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Nazarene Commentary Luke 3:18-20 – John’s Teaching and Imprisonment

Luke 3:18-20 – John’s Teaching and Imprisonment

|| Matthew 14:3-12;[1] Mark 6:17-29[2]

LK3:18 So with many words like these John continued to encourage the people as he preached the Good News. LK3:19 Now, Herod the tetrarch had been rebuked by John regarding Herodias who was his brother’s wife, and also about other evil things Herod did. LK3:20 On top of it all Herod also added the imprisonment of John.

 

[1] Matthew 14:3-12: For details see notes in Nazarene Commentary 2000 on Matthew.

[2] Mark 6:17-29: For details see notes in Nazarene Commentary 2000 on Mark.

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Preceding:

Nazarene Commentary Luke 3:1, 2 – Factual Data

Nazarene Commentary Luke 3:3-6 – John Preaches Baptism of Repentance

Nazarene Commentary Luke 3:7-9 – Vipers, Repent!

Nazarene Commentary Luke 3:10-14 – “What Shall We Do?”

Nazarene Commentary Luke 3:15-17 – The Baptisms of the One Coming

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The life of Jesus began in north and central Palestine, a region between the Dead Sea and the Jordan River in the east and the Eastern Mediterranean in the west.

The three Magi before Herod, France, early 15t...

The three Magi before Herod, France, early 15th century. Stained glass: colored glass, grisaille; lead. Restored by F. Pivet, 1999. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This region was under Roman control since the 1st century BCE, initially as a tributary kingdom. The Roman campaigns, coupled with internal revolts and the incursion of the Parthians, made the region very unstable and chaotic up until 37 BCE, when Herod the Great (c.73 BCE – 4 BCE) became king king of Judea, and Malthace. The region gradually gained political stability and became prosperous. Although Jewish in religion, Herod was a vassal king who served the interests of the Roman Empire. When Herod the Great died his son Herod the tetrarch or Herod Antipater (Greek: Ἡρῴδης Ἀντίπατρος, Hērǭdēs Antipatros; born before 20 BC – died after 39 AD), known by the nickname Antipas, became as  tetrarch (“ruler of a quarter”) the much spoken of 1st-century ruler of Galilee and Perea. He is best known today for accounts in the New Testament of his role in events that led to the executions of John the Baptist and Jesus of Nazareth.

Herod the Great made great efforts to mollify the Jews by publicly observing the Law, by building a temple, and by re-establishing the Sanhedrin. He promoted Hellenisation and adorned most of his cities, especially Jerusalem.

Having felt the difficulty facing Jewish tradition Aantipas also tried to take in account Jewish believes. Antipas tried to avoid conflicts with the Jews and therefore when Pontius Pilate, governor of Judea from 26 AD to 36 AD, caused offence by placing votive shields in the Antonia palace at Jerusalem, Antipas and his brothers successfully petitioned for their removal.

Early in his reign, Antipas had married the daughter of King Aretas IV of Nabatea. Herod Antipas repudiated his wife, daughter of Aretas, to marry his niece Herodias, wife of his half-brother Herod Philip. On a visit to Rome he stayed with his half-brother Herod Philip I and there fell in love with Philip’s wife, Herodias, (granddaughter of Herod the Great and Mariamne I), and the two agreed to marry each other, after Herod Antipas had divorced his wife. The affair gained Herod Antipas many enemies, and the vaulting ambitions of Herodias eventually ruined him

Jesus saw his cousin John the Baptist as an authority and possibly a source of inspiration. It seems that he performed baptisms parallel to John the Baptist (John 3.22). This baptiser and preacher reached a lot of people but was not afraid to call Antipas his relation as incestuous and a sin against God. John called the leader ‘That fox Herod’ (Luke 13.32) Herodias may have fancied the preacher and was jealous of his popularity. She was responsible for the beheading of John the Baptist.

Herod Antipas was exiled by the Romans.

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Nazarene Commentary Luke 2:41-50 – Twelve Year Old Jesus in the Temple

Luke 2:41-50 – Twelve Year Old Jesus in the Temple

LK2:41 Now each year [Jesus’] parents traveled to Jerusalem for the Passover festival. LK2:42 So when Jesus was twelve years old[1] he went up with them according to the custom of the festival. LK2:43 After fulfilling the days [of the festival][2] [the parents] returned but the boy Jesus remained in Jerusalem. His parents were unaware of this, LK2:44 thinking him to be in the traveling group. Then after a day’s journey they went looking for Jesus among their relatives and friends. LK2:45 But they did not find him so they returned to Jerusalem to look for him. LK2:46 Then after [looking] three days[3] they finally found Jesus sitting among the [Jewish] teachers in the temple [courtyard]. Jesus was listening to the teachers and asking them questions.[4] LK2:47 Everyone listening was amazed at his comprehension and the answers he gave. LK2:48 When his parents saw him they were astonished and then his mother said to him: “Son, why did you do this to us?[5] Look, your father and I were in a lot of pain[6] searching for you!” LK2:49 Then Jesus said to his parents: “Did you not realize that I would be in my Father’s House?”[7] LK2:50 But, his parents did not understand[8] this statement he made to them.

Luke 2:51-52 – Jesus continued to be in subjection to his parents

LK2:51 Then he descended with them and they all arrived in Nazareth and there Jesus continued to be in subjection[9] to his parents. His mother treasured all of these things in her heart.[10] LK2:52 And Jesus continued to increase in wisdom and physical growth[11] and in favor with God and people.[12]


[1] Twelve years old: It is possible Jesus had turned twelve in the fall around October for it is now spring.

[2] Fulfilling the days [of the festival]: Eight days.

[3] Three days: Missing four days, it is interesting these Jewish parents did not think of the temple first.

[4] Jesus was listening to the teachers and asking them questions: Nothing here tells us Jesus was teaching these rabbis. He was “listening” and asking questions. At the age of twelve the Jewish boy became a “Son of the Covenant.” The next phrase shows Jesus answered their questions well and this impressed those listening.

[5] Son, why did you do this to us: Or, Child; TCN: treated us like this. A mother’s question. We note it is not Joseph who speaks. It is interesting that such an intelligent lad did not make some provision for telling his parents. Perhaps he knew had he asked they would not have given their permission.

[6] In a lot of pain: Or, anxious, distress, anguish. Though it is known Jesus had four brothers and at least two sisters, nothing is mentioned about them here.

[7] In my Father’s House: Or, business. The Greek is only “things” and so does not refer at all to the Jewish temple proper. There were several courtyards in the compound of Herod’s temple. A woman was not permitted in the Court of Israel where only men worshipped God. It is likely they were all in an outer courtyard. The word “house” is used of the tabernacle of Moses and the temples that followed. [Psalm 26:8; 27:4]

[8] Did not understand: This was a common reaction to things Jesus said, including his own later disciples. To Bible readers looking at matters in retrospect the failure to understand is surprising. The use of the word “Father” was very rare in the context of God. The Hebrew Bible uses the word “father” over a thousand times, but in all of these only about a dozen refer to God and most of these are in a Messianic context.

[9] Jesus continued to be in subjection: Or, NEB: under their authority; TCN: submitted himself to their control; MON: always obedient. If Jesus were to observe the Law of Moses perfectly then he would also keep the Commandment to honor his parents. [Ephesians 6:1, 2]

[10] His mother treasured all of these things in her heart: Or, KNX: kept in her heart the memory all that had occurred. Luke has a firsthand source in Jesus’ mother and his brothers and sisters. We can see the good doctor listening intently as these and others related their experiences with Jesus.

[11] Wisdom and physical growth: Or, stature. The “missing” eighteen years of Jesus life will one day be a fascinating read. We learn from this phrase two important things: a] Jesus continued to grow in that “wisdom” found in the Hebrew Bible [Proverbs 1-3]; and, b] Jesus experienced growing up throughout his teenage years through his twenties as a Jewish lad in a small village under the occupation of the Roman world, influenced considerably by Greek heritage. Jerusalem was right in the center of the great trade routes of the ancient world. For an eager and brilliant mind there was much to stimulate a growing youth. At some point Joseph dies and likely Jesus becomes something of the family head as the oldest son. He learns much about motherhood, womanhood, growing children, Jewish rituals, neighbors good and bad, Roman occupation, Greek culture, providing a livelihood for a large family, and the need to find solitude.

[12] In favor with God and people: Jesus not only learned but he increased in God’s favor [approval, blessing, love] indicating he was certainly not God Himself. How does one increase in God’s favor? By ever increasing faith demonstrated by a love for God’s Word and fellowship with His people. We can imagine a young man who the local people could not commend enough. He was not a selfish, egotistical, self-centered carpenter in Nazareth. Jesus learned how to get along with his neighbors, how to keep quiet and not express an opinion when it would accomplish nothing. He was no young upstart who irritated the elders of the community. He was liked by everyone and his reputation was flawless in his community. Everyone knew that the young carpenter did excellent work and asked a fair price. Later Paul will put it: “He learned obedience from the things he suffered.” [Hebrews 5:8]

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Preceding:

Nazarene Commentary Luke 2:1-7 – A Firstborn’s Birth In Bethlehem

Nazarene Commentary Luke 2:8-14 – Angels and Shepherds in the Night

Nazarene Commentary Luke 2:15-20 – Shepherds Find the Infant Christ

Nazarene Commentary Luke 2:21-24 – Presenting the Baby to God

Nazarene Commentary Luke 2:25-35 – Simeon’s Blessing and Warning

Nazarene Commentary Luke 2:36-38 – Anna’s Thanks before Those Waiting

Nazarene Commentary Luke 2:39-40 – The Young Child Grows

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File:Giovanni di Paolo - Infant Christ Disputing in the Temple.jpg

  • Jesus the Messiah celebrated the festival of Hanukkah (ivarfjeld.com)
    Could the Messiah have been born around the Feast of Tabernacles in October?

