Thebeast and the harlot
Thebeasts and the harlot
Christianityis arguably the largest religion globally. It is one of the few thathave a quantifiable presence in every corner of the world. However,this dominance was not always there. The religion, which wasestablished after the death of Jesus Christ underwent severalchallenges, especially in its early ages. When Christianity was agrowing community of believers, those who subscribed to it went undera series of persecutions. The greatest persecutor was the RomanEmpire as the religion emerged from a region that was under itscontrol. The paper evaluates Roman imperial policies and proceduresin dealing with the church especially during the second half of thefirst century AD. It also analyses the dominant images and visions inthe book of revelations that refer to the persecution of the church.
Romanimperial policies and procedures
Forone to understand the policies and procedures adopted by the RomanEmpire in regards to the church, it is important first to understandhow the two related. The death of Jesus Christ has been approximatedto have taken place between 26 and 36 AD. To the Roman Empire, Jesuswas a minor problem that had to be eliminated to avoid major futureproblems (Cassidy, 2015). Though his death should have been the lastblow to the memories of his teachings, the determination of hisfollowers kept his teaching alive with St Paul being the most vibrantmissionary. During this period there were no scriptures, but the fewconverts to the faith relied on the wisdom of the disciples of Jesusto nourish their faith. The secretive nature of the church made itdifficult for the Roman Empire to take notice.
Inthe second half of the first century AD, the new cult continued togrow. Though the Romans had a policy of dealing with such cultsdecisively owing to the potential they had of destabilizing theEmpire, they hesitated for a long time to deal with Christianity.However, this was not to go on for long as the concept of one Godpresented by the new faith threatened long held the principle ofseveral gods that had ensured religious toleration for all those thatlived within the empire. The first known imperial policy against theearly church came during this time when Christians began to bepersecuted (Goodman, 2016). The state officials that conducted theseacts did so after the followers of the early church refused toperform the Roman religious act of Caesar worship. In the eyes of theofficials, the defiance was a demonstration of disloyalty to theempire and its rulers.
Thefirst emperor who was actively involved in the persecution ofChristians was Nero who reigned between 54 and 68 AD (Howard-Brook,2016). He was the first ruler to recognize the new faith andimplement imperial policies and procedures against the early church.Early in his rule, the emperor had allowed Jews to reside in Italyand Rome. This was at a time during which Christianity had notseparated from Judaism and was viewed in the same light by theRomans. Having been the first emperor to be aware of Christians, heused them as a scapegoat after the event of the great fire of Rome.Being the emperor, he orders that Christians be charged with arsonand executed. The persecutions continued for a while until he wasdethroned.
Theother emperor credited with persecuting Christians was Domitian. Hereigned from 81-96 AD and was believed to be as ruthless as Nero(Howard-Brook, 2016). Believed to be a paranoid and megalomaniacalruler, Domitian persecuted Christian after they allegedly refused toacknowledge him as a god. The refusal by Christian to acclaim anotherperson as a god apart from the one introduced to them by the Messiahmade the emperor angrier and the persecutions continued throughouthis rule. The trend spilled over into the second century, especiallyafter Christianity was able to sever its ties to Judaism.
Revelationto persecution of the Church
Thebook of revelation is believed to have been written in the course ofthe first century. Though the book was believed to be an account ofthings to happen in the future, there are visions and images that arebelieved to have foretold the persecution of the church. The firstvision is that of the beast and the harlot also commonly referred toas the whore of Babylon in some bible versions. In the book ofRevelation chapter 17: 1-18 John describes a vision of a woman seatedon a scarlet beast that has ten horns and seven heads. “And thewoman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over thekings of the earth,” 17:18, KJV. The early Christians used Babylonas a code for Rome. The name Babylon held a special place in thehistory of Jews as its army had captured and enslaved Jerusalem. In asimilar manner, Rome had entered Jerusalem in the second half of thecentury and massacred scores of people in the holy city (Edwards,2016). To the early church, Rome depicted the new Babylon, and theharlot was the capital of the empire.
Theother vision is the beast from the earth that is explained inRevelation 13: 11-18. The beast which comes from the land, speakslike a dragon, but has horns like a lamb works to deceive theinhabitants of the nation making it impossible to trade without itmark. To the early Christian, the beast was a depiction of EmperorNero who deceived the early Christian and later persecuted them(Harding, 2015). These two examples are some of the many visionsbelieved to have foretold the persecution of early Christians.
Fromthe discussion above, it is evident that the early church and theRoman Empire share a difficult history. The empire castrated a seriesof persecutions against the new faith. However, interpretations ofthe book of Revelations has shown that visions like beasts and theharlot foretold of the event that befell the early church. The themesfrom the book of Revelations have thus increased human understandingas to challenges faced by the early church.
Cassidy,R. J. (2015). John`s Gospel in new perspective: Christology and therealities of Roman power (Vol. 3). Wipf and Stock Publishers.
Edwards,J. L. (2016). a brief examination of revelation 17–18 and theidentity of Babylon: is Babylon a code word for Rome or is Babylonthe literal city of Babylon?
Goodman,M. (2016). The Roman State and Jewish Diaspora Communities in theAntonine Age. In Jewish and Christian Communal Identities in theRoman World (pp. 75-83). Brill.
Harding,J. (2015). Babylon and the Brethren: The Use and Influence of theWhore of Babylon Motif in the Christian Brethren Movement, 1829-1900.Wipf and Stock Publishers.
Howard-Brook,W. (2016). Empire Baptized: How the Church Embraced What JesusRejected 2nd-5th Centuries. Orbis Books.