Why Persia Never Conquered

For the moment, we are going to pick up the thread from a number of posts back which had identified that the Magi were of the Persian empire and that this empire had given Herod severe stress (both he and his father had to run from its invasions).  The Romans really did not appreciate the Persians because every army that was sent against their Cataphracti (mounted cavalry) returned in tatters, fortunate to have returned at all.

What is surprising is that as successful as their military was, and although they threw the Romans out of Armenia, Syria and Palestine a number of times in the 50 years before Christ, the Persians never seemed interested in occupying the conquered territory and enlarging their empire.  Although military and political reasons may perhaps be given as to why, the suspicion is that such a move simply was not part of God’s plan.  If Persia had occupied particularly Palestine, then likely the spread of Christianity would have become much more difficult.

The Roman empire provided many assets for the apostles: there was a common language, a type of slang Greek called Koine; there was the unique period of few major wars called the Pax Romanum (the “Peace of Rome”); it covered a huge territory in Europe, Britain, north Africa and Asia Minor; there was an excellent main road system under the protection of the Roman legions; the Mediterranean Sea was virtually clear of pirates; the empire had a common basic legal structure; it provided a common monetary system, and they had a Greek translation of the Old Testament called the Septuagint.  St Paul’s missionary journeys in the book of the Acts of the Apostles indicates the freedom of movement, the swiftness of travel and even the privilege of Roman citizenship that Paul could invoke on a few occasions.

All this would have been dramatically changed had Persia occupied Palestine and parts of Asia Minor, especially with the animosity between the two empires.  The spread of Christianity on the Roman side would have been severely slowed down because of the crossed hostile border: there would have been far more resistance immediately to a Gospel whose Church would be headquartered in an enemy territory.
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However, the reality is that Persia did not attempt to occupy that part of the Near East and the early Christians had little of that kind of resistance from either direction.  There would be no problem for their journeys within the Roman Empire, and Persia would have no discomfort allowing Jewish Christians into their territory – after all, the Persians had a soft spot in their hearts for Jerusalem that went back to the time of Daniel and the rebuilding of the Temple, and they knew that the Jews were not eager to have the Romans and their puppet, Herod, rule over them.  In fact, even with Palestine under the control of the Romans, there was no hesitation for the Magi to come to worship “the One born King of the Jews.”

When the time came to spread the Good News, the Persians also had assets to offer the early Christians: they had an interstate road system with a “pony express” mail service; a water link around the empire from the Indus River to the Red Sea; here is where the Synagogues were first established; and they already had a translation of the Old Testament into Aramaic.  Even more so, according to Acts 2:9, at Pentecost there were Persians, Parthians and Medes present, at least some of whom would bring the News with them, and later Saints Jude and Simon (not Peter) journeyed into their territory.

Although history could be viewed as merely happenstance and twists of opportunities, it certainly appears that there was a greater plan at work along with the hand of God shaping the conditions for the early Church, that everything was just right in preparation for the greatest events, and for spread of the greatest Good News, that this world (much less this universe) has ever seen.

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