Why Did Christianity Survive?


Creating a New Word for Revisionists

English is a living language, and occasionally I have felt the urge to create a new word which defines contemporary times and events. Such a behavior fits quite well within Harry Elmer Barnes’ notion that revisionism is an activity “to correct the historical record.”

One way to correct is to redefine terminology truthfully. We create words based on people’s names, like “bowdlerize,” or with new innovations like “email.” The word I want to create is a transitive verb, that is, an action which is a doable activity to a direct object, a person or thing. My new revisionist verb reflects a different set of bizarre circumstances in American life. My new word is “fergusonize.”

Perhaps someday dictionaries will list it:


Verb. 1) To blame every evil in the world on White police officers and public officials while ignoring any circumstances which might indicate criminal culpability to any racial, gender-specific or other minority group or individual; 2) to burn, pillage, vandalize and destroy one’s neighborhood whenever a White police officer or public official is declared not guilty of any crime, real or imagined, against a minority; 3) to walk aimlessly in the middle of the street puffing a doobie any hour of the day, blocking traffic and
attacking pedestrians, in order to show solidarity for any allegation, real or imagined, which “disrespects” any non-White community; 4) to invite New York publicity-seeking, tax-evading holy reverends and unemployed bishops to agitate crowds and escalate civil disorder and discontent; 5) to lie to a grand jury about police officers and not be held on perjury charges; 6) to promulgate fake hate crimes to gain the attention of the news media and bask in public sympathy.

Other parts of speech which will obviously evolve: fergusonize, fergusonite, fergusonizing, fergusonization, fergusonate, fergusonly, fergusonality, fergusonism, fergusonicity and perhaps diminutive forms like “to ferg up” as in the sentence “We gotta ferg up this place.”

Why Christianity Survived

By Dr. Dave Laske

The actual happiness I experienced during my years as a student in Catholic high school was matched only by the happiness in graduating realizing I would no longer be lectured by pious clerics who inundated me with endless fantastic fables about teenage virgin martyrs, schizophrenic pole sitters, and Romans’ Christian
slaves who begged to be cuisine for hungry lions.

Such tales were often amplified by comparable fictions when the laws of nature were suspended to benefit a few select Hebrews and Jews—the flood of Noah, the cessation of the movement of the Sun and Moon allowing Joshua to kill more residents of Canaan, the dead who arose from their graves after Jesus’s resurrection and many other apparently literary fabrications. Expectedly, there were no written accounts or interviews with the risen dead as neither Jews nor Romans thought the rising of hundreds of deceased was worth mentioning.

We are customarily informed by Western religious practitioners that Christianity is a specialized form of a “Judeo-Christian” ethoswhich began with Abraham and culminated with the story of Jesus. I challenge that particular view and suggest an alternative: The early Christian movement survived because its center moved to Europe and was embraced by white Europeans, who shed most of the Judaic fables and lived at a time when existing Roman polytheistic institutions crumbled before social pressures.

The Europeans of those times had no difficulty in believing that numerous gods existed or that such gods often acted in ways similar to human foibles. The power of a god came from the deity’s control over nature. There was little religious concern about moral questions, the concern of philosophers, not theologians.

Christianity survived because it was a Western faith practiced by European populations, but not as a Middle Eastern cult. Christianity was transformed when it was adopted by Europeans into a religion quite unlike the morose and dreary Old Testament (OT) and feckless paganisms. It was an early faith that was not tribal. Once
Christianity discarded the ball and chain of Hebrew hallucinations and the sensuous Olympians, it thrived and prospered under state approval. However, Christianity took nearly a millennium just to expand over Europe.

Regardless of the extravagant claims of missionary successes in Mongoloid Asia, sub-Saharan black Africa and the Amerind Americas, “success” in third world lands may be related to the indigenous peoples keeping
past pagan practices. 
Christianity  has not been very contagious. Worldwide “conversions” have a limited history. Over attention to non-White believers has become propagandistic in recent years. The creation of new cardinals by Pope Francis reflects the delusion that Catholicism is thriving and spreading. Francis created a cardinal from the kingdom of Tonga (pop. 103,000), where 15% are Catholic; Austria also has one cardinal
for a Catholic population of 5.2 million.

