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To Ghandi, Roman history and Christianity

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Submitted by Allonehhob (Canada), Nov 6, 2005 at 23:37

A famous saying about Ghandi when his people were under the occupatiuon of Britian, he said " I love your Christ.It's just that so many of Christians are so unlike your Christ."

Ghandi, the great leader who proofed that rights can be granted back without the means of using violence, he among billions knew the main message of Christ.

You said "the Romans generally kept very good records, and there WAS an historical person "Jesus". However, the Roman record is mum on whether Jesus was anything other than an ordinary man."

To answer one of your comments, yes Christ was an ordinary man, even less than ordinary, he was born poor, died as a criminal on a cross by the Romans. Nothing of what he said or did worked for his benefit.

Christ was crucified because he was seen as a political threat to the Romans for he has been called the "king of the Jews". Although Jesus denied any link to a political movement or political gain.

We have to undersatnd the history of the Roman empire relationship with Christianity in order to see what Romans have recorded about Christ:

At the early history of Christianity, the Roman authorities hesitated for a long time over how to deal with what they called a new cult. They largely appreciated this new religion as subversive and potentially dangerous.

For Christianity, with its insistence on only one god, seemed to threaten the principle of religious toleration which had guaranteed (religious) peace for so long among the people of the empire.

Most of all Christianity clashed with the official state religion of the empire, for Christians refused to perform Caesar worship. This, in the Roman mindset, demonstrated their disloyalty to their rulers.

Persecution of the Christians began with Nero's bloody repression of AD 64. This was only a rash an sporadic repression though it is perhaps the one which remains the most infamous of them all.

The first real recognition Christianity other than Nero's slaughter, was an inquiry by emperor Domitian who supposedly, upon hearing that the Christians refused to perform Caesar worship, sent investigators to Galilee to inquire on his family, about fifty years after the crucifixion. They found some poor smallholders, including the great-nephew of Jesus, interrogated them and then released them without charge. The fact however that the Roman emperor should take interest in this sect proves that by this time the Christians no longer merely represented an obscure little sect. Towards the end of the first century the Christians appeared to sever all their ties with the Judaism and established itself independently.

Though with this separation form Judaism, Christianity emerged as a largely unknown religion to the Roman authorities. And Roman ignorance of this new cult bred suspicion. Rumours were abound about secretive Christian rituals; rumours of child sacrifice, incest and cannibalism. Major revolts of the Jews in Judaea in the early second century led to great resentment of the Jews and of the Christians, who were still largely understood by the Romans to be a Jewish sect. The repressions which followed for both Christians and Jews were severe.

During the second century AD Christians were persecuted for their beliefs largely because these did not allow them to give the statutory reverence to the images of the gods and of the emperor. Also their act of worship transgressed the edict of Trajan, forbidding meetings of secret societies. To the government, it was civil disobedience. The Christians themselves meanwhile thought such edicts suppressed their freedom of worship. However, despite such differences, with emperor Trajan a period of toleration appeared to set in.

Pliny the Younger, as governor of Nithynia in AD 111, was so exercised by the troubles with the Christians that he wrote to Trajan asking for guidance on how to deal with them. Trajan, displaying considerable wisdom, replied:

' The actions you have taken, my dear Pliny, in investigating the cases of those brought before you as Christians, are correct. It is impossible to lay down a general rule which can apply to particular cases. Do not go looking for Christians. If they are brought before you and the charge is proven, they must be punished, provided that if someone denies they are Christian and gives proof of it, by offering reverence to our gods, they shall be acquitted on the grounds of repentance even if they have previously incurred suspicion. Anonymous written accusations shall be disregarded as evidence. They set a bad example which is contrary to the spirit of our times.' Christians were not actively sought out by a network of spies. Under his successor Hadrian which policy seemed to continue.
Also the fact hat Hadrian actively persecuted the Jews, but not the Christians shows that by that time the Romans were drawing a clear distinction between the two religions.

