Why Did The Romans Not Like Jesus

Why Did the Romans Care about Jesus?

It is the first century of the first millennium. A vast empire dominated the Mediterranean, extending from Spain to Syria, France to Algeria and Egypt, among other places. Its aqueducts, roads, and architectural wonders, along with legions of warriors, a comprehensive taxation and census system, a common language, and a complex legal and administrative structure, make it the most spectacular empire the Mediterranean has ever seen, according to historian Michael Behe. “Love your enemy” and “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” are religious teachings that a poor itinerant teacher from an unknown ethnic group spreads over the countryside with a small band of followers in a backwater province on the outskirts of the empire.

What was it that piqued the interest of a great empire in a quirky rabbi?

However, things were about to change.

Rome in the Time of Jesus

Kings of Israel and Judah had long since passed away, with the last ruler of Judah having been blinded and carried away by Babylonian invaders in 586 BC. Many Jews were exiled to Babylon, where they died as a result of their persecution. Although some of them returned under an edict issued by King Cyrus of Persia in 538 BC, which granted them permission to rebuild the city of Jerusalem, Israel would remain under the rule of Persia, then Greece, then the Seleucids, with a brief period of relative freedom during the time of the Maccabees, before being conquered by Rome in 63 BC.

  • He was born in 63 BC and was raised by his great-uncle, Julius Caesar, who was his adoptive father.
  • Octavian succeeded Julius Caesar as Emperor of Rome when he was just 18 years old, thereby completing the city’s transition from the Roman Republic to the Roman Empire once and for all.
  • He succeeded where Julius Caesar failed in methodically consolidating his authority and portraying himself as a leader for the people, referring to himself as the “first citizen.” He was the first citizen of Rome.
  • Augustus increased the population of Rome by nearly doubling its size.
  • Rome ruled over all that surrounded the Mediterranean and much further beyond.
  • Augustus was replaced by Tiberius, who reigned until AD 37, during the time of Jesus’ maturity and death on the cross.
  • The country of Israel was largely regarded a backwater Roman colony, populated by cantankerous people who held weird religious ideas around the time of Jesus.
  • Some Jews (such as the Apostle Paul) were Roman citizens, and as such had some rights and benefits, but the vast majority were not.

The Jewish people paid taxes to the Roman government and abided by Roman rules. Local administrations, such as Herod and Pontius Pilate, were established by the Roman government.

Jesus’ Threat to the Jews

To be anticipated, the Romans were uninterested in the antics of yet another eccentric, travelling religious instructor. Rome was more concerned with putting down the many insurgent factions that were constantly springing up in Palestine. Jesus, on the other hand, was regarded as a grave danger by the Jewish religious authorities. His apparent disdain for their religious precepts was alarming enough, but this individual went over and above by proclaiming himself to be God, putting himself in the position of God.

“For this reason, they wanted all the more to murder him,” John 5:18 says.

Hundreds of thousands of people came to be cured and to hear Him lecture.

It was necessary to put a halt to this blasphemy.

Jesus’ Threat to the Romans

Polytheistic Roman officials were unconcerned about what the Jews regarded to be blasphemy against their religion. Threats against Roman rule, on the other hand, were taken seriously by them. During the first century, Jesus was far not the only person who was gaining a following in Palestine, and Rome was more than willing to put down any possible uprisings with brutality if they occurred. This Roman commitment to putting down uprisings was not without justification. A few decades after Jesus’ crucifixion, massive uprisings erupted in Judea, culminating in the murder of tens of thousands of people and the final destruction of the Temple in the year AD 70.

  • Jesus has the perilous capacity to assemble a large crowd.
  • When Jews from all over the globe gathered in Jerusalem for the Passover festival, the city was suffocating with people.
  • When He rode into Jerusalem for the Passover — which would be the last time He would be seen alive before He was betrayed and murdered — the people greeted Him with shouts of praise, palm branches, and cloaks placed on the roadside.
  • When Jesus returned to the Temple, he toppled the money changers’ tables and chased out everyone else who was buying and selling there, proclaiming angrily that they had turned His Father’s home into “a den of thieves” as a result of their actions (Matthew 21:13).
  • Jesus was generating a commotion, as He frequently did.
  • This was the final nail in the figurative coffin of Jesus.
  • And it was something the Romans would never let to occur.
  • Jesus posed a serious danger to the shaky peace that they had with Rome.

“If we allow him to continue in this manner, everyone will come to believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our temple and our nation” (John 11:48). As a result, they determined that arresting and killing Him would be the wisest course of action.

