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Claudia Moss: The Myth of Christian Persecution

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posted on Mar, 20 2013 @ 03:03 PM
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I came across a mention of an interesting book that explores the religious stories of the early Christians: Claudia Moss' "The Myth of Persecution: How Early Christians Invented a Story of Martyrdom."

Now, for those of you not familiar with the story, this book examines material such as "The Lives of the Saints", which was required reading for the early Church and for many Catholic children throughout the ages. I've always enjoyed reading these because most of them were just so "over the top." One of my favorite books is "Saints Preserve Us", which summarizes the interesting and amusing things that saints were associated with (there's a saint associated with mad dogs, for instance.)

(no, I am not Catholic, nor was I raised Catholic. I did, however, read everything I could get my little hands on.)

Moss presents the idea (bolstered by research) that many of these saints are pure invention and that the persecution presented was in many cases Church leaders fabricated or exaggerated these in order to convert people to Christianity or to keep the faithful from becoming pagans.

The Forty Martyrs of Sebaste is one example.


THE FORTY MARTYRS were soldiers quartered at Sebaste in Armenia, about the year 320. When their legion was ordered to offer sacrifice they separated themselves from the rest and formed a company of martyrs. After they had been torn by scourges and iron hooks they were chained together and led to a lingering death. It was a cruel winter, and they were condemned to lie naked on the icy surface of a pond in the open air till they were frozen to death. But they ran undismayed to the place of their combat, joyfully stripped off their garments ... (click link for the rest of the story).


Tales of the female saints (such as St. Catherine of Alexandria) show them persecuted for their beauty and killed because they would not agree to be married to men/convert to another faith.

For those of you interested in reading more about Dr. Moss and her book, some links that you may enjoy:

Huffington Post has a lengthy review of the book and presents some "talking points" on the topic.



HuffPo blogger Danielle Tummino has a fascinating interview with Dr. Moss
Moss: "I initially became interested in this subject because of a homily I heard that compared the situation facing modern Christians in America to the martyrs of the early church.


A nicely thought-out response blog which highlights some problems with Moss' book

A very detailed and in-depth review of the book. This one focuses on some modern parallels that many of you will find interesting.




Footnote on "Lives" Not all of the stories are fiction, and some record the lives of early Church leaders. Many are historical, in fact, though in some cases there's a lot of rewriting for the sake of promoting a belief.




posted on Mar, 20 2013 @ 03:21 PM
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Of course Moss can prove it..... because she was there? It's an opinion because of her stance on things. She cannot prove it or disprove it. But if you look at Rome and Romans of the time it's 99% reasonable to assume it did happen.

It's like me saying Genghis Khan did not exist. Prove to me he did.

You can't!



posted on Mar, 20 2013 @ 03:43 PM
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ALthough I disagree with Ms. Moss and think her thesis is flawed, I must give the OP a star and flag for posting a link to a contrary position in the OP itself. I thought that a very intellectually honest thing to do an I was impressed and thought it merited mention.



posted on Mar, 20 2013 @ 04:03 PM
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reply to post by Byrd
 


I read Moss' book not too long ago and to be gracious, I found the argument to be lacking.

In general when any society undergoes a demographic or sociological transformation that runs counter to the established mainstream , conflict arises. The repercussions and severity of this conflict is dependent upon the society. Seeing as how the Roman’s, for all their advancements, had a savage side that would make Genghis Khan blush, it is certainly not difficult to imagine them killing large numbers of individuals who sought to undermine and overthrow centuries of tradition, patronage, and customs.

More specific to Moss’ hypothesis, she dismissive early accounts from non Christian historians like Pliny the younger, Tacitus (who chronicled Nero’s persecution of early Christians) and Suetonius who chronicled in great detail the Roman state’s campaign of persecution against the early Church and its followers. She goes on to claim that the other “persecutions” that she could verify were justified because, well, the Romans justified them and therefore didn’t qualify as persecution.

Moss’ rather weak hypothesis only works when she ignores accounts of early Roman historians and redefines persecution.



posted on Mar, 20 2013 @ 04:18 PM
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reply to post by Byrd
 


thank you for providing the links.
i was very intrested in reading this book, but too cheap to buy it.
i will refrain from commenting until i have read and digested the info presented, however i would like to add the following...

did you know that St. Malachy was named after Moloch? ("moloch- y)
it's true! i saw it on the internet!



posted on Mar, 20 2013 @ 04:21 PM
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Originally posted by SirMike
reply to post by Byrd
 


I read Moss' book not too long ago and to be gracious, I found the argument to be lacking.

