I need your help! Here’s the challenge: I’m working on a video that summarizes the history of the Bible in six minutes. Below, I’ve posted the script so far—and I’d be interested to know what you think needs to be included and what might be left out. The narration for the video is already six minutes long, so nothing can be added without taking something out. What that means is that, if you suggest any additions, you’ll need to point out some possible deletions as well!Continue reading.
“Everyone in the entire community is holy, and the LORD is among them!” That’s what a band of rebels from the tribes of Reuben and Levi declared when they revolted against Moses and Aaron before going on to demand, “Why then do you exalt yourselves above the LORD’s assembly?” (Numbers 16:3). The rebels were consumed by earth and fire the next day, suggesting that God may not have agreed with their assessment of the situation. And yet, we must admit that their question made some sense. God had, after all, designated all of Israel as a royal people and a holy priesthood (Exodus 19:6; 22:31; Leviticus 20:7, 26). If all the people participated together in kingship and priesthood, why were leaders needed?
This question becomes even more acute in the New Testament, particularly in the letter that we know as 1 Peter. Continue reading.
Íñigo López de Loyola—better known to us as Ignatius of Loyola*—passed from this life on July 31, 1556. He was a Spanish priest and a leader in the Roman Catholic Counter-Reformation. Roman Catholics have celebrated July 31 as his feast day since the seventeenth century.
As a Protestant, I may not celebrate the feast day of the founder of the Jesuit order, and I do not know whether or not he trusted wholly in the unearned merit of Jesus Christ to be made right with God. I have, however, found these words from his Spiritual Exercises to be helpful as a scholar and as a leader. Here’s what Ignatius had to say about responding to someone with whom you disagree:Continue reading.
This week, in the year AD 64, a fire began in the city of Rome that changed the course of history.
The fire raged six days before being brought under control. When the smoke cleared on July 23, seven of Rome’s fourteen districts had been partly destroyed and three districts were completely obliterated. Then came the rumors that changed everything.
How the Persecution Began
In the aftermath of the inferno, the Emperor Nero had—according to the Roman historian Tacitus—
food brought from Ostia and neighboring towns, and the price of corn was reduced. … Yet these measures, for all their popular character, earned no gratitude. For a rumor had spread that, while the city was burning, Nero had gone on his private stage and…had sung of the destruction of Troy.
Unable to stop the spread of rumors that he had sung about Troy while his henchmen torched the city, the Emperor Nero—again, in the words of Tacitus—
falsely charged … and punished … the persons commonly called “Christians,” who were already despised. … Those who confessed they were Christians were arrested; … a vast multitude was convicted, not so much on the charge of burning the city as on the charge that they were “odious to the human race.” In their deaths they were made the subjects of sport: for they were covered with the hides of wild beasts, and mauled by dogs, or nailed to crosses, or set fire to, and when the day waned, burned as torches for the evening lights. … A feeling of compassion arose towards the sufferers because—though they were indeed guilty and deserving of exemplary capital punishment—they seemed to be being executed not for the good of the public but because of the ferocity of one man.
Why Nero Couldn’t Have Fiddled While Rome Burned (and Probably Didn’t Play the Lyre Either)
The saying that survives from the accusations leveled against Nero is that the emperor “fiddled while Rome burned.”
But Nero couldn’t have fiddled while Rome burned.
The violin wasn’t invented until the sixteenth century, so not even someone as crazy and corrupt as Nero could have played a violin while his city smoldered. He probably didn’t play the lyre or flute during these events either. According to the most reliable reports, Nero was miles away, in Antium, when the fire broke out. Soon after hearing about the fire, Nero headed to Rome. As soon as he reached the city, Nero “opened the Field of Mars and even his own gardens for the relief of the homeless,” according to Tacitus.
The persecution of Christians that resulted from Nero’s false accusation was severe—but it seems to have remained limited to the city of Rome. Later persecutions of Christians broke out in other areas of the Roman Empire for more than two centuries. These persecutions erupted and faded in a variety of places all the way into the fourth century AD. That’s when the Emperor Constantine claimed to have become a Christian. It was Constantine’s confirmation of Galerius’ edict of toleration that finally brought the Roman persecutions to an end.
If you’re interested in learning more about the history of Christianity, take a look at the book and video series Christian History Made Easy.
Discuss in the Comments:
Watch this video about Emperor Nero and the fire in Rome. What did you learn about the early history of Christianity that you didn’t know before?
Open your Bible to the table of contents and take a look at the list of books in the New Testament. There, you'll find the Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John leading the list. But did this quartet of early Christians actually have any connection with the books that bear their names? Were Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John really the ones who wrote the Gospels? If so, how do we know?