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The Myth of Christian Martyrdom

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  • The Myth of Christian Martyrdom

    According to Christian tradition all but one of Jesus' apostles met gruesome ends, the most horrendous of all being Bartholomew who was, allegedly, flayed alive. It was in the drama of these stories that their appeal lay. They became the stories to tell one another and to inspire new converts that martyrdom was a necessary part of Christianity. As Tertullian, a North African lawyer observed "the blood of the martyr is the seed" of the church. The tradition maintains that in the first 300 years of its existence, Christianity was a persecuted and suffering religion. This Age of the Martyrs, so the tradition tells us involved Christians being hunted down and executed, their books and property burned by crusading emperors. Their women and children thrown to the lions or boiled alive in cauldrons while baying mobs of blood crazed Romans watched.

    That traditional "history" of Christian martyrdom is mistaken. Christians were not routinely persecuted, hounded or targeted by the Roman authorities. Very few Christians died, and when they did so they were often executed for what today, might be considered political reasons. It should be noted that there is a distinct difference between persecution and proscription.

    [see Moss, C. The Myth of Persecution] which is well worth reading.
    "Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful" Attrib. Seneca 4 BCE - 65 CE

  • #2
    Perhaps this could be great comfort to the families of those 7,000 - 100,000* Christians who are being martyred every year for their faith in our times?



    *the 100,000 figure was offered by the Vatican, and repeated wildly. In an effort to prove that number incorrect, the "low number" was figured to be 7-8,000.
    "Neighbor, how long has it been since you’ve had a big, thick, steaming bowl of Wolf Brand Chili?”

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Cow Poke View Post
      Perhaps this could be great comfort to the families of those 7,000 - 100,000* Christians who are being martyred every year for their faith in our times?



      *the 100,000 figure was offered by the Vatican, and repeated wildly. In an effort to prove that number incorrect, the "low number" was figured to be 7-8,000.
      You would have to define martyrdom.

      The Greek originally means witness. However, the topic is about those early Christian martyrdoms .
      "Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful" Attrib. Seneca 4 BCE - 65 CE

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Hypatia_Alexandria View Post
        You would have to define martyrdom.
        Generally accepted as one who dies as a result of persecution of their faith.

        The Greek originally means witness.
        Yes, I'm well aware. (My student days are long ago, but I did, indeed, study Greek)

        However, the topic is about those early Christian martyrdoms .
        Which are nowhere NEAR as relevant to today as contemporary martyrdoms, but it's your thread, and I'll leave you to it.
        "Neighbor, how long has it been since you’ve had a big, thick, steaming bowl of Wolf Brand Chili?”

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Cow Poke View Post
          Generally accepted as one who dies as a result of persecution of their faith.



          Yes, I'm well aware. (My student days are long ago, but I did, indeed, study Greek)



          Which are nowhere NEAR as relevant to today as contemporary martyrdoms, but it's your thread, and I'll leave you to it.
          I would disagree with your final comment. That history of persecution for the faith, established in those early centuries [albeit partly on myth] exists.
          "Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful" Attrib. Seneca 4 BCE - 65 CE

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Hypatia_Alexandria View Post
            I would disagree with your final comment. That history of persecution for the faith, established in those early centuries [albeit partly on myth] exists.
            And I don't depend on myths or legends or ancient history as a foundation of my faith.

            Perhaps somebody will come along and keep you company in your ongoing assault on Christianity.
            "Neighbor, how long has it been since you’ve had a big, thick, steaming bowl of Wolf Brand Chili?”

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Hypatia_Alexandria View Post
              According to Christian tradition all but one of Jesus' apostles met gruesome ends, the most horrendous of all being Bartholomew who was, allegedly, flayed alive. It was in the drama of these stories that their appeal lay. They became the stories to tell one another and to inspire new converts that martyrdom was a necessary part of Christianity. As Tertullian, a North African lawyer observed "the blood of the martyr is the seed" of the church. The tradition maintains that in the first 300 years of its existence, Christianity was a persecuted and suffering religion. This Age of the Martyrs, so the tradition tells us involved Christians being hunted down and executed, their books and property burned by crusading emperors. Their women and children thrown to the lions or boiled alive in cauldrons while baying mobs of blood crazed Romans watched.

              That traditional "history" of Christian martyrdom is mistaken. Christians were not routinely persecuted, hounded or targeted by the Roman authorities. Very few Christians died, and when they did so they were often executed for what today, might be considered political reasons. It should be noted that there is a distinct difference between persecution and proscription.

