More von Harnack, and an Excerpt

Photos from the kindly Christoph Markschies:

The last one, of him as a youngster, is extraordinary.  I had never seen a picture of him that early in life.  I appreciate Christoph sharing these and I also appreciate that there are others who still find this extraordinary scholar worth reading and understanding.

Once Christianity presented itself in the eyes of the law and the authorities as a religion distinct from that of Judaism, its character as a religio illicita was assured. No express decree was needed to make this plain. In fact, the “non licet” was rather the presupposition underlying all the imperial rescripts against Christianity. After the Neronic persecution, which was probably instigated by the Jews, though it neither extended beyond Rome nor involved further consequences, Trajan enacted that provincial governors were to use their own discretion, repressing any given case,3 but declining to ferret Christians out. Execution was their fate if, when suspected of lèse-majesté as well as of sacrilege, they stubbornly refused to sacrifice before the images of the gods of the emperor, thereby avowing themselves guilty of the former crime. On the cultus of the Cœsars, and on this point alone, the state and the church came into collision. The apologists are really incorrect in asserting that the Name itself (“nomen ipsum”) was visited with death. At least, the statement only becomes correct when we add the corollary that this judicial principle was adopted simply because the authorities found that no true adherent of this sect would ever offer sacrifice. He was therefore an atheist and an enemy of the state.*

You’ll search far and wide for a contemporary scholar who understands early Christianity and the history of dogma better than von Harnack. In fact, to be frank, none exist.
*The Mission and Expansion of Christianity in the First Three Centuries, Vol. 1, pp. 488–489).