Want ‘sustained happiness’? Get religion, study suggests

A NEW study suggests that joining a religious group could do more for someone’s “sustained happiness” than other forms of social participation, such as volunteering, playing sports or taking a class.

A study in the American Journal of Epidemiology by researchers at the London School of Economics and Erasmus University Medical Center in the Netherlands found that the secret to sustained happiness lies in participation in religion.

“The church appears to play a very important social role in keeping depression at bay and also as a coping mechanism during periods of illness in later life,” Mauricio Avendano, an epidemiologist at LSE and an author of the study, said in a statement. “It is not clear to us how much this is about religion per se, or whether it may be about the sense of belonging and not being socially isolated.”

Researchers looked at four areas: 1) volunteering or working with a charity; 2) taking educational courses; 3) participating in religious organizations; 4) participating in a political or community organization. Of the four, participating in a religious organization was the only social activity associated with sustained happiness, researchers found.

The study analysed 9,000 Europeans who were older than 50. The report that studied older Europeans also found that joining political or community organizations lost their benefits over time. In fact, the short-term benefits from those social connections often lead to depressive symptoms later on, researchers say.

Although healthier people are more likely to volunteer, the researchers found no evidence that volunteering actually leads to better mental health. Benefits could be outweighed by other negative impacts of volunteering, such as stress, Avendano said.

The researchers noted that it is unclear whether the benefits of participating in a religious organization are connected to being in the religious community, or to the faith itself.

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49 thoughts on “Want ‘sustained happiness’? Get religion, study suggests

  1. skip religion, just get THE truth.
    swallow the red pill if Morpheus offers it to you

    all the moral, aesthetic, relativistic, comparative religion, rhetorical arguments aren’t as important as deciding if “Jesus rose from the dead” is fact or fiction. Every word you’ve ever published is predicated on the existence of there being a truth worth pursuit. Truth is not a consensus decision. A popular vote taken on whether or not Jesus rose from the dead, has no effect on the history of the event. A panel of expert witnesses doesn’t make anyone’s history true or false

    I figured there’s no point trying to get you to believe GAYS and TRANSGENDER humans just don’t exist. If some men/ ‘MAN’ were made “homosexual” God would have said so in a Word as plain as daylight.
    Man is Man, “Gay man” doesn’t define some subspecies or constitute are biological compound name valid in a scientific or philosophical sense. People may be remembered for things they do but does that permanently define who they are?

    Its an ontological argument as well. Are you the things you do or are you someone human, another mere mortal, doing things getting through life the only way you know how at this place in time? If Jesus isn’t the transformation experience what does a bible mean?

    Orthodox Jews count these days in Elul as the days of preparation for meeting their Maker in Shekinah glory on the Day of Atonement. For a considerable variety of reasons I now believe this is the last one on this earth that will be anything vaguely recognizable as normal to the 2000 yr old church age. Holy Spirit, promised He would not always strive with man. That’s called “time’s up” I suggest.

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  2. “The researchers noted that it is unclear whether the benefits of participating in a religious organization are connected to being in the religious community, or to the faith itself.”
    Good question.

    Another question.
    Do people find sustained happiness from religion?
    or
    Are people with sustained happiness more likely to accept religion?

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      • Interesting results of the survey. Now, for myself, I have enjoyed a reasonable sense of ‘sustained happiness’ for some years now. I’m sure that my particular ‘faith’ does have something to do with it, though I’m not affiliated with any church or religious communion these days. My philosophy is of a deep spiritual nature, although in no way nowadays could you really describe me as religious.

        I think too of our Monica, who exhibits similar sense of sustained happiness, essentially through her faith, although as she has told us, she hasnt found a spiritual home in any church for some years.

        Oh, PS. while I have ‘everyone’s’ attention here, just want to mention that recalling a few months back, I incurred a great wrath from many here, when I discussed the matter of a revision of the claims about huge numbers of martyrs under Rome during the 300 years prior to Constantine’s ‘conversion’.

        At the time, I recommended a book I found to be of great interest entitled ‘The Myth of Persecution’ by Professor Candida Moss. I just discovered it at the price of $10 a copy at the discount booksellers ‘Book Grocers’. Dont know if their shops are to be found in other states, but certainly they are well known in Melbourne with little stores scattered about. Loads of interesting information therein.

        For the benefit of any newcomers here, I challenged readers to come up with any modern authorities and historians who support the old idea that has dominated traditional Christian thinking on the matter, that under the Romans, the faithful were martyred in huge numbers, – maybe even in hundreds of thousands.

        Certainly there WERE courageous Christians persecuted by Rome, but – as tabulated by Tacitus, Suetonius and others, only in relatively small numbers, probably only a very few thousand in total over the three hundred years. To date I’ve not had a single response that has proved this to be wrong. Is there anyone here now who can bring some modern authority to my notice who supports the old legendary records? I’d still like to be corrected if I’m wrong.

        Cheers, Rian.

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      • Some reviews of of said book you used to “prove” you are right.

        Rian rubbish

        Candida Moss’s The Myth of Persecution: How Early Christians Invented a Story of Martyrdomis written for a readership familiar with conspiracy theories in which a sinister elite manipulates history for its own dastardly end

        Candida Moss, a Professor in the Theology Department of Notre Dame, no surprise there, has a political tract disguised as a work of history entitled The Myth of Persecution in which she contends that the early Christians greatly exaggerated their persecution at the hands of the Romans. The book really isn’t about history, which Ms. Moss mangles, but is rather aimed at current political battles which can clearly be seen in the promo video at the beginning of this post.

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      • Another

        The tedium of repeated déjà vu in this sad little volume did at least send me back to Gibbon’s Decline and Fall. It is as if a publisher came to Candida Moss, a professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Notre Dame, with a proposal for a quick buck, relying on the political twitter of the times: “You’re an expert: Reframe Gibbon’s notorious chapter on the Romans and the Christians with some contemporary scholarship and cultural fillips, and we can put out a nifty pamphlet that’ll sell.”

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      • Despite the author’s considerable erudition, this is a deeply flawed book, a work of revisionist history. One might judge that conservative Christians in the West have sometimes overplayed the persecution card, but they have not created instances of cultural hostility out of whole cloth, and they certainly did not create the “Age of the Martyrs” out of thin air. More important, Moss largely overlooks modern Christianity in the two-thirds world, especially in the Middle East and in Communist states. Here we find not just cultural insensitivity but old-fashioned persecution: arrests, beatings, and decapitations. Exactly one week after the publication of Moss’s book, another book came out: Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians , authored by Paul Marshall, Lela Gilbert, and Nina Shea. They document persecution in about forty different countries. Moss’s opening story about the bombing of the Coptic Church in Alexandria is part of that reality, but the fact that Moss uses this story to launch a criticism, in effect, of the rhetoric of the Coptic victims rather than the actions of the jihadist perpetrators is grotesque.

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      • Good on ya, Alexie,

        I was holding my breath to see just how quickly you would get in on the action. I know just what the Evangelicals etc think of Professor Moss’s book, as I read the reviews by such folk when I first got hold of the book.

