The Myth of Persecution: How Early Christians Invented a Story of Martyrdom

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posted on Mar, 2 2013 @ 09:17 AM
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Hi guys!
There's a new title being released on Tuesday, the 5th, and it looks to me like it's going to chink some more armor right in time for the upcoming "Change of Popeitude" at Vatican City...

The Myth of Persecution: How Early Christians Invented a Story of Martyrdom

In The Myth of Persecution, Candida Moss, a leading expert on early Christianity, reveals how the early church exaggerated, invented, and forged stories of Christian martyrs and how the dangerous legacy of a martyrdom complex is employed today to silence dissent and galvanize a new generation of culture warriors.

According to cherished church tradition and popular belief, before the Emperor Constantine made Christianity legal in the fourth century, early Christians were systematically persecuted by a brutal Roman Empire intent on their destruction. As the story goes, vast numbers of believers were thrown to the lions, tortured, or burned alive because they refused to renounce Christ. These saints, Christianity’s inspirational heroes, are still venerated today.

Moss, however, exposes that the “Age of Martyrs” is a fiction—there was no sustained 300-year-long effort by the Romans to persecute Christians. Instead, these stories were pious exaggerations; highly stylized rewritings of Jewish, Greek, and Roman noble death traditions; and even forgeries designed to marginalize heretics, inspire the faithful, and fund churches.

The traditional story of persecution is still taught in Sunday school classes, celebrated in sermons, and employed by church leaders, politicians, and media pundits who insist that Christians were—and always will be—persecuted by a hostile, secular world. Moss urges modern Christians to abandon the conspiratorial assumption that the world is out to get Christians and, rather, embrace the consolation, moral instruction, and spiritual guidance that these martyrdom stories provide.

Here are a couple of the editorial reviews cited on the book's amazon page:

“Compellingly argued and artfully written, Moss reveals how the popular misconception about martyrdom in the early church still creates real barriers to compassion and dialogue today. An important book and a fascinating read.” (—Archbishop Desmond Tutu )

“This is the best sort of history: delightfully accessible yet based on prodigious scholarship, deeply serious, yet entertaining and enlightening. Above all, it shows the reader the importance of sweeping away myth, in order that we do not behave badly in the present, using the past as our excuse.” (—Diarmaid MacCulloch, Professor of the History of the Church at Oxford University and author of Christianity: the First Three Thousand Years )


Now, this is the work of a Professor of Theology at Notre Dame: Candida R Moss has previously published works digging into historical martyrdom.

Biography
Candida Moss is Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at the University of Notre Dame. A graduate of Oxford University, she earned her doctorate from Yale University. Moss has received awards and fellowships from the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Catholic Biblical Association, and the John Templeton Foundation. A frequent contributor to the National Geographic Channel, Moss is the award-winning author of several scholarly works on martyrdom, including The Other Christs and Ancient Christian Martyrdom. She lives in South Bend, Indiana.


Her book publshed last year was titled Ancient Christian Martyrdom: Diverse Practices, Theologies, and Traditions (The Anchor Yale Bible Reference Library) (Go to the link for the glowing editorial reviews that amazon has on the book's page)

Looks like it is going to be rocking the boat big time.
The first notice I saw of it was this morning on Alternet.org:
Were Early Christians Really Persecuted? Historian Reveals the Surprising Truth.

Although Candida Moss’ new book, “The Myth of Persecution: How Early Christians Invented a Story of Martyrdom,” is about the three centuries following the death of Jesus, she makes a point of citing this modern-day parallel. What Bernall truly said and did in the moments before her death absolutely matters, Moss asserts, if we are going to hold her up as a “martyr.” Yet misconceptions and misrepresentations can creep in so soon.

The public can get the story wrong even in this highly mediated and thoroughly reported age — and do so despite the presence among us of living eyewitnesses. So what, then, to make of the third-hand, heavily revised, agenda-laden and anachronistic accounts of Christianity’s original martyrs?


It's a fairly long review of the book, and includes these bits:

Moss also examines surviving Roman records. She notes that during the only concerted anti-Christian Roman campaign, under the emperor Diocletian between 303 and 306, Christians were expelled from public offices. Their churches, such as the one in Nicomedia, across the street from the imperial palace, were destroyed. Yet, as Moss points out, if the Christians were holding high offices in the first place and had built their church “in the emperor’s own front yard,” they could hardly have been in hiding away in catacombs before Diocletian issued his edicts against them.

