NORTH CENTRAL INDIANA, USA – Cable news channel commentator Candida Moss may have been the catalyst to irreconcilable differences between the University of Notre Dame and the Roman Catholic Church. In Moss’ popular book The Myth of Persecution she declares that none of the accounts of martyrdom in the early Christian church make for a good story any more. In other words “they are just too darn unbelievable.” Quickly following on her popular coattails, Notre Dame notified the Holy See that it might be widening its idea of religion-perhaps finally joining a football conference.
“Being the first to discover irregularities in early martyr accounts gives me reason to think” comments Moss. “If we don’t trust a few of the martyr accounts, certainly the apostles were not martyred. This means that they couldn’t have believed what they wrote. Then neither should we, it was all a sham. I’ve disproven the New Testament, the resurrection of Jesus is simply a myth.”
Cardinal Patrick McGillicudy, a spokesman from St. Peter’s in Rome, noted “Ah, we know of the wee Candida. She’s always been a bit of a clurichaun. Her mischief will blow over and the fighting Irish will soon be back in the green.”
When asked if Professor Moss’ discovery posed a problem for the University, the Notre Dame Director of Development said he found it all “freeing.” “If the apostles can’t be relied upon, then we don’t really need to listen to the heir of their authority, the Bishop of Rome. The University will be able to pursue sponsorship of what we expect to be an explosion of secular activities…beer pong, NASCAR, the SEC, even Republicans, the possibilities are endless!”
In related responses to the discovery of more accurate history, Holy Cross College immediately changed it name to the Cross-Fit Society in recognition of its primary focus of athletics. Notre Dame itself has begun to question the veneration of its namesake and briefly considered the name South Bend University until the yoga department voiced a complaint of institutional bullying.
In her latest Good Morning America interview, Professor Moss has reaffirmed that she is at peace with herself. Taking an Alexander the Great quote from his earliest biography written within one millennia of his death, “history is written by the winners.” To which Moss followed up, “Today, I’m a winner.”
Satire aside…when Dr. Candida Moss published her popular book The Myth of Persecution, How Early Christians Invented a Story of Martyrdom, she made an impact and caused a number of Christians to question their faith. Many believers have been taught that all the apostles were martyred for preaching that Jesus rose from the dead. This proclamation had become a standard apologetic argument in support of the resurrection of Jesus. As Moss shakes the veracity of martyrdom accounts of the apostles, does she perhaps demonstrate that faith is misplaced in Jesus as the Son of God?
A close reading of Moss easily reveals that she has linked facts without due consideration. First, she notes that later accounts of martyrs were obviously full of fiction. As the church was consolidating and becoming institutionalized across national and community borders, the value of martyr designation increased both politically and economically. “Holy” sites and reliquaries associated with martyrs provided revenue to their host municipalities. While many of these third and fourth century martyr accounts are embellished, they most likely contain a core of truth. At a minimum some Christians to some extent were persecuted and killed for their faith. The later embellishments certainly do not negate the historical value of the martyr accounts as Moss suggests.
More important, accounts of some of the apostles being martyred trace back to a period within the living memory of their lives. In his book The Fate of the Apostles, Dr. Sean McDowell, Professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, uses methods employed by other accomplished historians as himself to assess the likelihood that each apostle was martyred. He concludes a range of probabilities from Peter, Paul, and James the son of Zebedee as the highest possible probability of being martyred to a likelihood of improbable for John the brother of James.
Most important though, all of the apostles and closest followers of Jesus knew that proclaiming the gospel and that Jesus had risen was a huge risk. This is the overarching constant even if all apostles were not martyred. They all knew they could be persecuted and killed for openly proclaiming Jesus as the risen Christ. In the face of this belief, not one of these men (and perhaps women as well) ever recanted their preaching in the face of life threatening adversity. It is the certain fear of death that would have broken the conspiracy of a resurrection lie or myth. These believers persevered because they believed what they taught was true, even for some to the point of death.
Guest Contributor: Fred Schlich