It is necessary to spend some time in exploring the development of Judaism as the belief exists among some Christians that the story of the Hebrews (and later Israelites, and Jews) is critical to establish a continuity of belief. Modern believers affirm that the morality of the so-called “ancient Hebrews” is related to modern
Christian claims.

The story begins when God selected Abram of Ur to be the patriarch of a family (tribe) that would populate the Earth. Abram changed his name to “Abraham” at age 99 and began siring youngsters with wife Sarah after he palmed her off as his sister to “Pharaoh.”

She apparently was a comely beauty at age 65-plus because she was “favored” by the usually inaccessible Egyptian king. Abraham’s seedy story is awash with pimping, adultery, incest, double-dealing, lying, and related yarns about his dysfunctional family—a supposed model of Biblical family values and morality. There is absolutely no proof that such a person existed or such events actually happened. These kinds of stories were unknown to Europeans, ethnic groups who would never have heard of Canaan or other far-off foreign lands, and certainly were not interested in the beliefs of people in distant lands. (Finegan)

For reasons of their own cupidity and arrogance, the “Hebrews” were stranded in Egypt and become slaves of the Egyptians. Moses appears and leads “his people” out of bondage toward Canaan, given by Yahweh, the tribal god, to the Hebrews as their new homeland; there is no evidence in Biblical texts or other documents
that God (Yahweh) gave the Canaanites any eviction notice—the natives were just fodder to be slaughtered by Joshua and his soldiers to make room for Yahweh’s favorites, the Hebrews.

They settled stolen Canaan territories, which after several centuries were amalgamated into the Kingdom of Israel under the historically elusive David and Solomon. After the death of Solomon, the country was split
into two competing entities: Israel (northern part) and Judah (southern part). Such a historical narrative would have provided no inspiration for European religious sentiments but would be important to set the scene for a messianic leader.

The two lands were quite different in many ways. The geography of Israel was akin to southern Wisconsin in many places while Judah was more like rural New Mexico. Trade and wealth gravitated to Israel while Judah lingered with a squalid economy. (Horsley) Many of the writings of the OT were penned by writers from Judah who railed against their northern neighbor. The north possessed cities while the south was a collection of villages and the city of Jerusalem. Foreign powers were always more interested in Israel rather than out-of-the-way Judah. Armies from Assyria and Babylon made quick conquests of these lands, and the Babylonians resettled many from the two lands, breaking the political power of the “proto-Jews.”

Shortly after Cyrus the Great of Persia assumed power in his own country he permitted the “Babylonian captives” to return to their places of origin, a story recounted in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, c. 539 BC. It is from this date that we can speak of “Jews” and “Judaism.”

No one other than Jews was actually interested in their tribal tales. Modern readers of the New Testament (NT) recognize that there are hundreds of OT references in their sacred texts. (See http://mb-soft.com/believe/txh/ntot.htm.)

Many of these OT texts were of “historical” events, which were cited in the later Gospels as “proving” the veracity of the Christian message. The Gospel of Luke and Acts of the Apostles are considered by modern scholars to have originally been a single text, which was written to explain why the messianic message of Jesus
was rejected by the Jews and adopted by “gentiles.” Most of the active centers for early Christians were cities. (Meeks)

We should always keep in mind that the ministry of Jesus was concentrated primarily in the north (Galilee and environs), and only occasionally did he journey to the southern Judah. Access to gentile areas in Syria and Asia Minor (modern Turkey) was relatively easy. (Harland) The various wanderings of the self-identified apostle Paul (Saul of Tarsus) were initially to Jewish communities and synagogues in gentile, not Jewish, geographical locales. For reasons still unrevealed in history, there existed certain gentiles, often called “God-fearers” in the NT, who were sympathetic to Jews and Judaism for reasons seldom documented. (Scott) These were early
supporters of Paul.

Assuming the early history of the Christian movement is accurately described in the Acts and the various Epistles, we learn Paul was considered so obnoxious by his fellow Jews that he proudly claimed in 2 Corinthians 11:24-25: “From the Jews five times I received 40 stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep.” [He seems to be saying he returned from the dead.—Ed.]

