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Christ was persecuted, but what about Christians?
Roman persecution of Christians was depicted in paintings such as "The Christian Martyrs' Last Prayer" by Jean-Leon Gerome.
March 30th, 2013
10:00 PM ET

Christ was persecuted, but what about Christians?

CNN examines the tumultuous early years of Christianity in a special narrated by Liam Neeson. Watch “After Jesus: The First Christians,” Sunday at 8 p.m. ET.

By John Blake, CNN

(CNN) She walked into the Roman arena where the wild beasts awaited her. She trembled not from fear but from joy.

Her name was Vibia Perpetua. She was just 22, a young mother singing hymns as the crowd jeered and a lion, leopard and wild cow encircled her.

One of the beasts attacked, hurling her to the ground. She covered an exposed thigh with her bloody robe to preserve her modesty and groped in the dust for her hair pin so she could fix her disheveled hair.

And when a Roman executioner approached Perpetua with a sword, her last words before collapsing were aimed at her Christian companions: “Stand fast in the faith, and love you all one another and do not let our sufferings be a stumbling block to you.”

Millions of Christians worldwide will celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus on this Easter Sunday. But the story of how the church rose to prominence after Jesus’ death is being turned upside down.

According to a belief passed down through the centuries, the church grew because of Roman persecution. The blood of Christian martyrs such as Perpetua became “the seed of the church,” said third-century church leader Tertullian. It’s the Hollywood version of Christianity reflected in epic biblical films such as “Ben-Hur” and “The Robe.” Vicious Romans relentlessly targeted early Christians, so the story goes, but the faith of people like Perpetua proved so inspiring that Christianity became the official religion of Rome, and eventually the largest religion in the world.

But that script is getting a rewrite. The first Christians were never systematically persecuted by the Romans, and most martyrdom stories with the exception of a handful such as Perpetua's were exaggerated and invented, several scholars and historians say. It wasn’t just how the early Christians died that inspired so many people in the ancient world; it was how they lived.

“You had much better odds of winning the lottery than you would have becoming a martyr,” says Joyce E. Salisbury, author of “The Blood of Martyrs: Unintended Consequences of Ancient Violence.”

“The odds were pretty slim. More people read about martyrs than ever saw one.”

Do Christians have a martyr complex today?

The debate over exactly how many Christians were persecuted and martyred may seem irrelevant centuries later. A scholarly consensus has indeed emerged that Roman persecution of Christians was sporadic, and that at least some Christian martyrdom stories are theological tall tales.

But a new book by Candida Moss, a New Testament professor at the University of Notre Dame, is bringing that message to the masses.

Moss says ancient stories of church persecution have created a contemporary cult of bogus Christian martyrs. She says too many American Christians are acting like they’re members of a persecuted minority, being thrown to the lions by people who simply disagree with them.

Professor Candida Moss, author of "The Myth of Persecution," says most stories of Christian martyrs were fabricated.

She cited former Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum. Romney claimed last year that President Barack Obama was waging a “war against religion,” and Santorum said the gay community “had gone out on a jihad” against him. Other Christians invoke images of persecution when someone disagrees with them on controversial issues such as abortion or birth control, says Moss, whose "The Myth of Persecution" was recently released.

The problem with invoking persecution is it implies your opponents are evil and no common ground can be found with evil,  Moss says.

“When someone is persecuting you" she says, "there is no room for dialogue."

Others say Moss’ claim is dangerous.

People such as Perpetua did die because of their beliefs. The first Christians were tortured, reviled and held in contempt by Romans and their example helped the church grow, they say.

The Rev. Robert Morgan, author of  "On This Day in Christian History: 365 Amazing and Inspiring Stories about Saints, Martyrs and Heroes, " says it’s true that some of the accounts of martyrdom were “undoubtedly embellished” and that many of the persecution stories were “handed down in an atmosphere of confusion and pressure.”

Still, being a Christian in the first century was a risky move persecution was significant. Jesus and most of his apostles were executed, he says.

“To deny the history of the movement is a way of attacking the movement,” Morgan says.

Some opposition to contemporary Christians is indeed evil, Morgan says. Christians are being killed today in places such as Nigeria and North Africa.

