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Still Waters

Early Christians weren’t persecuted

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The Romans did not target, hunt or massacre Jesus' followers, says a historian of the early church.

Moss, professor of New Testament and early Christianity at the University of Notre Dame, challenges some of the most hallowed legends of the religion when she questions what she calls “the Sunday school narrative of a church of martyrs, of Christians huddled in catacombs out of fear, meeting in secret to avoid arrest and mercilessly thrown to lions merely for their religious beliefs.” None of that, she maintains, is true.

http://www.salon.com...ent_persecuted/

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None of that, she maintains, is true.

And I would agree with her. It seems the Romans saw Christians as atheists and rather sour faced people, but not a threat to them. In the Coloseum there is a monument to martyred Christians saying that 40,000 were killed. Yet there is no evidence of this. It is also ironic that the later Christians boasted of slaughtering that same number of Old Saxons, and many others over the centuries.....

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History is written by the victors and the Christians ended up the victors.

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History is written by the victors and the Christians ended up the victors.

Ah, but the story has not yet ended........

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I'd be more interested in this if it was a peer-reviewed journal entry rather than a non-peer reviewed book written for the masses. That's not to say it is wrong, just that there is no scholarly review behind it except her own opinion. Even if it is true, 12 years of persecution is still a long time, especially in the formative years of a religion (and we know there were Christians being tossed to the lions in the 2nd half of the 1st Century - if this is the only example of persecution in the early Church history it is still a long time).

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The Spanish Inquisition lasted a lot longer - from the attached Wikipedia link:

"The inquisition was extremely active between 1480 and 1530" and it was not "definitively abolished until 1834".

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_Inquisition

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I'd be more interested in this if it was a peer-reviewed journal entry rather than a non-peer reviewed book written for the masses. That's not to say it is wrong, just that there is no scholarly review behind it except her own opinion. Even if it is true, 12 years of persecution is still a long time, especially in the formative years of a religion (and we know there were Christians being tossed to the lions in the 2nd half of the 1st Century - if this is the only example of persecution in the early Church history it is still a long time).

Yeah, it's clearly a populist book with an agenda rather than a serious historical study, as emphasized by this quote from the article:

Today, polemicists continue to use the deeply ingrained belief in a persecuted — and therefore morally righteous — church as a political club to demonize their opponents. Moss sees a direct link between the valorization of martyrs and preposterous right-wing rhetoric about the “war on Christianity.” It’s a tactic that makes compromise impossible. “You cannot collaborate with someone who is persecuting you,” Moss astutely points out. “You have to defend yourself.”

In reality, though, it is true that the extent of persecution has been overemphasized, but it's also quite true that there was a very real persecution. There are two prime examples I can think of, namely Nero's persecution of the Christians in Rome after the great fire in 64 (reported in Tacitus and Suetonius) and the famous letter of Pliny the Younger to Trajan concerning the appropriate treatment of Christians (in which he states he had already executed some before writing the letter).

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Adding to this, "persecution" comes in many forms. It doesn't have to be the violent deaths in lion pits that is popularly known. Lesser known, but just as persecutory, Jews who converted to Christianity in the first Century were often targeted by their fellow Jews who remained faithful to Judaism - this took the form of being charged higher prices in shops by Jews who ran them. Consider if you went down to the shop today for a loaf of bread and a bottle of milk, let's say they were $2 each, but because of your beliefs, the shopkeeper charged you $3 each or $4 each? This was commonplace in several areas in the First Century where Judaism and Christianity existed side by side. Maybe it's not as in-your-face as being thrown to lions for public sport, but it's still persecution that was very real for early Christians.

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Ah, but the story has not yet ended........

Not so... It Is Finished :)

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Posted (edited)

Not so... It Is Finished :)

Churches in Europe empty because people do not believe at all, or are tired of the arcaness and scandals. 100 years ago practically everybody went to church, some out of fear of censure if they were not seen to actively worship. 200 years earlier, skeptics and atheists would never have admitted to this and went to church out of fear of death. We have outgrown this barbarity and many pay only lip service to church, attending only for weddings and funerals. So, what precisely is it that is "Finished" How is it that paganism returns, slowly I admit, if this Jesus project is completed........,

Edit for a general point that the incidences of persecutioin of early Christians pale into insignificance when compared to what happened to pagans who did not want this new religion when it came to power in Rome. Also the destruction of cultures thousands of years in the making. More "witches" were murdered in Europe than any number of Christian "Martyrs". These sob tales of poor little Christuans being beaten by the big baddy pagans is a foul distortion of reality. In recent times South Sea islanders have been convert by missionaries, told that their ancestor worship was devil worship, and as a consequence suicide rates have risen as people despair that their culture is destroyed by the missionaries with the fixed grins on their face and their "Have a nice day"

Edited by Atentutankh-pasheri
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PA

I'd be more interested in this if it was a peer-reviewed journal entry rather than a non-peer reviewed book written for the masses.

