Noss, things that are not in their normal life

Noss, David S., and John Boyer.
Noss. A History of the World’s Religions.
Langara College, 2007.              

Limberis, Vasiliki. Architects of Piety: the Cappadocian Fathers
and the Cult of the Martyrs. Oxford University Press, 2011.

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Guy, Laurie. Introducing Early Christianity: a Topical Survey of Its Life, Beliefs
and Practices. InterVarsity Press, 2011.

Green, Bernard. Christianity in Ancient Rome: the First Three Centuries. T & T
Clark International, 2010.

Frend, W.H.C. Martyrdom and Persecution. Anchor Books, 1967.    

Works Cited

 

 

            Christianity
has become a major world religion in today’s world, and much of this is due to
the actions of brave men and women that sacrificed themselves in order to keep
Christianity alive. Martyrs gave Christians passion and a level of piety to aim
for. Limberis claimed that martyrs were the “rudimentary framework” for the
early Christians (Limberis 10). Without martyrs we do not know what
Christianity would have turned into. Maybe without them the religion gets taken
over by other people with new ideas, or maybe the religion never leaves the
Middle East and Rome. These are speculations of course, but it is clear that
martyrs played a crucial role in the development of the Early Church and laid a
solid foundation on which Christianity was able to grow. Overall martyrs played
a tremendous role in the growth and development of Christianity. Martyrs gave
the church tradition and passion, these are two things that helped shape
Christianity all the way up to today.

            To
this day people follow leaders that have passion for what they believe. A great
leader with great passion can change the minds of people that have been stuck
in a single mindset for their whole life. In today’s society we do not have
people that are still dying for their faith like they were in the early
centuries, but we have political, business, and sports leaders that inspire
people to do things that are not in their normal life activities. This is what
the early martyrs did, provide an inspiration for people that needed a feeling
of belonging, they wanted to be a part of a religion that had passion for what
they stood for.

            The
acts performed by the martyrs were not only important for holiday celebrations,
it also helped shape the everyday practices that early Christians followed.
“The cult of martyrs was so popular among all levels of Christians… that it can
be characterized as the rudimentary framework for Christianity in the fourth
century” (Limberis 10). The martyrs not only helped inspire the Christians, it
also helped to give them a theoretical bar to aim for in their faith. The
martyrs were what other people strived for and worked towards. These stories of
martyrdom were powerful enough to take the great hermit Antony to leave his
desert and come to Alexandria at the time of Maximin persecution (Guy 55).
Antony was known for his ability to stay in his desert home away from everyone
else so that he could focus on his piety. This man was willing to leave this in
order to become a martyr. This may be a reason people look up to Antony so much
even today.

            The
Cappadocians used the stories of martyrs in order to organize and control the
early Christians by telling them that Martyrs were the highest example of moral
behavior and all goodness. They wanted to integrate the martyrs into every day
in the lives of the Christians. This was down by reminded them of the victory
over the enemy every time there was a song sang about them, or a story read
about them. Everyone would remember the sacrifices the martyrs made in order to
progress Christianity. The Cappadocians believed that the more the people are
reminded of martyrs’ stories, the more they would be willing to behave like
them. They believed that if they followed in the footsteps of the martyrs, that
they would feel a kinship to them. (Limeris 30)

Finding a replacement for the martyr
piety was done by promoting the ideas and traditions that the martyrs gave the
community. Cappadocians realized that these martyrs were crucial to the history
of the church. The people celebrated the lives and acts of the martyrs even more
after and during Constantine’s reign than they were before Christianity was
legal. They became the focus of the weekly sermons. The Cappadocians made the
martyrs a crucial part of Christian history, and thus restoring its legacy. (Limberis
11)

A problem for the early Christians
became how to maintain the passion martyrs gave people even when Christianity
became the state religion under Constantine. Christians no longer had to fear
persecution because being a Christian was no longer illegal. Martyr piety was
the lifeblood of the Christians and it is was mading people so proud to be a part
of the religion (Limberis 10).

