Talk:Persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire

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Bias[edit]

A professor gave this page as an example of bias today. I couldn't believe how awfully transparent the bias actually is, but that's the problem when the WikiProjects behind this page reveal this as an exercise in religious masturbation rather than anything approaching the rigour required of a genuine historical study. Once one actually sees the bias, it's amazing how convincing this page is for the idea that Christians were not systematically persecuted at all. I am truly disappointed Wikipedia. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 81.104.161.136 (talk) 19:39, 28 May 2012 (UTC)

You and your professor are welcome to give evidence for systematic persecution. I do find, however, that people are used to hearing this from the POV of Christian apologetics, are unfamiliar with the socio-religious context of the Roman Empire as studied by ancient historians and classical scholars, and are disturbed when the subject is presented dispassionately and neutrally. Maybe the page is convincing because the very real horrors of the persecutions have magnified their extent in our historical memory; after all, it's hard to see how Christians rose in Roman public life to become powerful enough to take over the Empire by the end of the 4th century if they were viciously persecuted in a systematic manner. Given that Christians were not violent, and most were not militant, they didn't take over the government by force, but through sufficient numbers rising to political and social prominence. How was that possible, if there was a consistent Roman policy of persecution or even discrimination? Cynwolfe (talk) 21:28, 28 May 2012 (UTC)
I think you've misread me, my professor would not present an argument and evidence for systematic persecution except to combat it as he is opposed to the idea that most of the recorded persecution under pagan Rome actually took place. Plus, I said the opposite of what you seemed to have taken me as saying in this sentence: "[once one realises it's biased] it's amazing how convincing this page is for the idea that Christians were not systematically persecuted at all" when you said, "...the page is convincing because the very real horrors of the persecutions have magnified their extent in our historical memory."
This page ought to be, as it is a page describing supposed historical events on Wikipedia, from a neutral POV that you Wikipedians hold so sacred on paper. That it is allowed to remain in this state makes my professor's real point of the exercise: "don't trust Wikipedia as a source or reference." — Preceding unsigned comment added by 81.104.161.136 (talk) 07:08, 29 May 2012 (UTC)
Not Waving but Drowning Yt95 (talk) 13:03, 29 May 2012 (UTC)
It's quite possible I misunderstood you. You seemed to me to say that the article, if one didn't know better, would convince you that the persecution of Christians was not "systematic." The article does take the position that Christians were persecuted at times quite horrifically, but that many of these episodes were local, and persecution otherwise was official policy throughout the Empire only for relatively limited periods of time. If that isn't the case, then again, please provide information to the contrary. You haven't been very specific about what passages you think have an inappropriate tone. I tend not to like extremism in either direction, but if you're looking for anti-Roman bias, I'm probably not your culprit. Cynwolfe (talk) 20:02, 30 May 2012 (UTC)
This article has been extensively revised and re-written since the above comments, I hope the bias the OP complained of has been removed.Smeat75 (talk) 23:33, 5 April 2014 (UTC)
On the subject of bias, I feel that the section under Martyrdom is written from a POV that is hostile to Christianity rather than one that is unbiased. Why does it begin by focusing neither upon martyrdom in context to Roman persecution nor in relation to Christianity in general, but upon the actions of a few individuals who were obviously outside the norm? It seems that such a move was calculated to make Christians appear to be inherently unstable individuals. This is followed by a statement that posits as fact that all numbers reported regarding Christian martyrs are not to be taken as fact. Again, the bias is all too apparent and seems hostile to Christianity. Please provide justification for these style choices in opposition to a more balanced presentation of the facts in true encyclopedia style. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Infinityseed (talkcontribs) 19:13, 21 August 2012 (UTC)
What specific suggestions do you have? As long as you are using modern reliable scholarly sources we can discuss this here on the talk page. I tend to agree that whilst the opening statement may indeed be an accurate representation of the source (and contemporary Roman opinion) it does lean a little, as you suggest, to portraying martyrs as being mad. Mention should also be made of Tertullians famous observation "the blood of the martyrs..." and maybe also a passage from Horace on the pax deorum (no wiki article?) Yt95 (talk) 17:24, 22 August 2012 (UTC)

New Testament-based passages[edit]

I understand the point that the only documentation that we have of persecution of early Christians by the Jews comes from the New Testament and that these allegations could be considered to be anti-Semitism rather than historical fact.

However, I believe that it is better to present the fact that these persecutions have been and still are considered by many Christians to be historical fact and then to present sources that challenge this view.

I would argue that the material that was deleted by User:Humus sapiens should be re-worked to present a more balanced view (i.e. to present the "facts" recorded in the NT as one perspective) rather than to delete it entirely.

I certainly think it is appropriate to point out to the reader that these allegations of persecution were the putative reason for anti-Semitism in later centuries.

--Richard 22:51, 29 May 2007 (UTC)

Please see Talk:Persecution of Christians#New Testament-based passages. Those antisemitic allegations have a long and sad history, so I suggest we should be doubly careful around those. You wnated to rework them but all you've done is blind revert. ←Humus sapiens ну? 23:00, 29 May 2007 (UTC)
Tangential: Richard, I see that you created this article almost 20 days ago. Should the duplicate content be cut & pasted rather than simply copied? ←Humus sapiens ну? 23:09, 29 May 2007 (UTC)

The author of the Book of Revelation debatable. Stating that John the disciple as the author of Revelation is not necessary in a discussion of of martyrs. Save authorship issues for a discussion on Revelation.Ulmy923 19:49, 5 September 2007 (UTC)

Good catch. Actually, the whole paragraph is irrelevant to its section ("Persecutions narrated in the New Testament") and inappropriately sourced (Foxe's Book of Martyrs, from the 16th century), so I've removed it. EALacey 10:41, 6 September 2007 (UTC)

Persecutions of Christians by Nero according to Tacitus[edit]

I think it should at least have been noted within this article that the persecutions of christians by Nero are merely allegory and by no means an established fact, even if it is something apparently found within the Annals by Tacitus due to the fact that according to Tacitus_on_Jesus there is no consensus among the scientific community as to the accuracy or even authorship of the relevant portion of the Annals. It is possible and maybe even likely that the alleged persecutions of christians by Nero is a later interpolation to the Annals by christian editors. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by 69.63.93.239 (talk) 05:41, 12 July 2007 (UTC) 1 Also worth noting is the fact that the actual passage within the Annals asserts that christians may actually have been guilty of setting the fire, rather than asserting that Nero set the fire and placed the blame on the christians. It also doesn't say anything about wholesale persecution of christians but rather that christians who plead guilty of the crime were punished for it, though I find the means of punishment the more likely interpolation that would be original research on my part and not something to even consider for inclusion. Also when you consider the distance between Rome and Jerusalem, the apparent slowness of the spread of christianity throughout the world and the short span of time between 27AD and 68AD it becomes extremely unlikely that there was an "immense multitude" of christians in Rome to convict. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by 69.63.93.239 (talk) 06:06, 12 July 2007 (UTC)

It has occasionally been suggested that the passage is an interpolation, but that's such a rare position that the general articles I've read on Roman persecution of Christians don't even mention it. (The source currently cited for that theory at Tacitus on Jesus is not very good.) And who considers Tacitus' account to be "allegory"? Regarding the "confession", Tacitus has been taken as saying that those who confessed to being Christians were punished (e.g., Furneaux's commentary), though the view that some Christians confessed to arson should indeed be mentioned. I agree that the section (and most of the article, in fact) needs work. EALacey 06:42, 12 July 2007 (UTC)
Actually he said that those who confessed to the fire were punished. And the passage does NOT say that christians in general were punished, it doesn't go very far toward demonstrating the alleged persecution of christians under Nero at all. At least it doesn't when you limit your interpretations of what the passage means to what the passage actually says.

