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Christians Charged as Perverts and Criminals

I have some more posts dealing with resurrection matters; but I thought maybe I should give it a break for a day or two, since the resurrection isn’t the most interesting thing for absolutely everyone. So here’s something else for today:

At one point in my bible introduction I talk about the persecution of the early Christians (specifically as mentioned in 1 Thessalonians) and point out that deep into the second century Christians had a very bad reputation. Here, without much comment, I indicate some of the charges sometimes leveled against them. It’s a pretty amazing text, taken from the apology of Minucius Felix, called Octavius.

There is no solid evidence to suggest that specific allegations of wrongdoing were being made against the church in Thessalonica at the time of Paul’s writing, but we do know that other secret societies were widely viewed with suspicion and that certain standard kinds of slander were leveled against them. The logic of these slanders is plain: if people meet together in secret or under the cloak of darkness, they must have something to hide.

It is possible that Paul was aware of such charges and wanted the Thessalonian Christians to go out of their way to avoid them. Such a concern would make sense of his injunctions to maintain pure sexual conduct and to keep a good reputation among outsiders.

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Paul and the Resurrection of the “Flesh”?
Paul’s View of Resurrection

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Comments

  1. Avatar
    Joshua150  October 7, 2012

    Bet they manipulated labor statistics too. Lol

  2. Avatar
    hwl  October 7, 2012

    How do you think such crazy rumours got invented in the first place?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  October 8, 2012

      Well, they met in secret, when it was dark. They called each other brother and sister. And engaged in a ritual kiss. So they were kissing their siblings. And the ate the flesh and drank the blood of the “son” of God. Combine that with the general slander at the time — enemies were always licentious reprobates, and were often people who committed infanticide and cannibalism — and, well, it’s pretty easy to see how it all came together.

  3. Avatar
    jimmo  October 7, 2012

    “You might be amazed at the kinds of accusations that were later leveled against the Christians”.
    Not if we took your “After the New Testament” course from The Teaching Company. 😉

  4. Avatar
    maxhirez  October 7, 2012

    There must be something wrong with me. I read that and all I think is “Poor dog…”

  5. Avatar
    Tulga Louis  October 7, 2012

    It was common in antiquity to brand those not understood, or were “known” to be subversive to stability with moral tupitude of this sort. And, the proto-orthodox made similar, yet pershaps less graphic claims about “heretics.” And even today, some are prone to similar if not idential attacks.
    Lou Tugla

  6. Avatar
    laz  October 7, 2012

    funny growing up as a Jehovah’s Witness, I came across many strange crazy things labeled against us…..Never forget someone ask ” if I could ride on a plane”……I heard someone say that we rolled around on the ground at our meetings(most have confused us with Pentecostals haha) and a host of others…. some things never change against minorities……

  7. Robertus
    Robertus  October 8, 2012

    Not nearly as dull and boring as church services today.

  8. Avatar
    Jim  October 8, 2012

    Covering a baby with flour is pretty bad, but provoking a dog tied to a lampstand is below the belt. What’s next then, painting a mustache on a sculpture of Caesar? Is there no moral limit to this insanity? 😉

  9. Avatar
    brandyrose  October 8, 2012

    Eww…

    Is this kind of comment an attempt to explain the language of Communion? Or perhaps to sensationalize it?

  10. Avatar
    jsoundz  October 9, 2012

    It appears that Fronto, assuming he’s of the elite Roman ruling class, likes to spin ideas like Fox.News today. This is not to insult Fox News fans of the second century….

  11. Avatar
    Yentyl  October 9, 2012

    Later on it was known as “potluck.” 🙂

  12. Avatar
    raskel  October 21, 2012

    The interesting thing is that the proto-Orthodox Christians accused the Gnostics of the same crimes. Is this malice or is it indicative of an ancient sect?

    The typical position is that such an idea is outlandish. But is it not possible that seeking magical power and immortality through ritually proscribed transgressive acts was something that might appeal to some subset of ancient Christians? Something like a Christian version of similar strands in the Daoist or Tantric traditions? Given what we know about human nature I don’t see how it can be ruled out.

    Further I don’t think the assumption that modern liturgy is representative of ancient liturgy is necessarily sound. What if there was a secret liturgy? (Its existence would clearly need to be kept secret.) The literal sacrifice of an innocent to re-enact the death of Christ seems intellectually consistent with the ideology of sacrifice set forth in New Testament writings. (I realize the problem of proof here short of discovering compelling archeological evidence.)

    This complex of allegations is interesting as it historically follows Christianity through its history: beginning with Pagan allegations against Christians then Christian allegations against Gnostics which develops into the blood libel against the Jews and can even be found in the lynchings of practitioners of African traditions in Cuba in the early twentieth century. Its almost like the Jungian “shadow” of institutional Christianity. In comparison Buddhists and Muslims in SE Asia have their disagreements but to my knowledge they don’t go around accusing each other of sacrificing babies.

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