In real estate, the phrase used to describe the best real estate deal is “Location, Location, Location.” It means that identical homes can increase or decrease in value depending upon where they are. In an article posted on www.tapabgcc.com it states that in real estate the top values are 1) High rated education available, 2) Positive nature appeal, 3) Entertainment and shopping, 5) Public transportation and travel ways.
The topic of this blog is why Jesus was born where He was. God always has both a short-range plan and a long-range plan. Thus, Jesus’ birthplace and birth time has a divine purpose.
Part of this divine purpose was the history of the location that He was born. The Hebrew people were spoken to directly by God in the Old Testament. Abraham came to believe in one God, an interactive loving God with us. Although some books of the Old Testament are more known than others, such as Genesis and Exodus and the major prophets, there was a history of great spiritual awareness and writing in this region. I am currently taking my second course on the 12 Minor Prophets. “Minor” is given to them as a name because of their length but their message is remarkably grand. Thus, part of the importance of the location of the birth and life of Jesus was an area with a rich history of not just knowing about the one true God but a history of writing about it. The Bible is one of the greatest literature works of art ever written. The writing is thus poetic, strong, with expert story telling skills. This is beyond just writing for utilization purposes, this is a history of writing for inspiration purposes, as our symbolic link to God. The Ten Commandments were an early written work on how we should live our lives.
The first value listed above about real estate is top rated schools. Crucial, there was a history of studying God’s word among the Hebrew people. This study is necessarily because our human minds cannot easily conceive of the wisdom of God, it takes work. Thus, Hebrews had rabbis and other learned people who helped interpret the Word for others. This required extensive training. There is no detail given of any of Jesus’ formal religious training although it was stated that he faithfully attended synagogue. His knowledge of these earliest books of the Bible is indicated in his own words and they fact that His disciplines referred to Him as “rabbi” indicating their recognition of the knowledge he had of the words of God. Great schooling does not have to be formal.
It is noteworthy that Paul, who wrote more books of the New Testament than any other single author, had his original training under one of the top rabbis of the time. His knowing of what is now referred to as the Old Testament later become very important when trying to convince Jews that Jesus was the fulfillment of earlier Jewish writings, furthering his argument in the divinity of Christ. Jesus did not appear out of nowhere, the “preamble” had been written for centuries. After his conversion, Paul went to Nabataean Arabia (modern day Turkey) for three years. In this time, he more fully developed his faith in Jesus and the writings of the apostles. Some say he had the greatest teacher of them all during that period- Jesus Himself. To circle back, Paul’s exposure to top education at the time influenced his understanding of the books of the Bible as well as avid reading contributes to being an excellent writer.
Positive nature surroundings and appeal are considered important in real estate. In terms of Jesus, the apostles, and later writers including Paul, the landscape of the time could be considered important.
According to the website Atlas Obscura at www.atlasobscura.com, the best known geographer at the time of Jesus was a man called Strabo, who was believed to have been born around 64 B.C. and wrote a 17 volume geography at what was known of the world at the time. The Mediterranean Sea was to him and others the center of the world. The “South” of the world was Libya and Ethiopia, the east was Asia as far as India, “Iberia” to the west, and “Celtica” including England and perhaps Scandinavia. To quote from the blog, https://blog.adw.org/2017/03/climate-like-time-jesus/
“Lower Galilee, where Jesus lives most of His life, was Israel’s lushest region, known for its sunny, temperate climate, and its spring-water lands. Each Spring, the valleys and slopes became an ocean of wildflowers and blossoming trees, Beginning in March, the area was covered by a vast blanket of green. The fertile land was a texture of vineyards and fruit orchards. Grapes, figs, olives, pomegranates, organics, and other fruits flourished in its pleasant, subtropical climate”
The blog quotes the first century Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, who knew the area well, wrote this about it:
“Its nature is wonderful as well as its beauty; its soil is so fruitful that all sorts of trees can grow upon it, and the inhabitants accordingly plant all sorts of trees there; for the temper of the air is so well mixed, that it agrees very well with those several sorts, particularly walnuts, which require the coldest air, flourish there in vast plenty; there are palm trees also, which grow best in hot air; fig trees also and olives grow near them, which yet require an air that is more temperate. One may call this place the ambition of nature, where it forces those plants that are naturally enemies to one another to agree together; it is a happy contention of the seasons, as if every one of them laid claim to this country; for it not only nourishes different sorts of autumnal fruit beyond men’s expectation, but preserves them a great while; it supplies men with the principal fruits, with grapes and figs continually, during ten months of the year and the rest of the fruits as they become ripe together through the whole year” (The Jewish War, Book 3, Chapter 10:8).
