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Christianity in the Roman Empire

Overview of the changing relationship between the Roman Empire and Christianity from the time of Jesus to the reign of Theodosius.

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  • blobby green style avatar for user jjkavalam
    Why were the Roman persecutions that lasted for two centuries or more not effective in checking the spread of Christianity ?
    (21 votes)
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    • female robot grace style avatar for user Inger Hohler
      When there is religious persecution people don't necessarily advertise to all and sundry that they are belonging to that religion - at least not until they are caught spreading the word. If you take a look at https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/medieval-world/early-christian1/a/early-christian-art you'll hear that early Christianity was a kind of mystery religion: people were meeting in secret and sharing information with at least partially trusted friends. Apparently the reason there was a sponsor at a baptism was originally that the sponsors were Christians which vouched for new members as not infiltrators. Making a religion illegal or calling a belief heretic and prosecuting it is often not very effective in exterminating it. Sometimes it only serves to strengthen it, especially if those doing the prosecution are generally unpopular.
      (10 votes)
  • blobby green style avatar for user rukanirajimmy
    so is it constantine who started the concept of Trinity? it means it is not the teaching of Jesus?
    (5 votes)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user Brianni jeli beli
    who developed their own christian church
    (3 votes)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user Akshat
    what all did constantine do to spread christianity
    (4 votes)
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  • leaf green style avatar for user Fabio Pulito
    In the video the narrator states that the Second Temple was destroyed under the rule of Emperor Vespasian. Yet, I seem to remember that it happened under the rule of Titus. The famous Arch of Titus was built in Rome to commemorate Titus's victory against the jews. Is this correct?
    (3 votes)
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  • piceratops ultimate style avatar for user Shugie
    my question is how is it that they "adopted" Christianity and "embrace" it. If the Romans saw Christianity as a threat, to the state religion at the time, and proceeded to kill them for centuries, why do they convert? Because Constantine "sees" a cross at the battle at Milivian? How credible is this claim? of this "vision"? I think this is key to understand, the shift of the Romans position regarding Christianity, to explain the next centuries of Crusades and indoctrination of this religion.
    (2 votes)
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    • duskpin ultimate style avatar for user Milinium Otaku
      The Roman emporers did not see Christianity as a threat to their religion but to their power. Remember that the Roman Emporers power came from saying they were gods themselves or chosen by the gods, therefore making them better than everybody else and giving them claim to the throne. But when Christianity came along, saying there was only one God (meaning the emporer was not really a god) and nobody was better than anybody else (taking away the emporers claim to the throne) along with other beliefs, the emporers freaked out and started persecuting the Christians. They converted because, if you remember, the entirety of Rome revolved around religion, so if the emporer did have a vision and followed it, and it leads them to success, it would be VERY significant to the Romans, credible or not.
      (4 votes)
  • blobby green style avatar for user Jadyn
    Was the history of Christianity centered in Rome
    And how did it spread past Rome into other countries
    (3 votes)
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  • piceratops ultimate style avatar for user Blaze
    Why were the earlier emperors so against Christians?
    (1 vote)
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    • aqualine tree style avatar for user David Alexander
      I've read all of the comments given in response to Blaze's question, and wish people would carry on these conversations as "replies", because then I could give upvotes (or downvotes) as you can to this response because I'm posting it as a reply.

      OK.
      Roman religion was the multi-god "state" religion in which the emperor was both the high priest and divine himself. So long as people included the emperor as one among the many gods they worshipped, all was well both politically and religiously.

      Romans initially considered Christians to be a group of Jews with peculiar characteristics. Christians, along with Jews, refused to acknowledge the emperor as a god. This was a political crime.

      The Roman government slaughtered most of the Jews living in and around Jerusalem in or around the year 71 CE. It was done for political, not religious, reasons.

      Persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire was a local thing. It was never "all the same in every place", but differed from time to time and place to place. Be careful about citing an incident that happened in Turkey and saying that it was the same everywhere for the whole time.

      The persecutions may have been for local reasons, a governor or mayor trying to rob the church, for instance, or a military commander angry because his daughter eloped with the wrong guy.

