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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. the colosseum is full

    one only need look at the Church ih China today and it's growth under Communist persecution to get a mirror image of what it was like for first through third century Christian's as well as Revelation 6:9-11 then 14-17 nine through elven are the martyrs and 14 through 17 is a glimpse of judgment for men of war ! 🙂 🙂 🙂
    the comparison is astounding..

    April 10, 2013 at 3:51 pm |
  2. james hotz

    The Romans ruled by fear, they were barbrians, had no compassion for human life. 75% of the population were slaves, much like the society we live in today, with police and taxes.

    April 10, 2013 at 3:45 pm |
  3. Stephen Hawking is an Idiot

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b61wsBdqrKM&w=640&h=360]

    April 10, 2013 at 2:20 pm |
  4. faith

    persecution comes in many forms.

    name calling

    name calling the one you love

    ignoring someone

    gossiping

    sabotaging

    lying about someone

    cheating

    setting someone up

    physical forms

    financial

    social

    April 10, 2013 at 12:48 am |
    • Steve

      That's being a little broad, don't you think? If you're implying all those things happen to Christians just because they're Christians and therefore they're being persecuted, that's a pretty weak argument; those types of things happen to everybody.

      April 11, 2013 at 9:57 am |
  5. Fletcher

    John, did you get anyone to read this before you published it? Start with Perpetua, throw in a part about a book that takes pot shots at the GOP (an easy enough target), Refute what was just written, add some questionable "readers digest" history, then end back with Perpetua? Poorly written, poorly researched.
    In the words of Diodochas of Photike (400-486CE) "there is nothing more miserable than a Godless mind philosophizing about God.

    April 9, 2013 at 7:59 pm |
    • Sharon

      Amen!

      April 10, 2013 at 8:28 am |
    • sam stone

      there is always those who purport to speak for god. they are always amusing

      April 10, 2013 at 11:53 am |
    • laurams234

      This is well said. I don't think the article even mentions how the Jews wanted the Christians eliminated, and how they used their power to influence the Romans. It just offhandedly remarks that the Romans didn't really have a reason to persecute Christans - they liked them. Then what was the Coliseum for? Many Christians were brought there to be killed, not just Perpetua. I can't believe Prof. Moss dares to say there are only 6 reliable accounts of Christian martyrs, because the Romans kept good records. She must have a different definition of 'martyr' or 'reliable' than I do.

      April 10, 2013 at 5:08 pm |
    • laurams234

      Not to mention that she accuses the early church of lying for the sake of unity. The early Christians thought it was a serious sin to lie, and it's unlikely they would publicly go against their faith by lying.

      April 10, 2013 at 5:10 pm |
  6. edmundburkeson

    The arguments from Salisbury and Moss are misguided. I don't think they understand early Christianity even a little bit. they certainly don't know history. For even allowing this material to be printed is unethical. Doesn't anyone have scholarly standards anymore? they should try researching first before coming to a conclusion. I think they begin with cultural assumptions of the 21st century and try, catastrophically, to project them into the past.

    April 9, 2013 at 7:51 pm |
  7. dee

    I don't need to know or understand any of this. It matters not how many Christians were tortured, it just matters that they were.

    April 9, 2013 at 4:38 pm |
    • sam stone

      and they continue to play the victim

      April 10, 2013 at 11:55 am |
    • Christians torture

      And how many people have christians tortured in the past 2000 years?
      Hints: witch burnings, inquisition, child buggering

      April 12, 2013 at 2:55 pm |
  8. Earl

    May all be informed of the greatest Evidence that will prove that the religions had deceived humanity about Jesus.

