Religious Studies

in the Department of Philosophy and Religion

Religion Forum: The Beginnings of Prestigious Suffering in Early Christianity

Thursday, October 18, 4pm

Bryant Hall 209

Dr. Sarah Rollens

Assistant Professor of Religious Studies

Rhodes College


The modern Catholic Church recognizes hundreds of martyrs who suffered or died for their loyalty to Christ. By the third century C.E., there had already emerged in the Roman Empire a distinct genre of stories about remarkable martyrs, which valorized the suffering of early devotees. However, the notion that suffering was a valuable, hence desirable, part of Christian identity can be found much earlier in the letters of Paul. The letters of Paul make up some of the earliest writings in the New Testament, and already by the time they were penned, suffering was being treated as an experience that one should seek out. This presentation will examine the “discourse of suffering” in Paul’s letters and identify the purchase that such currency could gain early Christ followers. Thus, rather than being an invention of later martyr accounts, the prestige of suffering characterized early Christian literature from nearly the beginning of the Jesus movement.


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