02.04.02 View of God
The Romans simply accepted the Greek gods but changed the names. When a people group were defeated and brought into the empire, their gods were accepted by the Romans as a method of controlling the people. Pagan gods had all the sinful vices of humanity. While Romans gods were looked upon for guidance and wisdom, the prevailing culture really looked upon the reasoning abilities of wise men to resolve problems. The Jews were persuaded by miracles, which were signs of the continuation of God in their midst, whereas the Greeks were persuaded by logic and reason (1 Cor. 1:22). Hence, man is his own god. Emperors were frequently deemed as gods, not only among the Romans, but in many other cultures as well. Likewise, emperors were often worshiped, which is why, for example, Herod the Great built a temple in Samaria for the sole purpose that the Samaritans could worship the Roman Emperor.
The Jews accepted only one God as the God of the universe. It has been suggested that for this reason alone they may have suffered many centuries of persecution. Recognizing only one God, they therefore claimed that all other gods were in fact impersonators of the true God. This most certainly would upset their neighbors. The God of the Jews does not have the sinful vices of humanity, but rather, instructs humanity to be pure and holy as is He. In ancient history they were the only people who believed in a single deity, with the exception of one Egyptian pharaoh who also believed likewise – and he was hated by the local priesthood.
Finally, among the Greeks, the idea that a god might appear in human form was accepted in mythology. So when they heard that Jesus was God, they could accept this fact easier than the Jews who had great difficulty with it. This belief, coupled with the expectation of a messianic figure, explains in part, as to why Christianity exploded in Gentile nations. Some scholars have suggested that the New Testament had to be written in Greek for these new believers.
. See 03.05.21.I, the temple ruins of Emperor Augustus; Kelso, “Samaria, Territory of.” 5:240.