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The making of a modern martyr From Patrick Pearse to George Floyd, they're a sign the political conversation has broken down

Saint Ignatius in the lions' den (Photo by Apic/Getty Images)


November 30, 2020   8 mins

Crushed. Torn apart by wild beasts. Burnt alive. Roasted on hot coals. Beheaded. Starved. Stabbed. Stoned. Tied to a spiked wheel. It takes a strong stomach to navigate Catherine Pepinster’s fascinating book on martyrs. Suffice to say, they do not accrue their status gently. “Martyrs are heroes,” the author writes. “But there is no romance to their story. Their narratives are full of hostility and violence, pain and suffering.”

In the Christian tradition of which Pepinster largely writes in Martyrdom, the martyr knowingly accepts and endures unimaginable suffering by means of a particular form of stubbornness. This enables them to override a combination of intense psychological pressure and appalling physical pain, or the imminent promise of it.

That extraordinary willpower derives chiefly from the power of faith and the confidence in an afterlife. The earliest martyrs made a hard but simple choice to assert their Christianity in the face of an oppressive Roman authority. From “the late first century until the early part of the fourth” the leaders of the Christian communities were persecuted by officials of the Roman Empire as members of a subversive and dangerous cult. Refusal to renounce the Christian faith brought a death sentence, which the Roman historian Tacitus described being carried out in the cruellest forms under the emperor Nero, including Christians being “burnt, to serve as nightly illumination, when daylight had expired. Nero offered his garden for the spectacle
”

What quickly became apparent, however, was that the grotesque circumstances of death could involve an unpredictable transfer of power between oppressor and martyr (an echo of what occurred during the crucifixion of Christ). Some Christians refused to cower in terror when they met their end, but publicly embraced death as “a means to redemption”. St Ignatius of Antioch, “condemned to the beasts at Rome” in the second century, for example, wrote a series of letters to fellow-Christians in which he said: “Let me be fodder for the wild beasts; that is how I can get to God
 I shall coax them to eat me up at once and not hesitate, as sometimes happens, through fear.”

If the state had enacted its ultimate authority by means of torture and death, the Christian martyrs now knowingly exercised a more expansive authority of their own in return — a defiant moral command that they believed derived from a higher power, which was not bounded by earthly conceptions of time, and news of which could be spread by word of mouth, writings and the distribution of relics.

Martyrdom sites became the objects of pilgrimages; the actual body of the martyr, fragmented and widely disseminated, seeded new, dedicated churches around these holy objects; commemorations became part of the liturgical calendar. The more Christians were killed, the more the religion flourished. As the author writes: “Martyrdom created a kind of ecclesiastical economy.”

The martyrs themselves were, quite literally, the life-blood of this spiritual and material economy, and their trials still make agonising reading — particularly those of the women, who seemed to be singled out for especial brutality based on their sex. This book returns us sharply to the human realities of their stories. Vibia Perpetua, for example, a married noblewoman and mother, was put to death in Carthage around AD 203 at the age of 22, along with a slave named Felicity.

She left a contemporaneous diary describing her distraught father holding her infant son, pleading with her to renounce Christianity — “Perform the sacrifice. Have pity on your baby!” Upon refusal, Perpetua was tormented by aggressive animals before being murdered by gladiators. Felicity, who died alongside her, gave birth to a daughter in prison shortly before her execution, and went out into the arena with her breasts dripping milk.

Such stories convey the extraordinary degree of resistance and disruption that conscious martyrdom entailed — not only to state power, but also to the accepted role of women within the family, and the physical and emotional tug of parental love.

Although propelled by faith, martyrdom has historically been inextricable from politics. Across the ages, Christian martyrs have invariably pitted their individual conscience against the dictates of the state. From Thomas à Becket, who clashed with Henry II in the 12th century, to Father Jerzy Popieluszko, a dissident priest murdered in communist Poland in 1984, they have demonstrated an obstinate refusal to be muzzled by fear. This ability to act as a symbol of both individual and communal resistance — and the intensity of authoritarian violence it provokes in response — is what sears martyrs into wider memory.

