Rome And Christianity

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  • 1. Christianity And The Roman Empire
  • 2. What was Early Christianity like?
    • Throughout most of it early years Christianity was simply considered by the larger population as another Jewish sect.
    • Its influence was limited to the area of Palestine and only within the Jewish community.
    • According to the book of The Acts of the Apostles in the Bible the vast majority of Christian converts believed that the religion applied only to the Jewish nation and not the rest of the Roman Empire.
    • However, a new Christian thinker and missionary would alter Christianity and its message forever.
  • 3. Who was St. Paul?
    • Originally called Saul, he was a Pharisee who believed that Christianity was a threat to the Jewish religion.
    • He had a conversion experience on his way to Damascus. He changed his name from the Jewish “Saul” to the Roman name “Paul”.
    • He became the greatest Christian missionary of the 1 st century.
    • Much of Christian scripture is his letters to various churches he started around the Roman Empire.
  • 4.  
  • 5.
    • Paul was successful as a missionary for a variety of reasons:
    • He spoke and wrote Greek, the language of the eastern half of the Roman Empire.
    • Paul was a Hellenized Jew. He was familiar with Greek thought and culture and could frame the Christian message in a way that appealed to many in Greek society.
  • 6. How Paul Changed The Christian Message:
    • Opened Christianity up to all people – no difference between Jew and Gentile –
      • “ Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law (Torah). Or is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not also the God of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also, since there is one God who will justify the circumcised (Jews) by faith and the uncircumcised (Non-Jews) through faith.”
            • Romans 3:27-30
    • Christianity takes on a decidedly universalistic and egalitarian bent.
    • Christianity becomes the spiritual equivalent of Roman citizenship.
  • 7. The Jewish Diaspora
    • In 70 CE the Roman Empire decided to end the Jewish rebellions once and for all.
    • The Roman Army entered Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple.
    • Fleeing for their lives Jews and Jewish-Christians fled the city and moved to different parts of the Roman Empire.
    • This Diaspora helped spread the Christian message to new parts of the empire.
  • 8. Why Was Christianity So Attractive?
    • The universal message of Christianity coupled with the influence of Greek philosophical terms gave Christianity a more cosmopolitan feel and made the religion more attractive.
    • Its egalitarian message appealed to many of the lower classes and women.
    • As times became progressively worse for the Roman Empire, Christianity offered comfort in those troubling times.
    • Christianity took the problem of evil and its effects seriously and many people found this appealing.
    • Its straightforward message of ethical conduct motivated by love and forgiveness made it easy to understand and apply in everyday situations.
    • Christianity emphasized that the divine was present in community – not in individuality. This offered social and emotional networks for lonely and isolated Romans living in impersonal urban centers.
  • 9. ORGANIZATION
    • At first, the Early Church had little formal organization.
    • It became obvious that if the new religion was to survive it would need to set up an organizational network.
    • The most important role to develop was that of bishop. As time passed bishops extended their authority from a single congregation to other congregations in the surrounding area.
    • Bishops kept in touch with each other, discussed and debated doctrine, dealt with civil authorities and managed funds.
    • They created councils which would meet from time to time to settle widespread doctrinal issues that faced the young community.
  • 10.
    • In the 1 st century the only requirement of Christians was to be baptized, take Eucharist and to call Jesus ‘Lord’.
    • By the end of the 2 nd century Catholic Christianity required converts to accept its creed, its canon of scripture, and the authority of the bishops as well.
    • This provided greater uniformity of practice and belief within the religion and gave it the institutional strength it would need to survive.
    • In 135 CE the Romans destroyed Jerusalem. This gave the bishop of Rome the opportunity to claim the leadership role because of his association with Peter.
    • “ Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church.”
    • Matthew 16:18
  • 11. Why Were The Christians Persecuted?
    • Christianity met with much success but also with much suspicion.
    • They denied the existence of the Roman gods and were therefore considered to be atheists.
    • Their refusal to worship the emperor was considered treason.
    • The actual presence of Jesus’ body and blood in the Eucharist was distorted into cannibalism.
    • Because the Christians saw themselves as a separate and holy people they limited their contact with outsiders and were therefore considered ‘haters of humanity’.
  • 12. Christ as Emperor Persecuted for two centuries, Christianity in the 4 th century found its status changed from outsider to imperial insider.
  • 13. How Did Christianity Become The Religion of The Late Roman Empire?
    • The classical ideals that had held the Roman Empire together were beginning to weaken.
    • Mystery cults emphasized magic and faith over reason.
    • The sheer multiplicity of religions and philosophies made it impossible for a common, centralizing vision to hold all/most of the people together.
    • Roman citizenship did not have the status it once had under Augustus and the “good emperors”.
    • Constantine, if he was to hold the empire together, needed something to unify the empire once again.
  • 14.
    • Christianity seemed to have the right mix of classical thinking and mystery religion influences to appeal to a wide spectrum of people.
    • Its universalist message would allow all segments of society to join.
    • Christianity inspired devotion which if harnessed correctly by the government could help rebuild Roman society.
    • In 313 CE Constantine issued the Edict of Milan – Christianity was now to be tolerated like the other accepted religions of the empire.
    • By the time of Theodosius I in 392 CE Christianity had become the state religion of the empire.
    • Christian bishops now used their new found power to begin persecuting and stamping out the old religions of the empire.
  • 15. The Sacking of Rome "My voice sticks in my throat; and, as I dictate, sobs choke my utterance. The City which had taken the whole world was itself taken." Jerome, Letter CXXVII (To Principia)
  • 16.
    • The sacking of Rome came as a shock to the Romans – it was an event that seemed inconceivable.
    • People began to question why it happened – why God allowed it to happen.
    • One Christian thinker offered an answer to this question.
    • His writings represent a real break with the classical tradition of the Mediterranean – yet, he keeps it alive in a different form.
    • The writer was St. Augustine.
  • 17. St. Augustine
    • Bishop of Hippo in Northern Africa (354-430CE)
    • Attended school in Carthage where he studied the Latin classics.
    • The problem of evil motivated his personal searches for truth.
    • Was a Manichaean but eventually became a Christian through the influence of St. Ambrose the bishop of Milan.
    • Was appointed bishop of Hippo in 395.
    • Confessions impacts Western literature to this day.
    • His most famous and influential work was:
    • The City of God
    • In The City of God Augustine created what would be the Christian outlook for centuries and heralds the end of the Classical Age.
  • 18. Plato and Augustine: A Comparison
  • 19.
    • Plato believed that the ideal city (Polis) was possible – The Republic
    • Believed that reason was all one needed to discover and comprehend the ideal world
    • Society could be built on rational principles
    • Saw problems and abuses in the Athenian system but believed that the city-state could be saved if it was founded on rational principles.
    • Augustine believed that the ideal city on earth was impossible. Original Sin made it impossible to establish a perfect society. The only “perfect city” was in heaven.
    • Although reason was useful, by itself it could not discover nor comprehend the mysteries of the divine that were revealed through the person of Jesus
    • Society would always have abusive aspects – the Christian can only hope to limit the extent of the abuse
    • The City of Man (Rome) should not be confused with the City of God (Heaven). Therefore, the sacking of Rome did not impact the validity of the Christian Faith.