reply to post by wildtimes
From Dr. Tim McGrew.
In the first book, "View of the Evidences of Christianity" (London: John W. Parker and Son, 1859), Part I, ch. 2 (in Whately’s edition, p. 55),
Paley mentions a few lines from the Roman poet Martial (c. A.D. 100) that indicate that the deaths of the Christians were martyrdoms, insofar as they
were given an opportunity to avoid them even at the last moment by sacrificing to the Roman gods. Paley quotes it only in Latin, in a footnote. It
comes from the tenth book of Martial’s Epigrams, in which it is number 25:
In matutina nuper spectatus harena
Mucius, inposuit qui sua membra focis,
Si patiens durusque tibi fortisque videtur,
Abderitanae pectora plebis habes.
Nam cum dicatur tunica praesente molesta
’Ure manum,’ plus est dicere ‘Non facio.’
Here is the translation as given in the sixth volume of the Kippis edition of Lardner’s Works, p. 636:
You have, perhaps, lately seen acted in the theatre, Mucius, who thrust his hand into the fire. If you think such an one patient, valiant, stout, you
are a mere senseless dotard. For it is a much greater thing when threatened with the troublesome coat, to say I do not sacrifice, than to obey the
command—burn the hand.
This reference seems to have escaped the attention of most of the modern authors dealing with non-Christian evidence for Jesus, e.g. F. F. Bruce,
Jesus and Christian Origins Outside the New Testament (1974), R. T. France, The Evidence for Jesus (1986), Gary Habermas, The Verdict of History
(1988) and The Historical Jesus (1996), and Robert E. Van Voorst, Jesus Outside the New Testament (2000). E. M. Blaiklock, in Jesus Christ: Man or
Myth? (1964) says merely that there is no certain reference to Christianity in Martial. But I am inclined to concur with Lardner, who is hardly one to
jump at conclusions of this sort, that this is a genuine reference and that it shows (what could be established from Pliny and Tacitus independently)
that these were true martyrdoms. Paley is on firm ground here.
Time does not permit me to follow up on this in detail, but it should be noted that the twelve books of Martial’s Epigrams were published between 86
and 103, so this is a reference from the end of the first century. Note also these references from Tertullian:
Mucius gladly left his right hand in the altar flames. Oh the sublimity of his spirit!
Mucius burned his right hand on an altar, that this deed of his might dwell in fame.
—Ad Martyras, ch. 4
See, on this theme, Mary Louise Carlson, “Pagan Examples of Fortitude in the Latin Christian Apologists,” Classical Philology 43 (1948): 93-104.