The great persecutions of AD 165-180 under Marcus Aurelius included the terrible acts committed upon the Christians of Lyons in AD 177. This period, far more than Nero's earlier rage, was which defined the Christian understanding of martyrdom.

The Great Persecution - AD 303
Had Christianity generally grown and established some roots across the empire in the years following the persecution by Marcus Aurelius, then it had especially prospered from about AD 260 onwards enjoying widespread toleration by the Roman authorities.
But with the reign of Diocletian things would change. Towards the end of his long reign, Diocletian became ever more concerned about the high positions held by many Christians in Roman society and, particularly, the army.
On a visit to the Oracle of Apollo at Didyma near Miletus, he was advised by the pagan oracle to halt the rise of the Christians.
And so on 23 February AD 303, on the Roman day of the gods of boundaries, the terminalia, Diocletian enacted what was to become perhaps the greatest persecution of Christians under Roman rule. Diocletian and, perhaps all the more viciously, his Caesar Galerius launched a serious purge against the sect which they saw as becoming far too powerful and hence, too dangerous.
In Rome, Syria, Egypt and Asia Minor (Turkey) the Christians suffered most. However, in the west, beyond the immediate grasp of the two persecutors things were far less ferocious.

Constantine the Great - Christianization of the Empire
The key moment in the establishment if Christianity as the predominant religion of the Roman empire, happened in AD 312 by when emperor Constantine on the eve before battle against the rival emperor Maxentius had a vision of the sign of Christ (the so called chi-rho symbol) in a dream.

And Constantine was to have the symbol inscribed on his helmet and ordered all his soldiers (or at least those of his bodyguard) to point it on their shields. It was after the crushing victory he inflicted on his opponent against overwhelming odds that Constantine declared he owed his victory to the god of the Christians.

However, Constantine's claim to conversion is not without controversy. There are many who see in his conversion rather the political realization of the potential power of Christianity instead of any celestial vision.
Constantine had inherited a very tolerant attitude towards Christians from his father, but for the years of his rule previous to that fateful night in AD 312 there was no definite indication of any gradual conversion towards the Christian faith. Although he did already have Christian bishops in his royal entourage before AD 312.

But however truthful his conversion might have been, it should change the fate of Christianity for good. In meetings with his rival emperor Licinius, Constantine secured religious tolerance towards Christians all over the empire.
Until AD 324 Constantine appeared to on purposely blur the distinction of which god it was he followed, the Christian god or pagan sun god Sol. Perhaps at this time he truly hadn't made up his mind yet. Perhaps it was just that he felt his power was not yet established enough to confront the pagan majority of the empire with a Christian ruler.

However, substantial gestures were made toward the Christians very soon after the fateful Battle of the Milvian Bridge in AD 312. Already in AD 313 tax exemptions were granted to Christian clergy and money was granted to rebuild the major churches in Rome.
Also in AD 314 Constantine already engaged in a major meeting of bishops at Milan to deal with problems befalling the church in the 'Donatist schism'.

But once Constantine had defeated his last rival emperor Licinius in AD 324, the last of Constantine's restraint disappeared and a Christian emperor (or at least one who championed the Christian cause) ruled over the entire empire.
He built a vast new basilica church on the Vatican hill, where reputedly St Peter had been martyred. Other great churches were built by Constantine, such as the great St John Lateran in Rome or the reconstruction of the great church of Nicomedia which had been destroyed by Diocletian.

Apart from building great monuments to Christianity, Constantine now also became openly hostile toward the pagans. Even pagan sacrifice itself was forbidden. Pagan temples (except those of the previous official Roman state cult) had their treasures confiscated. These treasures were largely given to the Christian churches instead.

Hence a reverse was impossible, unless a pagan emperor of the drive and ruthlessness of Constantine would have emerged. Julian the Apostate was no such man. Far more does history paint him as a gentle intellectual, who simply tolerated Christianity in spite of his disagreement with it.
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