“Christians do not have a victim’s mentality,” Morgan says. “They take their stands, they know what they believe and they do good in this world. They are the ones who have established orphanages, hospitals and charitable institutions. For some reason, there’s this animosity against them.”

Hatred of Christians is woven into much of the New Testament. Jesus constantly warned his followers to expect persecution. The Apostle Paul wrote many of his epistles from jail. And the death of the first Christian martyr, Stephen, is dramatically recorded in the New Testament book the Acts of  the Apostles.

The Easter message itself is a story of martyrdom Jesus, unjustly executed by the Romans. The idea that Christians are at war with demonic forces in the world is reflected throughout the New Testament, says Bryan Litfin, a theology professor at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago.

“If Jesus was just a soft moral teacher who taught us to love one another and petted little babies, the Romans wouldn’t have crucified him,”  Litfin says. “Jesus is a polarizing figure, then and today. The early Christians weren’t foisting a narrative out of the blue about being martyrs. ”

'Like the action heroes of the ancient world'

If the first Christians pictured themselves as waging war against the world, the martyrs were their version of the Navy SEALs. They were the elite Christians who inspired and united others of their faith.

There was a purpose behind spreading stories of persecution: Nothing brings a new group closer together than a common enemy, Moss says.

“The idea that you are persecuted forges a concrete identity,” Moss says. “It really solidifies your sense of group identity.”

The stories of Christian persecution were so popular that they spawned a market during the first centuries after the crucifixion. The places where martyrs were born and died became early tourist stops. Towns competed with one another to draw rich pilgrims seeking martyr memorabilia, Moss says.

“People would go and buy the equivalent of a T-shirt,” Moss says. “You’d have all these little combs with saints on them that people would buy, and lamps with saints on them. People would also buy fruit from trees that grew in the vicinity of martyrs’ graves. Of course, the prices were completely jacked up.”

Church leaders began to embellish and invent stories of martyrdom to inspire the faithful but also to settle theological feuds, Moss says. If, say, a bishop wanted to denounce a rivals’ theology, he spun a story in which a martyr denounced the same doctrine with his last breath, Moss says.

“Martyrs were like the action heroes of the ancient world,” Moss says. “It was like getting your favorite athlete endorsing your favorite brand of soda.”

But how often did Romans force Christians to endure torture or die for their faith? Christianity took roughly 300 years to conquer Rome. The emperor Constantine converted to Christianity in 312 and gave Christians religious freedom.  Christianity became the official religion of Rome by the end of the fourth century,  scholars say.

For the first 300 years of the church, Christians were often ridiculed and viewed with contempt. But Roman leaders spent about "less than 10 years" out of the first 300 actually persecuting Christians, Moss says. There are only six reliable cases of Christian martyrdom before A.D. 250 out of “hundreds of stories,” including Perpetua’s, she says.

Many scholars have greeted Moss’ contention that Roman persecution of Christians was exaggerated with a shrug. They say it was common knowledge in the academic world.

“There weren’t that many Christians who were persecuted,” says Gail O’Day, dean of the Wake Forest University School of Divinity in North Carolina. “When you actually read the Roman historical records, the Christians just weren’t that important to them. Most Christians just got along with empire.”

When Roman persecution did occur, though, it was vicious. The Emperor Nero covered fully conscious Christians with wax and used them as human torches. Other Christians were skinned alive and covered with salt, while others were slowly roasted above a pit until they died.

Perpetua’s passion

One of the most famous martyrs was Perpetua.

She lived in Carthage in North Africa (modern-day Tunisia) and was arrested in March 203 with four others as they prepared for baptism. The Roman Emperor Septimius Severus had decreed that any new conversion to Christianity would result in death.

History remembers Perpetua because she kept a diary during her imprisonment. It’s called "The Passion of Perpetua and Felicity" (Felicity was a slave girl arrested with Perpetua). It’s the oldest-surviving document from a Christian woman. The emotion in the diary is almost unbearable. Perpetua describes the pain of leaving her infant son, who she was still nursing. She describes a prison visit from her weeping father, who kissed her hands while trying to get her to renounce her faith.

