From Stephen to the Sanctoral:
Persecution's Theological Lessons

Sources: Henry Chadwick, The Early Church (Penguin, 1990); Keith Hopkins, A World Full of Gods (Plume, 2001); F.L. Cross, ed., Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 2d ed. (Oxford, 1983).

Reading: Mark 13:9-23, Rev. 3:8-13, Rev. 13.

Persecution, Jewish and Christian
Jewish history features persecution and restoration (1 Macc. 1, Heb. 11:37-38)
Rome tolerates Jewish monotheism
Jews are Christians' first persecutors (Jesus [with a lot of Roman help], Stephen, Acts 7:54-8:3)
Christians lose Roman protection as they are noticed
Roman persecution is local and sporadic, then becomes systematic:

Nero (64) scapegoats Christians for the Roman fire (Tacitus)
Domitian (95)
fights 'atheism' (Revelation?)
Trajan (112) convicts but doesn't search for Christians (Pliny)
Marcus Aurelius (177) persecutes at Lyons
Septimius Severus only forbids new conversions (Perpetua)
Maximinus Thrax (238) reverses earlier lenience
Decius (249) begins a systematic, sustained campaign (Cyprian)
Valerian (257) arrests and tries to execute bishops
Diocletian (303) destroys churches and burns Bibles, then kills (Lactantius, Eusebius)

The era ends in Galerius' edict of toleration (311)
Licinius (322) and Julian (361) reinstate
persecution but fail

"Seed of the Church"
Christians find strength, identity, and guidance in Christlike suffering (Hopkins 109ff)
Yet many apostasy, and many more lie low
Issues following persecutions drive the doctrine of the Church (ecclesiology):

Can apostasy be forgiven? How easily? By whom?
The problem of restoration: the Novatian schism; Cyprian answers
Cyprian strengthens penance, episcopacy, councils, martyrology
The problem of integrity: Caecilian v. Majorinus (303) and Donatism; Augustine answers

New Old Stories: The Growth of the Sanctoral
Hints in Judaism? (2 Macc. 15:12)
All Christians are 'saints' (hagioi) in the New Testament (1 Cor. 1:2, 1 Cor. 12, Eph. 2:19)
After ~200 'saint' focuses on exemplars: supporting characters, martyrs, confessors (Matt. 19:28? Luke 16:19-31? Rev. 7:14-17)
A worship cycle grows to remember these for inspiration, imitation, intercession
An early example: Martyrdom of Polycarp (155; February 23): anniversaries, relics
This begins slowly, then becomes common by 400
Origen and Cyril of Jerusalem offer ecclesiological grounds
Churches also come to be named after saints (e.g., upon buried martyrs)
Protestants worry about Jesus' centrality, discourage saints' days
Catholics pare down the calendar at Trent and Vatican II
Churches also allow for some local adaptation

"The Greatest Generation"?
Why do Christians memorialize martyrs?
How has the phenomenon of martyrdom affected the Christian story?
Michael Horowitz: Christians are "the Jews of the twenty-first century" (see ICC)