As Christianity grew, so did the ranks of martyrs. According to the fourth-century historian Eusebius, early Christians were racked, whipped, beaten, and scourged. Tens of thousands were condemned to the amphitheaters to face wild animals, forced to fight gladiators, beheaded, strangled quietly in jail, or burned publicly as a mark of shame.
The history of early Christianity, as we have received it, is a history of victimization and pain. It underwrites the idea that Christians are at odds with their world, engaged in a continuing struggle between good and evil.
But that narrative has very little basis in the documentary record.
There is almost no evidence from the period before Constantine, traditionally called the Age of Martyrs, to support the idea that Christians were continuously persecuted. That idea was cultivated by church historians like Eusebius and Sozomen and by the anonymous hagiographers who edited, reworked, and replicated stories about martyrs. The vast majority of those stories, however, were written during periods of peace, long after the events they purported to describe. Even those that are roughly contemporaneous with the events have been significantly embellished.
It is this idea that Christians are always persecuted that makes sense of the argument that disagreement is identical to persecution. It provides the interpretative lens through which to view all kinds of Christian experiences as a struggle between "us" and "them," and elides the difference between hatred and injustice, and sincere disagreement.Det har också skrivts om boken i Salon.