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Old 02-09-2001, 04:21 PM   #71
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PB, I noticed that you forgot to cut and paste this portion of my post:

"I believe that certain tools of historical inquiry can lead us to varying degrees of confidence as to Jesus' teachings, the teachings of his apostles, and the early spread of Christianity. I am not alone in this, nor is this some funy position. E.P. Sanders, Raymond E. Brown, John P. Meier, Graham Stanton, Ben Witherington, and N.T. Wright all happen to agree with this point, if not with all of the specifics.

Have you read anything by these authors? Or by any other respected New Testament scholar?"

It would help me if you could answer these two questions. I would have a better understanding of where you are coming from and how seriously to take your skepticism about historical inquiry of the Bible.
 
Old 02-09-2001, 04:46 PM   #72
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Why is it necessesary to read "Another persons ideas on another persons writings about another persons life"?

Also, I noticed that rather than admit you are wrong, you once again changed the subject.

I have read "Biblical Scholars". Josh McDowel for one, Hal Lindsey, and quite a few others. I came to one inexscapeable conclusion: If you believe in something enough, you will be able to justify it. Furthermore, I don't think that another persons belief can be used as a justification of your own.
 
Old 02-09-2001, 04:57 PM   #73
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By prefacing my last post with the initials "PB," I was directing that last post at him, not you.

Nevertheless, I disagree with your assesment of what constitutes a "biblical scholar." Josh McDowell is an apologist, not a N.T. scholar. Hal Lindsay is perhaps best described as a bible commentator, not a N.T. sholar.

 
Old 02-09-2001, 06:18 PM   #74
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The best estimate by ancient demographers seems to be that by AD 300, 10% of the empire (6 million) was Christian (Rodney Stark, The Rise of Christianity) (But hey, 10% can be quite visible--Jews and homosexuals in the US for instance).

Also, it is not known just how many Christians there were in the first century. If we assume that there was a constant growth rate from AD 33 to 300 AD, it is quite possible that by 100 AD, Christians were only about 7,500 in number, and by AD 200, only 210,000 (Keith Hopkins, Christian Number and Its Implications).

Christians were also very visible because of what the Romans, and Roman society thought of as anti-social, backwards and radical religious practices. But the it does not seem as though the Romans actively persecuted Christians as state policy until the third century.



[This message has been edited by Le pede (edited February 09, 2001).]
 
Old 02-09-2001, 06:56 PM   #75
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"The best estimate by ancient demographers seems to be that by AD 300, 10% of the empire (6 million) was Christian (Rodney Stark, The Rise of Christianity) (But hey, 10% can be quite visible--Jews and homosexuals in the US for instance."

Even if "only" ten percent, and I have seen higher estimates, then the growth and durability of early Christianity is amazing. And why do you count as irrelelvant any Christian growth after Constantine?

Not only have you not demonstrated why such growth would be irrelevant, but you have overlooked the early growth of Christianity outside the Roman Empire, such as the growth of Armenian, Celtic, and Germanic churches.

And you are wrong about both homosexuals and Jews. Both constitute from 2-3% of the United States population.

"Also, it is not known just how many Christians there were in the first century. If we assume that there was a constant growth rate from AD 33 to 300 AD, it is quite possible that by 100 AD, Christians were only about 7,500 in number, and by AD 200, only 210,000 (Keith Hopkins, Christian Number and Its Implications)."

I am very skeptical of these numbers, but would be willing to hear the explanation. The Jerusalem Church itself probably had a few thousand members in the first century. And as the correspondence among Roman officials I cite below and the accounts of the Neroinan persuection demonstrate, your numbers are extremely low.

"Christians were also very visible because of what the Romans, and Roman society thought of as anti-social, backwards and radical religious practices. But the it does not seem as though the Romans actively persecuted Christians as state policy until the third century."

Yes, Christians were very visible. But your statement that there was no "state policy" of persecution of Christians until the third century is like saying that blacks weren't persecuted in the United States as a matter of federal policy in the South following the civil war. The states did oppress blacks. And officials in the city of Rome and other provinces in the empire did persecute Christians.

Additionally, there was Jewish persucution of Christians. A fact demonstrated by Paul's own admission and Josephus' recording of the death of James, the leader of the Jerusalem church, at the instigitation of the High Priest.

But, there is even more evidence of both the numbers and the perseuction of Christians from Roman sources. The correspondence between Pliny the Younger, governor in Bithynia, and Emperor Trajan, as well as the writings of Cornelius Tacitus, governor of Asia.

Whatever the Empire wide policy might have been, provincial governors were certainly carrying out persucution of Christians before the third century, and their correspondence indicates a much larger problem than would be created by 7,500 Christians.

Pliny in a letter to Emperor Trajan (112 CE): "Having never been present at any trials of the Christians, I am unacquanted with the method and limits to be observed either in examining or punishing them.... In the meantime, the method I have observed towards those who have been denounced as Christians is this: I interrogated them whether they were in fact Christians; if they confessed it, I repeated the question twice, adding the threat of CAPITAL PUNISHMENT....

I therefore adjourned the proceeding, and betweek myself at once to your counsel. For the matter seemed to me to well worth referring to you--especially consdiering the NUMBERS endangered. Persons of all ranks and ages, and of both sexes are, and will be, infolved in the prosecution. For this contagious supersition is not confined to the cities only, but has spread through the villages and rural districts.... From hence it is easy to image WHAT MULTITUDES may be reclaimed from this error...."

Emperor Trajan's response: "You have acted with perfect correctness in deciding these cases of those who have been charged before you with being Christians. Indeed, no general decision can be made by which a set form of dealing with them coudl be established. They must not be ferreted out; if they are chargd and convicted, they MUST BE PUNISHED, provided that anyone who denies that the is a Christian gives practical proof of that by invoking our gods..."

