I love learning on the road. It makes for far more interesting ways of engaging with history (a subject I never warmed to as a kid). And when work are sending me to a conference with top European academics and university workers, I’m especially happy. I’ve been reading some Gramsci and also on Roman Catholicism since I’ve been away.
But sitting in Rome currently writing this, it’s given me a chance to look up what others (including my past Relay worker Heather) told me about Roman roads and the early church. Below is the type of road that’s everywhere in Rome, and it doesn’t look that far removed from older pictures.
The Roman Empire had vast networks of road for trade and to keep control of areas, supposedly over 120,000km of roads, long and straight in many instances.
And so there were things about that time that come to my mind that could have assisted the fast spreading of the news and message of Jesus:
- trade routes were easy to travel on and for messages to be carried on
- trade routes already crossed cultures and had contextualised messages, so this was not as strange
- the language of the empire was most likely Greek (from what I’m aware), and therefore most would have spoken or understood it
- the empire was largely united and stable, which allowed for greater ease of such things to spread.
Now of course these are just helping factors in the spread of the gospel, as God often uses human means to work in this messy world (perhaps some would have hated Roman rule and their roads as a sign of that oppression). Doubtless, the power of the gospel to change lives, the zeal of early Christians and many other spiritual factors were primary considerations. But when we look at parts of history where the gospel didn’t spread as quickly, perhaps it’s not just due to completely sinful reasons (or not at all). We must bear in mind our context too, and of course, the God who is sovereign in bringing about context, as He builds His Church.