In the expensive documentary, Jesus: Rise to Power, (National Geographic Channel) historian Dr Michael Scott, Classics and Ancient History, University of Warwick, (episode 'Martyrs') minimised persecution of Christians by Romans. However, consider how the 'Caligula Crisis' illustrates the day by day circumstances of the times in which the message of Jesus was being shared and recorded.

In the year 40 CE, Emperor Gaius (Caligula) was not satisfied that sacrifices for him were being offered to the LORD in the Jerusalem Temple. He required that sacrifices be offered to him, the divine Emperor.

One non-Jewish community in Judaea (Jamnia) put up an altar to Gaius but the majority Jewish inhabitants pulled it down. This led to a deadly decision by Gaius - he decided his own statue would be erected in the Jerusalem temple. The Emperor ordered Petronius, imperial legate of Syria, to take two legions and carry out the plan.

Petronius marched and reached Ptolemais but, at the behest of the Jews, he deliberately delayed and wrote to the Emperor saying that the Romans would have annihilate them if Petronius obeyed his orders. Meantime, in Rome, Herod Agrippa I, king in Transjordan and Galilee, friend to the Emperor, succeeded in persuading Gaius to cancel, at least to the extent that action would cease. Accordingly, that order was sent to Petronius. It seemed the issue was closed.

But, Petronius' insubordinate letter finally arrived in Rome! Now the legate had earned the Emperor's displeasure. Gaius directed him to act according to duty (suicide). That letter from the Emperor to Petronius, fortunately for him, arrived after the news that the Emperor had been assasinated. The Jewish community could also breathe a sigh of relief - this time no destruction and no bloodshed. The temple sacrifices could continue - now for Claudius, and so on. (I wonder what became of that statue of the new divinity?)

Incidentally, no doubt community feelings would have connected the crisis with the disastrous events of about 200 years prior under the (pre-Roman) northern ruler, Antiochus IV Epiphanes. Antiochus banned Judaism (Jewish religion) and imposed a foreign cult on the temple (the abomination that makes desolate). Revolt and much violence followed - a portrayal is found in the books of I & II Maccabees. That episode was revisited in Jerusalem each December in a 'Festival of Lights', marking the 'cleansing' of the temple.

Followers of Jesus who understood their message would have less reason for concern in the 'Caligula crisis'. If they were wise (in Jesus' terms) they would have departed from Jerusalem before Petronius could arrive. The temple post-resurrection had no actual part to play in the drama of salvation. The temple did apparently continue to provide a handy public space and a link with the adherents of Judaism. (It was curious that the links remained so strong.)

I find a further glimpse of the 'life is cheap' setting of the primitive Jesus' followers groups in a CV from Paul, the Apostle (2 Corinthians 11):
 Whatever anyone else dares to boast about—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast about. 22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they Abraham’s descendants? So am I. 23 Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers.
His reference to 'prison' has to be ('Gentile') Roman prison. No bed of roses here - see the picture in Acts.

To add to the challenge on the earliest believers, there was constantly the imperative to render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's. See how Paul himself put it in Romans 13:
Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.
6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 Give to everyone what you owe them: if you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honour, then honour.
 8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not covet,’[a] and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’[b] 10 Love does no harm to a neighbour. Therefore love is the fulfilment of the law.
There was no Empire-wide policy to persecute the original followers of Jesus, nor their immediate heirs and successors. This is illustrated in the later Pliny-Trajan correspondence. However, local prejudices and mid-level official reactions did not wait on policy, which was some time in coming. Jesus had told his followers to be prepared for serious (and religious) antagonism and promised support from God. Sadly, so very many people have experienced persecution without it being 'policy', or even suffered genocide which is denied.
(By the way, 'Persecution' was not the only point at which I part company with Prof. Scott.)

References: 'The Spreading Flame', F.F. Bruce, Paternoster, London, 1958, pp 101-103
Philo of Alexandria, reproduced in 'Jewish Life and Thought among Greeks and Romans: Primary Readings', L.H.Feldman, A&C Black, 1996, ebook, pp 327-321. (Note: Philo was a member of a prominent Jewish family and was in Rome to pursue the appeal to the Emperor. His writings were subsequently treasured and handed down...)
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