Yesterday I began to talk about the Martyrdom of Perpetua, one of the most interesting and moving texts to come down to us from early Christianity. It is an account of a 23-year old Roman matron who is willing to die a gruesome death for her Christian faith. Among other things, the text shows that her faith is far more important to her than her family. In particular, she is shown in conflict especially with her father (no husband is mentioned, which has led to considerable speculation: Divorced? Widowed? Unwed mother? Something else?). And even though it is with regret, she is willing to leave behind her own infant child by being martyred.
Family figures prominently in the two excerpts here. In the first her father begs her to avoid martyrdom, to no avail. In the second (chs. 7-8) we have an account of her dream and intervention on behalf of her dead brother Dinocrates. This is the part that I will be most interested in for the next post. Is it an early adumbration of the later doctrine of Purgatory?
Part of the intrigue in these early sections (before the description of the martyrdom itself) claim to be in Perpetua’s own hand – a kind of diary she kept in prison. One of the major issues in scholarship is whether