Part 3 One Father
The right of the Father, or as the Romans called him, the Pater Famillias, was absolute and beyond the government’s jurisdiction. The Greeks had brought in different ideas, which were now filtering into Judea with the introduction of a Hellenistic philosophy.
In Plutarch’s Life of Lycurgus, it was preached that the children were not the property of their parents, but rather the property of the State.1 It also called for the collection of all gold and silver so that iron could be used as money, and also preached a common system of welfare and food distribution, financed by compulsory taxes collected into a common government-controlled treasury. Land was to belong to the State2 and everyone was required to pay a use, or property tax, on the land or that property would be taken from them and given to another. Was this the way of God’s righteousness which we were to seek?
Youngsters were removed from the family at an early age and trained up to follow the directions and teachings of the State. Pietas was the “Sense of Duty” that each child owed his natural Father. When he was born, the child was traditionally laid at the feet of his Father. If the Father picked him up, it was an act of acknowledgment. Birth registration was the official laying of a child at the feet or footstool of the Patronus of the State, the Pater Patriae.
In the original government of Israel, the authority to govern remained in the hands of the People through the family unit, represented by the eldest member. The Elders or Patriarchs held the power of government, called by the Romans, Patria Potestas. Men like Cain, Nimrod, Pharaoh, and Caesar assumed the office of Father.3 It is from this jurisdiction that the State derives much of its power and authority.
Persecution of Christians was more often the result of provincial regulations, called mandata, rather than Empirical decrees, decreta; but it is clear that public policy and the structure of the Roman system came into conflict with Christian practices and beliefs. Persecution of Christians, under Emperors like Antoninus Pius, was uncommon and ill-advised under Trajan and Hadrian.
Marcus Aurelius Antoninus had been a priest at the sacrificial altars of Roman service and was an eager patriot. He had a logical mind, but his stoic philosophy was tempered with gentleness and benevolence by making it subordinate to a love of mankind.
His ‘Meditations’ was still revered as a literary monument to a government of service and duty, has been praised for its “exquisite accent and its infinite tenderness” and “saintliness” being called the “gospel of his life”, and they have been compared by J. S. Mill, in his Utility of Religion, to the Sermon on the Mount. Like many of the emperors of Rome, he was loved by the people. Yet, with all his benevolence, administered justice, and reforms, he often mistrusted the Christians to whom was subjected to systematic persecution.
What was wrong with Christians? Religious freedom was guaranteed in the Roman Constitution. No Christian was persecuted for singing in Church, praising the Lord, or believing in Jesus. It is what that belief changed in the Christian outlook and activities that brought them under suspicion, if not outright conflict, with Roman policy.
Their independence and success could make Emperors nervous, if not ashamed or jealous. When Christians appeared to question Marcus’ desire to be the benevolent Father of the people, conflict was sure to follow. The record of persecution of Christians under this loving, tender, and dutiful public servant was greater than any other period of Roman history.
Christians were bound together in a system of unity, strength, and efficiency that often frightened those governing a central power bound by pride, pomp and pricey beneficence. Focus in the Christian community was not upon the benefits of the State. Independent responsibility, a duty to love their neighbor, and a trust in God took all their service.
When Christians had needs, they went to Christians and their living stone altars like Stephen, Philip, and Prochorus and the men who contributed to them.4 They did not pray at the altars of Rome or Herod. They knew the Lord hated the Nicolatians5 and would not apply to the Father of Rome and Jerusalem nor their systems of Qurban and Corban.
And call no [man] your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Matthew 23:9
It has always been an option for the people to apply to a State for an enfranchised citizenship. Fathers registered their children in a threefold process of abdication and manumission through Novation, Tutor, and Korban6 ,releasing their custodial rights, but gaining the State, first, as a Patron, and, eventually, the Benefactor of the citizen, invested with his Toga.7 This had always been a voluntary process, but eventually some form of membership in the Roman Family became required.
Marcus Aurelius required everyone to register the birth of their children with the Secretary of Treasury or Provincial Registrars within 30 days or suffer the penalty of law. The Roman system was in debt and decline and it needed more collateral and contributing investors to the corporation of the State. Human resources were in demand.
Christians could not apply to the Father of the Roman state without denying Christ’s command. The gratuities and benefits of that gentile government were the result of the people's sacrifice to the god of the Roman State, the Apo Theos. You had to accept Caesar as your Father to pray for and receive his beneficence.
In Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, he praised “the union and discipline of the Christian republic.” He also pointed out that “it gradually formed an independent and increasing state in the heart of the Roman Empire.”8 The early Christian community was a republic that was recognized by Rome through the proclamation nailed to the cross by order of the Proconsul of Rome, Pontius Pilate.
Fear, duty, and respect for the State became more important than love of family. The ‘ruling elite’ worked their influence unknown to the distracted general public. This philosophy required entertainment, distraction, and a system of education, social welfare, and old-age pensions, which was ministered by the corporate temples of the state.
Augustus Caesar had incorporated many such temples as a part of government services and Judea was no different establishing its own system of Corban. All this was diametrically opposed to what Moses had taught and Jesus did not fail to point it out.9
“Tyranny is not a matter of minor theft and violence, but of wholesale plunder, sacred and profane, private or public. If you are caught committing such crimes in detail you are punished and disgraced; sacrilege, kidnapping, burglary, fraud, theft are the names we give to such petty forms of wrongdoing. But when a man succeeds in robbing the whole body of citizens and reducing them to slavery, they forget these ugly names and call him happy and fortunate, as do all others who hear of his unmitigated wrongdoing.”10
1“Each child belongs to the state.” William H. Seawell, U. of Virginia.
“The primary control and custody of infants is with the government” Tillman V. Roberts. 108 So. 62
2“The ultimate ownership of all property is in the State: individual so-called ‘ownership” is only by virtue of Government, i.e. law amounting to mere user; and use must be in accordance with law and subordinate to the necessities of the State.” Senate Document No. 43 73rd Congress 1st Session. (Brown v. Welch supra)
3“And call no [man] your father upon the earth” :Mt 23:9 published by His Church
4Acts 6:5 And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch:
5See Appendix 4
6Bringing closer to the originator or father, a substitute father honored.
7Tog[ae]. L., akin to tegere to cover. Toga virilis … assumed by Roman boys at fourteen.
8Rousseau and Revolution, Will et Ariel Durant p.801. fn 83 Heiseler, 85.
9And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition. For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death: But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free. And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother; Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye. Mr 7:9-13
10Plato’s Republic 344a-c. Lee translation, Penguin Books, 1955, p.73.