Little wonder he was happy to preach to the less violent gentiles. Yet we cannot be completely sure what he preached. Only seven of his 13 epistles are regarded as genuine, and even those are questionable. More importantly we have no real understanding as to how or why there were so many early Christian locations (in reality Jewish) so quickly established following the death of Jesus. None of these was ever mentioned by Jesus or the apostles until a few years after the death of Jesus.

Roman historian Suetonius (A.D. 70-130) wrote of a Jewish community in Rome who exhibited less than acceptable behavior, angering the Julian emperor Claudius (r. 41-54): “Since the Jews constantly made disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he expelled them from Rome,” perhaps a reference to events described in Acts 18:2. (Suetonius) There is constant argumentation about Chrestus being actually the title “Christ” though classical scholars have noted that the name “Chrestus” was often the name given a slave.

At the beginning of his reign Claudius was confronted with problems created by the Jews in Alexandria (Egypt), who were warned about their behavior. (See http://www.csun.edu/~hcfll004/claualex.html.) “Christians” were accused by Emperor Nero (r. 54-68) of committing arson on July 18-19, 64, in which large areas of the city
of Rome were completely destroyed. It has never been proven that Nero himself ordered the city burnt. (Green) Were these so-called Christians those of European descent or were they the returned Jewish group exiled earlier by Claudius? We may never know, but it is unlikely that native Europeans would have any special interest in
destroying the city of Rome. (Setzer) Did the early Christians burn Rome for the kinds of reasons modern rioting incendiaries burn Baltimore?

The story of Emperor Constantine and his “In hoc signo vinces” victory has been described as the reason for the Edict of Milan (February 313) by which Christianity achieved permanent legal status. (Drake) During the first century and a half of Christianity, the “Christians” were located in either port cities of the Mediterranean or in cities located on major transport rivers, places where the Jewish populations were already concentrated in commercial and service occupations like theater, “doctoring,” money exchanges, commerce etc. Jews have never been concentrated in agricultural occupations; we read of Hebrew sheep herders, but not Jewish famers—they never assumed labor-intensive jobs.

By 313 the Christian population was increasingly European in ethnicity with Jewish identification diminished considerably. Church membership expanded in rural areas, inhabited by non-Christians called pagani, and church rituals were no longer conducted in private homes or catacombs (cemeteries) but in church buildings.

Hollywood movies have always portrayed Romans as constantly persecuting Christians through deaths in the arena involving immolations, beheadings, lions and other macabre executions. Often, however, these were not worldwide events but merely local affairs. Suppression of Christians was not always done systematically nor with extreme violence. The famed Great Persecution (303 to 312/313), in which churches and religious books were destroyed, never followed any specific requirements for death or torture; only loss of Roman citizenship was minimally required. We know from ancient writers that the persecution was not uniformly enforced.

As the first and second generation of early Christians died off without any return of their messiah, writers began to compose the numerous gospels, epistles and commentaries about Jesus and the apostles to preserve the various stories and quotations. (Mack) Believers wanted a written affirmation to preserve their beliefs. It was probably Marcion (c. 85-c. 160) who assembled the first gospel and epistles texts into one volume. He was the son of a wealthy shipbuilder and bishop, in the city of Sinope on what is now the north Turkish coast. He attempted to become the head of the Christian community in Rome but was rejected by the locals, who later emerged as the orthodoxy of the early faith.

Marcion used only the Gospel of Luke and some of Paul’s epistles in his canon, as Marcion taught that the Yahweh of the OT had nothing in common with the Jesus of the NT. Marcion expurgated Jewish texts from
those of the Christians. Some claimed such action was “heresy.”

Over the next two centuries various “heresies” developed in areas covered by modern southwest Turkey, Egypt, around the shores of the Aegean Sea and in northern Tunisia (then known as “Africa”). Heresies were often general local affairs and often had limited effect on the whole Christian movement. (Freeman, 2009) There were
exceptions, such as Arianism, Gnosticism and other such competitors. This should not be surprising since an Oriental-adapted Judaism was incompatible with the values and customs of European peoples.

The story of the suppression of heresies by “orthodox” Christians is often a sordid tale, but generally such controversies were resolved by the seventh century. Many of the disagreements ended after Emperor Theodosius declared in 381 that all Romans had to believe in the idea of the Trinity. (Freeman, 2008) It ended older heresies but created new controversies—but most important of all, his edict suppressed pagan systems; Christianity thenceforward had few competitors. Modern readers will recognize that the Roman tolerance of religions was tied to the reality that believers must support the government; the same was true for the Christian nations
of Medieval and early Renaissance Europe.

