FORVM`s Classical Numismatics Discussion Board

Numismatic and History Discussions => History and Archeology => Topic started by: Robert_Brenchley on June 13, 2009, 03:10:39 pm



Title: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Robert_Brenchley on June 13, 2009, 03:10:39 pm
There's no reason to assume the Romans wouldn't have crucified a large group. Tacitus says they were crucifying up to 500 a day during the later stages of the siege of Jerusalem.


Title: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: IhsantheCursed on June 13, 2009, 05:07:20 pm
There's no reason to assume the Romans wouldn't have crucified a large group. Tacitus says they were crucifying up to 500 a day during the later stages of the siege of Jerusalem.

Well we must take into account ALL historical facts. The facts clearly state that very few ancient historians have truly unbiased written accounts of the information they present for various reasons (depending on the historian). All-in-all Tacitus may have embellished somewhat. Theres no way to know for certain while ONLY takeing written accounts as evidence.


Title: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Robert_Brenchley on June 14, 2009, 03:12:46 pm
He may have embellished, but even if he doubled, tripled or quadrupled the numbers, it's still a lot of corpses hanging from bits of wood! Then we have two thousand crucified by Quintillius Varus in the aftermath of the uprisings which followed the death of Herod I and six thousand crucified after the Spartacus revolt. If you want to argue that the Romans didn't crucify people in large numbers when they wanted, then you're on a sticky wicket!


Title: Roman Persecution of early Christans
Post by: IhsantheCursed on June 14, 2009, 09:40:55 pm
He may have embellished, but even if he doubled, tripled or quadrupled the numbers, it's still a lot of corpses hanging from bits of wood! Then we have two thousand crucified by Quintillius Varus in the aftermath of the uprisings which followed the death of Herod I and six thousand crucified after the Spartacus revolt. If you want to argue that the Romans didn't crucify people in large numbers when they wanted, then you're on a sticky wicket!

I dont wish to argue at all sir. Just discuss. However I stand firmly by my previous post. Sure the Romans crucified in large numbers, but not as often as some would believe. The numbers could have been exaggerated to the point of relative laughability. It is common fact MOST ancient historians always favoured one side over the other in terms of Military victories. Besides, you failed to mention argueably the most well-known Roman mass-crucifiction: When Nero blamed the Christians for lighting the fires of Rome. Ether way , the more deaths the Roman people (or enemies for that matter) HEARD about the military doing, the more they feared punishment. The scribes knew this too.

In the end it is only my opinion that  the Roman people were not mindless butchers seeking to antagonize everyone they came across who was an enemy, but did what they felt they had to do at times in order to expand and glorify the empire. They were civil, elegant, and sophisticated for their day. The empire was the brightest light of the ancient world. It was far worse in the darkness outside the empire. Only my opinion.


Title: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: David Atherton on June 15, 2009, 01:06:03 pm
I for one have never been particuliarly convinced of the accuracies of Carbon 14 dating in the first place. I saw somewhere that speartips or arrowheads have been found in the North American region, and Carbon-dated, back some 15,000 years. That would (one would assume unintentionally) rule out the Biblical creation account due to the timeframe involved. That PROVES its inacurate alone...in my opinion.

You would be quite right in questioning anyone applying C-14 for dating rocks or stones since it is only used for organic matter! That being said, it is the most accurate tool we have for dating organic material and certainly could be used in the case of an ancient mass grave for such purposes.


Title: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Robert_Brenchley on June 15, 2009, 04:01:23 pm
I didn't mention Nero's crucifixion of Christians because there's no evidence of a large Christian community (if we can use the term since it's anachronistic) in Rome at that time, and no evidence whatsoever that the persecution spread outside the city. There's no evidence that it left any mark on the church of the day at all. My guess is that it involved a relatively small number of people. Tacitus says 'many', but how many is that? It's not certain whether they were killed as Christians or as arsonists; I tend to plump for the latter hypothesis. We can't even be certain that they were members of the historical church of Rome; they could be another group altogether.


Title: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: IhsantheCursed on June 15, 2009, 09:26:13 pm
I didn't mention Nero's crucifixion of Christians because there's no evidence of a large Christian community (if we can use the term since it's anachronistic) in Rome at that time, and no evidence whatsoever that the persecution spread outside the city. There's no evidence that it left any mark on the church of the day at all. My guess is that it involved a relatively small number of people. Tacitus says 'many', but how many is that? It's not certain whether they were killed as Christians or as arsonists; I tend to plump for the latter hypothesis. We can't even be certain that they were members of the historical church of Rome; they could be another group altogether.

Again I disagree, although I see your reasoning for not including it.. The Bible clearly indicates that there were MANY congregations of first century Christians. I can provide scripture if you would like. "NO EVIDENCE THAT PERSECUTION SPREAD OUTSIDE THE CITY"? You CANT be serious Robert. Are you? For real? The Christians since the time of their origin have been persecuted by many. How would you explain the deaths of Steven, Paul, ect., or the imprisonments of John (on the isle of Patmos by the Romans) and Paul? The Bible is also not the only sorce to turn to for evidence that the Romans persecuted Christians, but it is enough for me. Afterall, if its accurate about everything else...

We obviously disagree about much Mr. Brenchley. So I , for my part, will end it here before things become too argumentative. Which is not good for me...or anyone else.

David: I dont pretend to know the advanced details of c-14 dateing, however I do know the information I have read.


Title: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: ecoli on June 15, 2009, 10:32:03 pm
If we are speaking in religious terms, then I will withdraw now as everyone's beliefs are different.

If we are speaking in secular historical terms, then I will say that while the Bible is a very useful historical reference, it is extremely dangerous to make outside historical sources to fit ones perception of the Biblical evidence; because one's perception of the Bible could be, God forbid, wrong ;).


Title: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Sri_Sahi on June 16, 2009, 12:20:10 am
Based on the internal evidence of Mark's Gospel, it is generally agreed by both secular scholars and theologians (yes, they agree on occasion!) that the community which produced the gospel was

1.) located in Italy, probably Rome itself  (the author uses Latinate names for coins and is rather confused about Palestinian geography)

2.) under persecution (cf. the presumed original ending [of 3 various endings in different codices] at 16:8, "and they were afraid")

3.) composing it at a time shortly before the destruction of the temple (which Matthew and Luke refer to more directly, assuming the "Little Apocalypse" of chapter 13 to be a later intrusion, as are the two longer endings) but while Jerusalem was in great danger. probably during the reign of Nero and possibly during the siege of Jerusalem.

Regarding radiocarbon dating, it has been calibrated quite closely against both objects of known date and against other dating methods such as dendrochronology. It is quite accurate within it's statistical margin of error. In the American southwest, the confirmed sequence of tree rings goes back some 8500 years, more than 2,500 years beyond the Biblical date of creation which can be easily calculated at 4004 BC by simply adding the "begats" from Adam to recorded history. All that this proves, of course, is that the bristlecone pine was thriving in what is now Arizona some two millenia before the Earth itself was created. A conundrum to be sure but one, I suppose, better suited to another forum.


Title: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Robert_Brenchley on June 19, 2009, 03:02:49 pm
Again I disagree, although I see your reasoning for not including it.. The Bible clearly indicates that there were MANY congregations of first century Christians. I can provide scripture if you would like. "NO EVIDENCE THAT PERSECUTION SPREAD OUTSIDE THE CITY"? You CANT be serious Robert. Are you? For real? The Christians since the time of their origin have been persecuted by many. How would you explain the deaths of Steven, Paul, ect., or the imprisonments of John (on the isle of Patmos by the Romans) and Paul? The Bible is also not the only sorce to turn to for evidence that the Romans persecuted Christians, but it is enough for me. Afterall, if its accurate about everything else...

Come off it, I was clearly referring to Nero's persecution. Is that clearly mentioned in the Bible? If you can find evidence that it spread beyond Rome, there are plenty of scholars out there who would be interested to see it!

In the American southwest, the confirmed sequence of tree rings goes back some 8500 years, more than 2,500 years beyond the Biblical date of creation which can be easily calculated at 4004 BC by simply adding the "begats" from Adam to recorded history.

Not as easily as commonly supposed. Attempts to work out the age of the Earth began in the 14th Century, following a philosophical revolution which led to people seeing the cosmos in a new way, and asking new, 'scientific' questions. Of course, at the time they hadn't yet developed the tools to answer those questions.

There were repeated attempts to calculate the age of the Earth, using the Bible, astrology, which was respectable back then, and all sorts. Results varied from 3000 and odd BC to 9000 and odd. Such a spread might be taken as an indication that the method doesn't work. The most notable of the people involved was James Ussher, Anglican Primate of Ireland 1625-56. He reckoned the creation took place at 9am on October 23rd 4004 BC. Since he was so influential, he got his date inserted in the margin of several editions of the Authorised, and of course once a 'fact' gets that close to the text, people soon start assuming it's what the Bible says!


Title: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Sri_Sahi on June 19, 2009, 04:07:10 pm
[Not as easily as commonly supposed. Attempts to work out the age of the Earth began in the 14th Century, following a philosophical revolution which led to people seeing the cosmos in a new way, and asking new, 'scientific' questions. Of course, at the time they hadn't yet developed the tools to answer those questions.

There were repeated attempts to calculate the age of the Earth, using the Bible, astrology, which was respectable back then, and all sorts. Results varied from 3000 and odd BC to 9000 and odd. Such a spread might be taken as an indication that the method doesn't work. The most notable of the people involved was James Ussher, Anglican Primate of Ireland 1625-56. He reckoned the creation took place at 9am on October 23rd 4004 BC. Since he was so influential, he got his date inserted in the margin of several editions of the Authorised, and of course once a 'fact' gets that close to the text, people soon start assuming it's what the Bible says!

It is actually quite an easy calculation. Beginning with Adam, the OT gives the age of each father when his son is born and continues generation upon generation up to a point where we find a corresponding date in the archaeological record. No astrology is required. One need only add these numbers and viola the date of creation!  Takes about 15 minutes with a pocket calculator. The October 23 thing seems a bit of a stretch, however.


Title: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: IhsantheCursed on June 19, 2009, 09:58:11 pm
Again I disagree, although I see your reasoning for not including it.. The Bible clearly indicates that there were MANY congregations of first century Christians. I can provide scripture if you would like. "NO EVIDENCE THAT PERSECUTION SPREAD OUTSIDE THE CITY"? You CANT be serious Robert. Are you? For real? The Christians since the time of their origin have been persecuted by many. How would you explain the deaths of Steven, Paul, ect., or the imprisonments of John (on the isle of Patmos by the Romans) and Paul? The Bible is also not the only sorce to turn to for evidence that the Romans persecuted Christians, but it is enough for me. Afterall, if its accurate about everything else...

Come off it, I was clearly referring to Nero's persecution. Is that clearly mentioned in the Bible? If you can find evidence that it spread beyond Rome, there are plenty of scholars out there who would be interested to see it!