So, no, she's not sayng it's ALL A LIE, just that it's been exaggerated and sensationalized dramatically. There are references to modern incidents, as well, which (reportedly) help to illustrate how "corrupted" the stories can become, even immediately.

This is not to deny that some Christians were executed in horrible ways under conditions we’d consider grotesquely unjust. But it’s important, Moss explains, to distinguish between “persecution” and “prosecution.” The Romans had no desire to support a prison population, so capital punishment was common for many seemingly minor offenses; you could be sentenced to be beaten to death for writing a slanderous song.

Moss distinguishes between those cases in which Christians were prosecuted simply for being Christians and those in which they were condemned for engaging in what the Romans considered subversive or treasonous activity. Given the “everyday ideals and social structures” the Romans regarded as essential to the empire, such transgressions might include publicly denying the divine status of the emperor, rejecting military service or refusing to accept the authority of a court. In one of her most fascinating chapters, Moss tries to explain how baffling and annoying the Romans (for whom “pacifism didn’t exist as a concept”) found the Christians — when the Romans thought about them at all.


Just wanted to point out the new source, for any of you who would like a feather-ruffling mid-season read. Hope to hear from some of you on this subject and would love to have an "ATS Book Club" go at this book.

~wild




posted on Mar, 2 2013 @ 09:57 AM
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Moss distinguishes between those cases in which Christians were prosecuted simply for being Christians and those in which they were condemned for engaging in what the Romans considered subversive or treasonous activity.

gnostics and jews were in a battle of sorts with 'rome' when it usurped the purpose of the saviour (immanuell) for there own use in creating a tool (religion) to extend romes' control to, well, present day.
they, and many sects after them, would have been condemned for engaging in what the Romans considered subversive or treasonous activity, as described in above quoted text.

i hope that the author is not trying to deny their holocaust.

if some here read the book, let's keep that in mind.
edit on 2-3-2013 by tinhattribunal because: (no reason given)



posted on Mar, 2 2013 @ 10:05 AM
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reply to post by tinhattribunal
 

Well, from the blurbs and descriptions, it looks like she keeps to early Christianity as her main topic and specialty.
Certainly religious disputes have ever caused grief and suffering. There has been - and continues to be - much violence, and it's important that we know the TRUTH, as far as we are able, in my opinion, to be discerning "consumers" of God-related strife.

Thanks for your comment.
Good suggestion.



posted on Mar, 2 2013 @ 10:12 AM
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Originally posted by wildtimes


It's a fairly long review of the book, and includes these bits:

Moss also examines surviving Roman records. She notes that during the only concerted anti-Christian Roman campaign, under the emperor Diocletian between 303 and 306, Christians were expelled from public offices. Their churches, such as the one in Nicomedia, across the street from the imperial palace, were destroyed. Yet, as Moss points out, if the Christians were holding high offices in the first place and had built their church “in the emperor’s own front yard,” they could hardly have been in hiding away in catacombs before Diocletian issued his edicts against them.

So, no, she's not sayng it's ALL A LIE, just that it's been exaggerated and sensationalized dramatically. There are references to modern incidents, as well, which (reportedly) help to illustrate how "corrupted" the stories can become, even immediately.


Just wanted to point out the new source, for any of you who would like a feather-ruffling mid-season read. Hope to hear from some of you on this subject and would love to have an "ATS Book Club" go at this book.

~wild


The purges came in waves and outbreaks depending on who was in power at the time. It went back and forth with periods of good relations. The fact that a church was built in the emperors front yard just shows that there was a long period between outbreaks. As it was this place was burnt to the ground. So yea they were not always hanging out in the catacombs but the catacombs themselves speak of hard times at some point for the christians.



posted on Mar, 2 2013 @ 10:56 AM
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reply to post by Logarock
 


the catacombs themselves speak of hard times at some point for the christians.

Yes, the impression I get is that there were a few sporadic hard times for them, but it was by no means a constant thing.
Thanks for your contribution...
Does this sort of history interest you, Logarock? I think it's fascinating.



posted on Mar, 2 2013 @ 11:45 AM
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reply to post by wildtimes
 



...feather-ruffling mid-season read.

