and their refusal to participate in the prescribed religious rituals.
Roman administrators of the second century were perceptive enough to differentiate between Jews and Christians and usually treated them differently. For instance, Nero in 64 saw Christians as a group distinct from Jews and acted against them; then Nerva (96-98) exempted Christians from the capitation tax imposed on ordinary Jews as a punishment for the revolt of 66-70. Rulers were often quick to impose the death penalty on Christians.
Intellectuals of the time did not hide their contempt for the new believers and their strange doings, and were prone to think of them according to firmly fixed stereotypes. Their beliefs were deemed irrational, their “scriptures” of poor quality, their behavior disrespectful of honorable conventions. They were accused of “hatred of the human race” due to their repressive morality, their imputed neglect of civic duties (e.g., their reserve concerning military service and their unreserved encouragement of procreation), and their lack of fear before violent death. Christians were generally perceived as scorning respect for the ancestral customs.
On the other hand, and this could have counted in their favor, Christian groups offered definitive analogies with other groups or associations that indeed were tolerated, such as burial societies, philosophical sects, various confraternities of like-minded people pursuing a common interest (be it trade, worship, or even drinking), voluntary associations and clubs. Nevertheless Christian communities were labeled “unauthorized” clubs. Tacitus thought he was in the right in branding Christianity a “deadly superstition”; others kept denouncing the “execrable” practices of Christians. All approved of the treatment meted out to their founder and his disciples. Throughout the second century Christians complained that their actual behavior and doctrines were never really examined; presumably they would have been found quite unobjectionable.