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Persecution & Martyrdom in the Early Church

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Presentation on theme: "Persecution & Martyrdom in the Early Church"— Presentation transcript:

1 Persecution & Martyrdom in the Early Church

2 Persecution in the First-Century Church

3 I. Persecution in the New Testament
Jesus warned his disciples of coming persecution: John 15:18-20 Matt. 24:9-14

4 I. Persecution in the New Testament
“testimony” = marturion “witness” = martus or “martyr”

5 II. Persecution by the Jews
Stephen (Acts 7:54-60)

6 II. Persecution by the Jews
James (Acts 12:1-2)

7 III. Persecution by the Romans
Christianity was an illegal religion Christians were uncompromising Christians were predominantly lower to middle class Christians were to blame for natural disasters because they left old gods Enmity of the human heart against the Gospel

8 III. Persecution by the Romans
False charges: Atheism Treason Licentiousness Cannibalism Witchcraft & Sorcery Incest Immorality Haters of humanity Intellectual contradictions

9 Emperors & Martyrs Nero (r.51-68) 64, fire destroyed much of Rome
Rumor spread that Nero ordered the fire to make room for his new city, Neropolis He used Christians as a scapegoat & executed 100s Cf. Tacitus, Annales 15.44

10 Simon Peter according to tradition, was crucified upside down

11 Apostle Paul according to tradition was beheaded

12 Domitian (81-96) Instigated the persecution that was the background to the book of Revelation

13 Seven Churches of Revelation

14 Persecution in the Second-Century Church

15 Trajan (98-117)

16 Pliny the Younger, Governor of Bithynia ( ) wrote to Emperor Trajan: “What about the Christians?” Trajan to Pliny: “Don’t ask; don’t tell.”

17 Ignatius Bishop of Antioch
According to tradition, killed by lions in the Roman Colisseum

18 Polycarp (c ) Bishop of Smyrna, burned at the stake

19 Played by Richard Harris in “Gladiator” (2000)
Marcus Aurelius ( ) Played by Richard Harris in “Gladiator” (2000)

20 Justin Martyr (d. 166) Denounced by Cynic philosopher Crescens, who was Aurelius’ advisor Was beheaded

21 Martyrs of Lyons (d. 177)

22 Amphitheater in Lyons

23 Later Widespread Persecution

24 Septimius Severus ( )

25 Septimius Severus: Problems for the Empire
Threat of barbarian invasion Economic crises Civil wars and threat of rebellions Increasing abandonment of traditional customs/religions Edict: forbade further conversions to Christianity; persecutions aimed mainly at converts and teachers

26 The Passion of Perpetua and Felicitas (203)

27 The Passion of Perpetua
Perpetua – Young noblewoman & mother; kept diary of visions & experiences in prison Felicitas – Pregnant slave who delivered her baby in prison so that she could die with her comrades Saturninus, Revocatus & Secundulus – 3 other catechumens Saturus – their teacher who surrendered himself to the authorities

28 Your Professor at the Amphitheater in Carthage

29 Decius ( )

30 Decian Persecution: Results
Some became apostate Some obtained certificates fraudulently Some were temporary apostates who recanted Some endured imprisonment and torture, but did not die, becoming known as “confessors”

31 Origen (c ) Tortured & died

32 Aftermath of Decian Persecution: Question of the Lapsed
After the persecution ended, Christians who renounced Christ wished readmittance into the church Should they be restored to the church? What about different degrees of lapsation (e.g. some renounced Christ, others pretended by obtaining false certificates)? Who should have authority to decide (bishops or confessors)?

33 Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage (249-258)
Pagan rhetorician; converted at age 40; soon appointed bishop Persecution broke out within months Fled and hid in order to continue guiding his flock from safety Accused of cowardice when he returned Confessors claimed authority to forgive the lapsed, not Cyprian who fled

34 Cyprian: Synods 251-2; On the Lapsed
Readmitting the lapsed--Cyprian insisted, “Outside the Church there is no salvation.” He won the point: discipline would be enforced on a rigid basis. The authority of the church--The bishop with a synod represents the consensus of the church, which has dominion over mere splinter-group opinion, such as the confessors.

35 Novatian: Anti-pope Priest in Rome (d. 258)
Opposed Cornelius, Bishop of Rome (251-3), who believed that the church should welcome the lapsed back into the church Novatian led strict party and became rival to the Catholic bishop of Rome Novatianists would not allow any who lapsed to return to the church Cyprian sided with Cornelius against Novatian

36 Two Priorities of the Church
Purity of the Church Forgiving Love Result: Penitential System

37 Valerian ( )

38 Valerian’s Persecution (258-9)
Cyprian and Novatian both martyred, 258 Christians began meeting in catacombs and cemeteries

39 The Great Persecution (303-311)
Diocletian ( ) Galerius ( )

40 Constantius Chlorus (Caesar)
WEST Maximian (Emperor) Constantius Chlorus (Caesar) EAST Diocletian (Emperor) Galerius (Caesar)

41 The Great Persecution (303-311)
Persecution was instigated by Galerius Persecution increased in intensity: Started by evicting Christians from army Edict of 303, removed Christians from civil positions Ordered the destruction of churches and burning of Scriptures Those who surrendered Scriptures for destruction were called “traditors” Eventually required all Christians to sacrifice to the gods, and all church leaders were arrested Most severe and widespread persecution under the Roman Empire

42 Edict of Toleration (311) In 305, Galerius forced Diocletian to abdicate In 311, Galerius became ill; Christians convinced him it was God’s punishment for persecuting them Edict of Toleration: 1) pardoned Christians, allowed them to pursue their faith and to assemble together 2) required them to pray to their God for the emperor and the public good.

43 Constantine ( )

44 Maximinus Daia (Emperor)
WEST Maxentius (Emperor) Constantine (Caesar) EAST Maximinus Daia (Emperor) Licinius (Caesar)

45 Constantine: Conquest of Western Empire (312)
War against Maxentius Eve of the Battle of the Milvian Bridge Saw a vision: Chi & Rho In hoc signes vinces – “In this sign, you will conquer” He painted the Chi-Rho on his soldiers’ shields Maxentius drowned in river

46 Edict of Milan (313) Constantine met with Licinius at Milan and established an alliance which required the cessation of Christian persecution Maximinus Daia (eastern emperor) continued persecution until he was defeated by Licinius In 324, Constantine defeated Licinius and became sole emperor; then persecution of Christians ceased throughout the empire.

47 Results of Persecution
A testimony that spawned growth Apologetic writings, establishment of early Christian theology Purity of the church Superstitions: relics of martyrs became revered as fetishes; sites of martyrdom attracted pilgrimages Division over question of the lapsed

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