Religious Club House
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Religious Club House
Page 175

Emperor Trajan

Agrippa in SenateA religious club house met at the house of a member, benefactor or patron of the church. The same appeared to be true of synagogue associations. In Rome, the "Synagogue of the Augustinians" and the "Synagogue of the Agrippesians" were either under the direct patronage of Augustus and Agrippa or possibly made up of freedmen and slaves of these ruling families who were permitted to meet on their premises. If so, they had arrangements that were probably similar to those of Christian religious clubs "who belong to Caesar's house" as in Philippians 4.22 which read, "All God's people here send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar's house." The status of a church as a religious club house probably best explained how their meetings and their common meals were understood by believers, by their pagan neighbors, and by the local authorities. The perceived status of the church as a club house seemed to account for the relative freedom from official interference that its growing mission enjoyed as well as the arbitrary sanctions, penalties, and dissolution that could be imposed at will upon it as upon other unlicensed clubs. This status also offered no protection against more serious charges being laid against Christians.

Pliny the Younger

Emperor TrajanThe house church as a religious club house was supported in the correspondence of Emperor Trajan (53-117 AD) and Pliny the Younger, (61-113 AD) governor of Bithynia in c110 AD. The theologian Tertullian (160-220 AD) described the church along the lines of a religious club house. Pliny wrote that after the edict of Trajan which forbade political associations in the province, the Christians gave up their Agape meal meetings. He wrote, "For the contagion of this superstition has spread not only to the cities but also to the villages and farms." By this he indicated either that they considered that the church was under the category of a religious club or that they knew it was regarded so by the authorities.

"Religious Club House"
by Ron Meacock © 2018

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