Lebanon in History from the Earliest Times to the Present

By Philip K. Hitti | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XV LEBANON CHRISTIANIZED

IN or about 6 B.C. was born in the little town of Bethlehem He who not only split history into two eras but virtually changed its entire course. Both Palestine and Lebanon formed then parts of the province of Syria under a Roman legate1 residing in Antioch. The limelight was then on Rome, mistress of the world, with the resplendent throne just set up by the august Caesar. That a carpenter's son in a remote corner of a province should teach, preach, heal and suffer crucifixion for his conviction was of little or no concern to the contemporary historian. That his disciples and followers should in a few years spread his message to the four corners of the then civilized world could not have been foreseen by any prophet. Nor could anyone have guessed that the message would prove self-perpetuating and ever-enduring. Yet that simple message outlived every philosophy and creed of Rome and Greece, and the cult of a few Jewish and Aramaean common folk persisted long after the empire, apparently stable and permanent, had fallen into decay and passed into the memory of history.

The new gospel had for keynote love -- love of God and love of man. God Himself becomes love. Through love the followers of Christ reduced mankind to one family, all under one fatherhood, that of God. Thereby a universal ideal was effectively introduced into a world in which only provincial ideals had thus far prevailed. The new emphasis fell on man's unselfish duty of devotion to God and service to man. What was to count came to be inwardness and spirituality as against ritualism and ceremony, conduct rather than cult.

None of the multitudinous Hellenistic creeds had such a basic philosophy. Only Stoicism approached it. None had a

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1
Named Cyrenius in Lk. 2: 2; cf. Josephus, Antiquities, Bk. XVII, ch. 5, § 2; Bk. XVIII, ch. 1, § 1; Tacitus, Bk, V, ch. 9, where it is learned that Cyrenius ( Quirinus) was appointed governor of Syritca. A.D. 6. Herod, in the last years of whose reign Christ was born, died 4 B.C. See above, p. 185.

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