Palestine under Roman Rule

At the time of Jesus’ birth, the land of Israel (now called Palestine by the Romans) was ruled by the Romans, who had granted Herod the Great the title of “king” over the region. His domain included most of the land that once belonged to Israel. After his death, the Romans granted Herod’s wishes that his kingdom be divided among his sons Archelaus, Antipas, and Philip. The region of the Decapolis (“Ten Cities”) was never included in Herod’s kingdom and had a distinctly Gentile population and character. The cities of this region enjoyed semi-autonomous status under the Romans. By the time of Jesus, the Sea of Galilee had developed a thriving fishing industry, and many of Jesus’ disciples were fishermen. Jesus chose the fishing town of Capernaum as the base of his ministry in Galilee (Matthew 4:12-22; Mark 1:16-20; Luke 5:1-11). The town of Caesarea on the Mediterranean coast was the headquarters of the Roman forces in Palestine and had a distinctly Gentile character as well. The arid region of the Dead Sea had become home to those alienated from greater Jewish society, such as the community at Qumran.

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