Very few people have taken into consideration the impact of the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 CE/AD on the spread of Christianity in the Roman empire. Nor have people realized the connection made by people living in the 1st century between the eruption and the destruction of Jerusalem. But consider this – the city of Pompeii was named after a Roman general who desecrated the Jerusalem Temple. It was also the play capital of the Roman elite. When it was buried in ash, many people thought that the Romans had it coming, and saw the eruption as divine retribution.
Today, tourists wander around Pompeii’s ruins overwhelmed by the feeling that they’ve gone through a time machine. I remember, entering the Pompeii brothel and seeing the paintings of men and women in various sexual positions. Everyone tittered as if they were staring at an ancient version of Playboy. Ever the party pooper, I pointed out that the “whores” in the brothel were probably nice Jewish girls from Judea, forced into prostitution by their Roman masters. Remember, Jerusalem fell in 70 CE, and the last of the Jewish resistance fell at Masada in 73 CE. There were so many Jewish slaves on the Italian peninsula that Roman’s were complaining about the collapse of their savings, since the price of slaves had plummeted as a result of the influx of the Judeans. The destruction of Judea was just six years prior to the eruption of Vesuvius and the destruction of Pompeii.
Among the Judean slaves were the original followers of Jesus. Again, remember, Jesus was crucified around 32 CE. His brother James was executed in 62 CE, just four years before the Great Jewish Revolt. Meaning, some of the slaves in Pompeii must have heard the Sermon on the Mount.
In Pompeii, Hebrew names such as “Martha” have been found etched on the walls. More than this, the words “Sodom and Gomorrah” have been found written in graffiti. And someone even wrote the word “Cherem” i.e., Hebrew for “marked for destruction”, on the doorway of a house. The first archaeological attestation of the word “Christian” is on a wall in Pompeii. What all this means is that the Jews and the so-called Judeo-Christians warned their Roman masters that the God of Israel would avenge them – that fire and brimstone would rain from heaven and that, like Lot’s Biblical wife, they would turn into human statues. Then, in August 79 CE, exactly nine years after the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem, the Roman elite was buried by the ash of Vesuvius, literally turning them into human statues.
Some pagans became Jews. More became Christians, the new religion out of Judea. In fact, we have the portrait of a couple that owned a bakery that we know for certain were Christians because they removed all the pagan symbols from the bakery, and substituted them with a cross. Put differently, Vesuvius did more for the spread of Christianity than the apostle Paul. I made a film about this. Click here to watch it.
Now, my friend and colleague Professor James Tabor, has found a description of the eruption encoded in the Book of Revelation – incredible! See: http://jamestabor.com/2013/10/09/the-destruction-of-pompei-and-the-new-testament-book-of-revelation/
The history is there if we’re willing to open our eyes.