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Demythologizing Christianity’s Most Cherished Moment: Nero and the Christians, Part Two

more from Hrafnkell Haraldsson
Sunday, July, 8th, 2012, 8:05 am

This is Part II of an investigation into Christian mythology began here on June 17, 2012.

1. Epistemology

The Emperor Claudius died in 54 CE and was succeeded by his grand-nephew Nero (Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus). It is during Nero’s reign that we come to the first supposed persecution of Christianity. It is a much heralded, much alluded to moment in Christian history, a litmus test in Christian identity, the point at which Christ’s suffering comes to fruition. The image is indelible, the huddled, helpless families in the arena, awaiting their deaths at the hands of wild beasts. But did it ever happen?

For centuries, we have been told it did; not only by apologists but by filmmakers and even scholars. That Eusebius of the 20th century, W.H.C. Frend has in his monumental and influential magnum opus The Rise of Christianity, a chapter entitled “The Neronian Persecution” and almost any history of Christianity you care to look at will makes similar claims.[1] For example, evangelical Bible scholar Ben Witherington III states as fact that after the burning of Rome “Nero launched a limited persecution of Christians, blaming them for the fire.”[2] Frend opens his chapter with that all-too familiar refrain of the apologist, “Why?”: “Why Nero attempted to make the Christians the scapegoats for the disastrous fire on 19 July 64 that gutted entire districts of the city is unknown.”[3]

Why indeed? A great many presuppositions lay behind this single line of text:

  1. That there were Gentile Christians in Rome to persecute
  2. That Nero did blame the fire on them,
  3. That they were innocent of the charges, and,
  4. That they were persecuted as a result

There are great many “ifs” here and they ought to give us pause. Do we have good reasons for making the assumptions Frend does? There certainly ought to be better reasons than simply stating “we know it’s true” which seems to be the motivating factor in apologetics, and sadly, all too often in historiography. First of all, where does our evidence come from? In fact we are not without evidence from the Pagan Roman camp for this event as it is described for us by both Suetonius (born c. 70) and Tacitus (born c. 56), who both grew up in the post-fire Rome, as well as by Dio, writing later. These accounts all have a common (anti-Neronian) source, perhaps Fabius Rusticus.[4] We also have some later sources, which appear to be based on these accounts but which do not qualify as independent witnesses in themselves. All Christian witnesses date from a much later period. We will examine the evidence more fully in due course. A brief review will suffice for now.

Since apologists seem determined to conflate two separate incidents it is important that we look first to what our biographer Suetonius has to say. In his Life of Nero he says “punishment” by Nero was inflicted on the Christians, “adherents of a new and dangerous superstition.”[5] Note that no executions or tortures are mentioned, despite Suetonius’ well known appetite for salacious rumor-mongering. Christian tradition has it that both Peter and Paul died in the persecution along with 977 other Christians.[6] Contrary to the assertions of apologists McDowell and Wilson (1988), who claim that this testimony “verifies” that Christians were “being put to death” for their beliefs, the account of Suetonius only indicates that the Christians were punished by Nero for “mischievous” behavior.[7]

The implication here is that there was a body of Gentile Christians in Rome of great enough size to be persecuted, let alone noticed by the authorities and both of these assumptions, as we shall see, are more wishful than fact-based. Earliest Christianity was a form of messianic Judaism. Jesus himself was executed for sedition and it is unlikely his followers would have been seen in a better light. Indeed, if followers of “Christ” they must be Jewish as Paul only began his mission to the Gentiles in 45 CE and had not preached in Rome. The “Christians” he writes to in the mid-50s (Epistle to the Romans) indicate that his audience had not yet heard Paul’s gospel and the last passages in Acts (28.23-31) show Paul preaching to Jews, not Gentiles.[8] This is assuming that we can trust Acts that Paul reached Rome at all. For that question, read my earlier piece, Whatever Happened to Paul of Tarsus.  

Nero’s reputation makes it difficult even today to arrive at the facts. Probably no figure before Hitler was so reviled.[9] When apologists speak of the “first persecution” they not only make a “fact” out of thin air and very little evidence but they take whatever event did happen out of context, that context being the wider Roman world and the escalation of messianic tensions in Palestine in particular. It is up to the historian, if not the theologian, to remember the “when” and the “where” and these when added to the equation change our entire perspective. With Messianic expectation at a fever pitch in Palestine, we are no doubt justified in saying, to paraphrase Juvenal, that like the Orontes, the Jordan had overflowed into the Tiber, bringing the woes of the provinces to the heart of the empire.[10]

Any emperor would be quick to react to this sort of trouble, and obviously Nero, whatever his faults as a ruler, attempted to do just that, just as Claudius and Tiberius had before him. So let us here at least, rather than condemn out of hand, give Nero his due and see what ailed his empire, examine what processes may have been at work and what actions he may have taken in response to them.