Martyrs in early centuries had a
notable impact on the Christians lives. Cappadocian Christians created the
holidays for their faith including Sunday liturgy, Lenten, and Easter. Even
with these holidays, Cappadocian Christians were more interested in the feasts
of the martyrs, and these produced most of the rhythms, cycles, and events
every year (Limberis 9). Martyrs were to Christians of the early church, what
important political leaders are to us today. We celebrate President’s Day and
also the birthdays of many of our early presidents and we celebrate Martin
Luther King Jr. every January. Although we may not feel as connected to these
political leaders as early Christians felt to the martyrs, it still gives us
inspiration every time we see their name and think about these great leaders.
This was the same for early Christians as they celebrated martyrs.

When the Governor came to town, this
is when the Christians were persecuted, and they were arrested and sent to
trial just like every other criminal. They would be sentenced to death, but
where they differed was the time that they spent inside the jail cell.
Christians were forced to stay in their cell for longer than other
criminals.  Prison was not itself a
punishment, but a place for the accused to wait to see if or what their
punishment will be. The purpose of punishment and law is to get people to
conform to the society of the Roman Empire, so if the Christians confessed to
not being Christians then they would be set free from prison without
punishment. The roman authorities would hold Christians in the prison longer in
hopes that they will confess and thus be able to be set free. These people that
confessed were known as “confessors” and were clearly not respected among the
Christian community. “There is a good deal more evidence in the early Roman
church of confessors than of martyrs” (Green 134). This would make more sense
than everyone being willing to commit to martyrdom. This may be a considerable
explanation to why martyrs are respected so highly among their peers. Martyrdom
is something people could escape from and most people did, so when someone
committed to it, they were thought to be a hero among other Christians.

It was difficult for the vast Roman
Empire to regulate the rules and laws each town had to abide by. In the first
two centuries there was a limited number of Christians, so it was not a large
priority for the towns to persecute them when there were bigger problems for
the area. About once a year a governor would visit a major city to check on the
operations. This is the point at which the Christians would be put up for
trial. Going back to the small number of Christians, and the other problems
that governors had to attend to, the persecutions were not a top priority. When
the Governor came to town, it was time for the people of the law to show that
they are following orders. To Governors and political leaders in the Empire,
the Christians were a bigger deal than they were to the individual towns.  The powerful people of the empire were able
to see into the future in a way, because they were able to realize than
Christianity will grow and it threatens the society that they have created.
(Guy 52)

There are many myths about the early
church martyrs, but the most common would be the idea that the Roman Empire was
seeking out Christians in order to persecute them, or that the persecutions
were done empire-wide. The reality is that they were done in their local
governments, and they were brought to the attention of the government by the
other citizens. The persecutions were done because of the persistent and
determined citizens to force their local government into it. “The death of
Jesus himself highlights the role of the mob. The execution of Jesus involved
the complex interplay of the hatred of Jewish leaders and crowd pressure as
well as Pilate’s own initiate” (Guy 50). This is just a well-known example of a
persecution that was brought to the government by the people, rather than the
government actively searching for Jesus. This shows that it was not the
government or the mayor that necessarily had the issue with the Christians,
although they certainly were not in favor of them, they were not worried enough
to go find the Christians themselves to persecute them. (Guy 50)

Christians were peaceful and able to
live next to people of different views and still cooperate at the time. They
were however in danger when something in the town went wrong, because they were
the first individuals that others would point fingers at. At this time in
history, the Roman officials had little power in their police officers compared
to our officers now. With this lack of power, they waited for citizens to be
reported to them before they would enforce their laws. One of the major ways
Christians were accused to the law was during natural disasters. If an illness
or a significant storm came into their town, it was easiest to suspect it was
the Christians since they made the gods hateful with their lack of worship
(Green 132). This would be a massive hurdle for the Christians to jump over, because
they have no control over the natural disasters, but the Romans believe it was all
them.

An example that clearly sheds a
light on this fact is a persecution by Eusebius. “One analysis of Martyrdoms in
early fourth-century Palestine under Maximin indicates that of the 47 of
Eusebius’s list of 91 martyrs who could be classified, at least 13 were
volunteers; at least 18 more drew attention to themselves without going so far
as to demand martyrdom; thus only 16 at most were sought out by the local
authorities” (Guy 53). This shows that not only were most martyrs willing to
sacrifice themselves, but they would go out of their way to do so. This goes to
show that it was more important to the Christians that they be martyred than it
was to the local governments, because the early church martyrs were thought of
as heroes to the Christians and were the gold standard in their faith.