Persecutions under Trajan[edit]

This whole section is completely without citation. There are no sources to look into concerning the matter. And if the section is true it would be an extreme violation on the Roman's long standing policy of religious tolerance. If for no reason other than that violation of the long standing policy of Rome I think there should be some citation of sources here. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by 69.63.93.239 (talk) 05:55, 12 July 2007 (UTC)

I've added citations of the relevant letters, and corrected a dating error. On Roman religious intolerance, cf. Bacchanalia. EALacey 06:59, 12 July 2007 (UTC)

Persecution under Marcus Aurelius[edit]

There in fact is doubt that the law of Marcus Aurelius was targeted at Christians since the divinity of Christ was only actually established at the council of Nicaea and was not widely accepted as doctrine or fact, though it was accepted by some early christians. Also many other religious sects of the time were equally certain or more certain of the divinity of their own gods. As a further demonstration of the lack of the establishment of the divinity of christ you have, if not all four gospels of christ, at least the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke which never once have Jesus making any direct claims of divinity, or any subtle claims for that matter, and always making a clear distinction between himself and his God. Consequently the Gospel of John also never has Jesus making any direct claims to his own divinity, however the book of John does contain a sentence which many interpret as an assertion of the divinity of christ, this assertion does not come from jesus, however. Not even the author of the gospel of John would put those words into Jesus' mouth. I would suggest that either this section include more direct evidence that the laws of Marcus Aurelius really were directed directly at Christians and not all mysteries cults which existed at the time, such as the Mithrian cult and the worship of Isis, or this section be removed as it definitely does not establish with even the slightest degree of certainty that Marcus Aurelius intended to persecute christians, or that he even did persecute christianity as a whole.

- 5th August 2008 - It is notable that there are no citations for this section on Marcus Aurelius in relation to persecution of Christians. When we consider that there are two links in this section, one to persecution in Lyon and another to Marcus Aurelius, we might at least expect some agreement between these three pages. However, the first claims that Christianity was illegal during Marcus Aurelius' reign because of a law which remained from the rule of Emperor Trajan, not because of a personal disagreement with Christian doctrines by Marcus Aurelius himself. The actions are attributed to 'the authorities', not 'the emperor'. The link on Marcus himself is more specific: "Under Marcus' reign, the status of Christians remained the same since the time of Trajan. They were legally punishable, though in fact rarely persecuted. In 177 a group of Christians were executed at Lyon, for example, but the act is mainly attributable to the initiative of the local governor."

As such, it seems that the claim that Marcus found Christian views on the soul deplorable seems unfounded. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 192.190.202.30 (talk) 16:32, 5 August 2008 (UTC)

5th August 2008 - I appear unable to post an edit. Most likely because I do not have an account and am on a network which probably hides my IP. As such, here is my proposed edit if anyone fancies altering the relevant section:

"Belonging to the later Stoical school, which believed in an immediate absorption after death into the Divine essence. A law was passed under his reign, punishing every one with exile who should endeavor to influence people's mind by fear of the Divinity, and this law has been claimed by some to be aimed at the Christians. At all events his reign was a stormy time for the church, however the persecutions cannot be directly traced to him. The law of Trajan was sufficient to justify the severest measures against Christians, but while legally punishable, Christians were rarely persecuted.

It was originally believed that it was during the reign of Marcus Aurelius that Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, was martyred, but newer estimates place it under the rule of Antonius Pius, and more specifically the proconsul of Asia Minor, Statius Quadratus. Later, there is record of "new decrees" making it easier for Christians to be accused and have their property confiscated.

One of the best-recorded large-scale executions of Christians in Marcus Aurelius' reign is the persecution in Lyons, which occurred in 177 AD. However, the act is mainly attributable to the initiative of the local governor rather than Marcus himself. Over 48 Christians were supposedly executed at this one event." —Preceding unsigned comment added by 192.190.202.30 (talk) 16:43, 5 August 2008 (UTC)

The source for the persecution at Lyon is Eusebius, centuries after the event and an arch-propagandist, I wouldn't call this 'best recorded' to be fair. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 192.43.227.18 (talk) 06:20, 25 May 2012 (UTC)
Not centuries, though the point is taken. Eusebius was born about a century after the incident in Lugdunum. Cynwolfe (talk) 12:32, 25 May 2012 (UTC)

Tacitus forgery[edit]

It is accepted by just about all historians that the annals supposedly written by Tacitus are forgeries, created by Poggio Bracciolini in the fifteenth century. They were not quoted before this date and the structure of the language is full of mistakes a Roman would not make when speaking his own language but similar to mistakes made by Bracciolini in other of his works. It was claimed that there was a vast multitude of christians in Rome about 64 AD when at the time there was not even a vast multitude of christians in the whole of Judea or anywhere else. Paul however had reached Rome and was preaching there around 63-65 AD and Acts 28:30-31 tells us that he was preaching the gospel freely with "no man forbidding him". SBQ 10:28 4 September 2007 (UTC)

Pliny forgery[edit]

It is generally accepted that the letter from Pliny to the Emperor Trajan is a later forgery. There were many minor religions openly practised in the Roman Empire at the time and there would have been no reason for a Roman proconsul to crack down on any of them, let alone execute the worshippers and so stir up trouble. SBQ 10:37 4 September 2007 (UTC)

Actually, very few historians have considered Pliny's letter to Trajan on the Christians to be a forgery, and most general treatments of Christian persecution don't even consider the possibility worth mentioning (see, for example, G. E. M. de Ste. Croix, "Why Were the Early Christians Persecuted?", Past and Present 26 (1963) 6-38; or T. D. Barnes, "Legislation against the Christians", Journal of Roman Studies 58 (1968), 32-50). As for Tacitus' Annals, I'm not aware of any author since the 19th century who has considered them forged; the confirmation of numerous passages of the Annals by inscriptions discovered since the supposed date of forgery makes such a theory impossible to sustain. Do you have a source stating that the inauthenticity of either text is "generally accepted"? EALacey 09:48, 4 September 2007 (UTC)

Requested move[edit]

*blows gathered dust off talk page*

Hi! So some of you may have noticed the recent renovations going on over at Persecution of Christians in the New Testament (previously Persecution of early Christians by the Jews). Yes, it's all very exciting, but after much dispute title neutrality has been achieved! Huzzah! So what am I doing over here? Well, basically, since that article now accurately chronicles the discussions of persecution deriving from the NT, I've moved some items from this article over here. However, in much the same spirit we have a couple odds and ends in that article, remnants of its Jews vs. Christians origins, that deal directly with early Christian history in the Roman Empire and not the NT. So, I proposed that this title be modified to Persecution of early Christians in the Roman Empire, thus incorporating that orphaned material AND making this article uniform with the subsequent section of the parent article Persecution of Christians entitled "Persecution of early Christians outside the Roman Empire.

