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The Christians as the Romans Saw Them

3.93 of 5 stars 3.93  ·  rating details  ·  285 ratings  ·  34 reviews
This book offers an engrossing portrayal of the early years of the Xian movement from the perspective of the Romans.
Pliny: a Roman gentleman. The making of a Roman official; Travels of a provincial governor; A Christian association; Offerings of wine & incense
Christianity as a burial society. Church or political club?; A sense of
Paperback, 224 pages
Published September 10th 1986 by Yale University Press (New Haven/London) (first published 1984)
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David S. T.
This book isn't quite Christians as the Romans saw them, but more so Christians as five different Roman critics (or anti-Christians) saw them. Four of the five individuals mentioned had written arguments against Christianity and forced the earliest of apologetics. This book definitely changed my view of the religious environment of the early Romans. One of the interesting things to me is that by the 3rd and 4th century Romans mostly were Henotheist (meaning there is one supreme god, Jupiter/Zeus ...more
Scott Pilkington
In his highly regarded and well-reviewed book: ‘The Christians as the Romans Saw Them’, Robert L Wilken counters his previous research into the early Apologists by looking at the pagan writing of the time about Christians, to see the issue from the other side of the coin. He argues that this is important as it is an area of focus not normally covered by ancient historians and/or theologians, to understand the apologists; you have to understand their pagan critics. Wilken attempts to use Roman an ...more
Beau Johnson
The Christians as the Romans Saw Them

This book is a great historical picture of how the Christians were viewed in the first centuries CE. It, through the eyes of several contemporary (read: first and second century) authors, shows us just how counter-cultural the early Christians were. More than a vivid description of how the Romans viewed the Christians, it is a convicting account of how much as change, and how much hasn't.

Take, for example, what we learn from Tertullian. In this chapter the au
Jun 06, 2007 Damien rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: centurions; goatherds
This book sheds some much needed light on a weird cult that has been causing trouble lately
Adam Robinson
CS Lewis said that for every 3 modern books you read you should read one ancient book. It's good for us. It reminds us that people before us were just as smart and intellectually curious as we are and also that they had egregious blind spots. That is not to their discredit. On the contrary, it should remind us that we moderns simply have different blind spots even now. Wilkens' book has done a couple for things for me. First, it has given me a much clearer picture of the Roman world during the f ...more
I enjoyed this book for its examination of major trends in the reception of early Christianity by pagan intellectuals of the period. Wilken covers the major authors and their works, and his description of their contents and the challenges they presented to Christian apologists is lucid and accessible without being overly-simple or blatantly incomplete. I feel that, having read this book, I have a good background on the subject and could tackle more specialized works if I wanted to now.

My only co
I "read" this book (i.e. "had it assigned") in undergrad, but have gone back through it in the past couple of weeks as part of my "keeping up with political theory-ish stuff" project (counting this as part of the "Christian political theory" category).

Wilcken's project is to explore Christianity through the eyes of the pagan Romans, both in terms of the general cultural perception (in two chapters, one on the perception of Christians as a "burial society" and one on the perecption of Christians
Ken McGuire
For years I have read multiple church fathers as an amateur, and have often seen this book referenced in modern editions. In addition, I have seen many of the texts he quotes. And so much of the information is not really that new to me.

But this is very good information, that is presented quite well, with great discernment. It introduces the reader to a fair bit of scholarship on this era that otherwise can be hidden away for experts. He finds quite interesting connections between what was happen
“The Christians as the Romans Saw Them” is very interesting & intriguing. I really liked it & I think it would be a great book to discuss in a SS class or with small group of Christians in a home or at a coffee shop.

