CH101 - The First Century

The Primitive Church - 30 - 100 AD
The beginning of persecution

In Acts 21 Paul visited Jerusalem again to present a financial offering from the Gentile church to the Jerusalem church. Paul meets with James, and in a strange turn of events is arrested (Acts 21:18-36). Paul learns of a plot to kill him and appeals to be handed over to the Romans. The remainder of the Acts record follows Paul on his way to Rome as a prisoner, ending with him in Rome under house arrest, waiting to appear before Caesar. According to early tradition found in the writings of Clement of Rome, Paul was apparently released from this imprisonment and made his way to "the extreme limit of the west" (1 Clement 5.15). This could be a reference to Paul's stated desire to take the gospel to Spain (Rom. 15:28). It appears that Paul was released from his imprisonment in Rome, traveled west and was arrested again. It was during this second Roman arrest that Paul writes the Pastoral Epistles (1 and 2 Timothy, and Titus).

In 62 AD James was executed in Jerusalem by the Sanhedrin. It is not clear what led to this execution, but it must have had something to do with his belief in, and teaching of the Messiah Jesus. A few years later Paul is executed in Rome by Nero. Eusebius reports that he was beheaded, and though the exact date is uncertain, it must have been between 64-67 AD. It is also reported that Peter was executed around the same time, being crucified upside down. The traditions surrounding the persecution of Nero report that a huge fire erupted, burning nine days and destroying at least a quarter of the city. Tacticus reports that Nero blamed the Christians to divert attention away from himself. Blaming the Christians, and having the masses turn their rage on the Christians, was not difficult as this new religion was already being viewed with suspicion. The resulting persecution was brutal:

Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired...
  - Annals XV.44

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