Perpetua's father visited her in prison, begging her to think of him and renounce her faith.

A narrator picks up the story in the diary after Perpetua was sent to her death. He says in the diary that Perpetua’s faith was so inspiring it caused the prison’s warden, a man called Pudens, to convert. The narrator also describes Perpetua's death.

While she was imprisoned, Perpetua says God gave her visions to reassure her. After one, she wrote:

“I understood that I should fight, not with beasts but against the devil. But I knew that mine was the victory.”

You can’t discount the power of such stories, even if persecution “wasn’t extremely common,” says Litfin, the Moody Bible Institute professor.

Persecution was central to the rise of the early church, he says.

“How many people in your church would have to be pulled out and executed and tormented for it not to have a tremendous effect for many years on your memory and self-perception,” Litfin says. “The early Christians are not foisting a narrative out of the blue about being matyrs.”

The early Christians' secret weapon

Other scholars say it wasn't simply persecution that helped the church grow. Instead, they say, Christians had a secret weapon.

The martyrs may have gotten all the press, but it was ordinary Christians who got it done by the way they treated friends and strangers.

Life in ancient Rome was brutal and nasty, says Rodney Stark, author of "The Triumph of Christianity." Stark’s well-regarded book gives one of the most detailed descriptions of the early church and ancient Rome.

Forget those antiseptic portraits of Roman cities you see in biblical moves such as “The Robe.” Roman cities were overcrowded, raw sewage ran in the streets, people locked their doors at night for fear of being robbed and plagues were rampant. Soap had not yet been invented, Stark says.

“The stink of the cities in the summertime must have been astounding,” Stark says. “You would have smelled a city miles before you got to it.”

Christians stood out because they created a “miniature welfare state" to help the less fortunate, Stark says. They took in infant girls routinely left for dead by their parents. They risked their lives to tend the sick when plagues hit and others fled in terror. They gave positions of leadership to women when many women had no rights, and girls as young as 12 were often married off to middle-aged men, he says.

Ordinary Romans might have thought Christians were odd but liked having them for neighbors, Stark says.

“If people had really been against them, I don’t think they would have grown like they did,” Stark says.

Christianity became so popular that when Rome did unleash one of its sporadic waves of persecutions, the empire couldn’t stop the church’s momentum, Stark says.

“If you knocked off a bishop, there were 20 guys waiting to be bishop,” Stark says

Christian belonging, not blood, is what drew many people, another scholar says.

The Easter story of a risen savior wasn’t distinctive in Rome’s competitive religious marketplace. Dying for one’s beliefs wasn’t considered heroic; it was expected in the Roman world, says Selina O' Grady, author of "And Man Created God: A History of the World at the Time of Jesus."

The early church, though, was radically inclusive. First-century Rome was undergoing globalization. The peace of Rome had made travel easier. People left homes and tribal ties for Rome. The empire was filled with rootless and excluded people: immigrants, traders, slaves.

The Christian message offered guidelines for living in this strange new world, she says.

“Its universal message, its proclamation of equality, unconditional love, offered everyone in the Roman Empire a new family, a new community, and a way to live,” O’Grady says.

Roman rulers eventually found reasons to support the church, she says.

The Christian message of obeying earthly masters “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and unto God what is God's" reduced the potential for social unrest, O’Grady says.

“Christianity told the poor and lowly that their status was noble and that there would be recompense in the afterlife,” O’Grady says. “It was a wonderful recipe for creating good, obedient Roman subjects.”

A turning point for the early church was the conversion of Constantine. Scholars still debate Constantine’s motive. By that time the empire was rife with division, and Christians had become a major political bloc with members in the highest reaches of Roman society, says Stark, the sociologist.

“Constantine was interested so much in church affairs for the rest of his life, but I don’t think there’s a reason to not think he was a sincere Christian,” Stark says. “But he was also an egomaniac and an emperor.”

The growth of Christianity was too complex to be attributed to any one factor whether it be Constantine, persecution or Christianity's message of compassion and inclusion, Stark says.

“I don’t think there was a primary reason,” he says. “It was a collection of things. It was all part of a package.”