The Jews and Romans Collaborate

The tale of Jesus’ arrest and trial(s) may be found in Matthew chapters 26-27, Mark chapters 14-15, Luke chapters 22-23, and John chapters 18-19, as well as in Mark chapter 14 and Mark chapter 15. One of Jesus’ disciples, Judas, betrayed him to the Jewish authorities, who encircled Him in the Garden of Gethsemane and arrested Him. Jesus was crucified on the cross. Jesus was first brought before the Jewish ruling council, the Sanhedrin, where He was declared guilty of blasphemy for claiming to be the Son of God, and sentenced to death.

The Jewish leaders, on the other hand, were not permitted to carry out executions (John 18:31).

Interestingly, despite the fact that Pilate has earned a reputation as a brutal and bloodthirsty dictator throughout history, the Bible tells that he was hesitant to have Jesus executed because he did not find fault with Him.

The sign attached to Jesus’ cross, notwithstanding Pilate’s reservations about having Jesus executed, was undoubtedly a forceful message about what happened to anyone who ventured to challenge Rome’s dominance over the world.

The Christian Threat to Rome

If Jesus had remained dead, it’s possible that the problem would have died with him (pun intended). He, on the other hand, returned back to life and spurred the birth of a revolutionary new religion. However, it wasn’t until Christianity arrived on the scene that Jesus became a serious danger to Rome. Christians upended the existing quo by insisting on a single God, which flew in the face of the Roman pantheon, which included emperor worship, and the massive economy that had grown up around the temples.

Though a great deal of anti-Christian sentiment stemmed from misunderstandings (for example, the practice of the Lord’s Supper was often misinterpreted as cannibalism), the suspicion and fear were not unfounded — within a few centuries, Christianity had spread throughout the Mediterranean and the Roman Empire was no longer a single entity, but instead had been fragmented.

Why Does This Matter?

Perhaps the matter would have been resolved if Jesus had remained dead (pun intended). He, on the other hand, resurrected and ignited a revolutionary new religion in the process. Before Christianity came into being, Jesus was just a minor danger to the Roman government. Insistence on one God, Christians challenged the Roman pantheon, which included worship of the emperor, as well as the massive economy based on the temples. This was a significant blow to the Roman establishment. People who thought themselves to be greater than the emperor took a vow of allegiance to that individual.

Romans are to blame for death of Jesus

Among religious specialists and laypeople alike, the soon-to-be-released Mel Gibson film “The Passion of the Christ” is causing quite a commotion in the media. Many people believe the film contains anti-Semitic implications. Although the Jews are often believed to have been involved in Jesus’ death, according to Dr. Frank K. Flinn of Washington University in St. Louis’ department of religious studies, the Romans are truly to blame for the death of Jesus. Frank Flinn is a songwriter and musician from the United Kingdom.

“Crucifications could only be authorized by the Roman authorities, and they frequently did so on a brutal, mass scale.” In the opinion of Flinn, an expert on Catholicism, Gibson’s film appears to merge all of the gospel stories about the Passion into one epic, a made-for-the-big-screen story that fails to show how opinions about the Jews’ role in the crucifixion have changed dramatically over time, as has been shown in other films about the Passion.

  • The author points out that our oldest accounts of the crucifixion, such as the Gospel of Mark, which was written about 60-70 C.E., make it apparent that Pilate was the one who ordered Christ’s execution.
  • “Matthew, most likely as a result of inter-Jewish competition, places the ultimate responsibility fully on the shoulders of the Jewish leadership,” Flinn explained.
  • When it came to Jewish persecution and murder throughout the Middle Ages, the label “Christ-killers” became a rhetorical club to legitimize the ghettoization, persecution, and slaughter of Jews.
  • A Guide to Taking in the Show Mel Gibson’s next film Written by Frank K.
  • In his books The Jewish War and Jewish Antiquities, Josephus, the Jewish historian, records several incidents.
  • Only the Roman authorities had the authority to order crucifixions, and they did it on a brutal and enormous scale on a regular basis.
  • The first Galilean disciples of Jesus regarded him as a prophet similar to Elijah, who wandered the Galilean hills healing the sick and reviving the dead, as did the prophet Elijah.
  • Sadducees and Pharisees were among the Jewish leaders who owed their positions to their patron-client relationship with the Roman rulers (notice the word “some”).
  • In addition to the teachers and prophets in rural Galilee and the Dead Sea Scrolls community at Qumran, other Jewish groups and individuals either rejected or rebelled against the corrupt relationship between Jerusalem and Rome.
  • Along with the Temple tax, this tax was collected for Rome by the Temple officials, who distributed it to tax farmers.
  • Due to the annual ordinance of Jubilee, it should have been possible for the rich in Jerusalem to restore this territory to the original tribes, but they failed to do so.
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According to Leviticus 19:4, “render unto Caesar” means “return to Caesar” his own coin with Caesar’s image on it (a blasphemy to the pious Jew!) and “return to God” what is God’s, which is the land itself, which God ultimately owns and which God gave directly to Israel in the covenant (Joshua 24:13)!” The message of Jesus was both spiritually and politically dangerous, first to the Roman rulers and then, secondary, to their client appointees in Jerusalem, who were first threatened by it.