As is typical of academic publication, Professor Moss' book follows years of scholarship. Her website is here:

http://theology.nd.edu/people/faculty/candida-r-moss/

Peer review often takes a different form for journals than for books. In both cases, the actual work of scholarly examination is done after publication, by the entire community who is interested, rather than the small number of designated reviewers, paid or volunteer, vocational or occasional, whose main concern is compliance with the editorial policies of the publisher.

Despite the luridness of the thread's title (a recurrent problem with threads of this type from that OP - sorry to be critical of another member, but it is a fact), Professor Moss doesn't deny that early Christians were persecuted, but rather asserts that the situation is and was exaggerated and spun to advantage. Nor is her view in any way peculiar to her; she just studies that aspect of Early Christianity more than others do.

It is obvious that there was persecution. We have pagan witness to it. We also have Christian witness, Augustine of Hippo, that not all Christians bought into the suicidal ethos, and that this reluctance was as a source of division in the community, just like doctrinal disputation. The same source seems comfortable with state-sponsored murder of his Christian religious opponents. Well, they think they are Christians, and Augustine, unable to persuade them otherwise, will show them who is the real follower of Jesus, by any means he can.

The points of living diagreement are the number of victims, when, where, to what extent and on what occasions denying Christ was an alternative to death, why denying Christ was interesting to civil authority, and the complicity of some Christians in their own deaths ("suicide by cop").

Our species has often controlled its numbers by the peculiar form of birth control that is slaughtering adults on the pretext of imagined religious difference, and there are few religious groups of great age who have not both given and received the blessing of martyrdom.

The principal really interesting thing about early Christianity martyrdom is that it is offered as if it were some kind of evidence that the historical claims of a Jesus-Apostolic core are true. This leads to the fascinating spectacle of allegedly "sola scriptura" Protestants citing non-canonical sources, at best something like 1 Clement and often something closer to the utterly woo-woo Acts of Peter, to support the proposition that this barely historically attested first generation were mostly killed for not recanting, and "wouldn't die for a lie."

A close second in interest is that the early martydom legends, both what actually occurred and the spin then and now, illustrates one of the long-lived tensions in the Christian movement between its character as a frank and open death cult on the one hand, and its often-realized potential to be an undemanding palliative for personal anxieties about intense personal experience of every kind, of which death is one.

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It is obvious that there was persecution. We have pagan witness to it. We also have Christian witness, Augustine of Hippo, that not all Christians bought into the suicidal ethos, and that this reluctance was as a source of division in the community, just like doctrinal disputation. The same source seems comfortable with state-sponsored murder of his Christian religious opponents. Well, they think they are Christians, and Augustine, unable to persuade them otherwise, will show them who is the real follower of Jesus, by any means he can.

The points of living diagreement are the number of victims, when, where, to what extent and on what occasions denying Christ was an alternative to death, why denying Christ was interesting to civil authority, and the complicity of some Christians in their own deaths ("suicide by cop").

Those points in particular and all your post have concisely hit nail on head about this.

There are two books in particular that I draw on for reference about this subject, and may be of interest to others.

"Julian, an intellectual Biography" By Polymnia Athanassiadi, published 1981

"The Christians and the Roman Empire" By Marta Sordi, published 1983

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Posted (edited)

The Romans did not target, hunt or massacre Jesus' followers, says a historian of the early church.?

Did`nt Josephus say the Romans persecuted thousand of Christos in Rome? Weren`t there were two sects of Christos (meaning divine one) Mithra the divine one and the Jesus the devine one, sects that were fighting over which belief was to take over in Rome. If that the case there were many christans or christos persecuted

http://en.wikipedia....hraic_Mysteries

Edited by docyabut2

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Actually the Romans persecuted anyone who didn't go along with the state the Gauls, Celts, Sarmatians, etc. I don't think they really cared what religion you were as long as you paid tribute to the state. The used to kill Druids on sight.

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The Romans did not target, hunt or massacre Jesus' followers, says a historian of the early church.?

Did`nt Josephus say the Romans persecuted thousand of Christos in Rome? Weren`t there were two sects of Christos (meaning divine one) Mithra the divine one and the Jesus the devine one, sects that were fighting over which belief was to take over in Rome. If that the case there were many christans or christos persecuted

http://en.wikipedia....hraic_Mysteries

To put this into perspective I quote from the wiki article, and the quote is not out of context.

"Christians fought fiercely with this feared enemy (Mithras) and suppressed it during the 4th century. Some Mithraic sanctuaries were destroyed and religion was no longer a matter of personal choice"

I think this shows that these Christians were not exactly tree hugging turn the other cheek pacifists who believed in freedom of speech, religion or expression....

Further, about the persecutions. Certainly there were persecutions, but the scale of these is debated, indeed, some of these persecutions are thought , by some, not to have ever happened. The main persecution that is generally known about is the Neronian one, yet this was not specifically a persecution against Christians, it was a persecution against Stoics as well. In fact it could be argued that because Stoics were in high positions in Rome, the persecution was more aimed at them than Christians. Both groups had a bad reputation with the Roman masses, being known as "Dark faced know alls" Dark faced meaning grim and sour. Nero saw the Stoics as a potential threat, and saw an opportunity to appease the masses by also including the Christians. We have few sources about what happened in Rome, and in some cases I think we have nothing more than the bile of thier equivalent of the yellow press, or from those who had fallen out with one Emperor, and after he had died, blackened his name, I think Caligula being an example as it was in interests of Seutonius to do so. We should be very cautious of these sources, though often it is all we have, though we should be even more cautious of anything written after Rome became Christian. As has been pointed out here already, history is written by the victors....

