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Unformatted text preview: I I I GNOSTIC iMPROVISATIONS ON GENESS ] S CHRISTIANiTY SPREAD throughout the empire and took root, its leaders began to develop various strategies of community organization. They developed too ways of dis- criminating between those they Acepted as orthodox ("straight thinking) Christians and those they rejected as deviants including among the Latter many known as gnostic Christians Since to profess Christianity ws still suspect and potentialy dangerous throughout the Roman Empire, mny Christian churches owed their coherence and their survival to tHe astuteness and courage of their Leaders the bishops When Ignatius, bishop of ntioch in Syria, was arrested (c 10 c.E) nd sent by ship to Rome for triaL and execu ion chained as he said, to "ten LeoparDs I mean a band of sol diers,2 he spent his Fna journey writing Letters to the churches surrounding his home church in ntioch and to the Christians in Rome, his Fnl destination Ignatius urged these and all other Chris tians to stand together under persecution and to maintin unanimous oyalty to the clergy which he envisioned as a threefoLd hierarchy of bishop priests, and deacons who uled ech church "in God's pLace} and who maintained communication mong Christians scat- tered throughout the world4 Suh crises as a bishops arrest and execution emphasized how much the thretened Christian groups needed strong eaders; g- natius knew that he was appeling to a stiLl emerging and fragiLe institutionaL system Wht concerned gnatius especiaLly was that this A DAM, EVe AND THe S e R PeN T system had not yet won the allegiance of all who counteD themSlves Among the blIevers. Nor was there as yet, among ChrIstian groups scattered throughout the Roman worlD, a sIngle central organiza- tIon. ChrIstIans In diFerent provinceand even In neighBrIng communitieDemonstrated great dIversity, from the wanderIng as cetics of sIa MInor' to the settLed "house churches that were bcomIng esTlIsheD In sIan and GrEk citIes6 Converts from Judaism, for example, whether they lived in Judea or Greece, sia or gypt, tendeD to orrow the structure of the synagogues, where a Leader presIded over a group of "eLders, or in the Greek, prs- bytroi later transLated "prIests Other converts, orIgInaLly Gen tiles, develoPD a DIFerent administratIve system adapteD from large householDs, consisting of a group of servants, called In Greek di kons whIch bcame the nglIsh term Deacons, headed y an "overseer, caLled In Greek picopo our worD for "ishop WithIn tHe next three centuries these Ishops came to assume resnsiilIty for specic areas, or dIeses, a ttern moDeLed on the organIzation of the Roman army ut PrsecutIon, which, however Intense, remained sraDic, was not the only reason that the majority of Christians came to accept an increaIngly InstitutIonalIzed structure to oversee each group in...
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