2. Evidence

Let’s return now to the fire in Rome. Our next important source for these events is Tacitus. It is important to examine what Tacitus has to say in full:

But not all the relief that could come from man, not all the bounties that the prince could bestow, nor all the atonements which could be presented to the gods, availed to relieve Nero from the infamy of being believed to have ordered the conflagration, the fire of Rome. Hence to suppress the rumor, he falsely charged with the guilt, and punished Christians, who were hated for their enormities. Chrestus, the founder of the name, was put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign of Tiberius: but the pernicious superstition, repressed for a time broke out again, not only through Judea, where the mischief originated, but through the city of Rome also, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. 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.[11]

There are varying opinions in the world of scholarship concerning the source for Tacitus’ information about Christians. Operating with an assumption of the Standard Model, Norman Perrin concludes that Tacitus’ information probably came from local Christian hearsay and police interrogations,[12] while Robert van Voorst overoptimistically believes that “the most likely source of Tacitus’ information about Christ is Tacitus’ own dealings with Christians, directly or indirectly”[13] which seems unlikely given how few Gentile Christians there were in the first century. John P. Meier posits that “It could be, instead, that Tacitus is simply repeating what was common knowledge about Christians about the beginning of the 2d century.”[14]

In the end we will never know, and as Michael Grant points out in reference to Tacitus, “systematic, careful references are a modern invention.”[15] But it must be remembered, against the Standard Model, that we are talking about a population in Rome of Jewish messianists, not Gentile Christians, during Nero’s reign, while by the time Tacitus wrote, the ratio would have been reversed, with far more Gentile Christians and likely (in the wake of the Jewish War) a much diminished number of Jewish messianists.

Whatever the sources Tacitus used for this account, and however much of it is genuinely his we should examine what his contemporary Suetonius had to say about the famous fire and its consequences:

Yet he spared neither the people nor the fabric of his ancestral city. When someone in general conversation quoted the Greek phrase ‘When I am dead, let earth go up in flames’, he responded, ‘Rather, “while I live”‘, and acted accordingly. For, as if he were upset by the ugliness of the old buildings and the narrow and twisting streets, he set fire to the city, so openly indeed that some ex-consuls, when they came upon his servants equipped with kindling and torches on their property, did not stop them. He greatly desired some land near the Golden House, then occupied by granaries, and had them torn down and burnt using military machinery because their walls were made of stone. For six days and seven nights destruction raged and the people were forced to take shelter in monuments and tombs. During that time, besides the enormous number of apartment blocks, the houses of great generals of old, together with the spoils of battle which still adorned them, the temples of the gods, too, which had been vowed and dedicated by Rome’s kinds and later in he Punic and Gallic wars, and every other interesting or memorable survival from the olden days went up in flames. Nero watched the fire from the tower of Maecenas, delighted with what he termed ‘the beauty of the flames’ and, dressed in his stage attire, he sang of ‘the Fall of Troy’. And lest he should lose any opportunity of securing spoils and booty even from this, he undertook to have the corpses and ruins cleared at his own expense, allowing no one to come near the remains of their own property. Not merely receiving contributions but extorting them, he bled dry both the provinces and the fortunes of private individuals.[16]

Like Tacitus, Suetonius is hostile to Nero but clearly knows nothing about any blame for the fire falling on Christians, much less a persecution that allegedly claimed “multitudes”. The only clear similarity is the accusation that Nero was himself responsible for the conflagration but there is a difference even there, for Tacitus has doubts about Nero’s culpability while Suetonius embraces it. Obviously, and despite the efforts of apologists to squeeze proof of persecution out of these accounts, our sources offer nothing of the sort.

Suetonius’ brief mention (discussed above) of the Christians being punished comes earlier in chapter 16 and no connection is made by the author to the fire. In fact, in chapter 16 Christians are mentioned right alongside Nero’s banishment of other troublemakers, such as chariot drivers, actors and their partisans. From this we could infer only that Christians might have been included in a general clean-up of the city, ridding it of those who are guilty of disorderly conduct, much in line with Tiberius’ actions of 19 CE but not as a result of blame falling on them for the fire.

