Friday, June 2, 2023

In just one hundred years

From a Tweet:
One of the most remarkable facts about Christianity is the speed by which it spread over the Roman world. Think about it: in about AD 25, all we see is an oddball preacher in the Judean desert and his slightly younger relative in a backwater Jewish village named Nazareth. That's it.

Fast-forward a hundred years, to AD 125, and we find this:
  1. There are churches scattered through Judea, Syria, Asia Minor, Rome, and most likely elsewhere in the empire, such as Egypt.
  2. A Roman governor in Bithynia (northern Asia Minor) named Pliny has written to Emperor Trajan to complain about Christians. He has arrested, interrogated, and tortured some of them. And he says they comprise every age and class, men and women. Moreover, whole villages and rural districts are being (in his words) "infected through contact with this wretched cult."
  3. Ignatius, the bishop of the church in Antioch (the most important city in the Roman province of Syria), writes letters to seven different churches, across the Roman empire, while he is on his way to be martyred in Rome.
  4. Emperor Domitian, who reigned over Rome from AD 81-96, has interrogated blood relatives of Jesus on the suspicion that they are members of another, rival royal house that might subvert his power.
  5. In AD 64, there are enough Christians in Rome that Emperor Nero rounded them up as scapegoats and had them torn to pieces by dogs, crucified, and burned alive. Writing about this, Tacitus says of Christianity, "This deadly superstition," which began in Judea, worked its way "even to Rome."
  6. Finally, the Christian apologist Aristides has written to the Emperor Hadrian to defend the faith, and to proclaim that there are now four races in the world: Greeks, Barbarians, Jews, and Christians.
All of this, and much more, happened in the first 100 years.
Chad Bird @birdchadlouis

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