Thursday, March 30, 2023

Early persecution

Historians know that official persecution of Christians did not happen until the reign of Decius in AD 251. But focusing on official, legally sanctioned violence can obscure what on any reading is an obvious fact: on a local level and/or ad hoc basis persecution was a part of Christian life from at least the middle of the first century. And from the beginning of the second century—thirty years or so before Justin’s death—the name “Christian” had already become an important political marker. With the clarity of hindsight, the attention given to the name is unsurprising: persecution of Christians qua Christians depends upon the ability to see them as a community, or at least as a particular kind of thing, a way of naming a category or group such that it made sense to try them as Christianoi, Christians.—One True Life: The Stoics and Early Christians as Rival Traditions, 163

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