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Session 3 – Persecution in the Early Church Much of our information on the early church and persecution comes from Eusebius He wrote Ecclesiastical History.

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Presentation on theme: "Session 3 – Persecution in the Early Church Much of our information on the early church and persecution comes from Eusebius He wrote Ecclesiastical History."— Presentation transcript:

1 Session 3 – Persecution in the Early Church Much of our information on the early church and persecution comes from Eusebius He wrote Ecclesiastical History Eusebius was a close friend of Constantine (emperor) and got permission to collect and write about the first 300 years of Church history

2 Matthew - killed by stabbing as ordered by King Hircanus James, son of Alphaeous – Stoned and clubbed to death (Josephus) James, brother of Jesus - thrown down from a height, stoned and then beaten to death at the hands of Ananias (circa AD 66) John - tortured by boiling oil, exiled to Patmos in AD 95 Mark - burned during Roman emperor Trajan's reign Peter - crucified upside-down by the gardens of Nero on the Vatican hill circa AD 64 The Death and Martyrdom of Disciples

3 Andrew - crucified on an "X" shaped cross by Aegeas, governor of the Edessenes, around AD 80 Philip - stoned and crucified in Hierapolis, Phrygia Simon - crucified in Egypt under Trajan's reign Thomas - death by spear thrust in Calamina, India Thaddaeous - killed by arrows James, son of Zebedee - killed by sword in AD 44 by order of King Herod Agrippa I of Judea Bartholomew - beaten, flayed alive, crucified upside down, then beheaded Peter and Paul died under emperor Nero

4 How were the early Christians seen by others as the Church developed over the first years We will look at three different perspectives: How they were view by the Popular How they were viewed Politically How they were viewed Philosophically

5 Viewed by the popular They were seen as unsocial because they would not involve themselves in festivals and feasts of the pagans They were seen and called atheists for denying all the Roman Gods They participated in strange rituals (Like the Eucharist) Only appealed to the poor and low classes

6 Politically They were seen as unpatriotic because they didn’t worship to the God’s who protected Rome Accused often of being revolutionaries They worshipped Christ who was a Roman criminal They were not in the military typically (until Constantine)

7 Philosophically (to the “educated”/educators) Christian apologists in the early church address many of the objections by these people, and a lot of what we know is from apologists quoting philosophers Christianity appealed to the simple minded They embraced immoral people Embraced stories that were foolish to them (Virgin birth, Resurrection, OT stories, Incarnation)

8 There were ten major waves of persecution They were not all empire wide, some were localized - And they varied on severity We will be looking at a 250(ish) year period of persecution, starting with Nero in A.D. 64 Nero set fire to the city of Rome and then blamed it on the Christians to justify his persecution

9 Peter and Paul both were martyred under emperor Nero as well as many other Christians at that time After Nero there is a 30(ish) year gap until the next persecution under emperor Domitian Under Domitian, John was exiled to the Island of Patmos where he wrote revelation The seven letters to the sever churches were written during the time of Domitian’s persecution

10 Persecution under Domitian was rather sporadic, and was not consistent throughout the empire Domitian referred to himself as Lord and God, so you can image the problems that created "DOMITIAN, having exercised his cruelty against many, and unjustly slain no small number of noble and illustrious men at Rome,... at length established himself as the successor of NERO, in his hatred and hostility to GOD. He was the second that raised a persecution against us.” - Eusebius

11 The next persecution came under Emperor Trajan We have a letter written from Trajan to Pliny (one of his Gov) that speaks about Christians He said not to seek them out, but if they are brought to you, but if brought to Pliny he should get them to recant Ignatius died under Trajan (Thrown to Beasts in Rome)

12 Hadrian was the next emperor who persecution came from Under Hadrian, persecution was more localized Justin Martyr quotes a script from that time that says how officials should deal with Christians He said the official ruling was Christians had to be convicted of committing a crime in order to be tried

13 If you brought false witness against a Christian that was punished It was better than other times of persecution, but still had it’s problems Polycarp was martyred under Hadrian’s rule Polycarp went into hiding for a while (which was not a bad thing, the church tried everything they could to keep the bishops alive so they could teach)

14 One night Polycarp is reported to have had a dream, in the dream his pillow caught fire and he took it as a sign that he was to be martyred After fleeing and hiding for a time, he was finally found and surrounded He invited the soldiers in, fed them, asked for some time to pray, and then said he was ready to go

15 “Then, when he had been brought in, the proconsul asked him if he was Polycarp. And when he confessed, he would have persuaded him to deny, saying, Have respect unto thine age, and other things like these, as is their custom to say: Swear by the fortunes of Caesar; Repent; Say, Away with the Atheists. But Polycarp, when he had looked with a grave face at all the multitude of lawless heathen in the arena, having beckoned unto them with his hand, sighed, and looking up unto heaven, said, Away with the Atheists!... The Account of Polycarp’s martyrdom

16 “…And when the proconsul pressed him, and said, Swear, and I will release thee, revile Christ; Polycarp said, Eighty and six years have I served him, and in nothing hath he wronged me; and how, then, can I blaspheme my King, who saved me? But when he again persisted, and said, Swear by the fortune of Caesar, he answered, If thou art vainly confident that I shall swear by the fortune of Caesar, as thou suggestest, and pretendest to be ignorant of me who I am, hear distinctly, I am a Christian. But if thou desirest to learn the scheme of Christianity, give me a day to speak, and hearken unto me…