In any event, “punishments” handed out generally are hardly the stuff of a persecution of a specific group. Based on what we know, we might as well accuse Nero of persecuting actors and charioteers! Doubtless there were more of them in Rome than Gentile Christians. It is important to note that Suetonius calls Christians “adherents of a new and dangerous superstition.” Superstition is exactly what the Romans would have deemed messianism and dangerous they were indeed. While it is a stretch to see in these Christians the Gentile sort, it is an easy fit when one puts Jewish messianists in their place.

Not only Suetonius is silent about a relationship between the fire and Christians; Dio Cassius also fails to mention it. And the next source to bring up the connection is Sulpicius Severus, who comes along three centuries later and therefore cannot qualify as an independent witness.[17]  That the account of the fire as we have it had not undergone its final redaction can be proven by appeal to Tertullian, who says “consult your sources; you will find that Nero was the first to assailed with the sword the Christian sect.”[18] But he makes no mention of Christians setting Rome on fire, so we can deduce that it had not yet been added to Tacitus, and T.D. Barnes shows that in any event Tertullian’s account is modeled on that of Melito, who is cited by Eusebius in his Ecclesiastical History (EH 4.26) so Tertullian cannot stand as an independent witness.[19]

Irenaeus goes further yet; he makes no mention of any persecution under Nero at all! Origen, writing in the third century, has little to say about any persecutions, saying only that “a few, whose number could be easily enumerated, have died occasionally for the sake of the Christian religion,”[20] and Eusebius satisfies himself with the remark that Nero was “the first of the emperors who showed himself to be an enemy of the divine religion” but makes no mention of “multitudes” of believers suffering martyrdom.[21] In other words, the silence from the early Christian sources is deafening. We might note also that Frend draws attention to the fact that Tacitus’ passage replicates motifs and language from Livy’s account of the Bacchanal conspiracy. For instance, “immense multitude” is also found in Livy.[22] But if we are working with the Standard Model, how could there even be a multitude of Christians in Rome? There could not. But as we saw in Part One, there could be a multitude of Jews – twenty thousand or so in number.

Still, being a prisoner to the traditional orthodox view of Christian history, our “Standard Model”, W.H.C. Frend is able to embark upon what can only generously be termed fantasy:

On this reading of the evidence, the persecution represented a triumph for the orthodox Jews, who were able, through influence at Court, to shift the odium of the outbreak on to the hated schismatics, the Christian synagogue. This they hoped to destroy at a single tremendous blow. In the persons of Poppaea Sabina and the actor Tigellinus they had the ear of the Emperor, and they succeeded in so far as a great number of Christians were killed, including the leaders, Peter and Paul.[23]

Aha! So the Jews did it? No, and neither did Nero. Because to prove somebody did something, you have first to prove something happened, and what exactly happened has not been successfully demonstrated.

How Frend arrives at this conclusion is difficult to understand. Certainly no known source details the arrest and execution of Peter and Paul under these circumstances (For Peter, see my earlier piece, The Strange Case of Peter).

Indeed, no source places either of them in Rome at the time of the fire. Central to Christian self-understanding is the myth of persecution, that there was a distinctive new religion created by Jesus and his followers which was immediately persecuted by the Jews, so naturally enough, the Jews are really to blame, and we see the same thing from Paul Keresztes, who asserts that “on the basis of ancient Christian sources (e.g., 1 Clem 5; 6), … modern writers –i.e., Allard (1903), Canfield (1913), Klette (1907), Bacchus (1908), and Frend (1965)– feel certain that the Christians were finally persecuted as a result of Jewish intrigues.”[24] But this assessment is without foundation outside of the mythology Christianity has surrounded itself with.

There are problems aplenty: the term “Jews” is one – there was no monolithic Judaism at the time and its hardly likely the various sects cooperated to persecute the Christians when there is no sign of persecution of any other Jewish sect by another. A second problem is proving that anything like Gentile Christianity even existed at this point. This is the 60s CE. The Roman church has yet to be founded. Paul is dead. His congregations are leaderless and likely fell under the influence of his enemies inJerusalem, and there could never have been many of them in the first place.

Scholarship must get past the idea of a monolithic Judaism but also of a Gentile Christianity that has yet to appear in any identifiable form. As for enemies, certainly the Herodians would wish to do away with the messianists (Essene, Fourth Philosophy or any other sort) because they upset the status-quo and threatened their own positions of power, and the messianists in turn wanted to do away with the Herodians. But with Paul gone probably nobody was paying any attention to the few Gentile Christians remaining in scattered congregations inGreeceandAsiaand the idea that a Jewish conspiracy fixed the blame on a band of Gentile Christians who cannot be proven to have existed in the first place is a myth.