        Neither I or Professor Moss is suggesting that modern persecutions don’t happen. And my request/challenge is still the same. Point me to modern reliable historians and encyclopaedic sources that repeat the old claim of huge numbers of Christians martyred under Roman PERSECUTION during those first three centuries prior to Nicaea.

        When I brought this up here several months back prior to your recent return to the blog, I detailed a list of some 20 Christian History books and encyclopaedic references that I checked out on the matter. Not a single person here or among my previous correspondents brought up a single modern authority to counter the claim. These authorities were not cherry-picked by me, but represented all the authorities I could easily lay my hands on.

        Bryan brought up the legitimate point that the actual numbers of martyrs doesn’t matter anywhere near as much as the specific fact that some thousands did display their faith and courage in the face of Roman adversity, as to suffer for the cause. As far as that goes, that is right; but if numbers like hundreds of thousands have been quoted by Christian tradition, as undergoing martyrdom, and such a claim is false, then lies have been told and promoted over the years. You will be telling me next that the miraculous lives of the thousands of Saints are all true as well. Also that the tales told about the miraculous relics are every bit as true.

        Have you read what Origen said about martyrs up until his own time? (Keeping in mind that he himself was courageous enough to allow himself to be terribly tortured and eventually killed.) Are you aware, old mate, of the fact that during the three hundred years prior to Constantine’s conversion, there were scarcely more than some twelve/fifteen years altogether, during which Roman officialdom actually persecuted Christians?

        Professor Moss points to the clear distinction between ‘Persecution’ and ‘Prosecution’, and that is an important point. Get yourself familiar with the actual Roman laws that were issued, – when, – and for how long and under which Emperors, that condemned Christians FOR BEING CHRISTIANS. Further find out just what the authentic records say about it all, rather than traditional tales.

        Just put your money where your mouth is, and direct me to some modern historians who deny it and who maintain the old tales. Make sure that they ARE genuine historians and scholars and not just Theologians. Even the Vatican acknowledges nowadays that the old tales of Saints and martyrdoms are rarely true. The term they use for them is ‘edifying romances’!

        Over to you. Cheers, Rian.

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      • Further Alexie,
        It is noticeable there that you have clearly not read the book yourself; but you are relying on other people’s words for your dismissal.

        I get the impression that such a conspiracy over centuries within Christianity, as to fabricate that myth of martyrdom, is to be seen as simply unbelievable. Anyone who suggests such a thing would appear to be totally unaware of the famous ‘False Decretals’ and the ‘Donation of Constantine’. Both of these frauds were instruments of Christian political power and manipulation for many many centuries. And it was literally a big big conspiracy that foisted them on the church at large.

        It has been clearly demonstrated by scholars that mountains of old tales and traditions about lives of the early Saints were actually put together hundreds of years after they were supposed to have died. Have you read the legends about the lives of St Benedict? St Francis? Have you read the accounts offered by none other than the great St Augustine of Hippo, about his and other Church Fathers’ journeys, along with some of the fantastical wonders they are supposed to have witnessed? Would you believe them???

        Look at the incredible miracles observed by none other than that warhorse of early Christianity, Tertullian. What about the way in which St Dennis, Patron Saint of France, having been decapitated, proceeded to pick up his own head and carry it to his tomb? Just amazing how modern Evangelicals like yourself, while decrying and disputing innumerable teachings and practices of Catholicism, are still prepared to swallow all the legends of martyrdom that were produced within the cottage industry of the early Church forgeries. If you dont know about these, then you need to educate yourself.

        For you or anyone else to dispute what Professor Moss is saying in her book, will need to detail the real evidence for huge numbers of Martyrs under Rome. This evidence simply does not exist, or else has not been produced as yet.

        Again I point out, Alexie, that when I asked for back up evidence from modern historians for those ancient figures of immense numbers of Christian Martyrs, not a single person has come up with any.

        Let me be frank about this. If Moss’s contention is false, then I want to know the real truth about it. I dont want to promulgate a falsehood. So please quote me some reputable historians who will support the thesis that there were huge numbers of Christians martyred under Rome, during a prolonged period of persecutions under Roman law. Tell me what Encyclopaedias have the correct information, since according to you, good old Britannica has well and truly got it wrong.

        Do you just believe blindly all that the old Roman Catholic purveyors of wisdom told the Church for century after century?

        Cheers, Rian.

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      • The author has been shown not to be a reliable historian from at least three sources. There were many more thus having to show anything on this is mute. No need as your house of cards has fallen. Thus the reason no one wants to waste time with your games.
        Cheerio.

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      • Okay Alexie,
        You have quoted from your selected authorities regarding Professor Moss. Let’s hear from some other specialists.

        Archbishop Desmond Tutu… ‘Compellingly argued and artfully written. Moss reveals how the popular misconception about martyrdom in the early church still creates real barriers to compassion and dialogue today. An important book and a fascinating read.’

        Diarmaid Macculloch, (Professor of History of the Church at Oxford University and author of Christianity: The first Three Thousand Years) ‘This is the best sort of history: delightfully accessible yet based on prodigious scholarship, deeply serious yet entertaining and enlightening. Above all, it shows the reader the importance of sweeping away myth, in order that we do not behave badly in the present, using the past as our excuse.’

        Harvey Cox, (Hollis Research Professor of Divinity at Harvard). This is a timely and eye-opening book. Moss’s carefully researched and readable account corrects and clarifies an important feature of a history that has been fictionalised for too long’.

        Sad to think that the best you can do, Alexie, is purely to attack the person of Professor Moss. Still, you are clearly unable to offer any argument to counter her essential argument about the number of martyrs under Rome. You indicated no information from any of your reviewing writers that disproves her thesis. No ‘games’ old mate. Simply asking for a list however small from you, of modern authorities who demonstrate through historical research that there WERE huge numbers of Christians martyred under Rome. What do you know about the three century long research into the Saints and Martyrdoms by the Catholic Bollandists?

        Clearly you yourself don’t have such information. If you still refuse to tackle the matter, then you prove conclusively that you are unable to back up your side. For that matter, if and when you get around to stating that you have actually read Moss’s book, you will be in a better position to take some sort of stand. I expected better of you.

        A nice pointed comment is made by another authority..,.
        Rev Dr Robin R Meyers, (UCC Minister and author of The Underground Church) ‘This remarkable book is certain to spark an intense debate. There is something here to offend everyone, which is the first sign of ground-breaking work.’ How very true.

        So still, is there anyone else out there who is willing to do some foot work among modern historians that will demonstrate how Professor Moss is wrong???? Whether you believe it or not, IF I am actually wrong, and Professor Moss is out of whack, then I WANT TO KNOW THE TRUTH! to date, all modern authorities and encyclopaedic references I’ve read agree with her.

        Some years back, I was engaged in debate on the issue with a passionate Catholic convert, – a local retired Psychiatrist who took me on in the matter. He was very well informed, and gave very strong arguments on behalf of the Catholic Church. He treated the whole discussion seriously and not as a ‘game’ I was playing.

