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Degradation of Roman Emperor Nero

The Roman Emperor Nero may have been in Paul's mind when he penned his letter to the Christians at Rome.

Among Nero's many immoral acts were the public banquets he offered for the people of Rome. It was said he used the whole city as his private house to entertain his myriad guests. But what went on at the gatherings could only be whispered in the streets. The Roman historian Tacitus (A.D. 56-120) described one of Nero's more elaborate parties, which he said was typical:

The festivities were held on a small lake populated with exotic birds, fish, and other animals imported for the occasion. Guests were floated out on rafts to be lured in one direction or another. On one shore were brothels crowded with noble ladies; on another, naked prostitutes enticed the guests. As darkness descended, torches were lit, and the groves and buildings filled with song and laughter. Nero, the historian Tacitus says, "polluted himself by every lawful and lawless indulgence."

It was in the middle of Nero's decadent reign that Paul wrote about the extremes to which people can go apart from God: "God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another…. God gave them up to a debased mind and to things that should not be done. They were filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness; they are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious toward parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless" (Romans 1:26-31, NRSV).

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