Frend’s charge against the Jews seems monstrous. Not only is it impossible at this early stage in Christian history that there were a multitude of Christians anywhere in the Empire but in Rome specifically, but if there was a mass execution at all it would have been of Jewish messianists, followers of Jesus or otherwise, which means a Jewish tragedy was co-opted by later Christian apologists as not a Jewish, but a Christian tragedy.

3. The Real Culprits

It has long been argued and in fact is still believed by many Christians that Nero started the fire that burned Rome in 64 CE and placed the blame on the Christians, torturing and killing a multitude and thus inaugurating the first of ten imperial persecutions of the Christians. The problem with this view of history is that there is no evidence that Nero started the fire and no evidence that there were any Christians, as understood by the dictates of the Standard Model, to persecute or blame. Indeed, it is difficult to believe that anyone in the imperial government would have been aware of a few eschatologically driven Gentiles scattered in small communities from Greece to Asia.

Since no Roman writer of the first century seems aware of the Christians (indeed, no Jewish writer) the claim that a young orthodox Christianity sprang full blown from the breast of Jesus and shook the very foundations of the world must be laid aside as myth and nothing more. What these writers are all aware of is the messianic claim that the ruler of the world would come from Judaea and that it represented a driving force behind the revolt.[25] The evidence then for Gentile orthodox Christianity is nonexistent while that for Jewish messianism is overwhelming. That Paul ever reached Rome has not been proven and if Peter had preached in Rome (equally unlikely) it is inconceivable that he, as a Jewish follower of a Galilean Jewish teacher would have taught the quasi-Pagan gospel of Paul. As Geza Vermes argues, Peter was and remained Jewish,[26] whereas Paul was not loyal to the Law, and according to my reconstruction here, he would in place of Paul’s mystical ramblings instead have taught the messianic gospel of the Fourth Philosophy.[27]

It is debatable if Paul’s version of the gospel ever reached Rome; his epistle to the Romans certainly gives no indication that it had. But it is not unlikely that Jesus’ messianic message had reached Rome. After all, it had been actively spread in Judaea since Judas the Galilean first spoke out against Roman taxation in 6 CE. On Josephus’ testimony, it spread throughout the land, embraced by many, especially the young. It would be absurd to suppose that Paul’s message would have reached Rome but that of Judas (identical with that of Jesus) had not. There were all sorts of trouble faced by Rome in Palestine as a result of this anti-Roman philosophy and it is not unreasonable to suppose that it reared its head in the cities of the Diaspora. What needs to be considered is that the fire’s origin was in fact correctly divined by the imperial authorities, and that it was through the actions of messianic terrorists that the conflagration was started.

Suetonius, whose testimony fuels the case against Nero, tells us that “he set fire to the city, so openly indeed that some ex-consuls, when they came upon his servants equipped with kindling and torches on their property, did not stop them.” But as we have seen, the accounts we have all derive from a common, anti-Neronian source that insisted with dogmatic certainly upon the guilt of Nero. As Gregory Daugherty has noted, Tacitus alone “succeeded in filtering out most of the bias, fortunately for us since he alone preserves the view that Nero might not have started the fire.” Unfortunately, attention has focused upon the image of a Nero fiddling while Romeburned, and the accounts imbedded in the testimony of Suetonius, Tacitus and Dio are colored by Suetonius’ malicious and politically motivated insinuations. What this “kindling with torches” in fact represents is not the deliberate attempt of Nero to further the conflagration but the attempts of the city’s watch to combat the blaze.[28]

In this period the only way in which a fire could be combated was through the use of “controlled demolition” and counter-fire. The city’s watch, or Vigiles, seven cohorts of about 500 men each were positioned throughout the fourteen quarters of the city and could be supplemented at need by the Urban Cohorts or the Praetorian Guard, which, in fact, was what happened in 64, when Tigellinus, the Praetorian Prefect, took charge of the fire suppression efforts. The Vigiles were as well equipped as any fire brigade up until the mid-19th century, but even so their equipment was woefully inadequate: vinegar, buckets, pikes, ladders, brooms, blankets and a siphon, or pump, as well as ballistas, which were used to demolish buildings. The fixtures of a modern city, fire hydrants and hoses and thus the ready application of large quantities of water were unknown.[29]