        After heavy protests, he got back to me in a very rueful letter, in which he described how he had researched among the authorities he respected, and just had to allow that there were, according to them, no more than perhaps altogether, some five or six thousand Christian Martyrs under Rome in the old days. However, he came back forcefully with the comment that a number just like 5000 of the faithful, who were prepared to suffer and die for their convictions, would readily show just how deep their devotion was. Of course that is true.

        If you still refuse to give a simple answer, then it will be plain that you are absolutely unable to.
        Cheers, Rian.

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      • Hi Alexie,
        Let me spell out for you some of the issues that have to be addressed when you look at the Martyrs under Rome in the first few centuries. I have carefully avoided ranting and raving, or huffing and puffing in the process. I believe I am being perfectly rational here.

        First, you need to accurately define exactly what Martyrdom means in practice, and what it doesn’t mean. Included here is the issue of whether the individual Christian was specifically given the choice of dying for his faith or not.

        Next you have to determine from documented history just what periods in years and under which Emperors, laws that amounted to Persecution actually occurred. You take into consideration the fact that there were actually many years of those three hundred years when Emperors were reasonable and had no action at all against Christians. From many sources I’ve read the fact that during the three hundred years prior to the Council of Nicaea under Constantine, there were roughly little more than 12 or 13 years during which there were actual persecutions mounted.

        You make sure that your periods of persecution only refer to times when Christians specifically were targeted. So if Christians along with numbers of persons of other persuasions or principles were all prosecuted for some kind of law breaking that in itself did not refer to Christianity, you cant really call it persecution of Christians in particular.

        Christians who die in war, or who are suddenly murdered by mobs or individuals cant really be called persons persecuted by Rome or under Roman law, or in other words, – Martyrs.
        Then you look at the records of Christians who backed down under ‘the Question’, and who duly performed the expected rite of service to the Emperor and the State. In the process, you learn about the Certificates of Exemption that many sought from the authorities or that were rigged via third parties to avoid having to fulfil the legal oblications. And as well, how many of the Magistrates didnt want to condemn the persistant prisoners and begged them (giving them days to reconsider) to back down.

        Finally, you look at the actual records from the time itself (not from hundreds of years later) of people who are known to have died either in the Arenas or by Execution. Lists of names, or numbers such as the Martyrs of Lyons, Perpetua and Polycarp and Ignatius etc need to be scanned. You keep in mind as a side issue in the process, that there are absolutely NO records anywhere that indicate Christians ever being martyred in the famous Colliseum of Rome.

        Once you have fulfilled all of these qualifications then you are entitled to come to legitimate conclusions about the numbers of martyrs in those early days. These issues and other historical facts are detailed and accounted for in Professor Moss’s book.

        I await your list of facts that demonstrate the terrible flaws in the book.
        Cheers, Rian.

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  3. Maybe Paul had it right

    Philippians 4:12: “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”

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  4. Francis gives message ahead of World Youth Day

    Christianity is not a set of prohibitions, but a “project for life” that can lead to true happiness in building better relationships and a better world, Pope Francis has told a group of young Catholics.

    Speaking to the youths in his annual message for local celebrations of World Youth Day, the Pope asked “Do you realise how much you are worth in the eyes of God? Do you know that you are loved and welcomed by him unconditionally?”

    The ability to love and be loved is beautiful and is a key to happiness, but sin means it also can be “debased, destroyed or spoiled” by selfishness or the desire for pleasure or power, he said in the message, published yesterday by the Vatican.

    http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/news/2015/02/18/christianity-can-lead-us-to-happiness-pope-tells-young-people/

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  5. Hi Rian,

    Forgive me, but I still cannot see why this is such a BIG deal to you—-the total number of martyrs under Roman rule. Who cares? I don’t! No-one can possibly ever know just how many were murdered for their allegiance to Jesus. It doesn’t matter if some think in the hundreds of thousands and others in the thousands, surely? This is just splitting hairs, isn’t it and really quite silly I think?

    I was brought up with the stories of the many Catholic Saints that were supposedly martyred, and even as a child I knew not to take these supposed accounts of heroism as gospel truth. You would have to be a complete idiot to do so, surely? But the Bible does NOT lie, and it tells us that many followers of Christ were indeed persecuted and martyred for their faith at the hands of both the Romans and Jews and that it will be so until Christ returns. Speaking as a Christian from a place of faith, I find the numbers of martyrs to be irrelevant ….so too the false stories that the religious tell to bolster their causes. It is enough for me to believe that the Spirit of Truth will guide His children into what is important, and what is just a distraction. I think those who “have not loved their lives even unto death” for the sake of the One they worshipped and adored, are absolutely awesome and worthy of respect, and God certainly knows who they are.

    Cheers, Mon

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      • Hm Bryan,
        No I dont want to be ‘right’. I want to be accurate in what I say. And as soon as anyone comes up with indisputable evidence that there were huge numbers of martyrs under Rome, I will be satisfied, back down and if necessary, apologize. It strikes me, you know, that if the matter is just so unimportant, why have both now and some time ago, so many of our Christian Listers arguing that I am ‘wrong’? That my history reading is weird, and my authorities unreliable?

        One reason that I pursue this matter is because I feel it is something of an unfortunate slur against Rome if they are accused of persecuting HUGE numbers of Christians for some three hundred years, when there is no evidence that they did. For the most part, Rome was pretty tolerant of Christians AND most other faiths, during the greater part of those three centuries, despite frequently disliking them. Bad-mouthing Rome incorrectly is every bit as wrong as bad mouthing any other culture, INCLUDING CHRISTIANITY when the information is wrong.

        I’m quite sure that if I trumpeted loud and long about how Christians have constantly in history and in the present day, massacred loads and loads of Jews and persons of all other faiths, many here and elsewhere would be disputing my figures, claiming that the numbers are much lower and less widely distributed than what I am claiming.

        Now if the accuracy of statistics and facts about Christian history simply dont really matter, by comparison with the absolute Divine correctness that is claimed for Christian Faith, then why do we have carefully researched history books written about Christianity? Why dont we just treat the subject in the way that the Church did in the Middle Ages and simply tell fables and traditions of the past to the faithful? It’s only then the Doctrines and the Faith that is important!

        As I explained to you some months back Bryan, I’m presently delivering a very popular class to the local “University of the Third Age’, on the subject of ‘Two Thousand Years of Christian Art’, with loads of projected ‘slides’. In the process of this class, it is necessary to detail much about Christian history and the development of Doctrine. When I get to the session dealing with the early Church, the Catacombs and the Persecutions, I want and need very much to be accurate in what I tell the folk.

        Let me make it clear that I am NOT making any attempt to tell those class members just what is ‘Truth’ or what they should believe. I talk academically about history and the facts as are generally agreed by most modern experts. Their own beliefs and faith I leave to their Churches and their consciences.

        Finally let me remind Listers of a little occurrence on this Blog a couple of years back. I stated in one posting that the Vatican never issued an Excommunication against Hitler. I was quickly pounced on and told that some German Bishops did issue an Excommunication early in the 30s on anyone who joined the Nazi Party. I immediately checked it out and acknowledged that I had got it wrong in my next post.

        Now that matter was really very very insignificant when you think about it. But by comparison, it seems to me that the lives and deaths of thousands of Christians in the first few centuries is actually a very very serious and significant issue. Do you folks really think that FACTS to do with the Martyrdom of ANY Christians is a little, a petty thing????

