The historic development of language and communication prepared the way for the birth of Jesus. God orchestrated this timing, along with the development of roads, postal services and a 200-year period peace within the Roman Empire (known as the Pax Romana) to prepare the world for the arrival of Jesus.
It sometimes seems like an inevitability, doesn’t it? Every Christian holiday season, another skeptical article or news story attacking the deity of Jesus or the historicity of the holiday. While some may still doubt what they read about the birth or resurrection of Jesus, the authors of the New Testament were certain: Jesus was born of a virgin, lived a blameless life, was unfairly executed, and then rose from the grave to prove His deity. In fact, the Apostle Paul wrote that God planned the appearance of Jesus perfectly:
But when the fullness of the time came, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons and daughters. (Galatians 4:4-5 NASB)
But how, precisely, had God arranged time and history to prepare for the arrival of Jesus? What did Paul mean when he wrote that Jesus arrived in the “fullness of time”?
As a thirty-five-year-old homicide detective and skeptic, I also wondered why God – if He really existed – would reveal himself two thousand years ago. Why not come in this generation, given our ability to communicate truth claims on the internet? I began an investigation of the historic “fuse” leading up to the explosive appearance of Jesus.
While it’s true that the internet provides an excellent means by which to communicate claims about Jesus, there’s a much older approach that can be just as effective. Books and manuscripts are excellent messaging tools. They’re inexpensive, portable, easy to produce, and require little in terms of technology. But like much of the information we find on the internet, even the oldest books and documents are dependent on a historic invention: writing.
The first and most ancient forms of writing (dating back to around 3500 BC) are now called pictographs (or proto-cuneiform). Symbols representing objects were pressed into wet clay with primitive writing tools. When dried, these clay tablets were used to retell events and to serve as trading documents between merchants. But pictographs were limited. They could describe only simple topics easily communicated with visual symbols.
Had Jesus arrived at this point in history (prior to 3500 BC), complex concepts involving His nature and teaching would have been impossible to communicate in writing. Worse yet, the tablets would have been incredibly fragile, given the nature of clay.