Early Christian Persecution Summary

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In G.E.M. de Ste. Croix’s “Why Were the Early Christians Persecuted?” the author pursued to investigate the question by asking a subset of questions, “‘For what reasons did ordinary pagans demand persecution?’, and secondly, ‘Why did the government persecute?’”1 The author’s thesis is not firmly explicit, for it is broken in a couple parts since he posed these two questions. The purpose of posing these two questions was to help reveal Ste. Croix’s belief on why the early Christian persecution occurred. Some primary sources he used derived from Tertullian, Tacitus, Justin, and Pliny. These primary sources provided significant events of martyrdom, and how Roman law was enforced. He also used sources from scholars such as A.N. Sherwin-White to…show more content…
E. M. De Ste. "Why Were The Early Christians Persecuted?" Past and Present, 1963, 09. 9 Nystrom, Bradley P., and David P. Nystrom. "Christianity in the Roman World." In The History of Christianity An Introduction, 58. New York: McGraw Hill, 2004. 10Croix, G. E. M. De Ste. "Why Were The Early Christians Persecuted?" Past and Present, 1963, 18. 4 Pliny’s victims. Sherwin-White accused Pliny’s victims of refusing to conform to pagan values by worshipping their gods. Ste. Croix counters that argument by saying that Pliny “imposed this act only upon those who denied that they were Christians, as a test of their sincerity.”11 The only way that Christians became free from Roman law was if they worshipped gods other than their own, whether that may have been emperors or pagan gods. The contradiction behind Sherwin-White’s theory was based on the fact that Trajan explicitly told Pliny not to seek out Christians. Ste. Croix’s third counterargument explains that the contumacia came into effect after trials occurred; meaning that Sherwin-White’s theory needed more evidence to whom this term was applied to. In his fourth counterargument he addressed…show more content…
6 became aroused on the motivation to persecute the early Christians, there was no stopping the provincial governor from doing so. As far as values are concerned, Ste. Croix implied that the government played the “it’s my way or the highway,” forcing Christians to choose life over death or the Divine against other gods. After reading and analyzing this article, there was a sense of discrimination among the Christians that still did not fully explain exactly why these crimes were imposed on them. Some early Christians were motivated to stay true to the faith by refusing to pay toward any pagan cult, but that was more of a result. The initial spark in this controversy was the Name itself. If the provincial governor had no knowledge as to exactly who was Christian, he would not proceed into persecution. With that being said, identification of being a Christian was really important in order for the government to accuse crimes upon them. Yes, the action of refusal did play a role in early Christian persecution; overall the idea was that Roman law were saying that it was okay for Christians to believe in their God, but it required Christians to follow their cult. This was found to be absurd among the Christian

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