Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Vasile-Ciprian Burca - Baptismus Sanguinis. The conflict between generations in the early Christianity as reflected in the acts of the martyrs.

In a time when the formalism and routine seem to threat any kind of experience or manifestation of a genuine spiritual life at both individual and communitarian level we need to return but always in a creative and responsible way ad fontes. This might be a right path to follow if one wants to overcome the inability of changing something or to avoid the darkness or disorientation of an absurd existence. Christ had to face a deep human crisis which had reached its peak by the time of his Incarnation. On the one hand there was the Judaic religion, very strong with old traditions and very precise, strict prescriptions but increasingly endangered by a rigid, senseless formalism. Besides that Romans had conquered and controlled all the territories around the Mediterranean Sea and even the Jesus’ birth place was actually in a Roman province. The things become even more complicated if we think that the Roman power was also a religious power which emphasized the cult of the Emperor-August seen as civil, military and divine supreme authority. We should not forget the Hellenistic philosophy the base of education, culture and civilization illo tempore. Interestingly enough all these three forces will eventually form a coalition against the new message conveyed by Christ’s teachings. Proclaiming the Gospel as the law of love and his Kingdom in Heavens or in the hearts of believers he had to confront both the Judaic law and Roman law, one sentencing him to death for blasphemy and the other for undermining the authority of the emperor. The first nine or ten generation of Christians had to face the same challenge and many of them gave their testimony at the price of their life. The main aim of this paper is to analyze the different aspects of conflict between generations from theological, philosophical, historical, sociological, and cultural and why not psychological perspective in the context of massive conversion to Christianity specific to the first three centuries and their relevance for what more and more tend to define as the “post-Christian” society of our time. Is martyrdom still necessary today and if yes in what way and under what circumstances? We hope to critically asses the old aspects and eventually to unveil new ones of Tertullian’s saying: “Plures efficimur, quoties metumur a vobi; semen est sanguis Christianorum.” (Apologeticus 50) mainly based on acts of martyrs of the post-apostolic period.

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