  • The Gospel of Mark, the earliest Gospel we know, was written between 60 and 70 CE.
  • Matthew and Luke were written considerably later, in the year 80-95, and show a wide range of interests and points of view.
  • Aside from his status as a Jewish disciple of Jesus (Antioch being the site of the first use of the term “Christian”), Matthew also comments on the era following the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE, when tensions broke out between rabbinic Yavneh Jews and Jewish followers of Jesus.
  • It’s possible that the rabbis weren’t all that successful.
  • (I constantly point out to my pupils that a Christian may attend any Jewish Sabbath service and participate fully in all of the prayers with complete religious commitment.) Matthew goes to great lengths to disassociate himself from the actions of the Roman authority.
  • Perhaps as a result of intra-Jewish competition, the phrase “His blood be upon us and our offspring” is added to place the ultimate responsibility squarely on the shoulders of the Jewish leadership (Matthew 24:25).
  • The Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts should be read together as a single piece of literature.

We can now use the name “Christian,” which appears for the first time in Acts 11:26, but the term was probably definitely coined as a derogatory slur in its original context.

Against the backdrop of Roman criticism, Luke is attempting to defend Christianity against the charge of “superstition” leveled against it.

The paragraphs about Jesus being crowned with thorns and being mocked have been omitted.

“But Jesus hedelivered over to theirwill,” says Luke, elaborating on Pilate’s guilt (Luke 23:26).

In its present form (ca.

100-110 CE) is that John does not place the blame for Jesus’ death solely on Pilate, or Pilate’s Jewish authorities, or even the Jewish authorities alone, but on “Jews” collectively (John 19:12).

The stage is laid for the later, tragic accusation that “the Jews murdered Jesus,” despite the fact that John does not state so explicitly.

It was not until after Constantine established a complete break with Judaism as such that the term “Christ-killers” was coined to describe these individuals.

Bishop John Chrysostom of Constantinople (ca.

By the Middle Ages, the epithet “Christ-killers” had evolved into a verbal club used to justify the ghettoization, persecution, and murder of Jews throughout the world, particularly in Europe.

My argument establishes a chronological order for determining who was responsible for Jesus’ death, as well as the appropriate terminology for each stage: Romans Leaders of the Romans and Jews The High Priest, the Scribes, and the Elders/Romans Chief Priest, Scribes, Elders, and the general populace/Pilate (sort of) Jews are a group of people who live in a community that is surrounded by other Jews (in general) “Stiff-necked Individuals” “Christ-killers.” According to what I’ve read about Mel Gibson’s movie in published reports, it appears to be similar to many previous films about Jesus in that it combines all of the gospel stories about the passion into a single narrative.

As I’ve demonstrated above, the different gospels express very different messages.

This makes it sound eerily similar to the infamous traditional Catholic Oberammergau Passion Play in Germany, which was in its original form blatantly stereotypical and anti-Semitic in its content.

But, to be fair, we’ll have to wait until the film is released before we can find out.

The Roman Empire: in the First Century. The Roman Empire. Jesus

Jesus’ brief life and violent death were sufficient to assure that his message of hope and everlasting life would spread throughout Judaea, into the Roman Empire, and ultimately over the entire globe. Judaea, located in one of the most remote regions of the Roman Empire, was a province rich in ancient customs and religious zeal. Years of Roman control had bred increasing hatred among the populace. Descendance into anarchy A family from the hamlet of Nazareth, near the Sea of Galilee, gave birth to Jesus, who was raised by them.

