When it becomes a genre… @CandidaMoss’s book, round 3 (chapter 2)

I’ve been rather busy preparing a research proposal, among other things, and I have fallen behind on my reading of Professor Moss’s newest work. I had the pleasure of listening to her on a radio program several weeks ago, but since then, the book has rest idly on kindle. However, based on a conversation on Facebook, I felt compelled to read and reflect further.

Christians did not event, contrary to uninformed popular opinion, the genre of writing about martyrs and their deaths. It existed before them, around them, and was shaped by them. This is the goal of this chapter, I think, to display many of the genre-binding tactics early Christians employed in (re)telling stories of the saintly dead.

I am not completely convinced of the heavy use of Socrates in Luke. After all, Luke has had time to borrow from both Mark and Matthew (yes, praise be to God, she is a disciple of Goodacre); however, this is not to say Moss is wrong in suggesting that the Greco-Roman culture would have better recognized a Socratian story than the little known Jewish peasant. As she says at the end of the chapter, when explaining something new to a different audience, one utilizes the vocabulary of the audience. We are talking about models and adaptation in telling and retelling stories. So, it is necessary that stories — including words, images, and structures — will be created through mimetic borrowing.

In regards to the seed of the early stories, Moss does not deny that Polycarp, Ptolemy, and Perpetua did in fact die, although she questions the details of the story. Here, she is able to in short order show preceding texts likely used to build the new story. Her account of Polycarp and how close this comes to the passon of Jesus must be considered one of the more revelatory features of this chapter. She even acknowledges that some stories are “pure records of the trials of the martyrs.” (73–4). To those who fear she is proposing a all-or-nothing, or even a conspiracy theory approach to the history of the early Church, this chapter, again, must sway those fears. She accepts early Christians dying whatever reason, but is able to convincingly show the use of culturally known stories (Jesus, Socrates, Maccabeans) in recreating the importance and drama of the tales.

Sorry it’s taking so long, but as I warned at the start, this is a reflection, rather than a review. However, if you were to ask my opinion about the worthwhile purchase of this book, I would urge you to — and to buy one for Bill O’Reilly, Tony Perkins, and Bryan Fischer. 

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