Mitchell Abercius

Figure 4. Abercius inscription fragments, Museo Pio Cristiano, Musei Vaticani (photo: Margaret M. Mitchell)

companions' who celebrated the eucharist and knew Paul and shared Aber-cius' faith, reinforced his grand conception of a single 'people' and 'kingdom'. Nothing about the inscription is other-worldly.59 Apart from the special Christian images, Abercius employs the usual conventions of an epitaph, including warnings of fines to be paid to the fiscus of Rome and to the patris Hieropolis by anyone found violating the tomb. Here we glimpse something of the emerging paradox of the Christian empire within the Roman empire that would disturb Decius and his successors in the third century and convince Constantine of the need to ally himself with that strange new 'kingdom'.60

59 Compare Ep. Diognet. 6:i-2: 'As the soul is in the body, so Christians are in the world. The soul is distributed through all the members of the body, and Christians in every city of the world.'

60 I have adapted some portions of this essay from an earlier one, Meeks, 'II cristianesimo'.

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