Sunday, 27 November 2011

Julian and the Pagans - Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Chapter 23 Part 3

Constantine's adoption of Christianity and the ramifications of it triggered off a full scale religious crisis in the empire that was to last for the whole of the fourth century. As Julian came to the throne Christians were already fighting other Christians and it was only a matter of time before other religions resorted to violence as well. What would Julian do about it? To everyone's surprise his first edict was one of tolerance. His approach looked good on paper.  Everyone was free to follow whatever spiritual path that suited them.  Full religious freedom was good news for most people on a personal level. Jews and pagans had a whole series of irksome restrictions lifted. The previously non-favoured brands of Christianity also were able to worship in freedom.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Was St Paul a Christian?

St Paul converted on the road to Damascus

I am indebted to a couple of my Twitter chums, @BibleAlsoSays and @TheDudeDiogenes for provoking some thoughts that I thought worth sharing.  Just to give a bit of background, I have got the King James Bible on my Kindle.  I never used to read the Bible much.  For a start I am an atheist.  Also, in print form the type is rather small. And the layout is a bit weird.  Why do they have to number all the paragraphs?  I suppose it makes sense for reference purposes but it does make it hard work to actually read.  And there is another drawback to reading a printed copy of the Bible.  If you read it in public, well it makes you look a bit odd.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Julian and the Jews: Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Chapter 23 Part 2

It is hard not to admire the way that the Jews have succeeded in maintaining their culture and identity for many thousands of years. This has been achieved in the face of some pretty big practical difficulties. They have rarely had the support of a state and have often been subject to some pretty severe persecutions.

For instance, when Julian became the last pagan to come to the throne they were going through one of their bad patches. The Christians had not that long ago broken away from the Jewish tradition and the two faiths had the kinds of issues that might be expected from a pair that had just been through a messy divorce. Prior to the rise of Christianity the Jews had fallen foul of several of the emperors as a result of a number of brave but not tremendously successful revolts. Hadrian had banned them from Jerusalem. The ban was still in force and on top of that Constantius had imposed extra taxes on them.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Against the Galileans by Julian the Apostate

Not many leaders in history write books.  Quite a few don't read books.  Those that do put pen to paper rarely write anything of more than historical interest.  But even among the small number that do stand up to scrutiny, Julian the Apostate's lengthy polemic 'Against the Galileans', his critique of the Christianity of his time, is a completely unique document.  There really is nothing to compare it with.