Religious Club Houses
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Religious Club Houses
Page 177

Emperor Trajan

Agrippa in SenateReligious club houses met at the house of a member, benefactor or patron of the church. The same appears 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 the premises. If so, they had arrangements that were probably similar to those of Christians as religious clubs "from Caesar's house" as in Philippians 4.22 which reads, "All God’s people here send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar's household." The status of Paul's churches as club houses 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 club houses 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 offered no protection against more serious charges being laid against Christians.✞

Pliny the Younger

The Emperor TrajanThe house church as a religious club was supported in the correspondence of Emperor Trajan (53-117 AD) and Pliny the Younger, governor of Bithynia in c110 AD. The theologian Tertullian's described the church along the lines of a religious club. 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 Houses"
by Ron Meacock © 2018

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