I disagree, from what I have read of your posts here, other than the last one, I didnt see where you referred to it anywhere Robert. And what exactly do you want me to come off of? Of COURSE I can find evidence that Christians were persecuted beyond Rome! Get real man. There is literally tons of it. I dont even think I have to elaberate. I will though if you insist...

However, now that there are a few people involved in this discussion , and its becomeing more and more Biblical (not that I mind that), Forvm may have a problem with it...so...Robert, you may PM me if you wish to discuss this matter further. You aswell Shri, as I also disagree with you about your Biblical creation comment.  For that is exactly how I calculated aswell ...BEFORE certain other factors were considered. :)


Title: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Robert_Brenchley on June 20, 2009, 03:25:10 am
I didn't mention Nero's crucifixion of Christians because there's no evidence of a large Christian community (if we can use the term since it's anachronistic) in Rome at that time, and no evidence whatsoever that the persecution spread outside the city. There's no evidence that it left any mark on the church of the day at all. My guess is that it involved a relatively small number of people. Tacitus says 'many', but how many is that? It's not certain whether they were killed as Christians or as arsonists; I tend to plump for the latter hypothesis. We can't even be certain that they were members of the historical church of Rome; they could be another group altogether.

Here's my post in full. I began with the words 'I didn't mention Nero's crucifixion...' I didn't refer to any other incident of persecution. I don't think FORVM will have any problem with my posts since they're nothing to do with modern religion, and refer purely to historical matters; Nero's persecution and James Ussher's attempt to calculate the date of creation.


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: David Atherton on June 20, 2009, 07:01:19 am
I thought I would split this discussion from the original topic 'Very macabre discovery in London' because it is so fascinating and deserves a topic of its own.

Mind, as long as personal beliefs are not put forward and facts are...this could be quite fruitful.


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Robert_Brenchley on June 20, 2009, 07:17:35 am
Good idea, as long as we don't get bogged down in religion! Given the content of my original post, I should perhaps try to make time to check Hengel's 'Crucifixion', as this surveys all the evidence for the use of the punishment. I do think the evidence for the punishment of very large groups of captured rebels in unequivocal.


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Congius on June 20, 2009, 08:25:28 am
Come off it, I was clearly referring to Nero's persecution. Is that clearly mentioned in the Bible? If you can find evidence that it spread beyond Rome, there are plenty of scholars out there who would be interested to see it!

I disagree, from what I have read of your posts here, other than the last one, I didnt see where you referred to it anywhere Robert. And what exactly do you want me to come off of? Of COURSE I can find evidence that Christians were persecuted beyond Rome! Get real man. There is literally tons of it. I dont even think I have to elaberate. I will though if you insist...


I think the disagreement is because you're talking about different things. Up until now the discussion had been about mass crucifixions (such as that after the Spartacus revolt, where the victims were slaves), not Christian persecution.

As I read it Robert was saying that he omitted Nero's punishment of Christians after the fire from his list of mass-crucifixion examples because it wasn't on a comparable scale, which is surely correct. He wasn't saying that persecution didn't exist outside of Rome - just saying that Nero's punishment of Christians for the fire was limited to Rome.

Ben


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: romeo on June 20, 2009, 08:57:36 am
[[/quote]
Sri_Sahi wrote;

It is actually quite an easy calculation. Beginning with Adam, the OT gives the age of each father when his son is born and continues generation upon generation up to a point where we find a corresponding date in the archaeological record. No astrology is required. One need only add these numbers and viola the date of creation!  Takes about 15 minutes with a pocket calculator. The October 23 thing seems a bit of a stretch, however.
[/quote]


surely the ages recorded in the bible would make this calculation pointless? early on they say certain men (methulasa?) lived for 900 years! Cant be correct can it?


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians - 1st Century
Post by: Robert_Brenchley on June 20, 2009, 10:25:16 am
I'd agree with you, but it's safest not to go there! Let's stick to persecution.

I'm not going to discuss the New Testament. There's no clear evidence of Roman persecution there, though there's plenty of trouble with other Jews. This, however, is a different matter. Jesus was crucified as a rebel, and justified or no, this didn't help the early church.

The first possible reference to the church is in Suetoniús. 'Since the Jews constantly made disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, [Claudius] expelled them from Rome.' (Claudius, XXV). This might be a reference to the church, but XRISTOS means 'Messiah', and there appear to have been other claimants to the title. Then again, Chrestus is known as a name. We don't know. As a Jewish sect, the church was probably caught up in the expulsion. Jews appear to have started drifting back early in the reign of Nero.

Suetonuis claims it as fact that Nero started the Great Fire of Rome, but the more sober Tacitus reports it as an allegation. It didn't go away, and as scapegoats, he used 'A class hated for for their abominations, called Christians by the populace'. So by Nero's time, the church was recognised by the authorities as a distinct group, though not necessarily as distinct from the Jews. It may well have been seen as a group within Judaism. Tacitus then continues with a brief discussion of Jesus' crucifixion. It's clear  that the Christians were extremely unpopular, though we can't be sure whether they were unpopular with everyone, with the authorities, or just with Tacitus, who writes in retirement at the beginning of the 2nd Century.

'An immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of arson, as of hatred of the human race'. So were they convicted of Christianity, or of arson? It's not clear, though some were crucified and then set on fire, and death by burning was normal for arsonists.

Having blackened the name of the Christians, who he clearly despises, Tacitus then proceeds to blacken Nero's name by waxing large on the cruelty of the executions. Tacitus is, of course, a Senator, Nero quarreled with the Senate, and in any case Tacitus' main aim is to establish that all the troubles of Rome stem from imperial misrule.

One important manuscript says that the Christians were indicted on 'a double charge', Christianity and odium humani generis, hatred of the human race. This was a real crime, usually used against magicians, and punished with death by burning. It's quite possible that we have the actual charge here. Tacitus also calls Christianity 'a deadly superstition' (excitiabilis superstitio), suggesting that it may have been regarded as a 'superstitio illicita' or banned religion. It's far from clear, though, that Christianity was officially distinguished from Judaism at this time, and Tacitus may have been reading the conditions of the early 2nd Century back into the 1st. Suetonius, again writing in the 2nd Century, also refers to Christianity in this context as a 'superstitio'.

It's clear that the Jews suffered in the aftermath of the failed First Revolt, and the church will have been affected as well, as a Jewish sect. This was not, however, aimed at Christians. Things were worst under Domitian, a nasty piece of work, and a man who has often been accused of persecuting Christians. Evidence, however, is lacking. One alleged Christian was banished, but even if she was Christian, that doesn't make a persecution. 

Writing late in the century, the author of 1 Clement makes general references to persecution, but was this from Jews or Romans? Peter and Paul are mentioned as martyrs, but unlike later writers, he doesn't say they were killed together, and makes no mention of where they were killed.

So on the evidence, state persecution of the church in the 1st Century was quite minor. A small, obscure group, they were as vulnerable as any minority, but they attracted little official notice.

I'll continue this later.



Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: romeo on June 20, 2009, 12:39:44 pm
i am really desperate to get into this discussion but i think my religious past (which i like to keep private) would steer me into mentioning religious aspects, doctrine, which would be no good for anyone. But what I would like to say is that bible apart, Josephus apart, Tactitus apart there is plenty of evidence suggesting plenty of persecution of Christians. How many Christians there were and where they were we can only assertain from the bible. Also how widely they were persecuted has contridicting evidence but i think it it safe to assume they had as much trouble off the Romans as anyone who they felt did not respect their rule totally. Were the romans cruel, barbaric , capable of mass murder and gencide?, sure they were, just like any other empire in history at some point has been. Whether it be a over zealous general or orders from higher up, i doubt if the romans were immune to this behaviour. It could be down to a small percentage of human instinct, i hope not, but whatever the reason whether it be the tribes of the OT by the 'orders' of Jehovah, the romans, the nazis, the wars in Bosnia, the Saddam corp, and the like, and to some, and a smaller scale i might add, the one or two bad apples of our own allied troops (not that i wish to associate the bad apples with our own brave men). It is at what stage one chooses to change from a few isolated incidents of mass execution to a general policy to execute on mass. I am itching to say about the mass executions of the crusades but i wont. lol
The ancient historians might exhaggerate (spelt wrong i know) but I would be inclined to think they weren't far off.
hope i haven't offended anyone. romeo


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Sri_Sahi on June 20, 2009, 12:47:27 pm

surely the ages recorded in the bible would make this calculation pointless? early on they say certain men (methulasa?) lived for 900 years! Cant be correct can it?

Of course it isn't scientifically correct. I was simply reasserting my earlier point that a date for creation can be arrived at from the Bible. Every 'truth' has it's place and purpose. As Ernest Hemingway said, "I know now that there is no one thing that is true - it is all true". The hard part is knowing which truth is appropriate in a given context.

This began as a query regarding the usefulness of radiocarbon dating for the "macabre" find when someone commented that radiocarbon dates are impossible because the earth is less than 10,000 years old.


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians - 2nd Century (1)
Post by: Robert_Brenchley on June 20, 2009, 02:00:20 pm
There may be indirect evidence of Roman persecution in the New Testament but I'm deliberately not going there because it's disputable, in some cases I'd dispute it myself, and in any case I'm trying to avoid anything which is likely to lead to religious polemics. That's proving a little difficult, unfortunately! I wish people would stick to history.

Pliny, governor of Bithynia about 112, has some interesting things to say. The temples were 'almost deserted', religious ceremonies have not been observed, and and fodder for sacrificial animals isn't selling. So it sounds as though the local religious authorities have been spinning Pliny a yarn. It's not the only time priests have felt threatened by a new cult! They've produced lists of alleged Christians, and Pliny is very concerned to deal with these properly. He's not sure whether punishment attaches to 'the mere name', in other words to the mere fact of someone having been a Christian, or to the 'secret crimes connected to the name'. So Christians have a bad reputation, at least with the Senatores.

He questions them repeatedly, since under Roman law repeated confessions were needed for a conviction in the absense of other evidence. If they continues to persist, he executed them, as 'obstinacy and unbending perversity deserve to be punished'. Those who denied being Christians, or said they had left the sect (so like modern churches, they couldn't always keep their converts!) demonstrated it by sacrificing to Trajan's image. So the essential motive for punishing them seems to be suspicions about their loyalty, expressed through a refusal to participate in the state religion. He again uses the term 'superstition'. A superstitio illicita, or a collegium illicitum, an illicit association, could be punished, but was not necessarily so. If the church was categorised as such, and it looks that way, then it put them in a very vulnerable position when anyone wanted to lash out. I think that was probably their basic problem throughout.

Trajan replies to the effect that Christians should be punished, as long as they had been properly accused, but they should be released if they will sacrifice to the gods. Later, Hadrian wrote to Minucius Fundanus, Proconsul of Asia, to similar effect, with the proviso that anyone making libellous allegations should recieve a heavier penalty.

I'll continue again later.


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Joe Sermarini on June 20, 2009, 02:24:58 pm
Robert, Robert, Robert. Tsk. Tsk. The Bible is History sir...

