Campus Location

Abilene Campus (Residential)

Date of Award

Summer 8-2016


Theology, Ministry, Missions (GST)

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Committee Chair or Primary Advisor

Dr. Jeff W. Childers

Second Committee Member or Secondary Advisor

Dr. David Kneip

Third Committee Member or Committee Reader

Dr. Mark Cullum


For decades, many scholars have been uncomfortable with the idea that some early Christians were eager to die. This led to the creation of the category “voluntary martyrdom” by which modern historians attempted to understand those martyrs who provoked their own arrest and/or death. Scholars then connected this form of martyrdom with an early Christian movement known as Montanism. Thus, scholars have scoured martyr accounts in an attempt to identify volunteers and label them Montanists. The Letter from the Churches of Vienna and Lyons and the martyrs it depicts did not escape such scrutiny. I contend that the martyrs in that account should not even be considered volunteers. This study surveys the role of the language of zeal and enthusiasm in the account of the martyrs of Lyons. I argue that this language in the text does not refer to reckless action but to the emulation of heroes often used by ancient Greco-Roman writers to describe the preparation of soldiers and athletes. I then turn to the theological aspects of the language of zeal and enthusiasm in the Letter, especially the connections between zeal and the Holy Spirit and the emulation of Christ. As far as the account itself is concerned, these martyrs behave according to the plan that God has for them in the struggle against Satan. Finally, I argue that the claims that have been made about the presence of Montanist influence in the Letter and the connection between Montanism and voluntary martyrdom are based in faulty assumptions.



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