Proposed: Move this article to Persecution of early Christians in the Roman Empire

Issue: The current title is alleged to be 1) lacking uniformity with parent's other sections, 2) too narrow, and 3) carries POV implications.
Lacking uniformity: Note that in the parent article, Persecution of Christians, the section following this article is titled "Persecution of early Christians outside the Roman Empire." Thus, Persecution of early Christians in the Roman Empire would be more appropriate for the section preceding, and by extension, this article.
Too Narrow: There are enough instances of persecution against Christians within the Roman Empire, but not committed by the Romans, that either a new section would need to be created in Persecution of Christians or this article would need to be expanded slightly in scope to accommodate them. I'm advocating for the latter in the interest of simplicity, neutrality, and to keep the number of subpages off of Persecution of Christians down as much as possible (to avoid readers having to bounce all over for information on what's really a single subject.
POV implications: The current title presupposes "the Romans" as having been responsible for the persecution of early Christians despite much dispute over the influence Jewish sects may have had over those decisions. Though this subpage was created from Persecution of Christians per WP:SIZE, a WP:POV fork unintentionally resulted. A similar example would be if the Responsibility for the death of Jesus article were to produce a fork called The Romans' responsibility for the death of Jesus. In regard to Descriptive names, WP:NCON states: "Choose a descriptive name for an article that does not carry POV implications. For instance, what do we call the controversy over Qur'an handling at Guantanamo Bay? The article is located at Qur'an desecration controversy of 2005. Note that the title makes no statement about who is the (more) guilty party: it does not "give away" that conclusion; in fact the article itself draws no conclusion." Since the current title does imply a particular POV, assign guilt, and "give away" a particular conclusion, this is not the appropriate title for this article.

Hopefully this proposal is clear and uncontroversial. Much <3 & Kittens, - CheshireKatz (talk) 08:00, 6 January 2008 (UTC)

  • Oppose - the title matches what people would think of and there is little doubt that it was the Romans who did the persecuting, regardless of whether they were incited to do so by the Jews or not. Besides, the "incitement by the Jews" is a minority POV, anyway. Finally, any persecution of the Christians which does not belong here or in Persecution of Christians in the New Testament could be placed in Origins of Christianity (which may be moved soon to History of early Christianity). --Richard (talk) 08:51, 7 January 2008 (UTC)
    Hrrrm, interesting point, I hadn't thought of that as an alternative. Do you want to incorporate the Bar Kohkba material there? - CheshireKatz (talk) 14:47, 7 January 2008 (UTC)
    Yes, there should already be a stubby section there now. Feel free to expand on it as long as it is relevant to the history/origins of early Christianity (i.e. don't make it a section about the revolt per se but about the impact on Christians such as the alleged actions of Bar Kokhba in reprisal for the Christians refusal to support him.) --Richard (talk) 16:41, 7 January 2008 (UTC)
  • support new title would be more neutral. Yahel Guhan 04:44, 10 January 2008 (UTC)

Though I think Warrior4321's completion of the move was a little premature, I appreciate his support. Unfortunately, Richard's alternative proposal didn't address the primary concerns of neutrality & uniformity and I guess the best thing at this point would just be to wait & see what happens. - CheshireKatz (talk) 17:17, 28 January 2008 (UTC)

Persecutions by Christians[edit]

Should persecutions by Christians after they gained power be mentioned as well? Richard001 (talk) 06:34, 8 June 2008 (UTC)

  • Perhaps a section of Persecution of Christians by Christians. Did Constantine persecute Christians who refused to accept the Nicean Council's decisions? Did subsequent "Christian" Roman emporers persecute dissenters? DonaldRichardSands (talk) 13:30, 16 June 2012 (UTC)
Constantine persecuted the Donatists and was no friend of the Jews. I think the consensus of scholarly opinion is that more Christians died at the hand of other Christians than during the periodic bouts of persecution carried out by the Roman authorities. The level of disputes and violence between different Christian groups is sometimes put forward as one of the reasons for the Roman persecutions -they disturbed the peace of society. Yt95 (talk) 13:43, 16 June 2012 (UTC)

Delete 'Extent of persecutions'?[edit]

Apologies for barging in, but I think the article is better without this section; however, I moved it to the end of the following section on "Reasons for persecutions" and edited out some of the silliness. (Let me first say that I didn't write any portion of this article and come to it for the first time.) My personal sympathies lie with the "angry Pagans" that I deleted, but everything that's said in the "Extent" section is said better elsewhere in the article, and in a manner supported by specifics rather than innuendo (such as the now-deleted 'curiously enough'). Most of this article is carefully non-polemical; to have this section near the beginning was discouraging. The direct quotation from Workman struck me as utterly irrelevant. The statement about when persecution becomes a significant motif in Christian discourse is not 'curious,' but can and has been traced historically in patristic literature.

Here are the two grafs as they were:

"According to H. B. Workman, the average Christian was not much affected by the persecutions. It was Christian “extremists” that attracted the attention of angry Pagans. “Earthly institutions should not be judged by their averages, but by the ideals of their leaders”, Workman adds. Persecution of Christians only became significant, curiously enough, in the 3rd and 4th centuries, on the eve of the Christian triumph.

"The Roman persecutions were generally sporadic, localized, and dependent on the political climate and disposition of each emperor. Moreover, imperial decrees against Christians were often directed against church property, the Scriptures, or clergy only. It has been estimated that more Christians have been killed in the last 50 years than in the church's first 300 years."

As for that last sentence, does it mean "killed for their faith"? Otherwise it makes no sense.