The fact that there is a book called the Bible is history.  The Bible has certainly influenced history.  The Bible certainly does describe many historical events.  BUT, much of what is in the Bible is NOT accepted as history, except by some Christians, not even all Christians.   When we discuss history here, the Bible may be used as evidence, but you must accept that not everyone believes it is historically accurate.  Arguing that the Bible is historically accurate and expecting or arguing that others should agree is discussion of modern religion, which is prohibited here.   There have been multiple complaints that your posts have broken this prohibition. 


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Joe Sermarini on June 20, 2009, 02:53:23 pm
Joe, I , it seems, am one of the only ones here, besides yourself, to be concerned with Forvms' rules, as I have advised this conversation to be taken privatly for some time now.

Wandigeaux: I do not appreciate your insult about my spelling sir. Its very rude.

IhsandtheCursed:  My post responded to at least four "report this post" emails about your posts, so I am not the only one concerned. 

Wandigeaux:  Your post was rude and broke our #1 rule, BE NICE. 


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: David Atherton on June 21, 2009, 07:28:01 am
Well, 24 hrs after splitting this post I see it has really heated up!

I did not expect this to turn into a creationist/young earth vs. historical evidence debate. I was hoping that only historical evidence would be presented and weighed.

Robert, I would be very interested to read what you have to say about the second century. Also, have you read any of Bart D. Ehrman's books? I think you would enjoy them!



Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Robert_Brenchley on June 21, 2009, 07:58:34 am
I've been meaning to read Ehrman for a long time, but I've never got round to it. I'll try to do more on the 2nd century later. It's the 3rd that really gets interesting.


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: ecoli on June 22, 2009, 07:26:28 am
As for the early Christians, a question to Robert:

Are there many Roman sources on ministry of Paul?  I am not familiar with any.  I can imagine those times being momentous to early Christians; but momentous times for a tiny group does not usually translate to anything significant in the greater society; even about a man who from a secular point of view, arguably was more influential than Jesus on determining the course of the religion. 



Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: commodus on June 22, 2009, 09:18:54 am
The Roman persecutions of Christians actually pales in comparison to the Christian persecution of Pagans following the adoption of Christianity as the state religion of Rome. As with persecution of Christians, this waxed and waned with various regimes but the fact remains that Paganism was ruthlessly dealt with and ultimately destroyed all together. So, perhaps the fears of the Pagan Romans about Christianity were not entirely unjustified.


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Dino on June 22, 2009, 10:50:23 am
The Roman persecutions of Christians actually pales in comparison to the Christian persecution of Pagans following the adoption of Christianity as the state religion of Rome. As with persecution of Christians, this waxed and waned with various regimes but the fact remains that Paganism was ruthlessly dealt with and ultimately destroyed all together. So, perhaps the fears of the Pagan Romans about Christianity were not entirely unjustified.

Interesting point.  It's a little disappointing to walk into places like the Pantheon for example and see that it's a Christian shrine now.  (And I say this as a Christian and don't mean to offend anyone).   It's beautiful, but I'd really like to see it as intended when built.  I'd guess, however, that one could say that of any number of buildings in any number of contexts.


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Will Hooton on June 22, 2009, 12:24:17 pm

Interesting point.  It's a little disappointing to walk into places like the Pantheon for example and see that it's a Christian shrine now.  (And I say this as a Christian and don't mean to offend anyone).   It's beautiful, but I'd really like to see it as intended when built.  I'd guess, however, that one could say that of any number of buildings in any number of contexts.

I certainly agree. The same can be said for the Hagia Sophia as well! ;)


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Noah on June 22, 2009, 12:45:23 pm
The Roman persecutions of Christians actually pales in comparison to the Christian persecution of Pagans following the adoption of Christianity as the state religion of Rome. As with persecution of Christians, this waxed and waned with various regimes but the fact remains that Paganism was ruthlessly dealt with and ultimately destroyed all together. So, perhaps the fears of the Pagan Romans about Christianity were not entirely unjustified.

This is absolutely true.  Edward Gibbon discusses that in the 4th century, after the institution of Christianity by Constantine I, Ambrose had such an influence on the young Gratian and was able to persuade the pious Theodosius to implement harsh laws and edicts against pagan worship. Engaging in such pagan worship or acts deemed unholy were punishable by fines, prison, or even death.

"No one shall consult a soothsayer, astrologer or diviner.  The perverse pronouncements of augurs and seers must fall silent. ... The universal curiosity about divination must be silent forever.  Whosoever refuses obedience to this command shall suffer the penalty of death and be laid low by the avenging sword." -- Codex Theodosianus, IX.16.4

"We command that all those proved to be devoting themselves to sacrificing or worshipping images be subject to the penalty of death." -- Codex Theodosianus, XVI.10.6

Beyond this, we can't forget the crusades, extremely fanatical theological ideals and practices of the Middle Ages (i.e. flagellants), and the Spanish Inquisition.  This is just the tip of the iceberg; man doing horrible things claiming to be ordained by God is not uncommon throughout history. 

Best, Noah



Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Dino on June 22, 2009, 12:50:21 pm

Interesting point.  It's a little disappointing to walk into places like the Pantheon for example and see that it's a Christian shrine now.  (And I say this as a Christian and don't mean to offend anyone).   It's beautiful, but I'd really like to see it as intended when built.  I'd guess, however, that one could say that of any number of buildings in any number of contexts.

I certainly agree. The same can be said for the Hagia Sophia as well! ;)

Ah, yes.  That church in Constantinople.  (No self-respecting Greek would call it Istanbul of course.   ;) )

Another nice example btw.



Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Dino on June 22, 2009, 12:59:08 pm
At least the conversion of the Hagia Sophia and the Pantheon were much less destructive that the dynamiting of the buddhas of Bamyam.  Amazing what we humans do in the name of religion.

Before during and after shots below.


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: ecoli on June 22, 2009, 01:11:49 pm
It is difficult to compare the relative tolerance of different society toward anothers just by the level of persecution...

One will find that as long as everyone is secure, it is easy for the society to be tolerant...not so if the "barbarians" are coming over the walls.

For instance, I wonder how many of Forvm readers world view and tolerance levels toward others will change if they were constantly forced to flee for their lives?

----

As far as the Pantheon and Hagia Sophia are concerned, I find it better preserved and more spiritual than say the Parthenon which after several conversions of faith, became an ammunition dump.
 


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Dino on June 22, 2009, 02:21:07 pm

As far as the Pantheon and Hagia Sophia are concerned, I find it better preserved and more spiritual than say the Parthenon which after several conversions of faith, became an ammunition dump.
 

Except that you can't really tell now by looking at it that the Parthenon was ever a Christian church or a mosque.


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: ecoli on June 22, 2009, 02:24:36 pm
Art of War trumps all :)


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Jochen on June 22, 2009, 02:53:53 pm
The same can be said for the Hagia Sophia as well!

And the Hagia Sophia was built by looting pagane temples, f.e. of Baalbek!

Best regards


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Robert_Brenchley on June 22, 2009, 03:49:42 pm
There are no early Roman sources regarding Paul at all, not surprisingly. He led a minor splinter group of a very minor Jewish sect. Nobody except Josephus mentioned Christianity or Jesus at all until the 2nd Century, and whatever Josephus wrote (I'm convinced he did write something) it was a passing reference that's been so messed about by Christian copyists that it's impossible to reconstruct. All we can really say is that, going by the context, he probably wrote a one or two, negative, sentences about Jesus.


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Dino on June 22, 2009, 03:58:05 pm
[W]hatever Josephus wrote (I'm convinced he did write something) it was a passing reference that's been so messed about by Christian copyists that it's impossible to reconstruct. All we can really say is that, going by the context, he probably wrote a one or two, negative, sentences about Jesus.

What's the basis your position, Robert?


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Gavignano on June 22, 2009, 06:48:16 pm
Oh my, how this conversation has drifted. We have gone from a discussion about Nero's persecution of early Christians, to Christianity's persecution of the pagans being worse in scope (without a clear argument explaining persecutions between the time of Nero of Christians to the point of official adoption of Christianity being "less" than the subsequent Pagan ones), to a questioning of the motives of Eusebius (not unjustified) and his influence without mentioning the possible anti-Christian bias of Josephus, not even mentioning that also of Edward Gibbon.....

This could go on forever, and throughout history, some elaborate and impressive arguments have been put forth on both sides as to what the influence and extent of early Christianity was.



Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Noah on June 22, 2009, 09:06:21 pm
Finding the connections and correlations between the tangents is fun stuff.  It keeps the thread alive and kickin.'  I, for one, appreciate you simplifying it all in one post Gavignano.  It is true that this post could go on perpetually, since diverting opinons and world views have come into play and there seems to be no right or wrong answer in it all.

Best, Noah


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: commodus on June 23, 2009, 12:54:04 am
We have gone from a discussion about Nero's persecution of early Christians, to Christianity's persecution of the pagans being worse in scope (without a clear argument explaining persecutions between the time of Nero of Christians to the point of official adoption of Christianity being "less" than the subsequent Pagan ones)

Difficult to do in the limited space of a discussion board. Actually, there's plenty of data on the subject if one wishes to research it. Proof enough, however, is that one of the world's major religions of the time was effectively wiped off the face of the earth in the space of a few generations.


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Will Hooton on June 23, 2009, 06:05:19 am

 Proof enough, however, is that one of the world's major religions of the time was effectively wiped off the face of the earth in the space of a few generations.

You sound like pagans were exterminated or something (wiped off). I think in general most pagans converted, albeit through the occasional force of arms (the Teutonic Crusades, Reconquista etc.).


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Congius on June 23, 2009, 06:56:42 am

 Proof enough, however, is that one of the world's major religions of the time was effectively wiped off the face of the earth in the space of a few generations.

You sound like pagans were exterminated or something (wiped off). I think in general most pagans converted, albeit through the occasional force of arms (the Teutonic Crusades, Reconquista etc.).

Many gradually "converted" by choice, maybe even without knowing exactly what the new religion was (viz: Pope Leo I complaining of his congregation turning east to pray to Sol on the way into St. Peters; the embracing of Pagan holidays by Christianity), and successive generations were simply born into it. The choice wasn't entirely optional though - the temples had been plundered to garnish the churches, and many of the public practices of the religio romana (such as sacrifice, divination) had been made illegal even if the shell that was left of the religion itself had not.

Ben


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: commodus on June 23, 2009, 09:57:40 am

 Proof enough, however, is that one of the world's major religions of the time was effectively wiped off the face of the earth in the space of a few generations.

You sound like pagans were exterminated or something (wiped off). I think in general most pagans converted, albeit through the occasional force of arms (the Teutonic Crusades, Reconquista etc.).

Obviously, the people themselves were not destroyed -- but their religion, their worship of the gods, their world view as it was determined by these essential elements of their belief system, these were exterminated quite succcessfully and supplanted by force with a faith which grudgingly did adopt some of those elements of the old religion which were so entrenched that it could not kill them off.


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: ecoli on June 23, 2009, 10:35:07 am
People don't change with the times.  Even in modern times, new converts bring much of their old culture/religious background to Christianity...In a lot of Asian churches, if you know what to look for, you can spot a lot of buddhist and other cultural influences.