      I'm from Taiwan, where there's religious freedom, as there is in most of the world. America is not special or exceptional, it's much like most other places. Yes, there are places where there is no religious freedom (The People's Democratic Republic of Korea, for example), but these are the exception, not the rule.
      (5 votes)
  • old spice man blue style avatar for user Athletyo
    Which was the 1st temple?
    (1 vote)
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    • aqualine tree style avatar for user David Alexander
      Yes. There's some confusion.
      IF one takes history as narrated by those who brought you the Bible as in any way "factual", then the first temple was paid for by Solomon, and was destroyed in about 580 BCE. The second temple was paid for by the Persian empire, and build sometime between 500 and 200 BCE. What was destroyed in the year 70CE was paid for by Herod the Great, so was "the third". BUT, that's only if one takes the legends found in the bible as factual history.
      (4 votes)
  • starky seedling style avatar for user Nina k.
    I apologize if I missed it, but what happened to Nero?
    (1 vote)
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Video transcript

- [Narrator] As we've talked about in multiple videos, Christianity is a religion that grew out of the fringes of the Roman Empire. It starts as a Jewish sect in Judea and Galilee with the teachings of Jesus and his early ministry. But it's important to keep in mind that at the time of Jesus's crucifixion, around 30 C.E., he only had, at most, we're talking about in the hundreds of followers. But in other videos, we talk about his apostles who start spreading the faith, not only to other Jews, but also to non-Jews, to gentiles. We talked about Emperor Nero and his famous purges of Christians, in particular, you have the famous Roman Fire, or The Fire of Rome in 64 C.E. that Nero blames on Christians, and he uses this to do significant purge in Rome. Many historians believe that the apostles Peter and Paul were killed during those purges. This is a painting of Nero using Christians lighting them alive to punish them for that fire. Now, other imperial acts that continue to have a significant effect on this very early Christian church. We talked about the destroying of the second temple in Jerusalem in 70 C.E., and that's under the reign of Vespasian. And this of course is a very significant event for the Jewish people, but it also has a significant effect on Christianity, because remember Christianity was really centered at Jerusalem. It was a sect of Christianity, or it was, it got its start as a sect of Christianity, but now, with the destruction of the temple, the Jews were dispersed from Jerusalem, and so were many of these early Christians. And so the centers of Christianity became throughout the empire, places like Antioch. And you continue to have a discomfort with Christians especially as they became more and more in number, and they started to have more and more power. And here you have these people who refused to obey the Roman gods, to do their rituals, to worship the Roman gods, and remember, even, there was emperor worship here. And the issue was more so than even the Jewish people, who, to a certain degree, kept to themselves, these Christians were missionaries. They were spreading their faith to Roman citizens. Families were being split apart, where some decided to become Christians and no longer follow these Roman practices. And so you have these various persecutions, and these various purges, and they get more and more significant as you go into the second and even to some degree in the third century as Christians become more and more prominent and more and more in number. Remember, they have this missionary zeal, and it really becomes a significant purge under the reign of Diocletian. In previous videos, we talk about Diocletian. He's the one that famously split the empire between east and west, but he's also famous for his purge of the Christians. The most extreme state-sponsored purges of Christians in the Roman Empire. But what's interesting is right after, or shortly after those purges, we're talking a few decades here, the next empire that would, the next emperor who would have reign over the entire Roman Empire, would be Constantine, and at least relative to Christians, he would be the opposite of Diocletian, because as he's trying to consolidate his power in 312 C.E., you have the famous battle at the Milvian Bridge outside of, or entering into Rome. And in this battle, Constantine, he sees a vision of the Christian cross centered on the sun, and he thinks that that is a sign that he should fight under the cross. And he gets the symbols painted on his soldier's shield, and he's victorious. This date, 312, Milvian Bridge, The Battle at Milvian Bridge, is viewed as the beginning of Constantine's conversion to Christianity, viewing it as his chosen faith. In 313, the Roman emperor, or the empire, issues the edict of Milan, which officially makes Christianity OK. It legalizes Christianity, which is a big deal, because these folks have been persecuted all this time. They haven't been worshiping the Roman gods. Then in 325, Constantine goes even further, and he convenes the council of Nicea, where he brings the bishops from all of Christendom together, to start having a more unified belief system. They come up with a Nicean creed. A lot of the debate is whether Jesus, as son of God, should be considered equal to God or as God or a little less, as being the son, maybe if he is the son, maybe there was a time where there wasn't a son, and there was just God, but the Nicean Creed says no, they are one and the same, these two things are equivalent. And then Constantine, on his death bed, famously gets baptized, and becomes a Christian, the first Christian emperor of this gigantic Roman Empire. And so you can imagine, you have more and more followers of Christianity, but now, this is, so to speak, prime time. The emperor of the Roman, the emperor of the Roman Empire has converted to Christianity, and it's a legalized religion. And then that gets even more momentum when we get to the end of the fourth century. Emperor Theodosius, who is Christian, under him, it becomes the official religion of the Roman Empire, the same empire that at one point, Christianity was illegal, and it was being persecuted, now it was the official religion of the Roman Empire. Theodosius, I mention him in other videos, he was incidentally also the last emperor to rule over both Eastern and Western Roman Empires. So you have this empire that starts off very anti-Christian, actually in the beginning, they don't really take much note of what's going on in Judea and Galilee, but more and more, they start to persecute them. But we go a few hundred years into this, and it becomes a Christian empire.