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Actually the Romans persecuted anyone who didn't go along with the state the Gauls, Celts, Sarmatians, etc. I don't think they really cared what religion you were as long as you paid tribute to the state. The used to kill Druids on sight.

Druids were major targets, Caesar says because thay had human sacrifices (the Romans were horrified by this but nevertheless had the Coliseum. I've never understood.)Otherwise the Romans were tolerant and readily accepted additional deities or identified them with deities the Romans already had. Jews were even for the most part given special dispensation to not have to sacrifice to the state deities (because of antiquity) until, of course, they launched rebellion.It is widely thought that the persecutions under Nero were myth; even though the Christians would not do the proper sacrifices, the Roman state generally followed a "do not ask" policy until Diocletian, who was trying to somehow save the old system and saw the Christians for what they turned out to be -- a serious threat to classical civilization.Of course we know he failed and did nothing but allow the Christians a chance to demonstrate their courage and faith (and stupidity?).

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Easy a sacrifice is just killing against somebody who is usually helpless to defend themselves. The coliseum shows courage and prowess of battle and has whole slew of other activities; ok some where quite screwed up but I can't find myself hating it completely. If I had the choice between a death sentence being strapped with no chance to fight back or fighting in an arena. I'd take the arena any given day of the week.

I wouldn't be surprised at all if the persecution of early Christians were a tad bit embellished.

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Druids were major targets, Caesar says because thay had human sacrifices (the Romans were horrified by this but nevertheless had the Coliseum. I've never understood.)Otherwise the Romans were tolerant and readily accepted additional deities or identified them with deities the Romans already had. Jews were even for the most part given special dispensation to not have to sacrifice to the state deities (because of antiquity) until, of course, they launched rebellion.It is widely thought that the persecutions under Nero were myth; even though the Christians would not do the proper sacrifices, the Roman state generally followed a "do not ask" policy until Diocletian, who was trying to somehow save the old system and saw the Christians for what they turned out to be -- a serious threat to classical civilization.Of course we know he failed and did nothing but allow the Christians a chance to demonstrate their courage and faith (and stupidity?).

The Celts were a wild bunch, but I think the reason for Caesar for going after the Druids is because they traveled from place to place and were a major source come communication for the Celtic peoples of central Europe, from what I have read.

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The Celts in Gaul were probably as advanced as the Romans, or not far behind. At this time in history they were widespread, found in Asia Minor, parts of Italy and over most of northern Europe until you came into Germanic areas.

I don't know if anyone knows enough about what was Druidic practice then to assess it; it may well have been human sacrifices, although if memory serves this claim has been challenged.

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Some of the bog people show evidence of being human sacrifice, but nothing like what murder the Romans did.

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I saw nothing new in the allegation. It has long been known that persecution of Christians were sporadic and localized for the most part, at least until Christians took over. Then Christians went after other Christians with a vengeance.

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Easy a sacrifice is just killing against somebody who is usually helpless to defend themselves. The coliseum shows courage and prowess of battle and has whole slew of other activities; ok some where quite screwed up but I can't find myself hating it completely. If I had the choice between a death sentence being strapped with no chance to fight back or fighting in an arena. I'd take the arena any given day of the week.

I wouldn't be surprised at all if the persecution of early Christians were a tad bit embellished.

Not everybody who died in the Coliseum was handed a sword. If you were condemned you would just be put out to killed by wild animals or burned to death in a reenactment of a myth. Most gladators didn't live past 10 fights. They won't there by choice, either.

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Seems like they all take turn on each other with persecution, when a certain religion becomes more popular. Political and religious power don't mix, it's usually all about the money and power then persecution takes hold, what better way to condone anything except by it's god's will...

One reason our US forefathers believed in freedom of religion and seperation of politics and religions. Even in the French revolution they had it correct when they became tolerant of religious beliefs and said First I am French second I am what ever sect or non belief.

All about freedom of thought and tolerance, which always gets the shaft eventually :(

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We have supposedly "historical" accounts of martyrdom, like Polycarp and Justin and about 2000 others. And the stories fit with Roman history.

We also have accounts of Roman executions, like the crucifixion of about 500 people a day during the seige of Jerusalem and Akiva ben Joseph being flayed alive. Josephus mentions the crucifixion of one Jesus of Lydda. These things are known to have happened. It is quite likely that in at least a few cases, they happened to Christians.

Of course, the Christians got even and then some.

Doug

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Of course, the Christians got even and then some.

Doug

True enough, such is the way of history. We become that which we despise. I am reminded of the famous quote - "if we do not learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it". It was as true back then as it is now.
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