    It would be easy for the Roman Occupiers of this land, to arrange for a census in Jerusalem when millions of Jews came home to their own native village. Most of the ancient Biblical villages were located around Mount Zion, the city of Jerusalem, a day walk away or so. Even Jesus the Messiah, was dedicated in the Temple, shortly after His birth.

    It would be wise to arrange for a census when Jews celebrated a feast. It would be difficult to force Jews to travel around 25th of December, when there is no Jewish feast. And cold winds, and even snow are the normal climate, on the 700 meters high Mountains of Zion.

    Catholicism is fraud. It was fraud in 325 A.D, and it is fraud today.

    Celebrate the birth of Jesus the Messiah every day, and reject all kinds of paganism arranged for in his name. If you want to celebrate the birth of Messiah on 25th of December, at least be aware of who started this celebration. It was not the Jews who believed that Jesus was the Messiah, but rather the pagan papacy.

  • 2014 Scripture Reading Plan – Week of January 12, 2014 (bishopbillmcalilly.com)
    Jesus replied, “Why were you looking for me? Didn’t you know that it was necessary for me to be in my Father’s house?”
  • Was Jesus a prophet like Moses? (dailyminyan.com)
    Moses was born to normal human parents, while Jesus was born to a virgin who was made pregnant by G-d while betrothed to a man. That’s very unlike Moses, a mortal human being who had to overcome his weaknesses to submit himself to G-d, and was not a “100% G-d and 100% man” sinless superman capable of amazing feats. While Jesus also called himself a prophet (Luke 4:24), in the Hebrew Bible G-d always used normal, often flawed human beings to be prophets to His people. G-d never acted as His own prophet and servant to Himself.
  • The Reason Jesus Could Overcome All Trials and Death (asicansee.wordpress.com)
    Jesus is a man who lived having given up all the earthly hopes people normally cherish from the time of his youth. We must know that Jesus lived from early on with a hope for which he could forsake his family, his environment, his religious denomination, and even his nation. He had a firm belief and hope in Heaven that no one could change. The hope that he cherished in his young mind was an immutable, thorough-going one with which he could withstand whatever difficulties he might encounter. Therefore, we must remember once again that Jesus ran the path he had to take with unflagging perseverance.

    Jesus went to the temple in Jerusalem with his parents when he was twelve. His parents came back first, and Jesus remained there. When his parents came looking for him later, Jesus scolded them, saying, “How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49) We must know that Jesus cherished hope only for the Father.
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    Even though he raised twelve disciples, Jesus was pursued here and there. However, the more he was pursued and the more people were unable to understand his heart, the more ardently he thought about the Father’s nation and the Father’s heart. Although many battles and difficulties knocked against him, they could not crush Jesus’ perennial hope.

  • O’Neill-Fitzgerald “Christ Myth” Debate, #8: Why should anyone have noticed Jesus? (vridar.org)
    Tim O’Neill (TO) repeats, and repeats again and again in both 2011 and 2013, another common apologist mantra in his review of David Fitzgerald’s Nailed: Why would any Greek or Roman or even Jewish author have even noticed Jesus, let alone have bothered to write about him? After all, Jesus was just another nobody Jewish peasant and miracle worker — they were a dime a dozen — and this one was, even worse, in the “backblocks of Galilee”. Why, no-one apart from Josephus even mentions much more politically significant Jewish figures (various Jewish rebels) — (not true, as we saw in an earlier post) — so why would a Jewish peasant who didn’t even lead an armed rebellion against Rome have attracted any notice?
  • Carissimi: Sunday’s Mass; [Day VII] in the Octave of the Epiphany (frjeromeosjv.wordpress.com)
    “Sitting in the midst of the doctors who” were astonished at His wisdom and answers. Moreover since, “as God hath delivered to everyone the measure of Faith”, (Epistle) Christian souls form but “one body in Christ” (Epistle), they ought to be penetrated with the wisdom of Him who far from “conforming himself to the maxims of this world,” reforms “and rules human life according to the will of God” (Epistle).
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    “Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?” said the young boy Jesus. This wholly supernatural wisdom whose guiding principles exceed, without destroying those of the natural order, is beyond our unaided powers.
  • Article Of Faith: Women In The Ministry Of Jesus, by Femi Aribisala (naijaobserver.wordpress.com)
    The religious elite forbade the teaching of the scriptures to women. However, Jesus did not abide by this sexual discrimination. He taught Mary of Bethany and commended her scholarship to her sister, Martha; who was more inclined to perform the conventional female tasks of cooking and serving. He said to her: “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42).
  • Breaking Down Barriers (plowsharesfromwords.wordpress.com)
    If today you were to visit Jerusalem you would find a massive Islamic building called the Dome of the Rock. This golden roofed structure sits atop of what used to be the center of the covenant between God and God’s chosen people, Israel. Starting with Solomon, the 3rd king of Israel, the Temple in Jerusalem became the place where God descended and dwelt. Solomon’s Temple was a particularly massive project. The Holy of Holies (the place where the LORD’s presence would dwell) was made of 600 talents of gold. A talent equals roughly 75 pounds. That means that there was over 45,000 pounds of gold (almost 23 tons) in the Holy of Holies. The Temple was 90 feet long and 30 feet wide. The height of the ceiling would make a claustrophobic happy…it was 45 feet high. Truly, Solomon constructed one of the great buildings of his time. However, Solomon’s Temple would be destroyed and rebuilt. It lost its grandeur in the rebuilding.
  • We can not see where Friday: Dec. 27 (prayerscapes.wordpress.com) gets the connection in this part of Scripture that “Jesus establishes that Christmas is about family”? The festival spoken of in this chapter is not at all about the 25th of December, the birthday of the goddess of light, but is about the people getting saved from the slavery of Egypt.
  • Following The Way: 3 ~ Jesus Did It And So Can You (butterfliesdragonspeace.blogspot.com)
    Jesus learned how to focus his mind completely on the task at hand. Perhaps he began to develop this skill in his fathers carpentry shop. A slip with an adze, chisel, saw, or other sharp wood working tool can be fatal. However he started to develop single mindedness he perfected it in the act of prayer. Prayer so deep and powerful it should properly be called meditation. His fourty days in the desert, the multiple times he is recorded as going to mountains to be alone and pray, his abilities to focus his energy for healing all shout out ‘single minded’ concentration.

The Advent of the saviour to Roman oppression

Before Roman Judean rule

Rome, Ara Pacis museum: cast of a portrait of ...

Tiberius Caesar Divi Augusti filius Augustus – Rome, Ara Pacis museum

The Trojan refugee Aeneas had escaped to Italy and founded the line of Romans through his son Iulus, the namesake of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. The Year of the Consulship of Balbus and Vetus was gone by and the Rome considered to have become a real Roman Empire bastion (on 21 April 753 bCE) had sent their conquerors also to the East. One of the most prominent patrician houses at Rome which were known for their pride and arrogance and intense hatred of the commonalty, brought Tiberius Caesar Divi Augusti filius Augustus better known simply as Tiberius Claudius Nero. After he had divorced Vipsania Agrippina, he had married Augustus’ daughter Julia the Elder (from his marriage to Scribonia) and was adopted by Augustus, by which act he officially became a Julian, bearing the name Tiberius Julius Caesar. {Tiberius was the stepson of Augustus, grand-uncle of Caligula, paternal uncle of Claudius, and great-grand uncle of Nero.}

On the verge of accepting command in the East and becoming the second most powerful man in Rome, Tiberius suddenly announced his withdrawal from politics and retired to Rhodes, possibly as an interim solution: he would hold power only until his stepsons would come of age, and then be swept aside.

Instalment of Roman client king of Judea

Rome, Ara Pacis museum: collection of casts of...

Rome, Ara Pacis museum: collection of casts of busts showing the members of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Picture by Giovanni Dall’Orto, March 28 2008. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In in 63 BCE the Romans had taken over control of Syria, and then intervened in the Hasmonean civil war. A Roman client king of Judea was installed. But he seemed for many “the evil genius of the Judean nation” {Tierney, John. “Herod: Herod the Great”, Catholic Encyclopedia (1910): “Herod, surnamed the Great, called by Grätz “the evil genius of the Judean nation” (Hist., v. II, p. 77)} Though the Jews were granted exemptions from the official Roman state religion, they were not happy with this ambitious man and saw their tribe threatened very hard by this ruthless savage. For others he was Herod the Great (not to be confused with Herod Antipas who came later) and became known as Herod I. He has been described as “a madman who murdered his own family and a great many rabbis“.

Worshippers of One God

By the Greek experience they had learned that others could not be forced to worship their idols and they saw for themselves that the Jews, who only wanted to worship One God, were not like other pagan people who had already several gods and perhaps could have advantage in some extra ones. By the years the Jews had prove that they were not going to conform to a worship which would not have been according to their Laws of worship. So the Romans granted the Jews an official status of being exempt from Roman state religion when they were willing to pay their punitive tax called fiscus Judaicus.

