How Did the Roman Empire Impact Judea at the Time of Christ?

the ESV Study Bible

Judean politics after Herod the Great continued in subjection to Rome. Herod's last will was validated by Augustus, leaving Herod Antipas over Galilee and territory to the north (4 B.C.-A.D. 39), Herod Philip over northern Transjordan (4 B.C.-A.D. 34), and Archelaus over Judea (4 B.C.-A.D. 6). The Romans, judging the rule of Archelaus to be inadequate, removed him in favor of a string of Roman governors over Judea. The most famous of these governors, Pontius Pilate (who reigned A.D. 26-36), was much despised for his despotic acts. Favor with Rome allowed Herod's grandson Agrippa I to rule briefly over Judea (A.D. 41-44), but his early death again left the governorship of Judea in the hands of Roman procurators. The Jewish historian Josephus graphically depicts the unwise and often heinous acts of this string of procurators.

Eventually anger with Rome spilled over into the Jewish revolt (A.D. 66-73/74). The Romans could not permit rebellion in any of their territories, let alone in an important commercial trade center such as Palestine. Thus Vespasian and his son Titus (both future emperors) were sent as generals to suppress the rebellion, which they accomplished with precision and cruelty.The destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish temple (A.D. 70) transformed Jewish religion forever. Subsequently, there was a suppressed uprising of Diaspora Jews (esp. in Egypt, A.D. 115-117) during the reign of Trajan. Some Jews hoped for a rebuild of the Jerusalem temple, but the ineffective Second Jewish Revolt in Judea under Bar Kochba (A.D. 132-135, during the emperorship of Hadrian) resulted instead both in a ban on Jews entering Jerusalem and in the building of a temple to Zeus on the former Temple Mount.

Years of growing Jewish resentment toward Roman rule and paganism eventually erupted in full-scale revolt in A.D. 66. The revolt was ignited in Caesarea and quickly spread to Jerusalem, Judea, Idumea, parts of Samaria, and Galilee. The following spring, the Roman general Vespasian began his systematic campaign to crush the rebellion, beginning in Galilee and then moving south into Samaria and along the coast. Meanwhile, Jewish forces began to fight among themselves in a bitter power struggle between various Zealots and aristocratic leaders, thus weakening their ability to fend off the Romans as they advanced into Judea. In A.D. 70 the Romans captured Jerusalem and destroyed the temple, but isolated resistance still continued even as late as A.D. 73, when the stronghold of Masada was finally taken by the Romans.

Taken from the ESV Study Bible copyright ©(2008). Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, Il 60187,

Originally published April 12, 2010.

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