Ways how Christianity departed from Classical tradition

Christianity had some similarities with the customs of the ancient Greeks and Romans, but there were also many significant differences between the two. Among them was the institutionalization of care for widows, orphans, the sick, and the poor. Christianity also brought a new spirit to charitable work. If someone did a charitable deed in classical culture, they would advertise it all over the place and make sure everyone knew how generous he was. Also, they would usually expect something in return down the road for their deeds. The philosophy of Stoicism (with a few exceptions) often discouraged sympathy with suffering people. They said that you should help the less fortunate because it is your duty, but that you should not express emotion in doing so.

The Christian idea of caring for the needy is based on Christ’s emphasis on love for one another (John 13:34-35). The Apostle Paul also said that the care and charity of Christians should also be expressed to non-believers and even to enemies of the faith. The early church fathers engaged in charitable works as well. In an outbreak of the plague, St. Cyprian even instructed Christians to help those who had persecuted them. There were so many examples of this behavior, that even the pagan emperor Julian the Apostate noted it to his priests and rebuked them for not being as generous as the Christians. Christians were also heavily involved in the building of hospitals.

Christians opposed infanticide, which was a common practice in early Greece and Rome. Likewise they opposed suicide, a practice that had been counselled and even practiced by the Stoics under certain circumstances. The early Christians didn’t think that it was noble to commit suicide, as many Greeks and Romans thought, but that it was noble to endure the difficult circumstances they were facing rather than to try to escape them. Christians also opposed the gladiatorial contests in the arena, which were battles to death in the arena for the sport of the people.


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