Also, I am on a crusade (if I may use the word ironically) against the anachronistic use of the word "pagan". In the Roman Empire during the rise of Christianity from the 2nd to the 4th centuries, those who remained practitioners of the traditional religions of Europe and the Near East did NOT refer to themselves as pagans; if you can show me primary-source evidence of this before the 5th century I will apologize and be grateful for it. You WILL find it in patristic literature. "Pagan" was a derogatory term used by Christians to elide the diversity of religious practice that was characteristic of the empire. This is not about "political correctness" or "sensitivity", nor am I saying that we shouldn't label people or groups with words they didn't use themselves. Scholars need to apply categorical terms that organize the discourse of their discipline, but the point is precisely that the word "pagan" is intellectually useless. The need for an umbrella term to create an opposition is part of the monotheistic, dualistic good-and-evil impulse of Christianity; it is a grossly inaccurate label for all non-Christian religious practice and belief in antiquity.

I don't have references at hand, but in some early Christian authors (Prudentius is one, I think) the word "pagan" is used in works that literally preach to the converted, but not in works aimed at a general audience that would include non-Christians — because it would have been insulting. I am not trying to discourage those (living) people who take pride in calling themselves Pagan or Neopagan, but they should know that they are appropriating and redeeming a slur (rather like gay-pride appropriations of "queer").

Someone asks elsewhere on the talk page whether there shouldn't be a section on 'Persecutions BY Christians.' Not if you look at the title of the article; a treatment of that subject should be a separate article or section of an article, which could then be listed under 'See also' (the article 'Decline of Hellenistic polytheism' might also be good there). Cynwolfe (talk) 15:32, 20 August 2008 (UTC)

Persecution? under Diocletian[edit]

This is how the section begins

Diocletian came to power in 284, and for twenty years upheld edicts of toleration made by a previous emperor. His wife and daughter were Christians, as were most of his court officers and eunuchs.
The reasons for this persecution are unclear, but Diocletian's actions may have been based on the influence of his junior colleague Galarius (an adherent of Roman religion), Porphyry (an anti-Christian Neoplatonist philosopher), or the usual desire for political unity.

Yeah, I'm really unclear. Was Diocletian tolerant or intolerant? The section says both. Was he tolerant for the first 20 years and then suddenly became intolerant? If so, some further explanation is needed because it says his wife, daughter & homeboys were Christian. When did he switch and why? Ileanadu (talk) 19:16, 24 November 2008 (UTC)

Much of this article appears to be an interesting essay by its author and nothing more. The author goes about "explaining" how Romans (or the Roman state??, or the Roman emperors) viewed Christians and why they persecuted them. My guess is that there's no one explanation that everyone agrees on--just think of trying to "explain" why America discriminates against homosexuals. Whole books have been written on the subject--and this one as well most likely. This article should go about chronicling the views of those books. It should not be an explanation by the writer--no matter how well reasoned. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 209.98.86.169 (talk) 04:13, 4 February 2009 (UTC)

range of article[edit]

Does this article include persecution of heretical Christians beginning with Constantine (for example the Donatists) and extending into the Byzantine Empire which some still refer to as the continuing "Roman Empire", or does "Roman Empire" end with Constantine for the purposes of this article? Whatever the case, that should be clarified in the lead section. 75.15.204.111 (talk) 17:49, 1 October 2009 (UTC)

Persecution of Decius[edit]

Please cite properly the last paragraph. I don't know of any sources pertaining to contemporary public opinion around the mid-third century. I'd wager to say however if the source is over century old it is "unworthy of our time' —Preceding unsigned comment added by 72.50.175.161 (talk) 11:19, 12 December 2009 (UTC)

Social and Religious Differences as Basis for Persecution[edit]

I found this article lacking in discussing the social basis for persecution. In the article one section is allotted to "Reasons for Persecution" where we find but one sentence treating the religious differences of the Christian philosophy at the time and its subsequent social stigmatization on the basis of the Christians socially ostracized lives, not necessarily as is debated by John Elliot in "1st Peter: A New translation with introduction and commentary" simply just because of the Christian title by which these individuals were legally charged as.

"On a more social, practical level, Christians were distrusted because of the secret and misunderstood nature of their worship. Words like "love feast" and talk of "eating Christ's flesh" sounded suspicious to the pagans, and Christians were suspected of cannibalism, incest, orgies, and all sorts of immorality"

The exploration in more detail of this socially motivated persecution which Elliot makes a claim that it is more evident, that is to say explicit, in the New Testament than the persecution of Chirstians by any Roman authority. Elliot explores this idea by citing 1 Peter as his proof of a sociological understanding of Christians as a group, instead of a politically targeted religion. He cites examples in 1st Peter in which he highlights the Christians as suffering from the punitive actions of the alienated; “They are surprised that you no longer join them.” (4:4), the suspicious; “but in your hearts sanctify Christ as lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you” (3:15) (2:15), the slanderous; “yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame” (3:16)(2:12) and the hostile; “Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called—that you might inherit a blessing” (3:9,13) local populations. Moreover Elliot highlights that in 1st Peter’s own words in 2:16, 17: “As servants of God, live as free people, yet do not use your freedom as a pretext for evil. Honor everyone. Love the family of believers. Fear God. Honor the emperor.” Thus we can note a social stigma that was characteristic of Christians as a religious group, for no where in the gospels or New Testament is the early church incited explicitly to revolt or behave in an uncivil manner despite differences in religious beliefs. It was more so, as Elliot argues, the social abrasiveness that the Christians faced by being alienated, being suspect, verbally slandered, and by being recipients of hostile actions, actions headed usually by crowds, neighbors and members of the local population where these Christians resided. Their social isolation and negative perception was the main reason that Elliot argues, as shown in first Peter, that persecution was so prevalent among early Christians. This sociological placement of Christians and understanding their relation to the populations that surrounded them along with the mainstream religious thought upheld by these populations, helps us better understand persecution as a multilayered and heavily sociological phenomenon in the early Christian church.

(Marilyn.Rosales (talk) 06:39, 22 May 2012 (UTC))

I agree with "persecution as a multilayered and heavily sociological phenomenon in the early Christian church" and there is no single cause for the antipathy felt at times towards Christians. Since their faith animated their social life, sociological and religious reasons are intertwined in a way. Leaving aside for the moment the decrees relating to the offering of incense to the Emperor/Imperial standards, the reasons suggested, which are not treated in depth within the article, include the deep suspicion the Romans had for any kind of group, not just religious, that had overtones of secrecy since it was through such societies they feared sedition was fermented. (Catechumens were only allowed to know the full Christian mysteries when they had proven themselves sincere, being one example). The family in Rome can be viewed as a microcosm of the Empire at large and the authoritarian aspects of the latter mirror that of the former. The role of inheritance was of fundamental importance to ensure the stability of the family and the not uncommon giving away of Christian converts of the family wealth would certainly not have endeared them to traditional elements within the Roman community. Couple this with the call in early Christian literature, if needs be, to give up Mother, Father, family, then its not hard to see how this would be seen as a fractious new "superstition" by traditional Roman families i.e. promoting a gross form of filial impiety that undermined society. Furthermore prophecy was an important part of the early Church which the Romans, through experience, viewed with suspicion because it could lead to insurrections and destabilize the community. (when the Church gained the ascendancy it also had a very cautious attitude, for similar reasons). Couple this with the contents of the Book of Revelations (predicting the fall of Rome), and some Christians calling the traditional gods of Rome devils, (whom Romans believed had protected the city for centuries), and it's clear the early Christian community would at times be viewed by some as a threat to the stability of the family and, by extension, the Empire. Yt95 (talk) 15:41, 22 May 2012 (UTC)