Interesting you would use these words at the end. Exactly the words I was thinking as I read your OP.


It would seem that gradually, the mythologies that have ingrained themselves into Christianity are being exposed for what they are. In reality, I believe this will tend to strengthen Christianity in the long term, and bring it back to its "roots", I guess you could say.

Christianity has always been, and always will be about personal experience, and faith. I don't believe the person of Christ(whoever he might have been, and whatever he might have actually said) intended for those who followed his lead to use a manual. They were meant to follow the "spirit" of his teachings. Not to be a legalistic heirarchy of oppression. S&F Wild.



posted on Mar, 2 2013 @ 11:56 AM
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reply to post by wildtimes
 


Moss, however, exposes that the “Age of Martyrs” is a fiction—there was no sustained 300-year-long effort by the Romans to persecute Christians.

Based on what again? The records kept by those who committed the atrocities?

LOL. Enough said.

peace



posted on Mar, 2 2013 @ 12:12 PM
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Moss distinguishes between those cases in which Christians were prosecuted simply for being Christians and those in which they were condemned for engaging in what the Romans considered subversive or treasonous activity. Given the “everyday ideals and social structures” the Romans regarded as essential to the empire, such transgressions might include publicly denying the divine status of the emperor, rejecting military service or refusing to accept the authority of a court.


So what she simply is doing is redefining the term persecution to prosecution which then enables her to state that "persecutions" didn't happen on as large of scale as known.....because actually they were prosecutions. Right. So when dictators step up, write laws which single out a particular group, they simply can claim that they weren't "persecuting" because it was simply prosecuting...Truly, how do people believe anything that writers say anymore? Persecution has intent and motive at its core, but prosecution is simply the process by which the breaking of laws and statutes are enforced and or punished.



posted on Mar, 2 2013 @ 12:30 PM
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reply to post by wildtimes
 



I can buy this book for $15.95. (no agenda there?)



Christians have always faced persecution, sometimes by Jews, Romans, TPTB, and even other "christians".


That, is a fact.



posted on Mar, 2 2013 @ 12:49 PM
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Originally posted by wildtimes
reply to post by Logarock
 


the catacombs themselves speak of hard times at some point for the christians.

Yes, the impression I get is that there were a few sporadic hard times for them, but it was by no means a constant thing.
Thanks for your contribution...
Does this sort of history interest you, Logarock? I think it's fascinating.


Yes I just happen to have a copy, leather, 1850, Blanchards Book Of Martyers.



posted on Mar, 2 2013 @ 12:52 PM
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the problem with this of course is the original source material is prone to massive amounts of bias, so who you believe tends to be who is telling the story you want to believe



posted on Mar, 2 2013 @ 01:19 PM
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reply to post by syrinx high priest
 



the problem with this of course is the original source material is prone to massive amounts of bias, so who you believe tends to be who is telling the story you want to believe

Obviously.

The bottom line, in my opinion, is that NOBODY KNOWS the actual truth. Can it be discovered? Possibly. But IGNORING new discoveries just because it rankles someone's firmly cherished beliefs.....is, well, juvenile.
"la la la I can't hear you!"
What is the problem with looking at alternative and suggested revisions of history? People spend their lives working on this stuff, digging and searching and presenting ideas that are still evolving.

"Original source material" has to be weighed and measured, against itself, against archaeology and the history of civilization. I just don't get why some people refuse to even consider new thoughts on the same old subjects.

edit on 2-3-2013 by wildtimes because: (no reason given)



posted on Mar, 2 2013 @ 01:32 PM
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reply to post by Klassified
 


It would seem that gradually, the mythologies that have ingrained themselves into Christianity are being exposed for what they are. In reality, I believe this will tend to strengthen Christianity in the long term, and bring it back to its "roots", I guess you could say.

Well, one would certainly hope so. I don't see any sense in dismissing new works by people who dedicate their lives to these issues that certainly have an impact on our global society.

What Jesus taught compared to what his "followers" do is a massively important social issue, in my opinion. Why is it so difficult, do you think? Why do people have to run away from information??

It isn't like this was written by Alex Jones, or Acharya S., or any of the other controversial big-mouths....

She's a scholar, with a doctorate, for crying out loud!!

Oh, but, well, she's also a heretic and a blasphemer and a liar and a money-grubber?

