It should be remembered, in the first place, that the Roman Empire had already become Greek to some considerable extent, before they were the political masters of those eastern countries, where the language, mythology, and literature of Greece had become more or less familiar. How early, how widely, and how permanently this Greek influence prevailed, and how deeply it entered into the mind of educated Romans, we know from their surviving writings, and from the biography of eminent men.
Cicero, who was governor of Cilicia about half a century before the birth of apostle Paul, speaks in strong terms of the universal spread of the Greek tongue among the instructed classes; and about the time of the Apostle's martyrdom, Agricola, the conqueror of Britain, was receiving a Greek education at Marseilles. Is it too much to say, that the general Latin conquest was providentially delayed till the Romans had been sufficiently imbued with the language and ideas of their predecessors, and had incorporated many parts of that civilization with their own?
And if the wisdom of the divine pre-arrangements is illustrated by the period of the spread of the Greek language, it is illustrated no less by that of the completion and maturity of the Roman government. When all parts of the civilized world were bound together in one empire, - when one common organization pervaded the whole - when channels of communication were everywhere opened - when new facilities of traveling were provided, - then was "the fullness of time" (Galatians 4:4), then the Messiah came.
The Greek language had already been prepared as a medium for preserving and transmitting the doctrines of the true Gospel. The Roman government was now prepared to help the progress even of that religion which it persecuted. The manner in which it spread through the provinces is well exemplified in the life of apostle Paul. Paul's right of Roman citizenship rescued him in Macedonia (Acts 16:37 - 39) and in Judea (Acts 22:25). He converted one governor in Cyprus (Acts 13:12), was protected by another in Achaia (Acts 18:14 - 17), and was sent from Jerusalem to Rome by a third (Acts 25:12, 27:1).
The time was indeed approaching, when all the complicated weight of the central tyranny, and of the provincial governments, was to fall on the new and irresistible religion. But before this took place, it had begun to grow up in close connection with all departments of the Empire. When the supreme government itself became Christian, the ecclesiastical polity was permanently regulated in conformity with the actual constitution of the state. Nor was the Empire broken up, till the separate fragments, which have become the nations of modern Europe, were themselves portions of the Church.
But in all that we have said of the condition of the Roman world, one important and widely diffused element of its population has not been mentioned. We have lost sight for some time of the Jews, and we must return to the subject of their dispersion, which was purposely deferred till we had shown how the intellectual civilization of the Greeks, and the organizing civilization of the Romans, had, through a long series of remarkable events, been brought in contact with the religious civilization of the Hebrews. It remains that we point out that one peculiarity of the Jewish people, which made this contact almost universal in every part of the Empire.