It is impossible to talk sensibly about the New Testament and the life and times of Jesus without going into some detail about daily life during the early days of the Roman Empire.

Imagine then that you are a Roman legionary soldier stationed near Jerusalem around 30 A.D. You are part of the Roman forces occupying the southern part of the province of Syria. You are under the overall command of the local military governor named Pontius Pilate whose mission was to keep order in the land of the Jews and to ensure that taxes are collected and make their way into the imperial treasury at Rome.

For the past several years of your twenty-five year enlistment, you haven't fought any pitched battles, but your centurion is a stern but able man and has kept you physically and militarily fit. Three times a month your century makes the eighteen-mile march from Jerusalem down to Capernaum on the coast of the Sea of Galilee. The trip is thirty-six miles back and forth and is completed in less than twenty-four hours with only a brief rest at Capernaum. You and each of your fellow legionaries are carrying about thirty pounds of equipment.

No, you had not fought any pitched battles for several years, but the Jews were likely to erupt into violence and protest against Roman authority at any time. The extreme group known as the Zealots,for example, was growing in influence and was known to be responsible for the assassination of Jews who cooperated with the Romans. When not on these training marches, you would be doing military drills or building and maintaining roads. . .or occasionally clearing the hills alongside the roads of bandit gangs. Once in a while you would be assigned to detachments responsible for crowd control during major Jewish religious holidays or you might be assigned to keep an eye on large groups of people gathered to hear wandering preachers like Jesus or John the Baptist.

The roads, however, were probably your most central concern.

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