Karen L. King, Hollis Professor of Divinity at Harvard Divinity School, has been named as one of six Henry Luce III Fellows in Theology for 2012-13 by the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada (ATS) and the Henry Luce Foundation. Luce Fellows engage in year-long projects selected on the basis of the strength of their proposals to conduct creative and innovative research in religion and theology.
King’s project is to complete a book, titled “Martyrdom and Its Discontents: An Historical Essay on Rethinking Religion and Violence in the Formation of Christianity.”
Traditionally, historians have characterized the first three centuries of Christianity as the age of persecution—a time when Christians were overwhelmingly united in the belief that they were fighting a war against Satan in which willing martyrs would gain eternal life. Now, however, discoveries from Egypt provide evidence that paints a more complex and realistic picture. Christians were far from unified in their struggle, at times disagreeing passionately about how to understand and respond to the torture and execution of fellow believers. At stake were fundamental issues about authority, power, and justice; about the nature of God and what it means to be fully human; about the value of sex, suffering, and wealth; and about what truth torture and violence tells.