The Early Church – Chapter 1 (The Rise of Christian Persecution)

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I started doing a nice study of early Christian history and wanted to share this information with more people. It is amazing to know how the church developed into the condition it is today.

Now this is all information from encyclopedias and reliable websites (copy and pasted). I just made sure they correlated with other sources. Just thought I’d share with the body.

Remember this is not a surprise because we were told this would happen.

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The Rise of Christian Persecution

2 Tim 3:12 … yea and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.

The first persecution relating directly to the person of Jesus Christ was when Herod (the Great) 37-4BC, demanded the slaughter of children younger than two years of age in an attempt to annihilate the predicted new king. This identified the threat that the promised Messiah posed to all existing emperors; that is, the threat of loosing their rule. This wasn’t exclusive only to Jesus, in fact throughout the entire first century anyone, who was of the seed of David or of his generational line, risked being sought out and killed. Emperor Domitian just prior to his death in 96AD was particularly active in this pursuit.

During the Apostolic Age, persecution came primarily from the Jews, and especially from the religious fraternity of the Pharisees and the Saducees. The preaching of a crucified Messiah, whose death was directly blamed on the Judaic spiritual leadership, was highly provocative.

It was Stephens’ preaching of this fact, as he outlined the transition and fulfillment of the law in Christ, that led to his martyrdom in the presence of Saul. Saul (later named Paul) was a Pharisee active in delivering up Christians to persecution until a supernatural encounter with Christ himself on the road to Damascus perpetrated his repentance, conversion, and subsequent apostolic ministry to the Gentles.
Persecution of Christians in large numbers soon came from Rome, and for the following reasons.

1. Imperial authorities were generally tolerant of other religions providing they gave homage to the Emperor. Like the Jews, Christians would not bow, which infuriated Rome’s tolerance. Rome guarded against other sects joining Judaism in challenging the Emperors divine authority in this manner.

2. Christians were different. Tertullian was quoted in his apology “we have a reputation of living aloof from crowds”. The Christian unworldly ethic in itself was a criticism of pagan beliefs.

3. Christians were scandalously slandered because of their alleged ‘secrecy and mistrust’, including allegations of cannibalism and sexual orgies. The rumor of cannibalism came as a result of the hearing of Christians “eating and drinking of the [Lords] body”. Pliny (the elder) authorized the killing of Christians as a result of this particular rumor, accusing them of being “enemies of the human race”.

4. The Christians were accused of atheism because of their rejection of the Roman gods, and of having a “conflicting pernicious superstition”.

5. The most significant development, however, was their refusal to “worship” the emperor. The emperor was held as the symbol of the Roman goddess Roma – the spirit of Rome, to whom the grandeur of the empire was indebted, and unto whom, all were to offer sacrifice.

All the above reasons, to one degree or another, contributed to set the Roman Empire at variance against the Christian faith.

The first ‘National’ persecution was under Emperor Nero (15-68AD).

Tertullian (early Latin theologian) wrote, “Nero was the first to rage with Caesar’s sword against this sect,”

Nero (picture) was fair-haired, blue eyed, plump, with a body covered with spots. He usually appeared in public wearing a dressing gown without a belt, a scarf around his neck and no shoes.

In character he was said to have been a strange mix of paradoxes; artistic, sporting; brutal, weak; erratic, sadistic, and bisexual, – and later in life almost certainly deranged.

The fire of Rome in July, 64AD ravaged Rome for six days. Tacitus (early Roman historian) reported that “of the fourteen districts of the city, four were undamaged, three were utterly destroyed and in the other seven there remained only a few mangled and half-burnt traces of houses”.
Nero’s indifference to the suffering caused by the tragedy stirred resentment among the people, and soon rumors spread that he himself set the fire in order to rebuild the city based on his pre-drawn plans.

Nero, always seeking to be popular, therefore looked for scapegoats on whom the fire could be blamed. He found it in the relatively new religious sect, the Christians.

Tacitus again wrote, “First, Nero had some of the members of this sect arrested. Then, on their information, large numbers were condemned not so much for arson, but for their hatred of the human race. Their deaths were made a farce.”

Many Christians were crucified, or thrown to dogs and wild beasts with carcasses tied to them. Others were burned to death at night, serving as ‘lighting’ in Nero’s gardens (picture), while Nero mingled among the watching crowds. We know that the Apostles Peter and Paul suffered martyrdom at this time.

Look out for Chapter 2

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About Omar Carter

Hey Guys, My name is Omar and I'm just here to love through Christ teachings. View all posts by Omar Carter

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