Cathedral Events

March 21, 2013 7:30 PM

“You’re Such a Martyr!”: The History and Controversy of Persecution in the Early Church

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According to cherished church tradition, early Christians were uniquely and systematically persecuted by a brutal Roman Empire. Vast numbers of believers were thrown to the lions or routinely tortured or burned alive. In spite of these horrors, so the story goes, these heroes of the early church chose to die rather than renounce their faith in God. Such stories form part of the teaching of the church to the present day, inspiring some to acts of like courage in the face of modern hardships. Yet there is also the troubling use of this heritage to silence the voices of those who act outside the perceived orthodoxies of the day.

In this lecture, Professor Candida Moss will address the true history of persecution in the early church, and show how this history includes exaggerations and forgeries that eventually became part of the rhetoric of the church. Moss will also address the question of the legacy of this history; a legacy that has animated the acts of some within the religious world to exclude those who would challenge their hegemony.

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About Candida Moss

Candida Moss specializes in biblical studies and early Christian history, she holds an undergraduate degree in Theology from the University of Oxford, a Masters degree in Biblical Studies from Yale Divinity School, and a doctorate in Religious Studies from Yale University. She has published four books and over twenty-five articles and essays on various aspects of Biblical and early Christian literature, history, and thought. An award-winning author, her first book, The Other Christs: Imitating Jesus in Ancient Christian Ideologies of Martyrdom (Oxford, 2010) was awarded the 2011 John Templeton Award for Theological Promise and she has been the recipient of grants and awards from the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, the John Templeton Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. She currently serves as co-chair of the Healthcare and Disability in the Ancient Near East section of the international and national meetings of the Society of Biblical Literature, co-Chair of the “Inventing Christianity” consultation of the Society of Biblical Literature, and on the steering committee of the “Apostolic Fathers” consultation of the International meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature. She has consulted for, appeared in, and hosted documentaries for the National Geographic Channel, the History Channel, and the Discovery Channel and has lectured nationally and internationally at Yale, Duke, Emory, Columbia, University of Chicago, University of Oxford, University of Durham, Von Humboldt University in Berlin, to name a few. She is currently working on a monograph on the resurrection of the body tentatively entitled “Heavenly Bodies: Resurrecting Perfection in Early Christianity” for Yale University Press and a commentary on Second Century Martyrdom Accounts for the Hermeneia Commentary series. Her latest book, The Myth of Persecution: How Early Christians Invented a Story of Martyrdom, is now available from HarperOne.

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