Christianity being a Greek-language phenomenon not a factor?[edit]

Ok, (and I might be displaying my ignorance here), I have searched this article, and its German version also, for the word "Greek", and it is not present. I cannot imagine how the fact that the new religion of Christianity was a primarily Greek language phenomenon, is not one of the factors relating to the persecution of early Christians. Wouldn't a new, flourishing religious movement written in Greek, and obviously originally having mostly Greek speakers, not be seen as confrontational to the Latin-language hegemony of the Roman Empire? The Romans clearly felt that they, and Latin, had replaced the Greeks, and here, in the midst of their powerful empire, was a powerful resurgence of Greek influence, with the Greek New Testament poised to become the new Holy Scriptures of the Roman Empire - kind of a slap in the face from the Greeks to the Latin-Romans who "replaced" them. It was not the Roman, Latin language which became holy for the Roman Empire, but the Greek language of the New Testament. I don't have sources, so I can't change the article, I'm just asking someone to clarify an obvious question. Thanks. Jimhoward72 (talk) 10:30, 16 June 2012 (UTC)

  • Hi Jim and others. I have just begun looking for sources on this. Was the Greek language considered in competition with the Latin in the days of the early Christian Church? Do we have any evidence that Greek was persecuted by those who favored Latin? What was the practice of Rome regarding other languages. Today, English accepts other languages into its language, whereas French seems to be more protected, at least by France and Quebec. Did Rome take the attitude, like the USA has now with English, where Latin was the language? DonaldRichardSands (talk) 13:21, 16 June 2012 (UTC)
People like Arnaldo Momigliano treated the "N.T" as a product of Hellenistic culture[1]. The Latin Vulgate of Jerome, which became the Bible of the West was preceded by older latin version (Vetus Latina). The Greek Septuagint translation of the "O.T" is significant in terms of persecution because it contains the Books of the Maccabees which sets out what some take as being the exaltation of martyrdom which was passed through into Christianity via the Greek texts they used.[2][3] Yt95 (talk) 13:14, 16 June 2012 (UTC)
  • Martyrdom is a value of the ante-Christian Second Temple period, as shown in the Greek language Maccabees, as Yt95 has said.
  • The LXX seems to have been used by the earliest Christians and it contained the Maccabees stories of martyrdom. Thus Greek has a foundational role in Christian martyrdom conceptualization.
  • But, were those who spoke Greek persecuted by those who spoke Latin on account of their difference in language? What sources do we have that address how Romans viewed the use of the Greek language in Rome, or elsewhere? Did the Roman empire have its own language police? DonaldRichardSands (talk) 15:22, 16 June 2012 (UTC)

Pardon my bluntness, but this shows the dangers of writing about the Roman Empire when you clearly don't know the slightest thing about ancient Rome. The Roman ruling class were bilingual in Greek and Latin. Roman children of the upperclasses from the mid-Republic on were all taught by Greek teachers. Young Roman men considered it a privilege to study abroad in Athens the way a U.S. student today might long to study at Oxford or the Sorbonne, as a culturally elite experience. Greek literature was studied as models for Latin literature; our study of Latin literature today is impossible without understanding the dynamic relationship between the two languages. This is why departments of classical studies are dual: they contain both Hellenists and Latinists. Ancient Roman culture, including their religion and art, was pervasively influenced by that of the Greeks. Varro notes in addition that southern Gaul even in the late Republic was trilingual: around Marseilles they spoke Greek, Latin, and Gaulish. The Greek language had some influence even in Gaul and Hispania before the Roman conquest. Speaking Greek was a mark of culture; there was no stigma attached to it whatever. Laws and official government documents would of course be in Latin, but in the eastern provinces laws, edicts, and religious dedications are also issued bilingually in Greek. You might want to read Religion in ancient Rome and interpretatio graeca before you make assumptions about the nature of the socio-religious environment in ancient Rome. Cynwolfe (talk) 15:46, 16 June 2012 (UTC)

That is one of the answers I was expecting. Thanks for all your responses. I'm just wondering if the Romans saw Christianity as another upsurge of Greek cultural assertiveness, which they (the Romans) couldn't claim as their own invention, and for that reason, tried to suppress it. Later of course, they had to accept it, which meant that the Greek world, in the form of the Greek Christian scriptures, left it's permanent decisive mark on the root belief system of the entire Roman Empire. I'm asking if this could have been any kind of factor. I think that later you have the sense that the Roman Empire would like to imagine that the Latin translation (Vulgate) was the official Christian version of scriptures, while downplaying it's Greek origins, for example. I believe later a conflict develops just for that reason - some stick to the original Greek version, and others stick to the Vulgate and Latin rite. So this new, solely Greek movement (Christianity), could the fact that it was just that - a solely Greek movement, have been any factor in early persecution by the Roman Empire?Jimhoward72 (talk) 15:58, 16 June 2012 (UTC)
In short, there is no basis whatever for the idea that Christians, whether in Latin- or in Greek-speaking areas of the Roman Empire, were persecuted because of being associated with the Greek language. Roman emperors knew Greek, joked in Greek, even wrote books in Greek. I can give sources for each of these three statements. Knowledge of Greek and Greek literature was an essential part of education. Quintilian even said that a Roman boy's education should begin with Greek, leaving Latin for later. Esoglou (talk) 16:04, 16 June 2012 (UTC)
Again, the Romans just didn't think that way. They didn't care about claiming things as their own invention. They liked being the recipients of tradition, and that was central to how they thought of themselves as a people (see mos maiorum). Their literature is full of notices giving credit to what other people invented. I think it's the Greek military writer Arrian who said that the Romans weren't inventors, but that their excellence lay in recognizing what was good among all the peoples they came in contact with, and integrating those things into the Roman way of life. That's why their empire was successful for centuries (and why the Nazis by contrast failed so quickly). They were adept at incorporating diversity. Their legal code and justice system formed the basis of law in the Christian West.
As an addendum on Greek, there was only one emperor after the conversion of Constantine who rejected Christianity, and that was Julian, a committed, even obsessive Hellenist who disliked Latin and wrote in Greek. That alone is a good indication that there was no association in the Roman mind between Christianity and the Greek language or the Greeks as alien. The conflict between the Greek East and the Latin West is, as you note, a Christian phenomenon. What began as an administrative division under Diocletian (see Byzantine Empire) ended with complete rupture under Christian rule, after Christianity had become the state religion of Rome. Cynwolfe (talk) 17:17, 16 June 2012 (UTC)
Ok, thanks for the responses. I also apparently didn't realize the extent that Greek and Latin complemented each other during that time period. Just a question, would it be true that when Christianity was accepted by the Roman Empire, Greek was also the accepted language, in Rome also, for the Christian scriptures? I.e. that the Latin translations did not play any central role for the original Christianity of the Roman Empire?Jimhoward72 (talk) 17:28, 16 June 2012 (UTC)
That's a really interesting question that Vetus Latina doesn't address. You might start by working with that article. It doesn't seem to say when the first Latin translations started appearing. It says St. Augustine was aware of them, and (being the fine Latin stylist that he was) lamented their quality. But it doesn't say anything about the role of Latin translation in the transition to Christian rule of the Western empire, which would be extremely interesting to me, since Augustine himself adapted terminology from ancient Roman religion for new Christian uses (just a few examples include res divinae, verba concepta, portentum, and cultus and the word religio itself). Cynwolfe (talk) 18:05, 16 June 2012 (UTC)
Jim, If you click the link given above to Arnaldo Momigliano's book and go to p. 142- he describes how Latin came to a point of absolute dominance in the west. The article in the old Catholic Encyclopedia may be of interest as well[4]. FWIW i think that though the liturgy of the earliest Christian services in Rome was Greek (and relics of it still remain in the West even today in the Kyrie) there must have been Latin translations of the gospels in Rome at an early date, no matter how rough, since the early Christians were predominately drawn from the poorer classes, e.g slaves, and hence the need for translated texts. Josef Jungmann S.J used to be the expert for this period but I no longer have his book on the early liturgy[5]. Just as an aside St. Augustine was poor in Greek. Yt95 (talk) 00:32, 17 June 2012 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────An overview of the linguistic situation in the Roman Empire during the formation of Christianity can now be found at Roman Empire#Languages. Cynwolfe (talk) 14:31, 14 September 2012 (UTC)