  1. Its populace had become divided into antagonistic factions.
  2. One of these sects accepted Jesus into their ranks when he was thirty years old, and Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River.
  3. Along with many other preachers, he journeyed across Judaea, bringing his message to the homes and synagogues of some of his country’s most impoverished citizens.
  4. That there was a kingdom bigger than Rome, that God would provide, and that the weakest segments of society would find solace and hope in this message were all declared in this message.
  5. Despite the fact that his teaching was becoming increasingly popular, many people were outraged by the assertion made by his disciples that Jesus was the son of God.
  6. Jerusalem is in a state of flux.
  7. There were thousands of pilgrims from all over the world, and the temple provided services for them such as currency exchange and the purchase of animals for sacrifice, among other things.

He argued that such commercial activity polluted the sacred location.

Are you a criminal or a martyr?

Jesus was imprisoned on suspicion of treason and crucified, which was a standard method of punishment for accused criminals at the time.

To the Christians, on the other hand, he was a martyr, and it was immediately apparent that the killing had exacerbated the instability of Judaea.

By murdering Jesus, the Romans had set the stage for the birth of a completely new religion that would soon spread throughout Rome and, eventually, the entire globe.

Where to go from here: Religion in the Ancient Roman Empire Christians in the first century Religion in the Ancient Roman Empire JoesphusJudea – Paul’s Enemies and Rebels

Why the Romans Crucified Jesus

Jesus was most likely crucified by the Roman authorities, who were in control of Israel and Palestine at the time, since he was viewed as a political danger by the authorities in Rome. It was inevitable that anyone who caused a commotion at the Temple, which served as a significant focal point of Jewish life and a symbol of Jewish national independence, would attract the attention of the rulers. I believe that Pilate, based on what we know about him from other sources, such as Josephus, a Jewish historian who lived during the time period, was a pretty brutal and effective ruler who would not allow the rise of resistance against Rome and his realm.

As a result, I believe they cooperated with the Roman authorities, but Pilate made the choice to crucify Jesus.

While there is a tendency to whitewash the Roman involvement, particularly in Luke’s Gospel, there is also a tendency to suggest that Christianity was not a politically dangerous movement and that whenever Roman authorities encountered it, they determined it to be so, that Christianity is not dangerous.


Harold W. Attridge is the Sterling Professor of Divinity at Yale Divinity School, where he has taught for over 30 years. He is a graduate of Boston College, Cambridge University, and Harvard University, and has served on the faculties of Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University, the University of Notre Dame, and Yale Divinity School, where he served as dean from 2002 to 2012. He is married with two children and lives in New York City. Essays on John and Hebrews are only a few of examples of his writings (Mohr-Siebeck, 2010; repr., Baker, 2012).

Constitutional Rights Foundation

Rome established its empire by military conquest. However, in order to maintain control over such a huge empire, it had to gain the cooperation of its subject peoples. It accomplished this in a variety of ways. Instead of seeing conquered nations as enemies, Rome frequently regarded them as partners, inviting them to participate in the grandeur and richness of the empire’s construction. Roman civilisation was a step forward for the more primitive peoples of Gaul (France), Britain, and Spain, providing them with a written language (Latin), a legal system, and well-organized towns.

  1. In recognition of and respect for Hellenic civilisation, Rome allowed Greek language and culture to continue to be spoken by educated people in this portion of the empire.
  2. The Roman religion contained a large number of main and minor gods, all of whom were led by Jupiter, the sky deity.
  3. For the Romans’ faithfulness to the obligatory religious rites, the gods promised them prosperity, good health, and military victory in exchange for their obedience.
  4. They worshipped their own deities, whom they believed to be protecting them.
  5. It was merely a matter of paying homage to the Romans, nothing more.
  6. Throughout reality, at various points in history, the gods of other peoples gained enormous popularity among the Romans.
  7. Jupiter and Zeus, for example, were both considered to be the same deity by the ancients.

At the beginning of the first century AD, the religion of Isis, an Egyptian goddess, spread across the empire.

These religions were largely accepted by the Romans, although there were some outliers.

It was only after several years that Rome relented and permitted it, provided no more than five people were worshiping at the same time.

However, the cult was permitted to continue by the following monarch.

Because these faiths held that there was only one god, they forbade people from worshipping any other gods as well.

These religions put the Romans’ tolerance to the test.

It was instantly realized by Rome that it had a problem since the Jews refused to pay tribute to the gods of the Roman Empire.

Rome did this in part because the Jews had assisted Roman leader Julius Caesar in winning a crucial war some years before, according to historian Josephus.

Rome, on the other hand, regarded Jews with mistrust and punished them on a number of times.

66, when Nero was emperor, and spread across the Roman Empire and beyond.

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He claimed that he was collecting taxes owing to the emperor, which he did not.