Indeed, you echo some of the concerns mentioned by one of the bloggers.



Seeing as how the Roman’s, for all their advancements, had a savage side that would make Genghis Khan blush, it is certainly not difficult to imagine them killing large numbers of individuals who sought to undermine and overthrow centuries of tradition, patronage, and customs.

I think I might dispute that to some extent -- I don't think they were any more brutal than other civilizations of their time.

Having said that, though, Wikipedia presents two rather interesting tidbits -- one is that there seemed to be kind of a subcult of people who WANTED to be martyrs because of fame and attention.

The other was that when Christianity was seen as a "superstition" it was considered a danger to the peace.


More specific to Moss’ hypothesis, she dismissive early accounts from non Christian historians like Pliny the younger, Tacitus (who chronicled Nero’s persecution of early Christians) and Suetonius who chronicled in great detail the Roman state’s campaign of persecution against the early Church and its followers. She goes on to claim that the other “persecutions” that she could verify were justified because, well, the Romans justified them and therefore didn’t qualify as persecution.

I think the blogger remarked on this weakness -- that she kind of cherry picked some of her examples. I don't know if she takes into account Diocletian's persecution (lasting from 303 to 313)


Moss’ rather weak hypothesis only works when she ignores accounts of early Roman historians and redefines persecution.


I dunno... when I read things such as "Lives of the Saints" and some of the older stories of martyrs, I can see her point. Her assertion that this is echoed in today's traditions is sort of an uneasy fit -- but there may be some basis of truth in the idea of a pride in martyrdom.

Anyway, this idea is apparently NOT that new (looking at Wikipedia). However, having read some of the source material about martyrs, I found it interesting, and the blog/discussions about it have been well worth reading.



posted on Mar, 20 2013 @ 04:27 PM
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reply to post by Byrd
 


A contemporary example to illustrate my problem with Moss' thesis:

The Chinese claim that there is no persecution of religious people’s in its borders. The Chinese further claim that any prosecution against Tibetans is not connected to their religion and only done because they are violating Chinese law. It’s a semantic argument from Chinese and for Moss: we don’t prosecute Tibetans for their religion persay.. it just so happens that all Tibetan Buddhists are violating the law and are therefore prosecuted.

The mere fact that Christianity was illegal in the Roman Empire until the Edict of Milan in 313 speaks volumes about whether the early church was persecuted.



posted on Mar, 20 2013 @ 04:39 PM
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Originally posted by Byrd
Having said that, though, Wikipedia presents two rather interesting tidbits -- one is that there seemed to be kind of a subcult of people who WANTED to be martyrs because of fame and attention.


The Greek root for martyr is martys: "to bear witness". In the early days of the Church, "bearing witness" to ones Christian faith and to the life of Christ meant persecution and death. Theologically speaking, anyone is a martyr who bears witness. Martyrs may be revered if their bearing witness leads to persecution or death as in the early church.

Pope Clement the First wrote at some great length about the meaning of martyrdom. He was exiled and jailed for his faith and eventually executed by the Romans for converting his fellow prisoners.

This is, BTW, my understanding after 13 years of Jesuit grade/high school.
edit on 20-3-2013 by SirMike because: (no reason given)



posted on Mar, 20 2013 @ 08:32 PM
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reply to post by Byrd
 

Here's another thread you might find interesting on this topic Byrd. The Myth Of Persecution

I think the truth in this probably falls somewhere in the middle, if I can be a bit cliche. Having put in my time in the church, I can tell you there is literally no critical eye toward these stories whatsoever. They are all taught as truth. Period. In the same way we don't really know for a fact who wrote the gospels. Yet the names on them are never questioned by Christians.
So anyone who writes a book like this with their findings is going to be heavily ridiculed.