Such a potent and intoxicating brew, however, inevitably demands a measure of regulation. The Catholic Church has therefore attempted over the years to provide a working definition of a true martyr. The criteria set out by Pope Benedict XIV in the 18th century included that the martyr must not deliberately seek his or her own death; must show courage in the face of persecution; and be subjected to a specific case of odium fidei (hatred of the faith) which prompted the attack. Later theologians broadened the criteria, to include a person “killed by someone who hated his or her faith and the values it stood for” or who had “known that the values he or she lived for could end in death”. Pepinster is at pains to point out that “Christian ideas of martyrdom rule out death in battle and engagement in any form of aggression.” Despite his religious motivation, she says, Guido Fawkes is not a contender.

This is a timely moment for a discussion of what martyrdom means, in part because the title of “martyrdom” is now so often being claimed — albeit in a different form — by a militant Islamism. Although actively rejected by the majority of Muslims, this Islamist definition refuses to recognise the prohibition on either seeking out self-destruction or pursuing aggression. Islamist groups have thus frequently hailed as “martyrs” those Islamists — such as a 9/11 or Bataclan attackers — who are killed in the course of murdering numerous others.

Another reason is that Christian martyrdom, of the kind caused by odium fidei, is far from a thing of the past. The late Jonathan Sacks, the former Chief Rabbi, said in 2014 that “the persecution of Christians throughout much of the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, and elsewhere is one of the crimes against humanity of our time”. By 2016, the author writes, Christians were being targeted in 144 countries. A report by the Bishop of Truro, the Rt Revd Philip Mounstephen, found that the relative silence in the West on this persecution stemmed — in Pepinster’s words — from “some misplaced idea that Christianity was a product of colonialism rather than a religion that was willingly embraced by today’s believers”. Yet it is some of the most ancient Christian communities which have found themselves under the fiercest attack: the beleaguered Copts of Egypt, for example — who can trace their Christian roots in the region back to 42 AD — have been repeatedly targeted by Isis, not least in horrific church bombings in 2016 and 2017.

But if Western societies appear relatively uninterested in the immediate and desperate plight of many Christian communities worldwide today, they are nonetheless still gripped by the idea of martyrdom and its semiotics, which can be selected and adapted for other contemporary causes, whether that of social justice or secularism.

This transference from religious to secular uses is not new, although it sits broadly outside the intended range of Pepinster’s book, and some definitions are lost in the process. But the imagery of religious martyrdom has often been adopted and adapted by revolutionary movements, for example, which keenly understand how heavily it presses upon the limbic systems of ordinary people.

The French Revolution — which explicitly turned against the Catholic Church and persecuted priests — nonetheless speedily annexed the rituals and iconography of Christian martyrdom for its own ends. The revolutionary Paris deputies Louis-Michel Lepeletier and Jean-Paul Marat, stabbed to death in 1793 by political opponents, became newly-forged martyrs in a vigorous revolutionary cult which manifested itself in banners, parades, shrines, songs, paintings and statues — all the devotional trappings of a recently sublimated church, now redirected into revolutionary fervour.

In volatile times, those authorities which are slow to understood the political and popular potential of “martyrdom” have often found themselves overwhelmed by it. In Ireland in 1916, many ordinary Dubliners at first opposed or even jeered the small number of Irish rebels who had enacted the brief and militarily unsuccessful Easter Rising against British rule. Asquith’s government, however — despite warning voices from Ireland — made effective martyrs of the leaders by executing them over a 10-day period, including shooting one, James Connolly, while he was wounded and tied to a chair. It was an outcome that had been anticipated by some leaders of the Rising, in particular Patrick Pearse, who had spoken of the necessity for a “blood sacrifice” to regenerate Irish nationalism. His intention was fulfilled: a large proportion of Irish nationalists who had previously been unsympathetic to the rebels shifted their allegiance following the executions, resulting in a radicalised Irish nationalism and a subsequent intensification of the conflict.

