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Early Christian Attitudes to War, Violence and Military Service


The early Christians were not of one mind when it came to war, violence and military service. There was a bewildering variety of opinion as to how they understood their place in the world. It seems however that generally they did not stand apart from society. On the contrary, they were happy to integrate and conform and they often accepted war and service in the army as activities which did not raise specific ethical problems.
Publisher: Gorgias Press LLC
Availability: In stock
SKU (ISBN): 978-1-61143-486-6
  • *
Publication Status: In Print

Publication Date: Jan 8,2013
Interior Color: Black
Trim Size: 6 x 9
Page Count: 402
Language: English
ISBN: 978-1-61143-486-6
$182.00

The traditional view is that early Christians, prior to emperor Constantine’s conversion to Christianity, were pacifists who stubbornly refused to enlist in the Roman army and engage in warfare, preferring to die rather than betray their beliefs. However, a plethora of literary and archaeological evidence demonstrates that was not usually the case. The majority of early Christians did not find military service or warfare particularly problematic. Christians integrated with the dominant mores of society and that included military service. It is, in fact, possible that Christianity was particularly attractive to those in military service. This study looks to reposition early Christian ethics and the attitude towards war and to bring new understanding to the relationship between military service and Christianity.

The traditional view is that early Christians, prior to emperor Constantine’s conversion to Christianity, were pacifists who stubbornly refused to enlist in the Roman army and engage in warfare, preferring to die rather than betray their beliefs. However, a plethora of literary and archaeological evidence demonstrates that was not usually the case. The majority of early Christians did not find military service or warfare particularly problematic. Christians integrated with the dominant mores of society and that included military service. It is, in fact, possible that Christianity was particularly attractive to those in military service. This study looks to reposition early Christian ethics and the attitude towards war and to bring new understanding to the relationship between military service and Christianity.

""Diese gründliche, kenntnisreiche und durchweg überzeugende Studie wird in Zukunft bei der Frage nach dem Verhältnis der Alten Kirche zu Militär, Gesellschaft und Staat zu berücksichtigen sein.""

- Prof. Dr. Christoph Stenschke, Theologische Revue, 2017, Vol. 113

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Contributor Biography

Despina Iosif

Despina Iosif is a lecturer at the Hellenic Open University and at College Year in Athens. She holds a PhD in Ancient History from University College London. Her area of specilization is early Christianity.

  • Table of Contents (page 5)
  • Acknowledgements (page 9)
  • 1. Introduction (page 11)
  • 2. Jesus and the Evangelists or Love Your Enemies (page 29)
    • Introduction (page 29)
    • Old Testament (page 32)
    • A. New Testament (page 36)
      • NT Gospel Passages of Ambiguousor Even Irrelevant Character (page 40)
      • Probably Conservative NT Gospel Passages (page 43)
      • Probably Radical NT Gospel Passages (page 48)
      • NT Acts (page 50)
      • NT Epistles (page 51)
      • Military Metaphors (page 55)
    • B. Apocrypha (page 57)
      • Jesus as a Child (page 58)
      • Jesus as an Adult (page 61)
      • After Jesus Death (page 63)
      • Pilate (page 66)
    • Conclusions (page 69)
  • 3. Positive Sources (page 71)
    • 3.1. literary evidence or we go to war (page 71)
      • Introduction (page 71)
      • Conclusions (page 87)
    • 3.2. inscriptions or having served with distinction (page 88)
      • Introduction (page 88)
      • Section A. Pre-Constantinian Christian Soldiers (page 96)
      • Section B. Pre-Constantinian Christian(?) Soldiers (page 113)
      • Section C. Pre-Constantinian(?) Christian Soldiers (page 121)
      • Conclusions (page 130)
    • 3.3. Papyri or I pray the merciful God (page 133)
      • Introduction (page 133)
      • Conclusions (page 144)
    • 3.4. Dura Europos or the penetration of military into Civilian territory or two Clibanarri and one Cataphractarius (page 145)
      • Introduction (page 145)
      • Conclusions (page 151)
  • 4. The Silent Sources. From Him Come the Kings and the Rulers and the Governors (page 155)
    • Introduction (page 155)
    • Reassuring Pagans of the Innocence of Christianity (page 158)
    • Persuading Christians of the Necessity of Being Harmless (page 168)
    • Finding the Demons Helpful (page 173)
    • Views on Military Service and War (page 178)
    • Military Images (page 183)
    • Views on Violence (page 189)
    • Views on Peace (page 193)
    • Conclusions (page 195)
  • 5. Dilemmas for Those Who Strive for Perfection or To Serve or Not to Serve? or Break Off the Ties That Bind and Entangle You in This World (page 197)
    • Introduction (page 197)
    • Non est tibi eadem causa quae ceteris (page 199)
    • Conclusions (page 213)
  • 6. Negative Sources (page 223)
    • 6.1. The Pacifist Fathers or the Sons of Peace (page 223)
      • Introduction (page 223)
      • A Bewildering Variety of Opinion (page 225)
      • Noster est magis Caesar (page 228)
      • Setting Limits (page 234)
      • Views on Military Service (page 239)
      • Conclusions (page 249)
    • 6.2. The Acts of the Military Martyrs or Death Will Pronounce Judgement on You (page 249)
      • Introduction (page 249)
      • Prologue (page 259)
      • The Early Accounts or I cannot venerate false gods (page 263)
      • The Late Accounts or we owe military service (page 271)
      • Conclusions (page 291)
  • 7. Councils or Those Who Throw Away Their Arms in Times of Peace Should Be Kept from Communion (page 297)
    • Introduction (page 297)
    • Sacrorum Canonum Contemptores et Ecclesiasticae Sanctitatis Profanatores (page 298)
    • Conclusions (page 313)
  • 8. Epilogue (page 315)
  • 9. Bibliography (page 319)
  • 10. Appendix A. Other Possible Epigraphical Evidence (page 367)
  • 11. Appendix B. A Selection of the Sources Discussed (page 373)
  • Index (page 397)
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