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Title: The Evolution of Early Christian Theology of Martyrdom in the Pre-Decian Period: Collective Memory and Martyrological Interpretation of the New Testament in Polycarp, Lyon, and Perpetua
Authors: Wimmer, Linda Fanny Madeleine
Issue Date: 2021
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: While early Christian martyrdom accounts had a profound impact on the formation, and success, of the primitive Church, it appears that before 250, the persecutions of Christians were ‘local and sporadic’ (Barnes, 1968). Historical approaches failed to explain these disparities between Christian and pagan sources and to answer questions such as ‘what is martyrdom?’, ‘what are the origins of martyrdom?’ and ‘why were the early Christians persecuted?’. As a result, recent studies have been focusing on more theoretical approaches. Following this trend, this thesis explores the origins of early Christian theology of martyrdom as a discursive creation forged in the collective memory of the first martyrdom accounts as well as in the martyrological interpretation of both New Testament texts and pagan narratives such as Socrates’s death. The first two chapters of the thesis are mostly introductory, the first chapter presenting an overview of the debates and challenges surrounding the study of early Christian martyrdom, and the second covering the methodological approach adopted in this thesis, namely discourse analysis and the collective memory theory. The following three chapters examine three early martyrdom accounts (the Martyrdom of Polycarp, the Martyrs of Lyon and the Passion of Perpetua and Felicity) in order to both highlight the different influences/discourses in the texts and reveal the evolution of the theology of martyrdom. In each case study, both Christian and pagan sources are scrutinised for the rudiments of a concept of martyrdom and its discourse, focusing on possible expressions of collective memory within these martyrdom accounts. This thesis thus contends that the martyrological interpretation of NT texts (Revelation in particular), and assimilation of these interpretations into the communities’ collective memory, provided an eschatological platform in which early Christian authors could inscribe their own experiences, shaping their reality, their narratives and ultimately, their identity.
Description: Ph. D. Thesis.
Appears in Collections:School of History, Classics and Archaeology

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