Thus, one can truly say that the nature location of the place of Jesus’ life met the criterion of a great place to be!!! Unfortunately, via a series of historical events this region does not look the same as then.
“Entertainment and shopping” in modern time conjures images of extensive glittering high end downtowns, beautiful malls or shopping areas like Chicago’s Magnificent Mile, and arts and entertainment districts like New York, London, Hong Kong, or Rio de Janiero. However, in the time of Jesus, one of the biggest players in the world was the Roman empire. The Imperial Roman Empire lasted from 27 B.C. to 476 A.D. At its height, it controlled all the land from Western Europe, parts of Africa and Asia, and what is now referred to as the Middle East, covering 2.3 million square miles and over 60 million people. It was because of its location that it was a primary place for trade and commerce, meaning lots of visitors. The entertainment and shopping were unparalleled at the time. Thus, it was the most concentrated population at the time of Jesus life and had the most people coming to and from it. The reason that this is important is because it was an idea place to first spread Jesus’ message and Christianity. Now, probably thinking but didn’t the Roman empire prosecute Jesus and the Jewish people, and then early Christians like Paul? Yes, but the key here is how many people from around the world were able to interact with the apostles and the writings of the Bible.
Good transportation is also considered key in real estate. Transportation was also needed to spread the Gospel. On the website historynet.com at https://www.historynet.com/why-rome-fell/ it describes it as such
“The Roman empire was antiquity’s largest and most powerful state. It reached its zenith under Trajan (r. 98–117), encompassing nearly 2 million square miles and containing some 60 million people. Linking its provinces were more than 250,000 miles of roads, 50,000 of which were paved. Roman engineers founded or improved more than 1,000 cities and towns, transforming the rural European landscape into a marvel of urbanization. In the third century the Roman army could field 450,000 infantry and cavalry and 45,000 sailors and marines. By the time Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453, the Roman army—the oldest continually existing social institution in the Western world—had been on the march for two millennia. Rome itself was a magnificent example of cultural, technological and social superiority in its time. In 356 the city had 28 libraries, 10 basilicas, 11 public baths, two amphitheaters, three theaters, two circuses (the Circus Maximus could seat 150,000 people; the Colosseum, 50,000), 19 aqueducts, 11 public squares, 1,352 fountains and 46,602 apartment buildings.”
The Roman Empire consisted of the following modern countries- Portugal, Spain, Andorra, England, France, Monaco, Luxembourg, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Italy, San Marino, Malta, Austria and the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Albania, Greece, Macedonia, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Syria, Iraq, Kuwait, Cyprus, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Sudan, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco. This included countries now considered Asia, Europe, and Africa. In fact, four Roman emperors were actually born in Africa - Septimius Severus, Clodius Albinus, Marcus Macrinus and Aemilianus. The Roman Empire also had active trade with neighboring empires, including India, China, and sub-Saharan Africa.
In addition, they had built the foundations for highly developed methods of transportation, both roads and ships. These roads and ships were very important for Paul and the other Christian leaders to be able to spread the words and meaning of Jesus. No, the pagan Romans did not build these roads and ships to help spread Christianity, but God always uses people with evil intent for holy purposes.
All of the people from different tribes and countries in the Roman and trade dependent other empires at the time also made possible one of the most important events of the Bible in Acts 2 made possible
2 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues[a] as the Spirit enabled them. 5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? 9 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,[b] 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” 13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.” 14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
17 “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. 18 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. 19 I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke.20 The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. 21 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’[c]
22 “Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men,[d] put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.