        Now as I just pointed out, I was prepared to acknowledge I had been wrong on a very very small matter. I am just hoping that I will be granted the same courtesy in this case, as soon as the stats have been duly checked out by one of you.

        Cheers, Rian (as usual, no hard feelings)

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      • Many of the ancient historians wrote about the severest forms of Christian persecution that were mentioned in the New Testament that occurred in the first century which took place in Rome, Antioch, and Judea (present day Israel and Lebanon) among others locations and these ancient historians were not Christians writing about these accounts but were professional historians, sometimes employed by the Roman Empire and included authors/historians like Publius Cornelius Tacitus, Josephus, Tertullian, Julius Africanus, Rome’s Suetonius (A.D. 110), and the Roman governor Pliny Secundus (A.D. 100-110) all of who wrote before A.D. 250 and several of these make direct references to Jesus to affirm the historical New Testament references about His life and death.

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      • Even the most skeptical critics of Christian history typically accept the 3rd and 4th Century records of large scale persecution of Christians under Emperor Decius (c. 250’s AD), Valerian (c. 260’s AD), Diocletian (c. 280’s AD) and Galerius (early 300’s AD). These four emperors persecuted Christians vigorously. Under Valerian alone, many well-known known Christian leaders were martyred, including Cyprian (Bishop of Carthage), Sixtus II (Bishop of Rome) and Saint Lawrence.

        The evidence for the early persecution of Christians is robust, including the 1st Century Biblical record, the 1st and 2nd Century Christian non-Biblical record, and the accounts of ancient 1st and 2nd pagan historians and writers. Like any cumulative case, the strength of this evidence is compounded by the diversity of the sources. Is the early persecution of Christians simply a myth created by Christians to advance the cause of Christianity? Those who propose such a theory must account for the following:

        The records of persecution originate over the entire course of Christian history, from New Testament era to the 2nd, 3rd and 4th generation of Christian believers

        The records of persecution originate in geographically diverse locations

        The records of persecution originate in culturally diverse Christian communities

        The records of persecution originate from both Biblical and non-Biblical authors

        The records of persecution originate from both Christian and non-Christian authors

        The records of persecution were unopposed by ancient objectors

        While skeptics in our day may deny the ancient Christian claims of martyrdom, the opponents of antiquity were silent. The Christian record remains the one unopposed, dominant voice from antiquity, describing the persecution of ancient Christians and identifying this persecution with their refusal to “[reject] Christ and [prove] their allegiance to the Roman gods.”
        http://coldcasechristianity.com/2013/were-the-early-christians-really-persecuted/

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    • The Christian missionary organization Open Doors (UK) estimates 100 million Christians face persecution, particularly in Muslim-dominated countries such as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. According to the International Society for Human Rights, up to 80% of acts of persecution are directed at people of the Christian faith

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      • The Great Persecution is considered the largest. Beginning with a series of four edicts banning Christian practices and ordering the imprisonment of Christian clergy, the persecution intensified until all Christians in the empire were commanded to sacrifice to the Roman gods or face immediate execution. Over 20,000 Christians are thought to have died during Diocletian’s reign. One of the most prominent martyrs during the Dioclecian persecution was Saint George, a Roman soldier who loudly renounced the Emperor’s edict, and in front of his fellow soldiers and tribunes claimed himself to be a Christian by declaring his worship of Jesus Christ. Diocletian attempted to convert George, even offering gifts of land, money and slaves if he made a sacrifice to the Roman gods; he made many offers, but George never accepted and was subsequently tortured and decapitated. Though Diocletian zealously persecuted Christians in the Eastern part of the empire, his co-emperors in the West did not follow the edicts and so Christians in Gaul, Spain, and Britannia were virtually unmolested.

        This persecution lasted until Constantine I came to power in 313 and legalized Christianity

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      • Pam and Bill.
        Interesting to see that Bryan and Monica who did not locate material proving the traditional tales of persecution and martyrdom, have been describing the particular details as unimportant and the numbers of little account in view of the faith of the martyrs. But here are you two who are taking it as being important enough to offer long arguments to defend it.

        I must say these were spirited and highly compelling commentaries from Bill and Pam. But sadly there are a lot of significant flaws in the details. Here are a couple of the obvious ones.

        Josephus said nothing about Christians getting persecuted or martyred. Sure he speaks of James being murdered, but there is no word of him or anyone else dying BECAUSE of Christian convictions.

        Bill lists Tertullian among the non-Christian writers. No Bill, he was a powerful Christian Apologist and writer, and Lawyer.

        The New Testament actually contains very few references to details of Christians being persecuted. Persecution by the Jews and being tossed into prison do not prove that they were specifically martyred/killed. ( I’ve already commented some year or two back that one cant blame the Jews for chucking the Christians out of their synagogues, or even for tossing them into prison.) There is no reference to Paul having any Christians actually killed.

        If MANY Christians at this time were in prison, then it is surprising that the NT fails to describe the case, and fails to mention essential visits that the faithful were making to them and bringing them sustenance. It seems more likely that by the time the Gospels were being written and carefully edited (late 1st c and early 2nd c), that is when some Christians were actually in prison during subsequent Roman unpopularity.

        The tales of the Apostles being martyred are legendary, and unsupported by any real evidence. The only killings of Christians mentioned in the New Testament are of James and Stephen, and the account does not suggest that James was killed for Christian beliefs. Strange too, that the much vaunted Stephen says nothing in his lengthy and tiresome diatribe to the Jews, concerning the Resurrection of Jesus.

        Now I am most interested to know just where Pam got the total of ’20,000 Christians thought to have died in Diocletian’s reign’ from. Is there any modern historian who even suggests this, or is this one of the traditional old claims?

        Cheers Rian. (part 2 and others to come.)

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      • Pam and Bill (part 2)

        Persecutions do not necessarily imply martyrdom. Persons who were persecuted but not executed were known as Confessors and not Martyrs. And my thesis is as always that there were relatively few actual killings (Martyrdoms) over those three hundred years. Instead of hundreds of thousands, seemingly as few as round the 5000 mark during those three hundred years.

        The fact of being prosecuted in a Roman court does not prove that the case represented a persecution against Christians. Today, if an Anglican or a Jehovah’s Witness breaks the law in some way, and is prosecuted, it is NOT because he is an Anglican or a JW or a Christian. Sure he may be offending due to some high principle he derives from his religion, but he is not being sought out just because he is a Christian.

        Certain of the great ‘Persecutions’ were based on some particular Roman Laws that were being broken, and not just matters of persons being taken to court or punished for being Christians; but those of other religions could be offenders, and for that matter, occasionally persons of high philosophical principles for whom the Law was wrong. Examples of such occasions include the situation under Decius, which lasted for just a couple of years.

        There is no evidence at all that although some Christians suffered under his Decree, Decius was even mentioning Christians in it. It was a command that all inhabitants of Rome must duly make the proper sacrifices to the Emperor and the State. And that as always was to placate the gods, and thus preserve the Empire.

