What was the civilized world like on the 25th of December 1 B.C. when Christ was born? (Yes, he was born then, actually!) What did people think and feel about themselves, their families and the world? That they live in fear of the government, pandemic or revolutions?
They were far less paralyzed by fear of death, even though it was an ordinary part of life. The righteous Israelites (not the Sadducees) knew that after we died a physical death, our souls would leave this world, be judged by the creator and send to the proper abode in Sheol, in Greek known as Hades. The wicked souls, sinners, unbelievers, apostates, heretics and schismatics would go to the Hell of the damned. Many other souls would need to be cleansed in Purgatory, but some would have hope for eternal life, and rest in Sheol in the Bosom of Abraham, also called the Limbo of the patriarchs by the church fathers. The damned souls in Hell were separated from the righteous by a chasm. Requests for intercession were useless and denied. There awaited them nothing but shame and condemnation at the final judgement, which no prayer of the righteous could reverse, but the faithful souls who were cleansed in Purgatory could eventually cross over and join the patriarchs in Abraham’s bosom. In darkness they could vaguely looked up to the light and enjoy the spring of water.
We can read this detailed afterlife in books belonging to the intertestamental literature such as the Book of Enoch, the Apocalypse of Zephaniah, 2 Esdras, pseudo-Philo, the Syriac Apocalypse of Baruch, Wisdom of Solomon and Sirach.
The Greeks had likewise recognized that ordinary humans went to Hades, to a shadowy neutral underworld. Eventually it was believed that the extremely righteous would enjoy a certain degree of happiness but they still couldn’t enter the higher domains, they couldn’t be with God or the angels. Plato’s work did reference certain humans going to Heaven though. Socrates was unsure. Saints being in Heaven is foreshadowed in the Book of Enoch. Yet we see only Enoch and later Elijah are taken up there. Since both were spared death and judgement. Humans who died however… Like Josephus said, Heaven was inaccessible to men. Josephus: Antiquities of the Jews, Book III Chapter VII Shinto spoke of a dark underworld as had the Mesopotamians. The early Taoists hoped to achieve immortality in this life. Men could only vaguely dream of ascending into Heaven as perfect saints in the future, since they realized human nature was flawed, corrupted, fallen.
That the devil had introduced sin into the world via original sin can be found in scripture from Wisdom of Solomon, to Sirach, 2 Esdras and 2 Baruch. References to original sin are numerous in the Babylonian Talmud, though on at least one occasion it reports how later rabbinic actually tries to claim that the Jews had already been cleansed from it in the time of Moses, (though there was an excuse for why they were still mortal of course).
The Pythagoreans also taught original sin. They believed it had entered into humanity as a result of the titans the titans murdering and eating the infant Dionysius. The Middle Platonists under Plutarch, along with the later neo-Platonists, likewise acknowledged the human capacity for good and yet at the same time our fallen nature. Taoism recognized this. Zoroastrianism accepted this.
Faithful Israelites and naturally wise Pagans desired to follow good, adhered to natural law and embraced ascetism, yet their ideas remained fringe (not followed or understood by the more superstitious majority) and sometimes contradictory, while they could only vaguely hope for the immortal soul of men to ever enter into Heaven and receive true saintly. They were waiting for true wisdom.
This wasn’t easy as the Greek philosophers remained divided and conflicted on many issues and the Israelites experienced a new widespread apostasy after having overcome the tyranny of the Seleucids. The High Priests, Sadducees and king had embraced materialism. The Romans had conquered them again as punishment. Many Jews collaborated hypocritically. Others embraced quasi-anarchism and revolutionary religion like the Zealots.
Only the Hasidim, who formed the Essenes and the Pharisees, continued to resist evil. They celebrated Hanukkah, commemorating the cleansing of the temple after its defilement by the Seleucids. They hoped for the light of God amidst the darkness, tyrannical government, apostasy, heresy, sin, sexual deviance, division and secularized clergy.
The Pharisees had managed to retain control of much of the Sanhedrin. In 191 B.C. they had created the office of the Nasi to head the Sanhedrin, after they had lost trust in the high priest. The Nasi had preserved an orthodox interpretation of the inspired scriptures and the tradition of the elders but then the Pharisee Hillel the elder became Nasi in 31 B.C. and he started to introduce modernism into the faith, adding traditions of men to reinterpret God’s laws. He permitted easy divorce, the breaking of certain oaths, so called white lies and so on.
