Rome condemns Christianity in 35AD?

Discussion in 'History' started by Jenyar, Apr 21, 2004.

  1. Jenyar Solar flair Valued Senior Member

    The official website of the Christian Catacombs of Rome makes this passing statement:
    The Christian religion was proclaimed "strana et illicita - strange and unlawful" (Senatorial decree of the year 35); "exitialis - deadly"(Tacitus); "prava et immodica - wicked and unbridled" (Plinius); "nova et malefica - new and harmful" (Svetonius); "tenebrosa et lucifuga - mysterious and opposed to light" (from "Octavius" by Minucius); "detestabilis- hateful" (Tacitus); therefore it was outlawed and persecuted, because it was considered the most dangerous enemy of the power of Rome, which was based upon the ancient national religion and on the emperor's worship.
    (The Christians of the age of persecutions
    My question is about the first line: what source did they use? Who would have made that "senatorial decree", Tiberius? And where is it recorded? "The year 35" can hardly mean 35 AD, surely that's way too early? If it's a reference, it's much too obscure to find (at least on Google).

    I would dismiss it as a factual error on their part, but the words (strana et ellicita) might have appeared in some later text that they simply requoted. Can anyone shed some light?
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  3. spidergoat Valued Senior Member

    I'm not sure about the details, but the statement seems to coincide with the political climate of the time. I doubt they considered it the MOST dangerous enemy to Rome, more probably it was just another of many religious movements that refused to acknowledge Roman gods.
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  5. Xev Registered Senior Member

    Not of 35 AD, when Christianity was barely known to the Romans. I don't believe Tiberius or Sejanus were even acquainted with the religion.

    Doubtfully Tiberius, though. He wasn't responsible for much of government by that time.
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  7. Dr Lou Natic Unnecessary Surgeon Registered Senior Member

    Rome was breeding awesome dogs at that time.... thats all I know

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  8. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member

    Well, the good news is that I looked up rome senatorial decree 35 and Sciforums is now the #1 link at Google for that search.

    I'll try a couple other terms.

    At any rate ... document, people. Let's find the stinkin' document!

    (I'll let you know if I come up with it.)
  9. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member

    I've found some mention of the issue in the Catholic Encyclopedia:
    Okay, I think I got it.

    From Tertullian:
    There is commentary available on Eusebius that refers to Tertullian; see Schaff, "How Tiberius was affected when informed by Pilate concerning Christ."

    The half-hour examination suggests that the whole thing starts with Tertullian, and while I'm no fan of Tertullian, it's ridiculous to think he fabricated the episode out of thin air. Schaff's footnotes include the following:
    So Tertullian most likely related a spurious tale and down through the ages we come to this oddity at the Catacombs, which certainly does help market the place.

    But that's just the short examination.
  10. gendanken Ruler of All the Lands Valued Senior Member

    Most "first hand" accounts should be read with discretion- Selenius (sp?) was known to despise Claudius and so most of our ideas of the Emperor being a mumbling idiot come from his bias against him- this is not to say he was an idiot for Claudius was incredibly well read and in comparison to all the other Ceasers far more 'virtuous' in reign.

    35 A.D. seems like too soon a time to be denouncing Christianity- it is too soon after the Nazarene was crucified, and by that time the following was disapaora and practiced in secret. In Claudius' time (41- 54 a.d) as well as Tiberious' time Christianity seemed more like a fad or novelty.

    So it seems fallous, I'll quote the reasons why given above:
    Reliable historians like Josephus are few and far between.
  11. Jenyar Solar flair Valued Senior Member

    Well, that seems to settle it then. But it seems odd to me that an elementary website like the Catacombs' would dig up such an obscure reference, and proceed to quote it in Latin. But they are Roman (er...Italian), so Latin might not be so strana to them.
  12. gendanken Ruler of All the Lands Valued Senior Member

    Not really- even here another boo boo:

    Look how easy one makes a mistake, I meant Seneca the philosopher. Its the Se's where the mixup lies:

    " In Seneca's Apocolocyntosis Augustus speaks against Claudius in the divine Senate, accusing him of killing his two great-granddaughters, his grand-niece Messalina, and others without specifying charges and ascertaining facts. Augustus warns them that if they create such gods, no one will believe that they themselves are gods. Augustus proposes that Claudius be deported from heaven; the motion is carried; and Mercury takes Claudius off to hell. At the tribunal of Aeacus Claudius is charged with murdering 35 senators, 221 Roman knights, and countless others. Aeacus pronounces him guilty and sentences him to suffer what he had caused. He is ordered to throw dice continually from a broken dice cup."

    And he wrote a piece called "The Pumkinifcaiton of Claudius" where he is mocking him as an idiot.

    If I had not come back and noticed my mistake you'd be walking away thinking it was Selenius.
  13. Jenyar Solar flair Valued Senior Member

    No danger of that - I make a point of checking the sources before accepting anything (although I'm not exempt from making similar mistakes myself). I was more interested in the original context than the author, though, but thanks.

    edit: we don't seem to have found the original text containing the words strana et elicita yet, so whether they refer to the earliest Christians (as the website claims) or just some sects in general is still inconclusive.
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2004
  14. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member

    Sconosciuto ed illegale

    I'm not sure we will find that document. I'm not sure it exists.

    The story so far:

    • Senate condemns Christianity as false ca. 35CE (issue in question)
    • Pilate reports affairs of Christianity to Tiberius (Tertullian)
    • Tiberius moves to include Jesus among divinity (Tertullian)
    • Senate rejects proposal (Tertullian)
    • The Tertullian story is false (Catholic Encyclopedia)

    Whether of not the rejection by the Senate of Tiberius' proposal in favor of Christians is, in fact, the "condemnation" referred to is an open question at this point.

    However, the apocryphal "Acts of Pilate" might provide some further insight:
    The so-called report of Pilate can be found here. Even Eusebius denounces the Acts of Pilate, reporting that they were taught for memorization in the schools.

    Right now we might face a difficult proposition: searching two languages (at least) and two-thousand years of history for a document that may not actually ever have existed.

    But everything we have so far suggests the Senate decree condemning Christianity in 35CE doesn't exist; I'll have to think where to go from there.

    (Before I go off and do something silly like email the site and ask the question ... anyone know much about computerized translation? I'm going to use Systran to send the email in English and Italian, but I've never trusted computerized translators, and, well, I'm an American so I've never bothered to learn any other languages.)

    Edit: Too late ... whoops. Hit send, not save. Lesson - Smoke first, then save. Don't click randomly when you're not watching what you're doing. Instinct and intuition will abandon you.
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2004

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