Seven Events that Shaped the New Testament World, is a book written by Warren Carter. The book has received many acknowledgements so far. Carter seeks to highlight economic, social and political situations that shaped the movement of Jesus and His disciples.
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Carter selects seven events that took place between 323 BCE and 397 CE. The essay will analyze first five chapters of the book that represent real events, which Carter considers to be essential in process of shaping world of the New Testament. Analysis will be essential in comprehending scenarios before movement of Jesus that affected activities of His disciples.
Death of Alexander the Great (323 BCE)
Carter recognizes essence of Alexander the Great in shaping world of the New Testament. Alexander was a powerful political leader, who conquered territories during his reign. Carter is greatly referenced for presentation of relationship between a political leader and a spiritual redeemer. Carter highlighted role of Alexander in culture and social transformation, which impacted greatly on the early life of Christianity.
It should be noted that, reformations by Alexander were not intended for later life of Christianity, but centered on his personal gains. In this regard, Carter contrasts life of Alexander with that of Jesus towards end of the chapter. Alexander achieved great economic success, especially by taxing Asians and secured great support from other cultures (Carter, 2013 p. 23).
Alexander is included in history of New Testament, because of his contribution to spread of Greek culture, known as Hellenism. Carter highlighted that Alexander was powerful and had great achievements. He describes Jesus as being powerful, since He overwhelms the society with great acts just like Alexander the Great.
According to presentation by Paul, Jesus outshines Alexander by combining His power with humility. For instance, despite the fact that Jesus was powerful, He humbled Himself and surrendered His life for the sake of others. On the other hand, Alexander was powerful and remained a leader throughout his reign.
Alexander focused on glorifying himself and securing recognition from many communities. Jesus on the other hand, was powerful but reserved (Carter, 2013 p. 45).
Process of Translating Hebrew Scriptures into Greek (ca. BCE 250)
In the second chapter, Carter addresses effects of spread of Greek culture. Carter seems to build on the previous chapter. He highlights culture appreciation, since Israel embraces Hellenism and identifies with it. Jews embraced Greek culture and were willing to have sacred information written in Greek language.
The chapter is characterized by emergence of Greek version of Old Testament known as LLX and Aristae’s letter. It should be noted that, spread of Greek language was fast and vast. In this regard, LLX was important to Jews who grew up knowing Greek language.
Further, this could be a way of promoting knowledge about their God, to other communities that did not understand Hebrew. Moreover, the process could be interpreted as being cultural integrative, since Hebrew norms were linked with Greek culture (Carter, 2013 p. 58).
The letter of Aristae depicts that there was cooperation between Jews and Gentiles. As a matter of fact, Gentiles are seen to honor God of Jews. Focus was not to convert culture of Jews, but integrate it with that of Greek.
It should be noted that, LLX was essential in later scriptures known as the New Testament. New Testament was influenced by situations of LLX. In this regard, Jews represented their culture in the dominant Greek culture, thereby preserving their identity and developing sense of belonging (Carter, 2013 p. 66).
Rededication of the Jerusalem Temple (BCE 164)
In regard to comprehension of events that led to rededication of the temple, Carter presented books of Maccabeus and that of Daniel. Antiochus introduced rules that contradicted with values of Jews. As a matter of fact, he introduced idolatry by act of taking Zeus to Jerusalem temple.
Further, he offered pig as a sacrifice, an act that was described as being abominable by Jews. In this regard, Jews chose to rebel against reign of Antiochus and succeeded. According to 1st Maccabeus, rededication of the temple was inevitable, since Jews acquired victory by engaging in physical fights. 2nd Maccabeus states that, rededication of the temple was essential, because martyrs had called upon divine intervention.
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The book of Daniel says that, rededication of the temple marked end of man’s wicked reign and beginning of God’s reign. In this regard, the temple had to be rededicated as a way of purification (Carter, 2013 p. 82).
Roman Occupation of Judea (63 BCE)
After Jews successfully rededicated the temple of Jerusalem, they enjoyed freedom that was cut short by Pompey’s annex over Israel. The chapter is divided into three subsections that discuss experiences and expectations of Jews. It should be noted that, Romans ruled over Judea from the time Pompey conquered it and even after death of Jesus.
The first section of the chapter details lamentations that Jews had after they lost their freedom. Lamentations were based on the fact that, Jews were maltreated because they were slaves. They however, kept on hoping that they would one day be redeemed and their freedom would be restored.
For instance, the book of Psalms highlights expectations of Jews about political reinstatement that would be brought to them by Messiah. Jews believed that Messiah would come to politically redeem them and make their enemies suffer. Towards the end of the chapter popular actions like death of Herod are highlighted.
The period was marked by resistance that greatly shaped world of the New Testament (Carter, 2013 p. 84). For instance, Jesus was crucified based on the fact that He attempted to resist Roman rule. His disciples were also maltreated, since their mission to spread the gospel compromised Roman norms.
Crucifixion of Jesus (ca. 30 CE)
Crucifixion of Jesus took place due to the interpretation that Romans had regarding Jesus. Just like Jews, Romans thought that Jesus was a political threat. It should be noted that, only criminals who were considered to rebel against Roman rule were crucified. The cross that Jesus was crucified on was written, “King of Jews”. Jesus was not seen as a spiritual redeemer but a political threat by Romans.
Jews on the other hand, viewed Jesus as a political redeemer. As a matter of fact, Jesus kept on referring to Kingdom of God, which was thought to be that of Romans.
It should be noted that, there were crowds that attempted to crown Jesus as the king, due to great acts of miracles. As a matter of fact, Jesus had to literally avoid such incidences, since He felt that people were mistaking Him for an earthy redeemer (Carter, 2013 p. 98).
Further, Jesus frequently attacked them and prophesied doom, like that of destruction of the temple. In this regard, Jesus was crucified because Romans feared that Jews would over power them.
It should be noted that, powerful deeds by Jesus astonished many people. In this regard, Jesus would not have been crucified if Romans knew that he was a spiritual redeemer and not a political threat.
Pilate assumed a weak role of begging people not to have Jesus crucified. Carter however highlights that this was one of Roman’s deductive strategy to measure significance of Jesus. Pilate wanted to understand the political approach that Jesus adopted, so as to perform great acts and miracles.
It should be noted that, Roman rulers had great authority and could not be easily influenced by crowds of people, like the crucifixion of Jesus appears to have been manipulated. In this regard, one gets to comprehend that Jesus was not crucified for praying and referencing God, but rather due to the fact that Roman rulers thought that He would be a political threat (Carter, 2013 p. 104).
Political and social situations prior and post Jesus movement are essential in comprehension of effects on Christianity. There are many situations that shaped world of the New Testament. Transition from Hellenism to Roman rule and emergence of Christianity, were influenced by political and social scenarios at that time. Carter uses a unique approach to link different occurrences before life of Jesus with those of early church.
Notably, crucifixion of Jesus was based on political interpretation and not spiritual perspective. He successfully brings forth role of Alexander the Great in later movement of Jesus.
The first four chapters form a basis for the last three. One gets to understand why the scriptures were translated to Greek. Further, there is a smooth link between embrace of Greek culture by Israel and negative effects that were witnessed later. LLX influences later scripting of New Testament.
Carter, W. (2013). Seven Events that Shaped the New Testament World. Toronto: Baker Academic.