    The following is an short overview from the Bible revelations of Teacher Eraño Evangelista in the link:
    http://www.thename.ph/thename/revelations/jesusreal-en.html

    There is a Word of God about Jesus-the descendant/offspring of King David that we should know:
    2 Samuel 7:12-14 (NIV)
    12 When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be his father, and he will be my son. WHEN HE DOES WRONG, I WILL PUNISH HIM WITH A ROD WIELDED BY MEN, WITH FLOGGINGS INFLICTED BY HUMAN HANDS

    In the said verses: 2 Samuel 7:12-14 – we can read that God speaks of a coming offspring of David and not a literal "son of God" as what the religions preach.

    Is it really true that Jesus was a descendant of David?
    …to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary. Luke 1:27 (NIV)
    Jesus' true father is Joseph who belongs to the house of David. So if we are to believe the teaching of the religions that Jesus is the “son of God,” then it should be Mary who should belong to the house of David.
    And in:
    You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.
    Luke 1:31 (NIV)
    And who was Jesus' father?
    He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David. Luke 1:32 (NIV)
    "will be called" – As you have read it, Jesus was only a son or a descendant of David not a real son of God;" he was just a man.

    Is it true that Jesus is a son of David? Let us read in:
    A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham- Matt 1:1(NIV)
    Now we can see that the prophecy in 2 Sam7:12-14 about a coming descendant of David and not a son of God has been fulfilled.
    Considering the prophecy in II Samuel 7:12-14 that if the descendant of David commits a wrong or an iniquity, he will be punished with the rod of men. Was Jesus-the descendant of King David punished by the rod and floggings of men?

    All the people answered, "Let his blood be on us and on our children!" Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified. Matthew 27:25-26 (NIV)
    Indeed, Jesus was flogged by men which when we read again what God stated in the prophecy in 2 Sam 7:14: “I will be his father, and he will be my son. WHEN HE DOES WRONG, I WILL PUNISH HIM WITH A ROD WIELDED BY MEN, WITH FLOGGINGS INFLICTED BY HUMAN HANDS”
    We can discover for ourselves that based on what God said in the prophecy that the real reason why He allowed Jesus -the descendant of king David to be beaten by men was not for our sins but for his (Jesus) own wrongdoing.

    It appears now that the Apostles-the writers of the New Testament who claimed that Jesus was sent by God to be beaten for our sins were hiding from us what really happened to Jesus. Worse than that, the apostles made us worship Jesus -who in reality was punished by God for his own wrongdoing!

    The pastors would say it was King Solomon who was prophesied in 2 Samuel 7:12-14 but he wasn't flogged by men when he committed sin against God. It was Jesus -the offspring of David – who was flogged and beaten by the rod of men. Isaiah 53 was never a prophecy about Jesus but a recollection of what Moses did, for Moses was the man to whom God revealed His Arm of Power(Exo.32:11) Read this link: http://www.thename.ph/thename/revelations/suffvant-en.html.

    To know what wrongdoings Jesus had done which the apostles had hidden from us- kindly read this link: http://www.thename.ph/thename/revelations/greatestdeception-en.htm

    What you are reading now about Jesus as only a son of David who was punished by God by the floggings of men and not a son of God is what Jesus wants all of us to know about him as this is his testimony in Revelation 22:16

    “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.”
    Revelation 22:16 (NIV)

    Jesus said in Revelation 22:16 that he has sent an "angel" or a messenger who will testify or show to us that he is only a root and offspring of David and the bright morning star- When Jesus said “he is a root and offspring of David,” this means he is not a literal son of God; but only an offspring or descendant of David. Jesus also said he is the "bright morning star" which means he was the man described in Isaiah 14:9-20 as the man whom the whole world will shockingly know as one who was punished by God for claiming to be god (Isa.14:12-16)

    As to why Jesus said that he was the bright morning star in Rev.22:16 kindly read this link: http://www.thename.ph/thename/testimony/jes10-en.html

    This testimony about Jesus as only a son of David (2 Samuel 7:12-14 NIV) who was punished by God with the floggings of men for claiming to be god thus becoming the “bright morning star” (Isa.14:9-20) was revealed through the Bible by Maestro Evangelista in http://www.thename.ph which proves he is the "angel" or messenger sent by Jesus to deliver his testimony or HIS ADMISSION that he is not a son of God and as the "bright morning star "to all churches (or believers of Jesus) thus nullifying the “antichrist” lie made by the apostle John.

