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missi04

Roman Persecution Of Christians

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hey everybodi,

do you think the Roman persecution of Christians during the first three centuries of the Common Era impact on the spread of Christianity... and to what extent? B)

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I guess people who felt the apocalypse was imminent could prove their faith dramatically and go out with a bang.

 

But something else was probably at work. In a time of increasing troubles, Christianity offered a community, a world view, a promise of afterlife - and a charitable organization. All these things still inspire converts 2000 years later.

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I agree with Ursus, it was more a reflection of the social atmosphere at the time than as a result of 'persecutions'. The persecutions are over-hyped in their importance anyway.

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what were the significant differences between roman beliefs and christian beliefs throuht this period of time?

Well, that

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why would u say over-hyped in their importance anyway?

It's not the importance of the over-hype, but whether or not some of it actually happened. For instance, Nero is often heavily labelled as a great persecutor. Well he was, that's true, but it wasn't just a direct assault on Christians, but on counter-culture groups all over. Same thing with Domitian. He is often labelled as one of the worst christian persecutors, but it simply lacks historical evidence.

 

I talked about that a bit in this thread.

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This is, I must admit, a sore point with me. The rough approximate estimate of people killed during the persecutions is around 2000, if what I have learned over the years is true. And if my memory serves. Now this was over the course of hundreds of years. More people than this could die in the games in a very quick time. Certainly more pagans were slaughtered as Christianity made its way to the top of the religious ladder than the oppossite. In fact hundreds of thousands were slaughtered by the Christians in the century following Theodosius. One must not forget that it went on for hundreds of years. Justinian finally made pagan worship a capital crime! He even tried to buy the Jews!

Much is made of the "persecutions" by the Christian's themselves. They have always played the sympathy card. Begging ignorance and innocence whilst murdering millions over the course of centuries. There was no Roman religion, as far as I am aware, that commanded that non believers be killed. I am afraid many passages such as the following, have led to the death of millions.

Exdodus 20:5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God [am] a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth [generation] of them that hate me;

 

The amount of church driven propaganda behind the stories of the persecutions cannot be underestimated. When one pools all the years of persecution together, there are less than 2 decades over the course of centuries. Also alot of the stories cannot be confirmed. If my understanding is correct, there is not a shread of archaeological eveidence to back the story of Nero's persecution. The number of Christian's actually in Rome at that time would have been few indeed. I have heard they numbered less than 0.05 of the total population of Rome, or less. All we have is from some writings that may or may not have been tampered with. It is a well known fact that the Bishop Eusebius was a known tamperer. Who actually claimed that to tell a lie on behalf of Christianity's cause was justified. People as long ago as Voltaire's time knew Eusebius had doctored Josephus.

 

Oh well, this is not a religious discussion.

 

I think the greatest factor in spreading Christianity was the army. They first spread the tale of Mithras. The god who was born 25 December to a virgin mother, had 12 apostles, was crucified, rose to Heaven to join Helios etc etc. It was just a simple matter to change the name of the god from Mithras, to Jesus and alter the story a little. In an age of illiteracy, this exchange would have easily passed unnoticed by the masses. And even if many did notice... well, modern history has taught us that if one repeats a lie often enough, it becomes truth.

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Actually, from what I've read the army as a whole was the last bastion of paganism. Most military establishments are conservative and bound by tradition. This is especially true if most of the recruits come from rural areas, which tend towards conservatism for their own reasons.

 

My readings also indicate Mithraism was mostly confined to the officer corps and imperial administrators. The grunts of the army would not likely been initiated into the Mithraic mysteries, and would not likely used him as a bridge to Christ.

 

[both of the above statements are based on many works, but largely _The Roman Soldier_ by G.R. Watson, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, 1969.]

 

I rather agree with the sentiments that the Christian perception of Roman persecution is rather overplayed. The Druids among the Celtic pagan types have a much better basis for grumbling about Roman opposition.

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