The Early Church and Theater

How very interesting.

I paged through a book on legalism earlier this evening, noting the arguments the author set forth to justify the practice of Christians enjoying the fruits of today’s entertainment industry, contra the taboos of the days of yore.  Imagine my interest, therefore, as I later began to read an essay on what occupations were considered off-limits for Christians by some of the early church fathers, and came across the following:

The Apostolic Traditions also prohibit Christians from being actors or those who make shows in the theater.  We know from other writers that the theater was sternly condemned in the early church.  Theophilus of Antioch (C.E. 160) wrote that Christians were forbidden to go to the theater (Auto. 3.15).  Tertullian maintained that the theater was connected with idolatry (Spect. 10).   Minucius Felix (Rome, 210 C.E.) condemned all shows, mimes, actors, and the theater in general (Oct. 37).  Cyprian of Carthage (250 C.E.) condemned mimes because they encouraged adultery and produced effeminate men (Ep. 1.8).  A Christian may not, according to Cyprian, remain an actor nor may a Christian teach the art of acting to anyone.  If the Christian is a new convert and has no other way to make a living than teaching acting, he must rely on Christian charity (Ep. 60:1-2).

David A. Fiensy, “What Would You Do for a Living?” in Handbook of Early Christianity: Social Science Approaches, ed. Anthony J. Blasi et al. (Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press, 2002), 556-57.

It’s a good thing that we know so much better today, isn’t it?

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One Response to The Early Church and Theater

  1. Josh says:

    Or maybe the early Christians were right and modern Christians are wrong. After all, who’s closer to Jesus, us or them? Theophilus of Antioch could easily have known someone who had known someone who had known an apostle.

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