The Myth of Persecution by Candida Moss
How Early Christians Invented a Story of Martyrdom

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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.


About Candida Moss

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Candida R. Moss is Professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame. A graduate and former scholar of Oxford University, she earned her doctorate from Yale University. Moss 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 on early Christianity, Moss is the author of several award winning scholarly works on martyrdom including The Other Christs: Imitating Jesus in Ancient Christian Ideologies of Martyrdom (Oxford) and Ancient Christian Martyrdom: Diverse Practices, Theologies, and Traditions (Yale). She lives in South Bend, Indiana.
Published March 5, 2013 by HarperOne. 323 pages
Genres: History, Religion & Spirituality, Education & Reference, Arts & Photography. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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The notion that early Christians were meek, passive and unrelentingly persecuted for their religious beliefs has been manufactured by early church historians like Eusebius, writes New Testament scholar Moss (Early Christianity/Univ.

Dec 15 2012 | Read Full Review of The Myth of Persecution: How ...

Publishers Weekly

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According to traditional interpretation, early Christian believers were fed to the lions, killed by gladiators, and otherwise savagely persecuted by the Roman Empire for centuries until the time that

Jan 14 2013 | Read Full Review of The Myth of Persecution: How ...

First Things

Along with the book Croy mentions, readers concerned with persecution past and present would do well to read John Allen’s new book, The Global War on Christians: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Anti-Christian Persecution , especially as the accomplished and respected Allen writes as S...

Oct 04 2013 | Read Full Review of The Myth of Persecution: How ...

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