Kreider begins chapter 2, entitled “The Intriguing Attraction of Early Christianity,” with the observation that both Justin and Cyprian were not only converts, but also martyrs. Simply put, their decision to follow Jesus cost them their lives. They were executed for participating in a movement that was “marginal” and “on the fringes of polite and respectable society.” They, along with the rest of the Christians, were literally considered “insane” by most of the people surrounding them.
Yet people persisted in converting to Christianity in ever-increasing numbers.
If, as many scholars suggest, by the time of Constantine (in the early 300s) around 10% of the population had become Christians, then the church grew by an average of 40% per decade during the first three hundred years after the time of Jesus. Despite scorn from the populace and often persecution at the hands of the powerful, the Christian movement grew. As Kreider aptly states, “Something was deeply attractive about it.”
Attractive perhaps, but not exclusively so. Listen to the words of an early critic, the pagan Caecilius from Carthage: Continue reading