The Moral and Social World
In 27 B.C., Octavian (by now Augustus Caesar) became the first emperor of Rome, and The Eternal City
now governed an empire rather than a republic. The great Pax Romana (Roman peace) began.
Everywhere, Augustus was hailed as the founder of a new golden age, and he spared no effort to make the
hope a reality.
The moral degradation, however, of the period when Jesus lived has rarely been equaled in the annals of
mankind (cf. Romans 1:18-32). Enormous wealth and huge luxury, created a sense of insecurity and
terror. Labor was considered a disgrace, and the middle class disappeared. Six million people were
enslaved in the time of Christ. Family life among the Romans had once been a sacred thing, and for 520
years, divorce had been unknown, however, now marriage was regarded with disfavor. Women, says
Seneca, married in order to be divorced and were divorced in order to marry. Children were regarded as a
burden, and their education handed over to slaves. To corrupt and be corrupt was the spirit of the times.
It was the best of times and the worst of times. The world was ready for the Savior—it was the fullness of
time. There was a universal empire—Rome; universal language—Greek; universal peace; universal need;
and universal expectation. People desired to give meaning to their lives. The monotheism of Judaism
was attractive to some—opening the way for the Gospel.