edit on 3/20/2013 by Klassified because: redaction



posted on Mar, 20 2013 @ 09:23 PM
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I weighed in on the previous thread, but the executive summary of my posts there is pretty much what the critical blogger said -- this is a work of sensationalism, which distorts known historical fact in order to generate attention for the book/author. Anyone who has more than a superficial knowledge of early church history (and I would count myself among them) knows that there was no "300 year persecution", and that many martyr tales cannot possibly be true, but those facts do not diminish the fact that unknown thousands of Christians were killed for their faith in the early days of the church.



posted on Mar, 20 2013 @ 10:38 PM
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To AdJensen and SirMike, I'd pose a question:

The early church is rife with tales like the one I cited above about the 40 martyrs. These are the tales that Christians used in the 300's - 500's to build the case that early Christians were heavily prosecuted. They were very popular tales and churches throughout the world have relics from these saints (and other martyrs.) What's your take on these stories?



posted on Mar, 20 2013 @ 11:00 PM
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Originally posted by Byrd
To AdJensen and SirMike, I'd pose a question:

The early church is rife with tales like the one I cited above about the 40 martyrs. These are the tales that Christians used in the 300's - 500's to build the case that early Christians were heavily prosecuted. They were very popular tales and churches throughout the world have relics from these saints (and other martyrs.) What's your take on these stories?

I'm a big fan of early Christian writings for some reason, so I've read a lot of this stuff. I would say that a lot of it is based on fact, but supplemented in many instances. There are a lot of pseudepigrapha that can easily be discerned by its specific message -- the Acts of Paul and Thecla, for example (a personal favourite,) is a part of the early ascetic (and anti-sexual) Christian movement.

So a bit of it has to be taken with a grain of salt, but that doesn't dismiss the fact that there are real people behind it. As an example, I challenge anyone to read The Martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicity without being moved by the account.


For the young women, however, the Devil had prepared a mad heifer. This was an unusual animal, but it was chosen so that their female sex might be matched with that of the beast. So they were stripped naked, enclosed in nets, and thus brought out into the arena. Even the crowd was horrified when they saw that one was a delicate young girl and the other was a woman fresh from childbirth with the milk still dripping from her breasts. And so they were recalled again and dressed in unbelted tunics.

Perpetua was tossed first, and she fell on her loins. Sitting down, she pulled down her tunic that was ripped along the side so that it covered her thighs, being more mindful of modesty than of pain. Then having asked for a fillet, she further fastened her disheveled hair. For it was not right for a witness to suffer with disheveled hair, lest she might seem to be mourning in her hour of triumph.

Then she got up. And when she saw that Felictias had been bruised, she approached, extended her hand, and lifted her up. Then the two stood side by side.



posted on Mar, 21 2013 @ 05:45 AM
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adj


this is a work of sensationalism, which distorts known historical fact in order to generate attention for the book/author. Anyone who has more than a superficial knowledge of early church history (and I would count myself among them) knows that there was no "300 year persecution", and that many martyr tales cannot possibly be true, but those facts do not diminish the fact that unknown thousands of Christians were killed for their faith in the early days of the church.


We're not going to agree on this one, but we drifted pretty close after your unjust shot at Professor Moss' scholarship and until the phrase "killed for their faith."

We seem to agree that over a stretch of hundreds of years, thousands of Christians were killed by Roman civil authority, for an average of dozens per year over the period, in an empire that stretched from the Scottish border to the shores of the Black Sea.

And why were they killed? In Nero's persecution, they were killed as group punishment for charges of arson. On the one hand that's unfair, but on the other, it had nothing to do with what they believed about supernatural matters. Other practical causes of friction appear to have included differences of opinion over liability for extraordinary taxes on Jews, despite claiming to be an offshoot of Judaism and exercising the Jewish exemption from public civil sacrifice.

Pliny couldn't have been clearer: he is obviously open to the idea that Christian weekly secret meetings aren't political, but decides to punish the Christians anyway. Why does Pliny proceed? "I had no doubt that, whatever the nature of their creed, stubbornness and inflexible obstinacy surely deserve to be punished."

Very offensive to any libertarian, of whom I am one, but whatever the nature of their creed says, in black letters, that it is the behavior of Christians, and not their Christianity, that is his motive for civil enforcement. The personal quality of Christians, not Christianity, was also noted by Marcus Aurelius (Mediatations, 11, paragraph 3), "... this readiness (to die well) comes from a man's own judgement, not from mere obstinacy, as with the Christians, but considerately and with dignity and in a way to persuade another, without tragic show."