        We know that some Christians simply exiled themselves from Rome to avoid the difficulty. Many defaulted and made the necessary actions to avoid punishment. These duly received their appropriate Libelli or documents that asserted their conformity. Indeed there were all sorts of tricks listed that were used to avoid being convicted. Much was written about the desperate arguments in the churches that ensued about the possibility of forgiveness and re-entry for those who had so apostasized. It was a very big problem.

        For those who are not aware of the fact, Origen who was recognized as one of the most brilliant minds of the first three centuries, and who was eventually tortured and martyred, tells in the 3rd century, that by that time, there were very few Christians who had been martyred to that time.

        Another rather perverse problem was with those Christians, well documented, who pestered Roman Magistrates to be martyred. One famous case told how the official was so tired of them that he told them to get ropes, or go to the nearest cliff-tops and do away with themselves.

        Rian. (part 3 to follow)

        Like

      • Pam and Bill, Part 3)

        Peace and calm for Christians prevailed after the reign of Decius after just one year, in 251 when he died; and the next problem occurred under Valerian in 257, when first he demanded (not enforced) that Church Leaders (specifically and only) participate in Pagan rituals, and that Christians stop meeting en masse in Cemeteries. In the second of these decrees, that of 258 he directed that Bishops Priests and Deacons (again specifically) were to be put to death at once. Interestingly Christian Senators and high ranking Roman officials were to lose their status and property, and if they did not apostatize, be executed as well.

        Then Christian women of senatorial rank were to lose their property, as would members of the imperial household and be bundled off to the imperial estates where their views would be less of a liability. Note that given the Decian ‘persecution’ occurred such a short time before, there were numbers of Christians in such high status positions. It suggests that the effects of the decree were not widely felt.

        As is stated by Professor Moss, ‘That both Valerian and as we will see, Diocletian ejected Christians from public office, demonstrates that Christians not only had lived peacefully among the Romans, they flourished and rose to positions of prominence and power. Only a handful of Christians seem to have died as a result of Valerian’s second letter in 258. Although there are some highly literary martyrdom accounts describing the deaths of individual bishops and church leaders from 257-259, the content of many of these stories, some of which imitate the style and form of earlier martyrdom accounts, is of dubious origin.’

        Cheers, Rian. (part 4 to follow)

        Like

      • Pam and Bill, (part 4)

        Following Valerians death, his son Gallienus revoked his legislation, and Christians had more than 40 years of freedom. Professor Moss continues ’They may have been disliked but they were again able to climb the social ladder, accumulate wealth, build churches, and assemble in full view of everybody. As before, Christians weren’t hiding in Catacombs, they were out in the open.’

        It was actually with the accession of Diocletian and his eventual persecution of Christians in February of 303, that the holding of Christian meetings became illegal and for the first time the actual confiscation of Christian Scriptures and documents was undertaken. In the East persecutions continued under Galerius (co-Emperor) and Diocletian, and in the second Edict of the Summer of 303, the arrest of Christian clergy was ordered. In the West, persecutions died out very shortly in 304, and were officially ended by the Emperor Constantius in July 306. He even allowed Christians in Britain Gaul and Spain to have their confiscated property restored to them.

        It’s got to be understood that huge numbers of persons simply could not be arrested and dumped in prison in those days. Prisons were only holding houses, and apparently minor criminals were released to make room for those persons who didnt perform the appropriate rites. So there simply could not have been thousands of Christians in prison at any time either in Rome or in Palestine during Apostolic times for that matter.

        Cheers, Rian. (5th and final to come)

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      • Pam and Bill (5th and final installment)

        Now coming to friend Pliny. What we have to notice is that neither Pliny or Trajan is particularly concerned about Christians. Trajan just makes offers basic principles about how Christians should be treated IF they happen to come before the court. Neither makes any statement that seems to indicate that there was much known about the sect, and further, Trajan makes it plain that Christians are not to be sought out for prosecution. So definitely there is no official persecution of Christians at that time, and thus any problems or martyrdoms would be few and sporadic.

        It can be said that the sheer ignorance or nonchalance over Christians shown by both these learned gentlemen, would seem to give the lie to the famous Tacitus commentary stating that at the time of Nero, the Christians were ‘a class hated for their abominations’. So Pliny and Trajan know nothing of that in 115AD, wheras Tacitus in 125AD is supposed to have known all about it???? Sounds much more like the well recognized negative view of Christians developing in the 2nd century (and later very prevalent in the 3rd century,) – in other words, later during Tacitus’ own time.

        Once more concerning the Tacitus account, it is noticeable that not a single Christian historian for centuries afterwards makes mention of a Christian persecution connected to the Great Fire of Rome. In fact the earliest mention and record we have of the details of Nero’s terrible actions is to be found in an eighth century monastery translation/copy (of copy of copy of copy etc?) of the relevant Tacitus writing. This and other problems have made a number of historians dubious about the authenticity of some of the details that Tacitus quotes.

        Cheers, Rian.

        Like

      • The major scholars agree on ten major persecutions in the early church,

        – Persecution under Nero (c. 64-68). – Persecution under Domitian (r. 81-96).
        – Persecution under Trajan (112-117).- Persecution under Marcus Aurelius (r. 161-180).
        – Persecution under Septimus Severus (202-210).-
        Persecution under Decius (250-251). Christians are actively sought out by requiring public sacrifice. .
        – Persecution under Valerian (257-59).
        – Persecution under Maximinus the Thracian (235-38).
        – Persecution under Aurelian (r. 270–275).
        – Severe persecution under Diocletian and Galerius (303-324).

        Like

      • According to the Roman historian Tacitus:

        Besides being put to death they [the Christians] were made to serve as objects of amusement; they were clad in the hides of beast and torn to death by dogs; others were crucified, others set on fire to serve to illuminate the night when daylight failed. Nero had thrown open his grounds for the display, and was putting on a show in the circus, where he mingled with the people in the dress of a charioteer or drove about in his chariot. All this gave rise to a feeling of pity, even toward men whose guilt merited the most exemplary punishment; for it was felt that they were being destroyed not for the public good but to satisfy the cruelty of an individual. Despite these extreme cruelties, Nero’s persecution was local and short-lived. However, it was the first official persecution and marked the first time the government distinguished Christians from Jews. Tertullian referred to persecution of Christians as institutum Neronianum, an institution of Nero. After Nero, it became a capital crime to be a Christian, although pardon was always available if one publicly condemned Christ and sacrificed to the gods.

        Like

      • Rob,
        yep I think we are all very familiar with the quote from Tacitus. That is about the fourth occasion it has been put up on the blog over the last year or so.

        As I have said, there are several problems with the details in the quote, and I’ve mentioned some of them before. For now isnt it surprising that with all that suggestion of Christians being labelled as criminals or addicted to abominations in the sight of the Roman people under Nero in 64AD, nevertheless, friends Pliny and Trajan seem completely unaware of any such precedence..

        It seems too, most unlikely that by the mid 60s there were immense numbers of Christians in Rome, getting to be known by the populace as such. Paul seems to indicate no large following to the Faith.

