For John, BLUF: It is funny how assumptions about a person's place in society can change over time. Nothing to see here; just move along.
From The Week we have an ambitious suggestion by Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, "How Christianity invented children".
The basic thrust is that in society before Christianity life was a series of concentric circles, the privileged on the inner circle and privilege diminishing the further out you got, with children on the outer rim, or at least one of the outer rims. The author suggests that under the influence of Christianity children became people.
We have forgotten just how deep a cultural revolution Christianity wrought. In fact, we forget about it precisely because of how deep it was: There are many ideas that we simply take for granted as natural and obvious, when in fact they didn't exist until the arrival of Christianity changed things completely. Take, for instance, the idea of children.Nonpersons.
Today, it is simply taken for granted that the innocence and vulnerability of children makes them beings of particular value, and entitled to particular care. We also romanticize children — their beauty, their joy, their liveliness. Our culture encourages us to let ourselves fall prey to our gooey feelings whenever we look at baby pictures. What could be more natural?
In fact, this view of children is a historical oddity. If you disagree, just go back to the view of children that prevailed in Europe's ancient pagan world.
As the historian O.M. Bakke points out in his invaluable book When Children Became People, in ancient Greece and Rome, children were considered nonpersons.
While I can see Christianity spreading this view, I do think that the Jews saw this also. It seems to me to be part of the argument in Maccabees. Also maybe the story of Abraham and Issac.
Hat tip to the Instapundit.
Regards — Cliff