Even the Prosecutions of the Christians on themselves here are canted as "Prosecutions against the Christians"[edit]

In the article is written: "...persecution of Christians did not come to a complete halt; instead, it switched to those deemed to be heretics." Who can take that what is written here as serious? Even the murders of Christians on their fellows here are called "prosecution on the Christians"! In addition, who has not the right to fight a religion goading humans even into hating their spouse, children and partents (see: Lu 14:26), while transgressing god's commandment of honoring one's father and mother (see: Ex 20:12)? What is wrong with such prosecutions? According to historian Karl Heinz Deschner the whole sum of Christian "victims" of prosecution is about 2000-3000 individuals. The Christians often murdered about ten up to thirty times more only in a few days, e.g. during the first crusade when conquering Jerusalem in July 1099. The sum of Christian murders, until now, is about 300 hundred millions of individuals. What here is written about purported prosecution on the Christians is a joke of the perpetrators' propaganda! It is hard to decide whether this article is a production of a lunatic asylum or aiding and abetting religious terrorism. Is Wikipedia obliged to Christian spoofs? Morsty Morsty (talk) 13:44, 14 September 2012 (UTC)

The passage you refer to in Luke also bothered me but Jesus also said "honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 19:17-19) so there is substance to the interpretation that what Jesus is calling for is not hatred of family but the need to put love of God before all other loves. That doesn't take anything away from the argument that it would indeed have caused friction between Christian converts within some Roman families. That post Constantine imperial Christianity became intolerant, and from being persecuted became persecutors, is not disputed except in scale by modern scholars. Christian "heretics" were suppressed by what became imperial Christianity and it wasn't until the modern age, and much spilling of blood, that concepts such as religious tolerance and religious freedom became accepted as the norm. Yt95 (talk) 01:24, 2 March 2013 (UTC)

This page makes no distinction between fact and fiction[edit]

The crucifixion of Jesus is not fact, but religion. In the NT, Pilate makes the Roman judicial system subservient to the will of the Jews. How does that add up to persecution of Christians. Did the other Romans suddenly grow a set of balls that Pilate lacked?

Pilate is depicted as acting in a politically expedient manner in an potentially explosive situation when many people had come to Jerusalem to partake in one of the great religious events of the year. Politicians have done it all times in all places. Yt95 (talk) 01:33, 2 March 2013 (UTC)
Aside from the issue of whether the crucifixion is fact or fiction, the fact is that it is anachronistic and inaccurate to speak of "Christians" at all during the time of Jesus and the apostles as this article does in its very first sentence :"Persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire began with the Crucifixion of Jesus." Wrong. Jesus, his disciples and the apostles were Jews, not Christians. Here is yet another WP article that is very very poor and needs lots of work.Smeat75 (talk) 17:59, 29 March 2013 (UTC)

Why is the section "Persecution of early Christians in Judea" in this article?[edit]

Is this article about persecution of Christians by Romans? or persecution that happened anywhere in the Roman empire, in which case it should be renamed "Persecution of Christians from 30 AD to (date it stopped)" since persecution of Christians at early dates did not happen anywhere else. What badly-written rubbish this section is, just for instance " According to the Canonical gospels, Jesus preached against the growing corruption by religious leaders of the time. He stood up for the poor and oppressed. He socialized with outcasts and healed the sick. More importantly he spoke against the Jewish ruling class (the Herodians) and King Herod who were appointed by Rome to control the people." This is referenced to Matthew 23 1 -37 where Jesus is not quoted as saying a word about King Herod. That Herod was appointed by Rome to control the people is a highly dubious statement to say the least, not supported by that passage from Matthew. Who decided that Jesus' (non-existent) speaking against King Herod is "more important" than standing up for the poor and oppressed and healing the sick? Then we get an uncited assertion : "This kind of talk outraged the Sanhedrin and caused Rome much concern." There is no evidence whatsoever that "Rome" paid any attention whatsoever, or even knew about, Jesus' "talk". This section is junk, junk, junk. What's it doing in this article? The whole article needs to be re-written. I have added a "multiple issues" tag.Smeat75 (talk) 14:56, 3 April 2013 (UTC)

