Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Smyrna and Polycarp

According to scholars of Christian history in Asia Minor, the Christians initially lived in peace as it was regarded as a sect of Judaism until the second half of the first century. Judaism enjoyed a special place in Roman Rule especially after the Maccabees revolts. Jews are allowed to worship their One True God and are exempted from Emperor worship. They are to offer sacrifices to the Caesar, not as to gods but as to rulers. This changed during the rule of Emperor Nero who threw suspicions on Christians as the one who started the Great Fire in Rome.

The Jews themselves were increasingly unhappy to be grouped together with Christian whom they regarded to be following a false messiah. There began to have religious conflicts between the Jews and Christians. In Smyrna, the Jews were said to have ‘slandered’ the Christians (v.9) and exposed them to the Roman authorities who would imprison them or execute them (v.10). By distancing Christianity from Judaism, these Jews showed the Roman authorities that Christians are not under the exemption that Judaism enjoyed. The word ‘satan’ means ‘adversary’. One important point is Emperor worship.

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