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Christian and Pagan in the Roman Empire

Christian and Pagan in the Roman Empire

Copyright Date: 2001
Pages: 199
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  • Book Info
    Christian and Pagan in the Roman Empire
    Book Description:

    In this volume, Robert D. Sider undertakes a judicious pruning of the original texts and brings a fresh accessibility to the important writings of Tertullian.

    eISBN: 978-0-8132-2090-1
    Subjects: Religion
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. vii-viii)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS (pp. ix-x)

    Of the life of Tertullian little can be said with certainty. He was an African, obviously educated—he wrote both Latin and Greek and had studied rhetoric, philosophy, and medicine. During the years of his known literary productivity, he appears to have lived in Roman Carthage. One gathers from his writings that he grew up a pagan, but we know nothing about the time and circumstances of his conversion to Christianity. He appears on the literary scene with his first treatises in 197. He wrote voluminously for more than one decade, and possibly more than two. The last of his...

  5. 1 APOLOGY (pp. 1-70)

    Very few documents from early Christianity reveal more vividly than Tertullian’s Apology the perspectives from which Christians might look upon the pagan world that surrounded them, and the presuppositions they brought to the justification of their own role in society. Indeed, the modern reader is forced into the hurly-burly of the Roman world by the very form of the Apology, for this “apology” for Christianity takes shape around the fictive image of a forensic trial. The image of the trial is consistently maintained with such lively force that the reader is captivated by the vivid thrust and parry of argument,...

  6. 2 TESTIMONY OF THE SOUL (pp. 71-79)

    This little treatise—one of Tertullian’s shortest¹—may in several respects be considered a companion piece to the Apology, which it appears to have followed within a year. In this treatise, as in the Apology, it is the image of the trial that provides the framework within which the argument proceeds. An ill-defined paganism that ridicules and hates Christian beliefs has put Christian faith on trial. In the course of the proceedings, Christian faith asks to cross-examine a witness from paganism itself—the soul not yet purified by the waters of baptism. During the procedure the unconverted soul confesses that...

  7. 3 SPECTACLES (pp. 80-106)

    The ruins of ancient cities offer an impressive witness to the passion that the citizens of Rome and the empire felt for four kinds of entertainment: races in the circus; stage plays, mimes, pantomimes, and farces in the theater; athletic and other contests in the stadium; and gladiatorial combats and beast fights in the amphitheater. In the heart of modern Rome a vast ellipse marks the place of the ancient circus; only a few remains of the theater of Pompey in the Campus Martius have been found, but the shell of the theater of Marcellus is one of the most...

  8. 4 TO THE MARTYRS (pp. 107-114)

    For several reasons this little treatise deserves a place in a collection that attempts to elucidate the Christian response to a pagan world. First, the treatise introduces us, if a little obliquely, to some of the circumstances concomitant with the confession of the Name before the pagans. If we may judge from the account of the martyrdom of Perpetua and her companions, written shortly after this treatise,¹ Christians found themselves in prison not as a punishment for their confession, but either to await trial before the governor, or to await their death after they had stood trial and made their...

  9. 5 THE CROWN (pp. 115-136)

    The preceding treatises are all among the earliest of Tertullian’s work, possibly written shortly after his conversion. The Crown belongs decisively to Tertullian’s “Montanist” phase, and it invites, therefore, a brief comparison with the earlier writings. On the one hand, certain features of the treatise show a firm line of continuity with Tertullian’s “Catholic” past. As in the case of Spectacles, the heart of Tertullian’s argument in The Crown is based on the incompatibility between the baptismal vow and any form of action that can be linked with idolatry. Recalling here the tenor of his argument there, he contends that...

  10. 6 FLIGHT IN TIME OF PERSECUTION (pp. 137-152)

    Tertullian’s conviction, expressed in this treatise, that a Christian must not run away from persecution did not in general receive the support of Christian leaders who either preceded or followed him. Indeed, even he in his earlier years had accepted the traditional wisdom of the Church that one might follow the command given to the apostles to “flee from town to town” in order to avoid arrest.¹ In its main contention, therefore, the treatise is not representative of early Christian thought.

    Nevertheless, the treatise contributes much to our theme, for it offers a remarkable, if brief, insight into the anxieties...

  11. APPENDIX (pp. 153-156)
  12. SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY (pp. 157-158)
  13. GENERAL INDEX (pp. 159-170)
  16. Back Matter (pp. 179-180)