That's where we are in history right now. It is hard to study Roman history because it went on for so many hundreds of years! Where does one begin and how is it possible to grasp it all? We just can't, I know, but each time we come to this time period, I certainly do try.
We are reading a most interesting "documentary novel" entitled, The Flames of Rome. (aff) It is set in AD 47. We are reading it out loud so it has caused me to jump over a few things of a more spicy nature. The author, Paul L. Maier, is a brilliant story teller, but more than that, he has kept the history just as it is. From the preface:
Since the true story of these times is so much more intriguing than the many fictionalized versions, I have not tampered with known facts in retelling it--unlike almost all historical novelists--nor invented characters that could never match the kind who actually lived in this era. The factual undergirding is documented in the Notes, some of which unveil new historical data.
All people in the book were real and their stories are told as accurately as possible. It is an incredible story so far and we are all intrigued and want to know what happens. I appreciate how the author ends his preface:
Though several episodes in these pages may seem lurid or jar our sensibilities, all are historical--none is contrived; as authentic fertilizer in the Roman seedbed of Christianity, it would have been dishonest to omit them.
Life in a Roman world was a harsh and immoral place. Christianity spread despite the persecution and temptations of the ancient world. This is a huge thing. We think we are the only ones facing an immoral world and hard choices, but we don't have to choose between life or death for our faith. We don't have to endure the suffering our early brothers and sisters faced--at least not in the USA.
Christ came amidst this time and place. Faced the painful death of the cross while up against a harsh and uncaring culture. He felt more than any pain we have ever faced. He knows our weakness and frailty and knows what it is to be tempted, beaten, and afflicted. He is Savior--and conquered not only Rome, but death and hell and the curse of sin.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Great is His faithfulness.
Studying history isn't a futile thing. It brings the past to the present. The Christ of yesterday is the same Christ of today--unchanging, eternal, glorified.