All the other popular worships with their mysteries and initiations and the rest of it were admittedly myths. They did not say, “This happened”; what they said was, “This is a parable, a symbol to explain to you the nature and possible fate of the human soul and its relation to the Divine.” Not one of them said, “I was founded by a real human being whom other men met and knew, who lived in a particular place and time; one to whom there are ‘a cloud of witnesses’.” Not one of them said it was the sole guardian of revealed truth and that its officials held a Divine commission to explain that truth throughout the world.
It was the affirmation that a criminal who had been put to death in a known place and time at Jerusalem, under the Emperor Tiberius, condemned to scourging and to ignominious death by Crucifixion (whereto no Roman citizen was liable) was Divine, spoke with Divine authority, founded a Divine Society, rose from the dead, and could promise to His faithful followers eternal beatitude. This is what shocked the intellectuals, but this also was what gave stuff and substance to that new society and so led to its persecution.
~Hilaire Belloc: The Crisis of Our Civilization, Ch. 1—The Foundation of Christendom. (A.D. 27-33 to A.D. 500)
|"Scenes from the Life of Christ" by Fra Angelico.
Tempera on panel, A.D. 1451-52; Museo di San Marco, Florence.