Good Christian Society In The Roman Empire Article Review Example
The paper would discuss about the article titled “Christian Society in the Roman Empire,” written by A. J. Rayner. The Cambridge University Press published the article in the 11th volume of the journal “Greece & Rome” in May, 1942. Christianity in the Roman Empire played a vital role in overthrowing the old order and enhancing the promotion of a new order in the European society. The major aim of Christianity was creating a society that was free from race, creed and color amidst various political and social problems. The Pax Romana helped to spread the Christian ideas in the Roman Empire, which already possessed organized trade routes and political togetherness of the states within the empire. While religions, such as Stoicism was already in place, St. Paul traveled by sea and land to the Roman Empire amidst high security from the police and the magistrates.
The Roman policy considered religion as an affair of the state, which led to a lack of relationship between religion and morals. It led to the bankruptcy and collapse of the Graeco-Roman polytheism and fervor against the new Christian movement. The Roman Empire was happy to invite the Christians provided they never encourage activities insurgent to the state and that they reach out to other religions the same tolerance they incur from the authorities of the state, which was not possible. While in the beginning the Romans confused Judaism with Christianity, Paul’s teachings clarified the confusion and cleared that there is a religion different from Judaism, which receives less indulgence. The Christian community received disgrace for they usually met in secret compelled for safety. Moreover, the Christians rejected to position Christ alongside Serapis or Jupiter, which contravened against the Roman rules of tolerance.
Furthermore, the Christians considered military service and public functions as dissonant with their ideals as they involve the worship of the Emperor. A pagan apologist, Caecilius criticized the Christians as the people who were silent amidst public, but talkative in corners. He also stated that the Christians were sinners and grave-robbers, turning temples into crematoriums and despising the Gods. However, no one ever cared to find out why the Christian society attracted several men and women. A famous Roman magistrate, Pliny was unhappy with the Christian attitude of refusing to worship the Emperor. Although corruption and immorality were present in a few Christians, he believed in judging a society by its results. The second and third centuries saw a consistent expansion of Christianity in the Roman Empire. It spread through most of the villages, towns and districts. The rapid expansion of Christianity started to break down the bias against civil responsibilities.
After a constant struggle, the year 303 A.D. brought the Christians full civil rights and the freedom of worship along with the restitution of seized property. Emperor Constantine attached the sign of cross to the shields of his soldiers. Except for the reign of Julian, Christianity found its place in both the social as well of political structures of Rome. Prior to the reign of Constantine, Christianity was already present in the roots of the Hellenistic culture represented in the behavior and thoughts of the Romans. Since the Romans considered Christianity as subversive to law and order, Christians had to provide a new conception of life, which was alien to the Roman and Greek traditions. They revealed the new attachments as a strong togetherness with God and his kingdom. Christianity preached to surrender the souls to God, which he operated both on earth and in eternity.
Christians failed to undertake any task that involved the worship of the emperor. They considered worship as worshipping God instead of the emperor. Until the State came into an alliance with Christianity, Christians denied their participation in war and stayed away from various official posts. The non-cooperation movement strengthened the bonds between the dissenters, who showed a keen responsibility towards the civil government. Christians raised funds for the needy and shared all the property in common except their wives. The Christian idealism extended to the social insurance scheme within the clubs and associations of the Roman Empire. However, by the fourth century, the situation changed due to the prevalence of malice and fraud in the society. Another consequence of Christian faith was contrary to the morals and religion in paganism, and raised a high standard of morals. Christians started to take various disciplinary actions for those who failed to maintain the high standards of the religion. An unknown author criticizes Christianity as a religion that sets the people apart from the worldly pleasures.
Roman festivals are ceremonies related to dead men and pagan gods. Christians considered idolatry as a sin and rejected the Roman festivals for they worship idols. According to Christian tranquility, combats and games conducted during the Roman festivals instill violence and rivalry in the individuals and hence, they are against the Christian ideals. In spite of the sufferings during the Vienne and Lyons outbreak, Tertullian determines joining Christianity and gaining the grace of God through immense suffering. The triumphant soldiers enter the eternal world through martyrdom, while it takes a long process of painful purification for the ordinary Christians. Several Christians began taking measures for mitigating the evils in the social lives of individuals. The various social consequences of Christianity were the eradication of inhuman treatment in the Roman society, and the restriction of slavery and prostitution in the Roman Empire.
Rayner, A.J. "Christian Society in the Roman Empire." Greece & Rome,Vol. 11, No. 33, 1942: 113-123.