Wrapped in that package, though, were the persecution stories of people such as Perpetua.

Today, churches have been named after Perpetua; films and graphic novels have been made about her life. She is considered a saint.

Her words still inspire. People still read her diary. There’s probably a Christian somewhere in the world now facing danger who is taking courage from Perpetua’s ordeal.

One passage in Perpetua’s diary is particularly luminous.

Perpetua stopped keeping her diary just before she was sent into the arena. No one knows for sure what she felt when she faced her moment of death, but she did write what she expected to see afterward.

She wrote that God gave her a reassuring vision while in prison. In the vision, she saw a great bronze ladder ascending to heaven. At the foot of the ladder was a great serpent surrounded by swords and knives.

Perpetua said she ignored the serpent and climbed the ladder. When she arrived at the top, she saw a great garden and a white-haired man in shepherd’s clothing milking a sheep. He was flanked by thousands of others Christians dressed in white.

“And he raised his head and beheld me and said to me: Welcome child.”

The man gave Perpetua curds from the milk of the sheep, and she said it tasted sweet.

She then wrote:

“And I took it with joined hands and ate it up: and all that stood around said, Amen.”

Centuries later, millions of people who look to Perpetua are still saying amen.

- CNN Writer

Filed under: Christianity • Easter • Faith • History • Jesus

soundoff (6,965 Responses)
  1. deep blue

    How dare Dr. Moss claim that Christianity spread through good works of wonderful Christians! They are devilishly trying to portray early Christians as advocates for those who can't help themselves. It is a continuing effort from the anti-Christian CNN,

    March 31, 2013 at 12:04 pm |
  2. P. R.

    Wow. For a group of people with an omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent deity on their side, everyone sure does seem really defensive and fearful. Gee, I wonder why?

    CNN posts PRO-Xtian articles and op-ed pieces all the time. Get your undies out of their wad and just enjoy your big Easter Day, K?

    March 31, 2013 at 12:04 pm |
  3. DoctorKnow

    Christians are trying to save your soul from eternal persecution. At least appreciate the sentiment.

    March 31, 2013 at 12:04 pm |
    • Edweird69

      First off, the human "soul" is a human construct. So...no, I do not appreciate the sentiment. It is blatant stupidity, and stupidity needs crushed.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:06 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magic Underwear

      The sentiment?? Really??? The sentiment is, accept the rubbish that I've accepted, or you will burn in hell forever, and I'm okay with that!

      Nice sentiment!

      How about the sentiment of, I'm not going to have any part of this ignorant hateful sect, and neither should you.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:08 pm |
    • DoctorKnow

      Attack of the 50 Foot Magic Underwear, You deserve hell. It is a nice sentiment to stop you from getting the eternal damnation you deserve. Jesus is not threatening you if you do not accept Him. He is saying you are already condemned. Repent now because you do not know when you will die. Knowing that hell exist after you die is too late. Remember this phrase:"too late."

      Do not say "no one told me." I just told you. Repent and avoid the worst case scenario. There is no cost for repenting.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Why should it be "too late"? Why should a loving god punish anyone for not believing in the existence of an invisible being that never bothers to show itself in any way, shape, or form? Why does such a being require worship and faith from its own creation, which it made imperfectly?

      March 31, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
    • DoctorKnow

      Edweird69, You do not know that the soul is human construct. You guessed. You would try not to guess on a math test and you would put great effort into studying for it. But you put no effort into where you will spend eternity. That is not a good idea.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
    • DoctorKnow

      The real Tom, You will not be put in hell for not believing in the existence of God. Not believing in something without good reason is unwise. You need to listen very carefully and not be foolish. You are already condemned. You already sinned. If God allowed sin into heaven, it would no longer be heaven. You will not enter heaven because you are sinful. Jesus Christ washes away the sin and cleans you. But the gift of redemption is only available while you are alive. You will have all eternity to feel regret if you do not accept Jesus Christ. Do it today for tomorrow may be "too late."

      March 31, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
    • Fire And Brimstone

      DoctorKnow

      Attack of the 50 Foot Magic Underwear, You deserve hell.