At the time Judea was a very important place for several major trade routes. It was sort of like the great way-station for the incense trade coming from Yemen up the Arabian Peninsula and going out to the Mediterranean. It was also one of the most agriculturally productive pieces of land in the Middle East famous for its olive oil (which was used as a main source of light, and not just for cooking), for its dates (the chief sweetener in the times before sugar), and for its wine.

Thorn in the flesh for the Jews

Roman Theatre

Roman Theatre

A thorn in the flesh was the centre of trade and the Roman administrative capitol of Judea, the artificial port city of Caesarea (one of the two largest in the Empire). Like in the most important Roman cities there was a beautiful amphitheatre, a hippodrome for chariot races and people could gamble and enjoy life or give one’s desires in their pleasure gardens. There was also a huge temple dedicated to the Roman god-emperor, Augustus Caesar.

Temples were sacred places and for the People of God the mount in Jerusalem was most sacred and they did not like the pagan ideas of their oppressor who had found an ambitious project in the re-building of ‘the Temple’, which was almost certainly an attempt to gain popularity among his subjects who, he knew, held him in contempt and also to make amends for his cruelty toward the rabbis.

Build walls around the Temple Mount

It took 10,000 men ten years just to build the retaining walls around the Temple Mount (on top of which the Muslim shrine, the Dome of the Rock, stands today). The Western Wall (formerly known as the Wailing Wall or “Kotel Ma’arabi”) is merely part of that 500-meter-long retaining wall that was designed to hold a huge man-made platform that could accommodate twenty four football fields. When it was completed, it was the world’s largest functioning religious site and until today it remains the largest man-made platform in the world.

‘Foresight is the essence of government’, he must have thought and forward looking to a growing Jewish community of which there were already about 6-7 million Jews living in the Roman Empire (plus another 1 million in Persia), they should have felt welcome in the town they had to visit in their lifetime. Because it was considered to go for pilgrimage to  Jerusalem for the three pilgrimage festivals: Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot.  (Exodus 23: 17; Deuteronomy 16:16). The Mishnah says,

“All are under obligation, to appear, except minors, women, the blind, the lame, the aged, and one who is ill physically or mentally.”

Also knowing that according to the Mosaic law every one should take an offering, though the value thereof is not fixed (comp. Exodus 23: 14; Deuteronomium 16:17) this would mean they had to buy goods in the city and could bring in money for the Roman Empire by the taxes. They were sure of collecting at least the tax for a fixed minimum of three silver pieces, each of thirty-two grains of fine silver (Ḥagai 1:1-2). While the appearance of women and infant males was not obligatory, they usually accompanied their husbands and fathers, as in all public gatherings (Deuteronomy 31:12), which would mean lodging and food for them to be provided. The Talmud plainly infers that both daughters and sons joined the pilgrims at the Passover festival in Jerusalem (Pes. 89a; Giṭ. 25a).

Herod understood that in case the Jews could find a nice place where they could come together to celebrate their festivals, they also would spend a lot of money over there, which would be good for the tax-income. To accommodate such a huge number of people there was a need for a huge space. Hence the size of the platform.

Several Jews where also astonished what the emperor could establish and in the Talmud it was notated:

“He who has not seen Herod’s building, has never in his life seen a truly grand building.” (Talmud-Bava Basra 4a)

In Judea the pilgrimages to Jerusalem were kept up regularly, but the principal gathering of the people was on the Sukkot festival, called “Ḥag ha-Asif” = “Festival of Gathering” (1 Kings 8:65; 2 Chronicles 7:8, 9). The people went undisturbed to Jerusalem for the festivals (Yer. Ta’an. iv. 7; Giṭ. 88a). From beyond Palestine, especially from the River Euphrates, they journeyed to Jerusalem for the festivals. Some even endangered their lives passing the guards posted to stop the pilgrimages (Ta’an. 28a; Grätz, “Gesch.” 3d ed., iii. 157, 668). The number of Jewish pilgrims to the Temple was computed by the governor Gesius Florus (64-66), who counted 256,500 paschal lambs at one Passover festival; allowing ten persons to one lamb, this would make 2,565,000 pilgrims (Josephus, “B. J.” vi. 9). The Tosefta records the census of Agrippa, who ordered the priests to take one hind leg of every paschal lamb, and counted 1,200,000 legs, which would make the total 12,000,000, (Tosef., Pes. iv. 64b). {These figures are evidently exaggerated, and are based on the desire to double the 600,000 of the Exodus, a tendency frequently noticed in the Haggadah.}  It is calculated that ancient Jerusalem comprised an area of 2,400,000 square yards, and, allowing 10 yards for each person, would contain 240,000 persons {see Luncz, “Jerusalem,” i, English part, pp. 83-102}. {Jewish Encyclopedia}

Temple servants also servants of the emperor

Having built the Temple, Herod took pains to make sure it would be run without future problems of this kind. He appointed his own High Priest, having by then put to death forty-six leading members of the Sanhedrin, the rabbinical court.

In that Holy of Holies which was covered in gold there was such a priest assigned service in the regiment of Abijah. His name was Z’kharyah or Zachariah who had a wife who descended from the daughters of Aaron. Her name was Elizabeth. Together they lived honourably before God, careful in keeping to the ways of the commandments and enjoying a clear conscience before God Who is One. He was a respected priest who could use his words to enlighten many people.
In the other buildings were the walls and columns were of white marble; the floors were of carrara marble, its blue tinge giving the impression of a moving sea of water, the congregation gathered and waited for Zachariah who did not seem to come at his regular time. They waited and waited  and became restless. what they did not know was what happened in the house, where the curtains were tapestries of blue, white, scarlet and purple thread, depicting, according to Josephus, “the whole vista of the heavens.” those heavens seemed to have opened for the priest who was astonished and did not believe his eyes and ears.

A special messenger to a priest

Unannounced, an angel of God had appeared just to the right of the altar of incense and got the priest Zachariah paralyzed in fear. But the angel reassured him not to fear because this messenger of God came to tell that their prayer to receive a child was been heard and would be answered positively.  Elisheva (Elizabeth), his wife, who also observed all the mitzvot and ordinances, but did not seemed to be blessed to have children, would bear a son by him. Both where were quite old and had passed the age of having children so Zachariah did not believe the angel Gabriel, the sentinel of God, sent especially to bring him this glad news.
As priest before God, now not believing the messenger of God, he was punished and became unable to say a word until the day of his son’s birth. He would not be able to say any word until he would be filled with the Ruach haKodesh (the Holy Spirit) when the baby would leave his mother’s womb and would get people to  rejoice when he was born, having to face the one who  was going to turn many sons and daughters of Israel back to their God Adonai Elohim Hashem Jehovah. That son of those old people would herald and go before his face in the spirit and power of Eliyahu (Elijah), to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to walk in the wisdom of the just; to make ready for the Most High a people prepared for him.

Dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things were performed, because he did not believe the words, which were fulfilled in their season, he went out the  sanctuary, to the waiting people, who marvelled while he tarried in the temple and saw at his face and how he behaved that something special had happened. They knew he had seen a vision. He continued speechless and had to use sign language with the people. When the course of his priestly assignment was completed, he went back home. It wasn’t long before his wife, Elizabeth, conceived. She went off by herself for five months, relishing her pregnancy.

Luke’s story of the temple priest

The physician Luke (Colossians 4:14) has generally been credited with the writership of the following account:

“5  In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. 6 Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly. 7 But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well on in years. 8 Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, 9 he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshippers were praying outside. 11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. 16 Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” 18 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well on in years.” 19 The angel answered, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. 20 And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their proper time.” 21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. 22 When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realised he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak. 23 When his time of service was completed, he returned home. 24 After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. 25 “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favour and taken away my disgrace among the people.”  (Luke 1:5-25 NIV)

Elisabeth’s other family member also receiving honour of being with child

Eastern Christianity fresco of the Visitation in St. George Church in Kurbinovo, Macedonia

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy by which God had taken away away her reproach among men or her  public disgrace, God sent the angel Gabriel to the Galilean village of  Natzeret/Nazareth to an Essene young girl, a virgin engaged to be married to a man descended from David. His name was Joseph, and the virgin’s name, Miryam/Miriam (the same name as the granddaughter of Hyrcanus, the Hasmonean princess). Miriam is today better known as Mary (Maria), the mother of Christ (and by many also called the mother of God, though God did not have a mother and has been for ever, so did not have a beginning as eternal Spirit).  Mary or Miryam/Miriam became pregnant with the Messiah and lost her virginity at the exact same time (her first time), thus confirming the Messiah’s physical birth (a physical to Spiritual parallel) as a First Born Son (physical for Mary and Joseph, but Spiritual for Jehovah), and legal heir to the throne of King David. This was a serious situation for the young girl, because in the East, the betrothal or engagement was entered into with much ceremony, and usually took place a year before the marriage and was so sacred that the parties entering into it could not be separated save by a bill of divorcement, which could be called in when somebody seemed to have been unfaithful. Unfaithfulness to each other was deemed adultery and could result in stoning to death.

