Two thousand years ago, in a tiny land on the fringes of the Roman Empire, Jesus spoke to people who were suffering under the tyranny of Rome and the crushing Temple tax in Jerusalem. His message was not unlike that of the prophets who came before him, but it ignited his listeners and infuriated the Roman imperial establishment. Some years after the death of Jesus, Saul of Tarsus has a vision that convinced him to carry the message throughout the empire. This well-known story changed the world.Now, in The Message and the Kingdom, two distinguished scholars reveal how the message of Jesus and Paul was profoundly shaped by the down-to-earth history of their time and by the circumstances of the congregations to whom they preached. The incredible wealth of new information unearthed by archaeology and provided by social history allows them to place Jesus? message squarely in its social and historical context.What emerges is a radical interpretation of the historical Jesus and of Paul as men of great faith and passion who were moved by the suffering caused by the dominion of Rome and who offered a renewed religion'a Kingdom in which no earthly power would reign. Set against the background of Rome and its client states, The Message of the Kingdom offers a vision of continuity, providing an extraordinarily vivid picture of the earliest Christian communities. A fresh interpretation of the lives of Jesus and Paul and the earliest Christians, it is certain to challenge and excite.