Christianity, the New Testament, and the World of Jesus’ Jerusalem Notes by Dr. Honora M. Finkelstein 2 - Rome in the Time of Jesus But what was the world of Jesus’ time really like? As indicated in your textbook, the Roman empire was anything but consistent in its religions, and about the time Jesus appeared on the scene, it was prepared for a new mysticism. Greek rationalism was no longer satisfying the masses, the old gods didn’t appeal, and many new mystery cults from the Near East were becoming popular. The cult of Mithra was one of these; from Mithra’s birthday, December 25, we have derived our celebration of Christmas (although it was also celebrated as the birthday of Dionysus, Bacchus, Adonis, and others as well—it was the birthdate of whichever local god was the reigning sun god at the time.) Among other things that would later be found in Christianity, Mithraism also had a sacred meal, a ritual of death and resurrection, and a baptism (possibly with bull’s blood). Other ideas in the air at the time were Neo-Platonism, whose primary spokesperson was Plotinus, who said the principal purpose of philosophical seeking should be unity with the “One”; and Gnosticism, which had a mystical impetus and about which there is more information below. Two archeological finds in the 1940s have shed light on this time period; they are as follows: The Dead Sea Scrolls, found near Wadi Qumran (between Jordan and Palestine) in 1947; The Gnostic manuscripts, found in Nag Hammadi (in Northern Egypt) in 1945. Made with Xara Website by Susan Smily