26  In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you.” 29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favour with God.” (Luke 1:26-30 NIV)

Shame over the family

Joseph or Yosef, her husband, being a righteous man,chagrined but noble, determined to take care of things quietly so Mary would not be disgraced, not willing to make her a public example, intended to put her away secretly. But when he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Most High appeared to him in a dream, saying,

“Joseph, son of David, don’t be afraid to take to yourself Mary, your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She shall bring forth a son. You shall call his name Jesus, for it is he who shall save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20-21)

Not interested in Judean politics

At the time that Jewish nationalistic feelings were rising to the surface and Hellenism dominated Judea, the devote Miriam (Mary) was not interested in politics and the significant number of Greeks as well as other gentiles who adopted the Greek lifestyle who came to settle the land. As a result of Herod’s interference and the ever-spreading Hellenistic influences among the Jewish upper classes, the Temple hierarchy had become very corrupt, but her family always stayed truthful to her God, who was the God of Abraham and which she considered the Only One God, the Divine Creator. But perhaps she also might have looked forward to a solution and to their promised land and have sang:

“Maran de-bashamaya,” “Our Master in heaven, to Thee we beg, even like a captive to his master. All captives are ransomed with money; but Thy people Israel, with mercy and supplication. O grant us our request and prayer, and let us not return from Thy presence in vain.”

The Sadducees, a religious group of the wealthy, who collaborated with the Romans in order to keep their power base, now had come in control of the Temple, much to the chagrin of the mainstream Jewish majority, the Pharisees, and of the extreme religious minority, the Zealots.

Dating “Before and after Christ”

HerodtheGreat2.jpg

Basileus or King, emperor Herod the Great

Evidence for the 4 BCE date as the death of Herod in Jericho, is provided by the fact that Herod’s sons, between whom his kingdom was divided, dated their rule from 4 BCE, and Josephus tells us that Herod died after a lunar eclipse.  {Josephus, Antiquities, 17.6.4} Elisabeth and Mary having become pregnant before his death, should then also have been delivered their child before the so called Anno Domini (AD or A.D.) used to label or number years used with the Julian and Gregorian calendars.That Medieval Latin term specified more fully as Anno Domini Nostri Iesu (Jesu) Christi (“In the Year of Our Lord Jesus Christ”) was long wrongly taken as the year of birth of Christ Jesus. This Gregorian calendar dating system was devised in 525, but was not widely used until after 800, when the Trinitarians got in the majority of those who still kept to the teachings in which Miriam (Mary) strongly believed. Because BC is the English abbreviation for Before Christ, it is sometimes incorrectly concluded that AD means After Death, i.e., after the death of Jesus. However this would mean that the ~33 years commonly associated with the life of Jesus would not be present in either BC or AD time scales. {Donald P. Ryan, (2000), 15.} Others use it as “Anno Domine” “Year of the Lord” meaning Year of God an having the years BC ‘before Christ’ as the years ‘Before God’ of the “years before God his birth”, which would naturally be impossible, having God being the creator when he would not yet have been born or been in existence.

From told before

Palestine after Herod's deathIsrael had not yet seen realized the long-awaited fulfilment of the promise regarding the Seed through whom blessings would flow. (Ge 22:15-18) Israel had tried to create their won country and to liberate themselves many times from several oppressors. But their own efforts at salvation had produced nothing, unreality. They did not yet form a political nation where there could be found freedom “from enslavement to corruption” and peace for which all creation “keeps on groaning together and being in pain together.” (Romans 8:19-22; compare 10:3; 11:7.) Jehovah, their God had made Jerusalem like a woman who had been made pregnant by her husband and who brought forth numerous children. (Isaiah 54:1-8). After several prophets telling about a saviour to come the time seemed to be ripe.

Later the devout Jew and convert to the new faith, the apostle Paul quoted this prophecy of Isaiah chapter 54 and applied it to “the Jerusalem above [which] is free, and she is our mother.” (Galatians 4:26, 27)

At the end of the current time indication the stars and the moon came to stand in a situation which was predicted by the earlier prophets. Some wise men knew those predictions of a great king and noticed the signs which were predicted in many books. some started traveling and following the stars to find the right place where that king would come to earth.

They did not know that out of that simple devout woman from Nazareth would arise such a great prophet. The apostle John his vision recorded at Revelation 12:1-5 brings the pregnant heavenly “woman” to the forefront. In his revelation we can see that there is given birth to “a son, a male, who is to shepherd all the nations with an iron rod.” The shepherding of the nations with an iron rod is directly connected with the Messianic Kingdom of God, and hence the vision must relate to the producing of that Kingdom, so that, following the defeat of Satan’s attack on the newborn “child,” the ensuing cry goes forth:

“Now have come to pass the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ.” (Revelation of the apostle John 12:10)

The anguish of the pregnant heavenly “woman” preceding the birth calls to mind Paul’s expression at Galatians 4:19, “childbirth pains” there apparently representing stirring interest and fervent desire to see full development of matters reached (in Paul’s case, the full development of the Galatian believers as Christians).

  • Lectionary sermon for 15 December 2013 (Advent 3 A) on Matthew 11:2-11 (billpeddie.wordpress.com)
    John’s undoing in this instance was that he believed Herod Antipas the Tetrarch had done something quite immoral, and despite knowing Herod Antipas’ unpleasant reputation, told him so. Herod Antipas had been named as king by Caesar Augustus on the death of his father King Herod the Great, but the Romans had decided his power should be limited and only gave him a quarter share of his father’s territory. He set about trying to win back more power by building the city of Tiberius in honour of his current patron the Emperor Tiberius. The immoral action which had offended John was that Antipas also fancied his brother’s wife, Herodias, so he divorced his own wife and married Herodias. Well it is one thing to believe the king had done wrong, but telling him so was quite another. It is understatement to say upsetting a ruthless king from a ruthless family by calling him immoral was not a wise career move and it was probably no surprise to anyone that John was now imprisoned, and, according to the historian Josephus, in the forbidding fortress Machaerus.
  • Tiberius (14-37) (mkukahiwaharuno.wordpress.com)
    During this time, Augustus’ death in 14 had then caused Tiberius to become ruler.  However, at the time of Augustus’ death, he had hesitated to take over as ruler because he felt as if he was inadequate for the position.  He had even gone as far as telling the senate that he was reluctant and inadequate to fill this role.  He was then appointed control of the Praetorian Guard.  The authority in which Tiberius had during this time since he was Augustus’ heir was also greatly and positively impacted because of his tribunician power, the fact Augustus adopted him and Augustus’ bequest to him of his estate along with one of the most important components, his name… Augustus.  However, Rome’s armies had saw the death of Augustus in a different aspect which was it simply being their way to possibly obtain munity.
  • Sorting out the Agrippinas (timesonline.typepad.com)
    One of the problems of the first century AD is that there are simply too many Agrippinas. Not only the “Elder Agrippina” (the wife of the glamorous prince Germanicus, who kept his memory alive after his suspicious death and was morally upright to the point of being a bit of a pain in the neck) and the “Younger Agrippina” (daughter of the Elder A, wife of Claudius and mother — and lover it was said — of Nero). There’s also the virtuous lady that we tend to know as Vipsania, who was the first wife of the emperor Tiberius….the one he really loved but was made to divorce in order to marry the dreadful Julia. Vipsania was actually “Vipsania Agrippina”, the daughter of Augustus’ aide, Agrippa.This last Agrippina is often missed. In fact the traditional title of the picture, below right (by Rubens, now in the National Gallery in Washington) was “Tiberius and Agrippina”… but has been changed to A0000e45“Germanicus and Agrippina”, partly because the traditional pairing seemed so odd (the Elder Agrippina hated Tiberius, whom she believed was heavily implicated in the death of Germanicus). But actually it’s a pairing that makes perfect sense if you remember it could be what we would call “Tiberius and Vipsania”. This is the sad loving couple who were forced to divorce by the imperial dynastic machine.
  • The Story of Mary and the Birth of the King (womenfromthebook.com)
    or over 500 years the nation of Israel chafed under the thumb of first one Gentile kingdom and then another—Babylon, Persia, the Greco Macedonians, and now Rome, with its absolute ruler Caesar Augustus, and Herod the Great, one of his ruthless client kings. It wasn’t unusual, particularly during Passover season, for passions to ignite as the tribes of Israel revisited the story of God’s intervention and the stunning liberation of their ancestors.  When the white-hot flames of resistance and rebellion flared, they were summarily stamped out under the cruel boot of Herod’s soldiers.Exorbitant taxation compounded the misery of oppression in pre- and first-century Palestine: the mandatory tribute to Rome; locally imposed taxes; several layers of temple tax; impromptu levies to fund military expeditions and building projects. Privation and hardship enveloped the land like a dank, smothering blanket, and peasants found themselves forced to sell their land holdings—inheritances from generations past—in order to survive. The swelling ranks of day laborers told the tale.
    +
    On a cool autumn morning sometime before Herod’s death, in the frontier town of Nazareth in Lower Galilee, a young woman prepared for a long trip to Bethlehem. Caesar Augustus called for a census, declaring “all the world should be taxed” (Luke 2:1-5) and ordered that everyone[1] must register in their ancestral home. And so, Mary, nearly full-term in her pregnancy, helped Joseph load the cart with the necessities they would need to see them through their journey to the ancient city of David.
  • Signs and Wonders (mnorth52.wordpress.com)
    Astrology boomed under the Caesars: here we had a severely autocratic regime which considered it worthwhile to be seen as “one with the gods”, and so it greatly benefited the emperors to have the legitimacy of their sovereignty literally “written in the stars.”Tiberius was no exception: having become self proficient in divination, after a dream which told him to give a large sum of money to a certain person, he decided he was the victim of enchantment, and had the man put to death. So even if you have no connection with someone (even an emperor), you could find your life terminated simply on the arbitrary say-so of interpretation of dreams. Freud no doubt would have been in his heaven among the Romans.
  • Rome’s Religion (ecpsocialstudies6.wordpress.com)
    Honoring gods was a big part of Roman life. There were thousands of Roman gods. The ancient Romans believed gods lived everywhere—in trees, by the side of the road, in a flower, under the bed, and maybe even in the oven in your house.  In ancient Rome, everything had a spirit in charge of it.
  • Tiberius Used Quantitative Easing To Solve The Financial Crisis Of 33 AD (businessinsider.com)
    Tiberius ruled the Roman Empire from 14 AD to 37 AD.  He was frugal in his expenditures, and consequently, he never raised taxes during his reign. When Cappadocia became a province, Tiberius was even able to lower Roman taxes. His frugality also allowed him to be liberal in helping the provinces when, for example, a massive earthquake destroyed many of the famous cities of Asia, or when a financial panic struck the Roman Empire in 33 AD.As with many financial panics, this one began when unexpected events in one part of the Roman world spread to the rest of the Empire. To quote Otto Lightner from his History of Business Depressions, “The important firm of Seuthes and Son, of Alexandria, was facing difficulties because of the loss of three richly laden ships in a Red Sea storm, followed by a fall in the value of ostrich feather and ivory. About the same time the great house of Malchus and Co. of Tyre with branches at Antioch and Ephesus, suddenly became bankrupt as a result of a strike among their Phoenician workmen and the embezzlements of a freedman manager. These failures affected the Roman banking house, Quintus Maximus and Lucious Vibo. A run commenced on their bank and spread to other banking houses that were said to be involved, particularly Brothers Pittius.
  • Bishop MacEvilly’s Commentary on Matthew 22:15-21 (thedivinelamp.wordpress.com)
    Pharisees are in a special manner said to be the instigators or concocters of this scheme, to insnare our Redeemer, both, because they were most hostile to Him, and among them, especially the following captious question was agitated. Instead of being struck with feelings of dread at the punishment menaced by our Redeemer, and conceiving feelings of true sorrow, they become more hardened in their iniquity, and endeavour to insnare Him.
  • The man behind the emperor: major Augustus exhibit opens in Rome (rawstory.com)
    A political genius, a great reformer, a patron of the arts — but ancient Rome’s first emperor Augustus was also a family man, as highlighted in a new exhibition that opened in Rome this week.The show marks 2,000 years since the death of the founder of the Roman Empire and the man most associated with the “Pax Romana”, a period of immense architectural and artistic achievement.“We wanted to look at the personality of Augustus beyond the official persona,” said Daniel Roger, chief conservator at the Louvre museum in Paris, which is co-organising the exhibition in Rome.