In general, Christianity is easy to attack because it is the dominant religion for such a long time.  In the grander scheme of things, these sort of things are always the by products of clash of cultures and not limited or unique to Christianity. 

While it is romantic to think what might have been, but cultures rise and fall for a reason; and in most cases, as with paganism, the reason primarily lies within that culture and society itself and not some external causes.  The traditional pagan soceity was weak and vunerable; Christianity just appeared at the right time. 


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Noah on June 23, 2009, 10:41:42 am
Due to the smaller nature of the "barbarian" or non Graeco-Roman tribes of Northern Europe, conversion was typically done en masse.  So when a tribal leader made the decision to convert, then it was a group endeavor.  This made Christianity spread more quickly among them, passing then on to the next generation and establishing itself from then on.  Furthermore, when these tribal units came into contact with the Graeco-Roman civilization/culture after the fall of Rome, they essentially gave up their "lower" culture for the "higher" culture they encountered.  Since the Roman Empire was largely Christian upon its collapse, these "barbarians" left behind their traditional religious beliefs for Christianity or mixed the two.  So it begs to question, how different would the course of history be if the barbarians had found what we refer to as Graeco-Roman mythology as the key religion instead of Christianity (yes, a bit of a romantic idea)?

Best, Noah


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Robert_Brenchley on June 23, 2009, 03:09:54 pm
[W]hatever Josephus wrote (I'm convinced he did write something) it was a passing reference that's been so messed about by Christian copyists that it's impossible to reconstruct. All we can really say is that, going by the context, he probably wrote a one or two, negative, sentences about Jesus.

What's the basis your position, Robert?

The story comes immediately after a negative story about Pilate, and is followed by a scurrilous story about a certain Paulina. Josephus then returns to Pilate. A negative comment about another character would fit well, especially if it involved Pilate. In his comment about the execution of James, Josephus refer to 'Jesus, who was called Christ'. That could easily be written by someone who didn't believe he was the Messiah, but wouldn't be so plausible from a Christian, and certainly not from whoever added 'He was [the] Christ' a little earlier in the same book.

'Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the Sanhedrin of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others, [or some of his companions]; and, when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned'  doesn't make much sense unless Josephus explained somewhere who this Jesus was. So it's reasonable to suppose that he said something, and that it was more likely to be negative than positive.


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Sri_Sahi on June 23, 2009, 04:43:43 pm
... doesn't make much sense unless Josephus explained somewhere who this Jesus was. So it's reasonable to suppose that he said something, and that it was more likely to be negative than positive.

The most rational of the various explanations imho is that Josephus originally mentioned Jesus in a neutral, bare-bones way and that a later redactor interpolated some Christian sentiments. Below is the quote as we have it today. In bold are the portions I believe to be original to Josephus. In italics are the portions which may be later interpolation. Note how neatly each part comes in complete clauses. There are a couple of portions that could go either way.

"Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day", (Antiquities of the Jews 18.63-64).


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Gavignano on June 23, 2009, 05:47:29 pm
So it begs to question, how different would the course of history be if the barbarians had found what we refer to as Graeco-Roman mythology as the key religion instead of Christianity (yes, a bit of a romantic idea)?

Best, Noah

Noah, that is one of the best questions of all time. It could produce a post with 1000 responses, many I would hazard extraordinarily interesting, but my guess is Joe might try and steer us back to the coins...and so many interesting tidbits there in the transition....Julian II could add a few of his thoughts I am sure.


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Noah on June 23, 2009, 07:35:21 pm
So it begs to question, how different would the course of history be if the barbarians had found what we refer to as Graeco-Roman mythology as the key religion instead of Christianity (yes, a bit of a romantic idea)?

Best, Noah

Noah, that is one of the best questions of all time. It could produce a post with 1000 responses, many I would hazard extraordinarily interesting, but my guess is Joe might try and steer us back to the coins...and so many interesting tidbits there in the transition....Julian II could add a few of his thoughts I am sure.

Oh, I know...it was a bit of a rhetorical question.  One could ask "What if?" about almost anything in history.  I do not want to be the initiator of a tangent delving back into religion after making the point earlier that it was pointless to discuss it anyway in this thread.  Plus, I don't want to go against FORVM rules and step on Joe's toes.  So, everyone can concoct their own little "What if?" scenarios in their heads.   ;)

Best, Noah


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: ecoli on June 23, 2009, 09:28:33 pm
I think my reply will be okay...

Europe would lose a centralizing force that paganism would not be able to replace; thus I predict the subsequent rise of the Frankish empire would be much harder, if not impossible.


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Enodia on June 24, 2009, 02:03:31 am
... Julian II could add a few of his thoughts I am sure.

i have always thought of his brief reign as a major turning point in history, one of the REALLY big "what if's".


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Dino on June 24, 2009, 04:33:19 am

The story comes immediately after a negative story about Pilate, and is followed by a scurrilous story about a certain Paulina. Josephus then returns to Pilate. A negative comment about another character would fit well, especially if it involved Pilate. In his comment about the execution of James, Josephus refer to 'Jesus, who was called Christ'. That could easily be written by someone who didn't believe he was the Messiah, but wouldn't be so plausible from a Christian, and certainly not from whoever added 'He was [the] Christ' a little earlier in the same book.

'Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the Sanhedrin of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others, [or some of his companions]; and, when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned'  doesn't make much sense unless Josephus explained somewhere who this Jesus was. So it's reasonable to suppose that he said something, and that it was more likely to be negative than positive.

Thanks.  I'm not sure that you conclude, however, that whatever was said by Josephus about Jesus was negative simply because it's close to statements about Pilate and Paulina.  Wouldn't it be just as plausible to conclude that Josephus mentions Pilate's treatment of Jesus is an example of why Josephus tdisapproves or thinks negatively about Pilate?

How do we know that the text was modified at all?  Are there earlier texts or scraps of texts that differ from the later ones?


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Joe Sermarini on June 24, 2009, 06:25:42 am
Slightly off topic but entertaining info from Forum's catalog:

Julian visited Antioch in 362 on his way to Persia. His visit began ominously as it coincided with a lament for Adonis, the doomed lover of Aphrodite. Thus, Ammianus wrote, the emperor and his soldiers entered the city not to the sound of cheers but to wailing and screaming. It didn't get better. The burdens of billeting troops and Julian's enthusiasm for large scale animal sacrifice worsened an existing a food shortage. Soldiers gorged on sacrificial meat made a drunken nuisance of themselves on the streets while Antioch's hungry citizens looked on in disgust. The Antiochenes hated him, nicknaming him axeman and making jokes about, among other things, his unfashionably pointed beard. Surprisingly, Julian's piety was distasteful even to the Antiochenes retaining the old pagan faith. Julian's brand of paganism was unique to himself, with little support outside the most educated Neoplatonist circles. Antioch's impiety to the old religion became clear to Julian when he attended the city's annual feast of Apollo. To his surprise and dismay the only Antiochene present was an old priest clutching a chicken.


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: ecoli on June 24, 2009, 11:40:10 am
Knocks the lustre off Julian a bit but probably pretty close to reality.


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Robert_Brenchley on June 24, 2009, 04:41:06 pm
Thanks.  I'm not sure that you conclude, however, that whatever was said by Josephus about Jesus was negative simply because it's close to statements about Pilate and Paulina.  Wouldn't it be just as plausible to conclude that Josephus mentions Pilate's treatment of Jesus is an example of why Josephus tdisapproves or thinks negatively about Pilate?

How do we know that the text was modified at all?  Are there earlier texts or scraps of texts that differ from the later ones?

We obviously don't know for certain what Josephus said, but I'm convinced he said something, as his comment on James makes no sense unless he explains who Jesus was. He's painting a picture of a word in which the situation for Jews is deteriorating everywhere, hence he includes incidents in Rome in this section, which have nothing to do with Pilate or Judea. The Testimonium as we have it simply doesn't fit, and the problems with it were noticed in the 16th Century. The first book on it came out in 1863, and scholars are still discussing it today. None, though, thinks Josephus wrote it as it stands.

The language and construction are different from Josephus'. Origen refers to Josephus as rejecting Jesus as Christ in two places, so he obviously knew his works, and didn't know the altered Testimonium. The first writer to quote it as we know it today is Eusebius, and the style is that of the 4th Century. Eusebius has been accused of being the forger, but I'm not convinced. The reference to the Christians as a 'tribe' is odd for a Jew, but later Christians did use such language. Some of the language does fit Eusebius, and there are other, more plausible versions.

If you're interested, it's worth getting hold of Steve Mason, 'Josephus and the New Testament', 2nd Ed, Hedrickson, 2003.


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Noah on June 24, 2009, 06:08:48 pm
Misopon or "Beard Hater" was a book written in Greek by Julian accounting his encounter with the Antiochenes.  He apparently felt that revenge in fiction would be a fitting way to vent his frustration on the issue.

Best, Noah


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Robert_Brenchley on June 25, 2009, 03:32:35 am
There's some good stuff on the Testimonuim here: http://www.josephus.org/testimonium.htm .


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Noah on June 25, 2009, 06:03:10 am
There's some good stuff on the Testimonuim here: http://www.josephus.org/testimonium.htm .

Interesting link Robert.

Best, Noah


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Dino on June 25, 2009, 09:52:42 am
There's some good stuff on the Testimonuim here: http://www.josephus.org/testimonium.htm .

Very interesting.  Thanks for the link.


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Retrospectator on June 29, 2009, 04:07:03 am
Oldest image of St. Paul discovered:

http://www.verumserum.com/?p=6573&cpage=1

I think that the catacombs of Santa Thecla lie near the Via Ostiensis.


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Paleologo on June 29, 2009, 07:45:46 am
I think that the catacombs of Santa Thecla lie near the Via Ostiensis.

Correct. The place lies a few km. away from Aurelian's Walls, not far to the Basilica of St. Paul Fuori le Mura (extra muros, outside the walls). It is an intensively built part of town today but in ancient times it probably was a rural area.

Regards, P.  :)


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Robert_Brenchley on June 29, 2009, 12:00:52 pm
They're now claiming to have found St. Paul's bones, but it sounds seriously dodgy to me. First or Second Century remains in a late Fourth Century coffin could easily be an ecclesiastical fake!

http://news.aol.co.uk/study-confirms-bones-of-st-paul/article/20090628165354980993062


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Noah on June 29, 2009, 03:37:44 pm
It sounds like another shroud of Turin to me.

Best, Noah


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: ecoli on June 29, 2009, 03:50:02 pm
sometimes, the truths behind the origins of various relics are no longer important.


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Robert_Brenchley on June 29, 2009, 04:45:09 pm
Problems arise, though, when 'facts' are invented or manipulated in order to sustain belief, or belief is placed in something which is subject to demonstrable evidence. It's no good 'believing', say, that a worn Tetricus I is a Domitianus. It's only Domitianus if the evidence shows that it's Domitianus. The same applies here, in a modified form. If it could be shown that the burial was mid-1st Century, then it could be said that it was 'possibly' St. Paul. As it is, the burial appears to be 4th Century. The carbon date is, by its very nature, not sufficiently precise to make a plausible identification possible.