A patriotic group of Jewish rebels known as the Zealots was incensed by this, and they slaughtered the Romans in Jerusalem and assaulted Roman forces throughout the Roman province as a result of their actions.

During the summer of the year 68, Rome had regained authority over the vast majority of the province.

Masada was under siege for a few more years until it was finally overrun by the Jewish defenders of the city.

Jews, on the other hand, rose up in two more failed uprisings.

During the second, Emperor Hadrian stated that he would construct a temple to Jupiter on the site of the ruined Great Temple in Jerusalem in 131.

However, Judaism continued to be recognized as a legal religion, and Jews continued to be granted religious rights.

As a starting point, it was a long-standing religion with a long history.

In the case of Christianity, neither of these arguments applied.

Many Jews, in fact, would have welcomed Rome’s suppression of the Jewish community.

Emperor Tiberius petitioned the Senate to recognize the Christian faith and declare Christ to be a Roman deity, fearing that this group might diminish the perennially troublesome Jewish religion.

The Senate, on the other hand, rejected.

Despite the fact that Christianity was now legally prohibited in the empire, Tiberius thought that this new religious sect would help him achieve his objective of pacifying the country.

Nero’s Persecution (Persecution of Nero) On the night of July 18, A.D.

The fire spread swiftly and burned most of the city, including Emperor Nero’s palace, over the course of six days.

The lyre (a stringed instrument, similar to a miniature harp) was also said to have been in his possession while observing the magnificent fire.

The suffering citizens of Rome, on the other hand, considered him to be guilty.

He made reference to the Christians, a religious minority that is disliked in society.

Romans in general accepted stories about Christians, which they heard from their neighbors.

Christians, according to some, engaged in incest because they preached the need of loving one’s brothers and sisters.

In response to Christians’ refusal to engage in ancient religious ceremonies, many pagans believed that the gods would get enraged and punish those who lived in the city of Rome.

Because the Christian faith was still considered unlawful at the time, it was simple to order large-scale arrests, trials, and executions.

Tacitus, a Roman historian, characterized Nero’s methods of execution as follows: Having been dressed in wild animal skins, they were either ripped to pieces by dogs or crucified.

He supplied his Gardens for the spectacle and presented exhibitions in the Circus, where he interacted with the crowds—or stood in a chariot dressed as a cavalryman—in order to engage in some form of public relations campaign.

During the year 110, Emperor Trajan sought to find a compromise between the rising Christian minority and the Roman pagans, who were demanding that the unlawful religious group be exterminated.

For more than a century, Christians were able to publicly teach and practice their beliefs without encountering any opposition from Roman authority anywhere in the empire.

Furthermore, the Christians’ willingness to welcome individuals of different backgrounds and socioeconomic strata assisted them in gaining a large number of converts.

Many Christians died as a result of the persecution, but when Gallienus became emperor, he put an end to it.

Gallienus felt that by putting an end to the tyranny of this minority religion, he would be able to restore religious harmony to the empire.

Then, in 297, Emperor Diocletian unleashed one final, heinous Christian persecution on the world.

Prices of products were fast rising, German tribes attacked the western portion of the empire, and the Persian empire launched an attack on the eastern section of the empire during this time.

Price restrictions were established by him.

In order to make administration of the empire more manageable, he divided it into two parts: the Greek-speaking east and the Latin-speaking west.

He ordered that all Christian troops resign from the Roman army, and he was successful.

Members of the regime who were Christians were tortured and killed.

Bishops and priests were imprisoned, tortured, and killed as a result of the persecution.

Following Diocletian’s retirement in 305, a civil war erupted in an attempt to determine who would succeed him as emperor.

Despite this, the persecution of Christians continued unabated.

Crucified and mutilated Christians were among those who suffered under Roman rule.

“Let there be no Christians!” cried out the crowds in the Roman arenas.

Galerius suspended the persecution in 311 because he was dying of cancer, which was literally rotting his body.

However, he passed away, and the oppression resumed.

This vision came true, and he went on to conquer it.

Constantine became a staunch supporter of Christianity after they were victorious.

Every person was free “to follow the religion that he chooses,” he declared in 313 (the year of his death).

In 395, Emperor Theodosius declared Christianity to be the new official religion of Rome.

Temples were closed, and sacrifices to pagan gods were prohibited.

