Essay Example on Persecution and Martyrdom The story of the successful Christian Revolution








Persecution and Martyrdom The story of the successful Christian revolution against the Roman Empire has often been told In the hour of triumph in the fourth century Christian writers and preachers looked back to the persecution as the heroic age of the church He doubted the providential nature of its victory The ten persecutions had been prefigured in the Bible by the 10 plagues of Egypt or by the 10 horns of the beast in the Apocalypse and the Roman emperors and their officials were painted in the colours befitting the servants of Antichrist The triumph of the Church over the Empire in the fourth century guaranteed its victory in later but still barbarous days In the view of the amounts of hagiographical and devotional literature which grew up around the persecution it would have been astonishing if this had not formed a major theme for research since the Reformation

On the one hand the question could be asked how far Divine Providence use the suffering of the Christians to vindicate the truth of the gospel message and did not the discomfiture of Satan in one period by the blood of the church s martyrs point to the discomfiture of the reformers by the same means on the other hand it might be argued that the spread of Christianity in the Roman Empire was explicable on historical grounds to which the rules of critical study could be applied In all ages people have upon the martyrs as the highest expression of the space of self surrender in every country and century they have won for themselves that homage and esteem which renunciation whether in greater or less degree never fail to procure The consciousness of Christian church cannot be seriously questions There are cases it is true they reached it is easier to die than to live where the daily carrying of the burden that only death can remove the daily suppression of the pain that is gnawing the hearts the daily struggle of broken wings against the prison bars is a task far more difficult than one heroic rush into the mix of the foe one fourth hour of pain and then kindly peace forever In part no doubt the value that the Christian churches has always attached to martyrdom must be attributed to the example of Jesus if for the moments we may contemplate the crucifixion not in its eternal significance as atonement but under its aspect as an episode in human history The cross is the peculiar property of the Gospel

This can be adequately accounted for only by that one feature in which Christianity differs from all religions that have gone before or which have risen since The foundations of the church are lay deep in Calvary Two problems present themselves for the solution in connection with any study of the Jewish and Christian positions in Rome The first is whether the citizenship of Rome was exclusive The second is did Rome tolerate the practice of foreign Sacra by members of its own citizens body The transition from the general conception of civitas to that of the sacra or religion is not difficult to make on a priori grounds for the two were very closely linked To speak off the gods was to speak of the gods of Rome a sort of highest class of Roman citizens As such they had one might almost say their duties toward state why the state for its part was obliged to provide them with their proper offerings and honours There is a total lack in the early Roman cult of that often unmanly humility in the presence of objects of adoration which meets us in Semitic worship the Romans and their gods are rather in the position of free contracting parties It is a little wonder that the Romans up to the latest time ascribed their success as a people to the fidelity with which they observed the conditions of this contract with the gods Roman religion therefore true to its political character early found itself mingled with two developments in Roman history imperialism outside the city and the struggle of the orders within the state However the fact that Roman religion was political did not mean that it was only public it had its private side also Unlike other religious states the Roman made little distinction between public and private worship the sane rules apparently applied to both

From these facts it becomes clear that religion and citizenship had similar bases and that one may be justified in applying rules learned in one to other In addition Roman religion and the Roman pantheon were not static They underwent development and enlargement in accordance with the needs of each age If we understand by toleration a laissez faire attitude toward the religious cults of foreigners the word may well convoy an accurate picture of Roman policy If however by toleration we understand assimilativeness we shall be deceived for the Roman government's position on foreign cults was selective rather than assimilative

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