Political Causes Julius Caesar As long as Christianity appeared as one of the sects of Judaism, it was not persecuted. Judaism enjoyed the status of the religio licita, or a legal sect. But when it became distinguished from Judaism, it came under the ban of the state, which allowed no rival for allegiance of its subjects.
Persecution in the Early Church In its first three centuries, the Christian church endured persecution at the hands of Roman authorities. This experience, and its resulting martyrs and apologists, would have significant historical and theological consequences for the developing faith.
The article that follows explores the history of persecution of the early church, some of the reasons behind it, and two important Christian responses to persecution: Extent of the Persecutions The total number of Christians martyred in the early church is unknown.
Although some early writers speak of "great "modern scholars tend to believe the actual number is not so great as is sometimes imagined.
Out of the 54 emperors who ruled between 30 andonly about a dozen went out of their way to persecute Christians. Moreover, imperial decrees against Christians were often directed against church property, the Scriptures, or clergy only.
It has been estimated that more Christians have been martyred in the last 50 years than in the church's first years. The imperial policy was generally one of incorporation - the local gods of a newly conquered area were simply added to the Roman pantheon and often given Roman names.
Even the Jews, with their one god, were generally tolerated. So why the persecution of Christians? In order to understand the Roman distrust of Christianity, one must understand the Roman view of religion. For the Romans, religion was first and foremost a social activity that promoted unity and loyalty to the state - a religious attitude the Romans called pietas, or piety.
Cicero wrote that if piety in the Roman sense were to disappear, social unity and justice would perish along with it.
Religious beliefs were valid only in so far as it could be shown to be old and in line with ancient customs; new and innovative teachings were regarded with distrust. The Roman distaste for Christianity, then, arose in large part from its sense that it was bad for society.
In the third century, the Neoplatonist philosopher Porphyry wrote: How can people not be in every way impious and atheistic who have apostatized from the customs of our ancestors through which every nation and city is sustained?
What else are they than fighters against God? Though much of the Roman religion was utilitarian, it was also heavily motivated by the pagan sense that bad things will happen if the gods are not respected and worshiped properly. Saint Augustine's opus The City of God argued against this view.
On a more social, practical level, Christians were distrusted in part because of the secret and misunderstood nature of their worship. Words like "love feast" and talk of "eating Christ's flesh" sounded understandably suspicious to the pagans, and Christians were suspected of cannibalism, incest, orgies, and all sorts of immorality.
History of the Persecutions At least since the fifth century, it has been customary to count ten major persecutions in the early church, a number that nicely parallels the ten plagues of Egypt. Persecution under Nero c. Traditional martyrdoms of Peter and Paul. Persecution under Domitian r.
Persecution under Trajan Christianity is outlawed but Christians are not sought out. Persecution under Marcus Aurelius r. Persecution under Septimus Severus The early Church of Rome might well be called the Church of the Catacombs.
There are some sixty catacombs near Rome, in which some six hundred miles of . Persecution of the early church had occurred sporadically and in localised areas since its beginning.
The first persecution of Christians organised by the Roman government took place under the emperor Nero in 64 AD after the Great Fire of Rome. With the passage in AD of the Edict of Milan. Persecutions from late 50s to early 60s during which time the Emperor blames Christians for the burning of Rome.
Peter and Paul are killed during this persecution. It was confined to . In the East, the persecution was officially discontinued on April 30, , although martyrdoms in Gaza continued until May 4. Galerius, now on his deathbed, issued a proclamation to end hostilities, and give Christians the rights to exist freely under the law, and to peaceable assembly.
Under Valerian, Christians’ properties were confiscated and believers were not permitted the right of assembly. Cyprian, bishop of Carthage in North Africa, was martyred under the rule of Valerian in 2. Between the Testaments: In the period between the close of the Old Testament and the coming of Christ, there was much and protracted suffering endured by the Jews, because of their refusal to embrace idolatry, and of their fidelity to the Mosaic Law and the worship of God.