posted on Mar, 2 2013 @ 09:17 AM
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 Pope
itude" 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
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.
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
Her book publshed last year was titled
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
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
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.