The Christianity Of Persecution Of The Early Church

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For Christians, the persecution of the early church is generally accepted as fact. So much so that we rarely seem to consider the possibility that this is not the case. The martyrdom of saints for their faith is taken for granted as historically accurate. Furthermore, we admire them, looking up to the strength of their faith during the most challenging of times. But are we believing in a false history? Are we taking the truth of Christian persecution for granted when it is, in fact, not true at all? And, finally, are we placing too much significance on early Christian martyrs, thinking that they demonstrate far more than they are able? According to Candida Moss, the answer to all three of these questions is, yes. In her book, The Myth of Persecution, she argues that the church has significantly overemphasized the extent to which early Christians were martyred. She also claims that Christians expect a good deal more from what Christian martyrdom establishes than we can actually gain.
To begin, it will be helpful to define what Moss means by ‘martyrdom.’ Moss offers a two part definition for martyrdom. First, “individuals have a choice to either live or die, and (2) they prefer to die, because they value either a way of life, a law, a person, or a principle more highly than their own life.”1 McDowell’s definition is similar, but with a few subtle differences. He writes of it as

involving death for confession of the Christian faith. I should note that this understanding of
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