In the Twenty-first Century New World, we call what many Christians did "suicide by cop." Behave in a certain way, and you will be killed where you stand. The Roman cop-response threshold was lower than today's developed-world peace officer, but the principle is the same.

There probably is no modern equivalent, because no modern state implements the approach to politics that the post-republican Roman Empire did. There certainly are modern examples of persecuting members of a religious group, but not because of their religious beliefs. Another poster mentioned China-Tibet, but the Holocaust would also serve: what landed someone in the camps was not the practice of Judaism, but having a recent ancestor who practiced. The beliefs, then, had nothing to do with the persecution, which was group punishment for imagined and false charges of anti-social behavior - just like Nero's persecution.

The main reason for getting the history right is to come to terms with the uses that are made of these stories. One specific use deserves special mention. Christians, when they were able to, after they became the Imperial state religion, witheringly persecuted those who kept faith with their outlawed native religion. These Christian stories played their part in justifyng those acts.

There is an uncomfortably long lapse of time between the last Christian to die under color of state authority, perhaps sometime in the 320's, and the first Christian to kill under that color, no sooner than sometime in the 380's. That's two generations. No Christian persecutor was formerly persecuted; no pagan persecuted was a former persecutor.

What bridged those two generations of religious liberty for Christians? These stories did, keeping hatred alive. These stories are what came to justify the "revenge" killing of pagan martyrs, the children and grandchildren of what few persecutors as there actually ever were. These stories, then, are murder weapons.



posted on Mar, 21 2013 @ 08:56 AM
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reply to post by eight bits
 


Well, perhaps it's more a matter of semantics than anything else -- yes, the Romans killed a lot of people, for a lot of reasons, but it's clear that Christians were, indeed, martyred for being Christians.

In Pliny's letter to Trajan, it's clear that the reason that these people are being brought before him is that they are Christians.


I asked them whether they were Christians; if they admitted it, I repeated the question twice, and threatened them with punishment; if they persisted, I ordered them to be at once punished: for I was persuaded, whatever the nature of their opinions might be, a contumacious and inflexible obstinacy certainly deserved correction.

Pliny appears here to be tying the obstinacy to Christians for not renouncing their faith, but he makes it clear that they've been accused of being Christians, and if they admitted it, they were killed. All they had to do was renounce Christ, and they were released.


But this crime spreading (as is usually the case) while it was actually under prosecution, several instances of the same nature occurred. An anonymous information was laid before me containing a charge against several persons, who upon examination denied they were Christians, or had ever been so. They repeated after me an invocation to the gods, and offered religious rites with wine and incense before your statue (which for that purpose I had ordered to be brought, together with those of the gods), and even reviled the name of Christ: whereas there is no forcing, it is said, those who are really Christians into any of these compliances: I thought it proper, therefore, to discharge them.

Trajan then replies:


You have adopted the right course, my dearest Secundus, in investigating the charges against the Christians who were brought before you. It is not possible to lay down any general rule for all such cases. Do not go out of your way to look for them. If indeed they should be brought before you, and the crime is proved, they must be punished; with the restriction, however, that where the party denies he is a Christian, and shall make it evident that he is not, by invoking our gods, let him (notwithstanding any former suspicion) be pardoned upon his repentance.

He affirms that Christianity is a crime, and Christians who hold to their beliefs are to be punished (killed) for it.

(Source for ex-text)

As to whether the martyrs tales were inappropriately used to justify "turning the tables" on others at a later date, I have no doubt that was the case, but texts which originated during the persecutions would not have been written with that in mind -- the early church was pretty batty for the notion of martyrdom (e.g.: Felicity's despair that her pregnancy would prevent her being martyred with the others,) and the purpose of the texts when written was likely to wind that up even further.

Being misused centuries later is a fault that need be put at the feet of those who misused them, not on the texts or their original authors.



posted on Mar, 21 2013 @ 09:29 AM
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this thread should be moved to the HOAX bin.

answers.yahoo.com...



posted on Mar, 21 2013 @ 10:20 AM
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Originally posted by asher
this thread should be moved to the HOAX bin.

