Fresh Martyrs and Old Prophets

What was Christianity’s allure?

When people see that men are lacerated by various kinds of tortures yet remain unsubdued even when their very torturers are worn out, they come to believe that the agreement of so many and the unyielding faith of the dying is not without meaning.

Were martyrs the bait for Lactantius, the line that reeled him away from philosophy and the old ways? Later, Augustine would only have Ambroise’s honeyed words. For then the martyrs were long dead, inflated legends for believers, not in-your-face proclaimers to the world at large.

More generally, perhaps the persecutors made the church, by the ferocity of their attacks, verbal and physical. Demonized, it took on a grandeur its state at the time didn’t merit. Was Bin Laden more than a crazed criminal before Bush railed against him as a unique threat?

And there were the prophets in old, old texts that predicted a Christ. Jesus fulfilled their expectations. No mere magician could claim such authority.

We would have thought him [Jesus] a magus, as you [Sossianus Hierocles, a high imperial official who attacked Christianity around 304] now think and as the Jews taught in his lifetime, had not all the prophets with one spirit predicted that he was to do these very miracles. Therefore, his marvelous deeds and works do no more to make us think him a god than does that very cross…because it to was prophesied at the same time. Not therefore from his own testimony - for who can be believed if he speaks about himself - but from the testimony of the prophets…has he won credence for his divinity, a testimony that…can never be given to Apollonius or to Apuleius or to any of the magi.

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