Archive for June 2015

More on Religio Illicita

June 28, 2015

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The Roman government still regarded Christianity as a branch of Judaism and therefore a religio licita (legal religion). The Roman policy was to grant freedom to all existing religions in the empire, but to ban new religions for fear of the social turmoil caused by their invasion. Only at a later date, when the Romans realized that Christianity was distinct from Judaism, did they ban Christianity as a religio illicita.

GundryRobert H. Gundry
A Survey of the New Testament (1978), page 236


Religio Illicita

June 26, 2015

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Cornielus Tacitus (56-117), writing of the times of Nero, calls Christians “enemies of the human race” (Annals xv. 44).

Judaism was a religo licita (legal religion), and the Christians, as a sect of Judaism, enjoyed the privilege of protection. But when they were openly separated from Judaism [by the distinct ministry of Paul] they became a religio illicita (illegal religion), with no official standing, nor even the right to exist. They were liable to prosecution if the magistrates found a plausible excuse for harassing them, and they could claim no immunity or redress.

Merrill C TenneyMerrill C. Tenney (1904-1985)
Exploring New Testament Culture: A Handbook of New Testament Times, page 125, 303

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