The Early Christians in Rome
H.D.M Spence-Jones



Book I - The Beginnings of Christianity in Rome
Part I
A sketch of the early Jewish colony in Rome — Allusion to Jews by Cicero — Favour shown them by Julius Caesar — Mention of Jews by the great poets of the Augustine age — Characteristic features and moral power of Jews — Their numbers in the days of Nero

Chapter 1 - (a) Foundation of the Church in Rome - Influence of S. Peter
Into this colony of Jews came the news of the story of Jesus Christ — Was S. Peter among the first preachers of Christianity in Rome? — Quotations from early Christian writers on this subject — Traditional memories of S. Peter in Rome

Chapter II - Early References
Quotations from patristic writers of the first three centuries, bearing on the foundation of the Church in Rome, including the oldest Catalogues of the Bishops of Rome — Deduction from these quotations

Part II

Chapter I - (b) Foundation of the Church in Rome - Influence of S. Paul
S. Paul in Rome — His share in laying the foundation stories in the Capital — Paul's Christology more detailed than that contained in S. Mark's Gospel, which represents S. Peter's teaching

Chapter II - Position of Christians After AD 64
The great fire of Rome in the days of Nero brought the unnoticed sect of Christians into prominence — The games of Nero — Never again after a.d. 64 did Christians enjoy "stillness " — The policy of the State towards them from this time was practically unaltered

Chapter III - The Veiled Shadow of Persecution - Policy of the Flavian Emperors
Silence respecting details of persecutions in pagan and in Christian writings — Reason for this — These writings contain little history; but the Christian writings are coloured with the daily expectation of death and suffering — In spite of persecution the numbers of Christians increased rapidly — What was the strange attraction of Christianity? — Persecution of the sect under the Flavian Emperors Vespasian, Titus, Domitian

Part III

The correspondence between Trajan and Pliny, and the Imperial Rescript — Genuineness of this piece in Pliny's Letters

Chapter I - The Letters of Pliny
Nerva — Character of Trajan — Story of correspondence here referred to — Pliny's Letters — Reply of Trajan, which contained the famous Rescript — Tertullian's criticism of Rescript — Pliny's Letters — They were no ordinary letters, but were intended for public reading — Pliny's character — The vogue of writing letters as Literary pieces for public reading — Pliny's Letters briefly examined — The letter here under special consideration — Its great importance in early Christian history

Chapter II - Vogue of Epistolary Form of Literature
Letters of public men considered as pieces of literature — After Trajan there were very few Latin writings until the close of the fourth century — In that period some celebrated letters again appear (written by Symmachus and by Sidonius Apollinaris a few years later) — These letters were evidently written as pieces of literature intended for public circulation

Chapter III - The New Testament Epistles, and Letters of Apostolic Fathers
Adoption of favourite letter-form as literary pieces — in Epistles of the New Testament, and in letters of Apostolic Fathers

Part IV

Chapter I - (a) Hadrian - His Policy Towards Christianity
Hadrian — His life of travel — His character — Early policy towards Christians — He insults Christianity in his building of Aelia Capitolina on site of Jerusalem — The great Jewish war — Its two results — (a) Complete change in the spirit of the Jews — (b) A new conception of the Christian sect on part of Roman Government — It was now recognized that the Christian was no mere Jewish dissenter, but a member of a distinct sect, dangerous to Roman policy

Chapter II - (b) Hadrian - His Enmity Towards Christianity Gradually Increased
Last years of Hadrian — Persecution of Christians more pronounced — Undoubted authorities for this graver position of Christians throughout the Empire — Table showing succession of Antonines to the Empire

Chapter III - Antoninus Pius and Marcus Antoninus - Their Ideals
Character of Antoninus Pius — His intense love for Rome — His determination to restore the old simple life to which Rome owed her greatness — His devotion to ancient Roman traditions, and to the old Roman religion — Antoninus Pius and his successor Marcus lived themselves the simple austere life they taught to their court and subjects

Chapter IV - Intense Antipathy of the Antonines to Christianity
Reason of the Antonines' marked hostility to the Christian sect — The Christians stood resolutely aloof from the ancient religion which these two great sovereigns believed was indissolubly bound up with the greatness of Rome — With such views of the sources of Roman power and prosperity, only a stern policy of persecution was possible — This policy, pursued in days of Pius, was intensified by his yet greater successor Marcus — The common idea that the Christians were tolerated in the days of the Antonines must be abandoned — Their sufferings under the rule of these great Emperors, especially in the days of Marcus, can scarcely be exaggerated