It has even been reported that they have converted some pagan celebrations into Christian ones. For example, on the 25th of December, the church replaced the celebration of the birthday of the sun god with the celebration of the birth of Christ. For the purpose of discussion and writing

  1. In what respects were the Romans tolerant of other religious beliefs
  2. It is unclear why the Romans singled out Christians to persecute from time to time. Similarly, the founders of the United States forbade any religion from becoming the official state religion. Do you believe that such a restriction would have been beneficial to the Roman empire? Explain

Continue reading this article if you want to learn more about it. Michael Grant is the author of this work. Emperor Nero is on the run. The American Heritage Press, New York, published this book in 1970. Marta Sordi’s name is Sordi. The Christians and the Roman Empire are two sides of the same coin. The University of Oklahoma Press, in Norman, Oklahoma, published this book in 1986. Diverse Religions in Contemporary America is an active project. In contrast to ancient Rome, the United States Constitution prohibits the government from interfering in religious issues.

Students conduct research and write a report about a religion that exists in their neighborhood for this writing project.

  1. Make a list of at least five distinct religions practiced in the town based on your research. What you learned about each faith in your neighborhood (and how you learned about them).
  2. Prepare a report about one of the religions on your shortlist. It should not be a religion with which you are already familiar. Your paper should include information on the religion’s fundamental beliefs and practices, as well as information on its founders, holidays, and the history of the religion. Finish your paper with a paragraph explaining why religious toleration is a valuable value in American culture.

Following the presentation of all class members’ reports, the class should count the number of faiths that it has uncovered in the community. After the debriefing session, conduct a discussion about why religious toleration is necessary.

Christianity – Relations between Christianity and the Roman government and the Hellenistic culture

The Christians were not reverent of their ancestors’ pagan traditions, and their teaching of a new monarch had the ring of revolution in its tone. The Jews’ hostility to them resulted in a number of breaches of the peace. As a result, Christians may very easily be unpopular, as they were on many occasions. Paul’s triumph at Ephesus sparked a riot in which the religion of the goddess Artemis was defended. An earthquake wrecked most of Rome in 64cea, and the emperorNero executed a “great number” of Christians as scapegoats to avoid being held responsible.

  1. However, it is likely that there was no official senate edict prohibiting Christianity at this time.
  2. A short time later, however, the confession of Christianity was designated as a deadly crime—though one of a peculiar sort, because one may be pardoned by committing apostasy (rejection of a faith formerly professed), which could be proven by giving sacrifice to pagan gods or to the emperor.
  3. In the beginning, persecutions were intermittent, triggered by local conditions, and influenced by the attitude of the ruler.
  4. However, Christian detachment and a reluctance to serve in the imperial service and the army only served to strengthen suspicion in the empire.
  5. Unfavorable crop conditions, barbarian assault, or an emperor’s celebration might all lead to acts of violence against the people living in the area.
  6. One of the most famous exchanges between Pliny the Younger, governor of Bithynia, and the emperor Trajanin 111 illustrates the ambiguity of official policy.
  7. As a response, Trajan stated that Christians who had been brought before Pliny in the proper manner should be punished, but that the governor should refrain from seeking out Christians for persecution.

Organized empire-wide persecutions, on the other hand, took place only in times of grave crises and in reaction to the spread of the faith in the empire.

Christians were held responsible for the grave situation because they refused to acknowledge the gods who were supposed to protect Rome, so unleashing their wrath onto the city.

The emperor Decius (reigned 249–251) issued an edict requiring all citizens to offer sacrifice to the emperor and to obtain from commissioners a certificate certifying that they had performed the sacrifice successfully.

Given that certifications could be purchased, the requirement raised questions of conscience among those who followed it.

But the persecuting emperorValerian was captured and imprisoned in Persia, and his sonGallienus issued an edict of tolerance, returning seized churches and graves to their rightful owners.

The reasons for this persecution are unclear, but have been attributed to a variety of factors, including the influence of Galerius, a fanatic follower of traditional Roman religion; Diocletian’s own devotion to traditional religion and his desire to use Roman religion to restore complete unity to the empire; and the fear that rebellious armies would become alienated from emperor worship if they were allowed to practice their religion.

  1. Following his predecessor’s retirement, Galerius maintained the persecution until 311, when he was struck with a severe sickness, which was recorded in excruciating detail by the church historianEusebius, who felt it was an act of vengeance by the Christian God.
  2. The tetrarchy of Diocletian The statue of Diocletian’s tetrarchy, made of red porphyry and dating to the third century CE, was transported to Venice in 1258.
  3. Prior to a fight against a rival emperor the next year, the emperorConstantine had a vision of the cross in the skies with the inscription “In this sign, conquer.” The condition of the early church improved even more the following year.
  4. In 313 the joint emperors Constantine and Licinius issued theEdict of Milan, an amanifestoof toleration that, among other things, allowed Christians complete legal rights and the ability to worship.
  5. The blood of the victims, as some of their contemporaries claimed, had aided the church’s expansion, but schizophrenia soon developed among those who had succumbed to imperial pressure.