If people want to convince themselves, OK, but the Pope is overstepping the mark in making an objective, apparently 'scientific' claim.


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Will Hooton on June 29, 2009, 05:16:19 pm

If people want to convince themselves, OK, but the Pope is overstepping the mark in making an objective, apparently 'scientific' claim.

I am also quite surprised the Holy Father has fully endorsed this discovery as being Paul himself, if the Pope has been quoted correctly that is. I'll believe it when I see a press release from the Holy See. The Vatican is normally quite cautious about these things. Robert is quite right of course, there is no way of knowing the remains are Pauls, even allowing for the margin of error normally associated with RCD.


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: 284ad on June 29, 2009, 05:22:50 pm
It all sounds a bit like Ambrose and the whole Gervasius and Protasius affair.


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Noah on June 29, 2009, 06:40:29 pm
Problems arise, though, when 'facts' are invented or manipulated in order to sustain belief, or belief is placed in something which is subject to demonstrable evidence.

If people want to convince themselves, OK, but the Pope is overstepping the mark in making an objective, apparently 'scientific' claim.

I implicitly agree!  Any authority figure who uses so-called "religious relics" by implying that they are genuine while either not knowing the truth or, worse, knowing it is a false truth, is overstepping his/her mark. Case and point...Leo X using Tetzel for the sale of indulgences knowing full well the truth, yet misleading the populace.  The believers were utterly convinced in the legitimacy of these "passports to heaven" and duped spiritually.  I do not mean to bring this back to religion, but merely to attest to the fact that people will believe what their trusted leaders tell them.  Rome itself has many examples of emperors making statements to the plebs on behalf of the pantheon in order to get this or that accomplished.  It is not a new art.

PS - I bet St. Paul would roll over in his grave if he knew how "his supposed bones" were being used.  He was a man of action who wanted to get to the point of what he believed...not get caught up in religious relics.
 
Best, Noah 


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Dino on June 30, 2009, 11:03:33 am
They're now claiming to have found St. Paul's bones, but it sounds seriously dodgy to me. First or Second Century remains in a late Fourth Century coffin could easily be an ecclesiastical fake!

http://news.aol.co.uk/study-confirms-bones-of-st-paul/article/20090628165354980993062

Interesting story behind the remains.  When my wife and I were in Rome a few years ago a friend of a friend got us admitted to what is known as the "Scavi Tour" see here: 

http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/institutions_connected/uffscavi/documents/rc_ic_uffscavi_doc_gen-information_20040112_en.html

They open the tour to about 200 people a day (10 to 15 at a time) so we were very excited.  In brief, according to our tour guide, in the late 30's they started excavating below St. Peter's with the goal of trying to find Peter's tomb.  The pope at the time knew of Hitler's interest in the occult and religious artifacts.  As a result, he approved the excavation with the stipulations that it remain secret, occur at night and be done using hand and not power tools.  Dirt was secretly dispersed during dig, some of was gotten rid of in a remodeling of the Vatican gardens.  Excavations continued through the early 70s.  No one was told until much later, don't remember when.

A necropolis was discovered below the Basilica.  Mostly Roman tombs, but some of then taken over by Christians as can be seen by some of the murals and the stone tablets on the tombs.

The tour ends at the sarcophagus containing the bones that are claimed to be Peter's You can see them through a hole chipped into the side of the sarcophagus in a glass or plastic box.  There's a purple cloth in there as well. 

Very interesting tour, everything is very controlled from an environmental standpoint.  Lights go on only in the section where you are at any particular time.  Each section is enclosed by sliding glass doors.  Pretty high tech.  Fascinating tour.  Beacuase it was excavated so carefully, everything is remarkably well preserved.  You feel like you're walking through sections of an underground city.  Of course no pictures allowed.


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians: The 2nd Century (2)
Post by: Robert_Brenchley on June 30, 2009, 02:18:55 pm
I've got a bit more time available now, so hopefully I should be able to finish the story!

There's nothing as useful as Pliny for the rest of the century. We have a number of detailed accounts of martyrdoms, and these reveal a good deal. Christians came to the notice of the authorities again about 150, about the time Justin Martyr wrote. A woman divorced her husband, who denounced her as a Christian. She petitioned the emperor, asking for time to settle her affairs, but we know no more about her. The husband then denounced Ptolemaus, her Christian teacher. He was imprisoned and tortured. Eventually, he was brought before the urban prefect, who merely asked whether he was Christian before sentencing him to death. Someone else in court protested this on moral grounds, and was accused of Christianity himself. He and another witness were condemned to death as well. Clearly, Christianity itself was a capital offence at the time. Justin, who addressed his 'First Apology' to Antoninus Pius, protested this as immoral.

In the late 150's, a persecution in the city of Smyrna led to slaves being tortured until they revealed the hiding place of the aged Bishop Polycarp, who was burnt alive after repeatedly refusing to recant or sacrifice to the Fortuna of the emperor. This is the first record we have have of an official search for a Christian, but it may have been nothing more than a response to popular pressure.

Justin Martyr and six companions died in Rome in the 160's, again after refusing to recant. Christianity was seen as a 'superstition', and its followers refused to obey state officials.

And so it continued, with sporadic local persecutions. Several more 'Apologies' (strictly libelli) we addressed to the emperors, pleading that Christians were peaceful, loyal and law-abiding citizens who were being punished unjustly, but to no avail.

On the other hand, Tatian argued that both Greek and Roman legal systems should be abolished, and the world should live under a single law, presumably that of the church. In particular, no Christian should hold any state office. Clearly, not all were so uncritical. In the late 1st Century, the Book of Revelation had prophecied dire punishment for Rome, and the radical tradition lived on.

In the city of Lugdunum, probably in 177, popular hostility led to the military tribune taking Christians into protective custory. They were accused of 'Thyestian fests' and 'Oedipodean intercourse', and, after a trial before the governor, Marcus Aurelius confirmed that any who did not recant were to be executed. It sems that in this case the provincial authorities were better-disposed towards the choice, but in the end thay had no choice but to execute the prisoners. The remains were given to dogs, then burnt and the ashes scattered, apparently in order to prevent any chance of resurrection.

It's clear that the persecutions of this period were local and sporadic; the emperors would support them, and insist on the execution of imprisoned Christians, but they never initiated persecution. Towards the end of the century, Tertullian, nothing if not an exaggerator, claimed that 'When the Tiber rises to the walls, when the Nile fails to rise, when the sky fails to move or the earth does, the cry goes up, "Christians to the lion!' What, all of them to just one lion?" On the other hand, writing in the 240's, Origen, an altogether more sober author, wrote that the martyrs were 'easily numbered'. We have no evidence of large scale persecution anywhere in the 2nd Century.


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: ecoli on June 30, 2009, 02:28:36 pm
Thank you Robert for your time!

So when was the first imperial initiated persecution?  around Decius' time?

Also, any accounts of the fabled Paul before Nero aside from Paul's own words?


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Will Hooton on July 01, 2009, 06:36:41 am
Weymouth, Dorset. :-[ Been there. Nice place. :)


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: LordBest on July 01, 2009, 06:47:32 am
Great place, until some blackguard lops your head off and buries you in a ditch.

Thank you Congius for posting the Catacombs of Domitilla picture, I had been looking for that image to post but I forgot what they were called.
                                                                              LordBest. 8)

Weymouth, Dorset. :-[ Been there. Nice place. :)


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Paleologo on July 01, 2009, 07:08:18 am
Another picture of St. Paul's newly discovered image with some more details:

http://www.repubblica.it/2006/08/gallerie/spettacoliecultura/icona-san-paolo/1.html

It is not clear to me whether the image is considered to be St. Paul for any reason except its similarity to other, later images that have also been assigned to the same person.

Another article (in Italian) with some more interesting info:

http://roma.corriere.it/roma/notizie/cronaca/09_giugno_28/icona_sanpaolo_vecchi-1601512290319.shtml

Here it is stated that the picture is very much in the tradition of the imagines clipeatae. This, and the artistic quality, let the scholars think the painting belongs to the grave of somebody with a high social position.

Regards, P.  :)


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Robert_Brenchley on July 01, 2009, 02:34:48 pm
Thank you Robert for your time!

So when was the first imperial initiated persecution?  around Decius' time?

Also, any accounts of the fabled Paul before Nero aside from Paul's own words?

Decius it was. Paul never wrote anything that survived about his trial, assuming it took place. All we have from him are the undisputed letters; Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, 1 Thessalonians, Philippians and Philemon, plus any of the others in his name that he actually did write. What is it you're thinking of?


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: ecoli on July 01, 2009, 02:58:06 pm
I was more thinking of the foreshadowing in 2nd timothy.


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Robert_Brenchley on July 02, 2009, 03:54:18 pm
I don't personally think that either 1 or 2 Timothy is by Paul. If nothing else, we see a developed church structure - bishops, elders, deacons - which there isn't a trace of in the undisputed letters, or anything else which is clearly early. The first traces of it appear around the end of the century, a generation and more after Paul's death.


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Noah on July 03, 2009, 09:32:59 pm
And these points are exactly why I find it interesting that some who have posted here think that the early, first century persecutions were an all out attack on Christianity as an eminent threat to the empire.  It was, IMO, clearly a sporadic irritation to what some perceived as a rising, yet non-threatening, nuisance of a Judean cult.  The all out, intentionally targeting persecutions spearheaded by imperial decrees weren't until much later.

Best, Noah


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Tiathena on July 03, 2009, 11:17:05 pm
*
 
   “I find it interesting that some … think that the early, first century persecutions were an all out attack on Christianity as an eminent threat to the empire.
 
  What 1st century ‘persecution’ would that be?  Excluding the Neronic ‘scapegoat’ nonsense.
  What Roman in the 1st century had any meaningful grasp of what ‘christianity’ even was?
  My view & understanding is that any Roman ideas of ‘the christians’ even through the time of Galen were notably superficial.
 
  “It was, IMO, clearly a sporadic irritation to what some perceived as a rising, yet non-threatening, nuisance of a Judean cult.
 
  Was is it enough to even rise to the level of ‘nuisance?’
  My long-served impression has been it was simply offensive to conservative Roman religious sensibilities – as were all ‘foreign’ cults – (excepting the most notable of the Mystery cults, Mithraism, Eleusis, – ).
  The mere idea of ‘christianity’ as superstitio (still very superficial in any meaningful sense) was all that was needed to offend good taste and Roman piety.
 
  It was just held in contempt.
 Less of a nuisance than a sort of eye-sore.
 
  Best,
  Tia
 
*
 


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: ecoli on July 04, 2009, 12:18:30 am
Quote
t was just held in contempt.  Less of a nuisance than a sort of eye-sore.

It is indeed remarkable how far and fast the pagan system fell that in less than 200 years, the Romans deemed necessary to initiate empire wide persecutions; and in less than 100 years afterwards the whole system was wholly replaced by Christianity - all of this done without the sword of conquest.

