Friday, May 15, 2020


An Impenetrable Clique

Douglas Boin, Coming Out Christian in the Roman World: How the Followers of Jesus Made a Place in Caesar's Empire (New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2015), pp. 1-2 (note omitted):
I have a confession to make. For a long time, I've been uncomfortable around early Christians.

In school, I was brought up on the adventure tales of Homer. In my mind, I've struggled for honor on the battlefield with the greatest of the Greek warriors, Achilles, and I've fought for my own survival while cast away at sea, lonely and heartbroken for home, like Odysseus. I've listened to the thunderous voices of men in togas and tuned in to hear political shouting matches, in Latin, fought by some of Rome's most privileged senators. From the dusty, sun-kissed streets of the Forum to the jeweled dome of Rome, the Pantheon, I've always found the ancient world a pleasant escape. Lyric poetry, Athenian tragedy, Greek comedy, even Roman concrete: there's always been a surprise around every turn. Call me a conservative, but I don't think there was ever anything wrong with the ancient world. It was perfectly fine the way it was—before it changed. And I knew whom to blame.

Everyone knows that early Christians were a ragtag bunch, tent makers and philosophy teachers, daughters of wealthy Romans and sons of Roman governors. To me, they've always seemed like an impenetrable clique, obstinately different. Whether praying in their churches, greeting each other with their secret signs, or practicing their favorite sport, dodging wild animals, the pathological way they stuck together as a group made me uneasy. I had my Rome, full of impressive aqueducts, packed racetracks, and stately mansions. They had theirs, with tales of resurrection and rebirth, many of which had been written in rather childish Greek grammar. What could we possibly have in common?

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