The Story of Everything: A Synopsis of The Urantia Book
Paper 121: The Times of Michael's Bestowal
Michael chose a unique time to visit Urantia. European civilization unified under three influences: Roman political systems, Greek language and culture, and Jewish religious and moral teachings. Palestine was the crossroads of three continents. More than half of the caravan traffic arriving from the Orient passed through or near Galilee. Travel and trade were more vibrant during this period than during any previous era.
The Jewish people were fairly self-governing. At the time of Jesus' birth, the king of Judea was Herod the Idumean. Friendly relations between Herod and the Roman rulers made travel safe for Jews and opened the way for increased Jewish penetration into distant areas of the Roman empire.
Mediterranean society included five classes: The upper class, the business class, a tiny middle class, the free proletariat, and the slaves. Slaves comprised half of the total population. The early Christian church was largely
Four philosophies dominated the gentile world. Epicurians were dedicated to the pursuit of happiness. Stoics believed in a controlling Reason-fate and taught that the soul of man was divine. Cynics drew from the remnants of the teaching of Melchizedek, preaching simplicity and virtue. Skeptics espoused a negative view; they believed that knowledge was never certain.
Religions in the Occident included the pagan cults, emperor worship, astrology, and the mystery religions. The embrace of the mystery religions caused the birth of numerous personal cults. Mystery cults were generally interracial brotherhoods, characterized by elaborate ceremonies and a belief in a mythical legend about some god's life, death, and return to life. These cults invariably promised salvation, deliverance from evil, and survival after death. Although they failed to truly satisfy people's longings for personal religion and salvation, mystery cults paved the way for the acceptance of the teachings of Jesus.
Three languages were spoken in Palestine: Aramaic, Hebrew, and Greek. The eventual translation of the Hebrew scriptures into Greek later influenced the movement of Paul's Christian cult toward the West instead of the East. Philo of Alexandria harmonized Greek philosophy and Hebrew theology, and Paul used this synthesis as a foundation for Christianity. Paul's Christianity eventually became a blend of the gospel of Jesus, Greek philosophy, the mystery cult teachings, and Jewish morality.
Jerusalem was the center of Jewish culture and religion. Jews held the gentiles in contempt; they thought gentiles were heathens and sought to separate themselves from the gentile world. The Jewish people were held in subjugation to the letter of the law and also to the demand of traditions. The scribes, the Pharisees, and the priests held the Jews in a bondage far more restrictive than that of their Roman rulers.
The Urantia Book's account of the life and teaching of Jesus is derived from several sources including writings of the apostle Andrew; the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; and the records of a host of celestial beings who were on earth during Michael's bestowal. New revelation has been used only when human records and concepts failed to supply adequate thought patterns.
The writing of the gospels was greatly delayed because the apostles observed that Jesus had avoided leaving written records. Many decades passed before some disciples began to preserve the stories of Jesus' life in writing. Of the records that survived into our century, the gospel of Mark is the earliest; John Mark wrote this record soon after Peter's death in AD 68, after being encouraged to do so by Peter. The gospel of Matthew was written by one of his disciples, Isador. This record was written to influence Jewish Christians, and it tends to show Jesus' life in such a way as to fulfill the words of earlier scriptures. The gospel of Luke was written in AD 82-90 by Luke, a gentile physician who began to follow Paul in AD 47. In some ways, this record was the gospel according to Paul. The gospel of John was written by Nathan, an associate of John Zebedee, in the year 101; only the epistle known as First John was written by John himself.
These records, imperfect as they were, were powerful enough to change the course of history for two thousand years.