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"How Early Christians Invented a Story of Martyrdom"


On this edition of ST, we speak by phone with Candida Moss, a professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. An award-winning author and scholar who's seen as one of the more accomplished experts in her academic field, Moss has a new book out that's certain to foster debate among readers (and believers) both near and far; the book is "The Myth of Persecution: How Early Christians Invented a Story of Martyrdom." This work argues that the so-called "Age of Martyrs" is a fiction --- not an era of actual or recorded history --- and that, in fact, there was not a 300-year-long (and systematic) effort by the Romans to persecute Early Christians. Instead, Moss maintains, such martyrdom stories were, as the book's flap copy puts it, "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." And as a critic for Publishers Weekly has noted of this admittedly controversial book: "Brilliant and provocative.... Drawing on close readings of traditional martyr stories and on deep historical research, [Moss] convincingly demonstrates that little evidence exists for the widespread persecution of Christians by the Romans."

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