Ancient Roadways and Modern Communication -- the Bible and its Message
The Assemblies of God Center for Holy Lands Studies (CHLS) provides a regular column to AG News that offers deep and sometimes surprising insight into the Word of God through close examination of the culture of the day, biblical sites, and archaeological records. In this article, Amy Turnage, the director of the Center for Holy Lands Studies, reveals the similarity between roads — the ancient dissemination of the Christian faith — and today’s Internet.
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19,20).
Matthew 28 shares the call Jesus placed on the disciples and believers in antiquity. It is the same message of belief in the one true God professed by Abraham and the Patriarchs and is our call still today. By what means did this message spread in biblical times, and what avenues do we have today, as disciples of Jesus, to share the gospel of the one true God and the belief in Jesus as the risen Lord?
When the Center for Holy Lands Studies visits locations in Israel and other lands of the Bible, we have the opportunity to reveal how geography plays a significant role in the spread of faith in the one true God. While standing on the ancient Tel of Beersheva, and later in Ramah, Bethel, Hebron, and Bethlehem (to name a few), you can begin to see the preeminence of the One who created us.
God planted people who had great faith in Him at precise locations where the message of our faith could have an outlet and a path to be carried to the rest of the world. These locations existed along ancient road routes. These roads were divided into three major categories: international, interregional, and local.
“The international and interregional roads were for commercial purposes – for transporting items such as foodstuffs, cloth, metals, incense, and fine pottery. These roads also served as thoroughfares for military expeditions and itinerant tradesmen, for commercial messages, and for the travel of pilgrims to holy places…Those living along the international routes were exposed to new intellectual, cultural, linguistic, and religious influences . . . (Rasmussen, 16,17).”
One such interregional route ran from Beersheba in the south to Shechem in the north – via Hebron, Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Ramah, Bethel/Ai, and Shiloh. It is sometimes referred to as the “Route of the Patriarchs or the Ridge Route.” (Rasmussen, 16) Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob traveled its length. This road furnishes the backdrop for many events recorded in the Bible (Rasmussen, 17).
In antiquity, God placed people at crossroads to allow His message of the one true God to spread throughout the ancient world. This is apparent in several instances throughout the Old and New Testament. If you are going to send a message to the known world, go to the crossroads (Rasmussen, 16,17).
In my 20 years of travels through and living and studying in the lands of the Bible, I have been allowed the opportunity to understand the impact and power of ancient roadways and their use to spread the gospel. By examining the biblical text, understanding its geography, history, language, spiritual climate, and culture — one can apply the same idea to our world today.
It is easy to acknowledge a transition has taken place from ancient roadways to the technology of modern times.
When considering the modern day, and the ability to spread the gospel, you can allow your mind to imagine a massive large scale mapping system with roads leading to all places. Some of those paths are good and fruitful, others not as much. It is where messages are conveyed, ideas are created and shared, personas are reinvented, and where information is easily accessed, good or bad. The modern-day roadway is the Internet. It is a large mapping system of routes, connections, and a place where connections are sought and made — and it can be used for the good of the Kingdom.
"There are now 3.8 billion individuals using the Internet. This represents one-half of the world’s population. We must view the “Internet” as a mission field, “Internet Users” as a people group, “Globalism” as a world system, and “Global Individuality” as a new force in world missions.
Individuals use the Internet to find answers to life’s issues that trouble them. They are reaching out online looking for someone to engage them in solutions. We must be online to give them Jesus. We reach them not only by training people to interact with them, but also by ministering to them as individuals. This is low hanging fruit.
The mindset of taking the gospel to “the four corners of the world” must be contextualized to this century as we seek to proclaim the good news to the real and virtual worlds; the worlds in which everyone, everywhere lives. Should we ignore or neglect this opportunity, we risk becoming irrelevant in their reality."
--Dr. Mark D. Flattery, President, Network 211
We have the unique opportunity, through technology, to reach the person next door, an individual on the other side of the globe, unreached people groups, and those who are not allowed to meet publicly for fear of imprisonment or death. The Internet allows us to journey online with individuals as (a) they search, (b) we present the gospel, (c) we connect, (d) they grow in discipleship, and (e) we direct them to belong in a local community of believers. See Network211; journeyonline.org
In the past, geography played a significant role in telling of the story and the spread of the gospel, beginning with Abraham up until modern times. There is still a place for this kind of mission! Now, through bright and creative minds, we can add geographical technology as a pathway to reach where roads are not yet created, and in areas where none have access to the gospel, but through technology.
Times have changed and adapted – but the message is the same – technology is having an impact on the world, and the saving of souls can be adapted to this platform. God is the author of our lives. He allows for creative means for the growth of His kingdom and the spread of the gospel.
As in antiquity, some roads led to the spread of militarization and the trade of slaves, but these same avenues also made way to disseminate the message of the One true God and Jesus as our Lord and Savior. Likewise, the Internet can be used for negative means; however, it is not something to fear, but something to leverage to its fullest as a means for the spread of the gospel and the growth of the kingdom of God.
I leave you with an invitation and a few thoughts. First, I invite you to join CHLS on a trip. Come see firsthand the ancient road systems, and how the gospel spread in antiquity. You will be able to apply this to your own life, understanding that God has also placed you at a crossroad for a purpose.
This leads to my second thought. Review in your own life the roads that are well worn, and see how the "geography" of your journey has impacted those around you. Third, explore how combining the same method used in antiquity with the modern technological roadways allows for the message of Jesus to find new believers, knowing the Spirit of the Holy One moves throughout the entire world. “…And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:20b
Rasmussen, Carl G; Zondervan Essential Atlas of the Bible, 2013.
Dr. Mark Flattery, President, Network 211. Notes from, “Lecture Three: The Global Ministry of Network211” given in the AGTS J. Philip Hogan Lecture series, “Network211: A Prototype for 21st Century Global Evangelism and Discipleship” (October 2017).
Definition of Tel: A Tel is an artificial mound created from the layering of civilization living on the same site for hundreds or thousands of years.
Geographical Technology: A created term I developed to define the geography of the Internet. This term is meant to create a mental visual to see the massive mapping system and accessibility one has to reach various audiences throughout the world by use of technology, mainly the Internet.