In 2020 we have again seen — in a different form — the reach of non-religious ideas of martyrdom in cohering protest. The first time was in May, over the death of George Floyd during police arrest in the US, an event which sparked the Black Lives Matter movement worldwide. Floyd, who was 46 when he died, had a complex history which included early success as a high-school star athlete and rapper, a decade lost to prison terms for drugs and robbery, and then an attempt to rebuild his life in conjunction with a Christian ministry and a move to Minnesota, where he worked as security guard.

Yet the cause of his death was not his faith but, many believed, his race. Following arrest over a minor allegation, the policeman Derek Chauvin held his knee on Floyd’s neck for over eight minutes while Floyd repeatedly warned, “I can’t breathe,” called for his late mother, and eventually slipped into unconsciousness. Floyd neither sought nor accepted his situation — far from it, having repeatedly told the officers that he was claustrophobic and already had trouble breathing. But the excruciating, publicly visible footage of his gradual asphyxiation nonetheless held a terrible echo of the earlier physical trials of religious martyrs.

The second politically significant “martyrdom” of 2020 was that of Samuel Paty, the French schoolteacher who was beheaded by a young Islamist following a lesson in which he discussed freedom of expression and showed his class the controversial Charlie Hebdo cartoons of the prophet Muhammad.

The secularism of the state, or laicitĂ©, is central to France’s conception of itself and its ideal of equality, and education is the means by which this communal vision is delivered. In that sense the murder of Samuel Paty, killed outside his school, was interpreted as an even greater outrage to the French state than the equally brutal 2016 killing by Islamists of the elderly French priest Jacques Hamel in his church in Rouen. Hamel, a gentle man who sought inter-faith dialogue, was certainly widely and intensely mourned — including by leading French politicians — but he was nonetheless a martyr of the Catholic church, as Pope Francis made clear at the time.

Paty, in contrast, is a martyr for the secular French state, and has been treated as such. A national memorial was held at the Sorbonne, and Paty was posthumously awarded the LĂ©gion d’honneur. His attacker — prior to being shot by police — posted an image of his victim’s severed head on Twitter in a bid to shock and terrify. Yet the image of Paty that has been most widely circulated, shows him in his role as a teacher in the classroom, a scarf loosely knotted around his neck, in the act of discussing and explaining. It’s a poignant photograph, as potent in its way as any icon. It demonstrates, not force of faith, but faith in the power of reason, and its intended role — reiterated by the French authorities — is to help reunite a shaken France in defence of laicitĂ©.

Asphyxiation. Stabbing. Beheading. These actions, with their medieval echoes, sit at the heart of some of the leading news stories of our age. But which comes first, the movement or the martyr? It can appear as if a mass movement is sparked by a single death, but I think the interaction is more complicated than that. There are many brutal and cruel deaths in the world, occurring daily. Each carries its own individual cargo of grief and injustice, yet only a few will decisively spark wider indignation and action. Those that do are the ones that act — by a coincidence of time, place, visibility and circumstance — as a kind of lightning rod for existing political electricity, a gathering frustration and anxiety that is looking for a place to earth.

The elevation of martyrs in any society, however, is also a sign that the existing political conversation has broken down. The forces of reason, pluralism, legality and democracy are fractured. The consensus among citizens has been stress-tested, and is fraying. Too many people either feel that reasonable, agreed avenues for legitimate change and expression are blocked, or that existing cohesive values are collapsing. Martyrs therefore become soldiers in an emotional battle for moral authority: the deep appeal to unity via the veneration of the dead is all that is left.

