Anything dealing with historical events, narrative, or commentary, both regional and world-wide.

Teachers of the Church


Read Gonzalez pp 68 – 71

Athens and Jerusalem

Read “Did Plato read Moses?” pp 6-8 by Peter Leithart

This paper can be ordered from Biblical Horizons (http://www.hornes.org/biblicalhorizons/) from their catalog.


Quoted from Wikipedia

Neoplatonism (also Neo-Platonism) is an ancient school of philosophy beginning in the 3rd century A.D. It was based on the teachings of Plato and Platonists; but it interpreted Plato in many new ways, such that Neoplatonism was quite different from what Plato taught, though many Neoplatonists would not admit the distinction.


Neoplatonism began with the philosopher Plotinus, though Plotinus claimed to have received his teachings from Ammonius Saccas, an illiterate dock-worker in Alexandria. His most important work was the Six Enneads, in which he explains his philosophy.


Plotinus taught the existence of an indescribable One, which emanated the rest of the universe as a sequence of lesser beings. Later Neoplatonic philosophers, especially Iamblichus, added hundreds of intermediate gods and beings as emanations between the One and humanity; but Plotinus' system was much simpler in comparison.


Later neoplatonic philosophers included Porphyry, Proclus, Iamblichus and Hypatia of Alexandria.


Neoplatonism was frequently used as a philosophical foundation for paganism, and as a means of defending paganism against Christianity; but many Christians were also influenced by Neoplatonism. In Christian versions of Neoplatonism, the One is identified as God. Most important of these was Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, whose work was very influential in the Middle Ages. Augustine of Hippo converted to Christianity under the influence of Plotinus, leading most scholars to label Augustine a frank Neoplatonist; although, they note that Augustine's subordination of philosophy to scripture leads to striking differences from the non-Christian philosophy. Some scholars have shown that Neoplatonism was also influenced by Christian theology, notably through the belief systems known as Gnosticism.

Clement of Alexandria

Excerpts taken from Wikipedia

Most of the following taken from Wikipedia (http://www.wikipedia.org)

The trilogy into which Clement's principal remains are connected by their purpose and mode of treatment is composed of the

  1. Protrepticus ("Exhortation")

  2. Paedagogus ("Instructor")

  3. Stromata ("Miscellanies").

  • Overbeck calls it the boldest literary undertaking in the history of the Church, since in it Clement for the first time attempted to set forth Christianity for the faithful in the traditional forms of secular literature.



Addressed to the unconverted.

The Protrepticus forms an introduction inviting the reader to listen, not to the mythical legends of the gods, but to the "new song" of the Logos, the beginning of all things and creator of the world. He demonstrates the folly of idolatry and the pagan mysteries, the horrors of pagan sacrifice, and shows that the Greek philosophers and poets only guessed at the truth, while the prophets set forth a direct way to salvation; and now the divine Logos speaks in his own person, to awaken all that is good in the soul of man and to lead it to immortality.


Addressed to the new convert.

Having thus laid a foundation in the knowledge of divine truth, he goes on in the Paedagogus to develop a Christian ethic.


Appeals to the mature believer.

As with Epictetus, true virtue shows itself with him in its external evidences by a natural, simple, and moderate way of living. The Stromata goes further and aims at the perfection of the Christian life by initiation into complete knowledge. It attempts, on the basis of Scripture and tradition, to give such an account of the Christian faith as shall answer all the demands of learned men, and conduct the student into the innermost realities of his belief. Clement entitled this work Stromateis, which means "patchwork," because it dealt with such a variety of matters.


From The 'Noddy' guide to Tertullian (http://www.tertullian.org/readfirst.htm)

Tertullian lived in the ancient city of Carthage in what is now Tunisia, sometime around 200AD. Very little is known about his life - that little comes either from writers two centuries later, or from the scanty personal notes in his works. Much of it has been asserted to be untrue anyway by some modern writers .


He was born a member of the educated classes, and clearly gained a good education. Life in his times wasn't very different in some ways to the modern day - he indulged his passions as he saw fit, including sex, and like everyone else attended the games where gladiators killed each other and criminals were eaten alive, for the enjoyment of the spectators.


But among the sights he saw, was that of Christians being executed this way. He was struck with the courage with which stupid and contemptible slave men and little slave girls faced a hideous death, against all nature; and after investigating, became a Christian himself, and turned his budding talents to writing in defense of this despised and victimized group.


Tertullian was the first Christian writer to write in Latin, and was described three centuries later as writing 'first, and best, and incomparably', of all the writers to do so. (by the unknown author of 'Praedestinatus'). His writing is aggressive, sarcastic and brilliant, and at points very funny even after 2000 years. He was deeply conscious of his own failings, and had a burning desire for truth and integrity. He was described by Jerome as celebrated in all the churches as a speaker; and his works bear the marks of the need to keep an audience awake! His erudition was immense. Much of what he read is lost, but what remains gives a picture of wide reading, which was celebrated even in antiquity.