    Through some 200 items including statues, jewelry and platters, the exhibition at the Scuderie del Quirinale delves into the emperor’s family life and tries to depict the ebullient mood of the time.

    The show brings together for the first time statues of Augustus in his attire as a divine leader and as a star general, as well as an equestrian one found in the Aegean Sea in Greece and displayed in Italy for the first time.

  • Augustus (aaam4e.wordpress.com)
    Augustus got very sick in 23 BC he died visiting his fathers grave on August 19 14 AD

Politics and power first priority #1

The early days of Christianity

2.2.1. Politics and power first priority

File:ArsameiaSockelII.jpg

Mtihras; Dexiosis-Relief from Arsameia by Nymphaios, Turkey – Photo Klaus-Peter Simon

It was just as impossible to bring men back to the old simplicity as to make them return to the old pagan beliefs and to the national form of worship. Consequently, the empire had to identify itself with the progressive movement, employ as far as possible the existing resources of national life, exercise tolerance, make concessions to the new religious tendencies, and receive the Germanic tribes into the empire. This conviction constantly spread, especially as Constantine’s father had obtained good results there from. In Gaul, Britain, and Spain, where Constantius Chlorus ruled, peace and contentment prevailed, and the prosperity of the provinces visibly increased, while in the East prosperity was undermined by the existing confusion and instability. But it was especially in the western part of the empire that the veneration of Mithras predominated. Constantine the Great wondered if it would not be possible to gather all the different nationalities around his altars. Could not Sol Deus Invictus, to whom even Constantine dedicated his coins for a long time, or Sol Mithras Deus Invictus, venerated by Diocletian and Galerius, become the supreme god of the empire? Constantine may have pondered over this. Nor had he absolutely rejected the thought even after a miraculous event had strongly influenced him in favour of the God of the Christians. [1]

For political reasons after his victory against his rival Maxentius, Constantine granted tolerance to the Christians and took a further step in their favour. He was the first Roman emperor who recognized the church’s resistance against a pagan Roman state established upon the ruler cult as a political factor. In 313 Licinius and he issued at Milan the famous joint edict of tolerance. This declared that the two emperors had deliberated as to what would be advantageous for the security and welfare of the empire and had, above all, taken into consideration the service which man owed to the “deity”. Therefore they had decided to grant Christians and all others freedom in the exercise of religion. Everyone might follow that religion which he considered the best. They hoped that “the deity enthroned in heaven” would grant favour and protection to the emperors and their subjects. This was in itself quite enough to throw the pagans into the greatest astonishment. When the wording of the edict is carefully examined there is clear evidence of an effort to express the new thought in a manner too unmistakable to leave any doubt. The edict contains more than the belief, to which Galerius at the end had given voice that the persecutions were useless, and it granted the Christians freedom of worship, while at the same time it endeavoured not to affront the pagans. Without doubt the term deitywas deliberately chosen, for it does not exclude a heathen interpretation. The cautious expression probably originated in the imperial chancery, where pagan conceptions and pagan forms of expression still lasted for a long time. Nevertheless the change from the bloody persecution of Christianity to the toleration of it, a step which implied its recognition, may have startled many heathens and may have excited and given them a chance to blend their religion with the other one.

Arch of Galerius (detail)

Arch of Galerius (detail) (Photo credit: George M. Groutas)

The imprisoned Christians were released from the prisons and mines, and were received by their brethren in the Faith with acclamations of joy; the churches were again filled, and those who had fallen away sought forgiveness. Though it was good that there were religious people who remained in the original Christian faith and were conscious of the dangers of this political handshake.

Constantine had become master of the Roman world and was determined on restoring ecclesiastical order in the East, as already in the West he had undertaken to put down the Donatists at the Council of Arles. He managed to come to an agreement with most of the church leaders by giving them also power, just for changing some teachings, giving in some ways of thinking, and of celebrations. In the dedication of Constantinople in 330 a ceremonial half pagan, half Christian was used. The chariot of the sun-god was set in the marketplace, and over its head was placed the Cross, sign of the god of evil Tamuz, for Christ, while the Kyrie Eleison was sung. Shortly before his death Constantine confirmed the privileges of the priests of the ancient gods. Many other actions of his have also the appearance of half-measures, as if he himself had wavered and had always held in reality to some form of syncretistic religion.[2] Thus he commanded the heathen troops to make use of a prayer in which any monotheist could join, and which ran thus: “We acknowledge thee alone as god and king, we call upon thee as our helper. From thee have we received the victory, by thee have we overcome the foe. To thee we owe that good which we have received up to now, from thee do we hope for it in the future. To thee we offer our entreaties and implore thee that thou wilt preserve to us our emperor Constantine and his god-fearing sons for many years uninjured and victorious.”[3]

The Church tolerated the cult of the emperor under many forms. It was permitted to speak of the divinity of the emperor, of the sacred palace, the sacred chamber, and of the altar of the emperor, without being considered on this account an idolater. From this point of view Constantine’s religious change was relatively trifling; it consisted of little more than the renunciation of a formality. For what his predecessors had aimed to attain by the use of all their authority, and at the cost of incessant bloodshed, was in truth only the recognition of their own divinity; Constantine gained this end, though he renounced the offering of sacrifices to himself.


[1] The original Catholic Encyclopedia

[2] Syncrtism

[3] http://oce.catholic.com/index.php?title=Constantine_the_Great

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Previously: Hellenistic influences

Next: Politics and power first priority #2

Dutch version: Politiek en macht de eerste prioriteit #1

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File:Vatican-Apostolic Palace-Battle of Milvian Bridge.jpg

Vatican City, Apostolic Palace, Constantine and The Battle of Milvian Bridge – Photo Jean-Christophe Benoist

  • Constantine’s Gift to Christianity (insightscoop.typepad.com)
    On October 28, 312, Emperor Constantine met Emperor Maxentius in battle just outside the city of Rome at the Milvian Bridge, spanning the Tiber. This battle—occurring exactly 1,700 years ago—is one of the most important events in the history of Christendom, since it was through Constantine’s victory that Christendom began. It is a battle well worth reflecting upon.
  • Constantine’s Gift to Christianity: Catholic World Report (nebraskaenergyobserver.wordpress.com)
    There are, for example, those who take Constantine’s conversion as the beginning of the end of real Christianity. Christianity, they argue, is the Christianity of the early Church, the Church before it became favored and hence entangled with the empire, the pure Church, the Church before Constantine, the Church of the martyrs.

    The problem with this romantic vision of the pure early Church is that it wasn’t shared by the early Church. We owe it to them to take things, first of all, from their point of view.

