1. The Land:
Of all lands Palestine was the most fitted to be the scene of the culminating revelation of God's grace in the person and work of Jesus Christ, as before it was fitted to be the abode of the people chosen to receive and preserve the revelations that prepared the way for that final manifestation. At once central and secluded - at the junction of the three great continents of the Old World, Asia, Africa and Europe - the highway of nations in war and commerce - touching mighty powers on every hand, Egypt, Syria, Assyria, kingdoms of Asia Minor, as formerly more ancient empires, Hittite and Babylonian, now in contact with Greece and Rome, yet singularly enclosed by mountain, desert, Jordan gorge, and Great Sea, from ready entrance of foreign influences, Palestine has a place of its own in the history of revelation, which only a Divine wisdom can have given it (compare Stanley, Sinai and Palestine, Part II, chapter ii; G.A. Smith, Hist. Geog. of the Holy Land, Book I, chapters i, ii; Lange, Life of Christ, I, 246 ff).
Its Divisions. Palestine, in the Roman period, was divided into four well-defined provinces or districts - Judaea, with Jerusalem as its center, in the South, the strong-hold of Jewish conservatism; Samaria, in the middle, peopled from Assyrian times by mixed settlers (2Ki_17:24-34), preponderatingly heathen in origin, yet now professing the Jewish religion, claiming Jewish descent (compare Joh_4:12), possessing a copy of the law (Sam Pentateuch), and a temple of their own at Gerizim (the original temple, built by Manasseh, circa 409 BC, was destroyed by John Hyrcanus, 109 BC); Galilee - “Galilee of the Gentiles” (Mat_4:15; compare Isa_9:1) - in the North, the chief scene of Christ's ministry, freer and more cosmopolitan in spirit, through a large infusion of Gentile population, and contact with traders, etc., of varied nationalities: these in Western Palestine, while on the East, “beyond Jordan,” was Peraea, divided up into Peraea proper, Batanea, Gaulonitis, Ituraea, Trachonitis, Decapolis, etc. (compare Mat_4:25; Mat_19:1; Luk_3:1). The feeling of bitterness between Jews and Samaritans was intense (Joh_4:9). The language of the people throughout was ARAMAIC (which see), but a knowledge of the Greek tongue was widely diffused, especially in the North, where intercourse with Greek-speaking peoples was habitual (the New Testament writings are in Greek). Jesus doubtless used the native dialect in His ordinary teaching, but it is highly probable that He also knew Greek, and was acquainted with Old Testament Scriptures in that language (the Septuagint). In this case He may have sometimes used it in His preaching (compare Roberts, Discussions on the Gospels).