Topic for Year 39 (2001-2002):
"On Location: How Do Martyrdoms Take Place?"

Chair: Sigrid Peterson (University of Pennsylvania)

What role does location, considered in the broadest sense, play in the accounts of martyrdoms with which we deal? For example

  • The martyrdom of Polycarp takes place in a Roman arena in Smyrna, following scenes located elsewhere in Asia Minor.
  • The Essenes are dying for God in the pages of Josephus's War (2.8.11-28).
  • Maccabean martyrs face a judge/ruler located above them on a platform known as a bema.
  • Perpetua and Felicity prepare for death in the lockup under an arena in Carthage.

The Philadelphia Seminar on Christian Origins (PSCO), in its thirty-ninth year of meetings in 2001-2002, will examine new models of ancient Jewish and Christian martyrdom, and the place that location plays, implicitly and explicitly, in the development and differentiation of these models. A Universal model, that of Frend (Martyrdom and Persecution in the Early Church), has recently split into a number of individually developed models of martyrdom in Early Judaism and Early Christianity, the milieu of Christian origins. We will be asking some of our members, as well as some of the model makers and their critics, to participate with us in the critical examination of the old and new issues surrounding martyrdom. We will focus in particular on questions of the influence of location (spatial, social, linguistic) on both the development of martyrdom and the development of the new models. The following represent some possible topics:

  • Locating definitions of martyrdom and martyrology
  • Martyrdom and Antioch
  • God-fearers in the Synagogue--Early martyrs to an eschatological cause?
  • Beyond/before martus: Jubilees and the Dead Sea Scrolls of Qumran?
  • Dispersed discourse: Palestine, Babylon, Edessa, Alexandria, Rome
  • Revising and Revisiting Martyrdom and Rome
  • The place of women, and women in their places of martyrdom
  • Canonical martyrdom: Scriptures as location

A variety of formats is planned, and further format suggestions are welcome. Please contact Sigrid Peterson,, 215-222-1841 or 215-552-8918.