You also conveniently ignore the persecution of Christians by Nero in Rome (62 CE). Again, while not "empire wide" it certainly constituted persecution. And, of quite a large number of Christians. Cornelius Tacitus (112 CE) describes some of what occurred:

"First, then, the confessed members of the sect were arrested; next, on their disclosures, VAST NUMBERS were convicted, not so much on the count of arson as for hatred of the human race. And derision accompanied their end: they were covered with wild beasts skins and torn to death by dogs; or they were fastened on crosses, and when daylight failed were burned to serve as lamps by night."

Finally, you also ignore the evidence of early persecution testified to by Ignatius, himself a victim of Roman persecution. He wrote seven letters, one to his fellow bishop Polycarp (who himself was executed by the Romans), and six to six churches that had ministered him as he was taken to Rome to be executed.

Ignatius (116/17): "And why then have I delivered myself over to death, unto fire, unto sword, unto wild beats? But near to the sword, near to God; in company with wild beasts, in company with God."

Given the Jewish persecution of early Christians, Nero's persuection of "vast numbers" of Christians in Rome (62 CE), the evidence of persecution at the provincial level of "multitudes", the Emperor's approval of said perecutions, and the letters and martyrdom of Ignatius, there are strong reasons to doubt your number of 7500 Christians by 100 CE, and even more reason to dismiss your implication that there was no persecution of Christians until the third century.

Have a nice weekend.


[This message has been edited by Layman (edited February 09, 2001).]
 
Old 02-09-2001, 07:10 PM   #76
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"I don't think that another persons belief can be used as a justification of your own."

I am not talking about another person's "belief." I am talking about the informed opinions of leaders in the field of New Testament studies. People who read Greek like it's their native language, people who have immersed themselves in first century history, people who are recognized as experts in their field.

You really think there is no benefit to reading such people?

Really?

Really, really?
 
Old 02-09-2001, 07:53 PM   #77
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Much can be learned from unbiased experts. Are you claiming that these people are unbiased? I have plenty to learn from non-fanatic experts, who use science rather that superstition to come up with conclusions.
Really.
 
Old 02-09-2001, 08:43 PM   #78
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Well the whole point of my post was to show that, while Christianity's spread was significant, I felt that your original post about the spread of Christianity exaggerated the situation. The Christian movement may have been widespread (with communities found in different areas), your statement that it "spread like wildfire" implies that it was this mass wave of converts. Your comments about Christianity's spread need to be put in context.

And what of churches in other provinces? Were they pre-Constantine and were they large communities? I personally don't know about Celtic Christian communities or ones in Dacia (Germany), so I would be interested to hear a little about that.

Also, the correspondence between Pliny and Trajan that you have cited only shows the instigation of Christian communities in Asia Minor--where there was a high level of Christian concentration. It does not show anything about the numbers of Christians in general, only that Pliny was having a problem with them. Trajan, as you will notice, does not make a big deal about Christians and tells Pliny to just deal with the people who have been accused and don't "ferret them out..." Clearly Rome wasn't too threatened by Christianity's presence.

Also, "multitudes" is not a very precise term. What does that mean? Hundreds? Dozens? In Bithynia that isn't hard to imagine. And just because the Chinese government doesn't like Falun Gong and persecutes them, doesn't mean that there is a huge number of them. Isloated incidents of persecution in the empire does not show that their numbers were large in relation to the population of the Empire.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">and even more reason to dismiss your implication that there was no persecution of Christians until the third century.
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This isn't even a fair representation of my statements. I did not say that there was no persecution of Christians, I said that there was no empire-wide persecution until later. And in fact, there is really no evidence to warrant the conclusion that there was widespread local persecution. Widespread state persecution in the Southern US made the history books big time. There are a few isolated incidents of persecution of Christians in the historical records. All of this indicates that Romans did not really see them as a threat until the third century. Of course, there were persecutions and the threat of persecution on account of one's Christianity was very real. The Romans, like I said, saw Christians as an immoral superstition.



[This message has been edited by Le pede (edited February 09, 2001).]
 
Old 02-09-2001, 10:02 PM   #79
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Christianity was popular (in the beginning) for the same reason as Eminem or Marilyn Manson- people were rebelling against their parents and other authority figures. What did Jesus say? He said "They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law."

When authority figures embraced it because of its growing popularity, they mutated Christianity into the status quo and used the original rebellion as a means to control the populace. Christianity will only remain popular among youth as long as it is a symbol of rebellion- that is why all children do not embrace it, and those that do are rebelling against their fellow children (persecuted joyfully- for they rebel with the spirit of youth!). Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." When Jesus said this, he was speaking to the parents of the children, for the rebellion of these children was the spirit of youth and that is the gift of life that should not be molded by those who had lived before and wish for everything to remain the same.

The man (Jesus) knew what he was talking about, unfortunately those who call him God (which he is NOT) warp his teachings into some kind of Static Unchanging Vision that has no life. These are the Dead that Jesus referred to. Look at the vitality of our culture- it is driven by youth - their art and their desire.

I wonder if the Christians today would Martyr Eminem if given the chance? Or are they intelligent enough to see the pattern?

L8r.
 
Old 02-09-2001, 10:14 PM   #80
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Well Kharkov, I don't know about your assertion that Christianity was a "youthful" endeavor. There is no clear evidence about the amount of young Christians. But obviously, Christianity was a kind of ideological rebellion against Roman society. It was so radical and so outside the mainstream, perhaps its rebellious element did attract people. I don't think people really appreciate how radical the Romans saw Christians.
 
 

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