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Title: Radical martyrdom and cosmic conflict in early Christianity
Author: Middleton, P.
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2005
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In the early Church, several views on martyrdom co-existed. The ‘orthodox’ position, generally accepted by scholars, was that a Christian should choose martyrdom rather than deny the Faith, but should not, on any account, court death. Although it has been recognised that some in the early Church did in fact seek out death, by giving themselves over to arrest, most scholars have dismissed these martyrs as ‘deviant,’ ‘heretical,’ and not displaying ‘the normal Christian attitude to martyrdom.’ Therefore, instances of volitional, or radical martyrdom, as I term it, have been largely ignored in scholarly investigation into the theology and origins of Christian martyrdom. However, this thesis argues that, far from being a deviant strand of early Christianity, radical martyrdom was a significant, and widely held idealised form of Christ-devotion in the late first to early third centuries. Since scholars have largely carried out historical and theological investigations without reference to radical martyrdom, their conclusions are incomplete. This project aims to make up for this omission, re-examining the presentation, theology, and origins of Christian martyrdom up to the beginning of the Decian persecutions. First, I demonstrate the pervasiveness of radical martyrdom in the second and early third centuries, noting that the phenomenon is found even in those martyr texts regarded as being ‘orthodox.’ Next, I examine the theological world in which the early Christians inhabited, making radical martyrdom (at least ideally), a viable option. I argue that the early Christian construction of reality clashed so dramatically with the Roman State, that Christians could not demonstrate even the base level of piety required by the Romans. This brought Christians into conflict with their pagan neighbours; conflict which they then Imperialised. After assessing various theories accounting for the development Christian martyrdom, I conclude that a matrix of factors influenced Christian martyrology, and in particular, a Christianisation of Jewish Holy War tradition.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available