 


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Maffeo on July 04, 2009, 03:30:40 am
One of the problems is that just about the only overwiew account of the persecutions of Christians is the summary provided by Lactantius in Death of the Persecutors, which is in effect a propaganda pamphlet for Constantine.

As for the pagans, I'm extremely intrigued by how quickly the various cults seem to have disappeared once prohibited at the end of the fourth century. Take Mithraism for example: at the end of the fourth century there was something like 300 mithraic temples in Rome alone, then with prohibition Mithraism seems to have vanished practically overninght - just how could this have happened so rapidly and easily? Not surprising, though, that many Roman Christian churches are built on top of mithrae - S. Clemente, Ss. Giovanni e Paolo, S. Tecla, and many, many others. I suspect that conversion took largely the form of assimilation, with the new converts from paganiism bringing a significant part of their pagan customs and cultural baggage with them.

Some good books on the entire Pagans and Christians issue are:
Robin Lane Fox, Pagans and Christians and Ramsay MacMullen's Christianizing the Roman Empire 100-400 AD and Christianity and Paganism in the Fourth to Eighth Centuries.



Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Noah on July 04, 2009, 08:13:26 am
*
 
   “I find it interesting that some … think that the early, first century persecutions were an all out attack on Christianity as an eminent threat to the empire.
 
  What 1st century ‘persecution’ would that be?  Excluding the Neronic ‘scapegoat’ nonsense.
  What Roman in the 1st century had any meaningful grasp of what ‘christianity’ even was?
  My view & understanding is that any Roman ideas of ‘the christians’ even through the time of Galen were notably superficial.
 
  “It was, IMO, clearly a sporadic irritation to what some perceived as a rising, yet non-threatening, nuisance of a Judean cult.
 
  Was is it enough to even rise to the level of ‘nuisance?’
  My long-served impression has been it was simply offensive to conservative Roman religious sensibilities – as were all ‘foreign’ cults – (excepting the most notable of the Mystery cults, Mithraism, Eleusis, – ).
  The mere idea of ‘christianity’ as superstitio (still very superficial in any meaningful sense) was all that was needed to offend good taste and Roman piety.
 
  It was just held in contempt.
 Less of a nuisance than a sort of eye-sore.
 
  Best,
  Tia
 
*
 

Well, when I used the word nuisance, I did not mean that is was so on the imperial radar.  There were, besides the mentioned Nero episodes, sparse localized events (mentioned in previous threads) that led to certain Christian individuals or small groups being punished or killed for non-compliance to this or that law or rule.

One of the reasons Christians "stuck-out" more that other so-called Mystery cults was that they refused to fight in the military, pay taxes, or recognize the divine right, or even self-proclaimed outright divinity, of emperors. 

Best, Noah


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Tiathena on July 04, 2009, 01:08:16 pm
*
 
Quote
It is indeed remarkable how far and fast the pagan system fell that in less than 200 years, the Romans deemed necessary to initiate empire wide persecutions; and in less than 100 years afterwards the whole system was wholly replaced by Christianity - all of this done without the sword of conquest.

  A little ‘devil’s advocacy’ …

   An interesting way of phrasing the transformation, its motivation(s) and effects.
  It is worth contemplating what might be meant by “pagan system.”
  I don’t believe there was ever any such thing, though Julian II had some ideas about creating and implementing one, in numerous forms mirroring the ‘Galilean’s’ system.  I’m more struck by his failure to apprehend that such would have destroyed the greater part of the beauty and efficacy of the true religion by doing so, than I am by the fact that the idea died with him – in the East.
  To how “far and fast” pagan ideas, beliefs and values “fell” – I don’t think they fell far at all until perhaps the Renaissance and certain idealistic and ‘Romantic’ efforts to reconstruct them artificially from ‘above,’ and from out of a largely christianized (and somewhat secularized) perspectivism with motives that could never in a trillion years have ‘re-invented’ what the Greco-Roman world had once achieved and enjoyed.
 
  If we are to accept that the Romans deemed it “necessary to initiate empire wide persecutions,” we should understand such ‘necessity’ critically I think.  I speak solely for myself of course, saying I do not think it can be called true or real ‘necessitation.’  Something more akin to a political expedient inexorably mingled with and diluted by hosts of individual motives.
 
  “..less than 100 years afterwards the whole … wholly replaced by Christianity - all of this done without the sword of conquest.
 
  I think this greatly oversimplifies an exceedingly complex and dynamic reality.
  ‘The sword of conquest,’ itself, for example …  Once Rome achieved true Empire, Roman Law became such a ‘sword.’
  That “the whole [was] wholly replaced by Christianity,” would have been true if christianity had preserved itself ‘wholly intact’ – but it did not and was, as it has been throughout history since, almost entirely ‘paganized.’  Which began with Constantine and the Chi Rho labarum and ever-afterward only picked up momentum.
 
  In the end, both Greco-Roman ‘paganism’ and ‘christianity’ so far transformed one another that one has an almost Hegelian sort of religio-cultural dialecticism and a completely new, barely ‘unique’ synthesis.
  Whether the preponderance of what ‘survived’ of the ‘originals’ is pagan or Galilean may be disputable for many: for me it is not – and christianity is just paganism after sixteen hundred years of estrogen injections and poorhouse moralism.
 
   Best,
   T.
 
*
 


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Noah on July 04, 2009, 06:05:10 pm
Quote
t was just held in contempt.  Less of a nuisance than a sort of eye-sore.

It is indeed remarkable how far and fast the pagan system fell that in less than 200 years, the Romans deemed necessary to initiate empire wide persecutions; and in less than 100 years afterwards the whole system was wholly replaced by Christianity - all of this done without the sword of conquest.

 


This is true to a point.  Yes, Constantine officialized and solidified the permanence of Chistianity in the empire without the sword of conquest.  Still, I would surmize that a great number of persons felt compelled to accept Christianity for fear of the sword.  After all, Constantine had his own son executed, some say, for breaking Christian laws.  Although the true nature of this ordered execution is unknown, it is speculated that Crispus was accused of having an illicit affair with his stepmother Fausta. Another version states that Fausta accused Cripus of adultery with another woman when he rejected her. The truth is elusive, yet the fact remains that Crispus’ successful and promising career was cut short by his own father’s death warrant.

I only point this out, because the spread of Christianity has lots of blood on its hands as well.

Best, Noah


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Tiathena on July 04, 2009, 06:44:56 pm
*
 
       Ave Noah,
 
  Yes, I did follow your point above, too (re: ‘nuisance’), and it was not my intent to argue anything against it, but to extend it somewhat further.
 
  “Still, I would surmize that a great number of persons felt compelled to accept Christianity for fear of the sword.
 
  Of course the spear and gladius were always in front of and behind the law, but far and away more were compelled by fear of poverty and social immobility.
  One could not advance, one could not even hold a public Office without ‘christian’ credential.
  Anyone, (with fantastic ideological irony) with an atom of ‘worldly’ ambition would be so compelled …
  There was in such condition and circumstance no need to apply the ‘sword’ in the physical sense.
  Where the old ‘pagan’ aristocracy for example held on and refused to submit, they lost everything – through confiscations and serfdom, etc.
  Because the sword was not needed to ‘christianize’ most of the Empire, it was rarely used.  If it had been needed, it would have been used ruthlessly.
  The peasantry, which long remained pagan in thought and praxis could lip-serve the christian elements of the ‘Empire’ and the Laws – what did that matter?
  Those best positioned to resist, didn’t – because it frankly didn’t much matter one way or another.
  They seem (to me) to have embodied the essential Spirit of Candid – “let us cultivate our garden.”

   “I only point this out, because the spread of Christianity has lots of blood on its hands as well.
 
  It was born in blood and is bathed in blood.  For more despicable reasons than ‘conversion’ of the pagani.
  The Byzantines seem to me to have been far more brutal and bloody in their treatment of ‘fellow christians.’


   Best,
   Tia
 
*
 


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Jochen on July 04, 2009, 06:47:17 pm
I only point this out, because the spread of Christianity has lots of blood on its hands as well.

I totally agree. And I want to point to the Arians. Were they not Christians too? And how they were treated by their co-religionists, the Athanasians?

And what's the matter with the Merowingians? One of the most cruel families in history?

And what's the matter with Charlemagne and the slaughter of the Saxonians AD 782?

I have to stop here because the horror in Yugoslavia in WWII done to the Orthodox by the Catholics and after 1945 done to the Catholics by the Orthodox is too recent than allowed to mention in this Forum.

Best regards


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: slokind on July 04, 2009, 07:02:27 pm
Amen, to both Tia and Jochen.  At the risk of showing my age (psychological terms from the last century), I would call "PAX" simply by asserting that individuals, of all cultural and genetic isolates of homo sapiens, who for any reasons, whether congenital or conditioned environmentally, have defective personality formation, of whatever kind, and feel fearful and crave release, are prone to persecute and often to shed blood on any others that they can pigeonhole or stereotype.  All the major religions have great texts, but they all have (and so have the minor sects and cults) adherents of all stripes, some of them both pathetic and dangerous.
I just want to point out that it isn't "the Romans" or "the Goths" or "the AnyOthers" who persecute but individuals and sometimes groups of individuals (the fragile seeking company) who whether in the Bacchae or [your choice from CNN in the last ten years], terrorize and butcher others.
That is why I cling to my admiration for Freud's late essay, "Civilization and its Discontents", even though it's inadequate (what isn't inadequate?).
Let's keep a few things safe for sane use: cricket, numismatics, tennis, dare I add art history?
P.S. Yes, certainly croquet, too.
Pat L.


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Tiathena on July 04, 2009, 07:02:50 pm
*
 
  Needless to say, I agree with Noah, Jochen and Pat here.
 
  Basil II the 'Boulgaroktonos' … This epitomizes my view of historical ‘christianity.’
  It has not improved since the late 10th Century, which means it has worsened.
 
  This said – I’m done here and, with utmost respect for the finest point of all made by Pat, which is only too-true – by choice I respect and concur with the PAX to which Pat calls a ‘safe and sane’ return.


   Best,
   Tia
 
*
 


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Jochen on July 04, 2009, 07:14:37 pm
May I add crocket?  ;)


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: ecoli on July 04, 2009, 11:09:25 pm
Quote
t was just held in contempt.  Less of a nuisance than a sort of eye-sore.

It is indeed remarkable how far and fast the pagan system fell that in less than 200 years, the Romans deemed necessary to initiate empire wide persecutions; and in less than 100 years afterwards the whole system was wholly replaced by Christianity - all of this done without the sword of conquest.


This is true to a point.  Yes, Constantine officialized and solidified the permanence of Chistianity in the empire without the sword of conquest.  Still, I would surmize that a great number of persons felt compelled to accept Christianity for fear of the sword.  After all, Constantine had his own son executed, some say, for breaking Christian laws.  Although the true nature of this ordered execution is unknown, it is speculated that Crispus was accused of having an illicit affair with his stepmother Fausta. Another version states that Fausta accused Cripus of adultery with another woman when he rejected her. The truth is elusive, yet the fact remains that Crispus’ successful and promising career was cut short by his own father’s death warrant.

