“Let Them Not Share in the Affairs of Life”: How Ancient Christians Were Viewed as Dangerous to Society

by Michael J. Kruger

Celsus “just can’t stand Christians.”

So, writes James O’Donnell (Pagans, 101) as he describes the vicious opposition to Christians in the earliest centuries, particularly from the second-century critic Celsus.

A few weeks ago, I began a short, three-part blog series about what people in the ancient world thought of Christians. In the prior post, we explored how Celsus viewed Christians as ignorant, uneducated simpletons.

In other words, one of the main problems with Christians was intellectual in nature.

But Celsus is by no means finished. In this post, we will see that he thinks that Christians also have a behavioral problem.  Their actions are rude, anti-social, and morally repugnant.

So, what did Christians do that caused such irritation in Celsus?  In short, Celsus thought Christians were bad citizens.  Job number one for any Roman citizen was to participate in the public, corporate worship of the Roman gods.

And it was precisely this that Christians refused to do.  After all, they were monotheists.  They worshiped Jesus and him alone.

Why was worshiping the Roman gods so important?  Because it was the gods who gave victory in war, rain for crops, and prosperity to the state.  To neglect the gods was to put the welfare of Rome at risk.

Thus, Christians were viewed as insubordinate to the state.

But, Celsus’ complaint is not just political.  It is also social…

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“Let Them Not Share in the Affairs of Life”: How Ancient Christians Were Viewed as Dangerous to Society