25 David said about him: “‘I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.26 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest in hope, 27 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, you will not let your holy one see decay.28 You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.’[e]
29 “Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. 30 But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. 31 Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay. 32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. 33 Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.
34 For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said,
“‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand 35 until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”’[f] 36 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” 37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:1-47 NIV)
This event happened in Jerusalem, with the gathering for the Shavuot holiday, part of Jewish tradition. But Israel was part of the larger Roman empire at the time. Look at the number of people who were present there, representing different languages and different parts of the world. And all hearing the Word at the same time developed a bond and kinship between different people, 3000 people who then went on to spread the story and message of Jesus back in their own communities and countries. Note that among the crowd were Roman citizens. The modern-day countries represented at the Pentecost were Israel, Palestine, Iraq, Kuwait, Syria, Turkey, Egypt, Libya, Italy, Crete, Greece, Saudi Arabia. It has been reported that these people represented 70 dialects and languages, all of whom heard the Word of the LORD in their native tongues. Later in Acts, Acts 8:27 it speaks spreading the Gospel in Ethiopia. The central location was essential for spreading the Gospel.
Although we know more about the disciples and the apostle’s travels in the now Middle East and Europe, that does not mean that the gospel was not spread in Asia and Africa. The apostle Thomas traveled to modern day India in 52 AD. The rulers of the time, as happened in most of the world and at the time of Paul, punished the teaching of Christianity. In much of the Arab world, Christianity was also oppressed. Matthew is reported to having ventured into Ethiopia. In Northern Africa, Christianity developed into a protest religion against Roman rule. Although it could be argued that Christianity took root in Northern Africa before Europe, sub-Sahara Africa did not get widespread introduction to Christianity until centuries later.
Thus, the location within the Roman Empire was a launching pad for spread throughout the world. One of the most doctrinal books of Paul in the Bible is the letter to the Romans. Christianity thus spread from Jerusalem, the conquered people, to 380 A.D. when the Roman Catholic Church become the official religion in the Roman Empire. For the first thousand years, the Roman Catholic Church was the only Christian denomination. Subsequent division lead to the Eastern Orthodox Church and the beginning of the Protestant movement began with Martin Luther in 1517 A.D.
This largely European group, first with the Roman empire and later with empires of UK, Spain, and Portugal was part of the initial spread of Christianity around the world because they were certainly the most outward seeking and conquering. Now, here is just one of the paradoxes in how God works. Although there were devout missionaries working to spread Christianity, many of the European conquerors just wanted money, land, and power. They exercised great cruelty in the people they defeated and ruled over. They were not on a godly quest, but a worldly possession quest. In the minor prophet book Habakkuk in the Old Testament, he questions God about why such evil men could prosper. He asks for help with the sinfulness and evil that had become of the people of Judah. In addition, they are being treated with cruelty by their own leaders and God states that He will have the Babylonians conquer Judah. Habakkuk questions God again. The Babylonians are cruel conquerors, worst he thought than the corrupt leaders and behavior of Judah. Were they now going to work for God? The answer is no, they are acting out of their own selfishness, but God allows it because of His grand plan, which Habakkuk as a human, cannot understand. God says that Babylonian will eventually fall. The Roman Empire did fall, so did the grand powerful empires of UK, Spain, and Portugal.
In modern day, Christianity is the majority religion in the Philippines, Armenia, and Russia. There are significant minority populations in South Korea, Taiwan, China, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Singapore. It is estimated that there currently nearly 383 million Christians in Asia.
From its beginnings in Israel, the state of Christianity and its journey around the world is describe by the Pew Research Organization https://www.pewresearch.org/religion/2011/12/19/global-christianity- exec/
But sub-Saharan Africa and the Asia-Pacific region now have a combined population of about 800 million Christians, roughly the same as the Americas. And five of the top 10 countries with the largest Christian populations are either in Africa (Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Ethiopia) or Asia (Philippines and China). Moreover, the fastest growth in the number of Christians over the past century has been in sub-Saharan Africa (a roughly 60-fold increase, from fewer than 9 million in 1910 to more than 516 million in 2010) and in the Asia-Pacific region (a roughly 10-fold increase, from about 28 million in 1910 to more than 285 million in 2010).
