The Myth of Persecution – How Early Christians Invented a Story of Martyrdom

In this article we are going to talk about the myth of the Candida Moss persecution: how one of the first Christians to have made up a story in martyrdom is written for certain readers who are familiar with the conspiracy theories in which that sinister elite going to manipulate that story for cowardly ends. In this case, it is the Christian bishop who, in the fourth century, is called Eusebio de Cesarea, who has invented a large part of those narratives that have to do with the martyrdom of those first three centuries that are going to reform what was considered as a tradition of orthodoxy.

1- The professor of New Testament and Christian Principles within the University of Notre Dame, Moss has concrete academic credentials and that knowledge to make this case convincing at all times, although in the final analysis, this thesis will be far from convincing. So without a doubt, it will be a right to maintain that experience within the ancient church, without being one of the implacable within that persecution. As we have pointed out before, the historian Everett Ferguson, Christianity is repressed in certain persecutions that are sporadic, but there is no effort whatsoever to eradicate it.

2- On the other hand, it is my exaggeration to argue, as another person like Moss does, that we will only have a total of 6 accounts related to martyrdom with any kind of appearance and authenticity.

3- Thus, at that very moment in which these stories are subjected to the withering criticism of Moss, there may be no type of evidence on this persecution of principles in the centuries.

So, instead of examining each story of this type, it is possible to focus on a story of this type: Polycarp os Smyrna, this is used to see the answer that can be given in a specific thesis that has been given by Moss. The expert Charles Hilla reiterates that the statement made by Helmut Koester that Polycarp, as Obiso of Smyrna and the former disciple of the apostle John, has been without any kind of did a very important ecclesiastical leader within the first kit of the second century.

4- The letter from Ignacio de Antioquia, who was also a martyr, would have made his name known to the fullest throughout the Eastern part of the Mediterranean since all kinds of collections are circulated that have the letters of Ignacio in a way extensive. Therefore, in the own account of that martyrdom, the pagan persecutors of Polycarp will describe him as a teacher of the Asian continent, as the father of the Christians themselves, and the destroyer of those gods.

5- Within Moss’s main discourse on a specific text of Polycarp’s martyrdom, it is considered as an ocular title in the story in the mid-150s, it is possible to maintain that this death story is a good invention of the third century. Those ratios will be quadruple. First, what has to do with the elements of the story as a repetition of each one of the Gospel accounts of the death of Jesus himself: Polycarp returns outside the city, that is, from Smyrna, prays there, enters the city itself. On the back of a donkey, he will be betrayed by someone close and important to him, he will be dragged at night and is opposed by a specific figure called Herodes, along with the Jews who are thirsty for blood.

6- After performing two miracles, there are certain events, such as the heavenly voice that is going to be heard when Polycarp is going to enter the stadium in Smyrna specifically, where he could die. The smell of that burned meat, when it is being martyred, is like a piece of baked bread or like gold and that refined paste in the oven, or the very smell of incense.

7- All that will arouse those suspicions within the mind of our Moss, as if the whole story were an invention.

8- Thirdly, this emphasis must be found within the text in the relics of Polycarp’s body.

9- The explicit rejection of this concept of martyrdom and above all voluntary.

10- It is anachronistic. According to Moss, the devotional interest in those relics as a condemnation of those people who will volunteer for is martyrdom as an integral part of that church scene within the third century, rather than the middle of the second century. To finish, Moss is going to support the assumption that this martyrdom of Polycarp is the first text to recognize that category of martyrdom and thus, to be able to develop a good real theology of martyrdom itself, but all this to increase that this martyrdom already existed as a concept that is developed within the life of the churches. This means that the text itself has been written after those events to be described.

11- Moss’s first reason makes perfect sense. There are parallels regarding the life of Christ that seems to be a bit artificial, although all this does not mean that we have to dismiss the account of what is inauthentic. As the expert, Clayton Croy, points out, Moss maintains that if there is any editorial or literary amendment in certain devices that are used, this whole account will be useless as a story. You can well see that literary flourish against the historical information that is a false dichotomy. It is true to make certain allusions to the Gospels, there are some supposed anachronisms, along with other peculiarities to highlight. Some of these are not as convincing as thought, but others will be valid, although we are only required to dissolve an account in fiction.

12- Bearing in mind that this story of martyrdom that has to do with Polycarp will have literary features that are sterilized and this does not mean that Polycarp will die as a martyr.

So all this Moss approach to those miracles within the Martyrdom of Polycarp will make it very typical of the New Testament. The scholars are approaching the canonical Scriptures with that hermeneutic of suspicion. Those miracles are going to do what should not happen, so any type of report that they carry out will be suspect within the document in which they are contained. This is a good sign of mention regarding one of the miracles, that is, that of Polycarp’s burned meat, including the smell of baking that bread, even if it is made of refined gold and silver, or incense; in this way, the use of the concrete term hos will indicate that all kinds of comparisons related to the analogy are made. A good example is when Polycarp was consumed by flames, the smell that those flames emanated was so striking it was like oven bread, or how gold or place can be inside the smelting or incense furnace that is lit inside a temple. This author probably indicates that the death of Polycarp will please God in the same way as the insistence that is written in the New Testament that this Christian life has a very sweet aroma of flowers for him, a good example is Ephesians. So, regarding this mention of preserving those remains of Polycarp’s body. Moss’s claim that this is being anachronistic implies that this practice in the third and fourth centuries may be somewhat arbitrary. This practice has to start in some concrete place, and this is the beginning of what could become an important feature of that people at the beginning of what is known as the Middle Ages after the previous collapse in the Western Roman Empire.

Within the same reasoning, it is possible to do for this rejection of voluntary martyrdom, a characteristic to be highlighted of this martyrdom of Polycarp. This martyrdom, according to the Gospel, will not be voluntary at any time. This is going to have a different approach that will become a very important problem for that church after the emergence of this Montanism in the 160s, about a decade after the death of Polycarp. Although this Montanism is going to arise in Phrygia, the voluntary martyr Quintus salutes, he is going to salute, this does not mean that Fifth is a Montanist. So if Quintus had been like that, it must be identified in this way, in any type of written text that is after the rise of Montanism that would have done all this as a more or less explicit identification. It is possible that Phrygia had a certain tendency in this regard, even before it was conceived as Montanism.

To finish, in everything that has to do with the Martyrdom of Plicarpo it is one of the first texts to develop this theology of martyrdom, this implies that it contradicts itself in the evidence of all kinds of texts at the end of the 1st and 2nd century, something which Moss tastes pretty good, but anything that would damage the arguments are omitted. It is possible to consider the part of the account of the Apocalypse, with the martyrdom of Antipas; Ignatius’s letters are written by common reckoning within the first decade of Sigil II, all of these breathe the air of martyrdom:

13- The Odes of Solomon, some of them, already speak explicitly about the part of the violent persecution.

14- This is argued for the martyrdom of Polycarp, it can be argued for each of those 6 specific stories that Moss will reject as authentic: more or less they will give testimony with the violence perpetrated with that testimony of that violence perpetrated against the Church and by the Roman state. This violent persecution has not been as extensive as some accounts will have to say, but it was not a light or momentary burden that Moss would have us believe.

Modern Christians are not going to go wrong, intone when going to remember everything from that first church, often has followed in the path of the Lord on the right track to be ignominious as social and cultural ostracism finished in a quite violent death.