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Robert_Brenchley
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« Reply #75 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?
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« Reply #76 on: July 01, 2009, 02:58:06 pm »

I was more thinking of the foreshadowing in 2nd timothy.
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« Reply #77 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.
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« Reply #78 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.

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« Reply #79 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
 
*
 
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« Reply #80 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.

 
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« Reply #81 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.

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« Reply #82 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
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« Reply #83 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.
 
*
 
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« Reply #84 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
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« Reply #85 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
 
*
 
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« Reply #86 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
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« Reply #87 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.
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« Reply #88 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
 
*
 
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« Reply #89 on: July 04, 2009, 07:14:37 pm »

May I add crocket?  Wink
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« Reply #90 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.
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« Reply #91 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.  Smiley

Best, Noah
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« Reply #92 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.

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« Reply #93 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
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« Reply #94 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

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« Reply #95 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.

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« Reply #96 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 …
 
*
 
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« Reply #97 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.
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« Reply #98 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
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« Reply #99 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.
 
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