J. W. Shepard
Moral Status In Jesus' Time
world was in a state of extraordinary moral degeneration.
Two thousand lords of Rome had 1,300,000 slaves, which were
treated with great cruelty. In the Empire there were
The rich lived in the utmost profligacy. Chastity and
marriage were the exception while divorce and immorality
were the rule. The priests preyed upon the masses of the
ignorant. Many seductive cults exerted a degrading
The religion of the Romans had no power to cope with the
degeneracy of the times. The philosophies of the Greeks
failed. None of the philosophies could meet the deep moral
needs of the times. The emperors were monsters of crime.
Thousands of lives were sacrificed in the arena to furnish
entertainment for the Emperor and a bloodthirsty population.
Luxury was beyond description. The horrible character of
vice and crime is witnessed to by the excavated objects of
Seneca testified that children were considered with great
disfavor and infant exposure was prevalent. Tacitus said
that the spirit of the times was "to corrupt and to be
Paul gives a picture in the Roman epistle of a people who
had departed from the God revealed in nature and conscience,
to set up for themselves, through vain independence, gods
like unto creatures. From this idol worship they had gone on
into moral degeneracy and crime until they were lost in a
world of darkness and destruction.
This was the condition of the world morally when Jesus came,
who was to "overcome the world" with His Gospel."
"The Christ of the Gospels" Reprint (Grand Rapids, MI:
Eerdmans, 1982) p. xv