Religion in the Roman Empire

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Religion in the Roman Empire:

Religion in the Roman Empire Jesus is shown in this mosaic from the 400’s CE/AD as “the good shepherd,” tending his flock, watching over the faithful. 1

Roman Attitudes and Beliefs:

Roman Attitudes and Beliefs The Romans were polytheistic Believed in “numina” – invisible, shapeless forces Performed sacrifices & other rituals to their gods Offered small cakes and liquids in temples and at small altars in homes Tolerant/respectful of other religions – but highly suspicious of Judaism 2

Rome’s Jewish Problem:

Rome’s Jewish Problem Jews were monotheistic Refused to worship emperors Refused to fight in the Roman the army 3

What was the solution?:

What was the solution? From 66 to 73 AD/CE frequent Jewish revolts in Roman empire’s middle eastern regions In 70 CE the Romans responded by destroying the Jewish temple of Jerusalem – one of the wonders of the ancient world 4

Other solutions?:

Other solutions? The Maccabees at Masada were the last Jewish stronghold Their community was destroyed and its citizens massacred by the Romans In 132 CE/AD the last Jewish people left the middle east – this move was called the “diaspora ” 5

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The Jewish Diaspora Centuries of Jewish exile followed the destruction of their Temple and the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. This period is called the Diaspora, from the Greek word for “dispersal.” Jews fled to many parts of the world. Some moved to Babylonia and the Arabian Desert. Others went to Syria, Egypt, and Spain. Eventually, Jews spread into France, England, and the Rhineland, where they lived in small groups. In the 1100s, many European Jews were expelled from their homes. Some moved to Turkey, Palestine, and Syria. Others went to Poland and nearby neighboring areas. The statelessness of the Jews did not end until the creation of Israel in 1948. 6

Rise of Christianity/Views of Jesus:

Rise of Christianity/Views of Jesus Jesus was a rabbi – a teacher – who was offended by the Jewish leadership’s concern with money and power under Roman rule. 7

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Jesus was also a “fiery” prophet – full of apocalyptic fervor – (the end of time) and he warned his followers to prepare for the end of days. 8

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Jesus was also a political revolutionary – who claimed he owed his allegiance to someone above the emperor – a God that he called “father.” 9

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To the Romans, this was treason. Jesus was tried, found guilty and executed by crucifixion. 10

Spreading of Christianity….the work of Paul:

Spreading of Christianity….the work of Paul One man, the apostle Paul, had enormous influence on Christianity’s development. Paul was a Jew whose Hebrew name was Saul. He had never met Jesus and at first was an enemy of Christianity. While traveling to Damascus in Syria, he reportedly had a vision of Christ. He then began using his Roman name, Paul, and spent the rest of his life spreading and interpreting Christ’s teachings. 11

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The Pax Romana, which made travel and the exchange of ideas fairly safe, provided the ideal conditions for Christianity to spread. The excellent Roman road system made passage by land easy, and common languages—Latin and Greek—allowed the message to be easily understood. Paul was able to travel freely from city to city around the eastern Mediterranean to preach. 12

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He wrote influential letters, called Epistles, to groups of believers. In his teaching, Paul stressed that Jesus was the son of God who died for people’s sins. He also declared that Christianity should welcome all converts, Jew or Gentile (non-Jew). He said: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” It was this universality that enabled Christianity to become more than just a local religion. 13

The Triumph of Christianity:

The Triumph of Christianity The first converts were women, slaves and the poor. This new religion gave them hope and strength in a difficult world. 14

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Over time, a “hierarchy” of priests and bishops , starting with Peter, helped establish what the basic beliefs and scriptures would be 15

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Over time the persecution and torture of Christians that had happed under emperors such as Nero seemed excessive. Torture had the opposite effect on people – it attracted followers! 16

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Finally, the emperor Constantine legalized Christianity in the year 312 with his signing of the Edit of Milan. This document outlawed religious persecution. 17

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Constantine A.D. 285?–337 Constantine was a deeply religious man. He initially believed in the traditional Roman gods. He identified with the god Apollo, whom he claimed to have seen in a vision. Sometime after his conversion to Christianity in A.D. 312, Constantine reportedly remarked that “God is the cause of the exploits I have performed.” He maintained that he received revelations and instructions from God. Although he legalized Christianity throughout the empire and took a leading role in the affairs of the Christian Church, Constantine was not formally baptized until he was on his deathbed in 337. 18

From there this belief system spread like wildfire. :

From there this belief system spread like wildfire. 19

If you have time, click on the link below and enjoy “Crash Course in World History” as it presents the history of Christianity in the Roman Empire.:

If you have time, click on the link below and enjoy “Crash Course in World History” as it presents the history of Christianity in the Roman Empire. Christianity from Judaism to Constantine: Crash Course World History #11 - YouTube 20

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