    Please be informed that the writer of the book of Revelation is not the apostle but a prophet whose name is also “John.”

    I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing them to me. But he said to me, “Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers the prophets and of all who keep the words of this book. Worship God!”

    Revelation 22:8-9 (NIV)

    “your brothers the prophets “-The book was written by John of Patmos, who was also a prophet of God. If the apostles had testified the truth about Jesus and his works then why did Jesus say in Rev.22:16 that he has sent an “angel” or messenger who will TESTIFY about him (Jesus) that he is the “root and offspring of David” and the “Bright morning star?”
    It only clarifies that what the apostles had written and testified about Jesus as Son of God, as God, and as one who had died for the sins of mankind, who was raised to life and will return literally in this world in their writings ARE ALL FALSE TESTIMONIES about Jesus, which means the apostles had presented to us a false ‘Jesus’, for Jesus still says in Rev.22:16 that he will send an ‘angel’ or messenger to testify about him (Jesus).

    Is it true that the apostles are false witnesses?

    I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance.
    I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have
    tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false.
    Revelation 2:2 (NIV)

    Maestro Evangelista says: If Jesus had successfully fulfilled his mission from God as written in the prophecy then there would be no need for a book of Revelation. Since he failed his mission, was deceived by Satan and later followed Satan and taught its teachings, the book of Revelation has to be written so that the deception of Jesus and his apostles may be exposed!

    Disastrous events will continue to happen and even worsen as long as the world calls on the name of 'Jesus " and on the names (Yahweh, Jehovah, YHWH, Allah etc) taught by the religions and not on the true name of God in the Bible (that Jesus failed to make known) that was revealed by Teacher Evangelista in http://www.thename.ph

    Whether you choose to open your mind to accept the said Bible revelations in the said website or not is not important- what is important is that you were informed.
    Thank you.

    April 9, 2013 at 2:20 pm |
    • ramon agudelo

      hi . i never hered her name before , do you ever hered in ww2 the name of the people with the purple trangle ? it wasnt only with the Romans . thank you.

      April 9, 2013 at 4:31 pm |
    • _

      This is filth, disgusting filth.

      April 9, 2013 at 4:52 pm |
  9. Tbay

    sorry, but this author is simply wrong. Acording to Tacitus, Nero ordered Christians to be thrown to dogs, while others were crucified or burned to serve as lights.
    Tacitus also said that Tiberius also executed anyone who followed "Christus".
    Almost all of the original apostles were executed or died in prison.
    You see, the problem was that the first century christians didn't fight for their country or for Rome. They also refused to acknoweldge that the emperor was a god or get involved in politics. "They are no part of the world" as Jesus said.
    Maybe Ms Moss doesn't have the names of the people, but that isn't suprising... Rome dealt with so many troublemakers, that they didn't really keep track of that kind of thing. And it's not like anyone would be sitting next to someone about to be martyred that would be able to write down their story. Anyone sitting next to a martyr was probably going to be the lions second course.
    Sadly, by the time Constantine rolled around, Christians were part of the world. They were no longer loving or hospitible and many of the traits that people used to identify a Christian in the first century were gone.

    April 9, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
    • Burt Way

      You beat me to it. Tacitus was the greatest Roman Historian, certainly no Christian, clearly states there was such persecution. As for exageration, it seems to be an inherent aspect of human nature to see the good in you own side.

