The Judeo Christian Ram and the Roman Empire
I recently read "The Star of Bethlehem" by Michael Molnar. Published in 1999, he found the astrologic symbol of ancient Judea was the ram. This symbol, with different variations of leaping rams , stars, and crescents was present throughout the coinage on Roman imperial Antioch and Alexandria. Having been an amateur Roman coin collector for many years, I wanted to further explore their meaning. Correlating the mintage date on the coins with NASA's website "canon of solar eclipses" revealed what the Romans were communicating. Each of the stars and crescents appear to be present at the time of partial. hybrid or total solar eclipses. The Romans and especially the Egyptians and near eastern cultures placed great importance on astrological events. Depending on the disposition of the observer, a solar eclipse could signify victory or defeat in war. The prediction of solar eclipses would show the population the divine favor placed on the emperors by the gods. In fact around the time of Christ the eastern mediterranean witnessed extensive eclipse activity. Solar eclipse activity was especially prominent on the northern and eastern borders of the empire. Contrary to popular opinion the Roman empire was stopped by the Germans and Parthians on many occasions. The Romans were masters of propaganda on their coins and gave the impression they were always victorious on these fronts. The Roman empire's government was not Christian at the time of these coins. Judea was a troublesome, rebellious province and Jesus Christ was executed as a criminal. A person would have been crucified for defacing the emperor's picture on a coin.
Before His crucifixion, Jesus took His disciples outside pagan Caesarea Phillippi. Caesarea Phillippi was dedicated to the Roman god Pan and was a longtime site of barbaric rituals and sacrifices to pagan gods. While there, Jesus asked His disciples who He was. Peter said He was the Son of God. Jesus then turned to the rock in which the pagan temple complex was built upon. A branch of the Jordan river flowed from beneath the temple. It was known to be the gateway to Hades to the pagans. Jesus then said "Upon this rock I will build My church." Jesus used offensive terminology in describing city siege warfare. "And the gates of Hades will not stand against it, (i.e. the Christian Church)." In 300 years the Roman Empire was transformed with the worship of Jesus Christ as the Son of God and God Himself.
The next question is "Why would Jesus want to change the Roman Empire." The Roman agenda of conquest, oppression, and emperor worship was in direct opposition to Christ's agenda of peace, justice and righteous worship of the true living God. But why did Jesus choose the Romans to be the instrument to spread His Word? Simply put the Romans knew how to do the "will of the emperor." In the Garden of Eden our own "self will" drove us in the quest for knowledge. The first act of Adam and Eve after eating the fruit was self preservation to hide and find clothing. This is the basic component to all "self survival and willpower." God and His angels chose to save mankind from becoming gods unto ourselves. He cursed the ground so Adam could not easily grow crops for food. He made childbirth painful so Eve could not be a fertility goddess. He kept man out of the Garden of Eden so we would not eat of the "Tree of Life" and live "forever within ourselves."
Sacrifice was introduced as the best means to combat self will. There is nothing more abhorent to self than to sacrifice to something that does not appear to exist. God instructed Abraham to undergo male circumcision as a sacrificial covenant to show that God Himself was responsible for the procreation of the children of Abraham. The Bar Kochba revolt was the result of Hadrian's perception the Jews were mutilating the male figure, which Hadrian himself worshipped. Abraham's willpower was even tested to the point of sacrificing his son Issac.
Jesus Christ was one with the Father. He chose to do His Father's Will. Satan's temptations against Jesus were to provoke him to exercise the Godhead for the benefit of Jesus Christ only. Jesus only performed miracles to help the faith and lives of those who believed in Him.
Christ elevated the faith of the Roman centurion above all Israel. Most of His disciples were at best lukewarm in their faith before the resurrection. Jesus crucified our self will so we could be one with Him and the Father at the resurrection. He clearly predicted his excecution and had the chance to leave and disappear before his trial. Money is the instrument of our will. With money we are able to project our will onto others. Jesus Christ was "justly" flogged for overturning the moneychanger's tables and whipping them. He was "justly" crucified for claiming to be the Son of God in opposition to Tiberius as the son of god. Yes, sacrifices to the Roman emperor were performed on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
Solar eclipses are perhaps the most terrifying event in nature to the human perception of self will and well being. As most ancient peoples made their living in agriculture and fishing, a sudden change to the darkness of night from daylight would provoke absolute fear and panic. This fear would be made manifest by sacrifices to appease the gods. The human will, on whatever level is made humble with the fear of not having the lifegiving rays of the sun. Jesus Christ knew this. People would have asked Jesus, "What is the meaning of a solar eclipse." Since war and death appeared to be the natural consequence of solar eclipses, Christ addressed the fear associated with living on our own account. Doubting love is the opposite of faith. By faith we please God and save ourselves. Christ communicated faith in God as the solution to the evils of Roman conquest and occupation. He knew how to comfort people living under the oppression of corrupt Jewish priests and the Roman Empire. He came to save us from ourselves.
This project is dedicated to the Glory of Jesus Christ and how He changed the Roman Empire.
Photo, Ancient Caesarea Philippi