Archaeologists recently announced the discovery of a 1st-century Roman Temple in the ancient city of Sepphoris, around one hour’s walk from Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth.
Sepphoris was the largest city in Galilee during the first century, and for a time was the capital of the district. Although the Bible does not mention Sepphoris, Jesus would have passed through it on his way to Cana from Nazareth, and probably on some of His other journeys in the region. It is possible that Jesus, in His trade, could have taken part in the rebuilding of the city around A.D. 19.
The discovery of this Roman temple reminds us that 1st-century Galilee was not just for Jews. There was a significant Gentile population that justified the existence of pagan temples.
An article describing the Roman Temple is here. One key quote about Sepphoris:
“… this was a city in which Jews, pagans and later Christians lived together and developed their hometown with various buildings.”
Perhaps Sepphoris was a city where different cultures and religions coexisted peacefully, but there is abundant evidence of friction throughout the rest of Galilee, Samaria and Judea. Many Jews, Samaritans and Gentiles shared a hatred for one another. Everything culminated in the Jewish War against Rome (A.D. 66 – 73), in which the people of Sepphoris sided with the Roman government. A Jewish rebel army under Josephus captured and plundered Sepphoris before withdrawing in the face of approaching Roman legions. The city then opened its gates to welcome the Roman general, Vespasian.
It is interesting that God chose send the Messiah and establish His church in a world rife with ethnic and religious frictions. Note the often-violent tension in Jerusalem, Lystra, Thessalonica, Corinth and Ephesus in the book of Acts.
Of all the eras and epochs in the history of the world, God chose to establish His kingdom in a multicultural mix where everyone did not always “just get along.”
U.S. Christians should take a point from this. 21st-century America possesses an increasingly diverse culture. We must examine how the early Christians thrived in such a highly diverse environment. They bridged the divisions of their cultures and found a way to bring Jews, Gentiles, slaves, masters, rich and poor together into single congregations. They had some problems, to be sure, but they were given solutions which all had the same intended result: exist as one body, not as separate groups divided by culture, language or tradition.
Can we find it within ourselves to restore this kind of unity? Are there too many obstacles?
“The things that are impossible with people are possible with God.” (Luke 18:27)
“If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you. (Matthew 17:20)