      April 9, 2013 at 1:53 pm |
  10. faith

    "R.M. Goodswell
    Christians would have you believe that they were singled out by the Romans....other cultures and peoples faired poorly when encountering the empire....heh...even being roman didn't buy you a pass sometimes in ancient rome....if they felt they needed fresh bodies for the arena, you became fodder.
    Historically, Christians did the lion's share of the persecuting, not the other way around." lol

    what an idiot

    But then fabricating miracles, artifacts, saints, stories of hardship and trials are as easy as breathing for the religious.

    April 8, 2013 at 8:05 pm |
  11. roncram

    Does she deny the Holocaust too? This is pretty silly. Christians were persecuted from the 1st to 3rd centuries. The persecutions were not all from the Roman government. Certain emperors persecuted Christians more than others so the persecutions came in waves, but the facts surrounding the persecutions are well-established. The important issue is the closest friends of Jesus Christ died as martyrs. This is one of the strongest supports for the resurrection because it is unique in human history. At no other time as a group of men been willing to suffer and die because they would not stop talking of their friend who rose from the dead. Amazing.

    April 8, 2013 at 9:07 am |
    • Saraswati

      She didn't deny persecution, just pointed out it was exagerrated.

      April 8, 2013 at 9:11 am |
    • Steve

      "The important issue is the closest friends of Jesus Christ died as martyrs."

      I'm so sick of this tired old claim. There is no more support for this claim than for so many other Christian claims.

      April 8, 2013 at 10:24 am |
    • Live4Him

      @Saraswati : She didn't deny persecution, just pointed out it was exagerrated.

      Not, they ALLEGED that it was exagerrated. No evidence was provided to support such a claim. In fact, the article provided the reverse – evidence that Christians were periodically systematically persecuted. It makes one wonder what passes for critical thinking skills today.

      April 8, 2013 at 10:37 am |
    • John Brown

      Steve, I agree with you completely. There's no extra-Biblical evidence any of the apostles even lived, let alone how they died. The Christians tend to support one legend with another (although that's not unique to Christianity).

      April 8, 2013 at 10:41 am |
    • Live4Him

      @John Brown : There's no extra-Biblical evidence any of the apostles even lived

      The James ossuary is evidence of the disciple James. And while it was deemed a "fake", the reasoning for that declaration should make one question that declaration. For example, the materials committee determined that the first part (i.e. "James, son of Joseph") was fake, while the paleographical (i.e. writing) committee deemed that the latter part (i.e. "brother of Jesus") was fake. And one committee member (an expert on writing) deemed that none of it was fake, but subsequently gave into peer pressure to declare it a fake. These facts should make any reasonable person question the findings.

      April 8, 2013 at 10:54 am |
    • The real Tom

      Lie4ever, the author responded to your accusation, and you had nothing with which to counter.

      April 8, 2013 at 10:56 am |
    • Maggie May

      Live4Him – The rest of the world has found the ossuary to be a fraud–the antiquities dealer and others involved were arrested for forging it and other items. If you want to cling to it as evidence, be my guest. At any rate, you haven't addressed how anyone knows how the apostles died, apart from Christian legend.

      April 8, 2013 at 11:07 am |
    • The real Tom

      Watch out, Maggie. Lie4Ever will put you on its Famous Lie4Ever Ignore List!

      April 8, 2013 at 11:31 am |
    • Rick

      roncram
      Did you ever consider that the closest friends of Jesus Christ died as "martyrs" not because of Christian beliefs, per se, but because Jesus was seen as a rabble rouser and so were his close followers?

      April 8, 2013 at 11:38 am |
    • sam stone

      live4him: it was alleged to have been exaggerated, as jesus was alleged to have risen from the dead. i don't know that anyone can PROVE any story from back then to be true of false

      April 8, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
    • Kilto

      Atheists back at it again I see. What do Atheists believe in? Nothing....I think. Their ancestors were ninja turtles and monkey men and women.

      April 8, 2013 at 3:58 pm |
    • Science

      L4H soon...............................ethics will beat it up

      The Ethics of Resurrecting Extinct Species

      Apr. 8, 2013 — At some point, scientists may be able to bring back extinct animals, and perhaps early humans, raising questions of ethics and environmental disruption.