I left this message days ago, I tagged the article, I have asked for more eyes, more opinions everywhere I can think of on WP and have had no response, so as it seems that as it is up to me for the moment at any rate, and as I cannot understand why this section is in the article at all as it is nothing to do with Rome, and as there is another article on the subject of Persecution of Christians in the New Testament, out comes the section "Persecution of early Christians in Judea", every word.Smeat75 (talk) 03:28, 12 April 2013 (UTC)
The persecution articles are all a bunch of POV forks. One thing I've been thinking is that Persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire and Persecution of pagans by the Christian Roman Empire should BOTH be merged into Religious persecution in the Roman Empire. That article would have a Background section on religion in the Greco-Roman world, as well as a background section on the Republican era, mainly the suppression of the Bacchanals in 186 BC. The introduction should make the scope clear, and should refine the article title to cover restrictions and suppression as well as what's conventionally known as "persecution". It should be organized chronologically, with forks permitted in order to look at specific edicts, acts, the policies of a particular emperor, or persecutions as defined by RS (like the well-done Diocletianic Persecution.
One problem I see in these articles is that many contributors don't know anything about ancient religion: they're just out to compete in claims to victimhood. The Christian POV-pushers don't seem to think that "real" religions existed in the Greco-Roman world, and the Pagan POV-pushers seem to think there was something called Paganism that was a religion in antiquity: they don't understand the differences between the "religion of Numa" and Imperial cult, or how they relate to mystery religions or local and regional "ethnic" religions, or private practices generally called "magic". If it were up to me, nobody would be allowed to edit any persecution article without spending a month studying the religious life of Gallo-Roman Lugdunum (site of the Sanctuary of the Three Gauls) and in the East Dura-Europos, based on inscriptions and archaeology as well as literary texts. Both these cities show how the norm in the pre-Christian empire was religious pluralism. That doesn't mean we should idealize Roman attitudes in light of modern values. But if the context isn't presented correctly, we can't ask the right questions about why Christianity was suppressed, and why after gaining control of the Empire the Christians suppressed everybody else's religion and their own heretical sects, and arrive at neutral answers. Cynwolfe (talk) 14:30, 12 April 2013 (UTC)
Hi Cynwolfe, thanks for your input. I deleted the section ""Persecution of early Christians in Judea"" and userUpper lima 65 put it straight back in again with the edit summary:'you cant delete this just because you do not like it. Mark where RS are needed, and then if they are not orovided delete them later. Judea was in the RE. I went to his or her talk page to type an invitation to discuss the matter here, and see that s/he has just been blocked indefinitely as a sock puppet. I know I don't have to tell you this, but there are major problems with using the New Testament as a source of accurate historical information, which is why I thought that discussion should take place on the well-titled article Persecution of Christians in the New Testament. In the case of the Roman persecutions there are surviving documents, such as the libelli, one of which I put a photo and translation of into this article in the section "Under Decius", court transcripts, such as the one I put here in the section "Under Valerian" and eyewitness reports, as well as comments from Pliny, Tacitus, Suetonius, and other historians. That sort of material does not mix well in my opinion with accounts that are taken solely from the Gospels or Acts of the Apostles. Your idea of an article on Religious persecution in the Roman Empire is a good one but that would be a very very big project, much more than I could embark on. It would have to include not only the NT stories but persecution of "heretics", and you would get people saying that it should go all the way up to 1453, since the "Byzantine Empire" is really the Roman Empire [[6]], haha, or maybe up to 1806 when the Holy Roman Empire went kaput.
What I do think is needed quite urgently is a well-written, well sourced article on Roman persecution of the early Church pre Edict of Milan, ie 313. I was going to try to turn this article into that but now I don't know if it's worth the trouble or not. I was going to try to reduce the length of the first long section, and cut the sections on "Persecution as a central theme in Christianity" and "Martyrdom", theology can be discussed elsewhere, and try to have an article that presents what is known about Roman attempts to suppress Christianity from as much of a strictly historical point of view as possible, trying to omit the many legends, fabrications, theological implications and idealisations that have accreted to the subject as one can. Actually it's really not that hard, here is a Christian website that does a fair and neutral job in my opinion [[7]], up to the section "Two Christian Responses". WP needs an article along those lines, we can expand it more with quotes, more sources, etc.
So what I am now wondering, before I do a lot of work here that someone comes along and reverts, is this - should this article be re-named "Roman Persecution of the Early Church before the Edict of Milan?" (or along those lines, just so you don't have to include Bible stories or persecution of heretics). Or should I start a new one with that or a similar title? There again I don't want to do a lot of work on it and have someone come along and say "lots of duplication here, merge this article into Persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire and put it back with this junk. The article on "Roman persecution of the early church pre 313" could be a fork of your Religious persecution in the Roman Empire, if that ever comes to fruition. Thanks for your advice!Smeat75 (talk) 18:03, 12 April 2013 (UTC)
I can see that you are thinking about this very carefully, and I wish I could help more. My view on having the one central article (the existing Religious persecution in the Roman Empire) is that it would end up more or less as a series of summary sections, which requires that the individual articles be in good shape. Also, I don't know what "persecution" means. Some of the edicts have to do with confiscating Church property; not quite the same as getting thrown to the lions, and in general a hazard of being rich when an emperor needed to replenish his treasury. There's an article on a specific persecution (the one at Lugdunum in 177) that I'll almost certainly work on one day, but truthfully, I have too many other things that interest me more. But if you need help on anything specific, please don't hesitate to ask. Cynwolfe (talk) 19:05, 12 April 2013 (UTC)

Should this article be about persecution of the early church by the Romans?[edit]

This article has had several name changes in the past. In my opinion it should be moved again to a name along the lines of "Persecution of the early church by the Romans" and be solely on that subject. As it is now, the lead starts by talking about the stoning of Stephen, a story from the New Testament and nothing to do with the Romans except that it took place in the Roman Empire. Then the lead goes on to say that the article will cover persecution of Christian heretics by the Christian Roman empire, but in fact it never does. Wikipedia does not have an article that covers solely the important subject of Roman persecution of the early church, in my opinion there certainly ought to be one, I would like to rename and rewrite this article (in collaboration with anyone else who is interested of course) to be on that topic alone and I would like to hear other editors' views.Smeat75 (talk) 19:03, 25 April 2013 (UTC)