Book II - The Life of a Christian in the Early Days of the Faith


Chapter I - Numbers of Christians in the Early Days
Certain reasons to which the rapid acceptance of Christianity was owing— The great numbers of the early converts is borne witness to by pagan authors, such as Tacitus and Pliny, and by Christian contemporary writers such as Clement of Rome, Hermas, Irenaeus, and others— The testimony of the Roman catacombs described in detail in Fourth Book is also referred to

Chapter II - The Assemblies of Christians
These "assembhes" constituted a powerful factor in the acceptance and organization of the religion of Jesus— Their high importance is recognized by the great teachers of the first days— Quotations from these are given

Chapter III - Of Whom These Primitive "Assemblies" were Composed
Information respecting these early meetings of Believers is supplied by leading Christian teachers— Quotations from these are given

Chapter IV -
A general picture of one of them by Justin Martyr— (A) Dogmatic teaching given in these meetings— (B) Almsgiving— Is shown to be an inescapable duty— Is pressed home by early masters of Christianity on the faithful— All offerings made were, however, purely voluntary— No communism was ever taught or hinted at in the early Church — (C) Special dogmatic instruction respecting the value of almsgiving was given by some early teachers — Several of these instructions are given here — (D) Apart from this somewhat strange dogmatic teaching on the value of almsgiving, the general duty of almsgiving was most strongly impressed on the faithful — Passages emphasizing this from very early writers are here quoted — (E) Special recipients of these alms are particularized; amongst these, in the first place, widows and orphans, and the sick, appear — (F) These alms in some cases were not to be confined to the Household of Faith — (G) Hospitality to strangers is enjoined — References here are given from several prominent early teachers — Help to prisoners for the Name's sake enjoined — Assistance to be given to poorer Churches is recommended — (H) Burial expenses for the dead among the poorer brethren are to be partly defrayed from the "alms" contributed at the assemblies, partly from private sources — Lactantius, in his summary of Christian duties, dwells markedly on this duty — Important witness of the Roman catacombs here

Chapter V - The Slave in Early Christian Life
Position in Christian society — How the slave was regarded in the "assembhes " — Paulinus of Nola quoted on the general Christian estimate of a slave — How this novel view of the slave was looked on by pagans - A general summary of the effect which all this teaching current in the primitive "assembhes" had on the policy and work of the Church in subsequent ages

Chapter VI - Difficulties in Ordinary Life Among the Early Christians
Difficulties in common life for the Christian who endeavoured to carry out the precepts and teaching given in the "assemblies" are sketched — In family life — In trades — In the amusements of the people — In civil employments — In the army — In matters of education — A general summary of such difficulties is quoted from De Broglie (l'Eglise et l'Empire)

Chapter VII - The Ascetic and the More Practical Schools of Teaching
Two schools of teaching, showing how these difficulties were to be met, evidently existed in the early Church — (A) The school of Rigourists — Tertullian is a good example of a teacher of this school — Effect of this school on artisans — On popular amusements — On soldiers of the Legions — On slaves — On family life— From this stern school came the majority of the martyrs — (B) The gentler and more practical school — exemplified in such writings as the Dialogue of Minucius Felix and in writings of Clement of Alexandria, etc - Results of the teaching of the gentler school — Art was still possible among Christians, although permeated with heathen symbols — The Christian might still continue to live in the Imperial court — might remain in the civil service — in the army, etc. — Examples for such allowances found in Old Testament writings — (C) The Rigourist school again dwelt on — Its great influence on the pagan empire — The final victory of Christianity was largely owing to the popular impression of the life and conduct of followers of this school — This impression was voiced by fourth century writers such as Prudentius and Paulinus of Nola, and is shown in the work of Pope Damasus in the catacombs

Chapter VIII - What the Religion of Jesus Offered in Return for this Hard Life to Rigourists, and in a Slightly Less Degree to All Followers of the Second School
(A) Freedom from ever-present fear of death — S. Paul, Ignatius, and especially epitaphs in the Roman catacombs are referred to here — (B) New terminology for death, burial, etc., used — (C) The ever-present consciousness of forgiveness of sins — (D) Hope of immediate bliss after death — The power of the revelation of S. John in early Christian life — (E) Was Christian life in the early centuries after all a dreary existence, as the pagans considered it?


