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Thread: The Myth of the Neronian Persecution

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    tWebber Secular Liberation's Avatar
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    The Myth of the Neronian Persecution

    Very interesting group of articles that shows how Christians hijacked their own history.

    A conventional certainty is that the first state-driven persecution of Christians happened in the reign of Nero and that it involved the deaths of Peter and Paul, and the mass execution of Christians in the aftermath of the great fire of July 64 c.e. The argument here contests all of these facts, especially the general execution personally ordered by Nero. The only source for this event is a brief passage in the historian Tacitus. Although the passage is probably genuine Tacitus, it reflects ideas and connections prevalent at the time the historian was writing and not the realities of the 60s.
    http://journals.cambridge.org/action...ne&aid=9995690

    http://www.politicususa.com/2012/07/...ians-part.html
    "Look at what happened after the European peoples succeeded in removing the clergy from public life and restricting them to their churches. They built up human being promoted enlightenment, creativity and rebellion. States which are based on religion confine their people in the circle of faith and fear."-Raif Badawi

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    tWebber Secular Liberation's Avatar
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    Here's another example of Early Christian mythology from Adversus Apologetica

    https://adversusapologetica.wordpres...the-christian/
    "Look at what happened after the European peoples succeeded in removing the clergy from public life and restricting them to their churches. They built up human being promoted enlightenment, creativity and rebellion. States which are based on religion confine their people in the circle of faith and fear."-Raif Badawi

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    Must...have...caffeine One Bad Pig's Avatar
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    Let's see: We have a scholarly article behind a paywall which admittedly is going against a near-unanimous consensus, an article on a politics blog, and another blogger who cites Richard Carrier(!) in support of his position.

    For the sarcastically impaired the following is said in jest

    Looks legit.

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    tWebber Secular Liberation's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by One Bad Pig View Post
    Let's see: We have a scholarly article behind a paywall which admittedly is going against a near-unanimous consensus, an article on a politics blog, and another blogger who cites Richard Carrier(!) in support of his position.

    For the sarcastically impaired the following is said in jest

    Looks legit.

    So I take it you are just going to ignore the mound of evidence presented in these articles? The first article was from the Cambridge University Journal of Roman Studies. How does that make it unreliable? The second may be on a politics blog but unless you didn't read it has thirty-for scholarly citations. Your third objection also ignores the amount of evidence provided? Something tells me you're not interested in the facts and only wish to make excuses.
    "Look at what happened after the European peoples succeeded in removing the clergy from public life and restricting them to their churches. They built up human being promoted enlightenment, creativity and rebellion. States which are based on religion confine their people in the circle of faith and fear."-Raif Badawi

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    tWebber Faber's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Secular Liberation View Post
    The first article was from the Cambridge University Journal of Roman Studies. How does that make it unreliable?
    The fact that Candida Moss wrote it.

    Granted, the persecutions that took place during the empire before Constantine were not continuous. Granted, the persecutions under Nero, Domitian and Trajan were short-lived and regional. Granted, Diocletian was only a weak-willed emperor who caved into the demands of Gaius Galerius Valerius Maximianus. I will even admit to a total lack of confidence in John Foxe's Actes and Monuments Fourth Edition ("Book of Martyrs").

    But Moss tries to make a distinction between persecution and prosecution. Yeah, try telling that to Sweek Cakes by Melissa or Lance Corporal Monifa Sterling. The fact is, refusing to acknowledge emperor worship was a crime.

    In AD 250, the emperor Decius declared that all Roman citizens must not only sacrifice to Roman gods and to him via the imperial cult, but also observe pagan rituals. Some Christians forsook their faith and made pledges to the local commissioners of sacrifices that it had always been their habit to make sacrifices and taste of the libations, and to pay reverence to the gods in accordance with their commands, that they had offered sacrifices and eaten of the offerings to the gods, and were granted libelli, or certificates of sacrifice.

    6 surviving copies of papyrus libelli bear similar text as if standardized, suggesting they were taken from the text of the now lost edict. These were found in various locations in Egypt and are date from June to July, AD 250, suggesting a second, more intense stage in the persecution of Christians in the empire. Each person was expected to carry a libellus with his name on it, confirming that he had sacrificed and tasted of the libation, as a proof of good citizenship in order to participate in commerce.