Robert Wilken’s examines Christianity in the Roman Empire by looking at it through the eyes of pagan critics. Wilken examines five pagan critics; starting with Pliny the Younger's letters to the emperor Trajan circa 112 C.E. Galen, Celsus, Porphyry & the Roman emperor Ju
Sidney Smeets
Wonderful little book showing the criticism against Christianitty to be remarkably consistent from ancient times 'till the present. Especially Celsus is astute in his observations and his humour helps keep his views accessible to modern readers. Christians have not been able to refute criticism regarding the virgin birth or the historicity of Christ in almost 20 centuries. I wouldn't hold my breath they ever will. A joy to read.
Scott Sees
Excellent introduction to the topic. I would recommend it to anyone with the slightest interest in early Christianity, or Roman history, or just a case study in the backlash directed at new religious movements in the ancient world. The chapter "The Piety of the Persecutors" contains particularly worthwhile insights into ancient Roman religion.
Angela Pippinger
Excellent book! I highly recommend anyone interested in religious history to take a look at this one.
Lauren Langford
The most valuable part of this book is the author's successful endeavor to chronicle the evolution of Roman thought regarding Christians as the religion gained popularity within the Roman Empire. Additionally, Wilken demonstrated the ways in which Romans and Christians helped one another define themselves through critical analysis and open discussion of one another's differing viewpoints on faith, politics and social life. I read this book for school because I had to, but if you have an interest ...more
A fascinating and concise book on how pagan Romans viewed Christianity! Wilken accomplishes this task by explaining and evaluating the views and writings of Pliny, Galen, Celsus, Porphry and Julian. In addition he makes comparisons between the "societies" of the Roman world to Christianity, and delves into the repulsion of Rome against Christian response to persecution.

There are a lot of quotes from original sources (translated of course), but it is not an overly technical book. Familiarity with
Wilken shows that criticism by late Roman thinkers strengthened Christianity, honing its tenets and reflecting the legimitacy of it as a philosophy. He chose a few specific writers: Pliny, a Roman provincial governor who dealt with some of the earliest Christian sects; Galen, a philosopher who considered Christianity one of the many new philosophical schools of the time; Celsus, who treated Christianity as an intellectual study; Porphyry, who criticized with influence (much of his original is re ...more
Great look at the faith from outside our walls long ago. Easy enough read for non-history buffs.
Jim B
One of the challenges of writing about a long ago time is that people's way of looking at things is often unexpectedly different. Knowing Christianity in the modern era is so different from being a Roman, trying to figure out what this movement was - for example, was it a burial society, a political club, or a secret society?

Wilken reproduces a gratifyingly broad range of quotes from Romans reacting to the early Christian movement.
Fred Kohn
This book is essentially an analysis of certain writings of five pagan thinkers over the course of the 2nd to 4th century. The anti-Christian rhetoric was interesting, but what I found more interesting was the author's analysis of the opinions of pagans about what "proper" religion entailed, and why Christianity failed to meet this standard.
This book was mainly about how the intellectual elite saw Christians and their arguments against the scripture and claims to connection with Judaism. Nothing about the average Romans view of the Christians, which I'm sure is due to lake of references. Still it's an interesting read and a point of you I hadn't previously explored.
Read this book for history class, but I find that reading the actual texts this is based off of is more interesting than reading books written about those texts. This being said, it is a good book if interpreting what original sources say is not your forte, and this topic is a very interesting one.
An interesting book on early Christianity in the first few centuries from the eyes of Roman critics. Don't agree with all the conclusions of Wilken, but the book helps one get a sense of Christianity from the outlook of the educated and political elites in Rome
Mar 24, 2011 Mike rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Students of Ancient History
Shelves: history
A very worthwhile read. It certainly put forth a different view of the pagan Roman world.

It supplies a social background to increase understanding of Roman thought and customs.
Yelena Andreychenko
The contents in this book were so fascinating. It's crazy to get a glimpse of what the Romans authorities may have thought of Christian during the reign of the Roman Empire.
Stan Stowers hates this book. He really hates it. If he hates something... I believe him.

As for my opinion... I've taught this book in an intro course... it gets the job done.
excellent primer of Greco-Roman writings against Christianity as they were trying to figure out what they believed. fairly evenhanded, but not perfect in every way.
A fairly unbiased assessment of the writings of Roman thinkers on the early Christian movement. A bit dry at times, but worth a look.
This book really made me think about how the early Christian Religion was influenced by Greek and Roman Philosophy.
John Hornyak
Excellent - a different perspective on the early origins of the Church
Matthew Sutton
erudite examination of early christians through the eyes of their fellow pagans
fascinating collection of early Romans and their views on Christians.
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