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Interpreting Early Christian Martyrdom. Interpreting Early Christian Martyrdom I. The Origins of Martyrdom. Interpreting Early Christian Martyrdom I. The Origins of Martyrdom A. Matters of Debate.

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Interpreting Early Christian Martyrdom


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Interpreting Early Christian Martyrdom

I. The Origins of Martyrdom

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Interpreting Early Christian Martyrdom

I. The Origins of Martyrdom

A. Matters of Debate

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“Martyrdom was not something that the ancient world had seen from the beginning. What we can observe in the second, third, and fourth centuries of our era is something entirely new. Of course, in earlier ages principled and courageous persons, such as Socrates at Athens or the three Jews in the fiery furnace of Nebuchadnezzar, had provided glorious examples of resistance to tyrannical authority and painful suffering before unjust judges. But never before had such courage been absorbed into a conceptual system of posthumous recognition and anticipated reward, nor had the very word martyrdom existed as the name for this system. Martyrdom, as we understand it, was conceived and devised in response to complex social, religious, and political pressures…”

- G.W. Bowersock, Martyrdom & Rome

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“The martyrs…were not particularly noteworthy as men & women who faced execution with unusual courage: as the notables of Smyrna told a later bishop: they too were used to professional stars of violence—to gladiators & beast hunters—to be impressed by those who made a performance of making light of death. Rather the martyrs stood for a particular style of religious experience.”

- Peter Brown, The Making of Late Antiquity, 55

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Interpreting Early Christian Martyrdom

I. The Origins of Martyrdom

A. Matters of Debate

B. Origins & Development of the Term

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“We are writing to you, dear brothers, the story of the martyrs and of blessed Polycarp who put a stop to the persecution by his own martyrdom as though he were putting a seal upon it…Blessed indeed and noble are all the martyrdoms that took place in accordance with God’s will…For even when [the martyrs] were torn by whips until the very structure of their bodies was laid bare down to the inner veins and arteries, they endured it, making even the bystanders weep for pity.” Martyrdom of Polycarp 2 (c.160)

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Interpreting Early Christian Martyrdom

I. The Origins of Martyrdom

A. Matters of Debate

B. Origins & Development of the Term

C. Characteristics of Martyrdom (2nd-3rd Century)

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Interpreting Early Christian Martyrdom

I. The Origins of Martyrdom

A. Matters of Debate

B. Origins & Development of the Term

C. Characteristics of Martyrdom (2nd-3rd Century)

D. The Martyr Acts: Literature & History

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“The documentary evidence embedded within the written record allows the historian to integrate martyrdoms within the larger fabric of society & administration in the Roman empire…Like the very word “martyr” itself, martyrdom had nothing to do with Judaism or with Palestine. It had everything to do with the Graeco-Roman world, its traditions, its language, & its cultural tastes.”

- Glen Bowersock, Martyrdom & Rome

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Interpreting Early Christian Martyrdom

I. The Origins of Martyrdom

A. Matters of Debate

B. Origins & Development of the Term

C. Characteristics of Martyrdom (2nd-3rd Century)

D. The Martyr Acts: Literature & History

II. Violence in the Early Roman Empire

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Interpreting Early Christian Martyrdom

I. The Origins of Martyrdom

A. Matters of Debate

B. Origins & Development of the Term

C. Characteristics of Martyrdom (2nd-3rd Century)

D. The Martyr Acts: Literature & History

II. Violence in the Early Roman Empire

A. Spectacles & The Urban Setting

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Interpreting Early Christian Martyrdom

I. The Origins of Martyrdom

A. Matters of Debate

B. Origins & Development of the Term

C. Characteristics of Martyrdom (2nd-3rd Century)

D. The Martyr Acts: Literature & History

II. Violence in the Early Roman Empire

A. Spectacles & The Urban Setting

B. The Ideal of Blood Sacrifice

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Interpreting Early Christian Martyrdom

I. The Origins of Martyrdom

A. Matters of Debate

B. Origins & Development of the Term

C. Characteristics of Martyrdom (2nd-3rd Century)

D. The Martyr Acts: Literature & History

II. Violence in the Early Roman Empire

A. Spectacles & The Urban Setting

B. The Ideal of Blood Sacrifice

III. Persecution & Martyrdom in the First Three Centuries: Overview