The Gnostic Gospels by Pagels Elaine

The Gnostic Gospels by Pagels Elaine

Author:Pagels, Elaine [Pagels, Elaine]
Language: eng
Format: epub
ISBN: 9781588364173
Publisher: Random House, Inc.
Published: 2004-06-29T04:00:00+00:00


Tacitus interprets Nero’s action in terms of his need for a scapegoat. As yet, the government may have considered the Christians outside Rome—if it considered them at all—too insignificant to initiate systematic action against the movement. But since the time that Augustus ruled as emperor (27 B.C.–A.D. 14), the emperor and the Senate had moved to repress any social dissidents whom they thought potential troublemakers, as they did astrologers, magicians, followers of foreign religious cults, and philosophers.25 The Christian group bore all the marks of conspiracy. First, they identified themselves as followers of a man accused of magic26 and executed for that and for treason; second, they were “atheists,” who denounced as “demons” the gods who protected the fortunes of the Roman state—even the genius (divine spirit) of the emperor himself; third, they belonged to an illegal society. Besides these acts that police could verify, rumor indicated that their secrecy concealed atrocities: their enemies said that they ritually ate human flesh and drank human blood, practices of which magicians were commonly accused.27 Although at this time no law specifically prohibited conversion to Christianity, any magistrate who heard a person accused of Christianity was required to investigate.28 Uncertain about how to treat such cases, Pliny, the governor of Bythynia (a province in Asia Minor), wrote (c. 112) to Trajan, the emperor, requesting clarification:

It is my custom, Lord Emperor, to refer to you all questions whereof I am in doubt. Who can better guide me …? I have never participated in investigations of Christians; hence I do not know what is the crime usually punished or investigated, or what allowances are made … Meanwhile, this is the course I have taken with those who were accused before me as Christians. I asked them whether they were Christians, and I asked them a second and third time with threats of punishment. If they kept to it, I ordered them taken off for execution, for I had no doubt that whatever it was they admitted, in any case they deserve to be punished for obstinacy and unbending pertinacity … As for those who said they neither were nor ever had been Christians, I thought it right to let them go, when they recited a prayer to the gods at my dictation, and made supplication with incense and wine to your statue, which I had ordered to be brought into court for the purpose, and moreover, cursed Christ—things which (so it is said) those who are really Christians cannot be made to do.29



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