    An edict was passed by Diocletian in AD 303 demanding torture for those who refused to sacrifice to the gods. In the spring of AD 304 a harsher edict was passed, requiring forced labor in mines, or even death.

    Lucius Caecilius Firmianus Lactantius (Lactantius; c. AD 250 – c. 325); De Mortibus Persecutorum (On the Deaths of the Persecutors) and Eusebius Pamphili, Historia Ecclesiastica (History of the Church) and De Martyribus Palestinae (On the Palestinian Martyrs) are contemporary historians who give detailed accounts of the atricoties that took place under the pretense of "prosecutions".

    Quote Originally Posted by Secular Liberation View Post
    The second may be on a politics blog but unless you didn't read it has thirty-for scholarly citations.

    It's not enough to admit that the second citation is on a politics blog. Come out with the full truth. It's on a LEFTIST politics blog! Look at the heading on the website: "Real Liberal Politics", "Proof of the GOP War on Women". And Haraldsson has the unmitigated gall to blast early Christians as "unqualified witnesses!" He suspects Suetonius and Tacitus, who wrote decades after the fire of Rome of "salacious romormongering." And here he is writing nearly two millennia later doing the same thing. He states that Suetonius was hostile toward Nero, so they accused him of being responsible for the fire that destroyed much of Rome.

    Granted, Tacitus had his doubts, as Haraldsson states. Yet Tacitus acknowledged the existence of others beside Suetonius who blamed Nero for the fire: "A disaster followed, whether accidental or treacherously contrived by the emperor, is uncertain, as authors have given both accounts" (Tacitus, Annales, xv.38)

    Haraldsson states, "Indeed, no source places either of them [Paul or Peter] in Rome at the time of the fire." I don't know about Peter. But Paul, probably. Acts 28:30-31 places him in Rome as late as AD 62. Whether or not Paul was releaseed and arrested again is subject to debate, but his last epistles to the Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians have him in prison expecting to be released, and his second epistle to Timothy has him in prison and about to be executed. Why dies he even question whether or not Paul even reached Rome?

    Sulpicius Severus wrote three centuries later, so he can't be called on as an independent witness. But because Origen and Irenaeus, who weren't there either, make no reference to a persecution of Christians, they can be relied on as independent witnesses?

    Quote Originally Posted by Secular Liberation View Post
    Something tells me you're not interested in the facts and only wish to make excuses.
    I think that statement well describes Moss and Haraldsson. They belong in the category with holocaust deniers and 9/11 truthers.
    Last edited by Faber; 04-16-2016 at 06:47 PM.

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    tWebber
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    I wouldn't call Moss that much of a wacko. Yes, she has some ideas with which I strongly disagree, but she's not arguing fringe lunatic things like "Jesus never existed."

    Anyway, Larry Hurtado has engaged the article. I read it (the article) myself and found it pretty unconvincing.

    https://larryhurtado.wordpress.com/2...he-christians/

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    tWebber Secular Liberation's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Faber View Post
    The fact that Candida Moss wrote it.

    That is a lie, the first study was written by Brent D. Shaw, a professor of classics. Shaw and Haraldsson never said persecution didn't happen, only that the Neronian persecution was based on hearsay. Haraldsson cites three people agreeing with this notion that you wish to ignore.
    "Look at what happened after the European peoples succeeded in removing the clergy from public life and restricting them to their churches. They built up human being promoted enlightenment, creativity and rebellion. States which are based on religion confine their people in the circle of faith and fear."-Raif Badawi

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    tWebber Secular Liberation's Avatar
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    This thread has gone exactly the way I expected it to go on this website. The apologist ignores the evidence provided, change the subject by countering an argument I never made, or just simply lie like Faber and insult the opposition with red herrings.
    "Look at what happened after the European peoples succeeded in removing the clergy from public life and restricting them to their churches. They built up human being promoted enlightenment, creativity and rebellion. States which are based on religion confine their people in the circle of faith and fear."-Raif Badawi

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    tWebber Faber's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Secular Liberation View Post
    That is a lie, the first study was written by Brent D. Shaw, a professor of classics. Shaw and Haraldsson never said persecution didn't happen, only that the Neronian persecution was based on hearsay. Haraldsson cites three people agreeing with this notion that you wish to ignore.
    You are correct, and I apologize for my mistake. Ross wrote a book, The Myth of Persecution, in 2013. I got them mixed up.

