6:7, Jeremiah 30:22

  • A. Similarities between Jews and Christians
    • Chrisitanity is an outgrowth of Judaism
    • Monotheism
    • God exists before the world, creates the world
    • God’s creation is good

  • B. The Jews
    • People of Israel
    • Chosen of God
    • Covenant bonds the Jews and God

  • C. Christians
    • God sent Jesus Christ to live in human form
    • John the Baptist, his cousin, prepares the way, leading a ministry in the desert
    • Jesus leads a brief ministry in his 30s, preaching tolerance, peace, and love through parables and the Beatitudes
    • He upsets the social order so much that he is arrested, tried, convicted, and crucified
    • Three days after his death, he rises and sends his apostles to preach the gospel to the people

  • D. Popularity of Christianity
    • John the Baptist (single leader, stays in one place) vs. Jesus (single leader, goes out to people, sends apostles)
      • From one killable leader to many communities
      • By spreading his message through multiple apostles, Jesus creates a message that is harder to stop
    • Other contributing factors
      • Peace in Rome
      • Facility of travel
      • Common  language
      • Familiar audience
      • Emphasis on salvation and freedom
      • No class distinction

  • E. Persecution of Christianity
    • Christians less than 1% of the Roman population in the second century
    • Claudius - expelled Christians from Rome 49 CE
    • Nero’s Circus 64-68 CE
    • Decius, Valerian, and Diocletian - sporadic persecution 250-303 CE
    • Martyrs later honored by the church

  • F. Constantine and the Christian Empire
    • Vision of Chi Ro (XP) leads Constantine to victory
    • Edict of Milan 313 CE

IV. Texts

  • A. The Tanakh: The Hebrew Bible in Brief
    1. The Torah (Instruction/Law)
      • 613 mitzvot or commandments
      • The Patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and Moses
    2. The Nevi’im (Prophets)
      • Transition from prophets to kings and back to prophets
      • The Major Prophets: Amos, Hosea, Micah, Isaiah, Elijah
    3. The Ketuvim (Writings)
      • Judges
      • Kings

  • B. The Letters of Paul
    • No Christian Bible until 397 CE
    • Paul’s letters (45-60 CE) are the first written texts that are part of the bible
    • Written to Christ Communities

  • C. The Gospels
    • Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were written between 70-90 CE
    • First reference to the word “Christian” (Acts 11:26) was written in the 90s CE
    • Earliest version of the New Testament included Luke and 10 of Paul’s letters (140 CE)

V. Early Christian Art

  • A. Visual Art
  • B. Dura–Europos
    • Religious tolerance in Syria
    • Artifacts buried for over 1,000 years
    • Frescoes in excellent condition
    • Mingled Eastern and Roman style

  • C. Early Christian Architecture
    • Basilica-Style Churches
    • Church of the Holy Sepulchre, construction began c. 325 CE

  • D. Early Christian Music
    • Based on the Jewish tradition of chanting sacred texts
    • The Cantor
    • Limited to no instrumental music
    • Antiphonal and responsorial singing