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130408165955.htm

      April 9, 2013 at 7:23 am |
    • Science

      L4H da what ?

      Hey Salero21 and Vic read you were looking for this !................ Now the question is can you read ?

      Atheist Prof. Peter Higgs: Stop calling Higgs boson the ‘God particle’

      Professor Peter Higgs said recently that there is no God and so people should stop referring to the theoretical partial that
      bears his name as the “God particle.”

      http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/04/08/atheist-prof-peter-higgs-stop-calling-higgs-bosen-the-god-particle/

      April 10, 2013 at 7:16 pm |
    • Science

      Hey L4H I know I am on the list.......................but maybe you need to delete god from your list and try reality ?

      April 11, 2013 at 7:01 am |
    • Saraswati

      @L4H,

      The discussion in the article is based on information in her book.

      April 11, 2013 at 7:09 am |
    • Science

      Or read this L4H how interesting\

      Scientists Find Genes Linked to Human Neurological Disorders in Sea Lamprey Genome

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130224142915.htm

      Peace

      Facts work .

      April 12, 2013 at 11:17 am |
  12. Mike

    After reading this article I realized that I have visited the arena where Perpetua died. I worked in Tunisia and visited the arena in Carthage as well as the coliseum in El Jem.

    April 7, 2013 at 8:26 pm |
  13. Just Call Me Lucifer

    Maybe if we persecute enough christians christ will come back.... and monkeys will fly out of my butt. Its all possible in christ, ain't it?

    April 7, 2013 at 6:54 pm |
  14. gango

    I wonder if Ms Moss believes in the Holocaust?

    April 7, 2013 at 3:49 pm |
  15. John3:16

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E-4eJ9cxVe0&w=640&h=360]

    April 7, 2013 at 3:46 pm |
  16. Flung

    Take every christian, every jew, every muslim, every religious nut and turn them into fertilizer. It's what they worship after all.

    April 7, 2013 at 2:21 pm |
  17. Kilto

    If you want proof ...read a Bible...Stop wasting my time!! I don't have to prove anything to an idiot. You'll just be right then would you not??

    April 7, 2013 at 1:14 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      Your bible proves nothing...and trying to use the bible to prove the bible is a fools errand.

      April 7, 2013 at 1:17 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Who asked you to come here? If you're wasting time, it's because you chose to post misspelled drivel on an anonymous board.

      Leave. Take your sausage and find another hole.

      April 7, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
    • sam stone

      if you want to prove spiderman real, read a comic book

      April 8, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
  18. Kilto

    There is no resentment here. No, all I see is just a bunch of idiots who claim to be intelligent when they really are not!

    April 7, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
    • clarity

      Wow – okee dokee. Well why don't you try to prove that, Mr. Wee Sausage.

      April 7, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
    • The real Tom

      You mean like someone who posted about the big band theory?

      April 7, 2013 at 1:46 pm |
  19. Kilto

    Lol...That's all you Atheists and Agnostics do anyway...you play and say things like you have something between your two ears when if fact its useless garbage. The real Tom is an idiot and not funny at all. Your a bunch of morons who have nothing to back up your claims and have to rely on belittling people based on their beliefs. I laugh at you idiots!!!!

    April 7, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
    • clarity

      OK – now this really does sound like Salero21 – may as well bring out the money-business you idiot.

      In any event, do you have anything you'd like to discuss? Anything intelligent to add to a conversation? If you dare?

      April 7, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      bethany
      The atheists are not the ones making outlandish claims like "god exists" or God created himself on earth, then killed himself and the resurrected himself.

      We do not make these sorts of claims. Prove your religious claims have any merit.

      April 7, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
    • clarity

      ( monkey, not money )

      April 7, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
    • Dilto

      I love the Christian resentment against intelligence.

