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Historlical reconstuction

Text and Traditions: Work Requirement One

Historical Reconstruction

Major events in Jewish history to the first century AD

1250 BC Fall of Jerusalem to the Romans.

931 BC Divided Kingdoms.

721 BC Fall of Samaria.

587 BC Fall of Jerusalem, Babylonian captivity.

333 BC Jews under Hellenistic rule.

63 BC Jews under Roman rule.

70 AD Fall of Jerusalem to the Romans.

Major events between 50 BC - 100 AD

63 BC - 40 BC Hyrcanus2 rules, but is subject to Rome.

41 BC - 30 BC Antony Caesar Roman Emperor.

40 BC - 37 BC Parathions conquer Jerusalem.

38 BC - 4 BC Herod rules as king. Subject to Rome.

37 BC Jerusalem besieged for 6 months.

32 BC Herod Defeated.

31 BC - 14 AD Caesar Augustus Roman Emperor.

19 BC Herod's Temple begun.

16 BC Herod visits Agrppa.

4 BC Herod dies; Archelaus succeeds.

37 AD - 41 AD Caliguta Roman Emperor.

41 AD - 54 AD Claudius Roman Emperor.

54 AD - 68 AD Nero Roman Emperor. The first persecutor of Christians.

66 AD Jews in Palestine tried to revolt. Were crushed by Titus.

69 AD - 79 AD Vespasia Roman Emperor. He continued the persecution.

70 AD Jewish temple destroyed. Small part of the wall left standing.

79 AD Titus Roman Emperor.

Detailed analysis of major Jewish groups of the time


The Pharisees were a group of Jews, that believed strongly against the adoption of Greek ways. They wanted to uphold and protect their fragile Jewish culture, from the Greek influence that was flooding into Israel at the time. They developed as haters of the tradition Greek ways, because of their customs were related to idolatry and immorality. They joined up with a group know as the Hasmoneans and proceeded to conduct a rebellion against the Greek. After gaining religious freedom, they then separated from their new partners, and formed the breakaway party, known today as the Pharisees (meaning 'the separated').

They had extreme power in the synagogue, and eventually turned it into the center of the Jewish faith. This didn't last forever, as it was finally replaced by the temple, erected by David.


The Sadducees (Sons of Zadok) seemed to be a group of aristocratic priestly families, that were powerful within the High Priesthood. They held a monopoly over all the High Priesthood positions and were also powerful in the Sanhedrin. They came across as being a very selfish group that retained their rights and traditions, and also trying to stay on the good side of the Roman Empire. Unlike the Pharisees, they were rigid and closed in sect, and not open to change. When the Romans destroyed the temple, they disappeared and were never heard from again.


The Zealots were a group of radical extremists, that were the cause of many uprisings throughout their history, and eventually they lead a revolt against the Romans in 66-73 AD. To stop this, the Roman Emperor destroyed the third temple, which lead to the end of the uprising. This not only lead to their downfall, but that of the Jews when they were crushed by Emperor Titus in 73 AD.


They were an important Jewish group in the community around the time of Jesus. Although it wasn't until 150 BC until they emerged, they lived their lives according to a strict set of beliefs and rules. To join the group a three year probationary period was imposed to new comers. Members were bound to keep secret the doctrines and practices. Its is believed that John the Baptist was and Essene, and had high connections to their community. The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls has shed a lot more light on the practices of the Essenes. These discoveries have proved that some Christian qualities and beliefs are an exact copy of that of the Qumrans/Essenes.


Samaritans originated from the area located between Judea and Galilee, when the Assyrian settlers intermarried with the Jews that lived there. The population created followed all the laws of Torah in their own special way, and considered themselves to be Jewish. The normal Jews did not accept this, as intermarriage between Jews and Gentiles was forbidden. Throughout the bible, it has been documented that the Samaritans and the Jews were at each other throats, constantly.