        Sure, Tertullian mentions some sort of persecution occurring under Nero, but neither he or any other Christian father ever mentions such a persecution being connected with the Great Fire of Rome; as well as none of them ever mention the Tacitus quote itself. That last is very surprising, considering his histories were regarded as definitive and well known. We dont know about it until the discovery of the 8th century manuscript, as I mentioned before.
        Cheers, Rian

        Like

      • Yes Rob, Tacitus believed the Christians to be innocent of arson,but he does not feel that an injustice was done to them. … they were simply convicted on the grounds of being Christians.

        Like

  6. Ahh Rian, I was thinking that you remind me of the Holocaust deniers, and lo and behold, I find that Mr. Maier, “a professor emeritus of ancient history at Western Michigan University and a much-published author. He has translated new editions of Josephus and Eusebius, and written the best-selling A Skeleton in God’s Closet (Thomas Nelson, 1994). His latest book is The Constantine Codex (Tyndale, 2011)” also thinks so. 😉

    THE MYTH OF PERSECUTION: A PROVOCATIVE TITLE, AN OVERDONE THESIS
    By: Paul L. Maier—-Apr 12, 2015

    “Lest anyone call for Moss’s dismissal from the faculty at Notre Dame, such statements as the following should not be overlooked despite their extremely rare inclusion and obvious minority status in her approach: “There is no doubt that Christians did die, that they were horrifically tormented and executed in ways that would appall people today, however uninterested they are in human rights” (p. 160). Thirty-three pages of highly relevant notes and a very detailed index further enhance these pages.

    This is not, however, to suggest that the book is fine except for its specious titling. Quite on the contrary: in mounting a bristling defense for her less-than-tenable thesis, Moss plainly overdid it. While her research is thorough, her conclusions are much too arbitrary and biased for serious scholarship. The basic problem is that what is true in this book is not new, and what is new in this book is mostly not true.”

    http://www.equip.org/article/the-myth-of-persecution-a-provocative-title-an-overdone-thesis/

    Like

    • Excerpt:

      THE MYTH OF PERSECUTION: A PROVOCATIVE TITLE, AN OVERDONE THESIS
      By: Paul L. Maier—-Apr 12, 2015

      “In seeking to correct exaggerations of Christian martyrdom, the author offers plenty of her own. In the Roman persecutions, “very few Christians died,” she writes (14), a hopelessly wrongheaded statement, directly contradicted by the Roman Tacitus himself, who reports that there were “vast numbers” in Nero’s persecution alone, as noted previously, not to mention the host of victims in the decades and centuries to follow. This error is so glaring that, in the name of truth itself, the author must withdraw or change it in future printings, or be required to do so by her publisher.

      Again, “Scholars of early Christianity agree that there is very little evidence for the persecution of Christians” (18). In fact, the only such scholar I know of is Candida Moss! The evidence is instead overwhelming and categorical. Rarely do both friendly and hostile sources agree on anything, but the persecution of Christians is one of them. Aside from copious Christian evidence, not only Tacitus but also Suetonius, another pagan Roman historian, writes, “Punishments were also inflicted on the Christians, a sect professing a new and mischievous religious belief” (Nero, 16). Amazing that not a word of this appears in Moss’s book!”

      Like

      • And again,

        “There are no stories about the deaths of martyrs that have not been purposely recast by later generations of Christians in order to further their own theological agenda” (17). Wrong again! Tacitus is cited intact by later writers, Christian and secular, as is the eyewitness report of the martyrdom of Polycarp, and others.

        Moss claims, “Christianity adopted the martyrdom idea from non-Christians. Long before the birth of Jesus, the ancient Greeks told stories about their fallen heroes…and Romans saw the self-sacrifice of generals as a good thing, and Jews in ancient Palestine accepted death before apostasy” (17). While most of this is true, the first sentence claiming that “Christianity adopted the martyrdom idea” elsewhere is utterly false and bad logic to boot. Martyrdoms can happen independently anywhere and at anytime. They are certainly not copied or “adopted.”

        And finally, in connection with the first empire-wide, systematic persecution of the church under the emperor Decius (ruled 249–251), Moss writes, “There is little to suggest that Decius had Christians in particular in mind when he issued his decree” (161). Here again the author’s extremely critical bias is evident, since historians of the ancient world—secular and Christian—have no doubt whatever that Christians were Decius’s principal target.

        The author’s claim that there was no persecution of Christians between Nero’s reign and that of Decius in the mid-third century is also a new but mistaken version of the facts. It overlooks the persecution of Domitian c. AD 95 that involved members of the imperial Flavian family itself and traditionally saw John flee to Patmos to escape it; the martyrdoms of such Christian leaders as Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp of Smyrna, and Justin Martyr; the Christian victims of Lyons; and the persecution under Emperor Septimius Severus (193–211).

        Like

      • BLAMING EUSEBIUS

        “By now the reader will have noted that Moss and Eusebius have very little in common. It might be expected, then, that she will try to undermine evidence from Eusebius. We are not disappoint ed. Moss gives Eusebius the credit or discredit for the augmentation of persecution and martyrdom in the history of the church. In fact, however, only about 9 percent of his Church History deals with these themes as he focuses instead on travels and successors of the apostles, early church government, heresies, apologists for the faith, formation of the canon, literary history, and doctrinal controversies—a reasonable balance.

        Eusebius’s evidence cannot be impeached, since he personally witnessed the horrors of the final Great Persecution, was imprisoned himself, and saw his behooved teacher, Pamphylus, martyred. The wonder is that Eusebius did not offer more on the persecutions than 9 percent of the whole.

        Much of that material consists of eyewitness reports of persecution that were so specific and reliable that Eusebius simply incorporated the documents en masse. The evidence is overpowering that persecution of Christians and the attending martyrdom was a constant threat throughout the two and a half centuries before Constantine, even if there was not continual bloodshed. But to claim that there were only ten years of actual persecution during this period, as does Moss, is merely another in her cavalcade of mistaken conclusions that run counter to the facts.

        In sum, we have a case of overcorrection in this book that, in attempting to clean the historical record on persecution and martyrdom, has scrubbed away solid fact as well. Both excessive embellishment and excessive purgation do poor service to the cause of historical truth. This exercise in revisionism, then, has failed.”

        Paul L. Maier

        Yes Alexie, Moss and Rian’s position is just plain “rubbish!” 🙂

        Like

      • Bryan M. Litfin author of Early Christian Martyr Stories was asked this question:

        A leading scholar of early Christianity, Candida Moss, recently wrote a book on The Myth of Persecution, arguing that a number of these early martyr stories were exaggerated, invented, or forged. Is there any truth to her argument?

        He replied:

        The funny thing about that book is, much of the stuff she says is nothing new at all. So not only is there much truth to it (as you said), it’s actually a truth that scholars have known for a long time. She is rebutting a Sunday school picture of martyrdom that all historians know is false, and then it’s like a big revelation has been made. I’m talking about the idea that there was an age of constant persecution, that the Christians were in danger at every turn, relentlessly being pursued by Roman soldiers day and night. We know that isn’t correct. No one in academia thinks that, but Professor Moss still rebuts it. So I guess that’s helpful for what it is.

