The University of Notre Dame is taking its first foray into online courses by offering a class on early Christianity taught by a professor who claims that early Christians invented martyrdom stories in order to fund Churches.
Candida Moss, Notre Dame professor of New Testament and early Christianity, will teach a for-credit course called “The Rise of Christianity,” according to the University.
Another online course “Shakespeare and Film” will be taught by English professor Peter Holland. In April, Holland joined a letter publicly calling on Bishop Daniel Jenky, CSC, to resign from the University’s Board of Fellows, after the bishop accused President Obama of adopting anti-religious stances, like past leaders including Hitler and Stalin. The signatories also called on University President Fr. John Jenkins, CSC, to “definitively distance” the University from Bishop Jenky.
In a video promoting her book, Moss, the author of The Myth of Persecution: How Early Christians Invented a Story of Martyrdom, discounts stories of early Christian martyrdom. “The idea that Christians are, by their very nature, persecuted, is grounded in an inaccurate history of the early Church,” she said. “Christians were not relentlessly persecuted in the first few centuries, and they're not systematically and continually persecuted today.”
Far from veering away from Moss’ controversial statements, in describing the course on OnlineND, Moss said the course would discuss martyrdom in early Christianity. “It’s a course on the Rise of Christianity in the Roman world. It’s asking the questions why did Christianity succeed? And how did the beliefs and practices of what we call orthodoxy triumph over the other forms of Christianity in the ancient world?” she said. “It’s a blend of history, theology, psychology, and sociology and it looks at everything from ancient Christian magic, to liturgy, martyrdom, ideas about the afterlife, and ancient philosophy.”
The courses are part of Notre Dame’s participation in a new consortium of universities offering online undergraduate courses for credit, called Semester Online. The other universities involved in the consortium include Boston College, Northwestern, and North Carolina-Chapel Hill, among others.
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