Religion Before Jesus
Human beings have always relied on some sort of belief system to help them understand the world mysteries. It's hard to believe that the earth is here merely by luck and that we are born, live, and die for no good reason at all. Religion, myth, and legend have always been comforts to help people find answers to questions that would otherwise be unanswered.
While Eastern culture developed many different “universal” belief systems several centuries older than Jesus, Western Civilization did not have a universal religion. Before Jesus, Judaism was the predominant religion in Palestine, which was part of the Roman Empire.
Judaism was also around long before the Romans conquered the region, but Roman leaders did not see the Jewish people as a threat—they chose to keep to themselves and helped maintain law and order within their societies. Besides, if they continued to pay their taxes to the Caesar, the Emperor of Rome, the Romans had no reason to feel they would cause any kind of trouble for the Empire.
What is a pagan?
By dictionary definition, a pagan is a label given to someone who is not Jewish, Muslim, or Christian. However, “paganism” is really a host of various different belief systems based on native societal and cultural rituals and traditions.
The roots of paganism are the fertility cycle of nature and the existence of gods that were reborn every spring. The Greeks, for example, had an entire belief system built on a society of gods that represented different aspects of their culture.
Many of the pagan beliefs held to the basic principles that applied to the message of Jesus: the rejection of immorality (sin) and resurrection (rebirth), for example. As word spread of Jesus' miracles—for example, his ability to feed thousands of hungry people with only five loaves of bread and two fish—so did the intrigue surrounding him. Because he changed lives, people continued to gather around him and listen to his teachings.