      Typical Christian.

      April 1, 2013 at 9:18 am |
  4. Blessed One

    and it was written in the good book, Ralph, how can I miss you if you won't go away?

    March 31, 2013 at 12:03 pm |
  5. Doug

    The article? It was fine, kinda vanilla, actually. No surprise in the academic world, as the authors themselves state, and frankly not that surprising to anyone who understands anything about people.

    No, what I love is the 20+ pages of vitriol from atheist trolls, who claim that all Christians are simultaneously both devious egomaniacs intent on forcing their will on an innocent world populace and fools and sheep with no will of their own. Then, in the course of these multiple attacks, they also argue that Christians' claims of persecution are completely feigned, and that Christians (all 2 billion of us) are all mean-spirited, intolerant, and discourteous.

    You can't buy that kind of irony.

    March 31, 2013 at 12:03 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Why are you reading the comments, then?

      March 31, 2013 at 12:06 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      Doug, So you're telling us that christians in the USA are not pushing to have their religion posted on public buildings, injected in to public gatherings, and taught as science in our schools?

      March 31, 2013 at 12:10 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      Not to mention their views on marriage, contraception, and abortion to form our laws.

      But apart from that you're all pretty easy-going.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
    • visitor

      Well, I can see in 2000 years, academics looking back at the "great persecution of Christians" and finding that the great persecutions of the early part of the third millennium AD were actually blog comments by anonymous people.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
    • Fire And Brimstone

      If i nailed you to a cross, would you feel better ?

      April 1, 2013 at 9:19 am |
  6. jobseeker

    Wow! Moss sounds like her next book will be "The Holocost: Did It Really Happen?" "So a few Jews were ill treated. Overall, it wasn't that bad."....Moss needs a history book and a visit to the catacombs of Rome. And you use your ignorant contempt of Christianity to downplay the horrific persecution to sell your book ON EASTER? You're like gum stuck to my shoe!

    March 31, 2013 at 12:01 pm |
    • SixDegrees

      I guess actually reading the article was too hard for you?

      March 31, 2013 at 12:03 pm |
    • Seyedibar

      The christians persecuted and were persecuted. They butchered and tortured a good deal more people than they ever lost themselves. I don't see why it's important to legitimize the feelings of people still mired in caveman religions.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:03 pm |
    • bethany

      no wonder your still seeking a job

      March 31, 2013 at 12:07 pm |
  7. Vic

    !!! SALVATION of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ !!!

    Adam brought sin into the world. With sin came death and separation from God. Jesus Christ took away the sin of the world and brought us eternal life and reconciliation with God the Father.

    Romans 5:12-21
    "12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned— 13 for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.

    15 But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. 16 The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification. 17 For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.

    18 So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. 19 For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous. 20 The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."

    Jesus Christ spoke of that the Law would be binding until it is accomplished. That's why he accomplished it for us for no human can accomplish it!

    The Lord Jesus Christ fulfilled the Law on our behalf, died on the Holy Cross for the remission of our sins (became sin and curse for us) descended to hell and defeated death (keys of which were held by Satan,) rose from the dead on the third day bringing us eternal life and reconciliation with God the Father, then ascended to Heaven promising us the Holy Spirit and preparing the place for us.

    1 Corinthians 15:22
    "22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive."

    Fulfillment of the Law

    Matthew 5:17,18
    “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished."

    John 17:4
    "4 I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do."

    Hebrews 9:25,26
    "25 nor was it that He would offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the holy place year by year with blood that is not his own. 26 Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself."

    Becoming Sin

    2 Corinthians 5:21
    "21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him."

    Becoming Curse

    Galatians 3:13
    "13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”—"

    Dying on the Cross & Deafeating Death

    John 19:30
    "Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit."

    Romans 6:9
    "9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him."

    2 Timothy 1:10
    "10 but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,"

    Hebrews 2:14,15
    "14 Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives."

    Revelation 1:18
    "18 and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades."

    Rising on the Third Day

    Matthew 12:40
    "40 for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth."

    1 Corinthians 15:4
    "4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:"

    Reconciliation

    Romans 5:10,11
    "10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 11 And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation."

