Judea gets its name from the tribe of Judah, which settled in southern Palestine. When the people of Israel divided into two kingdoms in 922 B.C.E., the northern portion was called Israel and the southern Judah. The kingdom of Judah fell to the Babylonians in 587 B.C.E. Afterward, the region became known as Judea and its people Judeans or Jews. Jerusalem remained its principal city. Judea became part of the Persian and Greek Empires before achieving independence under the Maccabees in the second century B.C.E. In New Testament times, Judea was a Roman province ruled by Herod the Great (37-4 B.C.E.) and later by Roman governors. During Jesus' adult life, the governor was Pontius Pilate.
Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea but later lived in Nazareth in Galilee. John's Gospel reports that Jesus came to Judea repeatedly during his ministry, frequently teaching in the temple and performing healings in Jerusalem and the nearby village of Bethany. The other three Gospels suggest that Jesus made one trip to Jerusalem at the end of his ministry. After Jesus' death and resurrection, his disciples remained active in Judea, and the number of Christians in the region grew.