It is a grim irony that the West now appears so indifferent to the continuing reality of Christian martyrdom globally, while still drawing on so much of its historical signage and poetic resonance. But the fundamental alchemy of martyrdom, the transformation of individual death into communal cause, is as strong as ever. Martyrs arise at the smoking interfaces of social and political conflict. They are birthed in violence, and thereafter can be used either to inspire or further to inflame. Either way, we have not seen the last of them.


Jenny McCartney is a journalist, commentator and author of the novel The Ghost Factory.

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robinsmith3
robinsmith3
3 years ago

Didn’t Floyd die of a drug overdose. Rather than suffocation? Sure, the cop acted badly. But wasn’t the man already dead from 3 times a lethal dose?

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  robinsmith3

He did indeed die primarily of a drug overdose. Moreover, my understanding is that he forced his way out of the cop car on the grounds of something between suffocation and claustrophobia. Apparently this is when he said ‘I can’t breathe’, but I am not 100% sure on that. He then asked the the cops to lay him on the ground. Perhaps the cop – and this particular cop should probably have been fired some time ago, but he was in a Democrat city so uselessness is the governing MO – should not have put his knee on this shoulder. But had he not done so, there was every chance that Floyd would have attempted to flee.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

there is a video in which he says “I can’t breathe” before exiting the vehicle. On that video, onlookers can be heard saying things like “dude, stop resisting” and similar things. The deaths was totally avoidable, but that’s a separate matter from how the incident has been portrayed. And when the officers are acquitted – because charging anyone with murder guarantees that – there will be more rioting.

Robert Montgomery
Robert Montgomery
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Not acquitted, 3rd degree murder charge dismissed, 2nd degree murder charge still stands.

Robert Montgomery
Robert Montgomery
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Utter tripe, he was killed by a fat cop kneeling on his neck for close to 4 minutes.

Adrian
Adrian
3 years ago
Reply to  robinsmith3

Nope. According to two autopsies (which I took the time to read) he died of asphyxiation – i.e. not enough oxygen to the brain. Also Floyd had 10 nanograms per ml fentanyl in his blood which would have been enough to anaesthetise not kill.

Watching the bodycam footage it is possible either the knee on the neck or the pressure on the chest plus some effect from the drugs in his system or a combination of all three was responsible for the asphyxiation.

Virtually all of the footage comes with some commentators lurid misinterpretation, but looking past all that you see much more than the viral video. I can’t give you a blow-by-blow account because I’d be typing all night. There is huge amounts of misinformation though, which simply reading the autopsies will disabuse you of.

At the same time you can make up your own mind how much pain an anaesthetised man was in, or how claustrophobic he was when just got out of another car was. Still, his distress is palpable, and apart from going stiff and making like a cat refusing to go through a catflap he doesn’t get violent. He is not a well or organised individual, but neither am I sometimes, and I don’t want to be crushed to death by law enforcement.

Although the bodycam footage is revealing about the behaviour of Floyd and the officers, it is impossible to divine motive from all of the video put together. Chauvin’s behaviour in particular is odd, he seems to be intently concentrating on a medical case and making really bad calls despite intervention from his fellow officers. The crowd were definitely complicating affairs, possibly causing time dilation, and at one crucial point we go from the crowd talking rubbish having made up their mind about stuff they don’t know, and then actually haveing more information about Floyd’s state than the police but not being able to get it across. Most people have made up their minds based on one particular onlooker’s voice over on the original viral video to decide motive, and that onlooker had decided motive within seconds of Floyd being laid on the ground, and with no real picture of the entire situation.

However, either the police practice was woefully inadequate due to departmental policy or policy wasn’t followed. They should have gotten their weight off him the moment he became unresponsive, in fact one officer suggests that they roll him on his side at about 6 minutes in, and Chauvin says no. Very bad decision. Two minutes later the ambulance turns up.

So either the police department through bad policy or Chauvin from not following policy was responsible for Floyd’s death. I can’t divine motive or lack of it.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago

On the 18th November last, BBC 1 broadcast a much heralded interview between the black TV Historian, Professor David Olusoga and the sainted one, President emeritus, Obama.