  • October 27, 312 – Constantine’s Conversion (gentlereformation.org)
    Constantine reported having a dream in the night. In that dream, he saw the Chi-Rho sign (the first two letters of the Greek word for Christ), with the promise “in this sign, conquer.” Constantine believed he had received a sign from the God of the Bible, and commanded that his soldiers to place the Chi-Rho sign on their shields as they went into battle.
  • Christianity and Constantine 1700 Years Later (reflectionandchoice.wordpress.com)
    The defeat of Maxentius is a significant step in Constantine’s quest to become master of the entire Roman Empire, but historians have usually emphasized it as the turning point in his relationship with Christianity.
    +
    Constantine favored Christianity with money and attention and set a trajectory for its continued growth. He did not, however, make Christianity the official religion of the empire. That move would be made a few generations later.
  • Late Antique Crossbow Fibula Looted from Turin (adrianmurdoch.typepad.com)
    Dorothy King at Lootbusters passed over details of a crossbow fibula which was stolen from the Museo d’Antichita in Turin.
    +
    CONSTANTINE CAES VIVAS (May Constantine caesar live)… is an indisputable reference to the emperor who was going to have a greater impact on history than any other of the tetrarchs, the future augustus Constantine the Great.
  • Constantine and Christendom: Glory or Calamity? | Catholic Lane (nebraskaenergyobserver.wordpress.com)
    how the church became allied (sometimes, anyway) with the state, and how armed resistance to the state is also sometimes allowed under our doctrines. All of this as well as much more come from Constantine, who provides one of the major turning points in Christianity.

    Here we see the beginning of the Church Militant, and the beginning of Christendom as we understand it. We have spoken here  of the importance of this to western civilization.
    +
    At first, Christians found it hard to adjust to this radical transformation.  In the end they found it impossible to discern the divine will without reference to salvation history.  Our ancestors in the Faith had to take divine Providence as it actually transpired, not as one might suppose the Great Helmsman of history could more fortuitously have steered the course of events. Proud minds ready to second-guess God wonder why the Divinity did not stop Christians from having recourse to the sword; or why God let the Church be sullied by immersion in power politics.

  • The historical evolution between the churches and politics in the Roman Empire (perspectives11.wordpress.com)
    Christianity started out as a small group of followers. They did not have a place of worship; they would often reunite at each other’s homes.In the early 60’s AD, a fire broke out in Rome that destroyed most of the city, emperor Nero blamed the Christians for it and ordered them to be killed. At the time, most of the Romans were Pagan; they believed in many Gods, as well as the emperor was considered a semi divine monarch. Christians were persecuted for centuries in the Roman Empire, and executed by getting torn apart by dogs or burnt alive.
  • The day Christianity became a fighting faith (thewesternexperience.com)
    + Jonathan Kay: The day Christianity became a fighting faith
    Constantine was a conqueror. And like all conquerors, he wanted to memorialize himself in word and stone. “Over his reign, he gave the Church an equal place alongside the traditional official cults, and lavished wealth on it,” writes Dirmaid MacCulloch in his 2009 opus Christianity: The first 3,000 years. “Christianity would now embark on its long intoxication with architecture, previously a necessarily restricted passion. Among [Constantine’s] many other donations were 50 monumental copies of the Bible commissioned from Bishop Eusebius’ specialist scriptorium in Caesarea: an extraordinary expenditure … for which the parchment alone would have required the death of around 5,000 cows.”

    In Constantinople (formerly Byzantium), Constantine created a network of churches devoted to various saints, festivals and holy days, thereby establishing the pattern of prayer-by-station that remains a feature of Christian pilgrimage to this day. He also promoted the practice of convening councils of bishops to settle questions of religious doctrine. This included the First Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. (presided over by Constantine in person), whose eponymous creed created the foundational dogma that Christ is “begotten, not made” “from the substance of the Father, God from God, Light from Light.”

    Unfortunately, Constantine used the same venue to promote the theme of Jew-hatred that would remain a stubborn part of mainstream Christian thought and culture until well into the 20th century. “At the council, we also considered the issue of our holiest day, Easter,” he wrote. “In the first place, it seemed very unworthy for us to keep this most sacred feast following the custom of the Jews, a people who have soiled their hands in a most terrible outrage, and have thus polluted their souls, and are now deservedly blind.”

     

Hellenistic influences

The early days of Christianity

2.1. Hellenistic influences

An ingenious and learned school, formed at Alexandria, had contrived, by a system of allegorical interpretation, to infuse Platonism into the Old Testament, the school at Jerusalem had been growing increasingly rigid, and interdicted any such daring exegesis.

In the first centuries of our current calendar the influence of the Greek culture in the Roman Realm was still noticeable and guarded Greece its cultural inheritance one of the most important universities of the Roman Realm which stood in Athens.

At the Athenian schools also Christians, like Prohæresios, the sophist, were found under its members.

Sophists (sophistēs, meaning “wise-ist, one who does wisdom,” and σοφός, sophós means “wise man”) were a category of traveling teachers who specialized in using the tools of philosophy and rhetoric for the purpose of teaching arete — excellence, or virtue — predominantly to young statesmen and nobility. As itinerant intellectuals they taught courses in various subjects, speculated about the nature of language and culture and employed rhetoric to achieve their purposes, generally to persuade or convince others which could be of good use for the youngsters to be able to have their say in the official meetings or ekklèsia (Ecclesia)

Many sophists’ questioned the existence and roles of traditional deities and investigated into the nature of the heavens and the earth, which prompted a popular reaction against them. The attacks of some of their followers against Socrates prompted a vigorous condemnation from his followers, including Plato the most famous student of Socrates, and Xenophon. The sophists became considered greedy instructors who used rhetorical sleight-of-hand and ambiguities of language in order to deceive, or to support fallacious reasoning. according to some the sophist was not concerned with truth and justice, but instead looked for power.

File:PopesixtusII.jpg

The martyrdom of Saint (Pope) Sixtus II and his deacons. Martyre de saint Sixte II et de ses diacres. Cote: Français 185 , Fol. 96v . Vies de saints, France, Paris – 14th century. – Richard de Montbaston et collaborateurs

Sixtus II, or Xystos, who suffered martyrdom in Rome about 258 C.T., also may have studied in Athens and is called “the son of an Athenian philosopher”. But the most noted men who frequented the schools here were Basil from Kæsareia, and Gregory from Nazianzos, about the middle of the fourth century. These schools of philosophy kept paganism alive for four centuries, but by the fifth century the ancient religion of Elevsis and Athens had practically succumbed. In the Council of Nikæa there was present a bishop from Athens. In 529 the schools of philosophy were closed. From that date Christianity had no rival in Athens.[1]

Jesus clearly taught that Jehovah is “the only true God” and that the human soul is mortal. (John 17:3; Matthew 10:28) Yet, with the death of the apostles and the weakening of the organizational structure, such clear teachings were corrupted as pagan doctrines infiltrated Christianity.

A key factor was the subtle influence of Greek philosophy. Explains The New Encyclopædia Britannica: “From the middle of the 2nd century AD Christians who had some training in Greek philosophy began to feel the need to express their faith in its terms, both for their own intellectual satisfaction and in order to convert educated pagans.” Once philosophically minded persons became Christians, it did not take long for Greek philosophy and “Christianity” to become inseparably linked.
As a result of this union, pagan doctrines such as the Trinity and the immortality of the soul seeped into tainted Christianity. These teachings, however, go back much farther than the Greek philosophers. The Greeks actually acquired them from older cultures, for there is evidence of such teachings in ancient Egyptian and Babylonian religions. As pagan doctrines continued to infiltrate Christianity, other Scriptural teachings were also distorted or abandoned.

File:HermesTrismegistusCauc.jpg

Hermes Trismegistus

The question how the Son was related to the Father (Himself acknowledged on all hands to be the one Supreme Deity), gave rise, between the years 60 and 200 C.T. to a number of Theosophic systems, called generally Gnosticism, and having for their authors Basilides, Valentinus, apologist and ascetic Tatian the Syrian or the Assyrian , writer of the Diatessaron (a  prominent Gospel harmony) and other Greek speculators.[2] According to some, it was through Gnosticism that pagan influences slipped into Christian worship. Gnosticism, they assert, served somewhat as a bridge between paganism and Christianity.[3] The Gnostic systems revealed more theosophy than theology and in the Jewish Kabbala is found a theosophy mixed with various forms of magic and occultism. The Kabbalah, which includes the tracts named Sefer Yetzirah, The Zohar, Pardes Rimonim, and Eitz Chaim, seeks to define the nature of the universe and the human being, the nature and purpose of existence, and various other ontological questions. It also presents methods to aid understanding of these concepts and to thereby attain spiritual realisation.
The Hellenistic main source is the Corpus Hermeticum or the Hermetic Corpus, a collection of texts attributed to Hermes Trismegistus, which became again of importance in the New Age. Therein astrology and other occult sciences and spiritual renewal are addressed. Trismegistus may be a representation of the syncretic combination of the Greek god Hermes and the Egyptian god Thoth.

Alexandria was full of Jews, the literary as well as commercial centre of the East, and the connecting link between the East and the West. There the largest libraries were collected; there the Jewish mind came into close contact with the Greek, and the religion of Moses with the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle. There Philo wrote, while Christ taught in Jerusalem and Galilee, and his works were destined to exert a great influence on Christian exegesis through the Alexandrian fathers.

During the fourth century Egypt was going to give to the church the Arian heresy, the Athanasian orthodoxy, and the monastic piety of St. Antony and St. Pachomius, which spread with irresistible force over Christendom.

