The Christians as the Romans Saw Them

The Christians as the Romans Saw Them: Second Edition

ROBERT LOUIS WILKEN
Copyright Date: 2003
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 238
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt32bdb2
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    The Christians as the Romans Saw Them
    Book Description:

    This book, which includes a new preface by the author, offers an engrossing portrayal of the early years of the Christian movement from the perspective of the Romans."A fascinating . . . account of early Christian thought. . . . Readable and exciting."-Robert McAfee Brown,New York Times Book Review"Should fascinate any reader with an interest in the history of human thought."-Phoebe-Lou Adams,Atlantic Monthly"The pioneering study in English of Roman impressions of Christians during the first four centuries A.D."-E. Glenn Hinson,Christian Century"This gracefully written study . . . draws upon well-known sources-both pagan and Christian-to provide the general reader with an illuminating account . . . [of how] Christianity appeared to the Romans before it became the established religion of the empire."-Merle Rubin,Christian Science Monitor

    eISBN: 978-0-300-16095-6
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. xv-xxii)

    How did Christianity appear to the men and women of the Roman Empire? How did it look to the outsider before it became the established religion of western Europe and Byzantium? The story of early Christian history has been told almost wholly on the basis of Christian sources. The Gospels of the New Testament, the letters of the apostle Paul, the writings of Ignatius of Antioch, Clement of Rome, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Origen—these and similar works, most of which have been studied for centuries, have provided us with our primary body of information about early Christianity. In recent...

  6. ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. xxiii-xxiv)
  7. I PLINY: A ROMAN GENTLEMAN
    (pp. 1-30)

    Rounding Cape Malea, the southernmost tip of the Greek Peloponnese, in mid-August 111 c.e., Pliny’s ship sailed into the dark waters of the Aegean Sea. A few days later the party from Rome put in at Ephesus, a Greek city on the western coast of Asia Minor where the traveler could pick up one of two roads leading to the East. When Pliny departed from Rome several weeks earlier, he had planned to disembark at Ephesus and proceed by carriage to his destination in Bithynia, a Roman province some two hundred miles to the northeast on the shores of the...

  8. II CHRISTIANITY AS A BURIAL SOCIETY
    (pp. 31-47)

    By the early part of the second century, when Pliny was living in Asia Minor, Christian groups could be found in perhaps forty or fifty cities within the Roman Empire. Most of these groups were quite small, some numbering several dozen people, others as many as several hundred. The total number of Christians within the empire was probably less than fifty thousand, an infinitesimal number in a society comprising sixty million. The Jews, by contrast, were a significant minority numbering four to five million. Most inhabitants of the Roman Empire had never heard of Christianity, and very few had had...

  9. III THE PIETY OF THE PERSECUTORS
    (pp. 48-67)

    After Pliny had passed judgment on the second group of Christians brought before him, he decided to interrogate two Christian slavewomen. He had heard rumors about Christian rites and wished to inquire further into what the Christians actually did when they gathered together. The women told him that when Christians assembled they shared a common meal, sang hymns, prayed, and exhorted one another to live God-pleasing lives. After the interview Pliny wrote Trajan to report that he had not turned up any new information. All he found, wrote Pliny, was a “depraved superstition carried to extravagant lengths.” What did it...

  10. IV GALEN: THE CURIOSITY OF A PHILOSOPHER
    (pp. 68-93)

    The Christians were fortunate, after Pliny, to have a philosopher as commentator on the new movement, the famous physician Galen, who lived in the latter part of the second century. In the interim, several writers mentioned Christianity—for example, Epictetus, the Stoic moralist; Apuleius, the North African author of the novelThe Golden Ass; Lucian of Samosata, the Greek satirist; and, on occasion, other Christian authors referred to comments of pagans on the Christians. Justin Martyr, writing in the mid-second century, also mentions the Cynic philosopher Crescens, who called the Christians “atheistic” and “impious,” echoing the charge of Pliny (2...

  11. V CELSUS: A CONSERVATIVE INTELLECTUAL
    (pp. 94-125)

    Until the last half of the second century all our information about Roman and Greek attitudes toward the Christians could be written in a few pages. But about the year 170 c.e. a Greek philosopher by the name of Celsus wrote a major book devoted solely to the Christians. This work, entitled theTrue Doctrine, is preserved for us only in fragments, but the fragments are so extensive that it is possible, with some confidence, to reconstruct the main outlines of the book. About eighty years after the publication of theTrue Doctrine,Origen, the famous Christian philosopher and theologian...

  12. VI PORPHYRY: THE MOST LEARNED CRITIC OF ALL
    (pp. 126-163)

    Of all the critics of Christianity in antiquity, Porphyry, the biographer of the great Neoplatonic philosopher Plotinus and editor of hisEnneads, was the most learned and astute. Though Plotinus towers over Porphyry in the history of philosophy, Porphyry was a man of genuine intellectual stature, whose broad learning and philosophical acumen made him a formidable foe indeed. Celsus’s work against the Christians merited the response of one apologist, Origen, but Porphyry’s writings claimed the attention of several generations of Christian intellectuals, among whom were Eusebius, the church historian; Methodius, an early proponent of virginity; Apollinarius, an innovative theologian from...

  13. VII JULIAN THE APOSTATE: JEWISH LAW AND CHRISTIAN TRUTH
    (pp. 164-196)

    Few figures from the ancient world continue to fascinate us as does Julian, the Roman emperor who reigned for nineteen short months in 361–63 c.e. A little over a decade ago he was the subject of a best-selling novel by Gore Vidal; earlier in the century he was the basis for a series of graceful and provocative poems by the modern Greek poet, C. P. Cavafy. Within the last several years two new biographies of him have appeared in English, one by the British historian Robert Browning and the other by the Princeton classicist Glenn Bowersock. In the historical...

  14. EPILOGUE
    (pp. 197-206)

    Adolf von Harnack once wrote that Porphyry’sAgainst the Christianswas “perhaps the most extensive and thoroughgoing treatise that has ever been written against Christianity…. It is not too much to say that the controversy between religious philosophy and Christianity lies in the very position in which Porphyry placed it. Even today Porphyry remains unanswered.‭”¹ Augustine in his time and many scholars in ours would no doubt agree. But it might equally well be argued that the emperor Julian offered as compelling a case against the Christian religion as did Porphyry. “None of our teachers is capable of rebutting or...

  15. SUGGESTIONS FOR FURTHER READING
    (pp. 207-210)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 211-214)