Early in the interview Obama referred to the
“murder of “George Floyd”. Olusoga did not challenge that as yet unproven allegation, and in bovine fashion, said nothing.

If such blatant falsehoods past unchallenged, by these two individuals what hope is there?

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

Floyd George knew my father, my father knew Floyd George.

‘The forces of reason, pluralism, legality and democracy are fractured’.

For 15 years now I have described modern Britain as a land devoid of all reason, morality or justice. With each passing day, my diagnosis is further vindicated.

Nick Whitehouse
Nick Whitehouse
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Ah, but what is the solution?
Indeed a solution that will keep everybody happy?

Arnold Grutt
Arnold Grutt
3 years ago

There isn’t one. Periodically sceptics, such as myself, who prefer to reserve judgment as far as possible, are overwhelmed by ‘people of faith’. We are living through such a time now (cue the comparisons of Jeremy Corbyn with followers of ‘Jesus’ e.g. in the ‘Morning Star’).

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

It is, almost certainly, far too late for any ‘solution’.

Mark M
Mark M
3 years ago

The ‘martyrdom’ of militant Islamism is not *actively* rejected by the majority of Muslims. I do not see massive street demonstrations by Muslims around the world against these martyrs ““ I am more likely to see demonstrations in support. But the majority of Muslims in western countries, when asked, will express disagreement with the martyrdom concept so, yes, they could be *passively* rejecting it. Or they could be unwilling to express their thoughts publicly in a society that is hostile to those ideas, in the same way that many right-wingers feel they cannot openly express their opinions in western societies. It seems to me that there is a large pool of support out there and we are not going to see the end of this sort of martyrdom soon.

Miro Mitov
Miro Mitov
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark M

That the ‘martyrdom’ of islamist terrorists is rejected by their community is an idea continuously being pushed around by Western ‘experts’ who believe they know islam better than the islamists. On the contrary- islamist terrorists are universally revered by their families and acquire celebrity status in their communities. I am as yet to see the family of a muslim terrorist refer to him as a murderer of innocents rather than as a martyr defending his righteous faith. The recent cases from Pakistan, where islamic fanatics kill alleged blasphemers, ateists or even lawyers defending accused blasphemers in court, and who acquire celebrity status thereafter are perfect examples.

aemiliuspaullus
aemiliuspaullus
3 years ago

Fascinating article on a little discussed topic.

However, I find the author’s omission of any reference to Jewish martyrdom to be very peculiar. Surely, the elevation of the Christian martyr derives its power from Jewish piety/literature? Especially the critical years following the Maccabean revolt against Antiochus III (173-164 BC). At that period, immortality, let alone a resurrected afterlife, had not been the hope of the practising Jews. It was only after the revolt, that the heroes were idealized as martyrs, present in heaven before God.

Then the Jewish war (70 AD) added the memory of thousands more Jews who preferred to die rather than betray their Jewish faith. The revolt in Judea (130’s AD) added further martyrs to Jewish history, especially heroic scholars/teachers. In due course, the deaths of the early Jewish prophets become adorned with tales of painful martyrdom, a process which had already begun in the earliest days of Christianity.

Adrian
Adrian
3 years ago

Very interesting. I hadn’t imagined Christian Martyrdom had a precursor, but given that Christianity started with such a spectacular a martyrdom, something must have gone on before.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago

Why the “Jewish war (70 AD)” and only the “revolt in Judea (130’s AD)”.

As I understand it, the later was more severe? Are you perhaps slavishly following Josephus?

aemiliuspaullus
aemiliuspaullus
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

More like slavishly following SchĂƒÂŒrer, Fischel, Manson, and Lane Fox ! It was from my notes that I had jotted down a long time ago and IIRC he called it “the great revolt in Judaea of the 130’s”. From what I understand it has been called by several names: The Bar Kokhba revolt, Mered Bar Kokhba, the Third Jewish-Roman War, or the Third Jewish Revolt. You are right it was more severe.

