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date: 10 December 2019

Abstract and Keywords

It is a mistake to suppose that the scientific history of the Christian church, worthy of continuing use, started only a few decades ago. Arguably, the best work with which to begin a study of the Roman persecutions is article 16 of Edward Gibbon's History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, first published in 1776. The earliest literary evidence for the cult of martyrs dates to the mid-second century, and relates to the place of burial of the martyred Polycarp of Smyrna. This article also discusses the witness of the martyrs; saints and Christian living; a religion of Sundays or of saints' days; miracles; archaeology and art; and the cult of the Virgin Mary.

Keywords: Christian living, miracles, martyrs, Roman persecutions, Edward Gibbon, Christian church, Polycarp of Smyrna, Virgin Mary

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