Religious differences, peace co-existed in ancient city

December 12, 1999

Religious groups in the ancient Roman city of Caesarea Maritima (between the modern-day cities of Tel Aviv and Haifa) lived together peacefully and co-operatively, not just competitively, says Terence Donaldson, professor of New Testament studies at Wycliffe College.

Jews, Christians and Romans lived together with no one group trying to "co-opt the soul of the city," Donaldson says. "It's usually the religious conflicts that get recorded throughout the ages with no one bothering to chronicle the success stories that occurred. But during the first two or three centuries A.D. there is strong evidence of real co-operation and peace in Caesarea Maritima among these numerous religious communities who were living cheek-to-cheek on a daily basis."

Donaldson, editor of the soon-to-be-released book Religious Rivalries and the Struggle for Success in Caesarea Maritima, and his colleagues researched the history of the area based on literary and archeological evidence. "We asked ourselves what religious life might have looked like in a particular city prior to the conversion of Emperor Constantine (312 A.D.) and the Christianization of the empire. We were interested in the whole range of interaction, from co-operation and co-existence through to competition and conflict," he says. "We expected to find the latter but were surprised to find so much of the former."

Religious Rivalries and the Struggle for Success in Caesarea Maritima will be published by Wilfrid Laurier University Press in 2000.
Michah Rynor
U of T Public Affairs
(416) 978-2104

University of Toronto

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