During the persecutions, groups like as the Donatists in North Africa, for example, refused to acknowledge as Christians individuals who had sacrificed to the emperor or given over sacred texts to the authorities as Christians.

Christianity andClassical culture

The early Christians’ stance toward paganism and the imperial government was complicated by their intimate affiliation with Greco-Roman literary and artistic culture: it was difficult to condemn the former without appearing to criticize the latter at the same time. But the Christian perception of other religions (with the exception of Judaism) was, on the whole, quite unfavorable. Paganism was considered to be the worship of bad spirits, including the Orientalmystery (salvational) cults of Isis, Attis, Adonis, and Mithra, as well as classic Greco-Roman polytheisms and the Emperor’s cult, all of which were considered to be evil spirits.

  1. In general and to a great extent, with the exception of the concept of baptism as a new birth, Christians eschewed the distinctive languages of the mystery religions.
  2. Tertullian once remarked, “What does Athens have to do with Jerusalem?” in response to this point of view.
  3. St.
  4. The dramatists Sophocles and Euripides were mentioned by St.
  5. This literary legacy was shared by both educated Christians and educatedpagans.
  6. Justin Martyr and St.
  7. It was just their desire to reject all polytheistic mythopoetry and cults, as well as any philosophical and ethical systems that were incompatible with Christian theology (e.g.,Stoicmaterialism andPlatonicdoctrines of thetransmigrationof souls and the eternity of the world).
  8. Unlike him, his successor at Alexandria, Origen, exhibited less interest in literary and artistic things, but was a stronger scholar and thinker, and it was he who was the first to apply the methods of Alexandrian philology to the Bible text.
  9. Augustine believed that while classical literature contained superstitious imaginings, it also contained references to moral truths and understanding that could be put to use in the service of the Almighty.
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The Apologists

During the second century, a group of authors called the Christian Apologists set out to defend the religion against Jewish and Greco-Roman criticism. They dispelled a slew of salacious stories, including claims of cannibalism and promiscuity, among other things. Overall, they attempted to make Christianity understandable to members of Greco-Roman culture while also defining Christian concepts such as the existence of God, the divinity of Christ, and the resurrection of the physical body. As a result, the Apologists absorbed the philosophical and literary terminology of the greater culture in order to construct a more polished statement of their religion that would appeal to the sophisticated sensibilities of their pagan contemporaries.

Aristotle and Philo of Alexandria both described the Logos as serving as a mediator between the transcendent God and the created order.

The Apologists, despite the fact that some of their coreligionists were upset by their use of Greek philosophical concepts, made significant contributions to the development of Christian philosophy, and they were among the earliest of the Christian theologians to emerge.

Jesus – Jewish Palestine at the time of Jesus

Palestinein Jesus’ time period was a part of the Roman Empire, which exerted power over its many provinces in a variety of different methods. Kingdoms in the East (easternAsia Minor, Syria, Palestine, and Egypt) were either ruled by monarchs who were “friends and allies of Rome” (sometimes termed “client” kings or, more derogatorily, “puppet” kings) or by governors who had the backing of the Roman army. All of Jewish Palestine—as well as parts of the neighboring Gentile areas—was under the dominion of Rome’s capable “friend and ally,” Herod the Great, at the time of Jesus’ birth.

  • While Rome possessed legions in both nations, they did not have any in Palestine.
  • It was possible to fulfill this goal for a long period of time by enabling Herod to continue as king of Judaea (37–4 BCE) and giving him complete autonomy in managing his kingdom, so long as the prerequisites of stability and loyalty were maintained.
  • Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc.
  • His empire was split into five divisions after Herod died shortly after the birth of Jesus, according to the Bible.
  • (In the New Testament, Antipas is often referred to as Herod, as in Luke 23:6–12; it appears that the sons of Herod adopted his name, in the same way that the successors of Julius Caesar were widely referred to as Caesar.
  • Only Samaria was given to Herod’s third son, Philip, while the others were either given to Herod’s sister Salome or given to the Syrian province of Syria.
  • As a result, he appointed a prefect to administer this area.

The troops, on the other hand, were not from Italy, but rather from adjacent Gentile cities, particularly Caesarea and Sebaste; the officers, on the other hand, were almost certainly from Italy.

