7III. Persecution by the Romans Christianity was an illegal religionChristians were uncompromisingChristians were predominantly lower to middle classChristians were to blame for natural disasters because they left old godsEnmity of the human heart against the Gospel
8III. Persecution by the Romans False charges:AtheismTreasonLicentiousnessCannibalismWitchcraft & SorceryIncestImmoralityHaters of humanityIntellectual contradictions
9Emperors & Martyrs Nero (r.51-68) 64, fire destroyed much of Rome Rumor spread that Nero ordered the fire to make room for his new city, NeropolisHe used Christians as a scapegoat & executed 100sCf. Tacitus, Annales 15.44
10Simon Peter according to tradition, was crucified upside down
11Apostle Paul according to tradition was beheaded
12Domitian (81-96)Instigated the persecution that was the background to the book of Revelation
25Septimius Severus: Problems for the Empire Threat of barbarian invasionEconomic crisesCivil wars and threat of rebellionsIncreasing abandonment of traditional customs/religionsEdict: forbade further conversions to Christianity; persecutions aimed mainly at converts and teachers
27The Passion of Perpetua Perpetua – Young noblewoman & mother; kept diary of visions & experiences in prisonFelicitas – Pregnant slave who delivered her baby in prison so that she could die with her comradesSaturninus, Revocatus & Secundulus – 3 other catechumensSaturus – their teacher who surrendered himself to the authorities
30Decian Persecution: Results Some became apostateSome obtained certificates fraudulentlySome were temporary apostates who recantedSome endured imprisonment and torture, but did not die, becoming known as “confessors”
32Aftermath of Decian Persecution: Question of the Lapsed After the persecution ended, Christians who renounced Christ wished readmittance into the churchShould they be restored to the church?What about different degrees of lapsation (e.g. some renounced Christ, others pretended by obtaining false certificates)?Who should have authority to decide (bishops or confessors)?
33Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage (249-258) Pagan rhetorician; converted at age 40; soon appointed bishopPersecution broke out within monthsFled and hid in order to continue guiding his flock from safetyAccused of cowardice when he returnedConfessors claimed authority to forgive the lapsed, not Cyprian who fled
34Cyprian: Synods 251-2; On the Lapsed Readmitting the lapsed--Cyprian insisted, “Outside the Church there is no salvation.” He won the point: discipline would be enforced on a rigid basis.The authority of the church--The bishop with a synod represents the consensus of the church, which has dominion over mere splinter-group opinion, such as the confessors.
35Novatian: Anti-pope Priest in Rome (d. 258) Opposed Cornelius, Bishop of Rome (251-3), who believed that the church should welcome the lapsed back into the churchNovatian led strict party and became rival to the Catholic bishop of RomeNovatianists would not allow any who lapsed to return to the churchCyprian sided with Cornelius against Novatian
36Two Priorities of the Church Purity of the ChurchForgiving LoveResult: Penitential System
41The Great Persecution (303-311) Persecution was instigated by GaleriusPersecution increased in intensity:Started by evicting Christians from armyEdict of 303, removed Christians from civil positionsOrdered the destruction of churches and burning of ScripturesThose who surrendered Scriptures for destruction were called “traditors”Eventually required all Christians to sacrifice to the gods, and all church leaders were arrestedMost severe and widespread persecution under the Roman Empire
42Edict of Toleration (311)In 305, Galerius forced Diocletian to abdicateIn 311, Galerius became ill; Christians convinced him it was God’s punishment for persecuting themEdict of Toleration: 1) pardoned Christians, allowed them to pursue their faith and to assemble together2) required them to pray to their God for the emperor and the public good.
45Constantine: Conquest of Western Empire (312) War against MaxentiusEve of the Battle of the Milvian BridgeSaw a vision:Chi & RhoIn hoc signes vinces – “In this sign, you will conquer”He painted the Chi-Rho on his soldiers’ shieldsMaxentius drowned in river
46Edict of Milan (313)Constantine met with Licinius at Milan and established an alliance which required the cessation of Christian persecutionMaximinus Daia (eastern emperor) continued persecution until he was defeated by LiciniusIn 324, Constantine defeated Licinius and became sole emperor; then persecution of Christians ceased throughout the empire.
47Results of Persecution A testimony that spawned growthApologetic writings, establishment of early Christian theologyPurity of the churchSuperstitions: relics of martyrs became revered as fetishes; sites of martyrdom attracted pilgrimagesDivision over question of the lapsed