I only point this out, because the spread of Christianity has lots of blood on its hands as well.

Best, Noah


I wonder how many kings, Christian or otherwise, would tolerate some prince, however successful, having an affair with one of his own.

I have no illusions of mortal leaders of men, of any creed.  To elaborate more would violate TOS I believe so I will leave it at that.  In any case, are there any prosecutions of others done in Christ's name before Christianity gained political power in particular against external religions?  That is my real question.  I know and have read much about what happened during and after Constantine.


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Noah on July 05, 2009, 05:21:21 am
*
 
       Ave Noah,
 
  Yes, I did follow your point above, too (re: ‘nuisance’), and it was not my intent to argue anything against it, but to extend it somewhat further.
 
  “Still, I would surmize that a great number of persons felt compelled to accept Christianity for fear of the sword.
 
  Of course the spear and gladius were always in front of and behind the law, but far and away more were compelled by fear of poverty and social immobility.
  One could not advance, one could not even hold a public Office without ‘christian’ credential.
  Anyone, (with fantastic ideological irony) with an atom of ‘worldly’ ambition would be so compelled …
  There was in such condition and circumstance no need to apply the ‘sword’ in the physical sense.
  Where the old ‘pagan’ aristocracy for example held on and refused to submit, they lost everything – through confiscations and serfdom, etc.
  Because the sword was not needed to ‘christianize’ most of the Empire, it was rarely used.  If it had been needed, it would have been used ruthlessly.
  The peasantry, which long remained pagan in thought and praxis could lip-serve the christian elements of the ‘Empire’ and the Laws – what did that matter?
  Those best positioned to resist, didn’t – because it frankly didn’t much matter one way or another.
  They seem (to me) to have embodied the essential Spirit of Candid – “let us cultivate our garden.”

   “I only point this out, because the spread of Christianity has lots of blood on its hands as well.
 
  It was born in blood and is bathed in blood.  For more despicable reasons than ‘conversion’ of the pagani.
  The Byzantines seem to me to have been far more brutal and bloody in their treatment of ‘fellow christians.’


   Best,
   Tia
 
*
 

Tia, I only posted the response because I felt that I had not made myself clear, while making a statement that seemed opinionated without any corroborating evidence to support it.  I think this is a healthy debate; and playing the devil's advocate (as you mentioned) is just what is needed to keep it that way.  If we all just agreed or did not stir the pot a little, this would be a boring topic.  Therefore, I do enjoy reading your responses since they are always on point and do make us think a little more about what we believe and wish to respond.  :)

Best, Noah


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Congius on July 05, 2009, 05:43:36 am
I wonder how many kings, Christian or otherwise, would tolerate some prince, however successful, having an affair with one of his own.

It's not known that this is what Crispus was accused of. It was a contemporary suspicion, but its only due to the circumstantial evidence that shortly after Fausta was then killed too, and a postumous statue then erected to Crispus "The son I wronged".

The circumstances suggest that Fausta had said something to Constantine to get Crispus (who's mother was Minerva - Constantine's first wife) out of the way, in order to get him out of the line of succession so that her own sons would be first, then on later discovering the deception (the proof of which must have been pretty convincing) he had her killed too.

Whatever the reason, Constantine's familial bloodshed wasn't well looked upon.

St. Jerome's chronicle for 325 AD (276th Olympiad) reads:

Quote
Crispus, the son of Constantine, and Licinius junior, the son of Constantia, the sister of Constantine, and of Licinius, are very cruelly killed

Of course St. Jerome may have been predisposed against Constantine due to his Arianiasm, and anyway given that he apparently had no sympathy for Fausta he may have known or suspected that the accusation against Crispus was false.

Ben


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Noah on July 05, 2009, 06:25:07 am
I wonder how many kings, Christian or otherwise, would tolerate some prince, however successful, having an affair with one of his own.

It's not known that this is what Crispus was accused of. It was a contemporary suspicion, but its only due to the circumstantial evidence that shortly after Fausta was then killed too, and a postumous status then erected to Crispus "The son I wronged".

The circumstances suggest that Fausta had said something to Constantine to get Crispus (who's mother was Minerva - Constantine's first wife) out of the way, in order to get him out of the line of succession so that her own sons would be first, then on later discovering the deception (the proof of which must have been pretty convincing) he had her killed too.

Whatever the reason, Constantine's familial bloodshed wasn't well looked upon.

St. Jerome's chronicle for 325 AD (276th Olympiad) reads:

Quote
Crispus, the son of Constantine, and Licinius junior, the son of Constantia, the sister of Constantine, and of Licinius, are very cruelly killed

Of course St. Jerome may have been predisposed against Constantine due to his Arianiasm, and anyway given that he apparently had no sympathy for Fausta he may have known or suspected that the accusation against Crispus was false.

Ben


While it is just speculation about the exactness of what Crispus did, it still does not deter from the fact that Crispus was killed for either breaking a Christian commandment or  for something else he did to upset his father.  Still, Constantine did give the order to make a statement that "no man is above Christian law" except himself perhaps.  Whether truly a "crime" against God or not, he was seemingly executed in the name of Christianity.

Best, Noah


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Congius on July 05, 2009, 08:36:33 am
Still, Constantine did give the order to make a statement that "no man is above Christian law" except himself perhaps.  Whether truly a "crime" against God or not, he was seemingly executed in the name of Christianity.

Where did you get that "no man is above Christian law" quote from? What's the context?

Some of Constantine's laws were certainly associated with Christianity - e.g. he passed a law to forbid branding of slaves on  the face based on Christian grounds (man being created in Christ's image; although he was happy to proscribe various forms of mutilation as criminal punishments), and attempted to ban crucifixion probably also on Christian grounds (although Delmatius reportedly later crucified a thief who tried to steal imperial camels on the island of Cyprus!).

However, we simply don't know what crime Fausta apparently accused Crispus of other than presumably she knew it would be something Constantine would regard as heinious. She may have suggested he was plotting to overthrow him, for example.

Constantine's punishments regarding immorality were certainly far from any Christian ideal - they more just reflected the growing brutality of the empire. For example, his punishment (recorded in the Theodosian code) for a man "abducting and raping" a woman was to be burned alive at the stake, but this was also the punishment for the woman if she had willingly gone along with it (which makes one wonder what is really being discussed!). Nurses who helped in abductions and rapes were to have molten lead poured into their mouth and throat!

As far as adultery, Constantine changed the law so that only relatives, not outsiders, could be accused of it, apparently to reduce the instance of false accusations. Not all scholars would agree that his adultery & marriage laws were based on Christian rather than personal convictions.

For what it's worth, in his satirical "Caesars" Julian II more than once accuses Constantine of lustfulness. This was at the time an essentially de rigeur accusation of any opponent, but nonetheless Julian seems quite fair handed and nuanced in his treatment of the various emperors, so one has to wonder. Was Constantine battling his own demons a la Eliot Spitzer or Jimmy Swaggert?!

Ben



Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: ecoli on July 05, 2009, 08:46:45 am
great discussion!

Unfortunately I will be off 3 days as I go to the wine country...will respond after tuesday.

ecoli


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Tiathena on July 05, 2009, 10:09:45 am
*
 
    I have for some time wondered whether Constantine saw that ‘remarkable quality' in Crispus which lead to a ‘General’s’ suspicion and jealousy?
  True, this sort of weakness is typically found in the weak and, perhaps, generally un-militaristic type of Ruler, but Constantine was unique in many ways and – as Congius suggests above, too – not nearly as psychologically secure and stable as one might expect: despite his very strong, commanding personality.
 
  While I do know of Crispus’ contribution to the defeat of Licinius, I don’t know the totality of his (lifetime) military Commands and exploits – nor just how integral to the victory he was.  Yet that has been the thing that has longest troubled me about Constantine’s unconscionable act against him.
  Crispus Helped him ‘triumph.’  His reward was execution.
  It’s a familiar formula.
 
  I’m with the ancient Greeks in this.  You Don’t kill family.  You don’t forget your debts.  You don’t betray friends and you don’t refuse hospitality.
  One might do all sorts of nasty, shameful things around these principles, but they are inviolable.
  Of course he was Roman and no Greek.  And christianesque …
 
*
 


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Robert_Brenchley on July 05, 2009, 04:22:50 pm
As for the pagans, I'm extremely intrigued by how quickly the various cults seem to have disappeared once prohibited at the end of the fourth century. Take Mithraism for example: at the end of the fourth century there was something like 300 mithraic temples in Rome alone, then with prohibition Mithraism seems to have vanished practically overninght - just how could this have happened so rapidly and easily? Not surprising, though, that many Roman Christian churches are built on top of mithrae - S. Clemente, Ss. Giovanni e Paolo, S. Tecla, and many, many others. I suspect that conversion took largely the form of assimilation, with the new converts from paganiism bringing a significant part of their pagan customs and cultural baggage with them.

I don't think there's any doubt that the church was heavily into assimilation. christmas was originally a pagan festival, and while Easter derives from the Passover, the name is that of a British goddess whose festival seems to have come at the same time of year. It would be possible to find numerous other examples. Taking over existing sacred sites was widespread right across Europe.


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Congius on July 05, 2009, 05:23:28 pm
while Easter derives from the Passover, the name is that of a British goddess whose festival seems to have come at the same time of year

There was also the spring festival of Cybele, which ended with Hilaria on March 25th celebrating the resurrection of Attis, which may have something to do with how passover morphed into a celebration of resurrection.

Ben


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Noah on July 05, 2009, 09:39:18 pm
Still, Constantine did give the order to make a statement that "no man is above Christian law" except himself perhaps.  Whether truly a "crime" against God or not, he was seemingly executed in the name of Christianity.

Where did you get that "no man is above Christian law" quote from? What's the context?



Ok, I suppose I am implying a bit too much on this topic.  I guess that did sound a bit Magna Carta-ish as well as fire and brimstone-esque.  I  realize that Constantine was not the model Christian emperor; he had faults to be sure.  Even king David lusted in his heart and did unthinkable things while he was supposed to be a godly ruler (prior to Christianity of course, but still the same Judeo-Christian God). I'll just state fact then.  Crispus was executed by Constantine for unknown reasons.  I will digress on this topic of Crispus since speculation will only lead me to state things that will be just that...speculation.
 
Best, Noah


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: hannibal2 on July 06, 2009, 06:52:56 am
Hello,

In post No 97 Robert has given me a second chance to ask a question that was meant to be made earlier before Maffeo partly answered in a roundabout way:

In the above posts, what is meant by pagans and paganism ?
A):   the ancient agrarian lore/beliefs that were essentially agrarian knowledge ‘embroidered’ into myths?
Or
B):   old practices that were later seen as ‘abominations’ ?

In a) above, this lore appears to have been assimilated not replaced (in fact I wonder who/what really assimilated who).

There is a move to rediscover this lore. SIEF (society of Ethnology and folklore) had their first conference “The ritual Year” in 2005. Some papers in the proceedings make very interesting reading.

