Please read the article below for class as well as the Rodney Stark articles “Epidemics, Networks, & the Rise of Christianity” and “the Rise of Early Christianity” from Readings for Early Christians Times in the older archived class materials.
Please note there is room for disagreement with Professor Stark on several points. As with all readings in the course, no one necessarily “gets it all right.” We have responsibility to read well and take truth wherever we find it. With Stark, for instance, I disagree that the numbers in Acts are off and that he is unnecessarily skeptical in that regard. I also disagree that persecution of the early Christians was historically mainly top down from its leaders, for it could involve all levels of society. I believe the best summation on persecution in general is by historian Everett Ferguson, “Persecutions … were local and sporadic, . . . The threat of persecution was ever present, but persecution was not a constant experience.” The extent and intensity of persecution increased immensely in 250 AD under the empire-wide persecution by Decius.
From Jesus to Christ and Rise of Christianity Stark on Frontline (click to read)
Salt of the Empire by mike aquilina (click to read)
Also enjoy here a short excerpt from Randall Niles (a skeptic who came to believe) on the Gospel/Acts writer Luke as a historian. The retroscholarship question is, “How can we use Luke as a source when it was written by a Christian?” The historically informed question today is: How can we not use Luke to inform our history?
Randall Niles short on Luke as Historian (click to read)