It seems to me that the questions addressed to professor Larry Hurtado were asked by someone who may not hold, but who reflects ideas of Early Christianity (misin)formed by the influential novel Quo Vadis or by the homonymous Hollywood blockbusters.

It is in such literary or cinematic productions that we encounter the following commonplaces: (1) early Christians were a secretive group which met clandestinely; (2) as an underground movement, they used the fish symbol to recognize one another; (3) consequently, the best places of worship used by a closeted movement were the catacombs.

Most certainly, Henryk Sienkiewicz (Nobel prize winner in 1905) is not the ultimate source of such misconstructions, but he surely is one of their best know disseminators.

I have a vague impression that I have read similar ideas in Voltaire’s Dictionnaire philosophique. However, do take this inkling (and especially the Dictionary) with a pinch of salt. I would need to have a fresh look at it before I pass this on as certified information.

Larry Hurtado's Blog

In an interview with a TV producer a week or so ago, the question came up whether early Christianity (Roman-era) was secretive and operated in a covert manner, seeking to avoid hostile attention.  The origins of this notion I don’t really know (information welcome), but it seems now „out there” (along with a number of other supposed „truths”) in at least some parts of the general populace.  But it seems to have little basis.  A few illustrations will suffice.

For example, when you have spokesmen for a religious movement framing formal defences of it („apologia„) and addressing these to the Emperor (e.g., Justin Martyr) and to the wider public (e.g., Epistle to Diognetus), I’d say that’s hardly trying to remain under cover!  That’s not simply putting your head „above the parapet,” that’s standing up on top of the parapet and waving your arms!  And these texts are all the more…

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