Thanks to all for a very interesting thread.

Br   cr


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Robert_Brenchley on July 06, 2009, 12:12:30 pm
There was also the spring festival of Cybele, which ended with Hilaria on March 25th celebrating the resurrection of Attis, which may have something to do with how passover morphed into a celebration of resurrection.

Ben

I wouldn't have thought so. It used to be thought that early Christianity was heavily influenced by Greece, but it's now clear that it was essentially Jewish. The Jews, of course, were pretty Hellenised themselves, and Christianity evolved into a Hellenistic religion via Hellenised Jews. But the roots of it lie in Jewish tradition, and the cult of Cybele, or any other Greek deity, would have been anathema.

Many, probably most, Jews expected the righeous dead to be resurrected on the last day, and some of Jesus' followers claimed to have seen him risen from the dead at Passover. That's where it starts. Passover was a celebration of liberation from captivity, and once the church spiritualised the idea of the Messiah, and started thinking in terms of Jesus' death and resurrection liberating the community from sin, the parallel is pretty obvious. Unfortunately we don't know the details of how they got to that point!


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Congius on July 06, 2009, 02:25:29 pm
I wasn't thinking of the church exactly embracing the parallel - but maybe taking advantage of it in much the same way as they did at Christmas. I have to wonder if it would have been so successful if the church had chosen a holiday other than the (re)birth of Sol Invictus to subsume as a celebration of the birth of Christ. I assume the parallel is largely why they chose that particular holiday. Similarly, I'd have to think that in changing  passover into a celebration of resurrection that the existing seasonal parallels may have helped, and it would have anyways been unavoidable that there'd have been transference in the minds of some (to whom Christianity may well have been just as abstract and impenetrable a mystery religion as those it was replacing). It would have been one thing for people to accept Jesus as the "lamb of god" sacrificed at passover, but the resurrection would have been a tougher sell.

Incidentally, do we know when the Christian passover really started to differentiate itself in terms of practice from the Jewish one? The way Constantine talks about it it's not apparent that it's any different at that date. I recall reading one very early English harmony (I seem to recall it's held at one of the Cambridge colleges - maybe Magdalene), that included some gospel elements possibly now lost, that had Jesus celebrating "Eostr" which I thought interesting - it could be taken to imply that the nature of Christianized Eostr at that time was no different to the Jewish passover, unless "passover" wouldn't have been widely understood by an early English audience.

Ben


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Maffeo on July 06, 2009, 03:09:19 pm
Congius,
What Xians refer to as The Last Supper was the Passover meal (seder meal commemorating the Exodus) held by Jesus with his disciples before the crucifixion. According to the Gospel accounts, Jesus transformed the seder meal by pivoting it on his own body and blood and then instructing the disciples to continue doing so in his memory.  Xians continue the practice with the celebration of the the Lord's Supper/Mass/Eucharist ("he gave thanks...") which is, accordingly, in continuity with the Jewish Passover meal albeit radically transformed (the material continuity can be seen for example, at least in the practice of the Western Church, in the use of unleavened bread). The earliest accounts that we still have of the Xian celebration of the Eucharist (references in the Pauline epistels and earliest description in the Sheperd of Hermas - turn of the 1st century) shows that it was quite different from the Jewish rite from the earliest period of Xstianity.


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Robert_Brenchley on July 07, 2009, 03:01:00 pm
It wouldn't have been different from the first, as the church began as a Jewish sect which would already have been celebrating Passover with everyone else. They probably added Jesus' resurrection to their own celebration, and eventually lost contact with the Jewish festival. There were many Christian communities scattered about in the 1st Century, they were probably very diverse (all the churches mentioned in the New Testament are different), and it would be a mistake to assume they were all doing the same thing. According to a letter written to the church of Alexandria from the Council of Nicea (325), some churches had celebrated Ease Gospel story, uisr on the same date as the passover, and henceforth they were all to change to the dating adopted by Rome. So clearly there was a dispute. I'm trying to think what I might have that would go into the history of it, but I'm not sure. My library's a bit short on the patristic era.

'Eostre' was the British name, adopted from the name of a local goddess. I'm not sure which harmony you're referring to, but they were basically rewritings of the Gospel story, using the four canonical Gospels and sometimes other sources. This one is probably going to be an English work which assimilates the story to English culture. The best comparison is with the traditional Christmas story, which conflates Matthew and Luke, adds material from the Infancy Gospels, and manages to be untrue to all its sources. The main reason why they were popular was the sheer expense of books before the age of printing. Even a set of the four Gospels would have been beyond all but the richest of kings. A complete Bible would have been around seven years work for a skilled copyist, and the price would have been astronomical. As a comparison, I've been told that a complete Torah scroll, containing the first five books of the Old Testament, as used in synagogues, is a year's work for a scribe, and is worth around 30 000 pounds Sterling.


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: ecoli on July 09, 2009, 12:17:47 am
I’m with the ancient Greeks in this.  You Don’t kill family.  You don’t forget your debts.  You don’t betray friends and you don’t refuse hospitality.
  One might do all sorts of nasty, shameful things around these principles, but they are inviolable.
  Of course he was Roman and no Greek.  And christianesque …


Are they really inviolable?  I personally think the literature, myths, etc of a culture are exaggerated forms of the truth of that culture.  In the case of the Greeks, these principles are just something nice to preach and perhaps keep the populace high minded.  I very much doubt the actually political leaders(mind you, no better or worse than any other cultures) were so caring about those trivial things known to rest of us as morals ;)



Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: ecoli on July 09, 2009, 12:21:26 am

         It was born in blood and is bathed in blood.  

but prior to Constantine, it was the blood of Christians that was spilt.  Again, I would like to know was there any persecutions by Christians to others prior to Constantine?

 


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Tiathena on July 09, 2009, 09:48:24 am
*
 
   Hi Ecoli!
 
  ( Welcome back! )
 
  “Are they really inviolable?
 
  :) ..Of course it depends how we mean ‘inviolable’ in context.  As ‘inviolable’ as the holder of a Curule Office.
  In the end, not even gravity is ‘inviolable.’
 
  “In the case of the Greeks, these principles are just something nice to preach and perhaps keep the populace high minded.
 
  Of course.  As with all ‘moral codes’ everywhere – regardless.  In the case of the Greeks (and Pre-Constantinian Romans) however, the emphasis was placed on the ‘aristocratic.’

  “I very much doubt the actually political leaders(mind you, no better or worse than any other cultures) were so caring about those trivial things known to rest of us as morals.
 
  :)  Fair enough.
  I, on the other hand, think they cared more than one might well suspect – and for numerous reasons.
  That plenty-enough cared little or nothing about them when drachmae or power were weighed against virtù, I have no doubt either.
 
  “..but prior to Constantine, it was the blood of Christians that was spilt.
 
  Ecoli!  What an odd little prejudice!  :)
  Prior to Constantine, it was the blood of Everyone that was spilled – including all-too-many a good, noble, virtuous Roman pagan – and many more good, noble pagan barbarii.
 
  “Again, I would like to know was there any persecutions by Christians to others prior to Constantine?
 
  I don’t think you’re asking me, but just to say it – not that I know of – excepting any christian-christian ‘persecutions.’
  For such, I’d most wish to hear and accept in good faith the views and thoughts of Mr. Brenchly.
  Personally, I have a good bit of ambivalence for the term ‘persecution’ in such sense.  What really constitutes a ‘persecution?’
  Does it need an ideological element?
 
  Best,
  Tia
 
*
 


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Robert_Brenchley on July 09, 2009, 02:08:43 pm
but prior to Constantine, it was the blood of Christians that was spilt.  Again, I would like to know was there any persecutions by Christians to others prior to Constantine

No, because in order to persecute, you need political power.


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: ecoli on July 09, 2009, 02:44:52 pm
but prior to Constantine, it was the blood of Christians that was spilt.  Again, I would like to know was there any persecutions by Christians to others prior to Constantine

No, because in order to persecute, you need political power.

Thank you, that is what I was trying to point at with the sword of conquest comment.  Prior to Constantine, how did Christianity spread despite not having any political power?


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Noah on July 09, 2009, 08:10:35 pm
but prior to Constantine, it was the blood of Christians that was spilt.  Again, I would like to know was there any persecutions by Christians to others prior to Constantine

No, because in order to persecute, you need political power.

Thank you, that is what I was trying to point at with the sword of conquest comment.  Prior to Constantine, how did Christianity spread despite not having any political power?

The essence of Christianity caters to the destitute, the empoverished, the broken, and every other category of people that feel some sort of social injustice, emotional distress, and/or degradation in life.  It gave hope to the hopeless...and so on.  Afterall, Jesus "hung out" with the outcasts and "repulsive" people.  That is why the Pharisees hated him.  He brushed them off.  It spread through word of mouth... It is a powerful thing to believe that you will spend eternity in paradise for a little bit of pain and suffering in this life.  Forgive the comparison, but that is why the terrorists in the world today are so effective; they are not afraid of the consequences of their actions because they truly believe that what they are doing is right...that it will "land" them in a paradise.  It seems impossible to stop...political or no political power.  Christians just believed...and acted accordingly...they felt they had no choice.  People who are willing to martyr themselves command attention.  This in and of itself helps spread a belief since many are bound to question "why would someone do this?"


Best, Noah 


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Sri_Sahi on July 09, 2009, 09:46:03 pm
Prior to Constantine, how did Christianity spread despite not having any political power?

One way that Christianity spread was through Gentile "God-fearers" who were deeply enamored of Judaism. In fact, it was often these wealthy Gentiles who provided funds for the building of synagogues in the Greek cities of the Jewish diaspora. Christianity, especially the version the apostle Paul preached in those very synagogues (targeting not his fellow Jews, but the "God-fearers"), enabled these hangers-on to be "grafted" onto the vine of Judaism without undergoing actual surgery and without the encumberance of following the Mosaic Law, both of which would be required of converts to traditional Judaism.

 


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: Robert_Brenchley on July 10, 2009, 03:00:32 pm
It provided an 'easy' form of Judaism, without a painful operation or inconvenient rules. I think the old paganism was gradually losing credibility, with new cults coming in, and a drift towards monotheism. It fitted the times, and eventually proved to be politically convenient for an alliance with the state, once attitudeas began to change on both sides. Growth was slow until it was effectively legalised by Gallienus, by which time it was organised across the empire, and in a position to take advantage.


Title: Re: Roman Persecution of early Christians
Post by: BiancasDad on January 30, 2012, 11:32:26 am
Hello friends,

I am definitely NOT trying to resurrect this thread!

I somehow stumbled upon it, and was fascinated by the debate, and just wanted to recommend it as a  "must" read to anyone fairly new like myself who hasn't seen it. (apparently this was a tangential thread that was split)

The importance of the Pagan/Christian scenario in ancient Roman times is obviously of paramount importance in the study of the corresponding numismatic output.

I was so impressed by the depth and breadth of knowledge in this thread along with the passion expressed in sharing it.

I hope others will enjoy it, learn from it, and be inspired by it, as I have.

Regards,

-Kurt