Roman Opposition To Jesus And His Followers

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When the Romans chose to execute Jesus, they didn’t have many legitimate reasons to oppose him or his followers; however, after Jesus’ death his following grew and so did the Roman’s opposition. Prior to his death, Jesus’s movement was not viewed as a serious threat to Rome, because it consisted of a small, obscure group that had no army, weapons cache or known agenda to challenge the empire’s occupation. In other words, the Romans had no imminent reason to fear Jesus or his followers.

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During his lifetime, however, Jesus the teacher was primarily a problem for the Jewish High Priests. He openly questioned their authority and challenged both the Sadducees’ and Pharisees’ interpretations of the laws of Moses. He provoked the High Priests and they were motivated to quiet him. They appealed to the Romans, and Pilate chose to make an example of Jesus and condemned him to death by crucifixion but neither the Romans nor the High Priests foresaw the notion of Jesus the Messiah (Cole and Symes 183). Jesus’ followers claimed to have seen their resurrected leader, and they spread that message along with his beliefs to the people throughout the regions beyond Judea. In the textbook, Western Civilization, the authors state, Jesus’s execution might have been the end of the story if not for his followers, who asserted that he had risen from the dead before being taken up into heaven (Cole and Symes 183).

The Romans opposition to Jesus’ movement after his death was far greater than it was during his lifetime. Once Jesus’ movement, experienced greater growth, it eventually garnered two widespread, official persecutions that were ordered by emperors. As the movement continued to spread to non-Jewish territories for several centuries, Christians eventually included diverse groups of people. Those people didn’t conform or meet the Roman’s behavioral expectations. The growing Christian population was insubordinate, because they refused to worship the Roman gods, they didn’t recognize the divine authority of the Roman Emperor, and they were accused of gathering in secret to plot and practice evil, deviate behaviors.

Today, we recognize that Jesus was the founder of the most historically significant religion of Western Civilization (Ehrman 195). Therefore, it may seem logical to assume in 2018 that he was a huge celebrity during his lifetime and he had the inclination to incite massive, rioting crowds to protest the Roman Empire’s occupation. Upon closer scrutiny, however, that assumption can be ruled out, as it is inaccurate. Jesus was not a revered celebrity during his lifetime. In fact, there are no existing writings about Jesus from pagan writers (i.e., those who were neither Jewish nor Christian) that survived from the first century of the Common Era (Ehrman 195). Per Bart D. Ehrman, nothing written by any pagan author of the first century so much as mentions Jesus’

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