    Your basic argument is that Christians hijacked their own history. Your support is articles claiming that the persecution under Nero was not due to the fire, and not as severe as Christians claimed. Granted, Tacitus hesitates to blame Nero for the fire.

    Haraldsson cites three people agreeing with this notion that you wish to ignore.

    Who? I clicked onto the link to get part one of his essay, but all that did was take me to more leftist nonsense from PolicicusUSA. In part two, however, he mentions Michael Grant,

    In the end we will never know, and as Michael Grant points out in reference to Tacitus, “But systematic, careful references are a modern invention. Ancient historians only specified their sources in a fragmentary and unsystematic fashion.” (citing Grant's The Annals of Imperial Rome".)

    Actually, if you read the paragraphs before that, you will see that Grant is criticising Tacitus's negative handling of Tiberius Caesar. Grant adds,

    "After Tiberius, his accounts of Claudius and Nero, viewed as character studies, can afford to be more straightforward."

    In The Jews in the Roman World (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons; 1973. P. 179), Grant writes about the community of Christians:

    Now, in 64, this community incurred savage treatment from Nero. For Rome was partially wrecked by a terrible fire; and when the homeless refugees began to believe rumours (no doubt untruthful) that the emperor himself had deliberately started the conflagration owing to his passion to reconstruct the city, the government chose to blame the Christians as the incendiarists. Our account comes from the historian Tacitus, writing half a century later and relying on sources whose authenticity we cannot assess...."

    He then quotes the passage from Tacitus, then adds:

    First, Nero had self-confessed Christians arrested. Then, upon their information, large numbers of others were condemned -- not so much for incendiarism as for their anti-social tendencies. How many were executed we cannot tell; if we could, we should be better able to assess the numerical results which had been obtained by Paul's mission. But those who died suffered in horrible fashion. The historian records the view -- seemingly attributed to popular opinion rather than to himself -- that, although Nero behaved with excessive cruelty, 'their guilt as Christians deserved ruthless punishment.' Suetonius, too, in referring to their repression by Nero, describes their beliefs as 'a new and mischievous superstition.'"
    Grant, like Tacitus, hesitates to accept that Nero was responsible for the fire. But he certainly agrees with Tacitus and Suetonius about the harsh treatment of the Roman Christians under Nero.
    Last edited by Faber; 04-17-2016 at 02:39 AM.

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    tWebber Secular Liberation's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Faber View Post
    Granted, the persecutions that took place during the empire before Constantine were not continuous. Granted, the persecutions under Nero, Domitian and Trajan were short-lived and regional. Granted, Diocletian was only a weak-willed emperor who caved into the demands of Gaius Galerius Valerius Maximianus. I will even admit to a total lack of confidence in John Foxe's Actes and Monuments Fourth Edition ("Book of Martyrs").
    Where did I argue that there weren't persecutions under Diocletian and Trajan? Nowhere, in fact


    Quote Originally Posted by Faber View Post
    It's not enough to admit that the second citation is on a politics blog. Come out with the full truth. It's on a LEFTIST politics blog! Look at the heading on the website: "Real Liberal Politics", "Proof of the GOP War on Women".
    So this discredits the sources he cited, how? Should every Christian apologist on this website be discredited based their conservative leanings?

    Quote Originally Posted by Faber View Post
    And Haraldsson has the unmitigated gall to blast early Christians as "unqualified witnesses!" He suspects Suetonius and Tacitus, who wrote decades after the fire of Rome of "salacious romormongering." And here he is writing nearly two millennia later doing the same thing. He states that Suetonius was hostile toward Nero, so they accused him of being responsible for the fire that destroyed much of Rome.
    Exactly, Nero may have been crazy in many ways but how would he have caused the fire if he wasn't even in Rome? Christians didn't even call themselves Christians until after the Jewish Wars.

    Quote Originally Posted by Faber View Post
    I think that statement well describes Moss and Haraldsson. They belong in the category with holocaust deniers and 9/11 truthers.
    Brilliant, you're comparing people who deny the slaughter of millions compared to about 3,000 at most who were killed by the Roman state?
    Last edited by Secular Liberation; 04-17-2016 at 02:59 AM.
    "Look at what happened after the European peoples succeeded in removing the clergy from public life and restricting them to their churches. They built up human being promoted enlightenment, creativity and rebellion. States which are based on religion confine their people in the circle of faith and fear."-Raif Badawi

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