Despite being officially in charge of Judaea, Samaria, and Idumaea, the prefect did not have actual control over his territory.

In Caesarea, on the Mediterranean coast, roughly two days’ march from Jerusalem, the prefect and his small army were based.

Only during the pilgrimage festivals of Passover, Weeks (Shabuoth), and Booths (Sukkoth) did they come to Jerusalem, when vast numbers and nationalistic themes occasionally combined to cause turmoil or riots.

In conjunction with a council, he was given the onerous responsibility of mediating between the faraway Roman prefect and the local community, which was hostile toward pagans and desired to be free of foreign intrusion.

His political responsibilities included keeping the peace and ensuring that tribute was properly paid.

Because he and Pilate were in power together for ten years, it is reasonable to assume that they coordinated well.

Despite the fact that Judaea (including Jerusalem) was theoretically under the authority of Pilate, Caiaphas and his council were in charge of the day-to-day administration of the city.

Relations between Jewish areas and nearby Gentile areas

Galilee and Judaea, the two most important Jewish settlements in Palestine, were bordered by Gentile territory on all sides (i.e., Caesarea, Dora, and Ptolemais on the Mediterranean coast; Caesarea Philippi north of Galilee; and Hippus and Gadara east of Galilee). There were also two inland Gentile cities on the west bank of the Jordan River, near Galilee, which were mentioned in the New Testament (Scythopolis and Sebaste). In addition to trade, the proximity of Gentile and Jewish areas meant that there was some interaction between them.

There was also some population exchange: some Jews resided in Gentile cities, such as Scythopolis, and some Gentiles lived in at least one of the Jewish cities, Tiberias, and vice versa.

However, the Jews resisted pagan influences and barred temples dedicated to the worship of Greek and Roman gods from their cities, as well as the Greek educational institutions, such as theephebeia and gymnasiasion, gladiatorial contests, and other structures or institutions typical of Gentile areas.

  • Only Herod the Great’s reign was an exception to this pattern, and even he distinguished between the Jewish and Gentile sections of his empire, encouraging the development of Greek and Roman culture in Gentile areas while importing only small elements of it into Jewish areas.
  • Following a succession of decrees by Julius Caesar, Augustus, the Roman Senate, and other city councils, Jews were entitled to maintain their own traditions, even though they were in opposition to Greco-Roman culture of the time.
  • Rome did not settle Jewish Palestine, and neither did the Ottoman Empire.
  • Individual Gentiles from other countries would have been unlikely to be drawn to settle in Jewish communities since they would have been cut off from their traditional places of worship and cultural activities.

In Tiberias and other Jewish communities, most of the Gentiles who resided there were most likely citizens of surrounding Gentile cities, with many of them being Syrians who were likely able to communicate in both Aramaic and Greek.

Economic conditions

Galilee and Judaea, the two most important Jewish settlements in Palestine, were bordered by Gentile territory at the time of Jesus’ ministry (i.e., Caesarea, Dora, and Ptolemais on the Mediterranean coast; Caesarea Philippi north of Galilee; and Hippus and Gadara east of Galilee). Also on the west bank of the Jordan River, near Galilee, there were two inland Gentile cities: Akko and Akko (Scythopolis and Sebaste). In addition to trade, the proximity of Gentile and Jewish areas meant that there was some interaction between them.

It also appears that there was some population exchange: some Jews resided in Gentile towns, such as Scythopolis, while some Gentiles lived in at least one Jewish city, Tiberias.

As a counterpoint, the Jews opposed pagan practices by refusing to let Greek and Roman temples, as well as the Greek educational institutions theephebeia and gymnasiasion, gladiatorial fights, and other buildings or institutions that were distinctive of Gentile lands, into their towns.

This was not true under Herod the Great’s reign, however he did handle the Jewish and Gentile sections of his kingdom in a different way, encouraging Greco-Roman culture and traditions in Gentile areas while importing only very small components of it into Jewish areas.

Jewish practices were permitted to be maintained by a succession of decrees issued by Julius Caesar, Augustus, the Roman Senate, and a number of municipal councils, even when they were in direct opposition to Greco-Roman culture.

A similar situation occurred when Rome attempted to establish a presence in Jewish Palestine.

The prospect of settling in Jewish communities, where they would have been shut off from their traditional places of worship and cultural activities, would have attracted only a small number of Gentiles from other countries.

Those who resided in Tiberias and other Jewish communities were very certainly inhabitants of surrounding Gentile cities, and many of them were Syrians, who were likely fluent in both Aramaic and Greek, as were the Jews who lived there.

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