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worshippers prompting them to insult and outrage the gods of other people. In times more rude and ancient, when all peoples were naturally enemies, each people's gods were hateful to the rest. This conception of general divine hostility passed away with the amelioration of men's thoughts as to men of other race. At the time of the Roman Empire, the gods were in a state of amity; and as the votaries of none of them had risen to a monotheistic worship, there was no reason against general recognition of the rest. There was no conception in the pagan world of one true religion, and the rest false. But Jehovah was the only true and living God, and he was a jealous God. Recognition of any other godidolatry-was to the Jew the sin of sins. And as against Antiochus Epiphanes the Jews proved their readiness to die rather than commit this sin, so they would have risen in revolt, had Caligula set up his statue in their temple.
So the Jews maintained their rigid monotheism and hatred of idolatry, and held from social intercourse with pagans. The pagan world so far failed to comprehend their monotheism that it called them "atheists." seeing that whatever was holy to all men, or to any man, was an abomination to the Jews, it repaid scorn with contempt, and most reasonably hated those whom it regarded as possessed with hatred of mankind.' Christianity, repudiated by the race in which it had its birth, and itself casting off from Judaism because it was a Gospel for mankind, might not, to the world's eyes, so doff its parentage. It confronted the world dowered with the world's contempt.
This dowry would soon bear fruit a hundred fold. For many reasons Christianity roused more active hate than
1 See the scorn and hate of Tacitus' famous passage, Hist., v, 2–5.
* As between Jews and Christians, Roman feeling would be rather on the side of the former, as the state against which the Christians had rebelled. See Celsus in Origen, Con. Cel., iii, 57.
had been accorded to the Jews. The ancient world had a strong sense of racehood, and respected the ties and inheritances of birth. Nothing seemed more natural and fitting than that men should observe the customs of their ancestors. Herein lay a defence and justification of the Jews. They were a people and an ancient one; the Græco-Roman world, while it detested, had learned to tolerate their ways. But the Christians could not excuse their lives by pleading observance of ancestral custom; neither were they a race, but made up from the sinners of all lands. Hence they were without excuse in the eyes of pagan peoples, because of the same facts which were to render them illicit in the eye of the law.
The Jews had never been entirely disloyal to the commands and nature of their God; they recognized Jehovah as the God of all mankind. There was always a proselyting spirit in Judaism; but for many reasons, in fact because Judaism was Judaism, and Christianity, Christianity, the Jews had won scattered proselytes where the Christians were drawing masses to their faith. Hence Jewish proselyting was never regarded with real apprehension, while Christianity appeared infectious madness, spreading like the plague.
Christian life and worship aroused suspicion. Christians. seemed always to be meeting secretly by night. There has never been an age or land in which secret meetings have not been suspected by people as Meetings. well as government. The Christians said they met in "love-feasts," and to worship. Of love-feasts paganism had its own ideas-it knew the rites of Venus and Astarte; and since there were no visible objects of worship, such as those in pagan cults, the pagan imagination supplied rites disgraceful, bloody, and obscene."
1 The only point at which Tacitus can sympathize with the Jews is just this fact, that their abominable customs were inherited from their ancestors. * See Minucius Felix's Octavius, 9; Celsus in Origen, Contra Cel., i, 7.
The Christian would take no part in public worship, festivals, and games, which constituted the greater part of pagan social life. Thus he seemed to show himself hostile to the institutions of society. And since temple worship and public festivals were for the honor of the gods, and rendered them propitious, men who held aloof were atheists,' insulters of the gods; their actions would bring ill-luck and divine vengeance on mankind. Such men were enemies of the human race.' Christianity opposed the worship of the Gods, was emptying their temples.' It was only too natural that pagan hatred and religious fear should lay public calamities at Christian doors. One need not doubt the literal truth of Tertullian's words: "If Tiber overflows the walls, if Nilus does not reach the fields, if there is drought, earthquake, famine, plague,at once the cry, Christianos ad leonem!
