Skip to main content
The drastic change came in 380. At this time Theodosius I decreed Christianity to be the official state religion. By then, the earlier imbalance of population of Jews over Christians was a matter of distant memory, even if pagans in the empire still far outnumbered the favored newcomer. But the Jewish position became precarious with this declaration. Political measures against the Jews did not immediately follow, but the circumstance did not bode well for Judaism or any religion other than Christianity.
The popularly elected Ambrose, bishop of Mediolanum, opposed the efforts of Theodosius to acknowledge the civil rights of Jews, pagans, and heretics as equal to those of Christians. In a public confrontation in his cathedral, Ambrose made the emperor back down. He asked rhetorically in one of his epistles (40): "Whom do [the Jews] have to avenge the synagogue? Christ whom they have killed, whom they have denied? Or will God the Father avenge them, whom they do not acknowledge as Father since they do not acknowledge the Son?" This kind of writing typifies the shape the Christian argument had taken over the course of two centuries.