Marie Morton
Marie Morton
3 years ago

The complexity re the martyrdom of George Floyd though is that he was not the first man to die in such circumstances – knee on neck resulting in death – so when this was pointed out by many as being unique it wasn’t. Google the whiteTony Timpa.

This from the Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com
“Video of Dallas police pinning a man to the ground for more than 13 minutes until he loses consciousness and dies has been made public after a years-long legal battle.
Tony Timpa, 32, died in August 2016 as he was restrained by three police officers in a Dallas parking lot. Timpa had called 911 to say he had come off his medication for schizophrenia and depression and needed help.
In the bodycam video, finally obtained by the Dallas Morning News, Timpa, who had been handcuffed by store security guards, is pinned to the ground in a prone position with a knee on his back as he pleads with police to release him.
“You’re going to kill me!” Timpa shouts repeatedly.
The three officers laugh and joke as they restrain Timpa on the ground. One officer mocks Timpa as a “roly-poly”. As he becomes unresponsive, with his face in the grass, the officers joke that he has fallen asleep. When Timpa finally stops moving, the trio continue their mockery.”
and further:
“Three police officers were indicted on charges of misdemeanor deadly conduct, according to the 2017 police press release and court records. The indictments were handed down more than a year after Timpa’s death and three months after The Dallas Morning News published its investigation into the death.
On March 18, the Dallas County District Attorney’s office dismissed the charges, saying the decision was made following a lengthy investigation into the official cause of death and a discussion with three medical examiners.”
Yet the BBC and MSM – despite knowing the comparison – never said anything.
I put in a complaint – after 4 months I was given the option of taking it further but realised it wasn’t worth it.
However I think that what happened to Tony Timpa should be more widely known. There were no demonstrations after what had happened to him. This should show that George Floyd was not unique and therefore not a BLM martyr.

Arthur Waldman
Arthur Waldman
3 years ago
Reply to  Marie Morton

Which really should not be such a surprise to us, after all careers as police officer, or corrections officer tend not to draw most heavily from the most altruistic and morally upstanding elements of our society. That they act brutishly to those they have power over is sad but ought not to be a complete surprise. That their misbehaviour is accepted as racist as a matter of course is both facile and unfair. We instead succumb to the superficiality of slogans and rabble rousing “activists” …

“As the questions grow harder and more complicated, people yearn for simpler answers, one-sentence answers, answers that point unhesitatingly to a culprit who can be blamed for all our suffering, answers that promise that if we only eradicate the villains, all our troubles will vanish.”
“‱ Amos Oz,

Andrew Baldwin
Andrew Baldwin
3 years ago

Great post by Jenny as usual. Unfortunately, in her narrative the progress from the martyrdom of St. Ignatius and other martyrs of the early Church to the murder of Thomas à Beckett and a Polish Catholic priest by the Communist government and a definition of martyrdom by Pope Benedict gives one the impression that Christian martyrdom has been largely a Roman Catholic thing. Although the martyrdom of Coptic Christians is mentioned afterwards, there is no specific mention of the Orthodox Church (i.e. the churches that are in communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople). The year 1054 is generally agreed to be the year in which the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church became distinct entities.
St. Ignatius is recognized as a martyr by Orthodox Christians as well as Roman Catholics. As Jenny mentions, he was the bishop of Antioch. Antioch, along with Alexandria, Constantinople, and Jerusalem, was one of the patriarchates that would later define the Orthodox Church after the break with Rome. Vibia Perpetua and Felicity, martyrs of the early church, would also be recognized as martyrs of the Orthodox Church. Of course, Orthodox Christians do not accept Pope Benedict as an authority on who is and is not a martyr.
The number of Orthodox Christians who suffered martyrdom under Communist rule following the Bolshevik Revolution absolutely dwarfed the number of early Christians who suffered the same fate. There were probably more than 130 martyr-bishops and the number of martyr-priests would be in the tens of thousands. It was like a fulfillment of the prophecy of the 17th century Archpriest Avakum: “Satan has obtained our radiant Russia from God, that she may become red with the blood of martyrs.”