              [see Moss, C. The Myth of Persecution] which is well worth reading.
              What actual evidence is presented to show the accepted tradition as being false? I doubt someone has found official records stating such-and-such was NOT executed or flayed alive.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Sparko View Post
                What actual evidence is presented to show the accepted tradition as being false? I doubt someone has found official records stating such-and-such was NOT executed or flayed alive.
                Holding and I had a brief discussion on her book a few years ago but it was buried. A lot of what Moss presents is not particularly controversial and was sensationalized in the headlines.

                I do remember Sean McDowell tried to go back and independently verify the martyrdom of the apostles and was unable to verify the majority of them because so much is just lost to history.
                "I am not angered that the Moral Majority boys campaign against abortion. I am angry when the same men who say, "Save OUR children" bellow "Build more and bigger bombers." That's right! Blast the children in other nations into eternity, or limbless misery as they lay crippled from "OUR" bombers! This does not jell." - Leonard Ravenhill

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by KingsGambit View Post
                  Holding and I had a brief discussion on her book a few years ago but it was buried. A lot of what Moss presents is not particularly controversial and was sensationalized in the headlines.
                  I don't know about the discussion but his review of the book is here:
                  http://tektonticker.blogspot.com/201...s-myth-of.html

                  I do remember Sean McDowell tried to go back and independently verify the martyrdom of the apostles and was unable to verify the majority of them because so much is just lost to history.
                  He wrote a book on the subject, "The Fate of the Apostles." I haven't read it personally, but here's an article he wrote that gives a summary of his conclusions, presumably the book goes into much more detail:
                  https://www.oneplace.com/ministries/...ell-17589.html

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Sparko View Post
                    What actual evidence is presented to show the accepted tradition as being false? I doubt someone has found official records stating such-and-such was NOT executed or flayed alive.
                    You could start with the letters of Pliny the Younger to the Emperor Trajan concerning Christians found in his province and how he, as Governor, should deal with them.

                    It should be remembered that a persecutor targets individual members of a group merely because of their participation in that group. However, an individual is prosecuted because that person has broken a law.

                    The modern distinctions of dividing religion and politics were not obvious in the ancient world, and that fact complicates any understanding of the issue. In the ancient world religious freedom was not an inalienable human right. However, there is a distinct difference between being prosecuted under a law that is not intended to target or eradicate any particular group, and targeted persecution. The law might be considered unjust and/or unfair but those prosecuted under it are not being intentionally persecuted.

                    There is very little historical or archaeological evidence for the wide-spread persecution of Christians from the Romans. Where evidence for persecution exists in the middle of the third century it is far from clear that the Romans were deliberately targeting Christians. The Decian persecution of 250 CE was about political uniformity, not religious persecution. Prior to Decius, the prosecution of Christians was occasional and prompted by local officials, petty jealousies among neighbours, and regional concerns.
                    "Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful" Attrib. Seneca 4 BCE - 65 CE

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Terraceth View Post
                      I don't know about the discussion but his review of the book is here:
                      http://tektonticker.blogspot.com/201...s-myth-of.html


                      He wrote a book on the subject, "The Fate of the Apostles." I haven't read it personally, but here's an article he wrote that gives a summary of his conclusions, presumably the book goes into much more detail:
                      https://www.oneplace.com/ministries/...ell-17589.html
                      Thank you for the links. However, I will prefer the opinions of an accredited academic over those a polemical blogger who wears his bias as a badge of honour.
                      "Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful" Attrib. Seneca 4 BCE - 65 CE

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                      • #12
                        bump

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Sparko View Post
                          bump
                          Why the "bump"? Did you not read my reply to you?
                          "Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful" Attrib. Seneca 4 BCE - 65 CE

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Hypatia_Alexandria View Post
                            Why the "bump"? Did you not read my reply to you?
                            Tweb was messing up and not showing the last page of some threads, including this one. I resized the server and rebooted. I found that the thread was still not showing up, so I made a test post "bump" and now it is working again

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Sparko View Post
                              Tweb was messing up and not showing the last page of some threads, including this one. I resized the server and rebooted. I found that the thread was still not showing up, so I made a test post "bump" and now it is working again
                              That is a reasonable explanation. Thank you.
                              "Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful" Attrib. Seneca 4 BCE - 65 CE

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