New Testament Conveniences
“So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” –1 Corinthians 10:12 (NIV)
It’s important for Christians to understand where humankind has been. Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it, right? If that is the case, here comes a gloomy analogy. It’s not just the Books of Daniel and Revelation that prove to be prophetic because the historical accounts documented in the Old Testament books of Kings and Chronicles are the ones that serve as great parallels for our modern society. While civilization seems to have greatly progressed since biblical times, it seems the moral values of our culture have not really caught up with innovations as much as we’d like to think. Plug in “United States” anywhere you read “Israel” or “Judah” in Kings and Chronicles and see how they read. Same story, different century.
Fast forward now to the New Testament, the first great age of innovation and progression.
When studying the Bible, it’s important — possibly even interesting — to picture just how innovative New Testament culture was for its time. We probably too often think of life back then the way Jesus lived it: nomadic, exhausting, poor, and seemingly backward. That’s just the humble way God intended Jesus’ life to be. Life wasn’t just led by people in a dusty, dirty desert, though. While the Roman Empire included a lot of rural areas such as Galilee, it was also surprisingly urban.
While Judea was certainly no metropolis like Italy or Egypt, many residents of Jerusalem were keen to the “technologies” of the Roman Empire. To illustrate the innovations of the Empire, here’s a short quiz that will help us understand the parallels of the New Testament world and our modern times.
Question: How many miles of roads did the Romans build linking one end of their empire with the other through multiple countries and cities?
Answer: The Roman Empire had 250,000 miles of roads, many paved, all the way around the Mediterranean Sea, linking Morocco in Northern Africa to Britain in Northern Europe.
Q: What city had hundreds of millions of gallons of water supplied to it each day?
A: The Romans made aqueducts an everyday convenience in major cities and by 100 A.D. they had constructed nine of them which supplied more than 300 million gallons of running water every day to Rome. That is comparable to an American city of approximately one million people (Rome’s population).
Q: What governmental building could store up to 10 million gallons of water?
A: King Herod The Great, ruler in Palestine at the time of Jesus’s birth, made sure the Temple Mount in Jerusalem had easy access to water. That structure, alone, had more than 37 underground chambers and reservoirs which could have held as much as 10 million gallons of water collectively.
Q: What entertainment venue in Rome seated 255,000 people?
A: The Hippodrome, home to Circus Maximus chariot races (as in the movie Ben Hur) and Christian persecution, seated 255,000 people in downtown Rome. The largest modern-day sports stadium in the free world is Michigan Stadium at the University of Michigan and it seats only 109,901.
Q: What city had an outdoor theatre that seated 25,000 people?
A: Excavated ruins of the theatre at Ephesus, site of Paul’s preaching in Acts 19:29, indicate it may have seated approximately 25,000 people. In comparison, the largest American indoor sporting arena is the University of Kentucky’s Rupp arena and it seats 23,000.
The New Testament only covers about 100 years, not hundreds of years like the Old Testament. The fall of the Roman Empire happened centuries after John wrote Revelation so secular history and archeology have to provide the insight to the conveniences (and obstacles) Jesus and the apostle Paul faced when ministering. Besides, the Bible does not really address a lot of the specifics of ordinary Greco-Roman pagan life that Christians outside of Palestine would have lived with daily. We will.