The Myth of Persecution: How Early Christians Invented a Story of Martyrdom

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Harper Collins, Mar 5, 2013 - Religion - 320 pages
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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.

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. While violence against Christians does occur in select parts of the world today, the rhetoric of persecution is both misleading and rooted in an inaccurate history of the early church. 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.

 

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User Review  - Devil_llama - LibraryThing

A decent look at the way in which the stories of Christian martyrs arose, and become standard fare for Christians seeking to prove something. The author, a Christian herself, feels that these ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - BrokenTeepee - LibraryThing

I am by no means any manner of religious/Biblical expert. I do have a fascination for the study of religions and their histories. I was baptized Catholic and for my first 6 years of school I had a ... Read full review

Contents

Dedication
Christian Borrowing of Jewish and Pagan Martyrdom Traditions
Why Did the Romans Dislike Christians?
Myths About Martyrs
The Invention of the Persecuted Church
Copyright

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About the author (2013)

Candida Moss is professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at the University of Notre Dame. A regular contributor to The Daily Beast, Moss has appeared on The O'Reilly Factor, CBS News, FOX News, the History Channel, National Geographic, and the Travel Channel, and has served as an expert commentator for the Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, and other national media outlets.

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