        Candida Moss is an impressive scholar with a real mastery of these texts. I don’t question her erudition, I respect it a lot, and I’ve learned from it. What I take issue with is her method of radical skepticism. Usually with history, there is a kind of bell curve of probability, and when enough facts are brought in, you find the middle of the curve is the right place to be. But Moss interprets everything with such a skeptical eye that she skews everything toward the later end of the timeline. Over and over, she puts the facts out there and then interprets them with the most extreme position that it’s forgery, forgery, forgery. So she pushes all the texts like Polycarp or Lyons and Vienne toward a much later time. But it’s not probable that the extreme interpretation is the right one again and again, for every martyrdom text, like there was a colossal conspiracy to make up stories all across the Empire. Classical historians don’t handle texts like this, the way some early Christian scholars do, with this skeptical agenda of turning everything into later forgeries instead of what they claim to be.

        And there’s lots of counter-evidence that Moss doesn’t include. Like, “The Christians want to collect Polycarp’s remains. Look! That’s third century relic veneration! This text must be from that later time period!” Wait a minute, why does it have to be third century? It doesn’t. Christians and Jews always wanted to bury their people in every century. We see it right at the beginning with the effort to bury the body of Jesus in a rich man’s tomb. Actually, honorable burial was a big deal to everybody in Roman times. There is first century legislation that says you should give a condemned criminal’s body to his relatives after he’s been killed in the coliseum. This was the normal practice, the Romans made laws about it. What the Martyrdom of Polycarp says about collecting the martyr’s body is perfectly consistent with the date that the text claims to be written, in the mid-second century. In fact, there’s definitive archaeological proof that Peter had a monument over his presumed grave at that exact time. So it’s no big deal if Polycarp would have a respectable tomb as well. That isn’t proof of later burial practices, it’s par for the course in the second century. Moss should put that evidence out there too. But that’s what I’m pointing out here, the way she spins the evidence to the extreme and doesn’t acknowledge and rebut counter-evidence. It’s not neutral history. There’s a political agenda in that book she wants to advance. I’m not making that up, she’s pretty clear about it, and that’s why the book takes the positions it does.

        Like

      • Hi Mon,
        Ah, just a few months back, you were complaining that the Blog was rather boring these days, and that things were not as exciting as in earlier times.

        Well, I’ve been away for the weekend and was delighted to see a few more enthusiastic postings from you and others on my current pet subject had come in in the meantime. Thanks for that. As soon as I’ve re-established myself at home again (and placated the neglected pussies), I shall rejoin the fray with some more observations.

        Cheers and love, Rian.

        Like

      • Can’t wait Rian.

        Yes, I miss the good old fiery exchanges, all in good fun of course. But as Strewth says, yes, we are all predictable, and biased in our own way. I honestly don’t believe anyone is truly ‘open’ to change, not without some internal conflict and resistance, anyway.

        Was going to ask you about Fox’s ‘Book of Martyrs’. I have it sitting on my book shelf, ( for about 20 years now) and I still can’t bring myself to read it because I see it as a lot of fiction mixed in with truth. Am not interested in fiction. 😉

        Like

    • Hi Mon,
      Just a few odd comments to go along with here, as they occur to me. Sadly I fear your final words in one posting didnt quite fit the situation.

      (Moss and Rian’s position is just plain “rubbish!”) Sure some of the conclusions are seriously criticized by other experts, but none the less, as friend Maier states a fair whack of what Candida Moss says happens to be true. And similarly, I feel confident in saying that I have been presenting a lot of well accepted facts, and should not be criticized unduly for offering newer interpretations of them. See now this comment…

      ‘There is no doubt that Christians did die, that they were horrifically tormented and executed in ways that would appall people today, Thirty-three pages of highly relevant notes and a very detailed index further enhance these pages.While her research is thorough, her conclusions are much too arbitrary and biased for serious scholarship.’

      Just because certain of the conclusions I come to may be suspect, none the less, there is a great deal of the material I am quoting here that is accurate and standard among scholars. After I have studied the comments of the good Emeritus Professor a bit more, I shall offer some answers; but in the meantime, here are just a few bits and pieces of related interest.

      I still maintain that the Jews of the New Testament period were really quite justified in chucking Christians out of the Synagogues (and the rest of what they did). I shall be happy to explain why if anyone wants to know.That is just as I argued some long time back that if Jesus actually did commit blasphemy as the Gospels indicate the High Priest complained, then the latter was perfectly justified in condemning Jesus, and simply had no alternative.

      There appears to be no sign in Gospels Epistles and Acts, of any persecution by ‘Rome’ of any of the Christians during those times. Paul was not arrested by the Romans for any crime of being Christian. Rather it was because there tended to be riots and public disturbances when he appeared. There is not the slightest suggestion too that Paul was in any way restricted during his transference to Rome to be tried before Caesar (and that was the diabolical Nero!)

      In Rome he was allowed all liberty in seeing other Christians, and in preaching. Rome clearly had no objection to Christians at this point. Apart from the claim in the mooted quote from Tacitus, there is absolutely no indication whatsoever that when Paul was in Rome there was any large community of Christians there. Does anyone here know of any reference in the history books, to anything like an ‘immense multitude’ of Christians in Rome?

      Paul certainly makes no mention of such whatsoever. Neither does he make any reference to any public opinion about the city that Christians bore ANY evil reputation of criminality or abominations, as the Tacitus quote states. Surely IF Christians were regarded as just so terrible, and with a leading trouble-making Christian in their ‘custody’ (for what it was worth) why were no attempts made on his life or any trouble for him there?

      According to the Tacitus quote, just a couple of short years after Paul arrived in Rome, that tribe or class of Christians was hated there due to their abominations!!! Oh come on. There is plenty of evidence that this kind of attitude towards Christians was not common in Rome until the second and third centuries. Fr’eavens sake, no one much in Rome would be even aware of the Christians at that time. As many scholars have pointed out, Christians in Rome then would simply be part of the Jewish community.

      Now, just briefly, -someone quoted the martyrdom of Ignatius. Curiously enough, he was taken to Rome in almost identical fashion to Paul. On the way he was freely permitted to meet with all manner of Christians, and wrote innumerable letters to Christians.

      Just think of it,IF there was some sort of diabolical persecution of Christians going on under Domitian, how the heck was it that all the Christians meeting up with Ignatius and those who conveyed his epistles managed to escape arrest and prosecution??? The man had a real martyr complex, and most likely from the start he irritated Rome, not because he was a Christian, but because he waxed long and loud about it, AND probably like those much later Christians of notorious fame, simply begged to be martyred.

      Actually it is intriguing to me to notice that although there were these diabolical persecutions supposedly going on for 300 years, yet numbers of Christians managed to get ignored and to survive.
      I wonder too, just how when certain of their number were killed or martyred, did their confreres manage somehow to get hold of their remains for burial? Surely that would alert the officials to many more Christians to go and arrest? It suggests to me that the persecution arrests were nowhere near as bad or thorough as the traditions suggest at this time.

      I leave all this to the readers to ponder. Be with you again soon.
      Cheers, Rian.

      Like

      • “Sadly I fear your final words in one posting didnt quite fit the situation.

        (Moss and Rian’s position is just plain “rubbish!”)”

