Friday, October 24, 2008

Article Reviews: “Persecution in the Early Church,” “Pax Romana and the Peace of Jesus Christ,” and “The Road to Nicaea.”

“Persecution in the Early Church”
In his article, Dr. William Frend gives a recap on the first 300 years of growth and lulls in persecution with the advent of each new emperor, leading up to what he entitles the “Great Persecution.” Following 43 years of relative peace, in 303 AD, Dr. Frend describes the beginning of this persecution related to a history of opposition just below the surface of an apparent acceptance, the coup d’etat of Diocletian and appointment of his co-emperor Maximian, and subsequent appointments of Constantius and Galerius as their assistants (Caesars). Galerius’ popularity due to a victory over the Persians, and the illness of Diocletian in 304 AD led to Galerius seizing “his chance and imposed a universal obligation to sacrifice on pain of death.” Galerius and Constantius assumed the positions of Diocletian and Maximian upon their formal abdication. The “Great Persecution” ended with the Edict of Milan in 313 AD, signed by Constantine, the son and successor of Constantius, and Licinius, the successor of Galerius. Constantine defeated Licinius in 324 AD, unifying the empire under his rule and establishing Christianity as the religion of the Empire.
“Pax Romana and the Peace of Jesus Christ”
This article is a review of the book “Pax Romana and the Peace of Jesus Christ” by Klaus Wengst. The reviewer, Edgar Krentz, notes that Wengst examines Christian attitudes toward Pax Romana according to social status and geography. In the book, Wengst considers all benefits regarding the Pax Romana as evil, in spite of the majority of scholarship. Krentz notes that Wengst compares Christ to a political protestor that does not encourage rebellion, Paul as ambivalent, and Luke as an upper-class pro-Roman. It seems that in spite of these Biblical characters being attributed to different periods and geographical regions during this earliest of Church history, the gospel is spread through the empire as the Church adapts and responds to the Roman political environment.
“The Road to Nicaea”
This article, by John Anthony McGuckin, explores the reasons and path to the First Council of Nicaea in 325AD. McGuckin indicates that the Council was called over the dispute of, “one apparently simple question: in what way is Jesus divine?” The problem arose when Alexander, the Archbishop of Alexandria, held one of his common seminars with senior clergy in which he articulated the eternality of Christ in common with the Father. Arius, a senior priest of Alexander’s, argued that Christ might have existed before the rest of creation; however, that it wasn’t appropriate to believe that he shared the Father’s divine pre-existence. After gaining his parishioners in a party cause, Arius was deposed by Alexander to avoid the public fallout. Arius appealed the decision to Eusebius of Nicomedia, a powerful bishop and kinsman of the Emperor Constantine, who ultimately called the Council as a 20th anniversary of his having taken the throne in 305 AD and to solidify his rule. A majority agreement was made over the use of “homoousias” (of the same substance as) in the creed and all remaining dissenters were excommunicated and deposed.

Frend, William H.C. 1990. "Persecution in the early church." Christian History 1990.
Christian Periodical Index, EBSCOhost (accessed October 23, 2008). http://searc
Krentz, Edgar. 1989. "Pax Romana and the Peace of Jesus Christ." Currents in Theology
and Mission 16, no. 6: 459-459. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials,
EBSCOhost (accessed October 23, 2008).
McGuckin, John Anthony. 2005. "The Road to Nicaea." Christian History and Biography
Winter 2005. Christian Periodical Index, EBSCOhost (accessed October 23, 2008
). b=33h&AN=33h-6182D2B2-0F5317A2&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

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