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Caesar and Plato: preparing the way of the Lord
Posted By Eric Sammons On December 14, 2010 @ 9:38 am In Jesus Christ | Comments Disabled
During this time of Advent, we prepare ourselves for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ by contemplating how God prepared the world for the coming of His Son. We read from the Old Testament prophets, especially Isaiah, who prepared Israel for the Messiah. We put up the Jesse Tree, which details the Davidic lineage of Jesus. And we focus on John the Baptist, the last and greatest Jewish prophet, who pointed to Jesus as the One who would fulfill all the hopes and dreams of the Chosen People.
But God did not only prepare Israel for the coming of His Son; He prepared the whole world. St. Paul tells us that “when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son” (Galatians 4:4). This “fullness of time” represents more than just the readiness of the Jewish people, but the readiness of all peoples, so that every nation, tribe and race might come to know and worship the Lord Jesus Christ.
There are two primary ways in which God prepared the Gentile world for His Son’s coming: through the Roman Empire and Greek philosophy.
When Jesus was born, the Roman Empire stretched from the Atlantic Ocean all the way to Asia. It was the most efficient government ever seen, and its infrastructure was second-to-none. Travel was relatively easy and safe, and the Pax Romana allowed ideas to spread quickly throughout the land. Imagine if Jesus had been born in southern Africa or North America during the 1st century – can you really imagine his message being spread over so much area in such a short amount of time? The Roman Empire in the 1st century was the perfect time for a new faith to spread far and wide.
And if the Roman Empire provided the physical infrastructure for the spread of the Gospel, Greek philosophy supplied the intellectual infrastructure for its acceptance in the pagan mind. The Jewish people were not philosophers – they were story-tellers. They did not contemplate what God was, but instead focused on what God did for them. There is nothing wrong with this (and in fact, it is the foundation of the only divinely inspired writings in the world), but in order to be embraced by all peoples, Christianity also needed to answer questions related to the nature of God and man. Greek philosophy supplied the means to do that. The early Church Fathers did not unquestioningly accept everything about Greek philosophy, but they did use the truths the Greeks had discovered as the basis for their proclamations about the Trinity and the person of Jesus Christ. Because of Greek philosophy we are able to better understand not only what God does for us, but who He is.
So this Advent, while we are reading the stories of Israel being prepared for the coming of the Son of God, let us also remember that God was working outside of Israel as well to prepare every nation for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
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