Did not want that RfC to be too long - right now WP has articles called Persecution of Christians which tries to cover all persecution of Christians, everywhere, in all periods, Religious persecution in the Roman Empire, covering persecution of all religions by the Romans, and Persecution of Christians in the New Testament, which is where the story of the stoning of Stephen belongs. There ought to be an article about Roman persecution of the early church from a historical point of view which does not have to try to include Biblical stories, cover heresy or any other subject, those theological musings on " Persecution as a central theme in Christianity" and " Martyrdom" ought to go also. Here is a Christian website which covers the subject neutrally in my opinion, up to the section "Two Christian responses", I do not want to copy it but it shows the areas this article ought to cover in my opinion. [8] I have left other comments earlier on this page on how I think this article should be improved.Smeat75 (talk) 19:20, 25 April 2013 (UTC)
  • Support. I think Persecution of Christians by the Romans is a better title and focus, and the Stephen stoning was not by Romans, of course. There is no question that the early church in Jerusalem and Antioch etc. was given a hard time by their fellow Jews, but that is a different story from what the Romans did. Saying "early church" does not telegram the idea in the title. And the year 361 does not fit the "early church" characterization but should certainly remain here. Even 281 is not really early church. My only caution would be not to give too much attention to Candida Moss' ideas until they have received enough comments by other scholars in the next 3-5 years. But overall, the article needs help, and Smeat knows the topic better than others around, so do it... History2007 (talk) 03:19, 18 May 2013 (UTC)
  • Oppose. Comment. Who are "the Romans"? After the Constitutio Antoniniana, all free inhabitants of the Empire were Roman citizens, including Christians. Brent, for instance, argues in Cyprian and Roman Carthage[9] (a book I recommend highly) that universal citizenship was one of the conditions that led to the Decian persecution. Universal citizenship required that all citizens participate in a novel universal supplicatio (a rather incomplete article) that forced Christians to take a stand. I have no expectation of persuading on this point, but I think there should be one overview article called Religion persecution in the Roman Empire, organized chronologically and covering the period outlined at Roman Empire, with summary sections on the specific persecutions or aspects of the topic. Dividing the topic into "persecuting Christians" and "Christians persecuting everybody else" will always result in decontextualization and POV forks. Cynwolfe (talk) 13:33, 18 May 2013 (UTC)
You are technically correct. Colloquially speaking, Romans here really means "Romans with muscle", the likes of Nero and the other gentlemen there who would kill people before lunch. My feeling is that the reader will understand "Roman" as "Roman authorities" , else can be clarified in the title. History2007 (talk) 16:02, 18 May 2013 (UTC)
(edit conflict) History2007 and Smeat75 both know how difficult I can be on these points, so apologies in advance for my bullheadedness, as I respect both of you very much as editors. It isn't a technicality. It lies at the heart of the persecution narrative that there was a dichotomy of us vs. them, which in fact does not exist as such pervasively even (or one might say especially) for the Church Fathers, who are often at pains, even while debunking everybody else's religions, to show that they too can be good citizens and are an integral part of Imperial society. Tertullian, for instance, one of the fiercest polemicists, actually praises the pax Romana and its benefits for the spread of Christianity, if somewhat backhandedly, and insists that Christians are part of the social fabric, participating in commerce, going to the baths, and the like, while refraining only from those aspects of social life that jeopardize their religious beliefs (hence no ludi). The much-vexed phrase religio licita in regard to Judaism was formulated by Tertullian precisely to argue that all Christians wanted was to be both good Romans and good Christians. (At the same time, of course, it's true that the dualistic minds of Christians created the Christian-pagan dichotomy, but actual Roman society did not operate on those terms until Christian hegemony.) The major and best-documented persecutions that issued from the central government occur after the extension of universal citizenship. The persecution of the early "church" would not be about what happened to individuals, but would be be about formal measures taken against the Church as an organized entity that under Roman law was regarded as a sodalitas or collegiumall of which were regulated to limit the power of private associations, and had been since the Twelve Tables. (For how these typically worked, see College of Aesculapius and Hygia; there is an extensive scholarly literature on how the Romans strove to understand and deal with the early Church in terms of these associations, since the political model of working with Jewish authorities and "Jerusalem" as at least a notional capital had no Christian counterpart.) I guess what I'm saying is that the current title is correct, if we want to include ad hoc acts of retaliatory violence like Nero's, anti-Christian outbreaks under local government as at Lugdunum in 177 (which no serious scholar thinks was ordered by Marcus Aurelius), and empire-wide persecutions like the Decian and Diocletianic enacted by the central government. Keep in mind that St. Paul was a Roman citizen. It seems better to keep the title "in the Roman Empire" as a geopolitical entity, and not ascribe agency vaguely to "the Romans". Cynwolfe (talk) 17:39, 18 May 2013 (UTC)
I think your have a valid point about the need for an article on "general/across the board" religious persecution by Roman authorities. In fact I just realized I know nothing about that. Beyond Jews and Christians who else was persecuted and how? So that is needed. Yet the persecuted Christians as a group are notable enough to get this article and it should get 2 paragraphs and a Main link in the broader article. History2007 (talk) 17:26, 18 May 2013 (UTC)
Druidism and Manichaeism come to mind (though I'm not alone in thinking that the suppression of druidism was about political control, since the Sanctuary of the Three Gauls was specifically designed to perpetuate Celtic religion in a form acceptable to the Roman authorities). Also, the Roman Empire was under Christian rule when it "fell", and the Christians not only suppressed everybody else's religion, but their own heretics, and banned Jews from holding political office (which was not the case under Roman rule, since there are laws specifically exempting local officials who are Jewish from performing their duties on the Sabbath). So to me the overarching narrative is how the central government used religion to control and create unity in the Empire, regardless of who was in charge. Cynwolfe (talk) 17:39, 18 May 2013 (UTC)
Regarding the above, you have not been difficult in my experience, but have thought of you as a pretty nice person in fact. And I will not get to see the difficult side of you, for I am signing off next week. So I will leave it there. You two take care. History2007 (talk) 18:20, 18 May 2013 (UTC)

Removed reference to stoning of Stephen from first sentence of lead[edit]

The first sentence of the lead stated "Persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire began with the stoning of the deacon Stephen and continued intermittently over a period of about three centuries" etc. I have omitted the reference to the stoning of Stephen so it now says "Persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire occurred intermittently over a period of about three centuries" etc. The story of the stoning of Stephen comes from the Biblical book "Acts of the Apostles", which contains many stories of miraculous events and highly dubious historicity, Stephen's existence and his execution cannot be confirmed outside the pages of the New Testament so that story does not belong in an article about events that can be confirmed as historical. The article has considerably improved since I put the tag on it months ago, so I have also removed the tag.Smeat75 (talk) 21:56, 15 March 2014 (UTC)

Thanks Smeat. I actually have a different objection to that sentence since, dubious or not, Stephen was not stoned by the Romans. He was stoned by the enraged members of the Jewish Council (per Acts 6 & 7). Ckruschke (talk) 19:16, 18 March 2014 (UTC)Ckruschke

Categories[edit]

Some editors certainly seem to enjoy fussing around with the "categories" articles are placed in, I never pay much attention to that, very possibly I do not understand the way the system is supposed to work. User Marcocapelle deleted the category "Christianity under the Roman Empire" from this article with the edit summary "remove redundant category", leaving the article in one category only "Persecution of early Christians". Why? The article certainly is about Christianity under the Roman Empire, if the article is only allowed to be in one category I think it should be that one rather than "Persecution of early Christians". I see lots of articles in multiple categories, I don't understand why this article is apparently only allowed to be in one. Could someone please explain, I would appreciate it. Also I have restored the category "Christianity under the Roman Empire".Smeat75 (talk) 12:51, 25 May 2014 (UTC)