Notre Dame Historian: Early Christian Persecution a Myth

myth_of_persecution-620x412Many people tell us that one of the worst places to send your high school graduate to college is…college. And these days so-called “Christian” universities are teaching all sorts of strange theologies, like Jesus Was A Muslim, and now this:  The Romans did not target, hunt or massacre Jesus’ followers, says a “historian” of the early church, in a new book titled, The Myth of Persecution: Early Christians weren’t persecuted.

So much for Fox’s Book of Martyrs.

Candida Moss, professor of New Testament and early Christianity at the University of Notre Dame, challenges what she calls “the Sunday school narrative of a church of martyrs, of Christians huddled in catacombs out of fear, meeting in secret to avoid arrest and mercilessly thrown to lions merely for their religious beliefs.” She says it’s all made up. and that in the 300 years between the death of Jesus and the conversion of the Emperor Constantine, there were about a dozen years during which Christians were singled out for “suppression” by Rome’s imperial authorities. “Christians were never,” Moss writes, “the victims of sustained, targeted persecution.”

See these sources for additional information:

Persecution in the Early Church – ReligionFacts 

Documents on the Persecution of the Early Church   

What was early Christianity like?

When Were the 10 Christian Persecutions in the Early Church? 

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7 Responses to Notre Dame Historian: Early Christian Persecution a Myth

  1. Larry says:

    In saying it was not a three hundred year long blood bath she is correct but she is spinning her history to try to counteract a bias she seems to think exists. I fact though, how many unjust prosecutions and brutal slayings of Christians should there have been for the church to feel persecuted. What disturbs me more than what she is saying is that she is effectively doing so on the faculty of a catholic school which church clearly believes that early Christians were persecuted. If the Liberals ever get control of the Catholic Church to as to reform it obviously to the social left the end of this age truly is nigh.


    • Fifth Dentist says:

      Christians were known back in the day to kill everyone they considered to be a heretic — even, and possibly with even more fervor, fellow Christians like the Cathars.


  2. Mr Davis says:

    Larry what makes you think the Catholic Church isn't compromised? Did some man tell you that? Or are you looking to the scriptures and comparing doctrine and precept? If the later is true I think you would find the walls breached and laid flat having no difference between them and the world and the very things the world chases after so do those inside Catholisism. But the evangelicals are no different they like the Catholics look to a man to tell them the truth so God has given us over to believe the lies these men speak and then follow them.


  3. Antichus "Tony& says:

    In fact, more often than not, the Roman judges used every legal means at their disposal to avoid punishing the Christians. But the Christians, in the morbid need for the reward of martyrdom, more often than not insisted on being sentenced. As an example, take the incident in North Africa around the year 180 where twelve people (nine men and three women) were accused of being Christians. The proconsul Saturninus, who heard the case, pleaded with them to save their own lives:

    If you return to your sense you can obtain pardon of our Lord the emperor … We too are a religious people, and our religion is a simple one: We swear by the divine spirit of our lord the emperor and offer prayers to his health – as you ought to do.

    The accused men were indignant and refused to do so. Saturninus, in a last ditch effort, gave them thirty days to think things over. After that time, they still refused to budge. The proconsul had no choice but to have them executed. Upon receiving the death sentence some of them yelled out: "We thank God!", "Today we are martyrs in heaven, thanks be to God!" [11]

    Not only do these Christians zealously demanded execution upon trail, some of them, hard put to find someone to accuse them, went to the tribunal of magistrates, declared themselves Christians and demanded the sentence of the law. We have testimony of earlier the church father Tertullian (c160-c225) of one such case in a small Asiatic town. The whole Christian population of that town, seeking death and martyrdom, went to the proconsul Antoninus to demand punishment. Unable to comprehend such an attitude, Antoninus told the Christians: "Unhappy men! Unhappy men! If you are thus weary of your lives, is it so difficult for you to find ropes and precipices?" Of course, suicide doesn't count for martyrdom, so the crowd insisted on punishment. Antoninus relented, put a few to death and dismissed the others. [1]

    Capital punishment was not invariably applied in all cases. Some Roman judges used other legal methods to avoid it. They contented themselves to sentencing the Christians to prison, exile or slavery. This allowed the Christians some chance of freedom as the emperor might, during a period of celebration, offer a general pardon to the prisoners. [2]

    1.ibid: p97-98

    2.Knight, Honest to Man: p61
    Gibbon, Decline And Fall of the Roman Empire: p215
    Robertson, History of Christianity: p81

    3.Gibbon, Decline And Fall of the Roman Empire: p210”


  4. Mr Davis says:

    Antichus I can see your point. In the law of the land you are mentioning there was a death sentense for just being a Christian I feel I would press that also. Here is why.

    For if we truly are working out our salvation with fear and trembling knowing it is God who works in us both to know and do His good perfect and pleasing will and because of this we are desperate for Him to work in us to this end and calling on the Name of the Lord, then God will workin us to increase in the fruits of the Holy Spirit against which there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23

    So at this point they are being killed just for their allegience to Christ, not because they do evil. Now we are called on by our Lord and Savior to proclaim Him to the nations come what may.

    Matthew 10:33, 2 Timothy 2:12

    To not do so is to be guilty of denying Him. Titus 1:16

    As you have stated not all were killed the rest were dismissed. So the Christians for their part did not deny the Lord who bought them and it was the judge or magistrate who did not execute the death sentence to all who would name Christ.


  5. antichus says:

    See what did i tell ya it was Christians who purpoely wanting themselves to get pursecuted! besides the level of pursecution is exaggerated, besides its their own fault for actually going to the governor and ASKING to get killed


  6. SnotaItankBIg says:

    A tooth (plural teeth) is a cheap, calcified, whitish order ground in the jaws (or mouths) of multitudinous vertebrates and habituated to to ease up down food. Some animals, surprisingly carnivores, also partake of teeth for hunting or owing defensive purposes. The roots of teeth are covered by means of gums. Teeth are not made of bone, but fairly of multiple tissues of varying density and hardness.

    The general design of teeth is nearly the same across the vertebrates, although there is considerable converting in their fabric and position. The teeth of mammals drink serious roots, and this figure is also found in some fish, and in crocodilians. In most teleost fish, however, the teeth are partial to to the outer outside of the bone, while in lizards they are fastened to the inner come up of the jaw during one side. In cartilaginous fish, such as sharks, the teeth are seconded beside cold ligaments to the hoops of cartilage that type the jaw.


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