1. Persecution of early Christians
a. Roman public life – imbued with polytheistic beliefs (theatre, art, public worship). Christian contempt for Roman religion, indifference to Roman society. ‘Haters of humanity,’ indifferent to the divine sources of peace and blessings of life. Atheists.
persecutions during the 2nd century.
i. Decius, Valerian (257-260), Diocletian (303-)
ii. Christian response: martyrdom, Jesus as prototypical martyr; renounce Xy
313 Edict of
ii. Xy becomes most favored religion of the Empire
iii. Questions emerge: how do we work out the relationship between the church and the empire.
1. Should the church be an arm of the state, bishops serving as governmental ministers?
2. Should the state be an arm of the church, subordinate to the bishops?
3. Are state and church co-equal, with different spheres of authority, working co-operatively?
390: riot in Thessalonica, imperial troops killed. In anger, Theodosius orders that local
citizens be convened and executed.
Changes his mind but too late, 7000 people slaughtered. Bishop Ambrose of
The emperor must be viewed as being in favor with God
2. Early Christian Asceticism
a. “ascetic” from Greek ascesis, meaning “exercise, training”.
vowed celibacy thought a superior way of life, voluntary poverty
3. Christian monasticism
a. Desert Fathers: After Xy’s rise in power and wealth, some fled to desert is search of more heroic acts of piety.
i. A reaction against the new wealth and power which was thought o compromise Xy to the world, and against increasingly hierarchical church. Anticlerical
ii. Attempts to recapture spirit of primitive Xy, a way of following Christ
iii. Solitude, poverty, prayer
b. Groups of monks, communities, organized in the desert and elsewhere
i. Questions of the purpose, organization, and governance of communal, monastic life
ii. Rule of St. Benedict (late 5th century): instructions on moderate ascetic practice, common prayer, private devotion, manual labor – all as a means to spiritual growth.