He wrote a great number of works - how many is unknown. Thirty-one are extant; lists of known lost works are elsewhere on this site; but we have no reason to suppose this to be anything like an exhaustive list. Most of those extant have come down to us by the slenderest of threads, and the very nature of Tertullian's terse and ironic style, means that copyists made many errors, and in some cases his text is beyond certain restoration. Not all of his works were ever completed.


His most important work is the Apologeticum, in defense of the Christians. Running it close must be Adversus Praxean, in which the doctrine of the Trinity comes into clear focus for the first time, in response to a heretic who was twisting the biblical balance between the persons of the Godhead. In this work, he created most of the terminology with which this doctrine was to be referred (and is still), such as Trinitas, etc. His discussion of how heretical arguments are in general to be handled in De praescriptio haereticorum also deserves wider recognition.


Tertullian wrote no systematic theology; all of his works are brought forth by a local event, a persecution, or a heretic.


In his time, the church finally decided to reject a movement calling itself 'The New Prophecy', and known later as Montanism. The New Prophecy made no doctrinal innovations, but said that the Holy Spirit was calling Christians to a more ascetic position. But obeying the prophets inevitably meant a problem, if the bishop did not recognize their authority.


Tertullian had grown angry at what looked like compromise creeping into the church - unwillingness to be martyred, willingness to forgive more serious public sins - and aligned himself with the Montanists. It is unclear whether this involved actually leaving the church, but his later works are avowedly Montanist, and one or two explicitly attack the mainstream church on these points. As such he was not recognized as a Saint, despite his orthodoxy, and his works were all marked as condemned in the 6th Century Decretum Gelasianum.


His later life is unknown, and we do not know if he was martyred or died of old age as Jerome says.


Churchmen have not liked him - he is not easy reading for those who prefer compromise and ambiguity to truth, and of ecclesiasticism there is no trace in his works. The rhetoric that impressed his contemporaries has been often laid hold of and twisted in misquotations by enemies of the Church20. He is often misquoted - and as a subtle and ironical writer, is easy to misquote.


He has been called the first Protestant, as the first Christian writer of impeccable orthodoxy to enunciate the unpalatable truth, that the church was not a conclave of bishops, but the people of the Holy Spirit.


But his legacy was the very shape of Latin Christianity. St Cyprian never went a day without reading him, and called him 'the master'. He gave Christians the means with which to meet paganism on its own ground and defeat it. And whenever the errors against which he wrote resurface, as they do from time to time, what Tertullian had to say about them will again be readable; who wrote 'first and best and incomparably' against them.

Famous Quotes:


Quote from Apologeticum

[10] O glory legitimate, because it is human, for whose sake it is counted neither reckless foolhardiness, nor desperate obstinacy, to despise death itself and all sorts of savage treatment; for whose sake you may for your native place, for the empire, for friendship, endure all you are forbidden to do for God! [11] And you cast statues in honour of persons such as these, and you put inscriptions upon images, and cut out epitaphs on tombs, that their names may never perish. In so far you can by your monuments, you yourselves afford a son of resurrection to the dead. Yet he who expects the true resurrection from God, is insane, if for God he suffers!


[12] But go zealously on, good presidents, you will stand higher with the people if you sacrifice the Christians at their wish, kill us, torture us, condemn us, grind us to dust; your injustice is the proof that we are innocent. Therefore God suffers that we thus suffer; for but very lately, in condemning a Christian woman to the leno rather than to the leo you made confession that a taint on our purity is considered among us something more terrible than any punishment and any death.76 [13] Nor does your cruelty, however exquisite, avail you; it is rather a temptation to us. The oftener we are mown down by you, the more in number we grow; the blood of Christians is seed.77 [14] Many of your writers exhort to the courageous bearing of pain and death, as Cicero in the Tusculans, as Seneca in his Chances, as Diogenes, Pyrrhus, Callinicus; and yet their words do not find so many disciples as Christians do, teachers not by words, but by their deeds. [15] That very obstinacy you rail against is the preceptress. For who that contemplates it, is not excited to inquire what is at the bottom of it? who, after inquiry, does not embrace our doctrines? and when he has embraced them, desires not to suffer that he may become partaker of the fullness of God's grace, that he may obtain from God complete forgiveness, by giving in exchange his blood? [16] For that secures the remission of all offences. On this account it is that we return thanks on the very spot for your sentences. As the divine and human are ever opposed to each other, when we are condemned by you, we are acquitted by the Highest.


Excerpts from Wikipedia


His full name was apparently Origenes Adamantius. He was educated by his father, Leonides, on the Bible and in elementary studies. But in 202 Origen's father was killed in the outbreak of the persecution during the reign of Septimius Severus. Origen wished to follow in martyrdom, but was prevented only by a ruse of his mother. The death of Leonides left the family of nine impoverished when their property was confiscated. Origen, however, was taken under the protection of a woman of wealth and standing; but as her household already included a heretic named Paul, the strictly orthodox Origen seems to have remained with her only a short time.


Since his father's teaching enabled him also to give elementary instruction, he revived, in 203, the catechetical school at Alexandria, whose last teacher, Clement of Alexandria, was apparently driven out by the persecution. But the persecution still raged, and the young teacher unceasingly visited the prisoners, attended the courts, and comforted the condemned, himself preserved from harm as if by a miracle. His fame and the number of his pupils increased rapidly, so that Demetrius, bishop of Alexandria, made him restrict himself to instruction in Christian doctrine alone.


