I return now to Roman historian Keith Hopkins’s fascinating and influential article “Christian Number and It’s Implications.” As I pointed out, for the sake of his article, and after checking it out for plausibility, Hopkins accepts the calculations of Rodney Stark that if Christianity started with 1000 believers in the year 40 CE, and ended up being 10% of the empire (60 million believers) by the time of the Emperor Constantine, you would need a growth rate of about 40% per decade, or, as Hopkins prefers putting it 3.4%).
Obviously, as I’ve stated, but need to stress again, we cannot be and are not really thinking that there was a steady rate of growth, that every year there was the same percentage of increase. We’re talking big numbers over a long range of time, so the *average* rate of growth is just that, an average. Some years there may have been a loss of numbers, other years a huge spike. So take that as given. But if we *were* talking about a steady rate, there are very interesting implications. If in the year 40 there were 1000 Christians, in the year 50 there would be 1400; in the year 100 there would be 7400; in the year 150, 40,000; in the year 200, 210,000; in the year 250, 1,100,000; and then in the year 300, 6,000,000.
So even though we aren’t imagining these are actual numbers but just rough projections, they are nonetheless intriguing and probably significant. If they are anywhere *near* being right —— and I think (as does Hopkins) that they must be near — then Hopkins thinks we should consider the implications. If the empire comprised 6 million inhabitants, then by the year 100 CE Christians made up barely 0.01% of the empire. That’s one-one hundredth of one percent. Even more striking, by the year 200 CE Christians were only 0.35% — that is, just a bit more than 1/3 of 1%.
Hopkins concludes that ….
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