Jump to content
UNRV Ancient Roman Empire Forums
Sign in to follow this  
Viggen

Tipping Point Of Christianity

Recommended Posts

I am busy reading The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference (which is a fascinating book) and the almost right at the beginning i thought, about the rise of christianity, namely when was the tipping point of this new religion to go main stream.

 

From Publishers Weekly:

The premise of this facile piece of pop sociology has built-in appeal: little changes can have big effects; when small numbers of people start behaving differently, that behavior can ripple outward until a critical mass or "tipping point" is reached, changing the world. Gladwell's thesis that ideas, products, messages and behaviors "spread just like viruses do" remains a metaphor as he follows the growth of "word-of-mouth epidemics" triggered with the help of three pivotal types. These are Connectors, sociable personalities who bring people together; Mavens, who like to pass along knowledge; and Salesmen, adept at persuading the unenlightened.

 

Now who in early christianity were the connectors, were the Mavens and who were the salesmen, when in your opinion was the tipping point that made christianity spread like a virus?

 

 

cheers

viggen

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
There is one distinct historical figure who fit all three: Jesus.

 

sorry wrong answer (imo ofcourse) by the time Jesus died, it was a minute tiny sect somewhere in the outskirts of the empire not a "virus" on rampage...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

oh... it wasn't a virus on rampage, but it was a set base ready to break loose then.

Edited by Antiochus of Seleucia

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

An interesting question. Personally I don't see Jesus as a combination of the three archtypes in question. He would qualify as a 'maven' and perhaps a 'salesmen', but was hardly a unifying force as a 'connector'. Arguably I suppose one could say that Paul of Tarsus was a little bit of all three types.

 

At any rate, I personally feel that the Antonine Plague is a major tipping point. The middle second century is a time when the empire was at its greatest population and corresponding highest need for alimenta (social welfare). Add a devastating plague to a giant mixed population of largely poor common workers along with the growing political instability of the early 3rd century, and the people were losing "faith" in the old gods. In this case I think the 'virus' may have been an actual virus.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have to agree with the Antonine plague suggestion, like the Black Death it had a fundamental effect on the social/political and moral balance of the society it struck, and reverberated for centuries thereafter.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

And I'll take Primus' answer regarding Saul of Tarsus. Had it not been for a Hellenized Jewish Roman citizen adapting Christianity to the philosophical and mystical vocabulary of Hellenistic thought, Christianity probably would have remained a marginal Jewish sect, and possibly died out soon after the Temple was destroyed.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

To add to Primus' perhaps the fact that there was emperor worship help justify in who they now worshipped. Nero, or [enter name here] for that matter made a good devil.

Edited by Antiochus of Seleucia

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
There is one distinct historical figure who fit all three: Jesus.

 

Jesus might well have been forgotten (he was the leader of a small sect in Judaea after all, not the center of he world) but it was Paul who created christianity decades after Jesus's death. They never met. Without Pauls efforts in Rome christianity probably wouldn't have emerged. It was the roman empire that eventually accepted this religion and supported it. There were plenty of alternative belief structures back then many of which were perfectly viable.

 

Ideas and concepts don't spread like viruses. Lets say I decide that the moon is made of green cheese. I mention it to friends and they look at me like I'm a bit wierd. I write a book and get a couple of interviews on TV where I basically advertise myself as an well-meaning idiot. Its only when someone who has real influence says - "Yes -he's right - the moon IS made of green cheese" - that people find the concept acceptable. Then it becomes a matter of peer pressure - "Surely you don't still believe the moon is made of rock?"

 

Take Adolf Hitler as an example. Early on in his career he was dismissed as an odd fanatic. By chance and design he reaches a position of influence - and we all know what happened then. Perfectly sensible people took part in horrific goings-on because they weren't able to stand back and say "No, this is wrong."

 

Obviously I'm not comparing christianity with german nazi's but the spread of a conept requires that it becomes acceptable, either because the concept is non-threatening or because someone is threatening punishment if you don't accept it.

Edited by caldrail

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I read once about a "rule of thumb" of sales:

 

getting the first 5% of the population to buy takes 90% of the effort and time

 

once you have that 5%, the next 15% are easier

 

and getting from 20% to 95% is all done by word of mouth

 

(5% of the population are too old or young or will never buy your product).

 

this has applied to TVs, videos etc.

 

In that argument the "tipping point" would be at around the 20% mark.

 

For Christianity, I see several stages.

 

1) Jesus preaches a new approach to Judaism in Palestine to a closed group (Jews) and never suggests that he intends to create his own religeon separate from Judaism

 

2) Paul "re-brands" Jesus teachings as "Christianity" with appeal to a gentile (Greek) audience and adapted to their needs

 

3) Christianity survives some persecuation (much less than usually stated) under Nero and more sefvere pogroms under later Emperors - but it does NOT die out

 

4) Christianity attracts converts as a mystery religeon which admits women (a major selling point over Mithraism) an appeal to slaves and masters, and as offering some comfort.

 

5) Constantine uses Christianity and its symbols as part of his bid for power c 300

 

6) Christianity is adopted as the central religeon of the Roman world

 

7) the pagan establishment adapt Christianity to paganis, - gods become saints; temples churches; the papacy adopts imperial titulature; a hierarchy is created. (Healing, intrinsic to 1 now has no real place by 6/7)

 

The tipping point to me would thus be between 4/5 with survival through the 2nd-4th centuries being a sine qua non; and the Pauline gloss absolutely crucial.

 

Just my thoughts,

 

Phil

 

(PS - I ahve been mechanistic in my language here, as appropriate to historical analysis. I personally believe that Christianity has survived for deeper, spritual reasons, but they are not for this thread.

 

Phil

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

  • Map of the Roman Empire

×