How Early Christians Invented a Story of Martyrdom
HarperOne, $25.99, 320 pp.
Historians of Christianity routinely speak of the period from the first century to the time of Constantine as “the age of martyrdom” or “the age of persecution.” Though these are useful designations, signaling a fundamental change in Christian fortunes—before Constantine, Christians were persecuted and sometimes martyred; after him, they enjoyed a privileged status—no one truly views the church’s first centuries as a time of unrelieved terror. Even the fourth-century Christian...
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Luke Timothy Johnson, a frequent contributor, is the R.W. Woodruff Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins at the Candler School of Theology, Emory University. Two of his most recent books are Among the Gentiles: Greco-Roman Religion and Christianity (Yale) and Prophetic Jesus, Prophetic Church (Eerdmans).