Book III - The Inner Life of the Church
Part I
AD 64-AD 180

The early Church remained continually under the veiled shadow of persecution — This state of things we learn, not from the "Acts of the Martyrs," which, save in a certain number of instances, are of questionable authority, but from fragments which have come down to us of contemporary writings — Extracts from two groups of the more important of these are quoted

Chapter I - Quotations from Apostles, etc.
First Group. — From writings of apostles and apostolic men, including the Epistle to the Hebrews — 1 Peter — Revelation of S. John — First letter of S. Clement of Rome — The seven genuine letters of S. Ignatius

Chapter II - Quotations from Writings of the Second Century
Second Group. — Early writings, dating from the time of Trajan to the deathof Marcus Antoninus (A. D. 180); including — "Letters of Pliny and Trajan" — "Letter to Diognetus" — "The Shepherd of Hermas" — "1st Apology of Justin Martyr" — "Minucius Felix" — "Writings of Melito of Sardis" — "Writings of Athenagoras" — "Writings of Theophilus of Antioch" — "Writings of Tertullian " — the last-named a very few years later, but bearing on same period

Part II
Training for Martyrdom

The sight of the martyrs' endurance under suffering had a marked effect on the pagan population. This was noticed and dreaded by the Roman magistracy. Efforts were constantly made by the Government to arrest or at least to limit the number of martyrs

Chapter I - Of the Special Training for Martyrdom
The Church conscious of the powerful effect of a public martyrdom upon the pagan crowds — established a training for — a preparation in view of a possible martyrdom — This training included: (a) A public recitation in the congregations of Christians of the "Acts," "Visions," and "Dreams" of confessors — (b) The preparation of special manuals prepared for the study of Christians — In these manuals our Lord's words were dwelt on — (c) A prolonged practice of austerities, with the view of hardening the body for the endurance of pain

Chapter II - Quotations from Tertullian, etc.
Certain of Tertullian's references to this preparation, and to the austerities practised with this view, are quoted. (His words, written circa a.d. 200, indicate what was in the second century a common practice in the Church.) S, Ignatius's words in his letter to the Roman Church are a good example of what was the use of the Church in the early years of the second century — Some of the words in question are quoted

Part III
The Great Numbers of Martyrs in the First Two Hundred and Fifty Years

Christian tradition by no means exaggerates the number of martyrs — the contrary, indeed, is the case — In the first two hundred and fifty years the general tone of the early Christian writings (above quoted) dwells on those blood-stained days — But the great pagan authors of the second century, Tacitus and Pliny, are the most definite on the question of the vast number of martyrs — Here is cited a new piece of evidence concerning these great numbers from notices in the "Pilgrim Itineraries" or "Guides" to the catacombs of the sixth and following centuries — These tell us what the pilgrims visited— The vast numbers of martyrs in the different cemeteries again and again are dwelt upon

Chapter I -
List of the various cemeteries and their locality, with special notice of numbers of martyrs buried in each

Chapter II - Special Reference in the "Monza" Papyrus, etc.
The "Monza" Catalogue — made for Queen Theodolinda by Gregory the Great, with notices of number of martyrs from the catalogue in question — Inscriptions of Pope Damasus — References by the poet Prudentius on the number of martyrs

Chapter III - Deductions from the "Monza" Catalogue and "Pilgrim" Guides
General summary, allowing for some exaggeration in the "Pilgrim" Guides and in the "Monza" Catalogue, on the great numbers of these confessors and martyrs


Book IV - The Roman Catacombs
Part I

The nature of the catacombs' witness to the secret of the "Inner Life" of the Church — A brief sketch of the contents of the Fourth Book

Chapter I - The Romand Catacombs - Their Place in Ecclesiastical History
Early researches — Their disastrous character — De Rossi — His view of the importance of the testimony of the catacombs in early Christian history — Much that has been considered legendary is really historic — Witness of catacombs to the faith of the earliest Christians

Chapter II - De Rossi's Way of Working in his Investigations
Among the materials with which De Rossi worked may be cited: Acta Martyrum of S. Jerome, Liber Pontificalis, the "Pilgrim Itineraries," and the "Monza" Catalogue, which is specially described — Decoration of certain crypts — Basilica (ruins) above ground — Luminaria — Graffiti of pilgrims — Inscriptions of Pope Damasus in situ, and also preserved in ancient syllogae - Certain of his more important discoveries in the cemeteries of SS. Domitilla, Priscilla, Callistus — The yet later discoveries of Marucchi and others

