Mark Boone


Chapter Two: Rumors, Relics, and Defenses

Chapter two provides an insight into the challenges faced by early Christians due to rumors and persecutions, as well as their responses to those challenges. The chapter highlights various rumors that circulated about Christians, such as accusations of cannibalism, subversion, immorality, atheism, and hatred of the human race. These rumors were often baseless and resulted from misunderstandings or prejudice against the Christian community. 

Rumors such as these played a significant role in causing trouble for Christians. Early Christians were falsely accused of being cannibals due to their references to the body and blood of Christ during the Lord’s Supper. Rumors circulated that Christianity was a subversive organization plotting to overthrow the government, and Christians were accused of immorality due to the message of love and unity among Christians being twisted into allegations of immoral thoughts and actions. Christians’ refusal to worship idols, a central part of their faith, resulted in the rumor that they were atheists. This belief led to Christians being blamed for natural disasters, as pagans believed the “old gods” punished them for neglecting idol worship. Another baseless rumor claimed that Christians were haters of the human race.

Chapter Two also discusses the persecution of Christians under Emperor Nero. Emperor Nero, known for his cruelty, persecuted Christians in response to a rumor that he had ordered the devastating fire that swept through Rome. Nero arrested many Christians, subjected them to brutal deaths such as being torn apart by dogs, crucifixion, and using them as torches at garden parties. The persecution under Nero stands out as a gruesome illustration of the challenges faced by early Christians. The brutal methods used to persecute Christians were intended to instill fear and discourage the growth of Christianity. 

Despite the persecution, Christians like Polycarp demonstrated great courage and unwavering faith, becoming martyrs who inspired others through their steadfastness. Polycarp, a bishop in Smyrna, faced persecution in A.D. 155. Polycarp’s arrest was prompted by a crowd demanding his capture during a wave of Christian persecution. He refused to renounce his faith, exemplifying great courage and faith in the face of martyrdom. Despite attempts to burn him at the stake, the flames did not harm Polycarp, and when an officer eventually killed him, his blood extinguished the fire. Polycarp’s story is a testament to the profound impact of martyrdom and the belief that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.

Persecutions presented both challenges and opportunities for the early Church, and this is tackled in this From Jesus ’til Now‘s Chapter Two. On one hand, the martyrdom of loved ones led to the veneration of martyrs and the development of practices such as praying to them and building churches over their graves. This emphasis on relics and the cult of martyrs posed a theological and practical challenge for the Church. Some Christians during this time denied their faith during persecutions but sought re-entry into the church afterward. The church had differing practices regarding the readmission of those who had denied their faith, which led to divisions. Sins began to be ranked and judged, leading to disciplinary measures within the church.

On the other hand, persecutions prompted Christians to articulate and defend their faith, leading to the emergence of apologists who provided explanations and refutations of the rumors and misconceptions surrounding Christianity. Apologists explained that Christians were not cannibals, nor were they plotting against the government. These apologists, such as Tertullian and Origen, wrote extensively to clarify Christian beliefs and defend the faith against its detractors. 

Tertullian emphasized the benevolent activities of Christians, such as prayer, reading Scripture, and charitable giving. He was known for his declaration that “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church,” his fervent defense of Christianity, and his emphasis on its beneficial impact on society. Origen, perhaps the most influential apologist of the time, dedicated his life to scholarly pursuits and produced valuable works that helped explain and elucidate Christian beliefs. He also published numerous books and insightful Bible commentaries, such as the Hexapla, which is a compilation of scriptural translations.

Finally, Chapter two highlights the resilience and dedication of believers in the face of adversity, as well as their intellectual defense and theological clarity through the emergence of apologists. Overall, it underscores the difficulties faced by early Christians due to rumors and persecutions, as well as the valuable insights into the early Church’s response to misconceptions and its journey towards establishing a firm foundation for the faith. It serves as a reminder of the perseverance and unwavering faith exhibited by those who laid the groundwork for Christianity as we know it today.

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