I don't get it.
I just don't.



posted on Mar, 2 2013 @ 01:54 PM
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In the realm of "accepted fact", tens of thousands of Christians were fed to lions, crucified, stoned, and chopped apart in front of screaming crowds, all for the enjoyment of the Roman masses, simply for being Christians. What you're saying this book says is much or most or all (?) of that is a myth, a fable, and that the only ones killed were people who committed other "crimes" than christianity. Was being christian even a crime, except for those years mentioned. And if not, what about the accepted fact of hiding away in catacombs, being hunted down by Paul before he got to Damascus (I've often wondered why he was allowed to roam free after "turning" on his bosses and going over to the other side. His relatively short recorded imprisonment and reported death as a martyr also seem like a little less than he would have gotten much earlier from his own hand of injustice.).

This seems like a subject many university's and study groups should now be working on to ascertain just when these stories started, how much proof exists in the ancient records (did Josphesus and other historians mention the persecutions and martyrdoms?), and the timeline of when the catholic church began to use the history of early-church martyrdom for their recruitment "posters".

Please keep us informed when the book is available and thanks for this thread.



posted on Mar, 2 2013 @ 01:55 PM
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reply to post by silo13
 

Perhaps you skipped the un-highlighted parts? Did you even look at the links?

“Compellingly argued and artfully written, Moss reveals how the popular misconception about martyrdom in the early church still creates real barriers to compassion and dialogue today. An important book and a fascinating read.” (—Archbishop Desmond Tutu )

“This is the best sort of history: delightfully accessible yet based on prodigious scholarship, deeply serious, yet entertaining and enlightening. Above all, it shows the reader the importance of sweeping away myth, in order that we do not behave badly in the present, using the past as our excuse.” (—Diarmaid MacCulloch, Professor of the History of the Church at Oxford University and author of Christianity: the First Three Thousand Years )


Seems to me that compassion and dialogue are the keys to
"peace"



posted on Mar, 2 2013 @ 01:57 PM
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reply to post by Aleister
 


This seems like a subject many university's and study groups should now be working on

And they ARE!!! This is a product of one of the university's top scholars.



posted on Mar, 2 2013 @ 02:02 PM
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Originally posted by wildtimes
reply to post by Aleister
 


This seems like a subject many university's and study groups should now be working on

And they ARE!!! This is a product of one of the university's top scholars.


I know. I meant that hundreds of people should be working on this around the world. This opens up another question of trust in the catholic church, which has had its share of "gotcha"s in the past twenty years or so. A wiser internet savvy public that shines the light on inadequate or made-up history once again shows Guttenberg's genius in wanting to share information with the world - something many power centers have usually tried to nip at the bud (an interesting expression, "not to let the data flower" when used in this and other contexts.)



posted on Mar, 2 2013 @ 02:04 PM
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reply to post by Aleister
 


You know, I think there are, if not hundreds, then at least dozens....who do study this stuff day in and day out.
I agree with you, Aleister, their work needs to be exposed, especially in this age of info-bombardment.
Thanks for contributing.



posted on Mar, 2 2013 @ 02:06 PM
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From what I understand, the premise of this source material is very loosely correct but also a bit misleading.

For instance, it is debatable in terms of specific well known saints who are historically celebrated as martyrs. That should come as no surprise, of course. Some of it was legend, oral tradition, etc., and we don't really know for sure. I can't even think of any specific examples off the top of my head but remember coming across them over the years in my reading.

But on the WHOLE, it is indisputable fact that thousands of Christians were tortured and put to death in mass numbers for their faith under Rome. It's well documented via ancient historians- both Christian and non Christian.

So the source in this thread makes it sound like it was exaggerated much worse that it was. True, we have questions concerning some if they were really martyred or not. And even then- they very well could have been martyred- we just are not sure because the records relating to individual deaths were not as thorough as the official state persecutions.



posted on Mar, 2 2013 @ 02:10 PM
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reply to post by AshleyD
 


that should come as no surprise, of course. Some of it was legend, oral tradition, etc., and we don't really know for sure.

Exactly my point.
I think it's important to us, as a species, and stewards of the planet and our children, to dissect it and determine what is legend, what is oral tradition, and what is fiction.

We don't really know for sure.....
thanks for chiming in.
edit on 2-3-2013 by wildtimes because: fix quoted bit





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