Chapter III - General Account of the Vastness and Situation of the Catacombs
(1) The Vatican cemetery and the groups of catacombs on the right bank of the Tiber

Chapter IV
(2) On the Via Ostiensis — Basilica of S. Paul — Cemeteries on the Via Ardeatina — Grandeur of cemetery of S. Domitilla — The small basilica of S. Petronilla

Chapter V
(3) Groups of cemeteries on the Via Appia — S. Sebastian (ad Catacumbas) — Group of S. Callistus — The Papal crypt — S. Soteris — Catacomb of Praetextatus on left hand of the Via Appia — Tomb of S. Januarius in this catacomb

Chapter VI
Cemeteries on the Via Latina and Via Tiburtina — S. Hippolytus — S. Laurence — S. Agnes' cemetery on the Via Nomentana

Chapter VII
(5) Cemeteries on the Via Salaria Nova — S. Felicitas; the great cemetery of S. Priscilla, and the ancient Roman churches connected with it — Legends — Remains of basilica of S. Sylvester over the cemetery of S. Priscilla — Memories of S. Peter in this cemetery — Its waters — Recent discoveries — Popes buried in the basilica of S. Sylvester

Chapter VIII
(6) Unimportant cemeteries on the Via Salaria Vetus — S. Pamphylus — S. Hermes — S. Valentinus, etc.

Appendix I - S. Petronilla
Suggested derivation of Petronilla — De Rossi and other scholars still hold to the ancient Petrine tradition — Reasons for maintaining it — Early mediaeval testimony here — Traces of the early cult of this Saint

Appendix II - Tombe of S. Peter
Probable situation of the tomb in present basilica of S. Peter — Account of what was found in the course of the excavations in the seventeenth century, by Ubaldi, Canon of S. Peter's, who was an eye-witness of the discoveries made in a.d. 1626, when the works required for the great bronze Baldachino of Bernini were being carried out

Part II
Two Examples of Recent Discoveries

Chapter I - The Crypt of S. Cecilia
The old story of the famous Saint no longer a mere legend — Reconstruction of S. Cecilia's life — The crypt is described — Her basilica in the Trastevere quarter — once S. Cecilia's house

Chapter II - Removal of S. Cecilia to Her Basilica
Discovery of remains of S. Cecilia by Paschal I., a.d. 821 — Appearance of the body, which he translated from the crypt in the catacomb of Callistus to her basilica — Her tomb in the basilica opened in a.d. 1599 by Clement VIII. — Appearance of the body — Maderno copied it in marble — How De Rossi discovered and identified in the original catacomb the crypt of S. Cecilia

Chapter III - The Tomb of S. Felicitas, and of Her Sons
Discovery and identification of the burial-places of S. Felicitas, of S. Januarius, and of her other sons — Reconstruction of her story — Tomb of S. Januarius found in cemetery of Praetextatus on the Via Appia — Original tomb of S. Felicitas found in the cemetery bearing her name (Via Salaria Nova) — Identification of the burial-places of her other sons

Part III
Teaching of the Inscriptions and Carvings on the Tombs

Chapter I - Epitaphs in the Catacombs - Their Simplicity
Uncounted numbers of graves in this silent city of the dead; computed at three, four, or five millions — belonging to all ranks — Some of these were elaborately adorned — Greek often the language of very early epitaphs — Great simplicity as a rule in inscriptions — No panegyric of dead — just a name — a prayer — an emblem of faith and hope — Communion of saints everywhere asserted

Chapter II - Epitaphs in the Catacombs Contrasted with Pagan Inscriptions
A few of these epitaphs quoted — never a word of sorrow for the departed found in them — Question of the catacomb teaching on efficacy of prayers of the dead for the living — S. Cyprian quoted here — Desire of being interred close to a famous martyr- — Marked difference in the pagan conception of the dead — Some pagan epitaphs quoted

Chapter III - Epitaphs in the Catacombs - Their Dogmatic Teaching
The epitaphs on the catacomb graves tell us with no uncertain voice how intensely real among the Christian folk was the conviction of the future life — They talk, as it were, with the dead as with living ones — Dogmatic allusions in these short epitaphs necessarily are very brief, but yet are quite definite — The supreme divinity of Jesus Christ constantly asserted — The catacombs are full of Christ — Of the emblems carved on the graves — Jesus Christ as "the Good Shepherd" most frequent — The "Crucifixion" became a favourite subject of representation only in later years

On the wish to be interred close to a saint or martyr — Quotation from S. Augustine here


