The Seeing the Sword blog has dissected University of Notre Dame New Testament professor Candida Moss’ argument in the The Myth of Persecution: How Early Christians Invented a Story of Martyrdom, that early Christians exaggerated claims of persecution and martyrdom.
A description of the book at Amazon reads:
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.
“… Just because Christians didn’t spend three hundred uninterrupted years in catacombs doesn’t mean that they didn’t often feel threatened or worried that the calm would dissipate and, once again, give way to another round of merciless bloodshed,” responds the writer at Seeing the Sword.
Countering Moss’ claims, the writer cites the examples of the apostles, the Church Fathers, and a variety of early historians such as Tertullian, Marcus Minucius Felix, Tacitus, Pliny and others. Continues Seeing the Sword:
Others from the early church,like Lactantius, Sulpicius Severus, and Eusebius, to name a few, all spoke ill of the Roman empire as a tyrannical opponent to the Christian faith. For a Christian, which Dr. Moss claims to be, to have the gall to impugn most of the Church Fathers and then recast them as little more than manipulable rubes or, worse, as evangelical hucksters, is shocking.
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