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Christians and Their Many Identities in Late Antiquity, North Africa, 200-450 CE$
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Éric Rebillard

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780801451423

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801451423.001.0001

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Persecution and the Limitsof Religious Allegiance

Persecution and the Limitsof Religious Allegiance

Chapter:
(p.34) Chapter 2 Persecution and the Limitsof Religious Allegiance
Source:
Christians and Their Many Identities in Late Antiquity, North Africa, 200-450 CE
Author(s):

Éric Rebillard

Publisher:
Cornell University Press
DOI:10.7591/cornell/9780801451423.003.0003

This chapter attempts to evaluate the degree of groupness associated with the category “Christians.” It moves from an analysis of when and how Christianness mattered at the level of the individual to an analysis of when and how Christianness was a basis for group-formation. It considers, in particular, how Christians responded when they were targeted as a group by outsiders. A review of episodes of persecution in North Africa from the end of the second until the beginning of the fourth century shows that, despite of their leaders' incitement to do so, Christians seldom opposed a communal response to the persecutors, and that a significant number of them chose to suspend, if only temporarily, their Christian membership. Additionally, when Decius gave the order that all inhabitants of the Roman Empire must sacrifice to the gods for restoration of order and security, the majority of Christians complied. They considered the sacrifice a requirement of their membership in the imperial commonwealth, and they did not activate their Christian membership in this context. On the other hand, with the emergence of the strong figure of a “monarchical bishop,” Christians began bonding around their leader.

Keywords:   North African Christians, religious groups, groupness, religious allegiance, group formation, Christianness, religious persecution

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