17 “But the proconsul said unto him, I have wild beasts; I will deliver thee unto them, unless thou repentest. But he said, Call them, for repentance from the better to the worse is impossible for us; but it is a good thing to change from evil deeds to just ones. But he said again unto him, I will cause thee to be consumed by fire if thou despisest the wild beasts, unless thou repentest. But Polycarp said, Thou threatenest me with fire that burneth but for a season, and is soon quenched. For thou art ignorant of the fire of the judgment to come, and of the eternal punishment reserved for the wicked. But why delayest thou? Bring whatever thou wishest.”

18 The next persecution comes under Emperor Marcus Aurelius Natural disasters were hitting Rome more than usual, and he blamed it on the Christians and their black magic and not worshipping the Gods Justin Martyr was beheaded in Rome Many groups Christians were gathered and thrown to beasts while others were forced to watch in attempts to get them to recant

19 Many stood fast and were martyred for their faith, but some recanted and denied Christ Blandina was a famous female martyr She had earlier been thrown to the beasts, but they wouldn’t touch her She encouraged many Christians to not recant On the last day of the shows she was brought with a teen who they tortured and killed

20 She was finally killed, tossed by a bull inside a sack It was people like her who encouraged others to go through with being martyred and not to recant their faith It was said that no women ever suffered in persecution like she did The Romans then burnt the remains of Christians

21 Next persecution came by Septimius Severus Under him conversation to Christianity was forbidden and illegal It’s strange because some people in his household were Christians The worst persecution came to he North African Church at this time A very popular martyrdom from this period is that of Perpetua and Felicitas

22 Perpetua was a 22 year old mother She took her baby into prison with he for a time Felicitas was a slave girl who was with Perpetua, she was pregnant and gave birth while inside prison She was also baptized in prison Perpetua’ father visited her three times encouraging her to recant her faith, but she didn’t

23 Decius (around 250 A.D.) becomes emperor and starts the first empire wide persecution The catalyst for the persecution was the impending threat of the Goths, he said Rome may fall because they’ve abandoned sacrifice to the Gods (mainly the Christians) Under this massive persecution, many Christians were martyred, but sadly, many Christians renounced their faith and gave in

24 Something called a Libellous was issued that signified that you had made your annual sacrifice to the Gods. If you did not have one, you were in trouble. There were three camps of Christians in response: Those who stood firm, those who sacrificed, and those who bribed officials for a libellous

25 Next was Emperor Valerian Under his reign, Cyprian of Carthage and the Bishop at Alexandria were deported Under this persecution Christians did not collapse like they had under Decius Orders were given to execute church leads (bishops and deacons etc.) and to seize church property

26 Later after being deported, Cyprian was brought back and Martyred in the arenas The Governor tells Cyprian he is guilty of conspiracy and leading a group that was against the state At this time Origen was also tortured and soon after died as a result of it Valerian was then captured by the Persians and died and 40 years ( A.D.) of peace came

27 During these years, church buildings are built, Christianity continues to grow, and Christians become involved in Government positions This was the calm before the storm to come The trick at this point for emperors who wanted to kill Christians was there were so many now But that didn’t stop what was about to come

28 Next came emperor Diocletian His wife was a Christian and was an influence him holding him back from persecuting the Christians But it only lasted so long before the great 10 year persecution began The primary proponent wasn’t Diocletian though, at this time the Empire was split between East and West

29 Diocletian and the persecution takes place in the East empire, which was further split up between the Augustis (Political) and Caesars (Military) Diocletian was the political (Augusti) over the Eastern Empire, and a fellow by the name of Galerius was the Caesar (military leader) In the West, Constantius (Constantine's father) was the emperor, and the persecution didn’t happen in that region of Rome

30 Galerius’ mother pushed him to persecute the Christians because they wouldn’t sever the Gods After a while, in 303, near the end of Diocletian's rain, Galerius has taken most of the control after defeating the Persians in battle, and the persecution begins The first decree give said for Churches to be torn down, Bibles to be collected and burnt, and Christians couldn’t be in the Government etc.

31 The second decree came from Galerius that Christians must sacrifice to the Roman Gods, and when they didn’t they were thrown in prison and many martyred Prisons became so full they had to release some Christians to make room for others They used every method around to kill the Christians at the time, beasts, burning, stabbing, crucifixion, the rack, etc.

32 Thousands of Christians were martyred, it became so violent that the people of Rome started to get upset and disturbed by how bad it was After 310, Galerius starts to die and no more people are martyred. He eventually calls for the Christians to pray for him and for Rome before he passes. For all we know, the great persecutor may have found the truth in Jesus Christ at the end

33 One thing that was true through all persecutions, the Church did not fight back When they could they fled, they went into hiding, but they never fought back and killed the Romans This is likely the reason why, despite so strong persecution, the church still grew fast Christians were different, and everyone could tell

34 Memory Verse 2 Corinthians 12:10: “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”


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