Book V - The Jew and the Talmud

The story of the Jew — his past — his condition now, is the weightiest argument that can be adduced in support of the truth of Christianity — What happened to the "sad remnant" of the people after the exterminating wars of Titus and Hadrian, a.d. 70 and 134-5, is little known; yet the wonderful story of the Jew, especially in the second and third centuries, is a piece of supreme importance — How Rabbinic study and the putting out of the Talmud have influenced the general estimate of the Old Testament among Christian peoples

Chapter I - The Last Three Great Wars of the Jews
The First War, a.d. 66-70 — Revolt of the Jews — The dangerous revolt was eventually crushed by Vespasian, and when he succeeded to the Empire his son Titus completed the conquest — Fate of the city of Jerusalem, a.d. 70 — Why was the Temple burned? — The recital of Sulpicius Severus gives the probable answer — The account in question was apparently quoted from a lost book of Tacitus — The Roman triumph of Titus — The memories of the conquered Jews on the Arch of Titus in the Forum — The great change in Judaism after a.d. 70, when the Temple and city were destroyed — The change was completed after the war of Hadrian in a.d. 134-5 (the third war) — Brief account of the second and third wars — The bitter persecution after the third war soon ceased, and the sad Jewish remnant was left virtually to itself

Chapter II - Rabbinism (a)
The conservation of the remnant of the Jews was owing to the development of Rabbinism — Rabbinism, however, existed before a.d. 70 — Traditional story of the rise of Rabbinism contained in the "Mishnah" treatise Pirke Aboth — Effect of the great catastrophe of a.d. 70 — Mosaism was destroyed, and was replaced by Rabbinism

Chapter III - Rabbinism (b)
Extraordinary group of eminent Rabbis who arose after the catastrophe of a.d. 70 — Their new conception of the future of Israel — The Torah (Law of Moses) and other writings of the Old Testament from the days of Ezra had been esteemed ever more and more highly — The "Halachah" or (Rules round the Torah) gradually multiplied — The elaboration of these "Halachah" and "Haggadah" (traditions) formed the "Mishnah" — this work roughly occupied the new Jewish schools during the whole of the second century — Explanation of term "Mishnah" — The next two or three centuries were occupied by the Rabbis in their schools of Palestine and Babylonia in a further commentary on the "Mishnah" — This second work of the Rabbis was termed the "Gemara"

Chapter IV - The Talmud
Portions of the "Talmud" had existed before a.d. 70 — probably some few of the "Halachah" and "Haggadah" even dating from the days of Moses — some from the times of the Judges, and others belonging to the schools of the Prophets — In the times of Ezra arose the strange and unique "Guild of Scribes," devoted to the study and interpretation of the sacred writings and the traditions which had gathered round them in past ages — R. Hillel a little before the Christian era began the task of arranging the results of the labours of the scribes — R. Akiba after a.d. 70 continued the work of arrangement, but was interrupted — His fame and story — R. Meir further worked at the same task, which was finally completed by R. Judah the Holy, who generally arranged the Mishnah in the form in which it has come down to us — This "Mishnah" served as the text for the great academies of Palestine and Babylonia to work on in the third and two following centuries — Their writings are known as the "Gemara" — The Mishnah and Gemara together form the Talmud — A picture of the great Rabbinic academies of Palestine and Babylonia — Their methods of study

Chapter V - How the Text of the Books of the Old Testament was Preserved
Description of the Massorah — The work of the Massorites in the preservation of the text of the sacred books — Present condition of the Massorah

Chapter VI - Concluding Memoranda
Inspiration of the Old Testament Scriptures, according to the Talmud account
The story of the Talmud through the ages
The Talmud and the New Testament
Influence of the Talmud on Judaism
Influence of the Talmud on Christianity

Chapter VII - (A) An Appendix on the "Haggadah"
"Haggadah" in the Talmud and in other ancient Rabbinical writings — Signification of the "Haggadah" — Its great importance — Its enduring popularity - Examples of "Haggadah" quoted from the Palestinian Targum on Deuteronomy

Chapter VIII - (B) On the "Halachah" and "Haggadah"
The general purport of the "Halachah" — Some illustrations — Further details connected with the "Haggadah" — It is not confined to the later Books of the Old Testament — The "Haggadah" also belongs to the Pentateuch — Examples of this quoted — Instances of the influence of "Haggadah" in the New Testament Books

Chapter IX
Women's Disabilities