The theological literature of Egypt was chiefly Greek. Most of the early manuscripts of the Greek Scriptures — including probably the invaluable Sinaitic and Vatican MSS. — were written in Alexandria. But already in the second century the Scriptures were translated into the vernacular language, in three different dialects. What remains of these versions is of considerable weight in ascertaining the earliest text of the Greek Testament.

To the Jews, that were the mostly receptive for Hellenic influences, belonged the priests. For many of them meant the accepting of the Hellenism a manner to have Judaism going with its time.

While many Jews accepted the Hellenism, a new group calling themselves Hasidim or Chassidim — devout people (literally “loving kindness”, diverted of the Hebrew חסידות (chassidoet), meaning “piety”) — encouraged people to keep stricter obedience to the Law of Moses. The first group of Hasidim, also called the Assideans or Hasideans (the Anglicized form, derived through the Greek asidaioi, of the Hebrew Hasidim, “the pious”, men endowed with grace (Psalm 39:5; 148:14)), were an ancient Jewish sect that developed between 300 B.C.E. and 175 B.C.E. They were the most rigid adherents of Judaism in contradistinction to those Jews who were beginning to be affected by Hellenistic influences. The Hasidim led the resistance to the Hellenizing campaign of Antiochus IV of Syria, and they figured largely in the early phases of the revolt of the Maccabees or Machabees, Jewish family of the 2d and 1st cent. B.C.E. that brought about a restoration of Jewish political and religious life. They are also called Hasmoneans or Asmoneans after their ancestor, Hashmon. Their ritual strictness has caused some to see them as forerunners of the Pharisees. Throughout the Talmudic period numerous figures were referred to as Hasidim. [4]

The Hellenization of the Jews in the pre-Hasmonean period was not universally resisted. Generally, the Jews accepted foreign rule when they were only required to pay tribute, and otherwise allowed to govern themselves internally. Nevertheless, Jews were divided between those favoring Hellenization and those opposing it, and were divided over allegiance to the Ptolemies or Seleucids. When the High Priest Simon II died in 175 BCE, conflict broke out between supporters of his son Onias III (who opposed Hellenization, and favored the Ptolemies) and his son Jason (who favored Hellenization, and favored the Seleucids). A period of political intrigue followed, with priests such as Menelaus bribing the king to win the High Priesthood, and accusations of murder of competing contenders for the title. The result was a brief civil war. The Tobiads, a philo-Hellenistic party, succeeded in placing Jason into the powerful position of High Priest. He established an arena for public games close by the Temple. (Ginzberg, Lewis. “The Tobiads and Oniads.”. Retrieved 2007-01-23. Jewish Encyclopedia.) Author Lee I. Levine notes, “The ‘piece de resistance’ of Judaean Hellenization, and the most dramatic of all these developments, occurred in 175 BCE, when the high priest Jason converted Jerusalem into a Greek polis replete with gymnasium and ephebeion (2 Maccabees 4). Whether this step represents the culmination of a 150-year process of Hellenization within Jerusalem in general, or whether it was only the initiative of a small coterie of Jerusalem priests with no wider ramifications, has been debated for decades.” (Levine, Lee I. Judaism and Hellenism in antiquity: conflict or confluence? Hendrickson Publishers, 1998. pp. 38–45. Via “The Impact of Greek Culture on Normative Judaism.”)

The ordinary people were disgusted by the Hellenised priests and chose more and more party for the Chassidim. There broke a period of martyrdom when Jews in the whole country were forced to go along or to settle with pagan happenings and offerings or to die.[5]

A gold multiple of “Unconquered Constantine” with Sol Invictus, struck in 313. The use of Sol’s image appealed to both the educated citizens of Gaul, who would recognize in it Apollo’s patronage of Augustus and the arts; and to Christians, who found solar monotheism less objectionable than the traditional pagan pantheon

Constantine (C., Flavius Valerius Constantinus) was during the decline period of the Roman Realm the Big Emperor (306–337 C. T.) and tried to merge Christianity with particular pagan customs and doctrines. He undertook the first steps to make this merger religion as the official state religion. Accordingly Greece became a part of Christendom. He moved the capital of the realm of Rome to Byzantium, which he named in honour of himself Constantinople.

In 321 C. T. Constantine ordained that the Sunday (Lat.: dies Solis, an old title that was connected with astrology and sun worshipping, not Sabbatum [Sabbath] or dies Domini [day of the Lord]) would be a day of rest for everybody, except for the farmers. Constantine moreover placed Sunday under the protection of the State. Constantine speaks not of the day of the Lord, but of the everlasting day of the sun as the believers in Mithras also observed Sunday as well as Christmas.

The winged sun was an ancient (3rd millennium BC) symbol of Horus, later identified with Ra

Belief in the old polytheism had been shaken; in more stolid natures, as Roman Emperor Diocletian, it showed its strength only in the form of superstition, magic, and divination. Probably many of the more noble-minded recognized the truth contained in Judaism and Christianity, but believed that they could appropriate it without being obliged on that account to renounce the beauty of other worships. Such a man was the Emperor Alexander Severus; another thus minded was Aurelian, whose opinions were confirmed by Christians like Paul of Samosata. Not only Gnostics and other heretics, but Christians who considered themselves faithful, held in a measure to the worship of the sun. Constantine cherished this mistaken belief.[6]


[1] Christian Athens, Catholic Encyclopaedia, New York 1908

[2] Arianism., Catholic Encyclopaedia, New York 1908

[3] Notion and characteristics, Catholic Encyclopaedia, New York 1908

[4] In the 18th Century Eastern Europethis movement would be taken up again for the third time by Rabbi Yisroel ben Eliezer (1698-1760) also known asIsrael Baal Shem Tov as a reaction against overly legalistic Judaism.

[5] S. Lieberman, Hellenism in Jewish Palestine (1962); S. G. Kramer, God and Man in the Sefer Hasidim (1966); A. L. Lowenkopf, The Hasidim (1973).

[6] The original Catholic Encyclopedia

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Some Jews are known to have engaged in non-surgical foreskin restoration in order to join the dominant cultural practice of socializing naked in the gymnasium, where their circumcisionwould have been a social stigma.

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Next: The early days of Christianity 2.2.1. Politics and power first priority

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Position and power

History of Christianity

1. The early days of Christianity

1.1.       Considered as a danger

1.1.1.  Position and power

The founder of the Christianity, Jesus from Nazareth, the Christ, prayed that between his followers could exist unity (John 17:21), and the apostles really tried to keep the unity of the Christian municipality (1 Corinthians 1:10; Jude 17-19), but already in the first century false teachings entered Christianity.

The fact, that the Christians were a closely united body, fresh, vigorous, hopeful, and daily increasing, while the heathen were for the most part a loose aggregation, daily diminishing, made the true prospective strength of the church much greater. But they remained strongly surrounded by all kinds of several pagan belief forms and popular activities which could be sometimes very tempting.

With the years going by, the Christians came to stand for all sorts of trials and persecution.  As the first disciples they draw consolation and encouragement from their meetings.  Consequently the apostle[1] Paul wrote to the Hebrews 10:24, 25: “let us keep paying attention to one another, in order to spur each other on to love and good deeds, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as you see the day approaching.” Those words are much more than a command to come and remain together. They provide a through God inspired standard that counts for all Christian assemblies— and actually for each occasion that Christians come together.

The apostles had been aware that dispute in the belief could lead to vehemently, discord and even enmity. (Acts of the Apostles 23:7-10) The apostles and early inspired men of the first century defended the Christian faith in two ways: verbally (Acts 22.1, Philippians 1.7, 16, 2 Timotheüs 4.16) and by means of literature (1 Corinthians 9.3).
Already in their time the apostles had to warn the followers of Christ for false teachers and wrong teachings which slowly entered the faith already n the first century.

the Conversion of Saul on the road to Damascus...

Conversion of Saul (Paul) on the road to Damascus

The apostle John refutes misconceptions of how to live godly in the face of the docetic-gnostic teachers infiltrating the church (1 John 2.1). “For many deceivers have entered into the world, who confess not that Yahshua the Messiah has come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.” (2 John 1:7 KJBPNV) “Because a number of false teachers have gone out into the world, who do not give witness that Jesus Christ came in the flesh. Such a one is a false teacher and Antichrist.” (2 John 1:7 BBE)

Peter writes: “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who secretly shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.” (2 Peter 2:1 KJBPNV) “Especially those who follow their old natures in lust for filth and who despise authority. Presumptuous and self-willed, these false teachers do not tremble at insulting angelic beings;” (2 Peter 2:10 CJB)

No one of genuine concern wants to be wrong on what the Bible teaches. Therefore we must be cautious and ready to see all the biblical evidence as slowly or quickly as it is analyzed. In principle, it is what we find in Paul’s instruction to the Thessalonians: “Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesying. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil.” (1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 KJBPNV)

Abiding in the words of the Gospel (John 8.31-32) we must be patient, hoping to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, and let the scriptural facts reveal themselves on their own terms. Some early Christians were lacking that patience and found it not pleasant to give up their old customs. They then became attracted by those who found that it did not matter so much to love so strictly.

As long as the apostles lived, they protected the municipality. The history shows that the early Christians were not concerned by the political matters of the Roman Realm and that they had no prominent class of clergymen. Instead they were all diligent proclaimers of Gods kingdom. To the end of the first century, they had given testimony in all parts of the Roman Realm and had made disciples in Asia, Europe and North-Africa. (Colossians 1:23). These performances in the preaching meant however not that it was not longer necessarily to remain spiritually watchful. Jesus predicted coming lay yet far in the future.