Analysis of major philosophical ideas of the time


Plato was an ancient Greek philosopher who taught in the period between 427 and 347 BC. He reasoned that the senses can't be trusted, and that one must use reason and maths, to solve problems and to guide oneself throughout life. Plato was a student of Socrates and throughout his works, he drew from other Greek philosophies, although as time progressed, he developed an entirely different philosophical form of thinking that became his own.


Aristotle was a Greek philosopher that was born nearly 400 year BC. During his well documented life, he served as the tutor to Alexander the Great and also wrote many papers on various topics such as Ethics, Physics and Metaphysics. Aristotle also developed theories on the human soul in relation to god. He represented it as a trinity of matter, being vegetable, animal and human in nature, and proposed a 'non-abstract theory of form, where the initiator of all existence is acknowledged as God.


Epicurus set up a school in Athens that taught ethics, based on his writings and opinions, in the Hellenistic world. He proposed that the pursuit of happiness should be mans greatest concern, rather than modeling his life on the pleasing of gods and of the deeds needed to be completed for one to have a pleasurable afterlife. His philosophy was that the pleasure seeking of mankind, would not only provide fulfilment for one's own self, but also lead to the advancement and development of society in general.


Stoicism was a famous school of Hellenistic thought. Its teachings were not just philosophical, but could be used by everyday people, in everyday life. The main goal for the tradition was to attain happiness and liberation from emotion, through the pursuit of knowledge and wisdom. We can draw many comparisons between the Christian faith and that of Stoicism. We can also see the influence that the tradition had on many of the late Christian theologians.

Mystery Cults/Religions

The mystery cults originated from many places in the first century AD. They developed to replace the Olympic pantheons that were becoming implausible and unsatisfying. The followers of these cults worshiped a variety of gods or philosophies, each with their own set of obscure rules and rituals. Secrecy played a great part in these cults (hence the name 'mystery religions') as one could incur the death sentence by revealing the mysteries through speech, dance, pantomime, or any other form of communication. Although one can debate the point of having these religions, it does prove that the human soul requires some form of religious worship, mainstream or otherwise.


The Gnostics were a group/sect that existed in the first half of the 20th century, and were thought to lead Christians astray by teaching manipulations of the Gospel. The mixed the ideas of the Christians with that of the Greeks, producing a religion that wanted release from the prison of this world. It draws on the Jewish monldthum, Babylonian anthology and Iranian Deulum, and believes that light and darkness are entwined in a constant battle of cosmic realms.

First Century Roman Judea

Summary of major New Testament Christian Leaders


Peter was one of the first, and major disciples. Peter's original name was the Heb. Simon. His fathers name was Jonah. He worked as a fisherman at the two places of which he took residence: Beth-saida and Capernaum in Galilee. At these places he was in contact with the gentiles. He was probably effected by John the Baptist's movement.

He was often the spokesperson for all the of the followers and friends. Before Pentecost it was Peter who took the lead role of educating the people and preaching the word of the bible. The church had made a large impact on the community, but it was Peter that was seen to be the hero and leader. He also was the first apostle to be associated with the Gentiles. At that time in history this move was bound to draw him a lot of criticism. Despite this criticism Peter with some support from his friends was able to make some progress in the acceptance of other racial groups.

After the death of Stephen, Peter's whereabouts and activities became very scarce. At one stage he was imprisoned at Jerusalem and then later escaped. It has been thought that he travelled through many cities, taking many brief jobs and participating in some religious events


James was one of the sons of Zebedee. Was a fisherman when called to become one of the twelve apostles with his brother John. These two along with Peter formed the inner circle of the apostles. This inner group was present at most of the major events and were widely respected for their dedication and sheer faith. James was good friends with Jesus and with his brother John, were adeptly nicknamed Boanerges, that is, sons of thunder. It was these two again that cause a stir when requesting Jesus for a place in the Holy Christ's Kingdom. The two were not promised this privilege, they continued to believe and have the faith that would, in theory, get them there anyway.


John was the other son of Zebedee. Was the brother James (the son of Zebedee). It is also possible that John was the cousin of Jesus on his mothers side. As with his Brother James, he was present at many very significant events on the history of Christianity. He was also sent by Jesus to prepare the final pass over meal. John was the one that was probably the closest to Jesus, he was trusted with responsibilities that Jesus himself had given him.

