CHURCH and EMPIRE. Though the first term, church, is clear indicating the society founded at the beginning of our era by Jesus Christ, which unites communities of Christians around the same faith the second, empire, can be understood in either a broader to the extent of becoming synonymous with the ancient world or a narrower sense, equivalent to state to use a modern term not applicable to antiquity, for which words like civitas or res publica would be more correct. The relationship may also be considered either on the level of political doctrines or on that of historical facts. Here we will confine ourselves to outlining some of the major fault lines of what is undoubtedly a vast and complex problem.
The distinction between political and religious a distinction which does not imply any conflict or incompatibility between these two spheres can be traced to the teaching of Jesus Mt 23:15ff.. Paul, in a famous passage in Romans Rom 13:1ff.; see also 1 Pet 2:13ff., told Christians to submit to the established authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been established by God; Jesus, when Pilate pointed out his power of life and death over him, replied: You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above Jn 19:11. Christians, therefore, affirmed their loyalty and recognized the rights of authority, which make up the very basis of the society in which human beings, by God’s design, find themselves; but at the same time they observed a precise hierarchy of values, which saw authority as being at God’s service for the good of people Rom 13:4. This vision, constantly repeated and followed during the very early centuries as the 2nd- and 3rdc. apologists clearly show, provoked a series of reactions by imperial authorities and pagan society.