Saturday, August 18, 2012
Chapter 7: Christ v. Caesar
My notes on reading the chapter. I assume that I will comment on them later on this week.
The church had to face the internal problem of heresy and the external problem of persecution. (Cairns 87)
Tertullian – the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church
Political persecution: Christians had to choose between Christ and Caesar on pain of death.
Religious persecution: Romans had tones of idols and rituals. When Christians prayed to nothing visible, Rome equated that with atheism. Also, Christians met secretly, causing rumors of incest, cannibalism, and unnatural practices.
Social persecution: Rich folks hated them because the slaves loved them. Christians preached equality of all men, so the slaves would threaten their style. They also did not take place in pagan gatherings, causing Rome to call them “haters of mankind.”
Economic persecution: Idol makers started losing business. They also got blamed for Roman destruction.
Nero has the dubious distinction of being the first major persecutor of the Christian church. Tacitus first mentioned that Nero started the Roman fire, and it was so believed that he decided to blame the Christians. This stayed only in Rome, and Peter and Paul died in this.
Domitian began a persecution when Jews and Christians would not pay a poll tax to Jupiter. Jews suffered because Rome still thought of the Christians as Jews. This is when John wrote Revelation on Patmos.
Pliny the Younger began the first organized persecution in Bithynia. Ignatius was killed in that one, and Polycarp lost his life in the persecution at Smyrna.
Marcus Aurelius was a devout Stoic who had been biased against Christianity by his teacher Fronto. Justin Martyr died in his reign.
When Rome was falling apart in the 3rd century, Decius blamed the Christians. He sent an edict in 250 that demanded people serve the Roman gods to receive a libellus certificate and live. Origen died after the fact from complications in the persecution. The Church also had confusion about members who would deny Christ for their libellus. Also, Valerian killed Cyprian.
Diocletian decided only a monarchy would solve all the problems. This brought the most severe persecution ever. March 303, Diocletian ordered the cessation of Church meetings, destruction of Church buildings, deposition of officers, imprisonment to people who persisted in Christ, and destroyed Scriptures by fire. Later, the Donatists would not allow the ones who handed over Scripture back into the Church. He also sent them to death camps to overwork them.
Galerius died and issued protection to Christians if they kept the peace. Persecution ended when
Licinius and Constantine issued the Edict of Milan in 313.
During the Apostolic period, Christianity was mostly urban. During the second century, the Greek Gentiles became Christians in newer cities other than Jerusalem. Alexandria became the chief church. In 200, Christians were in all parts of the empire. Then, people started spreading the Gospels to the Latin west.
Two severe controversies broke out in North Africa and Rome concerning the manner of treatment those who had offered sacrifices at pagan altars in the Decian persecution and those who gave up Scriptures during Diocletian who came back to the church when persecution ended. Some included them, but the Donatists would not.
This also began the process of New Testament canonization.