    2 Corinthians 5:18
    "18 Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation,"

    Ascension into Heaven & Preparing the Place for us

    Luke 24:50,51
    "50 And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. 51 While He was blessing them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven."

    John 14:3
    "3 If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also."

    Acts 1:9
    "9 And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight."

    His work was Done!

    When someone finishes his/her work they sit down. After the Lord Jesus Christ finished His work, He sat down at the right hand of God the Father!

    John 17:4
    "4 I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do."

    John 19:30
    "Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit."

    Mark 16:19
    "So then, when the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God."

    Justification & Salvation

    Romans 3:28
    "28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law."

    Romans 8:1,2
    "8 Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death."

    Romans 10:4
    "For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes."

    Galatians 2:16
    "16 nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified."

    Ephesians 1:7
    "7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace"

    Ephesians 2:8,9
    "8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast."

    Acts 13:39
    "39 and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses."

    [All above Scripture is from the New American Standard Bible (NASB)]

    http://www.biblegateway.com

    March 31, 2013 at 12:00 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magic Underwear

      Very impressive. You can cut and paste from a web page.

      So what?

      March 31, 2013 at 12:01 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      Vic, Given that the creation myth has been proven incorrect and very little else in the bible is confirmed to be accurate, why do you believe any of it? You trust science enough to use the internet, drive, fly, use a cell phone , watch satellite TV, etc. I doubt that you think 13 is unlucky or black cats or walking under ladders so why believe in other ancient superstitions?

      March 31, 2013 at 12:06 pm |
    • Melissa

      You can't use the bible to prove the bible. Sorry, it doesn't work that way.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
    • Charles Bado

      How ponderous! The Bible is full of texts that Christians know of but omit from their thinking. For example women having periods were to be locked away for 7 days because she was unclean. Your daughters could be sold away as slaves. Cutting your beard and hair was a grievous sin and so on.

      Its been years since I was familiar with about a dozen texts that clearly show Christians are hypocritical about the Bible. I have no hate towards Christians but when they use the Bible as a weapon....they lose all credibility in my eyes.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
  8. Aji Joe

    This is a part of continuing effort from the anti Christians in CNN.. This is another effort from Satan trying to push his agenda through its people in CNN and the author like this one. But CNN was not the one to do these things first- we have seen these kinds of efforts throughout the history from Devil... Beware of the anti Christians in CNN folks...

    March 31, 2013 at 11:59 am |
    • SixDegrees

      Rubbish.

      Hail, Satan!

      March 31, 2013 at 12:00 pm |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magic Underwear

      I like Santa.

      Ohhh, Satan!

      March 31, 2013 at 12:02 pm |
    • Seyedibar

      LOL, you believe in devils. I'm not sure whether that's cute or just sad.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:05 pm |
  9. splassher6

    CNN's continued war on Christians...

    March 31, 2013 at 11:59 am |
    • The real Tom

      How many different names are you going to use to post the same tripe?

      March 31, 2013 at 12:00 pm |
    • Fire And Brimstone

      No war.
      If there was a war you would all be dead.

      April 1, 2013 at 9:22 am |
  10. MandraModdle

    I hate articles like these. Whatever religion you believe in, keep believing in it. Don't let articles like this try and dissuade you otherwise. Happy Easter, y'all!

    March 31, 2013 at 11:59 am |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magic Underwear

      Sage advice. Keep your mind closed tight as a steel trap. Ignorance is to be treasured.

      You're like a frightened little child who doesn't want to grow up and accept that Santa isn't real.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:04 pm |
  11. Ron Rivera

    CNN is a joke.

    March 31, 2013 at 11:59 am |
    • Fire And Brimstone

      Are you the punch line ?

      April 1, 2013 at 9:22 am |
  12. Trevor Ragan

    CNN thriving on creating disharmony....who would have thunk? Oh wait, anyone with a brain. It is interesting how many "enlightened" people (atheist, Christian, or otherwise) have to demean and insult people who don't share their beliefs.

