“When the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son” (Gal. 4:4). Christ chose to be born in a specific time and location. But why first-century Palestine rather than, say, medieval France or ancient China?
We can’t comprehend the full depth of God’s wisdom. But when you examine the events around the time of Christ’s life, it’s clear that they helped Christianity take off.
Let’s examine a couple of these events and marvel at the wisdom of God’s timing.
Social conditions were just right to facilitate the rapid spread of the Gospel through the civilized world.
Jesus was born during the Pax Romana — the Roman Peace. This was a time of relative prosperity and stability in the empire. It followed centuries of war and the bloody transition from republic to empire.
Palestine was under Rome’s rule and benefited from its many blessings. During this time, the Roman Empire spread throughout much of the European continent, northern Africa, and the Middle East. It had a great network of roads that made travel through the empire quicker and easier than ever before. While each region maintained some local customs, Roman culture left its mark everywhere.
All of this helped the Gospel spread more rapidly than it would have in most other historical periods. St. Paul traveled to many parts of the empire establishing new Christian communities and he kept in touch with them through letters. This network was only possible because of the roadways, which were kept safe by Roman soldiers.
Additionally, Greek philosophy was popular at the time and many Greek philosophical concepts were used to explain difficult Catholic beliefs.
The codex appears around this time.
By “codex” we mean a traditional book — pages stacked and bound. Codices were invented around the time of Christ and gradually replaced scrolls, which were easily crushed or smudged and thus harder to preserve over time. If the Gospels were written as scrolls, they’d be harder to carry around the empire and fewer would be around today. Some of the earliest manuscripts that we have come from codices.
God makes use of everything to accomplish His will. We’re indebted to the great Roman Empire for setting the stage for the coming of our Redeemer, even if its intent was to further its own glory and power.