The thread is about a book, and I'm pretty sure that the book exists.



posted on Mar, 21 2013 @ 10:51 AM
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Originally posted by adjensen

Originally posted by asher
this thread should be moved to the HOAX bin.

The thread is about a book, and I'm pretty sure that the book exists.


so was mine when byrd posted false information from a yahoo answers page and told springer to wrongfully move my thread to the hoax bin except my thread had no false information and was about the talmud. the book he is referencing has false information in it so it is a hoax. after i proved byrd wrong she admitted to it and said she didnt know much about the topic my thread has still not been moved. look into my claims if you dont believe me.
edit on 21-3-2013 by asher because: (no reason given)



posted on Mar, 21 2013 @ 12:30 PM
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adj


In Pliny's letter to Trajan, it's clear that the reason that these people are being brought before him is that they are Christians.


Your original statement was that they were killed "for their faith." I took that to mean "for what they believed." If I was mistaken, and you meant "faith" not in the sense of belief, but rather of overt religiously inspired behavior, then we are in agreement. Pliny makes no bones about his killing Christians for their stubborn and obstinate behavior, whatever the nature of their creed.


Pliny appears here to be tying the obstinacy to Christians for not renouncing their faith, but he makes it clear that they've been accused of being Christians, and if they admitted it, they were killed. All they had to do was renounce Christ, and they were released.


But the original focus of Pliny's concern is that they are holding weekly meetings, in apparent violation of his ban on all political meetings. What Pliny is seeking from the accused is some assurance that they do not continue as members of a secret society. Christianity has to be one of the few conspiracies in the world where if somebody says the founder of the conspiracy is a ratfink, then they aren't a member. So, that is what Pliny asks.

Where is the offer to say public prayers to Jesus for the welfare of the Emperor? Where is the invitation to the governor to send a representative to the weekly meeting, to see for himself, or to hear from a trusted aide, that there is no politics involved in the local church? Lack of this sort of thing is the kind of behavior that Pliny means by inflexible, obstinate and stubborn.

BTW, was there in fact no politics at these meetings? Why would or should Pliny simply assume there wasn't? Is he not to wonder that the church evangelizes "everyone," but doesn't evangelize him or members of his administration? Yes, yes, catch-22 - but dying for catch-22 isn't dying for what you believe, either.


Being misused centuries later is a fault that need be put at the feet of those who misused them, not on the texts or their original authors.


For the original authors of true stories, I made no criticism. However, I have no sympathy for the spinners of false tales. Lies have no other use besides misuse. It is the nature of written lies to persist indefinitely after they are written down.

The corpus of martyr tales available late in the Fourth Century included whole stories that didn't happen, and stories with false incidents within the true story. For example, I am disposed to think that a historically real Polycarp was officially killed, but do I believe all that occurs in the famous narrative? Do you?

www.earlychristianwritings.com...

If there is a falsehood in the account, is it not that Polycarp's persecutors, indifferent to the miracles of the voice from heaven and of the fire, were guilty of the very inflexibility, obstinacy and stubbornness of which Pliny and Marcus complained? Do you not see that that becomes an argument that such people, people who are malefactors by their own standards of conduct, can be killed in good conscience? And that those who later opposed the state religion, the new one, "must be" such people, as blind to the Truth as their predecessors were, and so deserving of what those predecessors deserved, but escaped?

So, even if there was a historically valid grievance on account of the death of Polycarp, I lay some responsibility for other, later deaths on the teller of the falsehoods which embellished that grievance, falsehoods that were retold fresh when the tables turned, and payback time chimed.



posted on Mar, 21 2013 @ 12:38 PM
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sandf OP
yes, not to mention the reproach against pedos in the modern church
now that's claimed by some to be persecution too


here in my part of the world we have the Martyr's shrine (a huge edifice )
Jesuits burnt at the stake by invading Iroqious
well, what do you know:
turns out they were having Pedo parties and thats why they were "persecuted"

edit on 21-3-2013 by Danbones because: (no reason given)
edit on 21-3-2013 by Danbones because: (no reason given)



posted on Mar, 21 2013 @ 07:01 PM
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reply to post by Byrd
 


Tsk, Tsk...


A supermod didn't use the search feature?

Wildtimes already has a thread going about this subject.


Here
edit on 21-3-2013 by NOTurTypical because: (no reason given)





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