    March 31, 2013 at 11:58 am |
  13. Ken Kinn

    What does CNN, Bill Maher, and Jim Carey have in common ? All three attack christianity but would never dare attack jews or muslims. Best to stay in the shallow end of the pool ( where it's safe ) and avoid the deep end, I suppose.

    March 31, 2013 at 11:58 am |
    • SixDegrees

      "WAAAA! I'm being persecuted!"

      March 31, 2013 at 12:01 pm |
    • Akira

      Can you please indicate where CNN is attacking Christianity? Thanks.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:01 pm |
    • Fire And Brimstone

      Another Christian who cant read.
      Seems to be an awful lot of them.
      Try self flogging, maybe you will feel better.

      April 1, 2013 at 9:31 am |
  14. Germanicus

    Another thoughtless article by another young liberal 'Professor' whose life experiences and knowledge of this world are betrayed by her youth. Christians were killed for their beliefs – oral tradition being a source of this before the words were annotated in writing (Ancient Greek).

    March 31, 2013 at 11:58 am |
    • Akira

      John Blake wrote the article.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:04 pm |
  15. steve

    I say this as the biggest fiscal Conservative in the league, grow up Christians..This is a bunch of nonsense and you sincerely need to take a look in the mirror and ask yourself how f ing stupid you are. Read the bible and you will never walk into a church again.

    March 31, 2013 at 11:58 am |
    • Trevor Ragan

      Well steve, you want to convince anyone you have something worth saying? trying using intelligence to look at what your are saying instead of profanity to "bully" your perspective onto others.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:04 pm |
    • Bob Bales

      This is clearly not true, since today millions of people who have read the Bible walked into churches.

      March 31, 2013 at 2:10 pm |
  16. Lord Zedd

    Aw, poor babies. Try being anything but christian today!

    March 31, 2013 at 11:57 am |
    • P. R.

      OK. I am an atheist and it is just a nice March Sunday. Now what?

      March 31, 2013 at 12:02 pm |
  17. Smarg

    Christianity in America today is mocked, ridiculed, and defiled by, mainly, Obama voters and the media lapdogs like CNN. Persecution, plain and simple.

    Aren't liberals wonderful people?

    March 31, 2013 at 11:56 am |
    • steve

      Im at the opposite end of being a liberal, further right than the GOP has been in 50 years, and can say proudly christians deserve to be mocked, you believe in talking snakes and guys living in whales stomachs.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:00 pm |
    • Akira

      Many American Christians do a wonderful job of defiling themselves.
      And yes. Most liberals ARE wonderful people.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
    • visitor

      So you didn't like the story of the martyr and the good works of Christians? What is wrong with you?

      March 31, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
    • Bob Bales

      Steve: Are you saying that people deserve to be mocked because you disagree with them?

      March 31, 2013 at 2:13 pm |
    • redzoa

      @Bob Bales – I believe he's effectively restating what Jefferson suggested: "Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions."

      March 31, 2013 at 2:25 pm |
  18. Ken Kinn

    Just another CNN piece to attack christians. Guess that's why their ratings are in the toilet. Happy Easter.

    March 31, 2013 at 11:56 am |
    • nparadise37

      Gee, I thought it was well-thought out, informative and even uplifting. Even as a devout Christian I'd never heard the story of Perpetua. It brought tears to my eyes and inspired me.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
  19. Aji Joe

    This is a part of continuing effort from the anti Christians in CNN.. This is another effort from Satan trying to push his agenda through its people in CNN and the author like this one. But CNN was not the one to do thse things first- we have seen these kinds of efforts throughout the history from Devil... Beware of the anti Christians in CNN folks

    March 31, 2013 at 11:56 am |
  20. svann

    I never heard of the idea that christianity grew because of persecution so I think that is kind of a strawman.

    However to believe that a new growing religion did not inspire persecution is absurd. Even in modern times new religions that might compete with established order are typically under threat of persecution. See Falun Gong in China. See the Catholic vs Protestant wars. You have to shut your eyes and close both ears to not see it.

    March 31, 2013 at 11:54 am |
    • Obvious

      New cults sprang up all the time in the roman world without incidence. It was actually a quite tolerant religious environment.

      March 31, 2013 at 12:08 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.