Christ in Context

Hey guys, so in the next few episodes, we’re going to be talking about the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. But to help set the stage for some of these New Testament events, it is really helpful to have a basic understanding of the world that Jesus is going to be born into. In this episode, we’re going to familiarize ourselves with the geography of the New Testament Palestine area, and some of the political history of this region as well. Let’s do it.

Alright, so when Jesus was born, the Holy Land was ultimately under the power of the Roman Empire. But, Rome allowed the Kingdom of Judaea to be ruled directly by a practicing Jew known as Herod the Great. Herod was kind of a mixed bag. He built some great things, like the Temple of Herod in Jerusalem and the port city Caesarea. But he wasn’t well-liked by the Jews, partially because of his affiliation with Rome and his Idumean heritage. They didn’t consider him “Jewish” enough. He’s also known for executing his favorite wife, a few of his sons, and in the Bible for ordering the killing of all male children under the age of two in Bethlehem. To escape the slaughter in Bethlehem, the gospel of Matthew reports that Joseph and Mary took Jesus and fled to Egypt.

Herod the Great died while Jesus was still very young. After Herod’s death, the ruling of the kingdom, as per Herod’s request, was divided among 3 of his sons. Herod Archaleus ruled the largest chunk of land, ranging from the Idumea region through Judaea and Samaria. Philip, known as Philip the Tetrarch, ruled the northeastern region (which included cities like Bethsaida and Caesarea Philippi). Herod Antipas ruled the regions of Galilee and Peraea (which included cities like Nazareth, Capernaum, and Cana). Also as a fun fact, the Sea of Galilee is not really a sea. It’s a freshwater lake about the size of Washington DC.

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