Thus the causes of pagan popular hatred of Christianity coextend with pagan thought and life, ranging from the deeper religious and ethical ideas which
Christianity countered, through every phase Attitude of of pagan life and pagan prejudice, and finding the Roman their climax in the rage of superstitious fear. ment; It were fallacious to see in any one circum- Christianstance, and not in all of pagan life, the cause ity Illegal. of the popular opposition to Christianity. This opposition was as broad as that between the world and Christ; correspondingly broad were the reasons for the
1 The term a0ɛor was regularly applied to Christians and Jews. By it, is not to be understood a person who believes there is no God. This is a far more inner conception than would have come to the pagan mind. Pagan religion was not a matter of the spirit, but of outward observance; Jews and Christians were atheists because they took no part in public recognition of the gods.
2 Tacitus' famous passage, Ann., xv, 44, condenses in a few lines these various moods of pagan hatred, fear, and contempt.
3 Probe iam desolata templa.-Pliny, Ad Trajanum, Ep., 96.
4 Tertullian, Apol., 40.
attitude and action of the Roman government. One may best approach this matter from the legal side.' In the first place, there was never, either under the Republic or the Empire, any legal principle of toleration whereby foreign religions could claim recognition from the state. Such principle could no more have existed than could a principle giving legal recognition within Roman limits to the duty of allegiance to a foreign government.' Consequently, until expressly permitted by the emperors, the Christian religion had no legal right to exist; it was illicit, and from this point of view, the law might properly say to the Christians, Non licet esse vos. Moreover, there seem always to have been recognized principles of law and polity whereby foreign and illicit religions might be suppressed. These principles, however, were exercised only when there was special reason for suppressing a cult. In fine, though toleration was not a legally recognized principle, intolerance was but occasional.'
Christianity was thus defenceless before the law. There were a number of modes in which the government might proceed against it. It might prosecute the Christians for those crimes which popular preagainst It. judice held them guilty of; this appears to have been the way of the persecution under Nero. But such mode was not a proceeding taken against them formally on the ground of their religion. Christians might also be proceeded against as guilty of majestas-the Roman drag-net crime of treason. Under the bad emperors, he walked warily who kept his feet therefrom. Christian majestas lay in contumacious denial
1 The writer is here indebted to Ramsay's Church in the Roman Empire and Mommsen's article in the Historische Zeitschrift, vol. lxiv, 1890, pp. 389-429, Der Religions-frevel nach Römischen Recht.
The Jewish religion was expressly recognized as legal for Jews; but it was forbidden for others, especially for Roman citizens. See Mommsen, ib., p. 407.
3 Tertullian, Apol., iv.
E. g., suppression of the Bacchanalia, B.C. 86.
of the gods of the Roman people (dii populi Romani), more especially in the refusal of due religious honors to the emperor.' Christians might clear themselves of crimes vulgarly imputed to them, but the crime of majestas they could not refute without denial of the name they bore. Nevertheless, this mode of procedure against the Christians was unusual, at least until the persecutions of the latter half of the third century.'
Ordinarily, magistrates took action against the Christians, not under forms of legal procedure with reference to some definite and formal law, but by virtue of their imperium, the regular administrative and police authority pertaining to their office. This power was preventive or repressive rather than punitive; not a power whereby definite punishments were awarded for accomplished crimes; but a wide discretion to use compulsory measures to preserve order and uphold the laws. To this end, magistrates might banish or execute lawless persons. Thus, without express authority, provincial governors might suppress immoral or riotous religious rites and illegal assemblies. But such action was not necessarily connected with the religious policy of the Empire. As to this, while liberty was generally permitted in the adoption of deities and modes of worship, it was clear Roman law and polity to maintain the worship of the Roman gods, and compel all men, but especially Roman citizens, to participate in the imperial religion, including the divine honors paid to emperors. Moreover, there was inherited from the Republic the principle that Roman citizens should worship only gods recognized by the state. Under the Empire, this was not enforced where there was no failure to conform to the state religion. But at all events, it was the plain duty of governors and other magistrates, and within the authority of
1 See Mommsen, ib., p. 396, referring to Tertullian's Apology, xxiv, xxviii. ' Here the Jews would have been protected by their special exemptions. 'Mommsen, ib., p. 397.