Claire D
Claire D
3 years ago

Interesting and timely article but “signage” in the last paragraph ? !!
Should have been ‘symbolism’, or is there something unacceptable about ‘symbolism’ these days ?

Arnold Grutt
Arnold Grutt
3 years ago

“the beleaguered Copts of Egypt, for example ” who can trace their Christian roots in the region back to 42 AD”

This seems an extraordinarily precise date for any event in the Christian world of the first century. What event or fact does it relate to? Most dates of events in the ‘Christian’ world at that time are no more than rough calculatons based on various timelines established by writings elsewhere e.g. those of Roman and Jewish historians, whose dates can be cross-checked against physical things like monuments, memorials etc. etc. Even the ‘crucifixion of Jesus ‘ cannot be tied down to a date. In my view there is significant doubt that Pontius PIlate was really involved, and even within Christian literature there are contrary claims e.g. one of the apocryphal Gospels claims that Jesus was ‘killed by the Jews’. This is not to say that such claims are more true, just that they exist.

As far as historians of the 1st C. are concerned Christianity is particularly difficult, because the source documents are undated (even the best calculations depend on carbon-dating, which can only narrow a dating down so much, before becoming slightly vague).

Nick Whitehouse
Nick Whitehouse
3 years ago
Reply to  Arnold Grutt

I don’t think the exact date is important.
But it is certainly true that Christianity pre dates Islam in large swathes of the near east.
Something to do with the Eastern Roman Empire?

Arnold Grutt
Arnold Grutt
3 years ago

“I don’t think the exact date is important.”

Well, in some ways it can be. It can reveal obvious pastiches or forgeries, revealing developmental incompatibilities. But I agree. A ’cause’, defined as one thing causing another in a sequential way, is often the most difficult thing to find in ‘history’, if in fact it can be identified at all. Single causes of that sort really don’t exist. NT scholars have learned to live with the uncertainties of chronology.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago

Old nick, of TQ 9 is the authority on that.

ard10027
ard10027
3 years ago
Reply to  Arnold Grutt

This is a calculation. By tradition, the Coptic Church in Egypt was begun by the apostle Mark, who stands in the same relationship to it as St Peter does to Rome. The generally accepted date of his arrival was 42AD, but as you say, we’re not even 100% sure of the exact date of the Crucifixion, so these things are estimates. What’s not in question is that it is and extremely ancient church and certainly dates from the decades following the death of Christ.

Arnold Grutt
Arnold Grutt
3 years ago
Reply to  ard10027

Yes, Unfortunately there is an unacknowledged aspect to tradition. Most of it is completely bogus. Whenever a historical enterprise tackles tradition in detail, the entire edifice starts to totter. This is what causes political wranglings over ‘justification’ by tradition. And so we find pointless discussions about ‘What exactly happened’. No history (however recent) is capable of stating this finally.

ard10027
ard10027
3 years ago
Reply to  Arnold Grutt

Yes, that’s the traditional attitude.

Arnold Grutt
Arnold Grutt
3 years ago
Reply to  ard10027

Well, good piece of wit, but it really isn’t. What evidence is there that a person/God called ‘Jesus’ was actually crucified at all. except using the claims of ‘believers’? So how can we relate other events chronologically when the actual starting point, usually ’33 AD’ is not even provable. And was there really a person called ‘Mark’, with a biography and life history well-known to contemporaries? None of this is certain in the least.

We don’t even know what type of documents the ‘Gospels’ were intended to be taken as when written. History? Myth? Bedtime story? Plays for acting out? etc. etc.

