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Sixty-eight was an interesting year.

Halving the time, John the Baptist was imprisoned and beheaded around 34 CE (Common Era), a date of no small significance, for the Bible teaches that Jesus Christ began his ministry following John the Baptistís imprisonment (Mark 1:14). The New Testament tells us Jesus completed his mission three years later, and was raised up. Some Christians claim his death was an atoning sacrifice. Others deny the crucifixion, atonement and resurrection outright.

Following Jesusí ministry, the Romans murdered any disciples they could find. Others evaded both the Romans and the historical record. Ironically, the most influential voice to have emerged from this period of Christian origins was not of one of the surviving disciples, but of one of their pursuers. This hunter was a Pharisee, a member of the Jewish priesthood Jesus openly condemned (and who, in turn, condemned him), and a Roman collaborator. I speak, of course, of Saul of Tarsus, better known to the present age as the apostle Paulóthe spiritual cornerstone upon which Trinitarian doctrine would construct its canon centuries later.

On the basis of an alleged vision, Paul set about preaching ďin Jesusí name.Ē But strikingly, virtually everything Paul preached contradicted, rather than confirmed, Jesusí teachings. Nonetheless, the Romans eventually caught up with Paul and imprisoned him around 61 CE. We presume the Romans executed him, but this has never been proven.

Now, none of this history makes 68 CE more interesting than any other year, but it does remind us that during this period the mission and message of Jesus Christ and Paul were the talk of the Holy Land.

What does make 68 CE interesting is Neroís death. Nero, the fifth and last Roman Emperor of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, sullied his fourteen years in office with a litany of notorieties. Perhaps we should not be surprised, for Neroís mother was Caligulaís sister and his father was

. . . well, nobody knows. But Caligula himself would not be a bad bet.

Neroís mother, Agrippina, was married. However, Agrippina and her two older sisters were reputed to have maintained close ties with her brother, Caligula. Now, Iím talking about exceedingly close ties. So close, for that matter, that we donít know whether Nero was fathered by his motherís husband or by her brother. So the cards of genetic and psychopathic aberrance were not exactly stacked in Neroís favor.

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