In Africa, there was tribal warfare, cannibalism, and slavery. The Northern Europeans were barbarians. The Aztecs practiced human sacrifice, slavery, and cannibalism. The Incas worshipped the sun god, practiced cranial deformation, and had tribal warfare. The Mayans practiced human sacrifice (particularly of children). On the Pacific Islands there was also tribal warfare, cruelty, and cannibalism. In India, the caste system had developed, leaving so many hopeless, and they practiced widow burning (suttee), and infanticide. The Native Americans also practiced cannibalism and tribal warfare. Some argue that the Druids of England practiced cannibalism. The Phoenicians were known to roast babies alive as sacrifices to their God. And have we forgotten that those bastions of so-called civilization, the Greeks and Romans, practiced infanticide, slavery, polytheism, aggressive wars, torture, execution, and even blood sport?
These weren’t “noble savages” as Rousseau claimed, they were savages.
This was the world that Christ was born into. But John declared, “In him (Jesus) was life, and that life was the light of men” (John 1:4). This was a fulfillment of the prophecy found in Isaiah 9:2 concerning the messiah: “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light.”
Jesus spoke words that had never been spoken before. For example, the Greek philosophers, Plato and Aristotle, accepted infanticide as part of Athenian law. The Spartans practiced infanticide. The Romans, Cicero and Seneca, both mentioned infanticide as a common practice in the Roman Empire, but Jesus said, “Let the little children come unto me, for such is the Kingdom of God.”
Plato and Aristotle also accepted slavery as a matter of course, considering some to be “human tools” that were “marked” at birth either for subjection or rule. But Jesus said that he came to “set the captives free!”
Jesus provided the world with a tenderness it hadn’t known before. As the Gospel spread around the world, those who hungered and thirsted for righteousness, rather than cruelty and suffering, found a resting place in Christianity’s branches. If a tree is to be known by its fruit, as Jesus said, rescuing abandoned children, redeeming slaves, caring for the poor and sick, and opposing poisonous religions such as polytheism and Emperor worship, were all fruits of this tree.