Sects had to be avoided, since they belonged to the works of the meat (Galatians 5:19-21). Christians were admonished to promote no sects neither to let them self bring on a wrong track by false teachers (Acts of the Apostles 20:28; 2 Timothy 2:17, 18; 2 Peter 2:1). In his letter to Titus the apostle Paul commanded that a man who after a first and a second serious admonition continued to promote a sect, had to become rejected, what apparently meant that he must become rejected from the municipality (Titus 3:10). Those who refused to become involved by the causing of disunion within the municipality or by the supporting of a particular party, would distinct themselves through their faithful walk and give a token to own Gods approval. This was what Paul apparently meant when he said to the Corinthians: “For there must be also factions or sects among you, that they that are approved may be made manifest among you.” (1 Corinthians 11:19).

The Christians kept high principles of morality and probity, and with fiery diligence made the message of hope known. Thousands left Judaism and accepted Christianity (Acts 2:41; 4:4; 6:7). In the eyes of the Jewish religious leaders Jesus’ followers were unfaithful or apostate.  (Acts of the Apostles 13:45.) These furious leaders were of opinion that Christianity annulled their traditions. Yes, it denied even the view that they had on heathen! From 36 C. T. a heathens could become Christian and believe and hope in the same privileges as Jewish Christians. (Acts 10:34, 35).

Because of their high morality beginnings and the holding fast on to their belief conviction on more than one issue superior the Christians in the Roman world became not loved. Their separateness of the world (Johannes 15:19) triggered aversion. They did not take up political office and refused military service. As consequence of this they “became proposed as men that were dead for the world, and useless for all matters of life”, according to the historian August Neander. Not being part of the world, meant also to avoid the godless ways of the Roman world. “The small Christian-communities disturbed the pleasure making pagan world with their piety and decency”, explains the historian Will Durant (1 Petrus 4:3, 4). By pursuing and bringing the Christians before court perhaps the Romans tried to bring well the tormenting voice of the conscience till silence.

Extent of the Roman Empire from 133 BC unto 117 AD

Extent of the Roman Empire from 133 BCT unto 117 CT

The first-century Christians preached the good news of God’s kingdom with unshakable diligence (Matthew 24:14). About 60 C. T. Paul could say that the good news’ was preached in whole the creation that under the heaven is ‘(Colossians 1:23). At the end of the first century, Jesus’ followers had made supporters and disciples in the whole Roman Realm — in Asia, Europe and Africa! Even some members of “the house of Caesar” became Christians (Philippians 4:22). This diligent preaching woke resentment.  Neander says:’ Christianity steadily progressed under lay men from all forms of population and threatened to bring the state religion to fall.’ You can imagine how considerably important it really could be to let men infiltrate to let bring them on other thoughts.

Jesus’ followers offered Jehovah exclusive devotion (Matthew 4:8-10). Perhaps this aspect of their adoration brought them more than what else in conflict with Rome. The Romans were tolerant to other religions, as long as their supporters also participated at the emperor adoration. The early Christians normally could not participate at such adoration. They looked at themselves as people, that were due account at an authority that was higher, than that of the Roman state, namely Jehovah God (Acts 5:29). As a consequence of this a Christian became, though he was further in such a way in all respects such an exemplary citizen, considered as an enemy of the state.

There was yet another reason, about which faithful Christians in the Roman world became “objects of hatred”: Common backbiting over them was believed stylus, accusations, for which the Jewish religious leaders were in not small extent responsible, (Acts 17:5-8). About 60 or 61 C. T., when Paul waited in Rome for his trial by emperor Nero, prominent Jews said over Christians: “Really, what concerns this sect, it is us known that she experiences everywhere arguments” (Acts 28:22). Nero would certainly have heard defamatory stories over them. In 64 C. T. he chose, when he was held responsible for the fire that Rome afflicted, according to reports to use the already everywhere slandered Christians as scapegoats. This appears to have brought on a wave of violent persecution that had as target to exterminate the Christians.[2]

The false accusations that were brought in against the Christians were often based on a mixture of straight lies and a twist of their belief views. Because they were monotheistic and not adored the emperors, they were labelled as atheists. Because some non-Christian family members revolted with their Christian family members, they became accused to disrupt their family (Matthew 10:21). They were constituted for cannibals, an accusation that was based according to some sources on a twisting of the words that Jesus had uttered during the Last Supper. (Matthew 26:26-28).

Towards the end of Nero’s reign the Christians were required, under the heaviest penalties, even that of death, to offer sacrifices to the emperor and to the heathen gods. After the death of Nero the persecution ceased, and the followers of Jesus enjoyed comparative peace until the reign of Domitian, an emperor little behind Nero in wickedness.

The dispersion of the Jews, and the total destruction of their city and temple in 70 C.T., are the next events of consideration in the remainder of the first century. The numbers that perished under Vespasian in the country, and under Titus in the city, from A.D. 67-70, by famine, internal factions, and the Roman sword, were one million three hundred and fifty thousand four hundred and sixty, besides one hundred thousand sold into slavery.[3]

Domitian,” says Eusebius, the father of ecclesiastical history, “having exercised his cruelty against many, and unjustly slain no small number of noble and illustrious men at Rome, and having, without cause, punished vast numbers of honourable men with exile and the confiscation of their property, at length established himself as the successor of Nero in his hatred and hostility to God.”[4] He also followed Nero in deifying himself. He commanded his own statue to be worshipped as a god, revived the law of treason, and surrounded himself with spies and informers to bring a second persecution of the Christians.

Christianity, in spite of Roman emperors, and Roman prisons, and Roman executions, pursued its silent steady course. In little more than seventy years after the death of Christ, it had made such rapid progress in some places as to threaten the downfall of paganism.

Artemis Apollon Herakles

Artemis Apollon Herakles

Christians got the hatred of pagan worshippers on their neck. As the making of small silver temples of the goddess Artemis was a profitable business in the old Ephesus. But when Paul preached over there, a considerable number Ephesians reacted positively to his preaching and turned for this purpose their back to the adoration of Artemis. Now their trade was threatened, caused the silver blacksmith a tumult (Acts 19:24-41).  Something similar did happen after Christianity had expanded itself until Bithynia (now Northwest-Turkey). Not long after the Christian Greek Writings were finished, the ruler of Bithynia, Pliny the Younger, informed that pagan temples became left and the sale of feed for offering animals drastically collapsed. The Christians were blamed — and were prosecuted — because in their adoration there was no place for animal offerings and idols (Hebrew 10:1-9; 1 Johannes 5:21). It is clear that the spread of Christianity practiced influence on particular established interests connected with pagan adoration, and, those who as consequence of this lost as well trade as earnings, fumed about this.

By the progress of Christianity the temporal interests of a great number of persons were seriously affected. This was a fruitful and bitter source of persecution. The heathen temples became more and more deserted, the worship of the gods was neglected, and victims for sacrifices were rarely purchased. This naturally raised a popular cry against Christianity, such as the one at Ephesus: “This, our craft is in danger to be set at nought, and the temple of the great goddess Diana to be despised.”

goddess of hunting

Diana goddess of hunting

A countless throng of priests, image-makers, dealers, soothsayers, augurs, and artisans, found good livings in connection with the worship of so many deities. All these, seeing their craft in danger, rose up in united strength against the Christians, and sought by every means to arrest the progress of Christianity. The cunning priests and the artful soothsayers easily persuaded the vulgar, and the public mind in general, that all the calamities, wars, tempests, and diseases that afflicted mankind, were sent upon them by the angry gods, because the Christians who despised their authority were everywhere tolerated.[5] They invented and disseminated the vilest calumnies against everything Christian and laid many and grievous complaints against the Christians before the governors. This was especially so in the Asiatic provinces where Christianity was most prevalent.The First Christians naturally withdrew themselves from the pagans and became a separate and distinct people and held their meetings secretly. They could not but condemn and abhor polytheism, as utterly opposed to the one living and true God, and to the gospel of His Son Jesus Christ; this gave the Romans the idea that Christians were unfriendly to the human race, seeing they condemned all religions but their own. Hence they were called “Atheists,” because they did not believe in the heathen deities, and derided the heathen worship.[6] But that confinement of that pagan population seemed not always even easy.


[1] “apostle” signifies one “sent forth.”

[2] In the month of July A.D. 64 a great fire broke out in the Circus, which continued to spread until it laid in ruins all the ancient grandeur of the imperial city. The flames extended with great rapidity, and Rome being a city of long narrow streets, and of hills and valleys, the fire gathered force from the winds, and soon became a general conflagration. In a short time the whole city seemed wrapped in one sheet of burning flame.

[3] Dean Milman’s History of the Jews, vol. 2, book 16, page 380

[4] Roman History, Encyclopedia Britannica, vol. 19, page 406

[5] Mosheim’s Ecclesiastical History, vol. 1, page 67. Cave’s Primitive Christianity; early chapters

[6] Christian worship, in true simplicity, without the aid of temples and priests, rites and ceremonies, is not much better understood now by professing Christendom than it was then by pagan Rome. Still it is true Today a lot of name Christians want also to see priests in special clothes and services with offerrings, incense and symbols in temples or special church buildings. Instead of knowing that “God is a Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:24)

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Persecution of Christians under Nero > Bible-history Nero

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