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     The Close of the Apostolic Age

The Close of the Apostolic Age

1. From the Roman historian Tacitus we learn that in 64AD a fire "more serious and terrible" (Annals 15:38) than any that had ever afflicted the city of Rome raged for more than a week and ruined ten of the city's fourteen districts. Despite Nero's relief efforts and expenditures of personal funds for reconstruction, many suspected him of having started the fire in order that he might have the opportunity of rebuilding Rome in a more splendid style. Nero responded to this rumor by attempting to find scapegoats: "those whom the populace called Christians, who were detested because of the shameful deeds". Christians were arrested and tried, not for arson, but for "hatred of the human race". They were put to death by methods calculated to provide lurid entertainment for the public (Annals 15:44). Thus, apparently by Nero's time, Christians were recognized in Rome as a distinct group, independent of the Jewish community and were unpopular because they did not mix with others but kept to themselves. The authorities and public may have regarded them as an illicit secret society dangerous to the public order.

2. Of much more significance for the future of the church was the jewish rebellion of 66-70AD which devastated Judea and Galilee and resulted in the burning of the temple and the near destruction of Jerusalem. By the time the rebellion started, the Christians at Jerusalem had lost their first leader, James the brother of the Lord, who had been put to death by the Jewish authorities. The only report we have of the church in this catastrophe comes from Eusebius who relates an oracle led believers to migrate from Jerusalem to the transjordan city of Pella before the serious fighting started (Ecc Hist 3.5.3)

Sources utilized in these pages may include:
  • Everett Ferguson's: Backgrounds of Early Christianity
  • Walker's: History of Christianity (out of print)

    (These links will take you to book detail pages at

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