Thankfully his second in command or Av Beit Din, Shammai, advocated faithfulness, practicing what you preach, honesty and so on. He lived it himself. Shammai would become the new Nasi in 20 A.D. He ended up dying in 30 A.D just around the time that Christ started preaching. He would be succeeded by the traditionalist Gamaliel, teacher of Saint Paul and crypto-Christian, who continued to resist evil within the Sanhedrin.
So the traditionalist conservative Pharisees under Shammai and the reactionary Essenes continued to hold to the sacred tradition while waiting for the Messiah. The Shammaic Pharisees resisting evil within the system while the Essenes withdrew into seclusion.
Therefore neither Jesus, his life or his teachings came out of the blue. It was what the virtuous had waited for. His life and death had been prophesied. His teachings about morality, sexuality, the soul and the afterlife were a consistent and faithful expansion of the orthodox Israelite faith of Shammai and the Essenes as well as a systematic and purified exposition of the wisdom of the Greek philosophers and other righteous Pagans.
He was the culmination and perfection of these tradition of virtue, partial wisdom and reflections of truth. The fulfilment of the orthodox faith. The perfect lawgiver and healer and also the fulfilment of all the prophecies. Both in word and deed he established the only path, the direct path to goodness and salvation. The path of life.
He was the bright light for which the people in dark cave had been waiting. After having previously only seen glimpses or shadows of it all those blessed to encounter Christ now received his holiness in full.
Christ was the messiah for whom the Israelites had waited. He was God become man. The Logos. He shared our humanity, yet conquered sin, the devil and death itself. He practiced what he preached perfectly. Endured unjust accusations, torture and death with dignity.
As such it was fitting that the most like Zoroastrian Magi searched for the baby Jesus and ended up bowing before him.
Christ came to establish a new covenant that would last till the end of this world. A holy Church. One and Catholic. The ark of salvation. It would undergo many tribulations and during the latter days even an eclipse, yet its fundament, its infallible dogmas and apostolic discipline and those few remaining faithful prelates, would be faithfully adhered to by the remnant awaiting Christ’s return.
The children of Abraham had for 2000 years laboured under the old covenant. All the men needing to receive circumcision as the sign of the covenant and the foreshadowing of the sacraments. Yet under the new covenant no physical mutilation was required. Instead true grace was directly imparted by Christ’s Church to both men and women, young and old, through the cleansing sacrament of baptism. Christ’s righteous becomes our righteousness. A new life is granted as we die to sin and are resurrected in union with Christ. All sins of our old lives are forgiven on account of Christ and true internal holiness becomes a light and sweet yoke under his guidance.
The wound of Original Sin is truly healed, even though the scar of concupiscence remains afterwards.
Due to Christ working in them extraordinary saints completely conquered sin. Dedicated their lives to selflessness, compassion, courage and love.
Celibacy went from being fringe to becoming accepted, as the higher calling for over a millennium. Due to this ,the marital age rose and child marriages and forced marriages vanished along with child prostitution and al human trafficking and sexual slavery.
He raised marriage to the status of sacrament and reaffirmed its lifelong nature, freeing partners and children from the evils and pain of divorce and remarriage.
Infanticide and abortion were banned. Church run orphanages replaced them.
Giving a substantial part of one’s wealth to the poor became the new standard.
Christ spread the full truth about the meaning of dignified suffering and lived it himself. He suffered pain and humiliation and then embraced death. He was buried and descended into Hades. He descended into Hades and freed the most righteous souls in the limbo of the patriarchs also called the bosom of Abraham along with some of the soul in Purgatory, during the harrowing of Hell and led them to Heaven.
After this he rose from the dead and Heaven was opened to all those who were reunited with God through baptism. Christ himself ascended into Heaven weeks later where he sits at the right hand of the Father. Now we await his return when he will crush the Demons and the wicked, lead the bodily resurrection, judge the living and the dead and create a new Heaven and a new Earth.
We, the descendants of Pagan Germans who still practiced human sacrifice, are blessed to commemorate the birth of the Logos become man.