Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
March 14th, 2016 by Joel Watts

The Spectacle didn’t stop with Christian Rome

The spectacle remained a threat to burgeoning Christian movement until the time of Eusebius. The ancient Christian rigorists, Tertullian in de Spectaculis and Novatian in a work by the same name, condemned the Spectacle as unchristian, citing the pagan influences, idol worshipping, and even death by magical rites (Tert., de Spect., 2). Further, they saw it as a battleground between God and the powers opposing God and his creation. When the ritual gratification of the games waned due to the Christian triumph of Roman society, the stadiums, theaters, and arenas of the Empire shifted to leisurely pursuits, with gladiatorial combat shows becoming little more than chariot races even until the sixth century.[1]

[1] Donald G. Kyle, Sport and Spectacle in the Ancient World. 2 ed., Wiley-Blackwell, 2014, 334–35.


Joel Watts
Watts holds a MA in Theological Studies from United Theological Seminary. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians, as well as seeking an MA in Clinical Mental Health at Adams State University. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).


One Response to “The Spectacle didn’t stop with Christian Rome”
  1. Know More Than I Should says

    Some Christians would make similar arguments some 1,760 years later about television. Like Tertullian, they equated amusement with sin.

    Neither are these isolated instances. Thomas Macaulay famously observed, “The puritan hated bear baiting, not because it gave pain to the bear, but because it gave pleasure to the spectators.”

    Meanwhile, Proverbs 21:17 advises that gratification is incomparable with the accumulation of wealth. Never mind, of course, that Proverbs 23:4 warns readers to avoid working to become rich.

    More realistically, it seems, Christianity can’t stand competition.

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