Thus Suetonius misinterprets the legitimate fire-fighting efforts of the Watch as being the actions of a mad emperor determined to destroy a city in order to build himself a nice big house. The suggestion that messianic agents had set the fire, that blame had correctly attached itself to them and that they were duly punished is scarcely as incredible as Suetonius’ account, which provides the basis for the Christian myth of a Neronian persecution. The possibility that “Christians” had in fact been responsible for the fire is not a new one. The possibility is allowed for by Stephen Benko: “We know that by this time the situation in Judeahad deteriorated to the point of no return.”[30] Matyszak agrees: “At a time when most Christians were Jews, Rome was hated in Judaea, which rose in revolt two years later.” As Christianity was an apocalyptic religion, “it is possible that some deranged individuals might indeed have tried to hasten that end.”[31] This is hardly an outrageous supposition; we have already seen the tendency in messianism to do just that: force God’s hand.

It is not difficult to see a related chain of events here, in the final years leading up to the actual revolt which began in Jerusalem. We have observed the Messianic Trajectory over its course; its culmination was to come beginning in 62 when James the brother of Jesus was executed by the pro-Roman priesthood. If the Romans had not sanctioned this act (there was no governor in the province at the time) the blame still attached itself to them, perhaps not unreasonably since the authorities, Jewish and Roman, had acted against the Community in the 40s by executing some of its leaders.

Two years later, there is a fire in Rome and the blame for this fell upon the Jewish messianists history insists on identifying as “Christians.” Whether or not they were guilty, they were the most likely culprit, and they were duly punished, probably, as often happens, along with some innocents. But that any of the victims of Nero’s prosecution (not persecution) were Gentile Christians is purest fantasy, as is the image of a beheaded Paul and crucified Peter. It is not necessary to add to this causal chain the death of Poppaea, Nero’s wife, killed as Eisenman supposes for being a Jew (God-Fearer).[32]

Nero’s response to this is to send out to govern Judaea Gessius Florus, whose rough-handling of the Jews seems to suggest a very angry emperor who, contrary to the Standard Model, was not insane at all but simply extremely fed-up with this messianic nonsense and determined to put an end to it. Accommodation had not worked; the situation had only grown worse over the previous decades. Robert Eisenman suggests that Florus seemed to actually goad the Jews into war, but this is less likely the intent of his appointment than the effect.[33] As Matyszak remarks, “There were more fundamental problems in Judaea than misrule by a single individual, but the appointment of Florus certainly did not ease the situation.”[34] Florus was sent toJudaea to take a hard-line with the messianists and take control of a situation that was rapidly spinning out of control; the result was war.

It is true that Rome had suffered from fires before. What is wrong with the assumption that this fire was just another of those fires, accidentally kindled? The problem is that from the beginning, a specific group was blamed for this fire. Nor was Romethe only city the Jews in this period were accused of plotting to burn down. Antioch, the third city of the empire (after Romeand Alexandria), was the other. It happened in 66 CE, in the wake of the defeat of Cestius Gallus expedition to the foot of the Temple- the height of anti-Jewish feeling according to Josephus (War 7.47. A Jew (ironically enough named Antiochus), the son of the governor or ethnarch of the Jewish community of that city, accused other Jews (including his father) of planning to burn the city.

The co-conspirators were Jews from outside of Antioch, one would presume Judaeaor Galilee, and because of the degree of fear inspired by these charges, the Sabbath was for a time suppressed in Antiochand in other cities Josephus fails to name. Things grew worse when the marketplace burned down, the fire spreading to consume the public records and royal palace, and it was only with difficulty that the fire was put out before consuming the entire city (as at Rome). This fire seemed to prove Antiochus’ charges and Josephus says that “all fell violently upon those that were accused.” It was only with great difficulty, we are told, that the governor, Cneius Collegas managed to calms things enough to conduct an investigation, which proved the Jews innocent (War 7.54-61). One wonders, though Josephus himself does not make the comparison, if how readily the accusations were embraced by the populace was influenced by belief that the Jews had also set the fire inRome?

Rome would not have been unaware of the Fourth Philosophy or its aspirations for a messianic deliverance. We must accept that the a supranaturalistic chain of events posited by the Standard Model is in fact a theological imposition upon history by a later group determined to justify their own existence at the expense of those who came before them who tried (and failed) to upset Rome’s hegemony. It was politically expedient to sever and obscure the cult’s ties to what Rome correctly perceived to be dangerous revolutionaries.