      April 7, 2013 at 12:53 pm |
    • tallulah13

      You may laugh at atheists, Kilto, but this atheist yawns at you. You really must have a dull life if your big excitement for the day is trolling internet blogs.

      April 7, 2013 at 2:30 pm |
    • sam stone

      kilto: jeebus is waiting for you. eat the barrel of your shotgun

      April 8, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
    • Andrea

      If you are a Christian and on a higher level of awareness, ie your true self, loving, etc., you wouldn't berate others and call them idiots for questioning, wondering, examining writings of men done after the fact. You would be loving, caring, compassionate, forgiving, etc. Calling people idiots for using their brains, seeking answers, isn't Christian. Brainwashing isn't believing. I think it should say For God so loved the world . . . . .that whosoever believeth in him OR THE CONCEPT . . . .because too many convince themselves they believe in the man when convincing yourselves of that without the compassion, etc. part which is what it should encompass, is not truly understanding. Likely, reincarnation makes more sense. The Daoists believe in a highest level and that people keep coming back to work things out with as many people on earth now as there have been through time as there are so few who see it – enlightenment, etc. I don't even know how many jelly beans are in a contest jar, so don't know about the people on earth part, but being brainwashed to believe, going with dogma over enlightenment is likely part of the reason most probably do come back – makes sense. How many truly enlightened people do you know, have there ever been through time? Your comment doesn't seem to me that you are, no matter that you believe in Jesus. Not having an open mind and berating others for questioning is so odd, really. It reminds me of the scientist/doctor who said some ulcers were caused by bacteria with the whole world's doctors ridiculing him, not using the scientific method or allowing other possibilities to seem possible. Then . . . .it was found that he was correct. No matter that millions or billions have convinced themselves that something was true (ie Muhammed, either). If it isn't, it isn't. The highest level likely is, but just believing in a man, that in itself, is likely not all there is to it. Reincarnation to reach enlightenment . . . more likely – and still doesn't take away from a higher level, etc. Do you have an open mind to variations on dying and that's it? Or do you have an open mind to other possibilities. Likely, dogma is the reason few make it to the highest level or ever will. Be kinder to those offering different opinions or you become like an overlord – hardly Christians in essence or fact.

      April 10, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
  20. Kilto

    Christians get persecuted today just like they were thousands of years ago. Its funny, I see atheists and agnostics on here screaming and hollering about what they believe is the truth. They have nothing better to do than to reaffirm our beliefs in God and in Jesus. Atheists and Agnostics can suck my sausage. They will too just to try and prove their point. Stupid Atheists...please go to Islamic forums and websites and prove your crap.

    April 7, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Gonna tell us all about the big band theory again, doofus?

      April 7, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      Kilto
      The christians persecute millions...all the time, every day.
      As they have for millenia.
      So what if they get a little back?

      April 7, 2013 at 12:23 pm |
    • clarity

      No thank you. Sausage these days is nothing but filler. When there is no substance to y..o..u..r claims, it's no surprise that you have to scream from behind a limp meatless noodle.

      April 7, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
    • R.M. Goodswell

      the thing is this is just words on a forum.....

      Persecution is imprisoning someone just because you can or you feel like it.

      or tying them to a post and lighting them on fire because you need an enemy and they are defenseless and happen to be on hand.

      or denying them a job or public office because they don't believe in your particular brand god.

      April 7, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
    • Wow!

      Not sure Christ would approve of such speech and imagery and pretty sure he wouldn't want you to hold yourself up as a fine example of the real Christianity. I believe his message of tolerance and peace has been entirely on you.

      April 7, 2013 at 1:44 pm |
    • myweightinwords

      Christians are persecuted in some places today. Not here in the US of course, but in the Middle East, in Muslim countries? Sure.

      Persecution requires that the persecuted not be in a position of power. In the US it is people who are not Christian who are subject to persecution.

      April 8, 2013 at 10:51 am |
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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.