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FORVM`s Classical Numismatics Discussion Board  |  Numismatic and History Discussions  |  History and Archeology (Moderator: David Atherton)  |  Topic: Roman Persecution of early Christians 0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic. « previous next »
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ecoli
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« Reply #25 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. 

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« Reply #26 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.
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Eric Brock (1966 - 2011)
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« Reply #27 on: June 22, 2009, 10:50:23 am »

Quote from: 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.

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.
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« Reply #28 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! Wink
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« Reply #29 on: June 22, 2009, 12:45:23 pm »

Quote from: 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.

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

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« Reply #30 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! Wink

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

Another nice example btw.

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« Reply #31 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.
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« Reply #32 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.
 
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« Reply #33 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.
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« Reply #34 on: June 22, 2009, 02:24:36 pm »

Art of War trumps all Smiley
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« Reply #35 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
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« Reply #36 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.
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« Reply #37 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?
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« Reply #38 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.

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« Reply #39 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
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« Reply #40 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.
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« Reply #41 on: June 23, 2009, 06:05:19 am »

Quote from: commodus on June 23, 2009, 12:54:04 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.).
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« Reply #42 on: June 23, 2009, 06:56:42 am »

Quote from: commodus on June 23, 2009, 12:54:04 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.

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« Reply #43 on: June 23, 2009, 09:57:40 am »

Quote from: commodus on June 23, 2009, 12:54:04 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.
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« Reply #44 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. 
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« Reply #45 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
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« Reply #46 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.
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« Reply #47 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).
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« Reply #48 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.
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« Reply #49 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.   Wink

Best, Noah
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