The reason for opposing the killing of Copts is that it is inhumane and barbarous now. The supposed antiquity of their ‘faith’ is beside the point.

ard10027
ard10027
3 years ago
Reply to  Arnold Grutt

That’s a reason for opposing killing anyone. And if you’re a mythicist, I’m not going to waste any time convincing you of the existence of the historical personage called “Jesus Christ”. The atheist scholar Bart Ehrman did that already. Read “Did Jesus Exist”.

Eugene Norman
Eugene Norman
3 years ago
Reply to  Arnold Grutt

What does it matter, the date? As for why we know someone called Jesus was crucified it is because if you were inventing a man out of whole cloth then why would you have him die the death of a criminal? Don’t be confused by the fact that later Christianity came to cope with that theologically, it was a problem at the start. The gospels were definitely meant as history.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Eugene Norman

The most interesting question is why Pilate was such a “woke” bedwetter, letting Christ off with a Friday afternoon crucifixion? When he should done at least Sunday to Wednesday, if ‘he’ was fit and healthy.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Arnold Grutt

Had the Roman Emperor Flavius Claudius Julianus, not been killed in battle at the early age of 31/32, Christianity might have been put back in its box, and would now be only of passing academic interest.

Marie Morton
Marie Morton
3 years ago

The complexity re George Floyd though is that he was not the first man to die in such circumstances – knee on neck resulting in death – so when this was pointed out by many as being unique it wasn’t. Google the whiteTony Timpa.

This from the Guardian:
https://www.theguardian.com

“Video of Dallas police pinning a man to the ground for more than 13 minutes until he loses consciousness and dies has been made public after a years-long legal battle.
Tony Timpa, 32, died in August 2016 as he was restrained by three police officers in a Dallas parking lot. Timpa had called 911 to say he had come off his medication for schizophrenia and depression and needed help.
In the bodycam video, finally obtained by the Dallas Morning News, Timpa, who had been handcuffed by store security guards, is pinned to the ground in a prone position with a knee on his back as he pleads with police to release him.
“You’re going to kill me!” Timpa shouts repeatedly.
The three officers laugh and joke as they restrain Timpa on the ground. One officer mocks Timpa as a “roly-poly”. As he becomes unresponsive, with his face in the grass, the officers joke that he has fallen asleep. When Timpa finally stops moving, the trio continue their mockery.”
and further:
“Three police officers were indicted on charges of misdemeanor deadly conduct, according to the 2017 police press release and court records.
The indictments were handed down more than a year after Timpa’s death and three months after The Dallas Morning News published its investigation into the death.
On March 18, the Dallas County District Attorney’s office dismissed the charges, saying the decision was made following a lengthy investigation into the official cause of death and a discussion with three medical examiners.”
Yet the BBC and MSM – despite knowing the comparison – never said anything. I put in a complaint – after 4 months I was given the option of taking it further but realised it wasn’t worth it. However I think that what happened to Tony Timpa should be more widely known. There were no demonstrations after what had happened to him.

Starry Gordon
Starry Gordon
3 years ago

‘The elevation of martyrs in any society, however, is also a sign that the existing political conversation has broken down. The forces of reason, pluralism, legality and democracy are fractured’.

I doubt if they are any more fractured than they usually are. A considerable portion of human interaction is not and seldom if ever has been rational, pluralistic, legal, or democratic. However, the elevation of martyrs is certainly a form of political conversation and, if effective, can be called rational. In the case of George Floyd, it was certainly effective; numerous people outside his racial community went into the streets as a result of it, that is, in communicated its complaint to the public generally and probably even to the most benighted of its rulers and leaders. As a result there may be an improvement, if only temporary, in police behavior, and thousands, maybe millions of mostly young people are now attuned to the proposition that police brutality, especially along racial lines, is not a good thing. More fundamental progress will require more constructive tactics, but stepping away from a corrupt established order is a start.

As for the persecuted Christians, I suppose they are stand-ins for colonialism among the violently ignorant and stupid, of whom there seem to be many everywhere. Their martyrdom will at least accelerate the decline of Islam.