Another source, the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at the Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Massachusetts provides trends and numbers. In the United States, there are constant stories about the decline in faith and church attendance. There has been a decline in the United States and especially in Europe. However, these stories do not talk about the opposite direction, those who were without faith that now have found it in Christianity. In fact, globally, they report that despite there being more people now than 1970 that the number of atheists has dropped from 165 million in 1970 to 147 million in 2022.
The Center states that the Christian faith is growing globally. In 2022, about 2.56 billion identify as Christians and that number is expected to, at current growth rates, to reach 3.33 billion by 2050. Certain Christian denominations seem to be growing at faster rates, specifically self-identified evangelicals, and charismatics. Africa and Asia are showing the fastest growth rates in the world. The Center states that that in 2000, there were 814 million Christians living in Europe and North America and 660 million in Africa and Asia. However, in 2022, there has been an increase to 838 million in North America, but now 1.1 billion Christians live in Africa and Asia. In 1900, twice as many Christians lived in Europe than the entire rest of the world. Now, more Christians live in Africa than any other single continent. Projecting to 2050, the Center estimates that Africa will have 1.3 billion Christians, South America 686 million Christians, and Asia 560 million Christians. All these 2050 numbers are higher than the 2050 projection of 497 million in Europe and 276 million in North America. The myth of Christianity being a “Western” religion is increasingly being put to rest. It was never a religion just for one people, one region, one country, or one continent. God is not on the timeline that we live in or understand, everything is ultimately playing out to His plan.
Christianity in China is of special note since the government is officially atheist and religion expression is limited and controlled. Although there was some outreach to China for Christianity during the time of the New Testament, it began its modern development with Italian Jesuit missionaries in late 16th and early 17th centuries according to a report from the Council on Foreign Relations paper entitled “Christianity in China” in 2018 by Eleanor Albert. She reports the first Protestant missions to China later occurred and the London Missionary Society translated the Bible into Mandarin in 1807. Despite widespread active persecution, it has continued to grow, including so called underground churches trying to operate without government interference. This article states the following about modern trends
“Social scientists have observed the rise of a spiritual vacuum, following decades of unprecedented economic growth. Modern China has emerged as a wealthier and more educated society with renewed interest in religion. Consequently, experts say that as the CCP’s ideology loses public traction, Christian churches, official and unofficial, appear to be filling some of this void. Believers are not only searching for meaning in their own lives but also for the future of their country as China adapts to a rapidly changing economy and society. Protestantism “appeals to Chinese traditions of ritual and community,” according to French Jesuit and China scholar Benoit Vermander. Moreover, experts say Chinese Christians are also attracted to the faith’s sense of fellowship, comprehensive moral system, organized structure, and solidarity as part of an international movement.”
In his life, Jesus traveled and lived in about a 100-mile radius of his birthplace. But let’s look at how Christianity has spread. Look at what a perfect location has resulted in the world. Location, Location, Location…. It is the truth. Thus, Jerusalem from its own history and being part of the Roman Empire at the time had 1) great education and history of scholarship, 2) beautiful nature surroundings, 3) access to shopping (trade) and entertainment (visitors), and 4) access to good transportation system. God was not preferring any one people over another, but the Gospel had to start somewhere and as seen His divine plan continues to work. He knew what He was doing, as always. God was there in the land of Jesus. God spread it from there to a wide range via the Roman Empire and subsequent ones, even when the people spreading it where NOT doing it on God’s behalf, but their own. God now spreads it with increased ability to travel the world, with the internet, easy and accessible printing of the Bible, with all the modern tools. But the message remains the same, remains timeless. It crosses all races, all nations, and ethnicities- all people. God is everywhere.