[1] William Hugh Clifford Frend (1916-2005) was for a long time Professor of Ecclesiastical History, and Dean of the Faculty of Divinity, in the University of Glasgow 1969-84 (Emeritus 1984-2005) won many academic honors and authored several works, including The Donatist Church (1952) and the tendentiously titled Martyrdom and Persecution in the Early Church (1965)..

[2] Ben Witherington III, The Paul Quest (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1998), 326.

[3] W.H.C. Friend, The Rise of Christianity, 109.

[4] Gregory N. Daugherty, “The Cohortes Vigilum and the Great Fire of 64 AD,” The Classical Journal 87 (1992), 229-240.

[5] Suetonius, Lives of the Caesars, Nero, 16.2. Suetonius includes this event among Nero’s “good deeds”.

[6] Frend, The Rise of Chrsitianity, 109. These are listed in Martyrologium Hieronymianum (Acta Sanctorum), ed. L. Duchesne and J.B. de Rossi (Brussels, 1894).

[7] McDowell and Wilson, He Walked Among Us (Nashville: Thames Nelson, 1988), 53.

[8] Gerd Lüdemann’s revised chronology (shared by Niels Hyldahl) places the start of Paul’s mission in 35 and his letter to the Romans in the winter of 53/54. See Acts of the Apostles, 357-360 for Lüdemann’s revised chronology.

[9] In his City of God, Augustine compares Nero’s deeds to those of the antichrist (City of God XX.19.3) and in recent times Delbert Hillers (Hillers, Delbert, “Rev. 13, 18 and a scroll from Murabba’at”, Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 170 [1963], 65) has suggested that the number “666″ in the Revelation of John is a code for Nero. The BBCs resource on historical figures simply refers to his reputation “as an ineffectual, neglectful and brutal leader.” http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/nero.shtml  Few people have anything good to say about Nero.

[10] The poet “Juvenal” (Decimus Junius Juvenalis), who lived in the late first and early second century CE issued the lament: “The Syrian Orontes has long since poured into the Tiber.”

[11] Cornelius Tacitus, Annals, Book 15, chapter 44.

[12] Norman Perrin, The New Testament: An Introduction, 407.

[13] Robert van Voorst, Jesus Outside the New Testament, 52.

[14] John P. Meier, A Marginal Jew, 91.

[15] Michael Grant, Tacitus, 20.

[16] Suetonius, The Twelve Caesars, trans. by Catharine Edwards, Nero, ch. 38.

[17] Sulpicius Severus, Chronica 2.29.3. Severus simply repeats Tacitus’ account in the Annals.

[18] Tertullian, Apol 5.

[19] T.D. Barnes, “Legislation Against the Christians,” 34. “Melito had linked Christianity to the Roman Empire by maintaining both that it began under the first emperor Augustus and that it was persecuted only by the ‘bad’ emperors Nero and Domitian. Both ideas were new ones, appearing for the first time in the Apology of Melito.”

[20] Origen, Contra Celsum 3.8.

[21] Eusebius, EH 2.25.

[22] Frend, Martyrdom and Persecution, 162.

[23] W.H.C. Frend, Martyrdom and Persecution in the Early Church: A Study of a Conflict from the Maccabees to Donatus (NY: New York University Press, 1967), 126.

[24] Paul Keresztes, The Imperial Roman Government and the Christian Church. I. From Nero to the Severi. (Berlin, 1980), 257.

[25] Josephus War 6.312-313; Suetonius Vespasian 4.5; Tacitus History 5.13.2, cf. 1.10.

[26] Geza Vermes, Faces of Jesus, 159-60.

[27] Robert Eisenman (James the Brother of Jesus, 413) calls most of the extra-biblical material about Peter “patently mythological.”

[28] Daugherty, 232.

[29] Daugherty, 231.

[30] Stephen Benko, Pagan Rome and the Early Christians, 19-20.

[31] Matyszak, 261.

[32] Eisenman, James the Brother of Jesus, 791.

[33] Eisenman, James the Brother of Jesus, 791. It was rumor that Nero had kicked her to death and the supposition was that she had criticized him for coming home late from the games.

[34] Matyszak, The Sons of Caesar, 269.




Demythologizing Christianity’s Most Cherished Moment: Nero and the Christians, Part Two was written by Hrafnkell Haraldsson for PoliticusUSA.
© PoliticusUSA, Sun, Jul 8th, 2012 — All Rights Reserved




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