        Okay Rian,

        I take it back. Anyway, I was stirring; trying to convey emotion more than the correct word. It’s the “throwing the baby out with the bath water” that I don’t like. Cheers.

        Like

      • Next Instalment Mon,
        I fell into a minor trap last posting. Because a previous quote linked the martyrdom of St Ignatius with the Domitian persecutions, I dated his death with the lifespan of Domitian. Wrong. Domitian died during the AD 90s, and Ignatius was killed some 20 years or so later. Actually according to my sources, the major part of Domitian’s persecutions actually persisted after his death. No matter. Interesting how legend tells that Ignatius when a child, was the very one that Jesus took and placed in the middle of the disciples in his object lesson about the Kingdom of Heaven.

        Now the next issue is that of John the writer of the Apocalypse. The quote the other day stated that John FLED to Patmos. This differs of course from the usual understanding which states rather that John was EXILED there by Domitian. Friend Tertullian writing in the early 2nd century is regarded as a most important historical source. But one gets a bit suspicious about his integrity and accuracy when one reads some of his material as he tells a number of rather tall tales. In his notes about John, obviously written relatively soon after the Saints incarceration at Patmos, he repeats the legend that John was plunged by Domitian into a vat of boiling oil and came out unscathed.

        The tales inform us that first John was given a vessel of poison to drink, but after making the sign of the cross over it, the poison departed from it in the form of a serpent. Then he was condemned to the vat of boiling oil. Strange that they didn’t make the further attempt which was commonly repeated in the martyrology tales of the saints, that when one or other method of killing didn’t work, they eventually got success by decapitation. One of the most famous examples of this was that of St Catherine of Alexandria, who had been rescued miraculously a number of times from death.

        The identities of the three Johns in the NT are very obscure. John the Disciple from Galilee; John attached to the Gospel under that name, along with the three brief Epistles; and then the very mysterious John who in totally poor Greek in contrast to those others, wrote the Apocalypse while on Patmos. Legend gives him a scribe as secretary there, who cant have been particularly good at his trade, called Prochorus.

        The story gets to be even more unlikely when the Orthodox Church credits the two of them with the composing of the John Gospel, which is written by contrast in excellent Greek. I have a number of Orthodox Icon illustrations that show John in a cave, dictating the Gospel to his pupil. Of course, if it was Prochorus and not John who wrote Revelations then its poor Greek cant be blamed onto John’s chaotic state of visionary ecstasy as has been suggested.

        The legend continues for some time with John eventually being brought back from Patmos, to live out the rest of his days in Ephesus. A fun miracle tale from the legends recounts about his encounter with some pesky bed bugs at an inn. His end, according to the tale, describes how his body disappeared at his death, rather a bit like the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. These records appear largely in one of the apocryphal ‘Acts’, and though completely dismissed since by the Church (like all of them) carried information and legends that were popular and influential with many Christians including friend Tertullian as we have seen who quoted them gullibly.

        I hope some of this carries some interest. Next time I’ll get back to some more of the specifics of the martyrdoms and Prof Moss.
        Cheers Rian.

        Like

      • Thanks Rian,

        I very much appreciate you and all the effort you go to to educate me/us. I may not agree with you at times, but you certainly make me take notice and do some research for myself, even when I don’t want to. 🙂

        I have no idea how reliable this source is (internet of course, and unfortunately, I suppose), but I would have thought that it is a reliable source, and I did find it an interesting read. It basically confirms what you have been saying about the persecution of Christians in New Testament times:

        Persecution of the Church – International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
        http://www.bible-researcher.com/persecution2.html

        and

        Documents on the Persecution of the Early Church
        http://www.bible-researcher.com/persecution.html

        BTW, I did receive your educational CD in the mail—-a subject I am very familiar with—-with thanks. Will get back to you privately. Thanks a million!

        Like

      • Thanks for that Mon,
        As you know, I just love to share information that I locate in my reading. And as usual, I am still keen to get to the truth essentially, even if it disagrees with some of my previous findings.

        Anyway, another installment on the Martyrdoms. One point of interest which refers back to the much cited ‘martyrdoms’ of the Disciples is in the testimony of none other than the greatly esteemed Presbyter Hippolytus c170 to c236. He was an orthodox Cleric who fought like crazy against certain of the Heresies that were prominent in his day. He produced a ten volume work entitled ‘Refutation of all Heresies’. One or two of the parts are no longer extant. A number of other learned theological works are known from his pen.

        Interesting to note that in the persecution attributed to the Emperor Maximinus the Thracian, neither Hippolytus or Pope Pontianus was actually put to death after their arrest. They were exiled together, most likely to be sent to work in the mines. So although we associate wholesale martyrdom with Roman Persecutions, it was not always the case. Exile was well-known as a Roman punishment. The bodies of the two worthy Christians were eventually brought back to Rome after their deaths a few years later.

        Anyway, this very worthy and obviously learned gentleman made these remarkable statements concerning certain of the Disciples of Jesus.

        “John again in Asia was banished by Domitian the king to the isle of Patmos in which also he wrote his Gospel and saw the apocalyptic vision: and in Trajan’s time he fell asleep at Ephesus, where his remains were sought for, but could not be found.
        And Matthew wrote the Gospel in the Hebrew tongue, and published it at Jerusalem, and fell asleep at Hierees, a town of Parthia.
        Jude who is also called Lebbaeus preached to the people of Edessa, and to all Mesopotamia, and fell asleep at Berytus, and was buried there.
        Simon the Zealot the son of Clopas, who is also called Jude, became Bishop of Jerusalem after James the Just, and fell asleep and was buried there at the age of 120 years;
        And Matthias, who was one of the 70 was numbered along with the eleven apostles and preached in Jerusalem, and fell asleep and was buried there.”

        Presumably most of this is legend again, but it doesn’t come on this occasion from the numerous rejected and despised apocryphal Gospels and Acts which provided most of the most commonly related accounts.

        Cheers and love, Rian.
        (PS look forward to your comments on my lecture stuff)

        Like

      • BTW, I have no reason to question the “great multitudes” of martyrs description given by Tacitus. I believe it to be so.

        Ultimately, it all boils down to faith; whether we believe what is presented to us as historical fact/evidence, or not. I believe accepted reliable Christian sources. Christian martyrdom is a fact, and no amount of discrediting by naysayers will ever extinguish this truth.

        Cheers

        Like

      • Yes Monica, it’s always fascinating to see a non-believer’s slant on history. If it fits their world view it seems accurate to them. Even when it isn’t. Then they find the books or internet sources that they agree with and ignore the rest. It’s the way of the world I suppose.

        Like

  7. 🙂
    Dear posters, you might feel honoured. Although Rian loves to debate, it is only with people who are well informed, I think. So if he goads or baits you into prolonging a debate, I reckon you can take that as a compliment!

    I wonder if each of us plays a certain role here, and cherishes it. All posts then become predictable.We can smile at them. Or not.

    Like

    • Gol-durn it Strewth,
      You’ve seen right through me!. You know, I was wanting everyone to see me as just provocative!

      Thanks for that comment. Cheers, Rian.

      PS Will let you know when next session is on at my place.

      Like

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