Home Time Period All History Ancient History Ch. 24: Jesus Christ and His Work

Ancient History Ch. 24: Jesus Christ and His Work

Ancient History Ch. 24: Jesus Christ and His Work

The following is an excerpt (pages 233-236) from Ancient and Medieval History (1946) by Francis S. Betten, S.J. Although some information may be outdated, the Catholic historical perspective it provides remains pertinent. Use the link at the bottom of post to read the previous/following pages. Use the Search box above to find specific topics or browse using the Resources tab above.



Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of the world, was born during the reign of Augustus and closed His life work under Tiberius. It seems more practical to treat of both His coming and His work in this place.


309. The Birth of Jesus Christ. – The downfall of the national kingdom under the Maccabees (§286) had been hastened by the domestic strife between the Pharisees and Sadducees, the religious leaders of the people. At times neither party shrank from violence and fraud to obtain its end. The mass of the nation, however, though finally led into destruction by these blind guides, meant to be faithful to the law of Moses. The regulations concerning abstinence were observed generally, and the whole male population made the prescribed yearly pilgrimages to the temple of Jerusalem to worship the One True God “Who made heaven and earth.” They also preserved in waiting for “Him Who was to come,” the “Anointed of the Lord ,” the “Son of David,” though their very idea of the promised Redeemer had become much obscured and on the whole more worldly than the words of Holy Scripture would allow. The belief that a world power would take its rise from among the Jews had even spread over wide countries in Asia.

Finally, “the fullness of time” arrived, the moment when the Almighty was to
make good His promise solemnly given to Adam and repeated to the patriarchs and
prophets of Israel.

“ In the forty-second year of Octavian Augustus, when the whole world was at peace, JESUS CHRIST, eternal God and Son of the eternal Father, desirous to sanctify the world by His most merciful coming, was born in Bethlehem of Juda, having become man, of Mary the Virgin.” — Entry of the birth of Our Savior in the Roman Martyrology.

310. The Death of Jesus Christ. — During His public teaching Jesus Christ proved Himself by words and miracles to be indeed the Messiah foretold by the prophets, the Son of God. But then, Pharisees and Sadducees combined against Him and He was crucified under the Roman governor Pontius Pilate, having been delivered up by His own people. After His death and resurrection, the organization founded by Him, His Church, began to spread over the whole world.

Jesus Christ’s death on the cross was the redemption of the world. The promise of this event consoled the first parents when, after their fall, they were exiled from paradise (§ I). This event was foretold to the patriarchs and prophets, and foreshadowed for more than a thousand years in the sacrificial rites of the divine service held in the grandest temple of the world. This sacrifice of the God-Man on the cross is the central fact of human history.


311. The doctrine of Christ was partly as old as the human heart. Partly it represented new gifts of knowledge from the fountainhead of divine truth. Christ restored the worship of the One True God “Who made heaven and earth.” His teaching wrought a complete revolution in the position of the poor, the slave, the child, and the woman. The family not only became again what the Creator of mankind wanted it to be when He instituted it in the beginning, but essentially more. Matrimony being made a sacrament, the family, too, was raised to the sphere of the supernatural. The seven sacraments, a system so sublime that only a divine intellect could devise it, affect and sanctify the entire human life with their silent influence. The crowning point of Christ’s teaching is the law of charity, “the bond of perfection.” Charity sees in every man a brother redeemed by the blood of Christ and makes the practice of kindness a duty and even the characteristic feature of the new religion.

This religion, at the same time, satisfies the general craving of man for something like God’s presence, and the desire to approach His infinite Majesty with worthy sacrifices of adoration and petition. In the Holy Eucharist we possess “the tabernacle of God among men” and are enabled to glorify Him by the sacrifice of the Mass, the ever repeated sacrifice of the Cross: “In every place there is sacrifice and there is offered to My name a clean oblation.” (Mal. I, 10,11)

Christianity solves the problem of suffering. Adversities and tribulations are only the means to obtain a more blissful future; even death loses its terror by the certainty of eternal life and a glorious resurrection.

Finally, all the abstract as well as all the practical truths are brought nearer to our human feelings and sympathies by the reality of the life among us, in a servant’s garb, of the God-Man, Jesus of Nazareth, Who became like ourselves in all things, sin excepted.

No. 1 consists of the first two Greek letters on the word Christ; X in Greek is our Ch, and P is a Greek R. Constantine placed this symbol upon the labarum, the standard of his army (see § 370). In No. 2 the lines of X have been turned so as to form a standing cross, and one of them becomes identical with the vertical stroke of the P. The center letter of No. 3 is a Greek E, so that there are here the first three letters of the name of Jesus. (The S is Latin; the Greek S is somewhat different.) In later centuries the devotion of the several Christian nations has put its own interpretation upon these three letters. No. 4 shows the first and the last letter of the Greek alphabet, “alpha” and “omega.” It was suggested by the text, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.” (Apoc. I, 8.)

312. The Christian Organization. – It is an essential tenet of Christ’s doctrine that those who wish to received the benefits resulting from His teachings must belong to a visible society, in which there is a well-defined difference between the governing and the governed. This society He called His Church. Christ’s apostles were commissioned to “preach to all nations, baptize them, and teach them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” It is evident that this arrangement was to last as long as men would be born with the consequences of the sin of Adam. Whatever offices Christ instituted for the purpose of the salvation of mankind were to exist as long as the world stands.

Paramount among these offices is the position which was first entrusted to St. Peter. He was to be the rock upon which the Church is built. St. Peter accordingly holds the place of eminence in the records of the young Church. (H. T. F., “Peter, Saint.”)

When St. John, the last of the apostles, died in the year 100 A.D., there was in every greater community one bishop with full jurisdiction and responsibility, but assisted by priests and deacons and sometimes by other bishops. A measure of later times was the erection of archbishoprics and ecclesiastical provinces, and of the patriarchal office between the archbishops and the head of the Church.

The Church thus founded by Jesus Christ began to spread victoriously in the Roman Empire in the face of the greatest odds. We shall have to devote a special section to its extension. Almost unending difficulties will prevent it for three hundred years from displaying all of its supernatural force for the welfare of mankind. But after three centuries it will come into the open, and exert its wholesome influence upon all conditions and forms of human life. It will then be the chief element in the birth of a new and different age.