The Manner of Early Christian Worship
In terms of the particular details of the early Christian worship service, there were plenty of things that would have offended (or at least confused) the Romans.
For one, Christian worship was very much centered on a book. The Scriptures, both OT and NT, were a central feature of early Christian worship services. They were read aloud. They were expounded. Christians studied them, memorized them, and were devoted to them.
In our modern western world, this doesn’t seem at all unusual. But in the ancient world, books were not a featured part of pagan religious practices. They were more about ritual than they were about doctrine or teaching.
For this reason, the Romans did not know quite what do with this “Christianity thing.” Was it a religion? It certainly didn’t seem like one. In fact, it was the “bookishness” of Christian worship that led some Romans to regard it more as a philosophy. For them, it didn’t even qualify as a religion at all.
The other offensive aspect of Christian worship was their private meetings. For obvious reasons, Christians weren’t eager to put their worship practices on full public display. So, they tended to meet early in the mornings, or in the evenings, often when it was dark, away from the masses.
Of course, this was seen as highly suspicious. As already noted, Romans regarded religion as public. So, what were these Christians up to in their “secret” meetings? As is well known, this occasioned all sorts of speculation (and accusation) about whether Christians were engaging in licentious or even cannibalistic activities in these gatherings.
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