Sordi, Christians and the Roman Empire

Sordi, Marta. The Christians and the Roman Empire. London; London: University of Oklahoma Press, 1986.

Sordi has treated the topic of relationship between the Roman Empire and the Christians earlier (Il christianesimo e Roma (1965) and this is her second book on this theme. Her view has not changed, but this book treats the questions raised since 1965 including misunderstandings which have arisen as the result of her proposition. Sordi proposed (and still do) that “the conflict between Rome and Christianity was ethical and religious, ideological and emotional, but was not, at least not on its deepest level, a political conflict at all” (p. 4).

In order to tidy up all the issues (although she admits that some ambiguities and difficulties remain) she analyses the relationship between the Christians and the Roman Empire throughout the first three centuries in two parts. One: The Christians and the Political Power and Two: The Christians and the Roman World.

Despite its age, I recommend this book to anyone working with NT and Revelation in particular. Sordi claims that Christians were persecuted and that a great many people lost their lives, but that the conflict almost never was a political one. The Christians continued to “profess their loyalty to the Roman state and to call themselves good Roman citizens even during periods of persecution” (p. 4). Of course, Sordi’s proposition is dependent on her definitions, but do read the book to verify the qualities of her work.

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