According to cherished church tradition, early Christians were relentlessly persecuted for their beliefs, Jesus died on the cross. Most of the Apostles met gory, untimely ends. Men were gruesomely tortured and burned alive. Women were stripped naked and thrown to wild animals. These Christian martyrs remained resolute in their beliefs despite great horrors they'd rather die than renounce Christ.|
But what if these stories weren't true? What if they were, instead, fabricated, forged, and exaggerated?
In The Myth of Persecution, Candia Moss, a leading scholar of Christian history and Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at the University of Notre Dame, argues that the widely heralded "Age of Martyrs" is pure fiction. Examining the true history of religious persecution from its origins to its ongoing idealization in Christian culture she finds that the early church not only inflated but outright invented stories of martyrdom as a means to fight heresy, inspire the faithful, and fund individual churches.
The rhetoric of persecution endures today, especially in the language of the religious and political right. Christians continue to fall back on this tradition of martyrdom to compel their fellow "soldiers" to fight the ongoing war against their faith. Pointing out examples ranging from Mitt Romney's accusation that President Obama is waging a "war on religion" to Rick Santorum's claim that the gay community "had done out on a jihad" against him, Moss reveals how this dangerous legacy has legitimized year of aggression, prejudice, vitriol, and even violence.
Candida Moss is a graduate and former scholar of Oxford University, and earned her doctorate from Yale. She is the recipient of multiple awards and fellowships from the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Catholic Biblical Association, and the John Templeton Foundation. A frequent contributor to National Geographic channel documentaries of early Christianity, Moss is the author of several scholarly works including The Other Christs and Ancient Christian Martyrdom.
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