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date: 18 January 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This essay addresses the political context in which Early Christian Apocrypha were composed and suggests that apocryphal texts have been underused and ignored in discussion of the relationship between Romans and Christians in the first three centuries of the Common Era. It surveys the Apocrypha and argues that the basis for the mistreatment of Christians is commonly grounded in accusations of sorcery, the envy of characters in the story, and the disruptive effect of Christian proclamation on the personal lives of Roman officials. Roman officials are cast as failing to meet the standards of manliness and Romanness common in the ancient world and the Roman household is undermined by the conversion of its members to Christianity. The piece argues that Early Christian Apocrypha offer explicitly anti-imperial narratives about social subversion.

Keywords: martyrdom, martyrs, Christian persecution, Roman imperialism, execution, deaths of the apostles, asceticism

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