James, brother of Jesus

James was Jesus's younger brother who, along with his other siblings, refused to accept Jesus's claims of authority before his resurrection. He along with some of his close friends were a group which failed to accept the power and authority of Jesus before the resurrection. The effect the resurrection had on James was unmistakable. He became the leader of the Jewish-Christian Church at Jerusalem. The tradition stated that he was placed the first leader of the faith by the lord himself. He remained leader of the Church, by himself, for some time. He was still the leader when Paul visited Jerusalem for the last time. After receiving a death by stoning, James was named the "just" for his Jewish piety. James is also said to have described himself as "a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ".

Paul (Saul of Tarsis)

Paul was born in Tarsus a Roman citizen. After a simple beginning Paul was only effected by preaching of Jesus after he had contact with the risen Christ. Paul then spent the next three years preaching in Damascus. After some pressure from the Jews of the area, Paul fled to Jerusalem where he met up with Barnabas. Barnabas then introduced Paul to the leaders of Christianity. His stay only lasted a brief two weeks because several Jews were trying to kill him. Retreating for some ten years, Barnabas contacted Paul and encouraged him to rejoin the now flourishing Gentile mission.

Paul and Barnabas were sent on a mission to establish Christianity in the area surrounding Cyprus and the S Galatia. Despite several set backs and violent outbursts the mission was very successful with new territories become adapt to the Christian ways. As one would expect the relationship between the Gentiles and the newly turned Jewish community was one that was tested often. Differing beliefs lead to a number of verbal and physical conflicts and Barnabas and Paul were called upon to resolve these. They used the help and guidance of their elders and fellow Christians to help with their decisions.

Paul once again set off through parts of Europe to convert people to Christianity. This time Barnabas did not travel with him because of a rift in there relationship. Paul discovered new friend that he took with him through Greece and the surrounding parts. He helped set up a large amount of new mission which set the standard for others to grow by.

The next area to converted was the lands of Asia. This goal was quickly accomplished by Paul. He was then returned to Greece to help secure the faith there. It was in the years that followed that he wrote several telling letters. This letters were to become a crucial part of the Christian faith in years to come.

Judas Iscariot

Judas was a member of the 12 disciples, and was the one who betrayed Jesus, which ended in his crucifixion. The opportunity came about when Judas turned Jesus to the authorities. After the event, guilt was beset upon this traitor. Unable to over come this guilt, his life ended in suicide. Judas is widely remember for his treachery and betrayal of the other eleven apostles. He was thought of as a man who was touched by Satan and influenced into evil ways. He was bribed and accepted money to do evil deeds. He claimed this money would be used for the poor..


Barnabas was born into a Jewish-Cypriot family. He a member of the Jerusalem church, and as he progressed he became very serious about religion. He also had a significant effect on several matters.

He introduced a converted Saul to the main apostles, which lead to Saul being accepted after originally being called an impostor. It was Barnabas who stuck up for the gentiles when they were being condemned. Barnabas thought the movement to accept the Gentiles as equals was an act ignited by God and therefor took the side of God. Being a key member, he took a journey with Paul from Cyprus, to Asia minor, which was taken with the goal of setting up a group of successful Gentile churches.

Barnabas was also placed in front of the Jerusalem council with Paul. Barnabas' importance to the issue is clearly shown by the mere fact that he is mentioned before Paul in accounts of the proceedings.


'Setting the scene'

Goosen & Thomlinson

"Jesus; Mystery and Surprise"

(Sydney: EJ Dywer, 1989)


Elwell (ed.)

"Evangelical Dictionary of Theology"

(Grand Rapids: Baker Bookhouse, 1990)

"The New Bible Dictionary"

(Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers Inc, 1962)

Logos Bible Software v2.0

(Oakharbour: Logos Research System)

World Book Encyclopedia

World Wide Web (Internet)

Source: Essay UK -

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