There is a vast literature on the early Christian movement, personalities, religious precursors, political interaction, and sociological dynamics of groups and of the family, linguistic adaptations, geographical distribution, translation methods and other more scholarly activities. Nevertheless, one can postulate a variety of
influences on the early Christian leading to their ultimate success in Europe. One ought to consider that several influences can happen simultaneously as well as sequentially. I suggest a few here.

Interpretations of history are always simple when only one solution is proposed. Why did Rome fall? Because of barbarian invasions. A simple single explanation, but not a sufficient one. The same consideration applies
to the success of Christianity. I propose that revisionists consider various multiple influences for its triumph:

  1. The lower classes of Roman society found in Christianity a belief system that provided them with active participation in the ritual system of the faith; they were no longer mere outside-the-temple observers.

  2. Unlike the more ancient faiths, Christianity provided the hope of an actual afterlife based on the worshipper’s personal behavior; believers no longer dreaded some Greek Hades or Hebraic Sheol.

  3. The emphasis on family life in its sacraments and the abandonment of pagan child-exposure and abortion; life took on a new, personal value and meaning.

  4. The faith was universal and not tribal as with Judaism; ethnic and racial distinctions were not barriers to participation or leadership advancement.

  5. The faith provided for absolution of public and private guilt.

  6. Christianity was an officially sanctioned religion, and its churches and clergy were supported at public expense guaranteeing an enduring religious polity.

  7. Pagan religions were shut down, and government no longer provided financial support for pagan sites or personnel. Belief in the Holy Trinity was legally required.

  8. In many parts of the declining empire, the church hierarchy replaced the traditional secular government as the focus of public authority legitimized church leadership.

  9. Declining public leadership options for aristocratic families were available in church leadership, and fathers willingly promoted their sons for positions as bishops, abbots and other positions of prominence.

  10. Women could participate as deacons and church workers, no longer being segregated at religious services or participation.

Embracing the ideas of revisionism promoted by Barnes suggests to us that there is human intellectual value in re-examining our tightly held beliefs. Faith requires no proof for its practice. Reason requires research and analysis. The former needs no further action while the latter thrives on exploration. Individuals must find their own personal comfort level.


Drake, H.A., Constantine and the Bishops, Baltimore, Johns Hopkins Press, 2002.

Finegan, JackMyth and Mystery: An Introduction to the Pagan Religions of the Biblical World, Grand Rapids, Baker Books.

Freeman Charles, AD 381: Heretics, Pagans and the Origins of the Monotheistic State, New York, Overlook Press, 2008.

Freeman, Charles, A New History of Early Christianity, New Haven, Yale University Press, 2009.

Green, Bernard, Christianity in Ancient Rome: The First Three Centuries, London, T&T International, 2010.

Harland, Philip, Associations, Synagogues and Congregations: Claiming a Place in Ancient Mediterranean Society, Minneapolis, Fortress Press.

Horsley, Richard, Archaeology, History and Society in Galilee: The Social Context of Jesus and the Rabbis,
Valley Forge, Trinity Press International, 1966.

Mack, Burton, Who Wrote the New Testament?: The Making of the Christian Myth, San Francisco, Harper Collins Publishers, Inc., 1995.

Meeks, Wayne, The First Urban Christians, New Haven, Yale University Press, 1983.

Scott, J. Julius, Jewish Backgrounds of the New Testament, Grand Rapids, Baker Publishing Co., 1995.

Setzer, Claudia, Jewish Responses to Early Christians, Minneapolis, Augsburg Press, 1994.

Suetonius, The Twelve Caesars, London, Penguin Books, 1979.

Dave Laske graduated from several universities with seven master degrees and holds a Ph.D. in public policy analysis (University of Illinois), concentrating on economic decision making for labor education and training. He has taught mathematics, criminology and research methodology/statistics at several colleges as well as in secondary schools. Laske worked in the industrial private sector and within various levels of government. Active in social, professional and fraternal groups, he spends free time visiting archeological, historical and geological sites around the world.


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