The biggest difficulty with the
Christians for the Roman government was the fact that they were unwilling to
conform to society. Christians were unwilling to give themselves to the emperor
and worship him. Christians were disobeying the Roman government, not
necessarily because of their religious choices, but because of the lack of
conformity to the government. Christians had a unique way of viewing their
place in the world. They “considered themselves in the world but not a part of
it” (Noss 468). It is difficult to control people that believe that they are
not truly apart of the world, since they think after they die it becomes much
better for them. Believing that they are not a material substance makes it harder
to reason with them using force or torture.

The Roman People were concerned
about disrespecting the gods, who in return created natural disasters. They
were concerned about the power the gods had over: the sky, the sea, love, war,
fire, and the harvest. Christians were not persecuted because they believed in
a different god, because the Romans allowed people with different beliefs into
the empire all the time. The problem they had with the Christians was that they
disregarded the idea of the gods all together and presented a new God. The
Christians did not believe in the same powers presented by their God, so the
Christians were often blamed for the destruction of these areas of nature. The
piety that needed to be shown had to be a collective effort, meaning that
everyone in Rome must believe in the gods and worship them in order to receive
the benefits they can offer (Green 124). The Christians clearly did not fit
into this idea of perfect piety, and this caused many issues for them.

Christianity at the beginning of the
church was not technically illegal, in the sense that there was no official
legislation that stated that it was illegal, but it was known across the Roman
Empire that it was not acceptable. The Christians were thought to be criminals
because they disobeyed the general beliefs of the Empire. This is because the
political views and rules are intertwined tremendously with religion. When the
Christians were unwilling to abide by the laws of the church and state, they
were persecuted (Green 120). When church and state are interconnected like they
were in Rome it alienates people from different religions that have different
views on life. The Christians were not a dangerous collection of people, but
they had a different view on the world than the Romans did. It has been
important in recent society to maintain the separation of church and state for
this reason. Christians were blamed and punished for acts they committed that
were not technically crimes.

Romans intertwined their beliefs in
politics and religion together which made it extremely difficult for the
Christianity to survive as a religion. Tertullian explains in his Apology, written in about 197, that the
Roman empire was strictly a combined church and state. “Tertullian reviewed the
reasons why Christianity was illegal: sacrilege against the gods, by
implication, disloyalty to the empire for it was the gods who made Rome great
and thus insult to the emperor, hostility to the empire and society; causing
calamities” (Green 123). This caused many problems for the Christians as one
would imagine, because of this locked view of church and state the government of
Rome was unwilling to compromise their ideal society for the Christians.

Many people looked at martyrdom and
persecution as a way to imitate Jesus himself, since he performed the same act
many years earlier. Jesus was an icon to the early Christians and to Christians
today. Frend describes this phenomenon by saying: “Jesus’s sufferings would be
continued in the lives of his followers. They were to be the prophets of the
new era.” (Frend 61) This shows that people, long after Jesus died, were
continuing his practices and maintaining his enthusiasm and passion for
Christianity. Christians wanted to be the new prophets and in order to do that
they performed martyrdom. This also became a way to fight back against the
Roman government that continued to persecute them.

In the first centuries of
Christianity the Christians believed that being persecuted was a way for their
sins to be forgotten. In this way it was similar to baptism. Although they
believed Jesus died for their sins, this was a way for them to be prepared for
the second coming, so they will already have resolved their sins. With this
they were also guaranteed a share of Christs’ suffering and a share of his
glory for years to come. (Frend 60) Martyrdom gave people a stage in which to
display their faith and loyalty to Christ, and it was believed that they would
be rewarded heavily afterwards.

            Christianity
became popular because of many areas of their religion, but maybe the most
important reason it has become what it is today is because of the early
Christians commitment to their religion and their willingness to sacrifice
their life for it. Christians were persecuted for their beliefs by the Roman
government and sentenced to death. Christians believed in a God that was
different than the gods of the Roman people. This alone was not the reason for
the persecution since Romans were inviting of people from other religions, but
they did not want the Christians because they disregarded the entire way the
Romans thought about the world (Green 124). Many Christians took the
persecution happily, because they believed they would be going to a better place,
and they would become a memorable name for many years (Frend 60). Martyrdom
served many purposes including: forgiveness of sins, imitation of Christ, share
Christ’s glory, or a way to prove your piety.

Addison Shrum