Origen, to be entirely independent, sold his library for a sum which netted him a daily income of 4 obols (about twelve cents) on which he lived by exercising the utmost frugality. Teaching throughout the day, he devoted the greater part of the night to the study of the Bible and lived a life of rigid asceticism. This he carried to such an extent that, fearing that his position as a teacher of women as well as men might give ground for scandal to the heathen, he followed literally Matthew 19:12 and castrated himself, partly influenced, too, by his belief that the Christian must follow the words of his Master without reserve. Later in life, however, he saw reason to judge differently concerning his extreme act.


During the reign of emperor Caracalla, about 211-212, Origen paid a brief visit to Rome, but the relative laxity during the pontificate of Zephyrinus seems to have disillusioned him, and on his return to Alexandria he resumed his teaching with zeal increased by the contrast. But the school had far outgrown the strength of a single man; the catechumens pressed eagerly for elementary instruction, and the baptized sought for interpretation of the Bible. Under these circumstances, Origen entrusted the teaching of the catechumens to Heraclas, the brother of the martyr Plutarch, his first pupil.


His own interests became more and more centered in exegesis, and he accordingly studied Hebrew, though there is no certain knowledge concerning his instructor in that language. From about this period (212-213) dates Origen's acquaintance with Ambrose of Alexandria, whom he was instrumental in converting from Valentianism to orthodoxy. Later (about 218) Ambrose, a man of wealth, made a formal agreement with Origen to promulgate his writings, and all the subsequent works of Origen (except his sermons, which were not expressly prepared for publication) were dedicated to Ambrose.


In 213 or 214, Origen visited Arabia at the request of the prefect, who wished to have an interview with him; and Origen accordingly spent a brief time in Petra, after which he returned to Alexandria. In the following year, a popular uprising at Alexandria caused Caracalla to let his soldiers plunder the city, shut the schools, and expel all foreigners. The latter measure caused Ambrose to take refuge in Caesarea, where he seems to have made his permanent home; and Origen, who felt that the turmoil hindered his activity as a teacher and imperilled his safety, left Egypt, apparently going with Ambrose to Caesarea, where he spent some time. Here, in conformity with local usage based on Jewish custom, Origen, though not ordained, preached and interpreted the Scriptures at the request of the bishops Alexander of Jerusalem and Theoctistus of Caesarea. When, however, the confusion in Alexandria subsided, Demetrius recalled Origen, probably in 216.


Of Origen's activity during the next decade little is known, but it was obviously devoted to teaching and writing. The latter was rendered the more easy for him by Ambrose, who provided him with more than seven stenographers to take dictation in relays, as many scribes to prepare long-hand copies, and a number of girls to multiply the copies. At the request of Ambrose, he now began a huge commentary on the Bible, beginning with John, and continuing with Genesis, Psalms 1-25, and Lamentations, besides brief exegeses of selected texts (forming the ten books of his Stromateis), two books on the resurrection, and the work "On First Principles."



1. Exegetical Writings


According to Epiphanius (Haer., lxiv.63) Origen wrote about 6,000 works (i.e., rolls or chapters). A list was given by Eusebius in his lost life of Pamphilus (Hist. eccl., VI., xxxii. 3; Eng. transl., NPNF, 2 ser., i. 277), which was apparently known to Jerome (Epist. ad Paulam, NPNF, vi. 46). These fall into four classes: text criticism; exegesis; systematic, practical, and apologetic theology; and letters; besides certain spurious works.



By far the most important work of Origen on textual criticism was the Hexapla, a comparison study of various translations of the Old Testament.


The full text of the Hexapla is no longer extant. Some portions were discovered in Milan indicating that at least some individual parts existed much longer than was previously thought. The Hexapla has been referred to by later manuscripts and authors.


The Tetrapla was an abbreviation of the Hexapla in which Origen placed only the translations (Aquila, Symmachus, Theodotion, and the Septuagint) in parallels.


He was likewise keenly conscious of the textual difficulties in the manuscripts of the New Testament, although he never wrote definitely on this subject. In his exegetical writings he frequently alludes to the variant readings, but his habit of making rough citations in his dictation, the verification being left to the scribes, renders it impossible to deduce his text from his commentaries.


The exegetical writings of Origen fall into three classes:


scholia, or brief summaries of the meaning of difficult passages

homilies "books," or commentaries in the strict sense of the term.


Jerome states that there were scholia on Leviticus, Psalms i.-xv., Ecclesiastes, Isaiah, and part of John. The Stromateis were of a similar character, and the margin of Codex Athous, Laura, 184, contains citations from this work on Rom. 9:23; I Cor. 6:14, 7:31, 34, 9:20-21, 10:9, besides a few other fragments.


Homilies on almost the entire Bible were prepared by Origen, these being taken down after his sixtieth year as he preached. It is not improbable that Origen gave no attention to supervising the publication of his homilies, for only by such a hypothesis can the numerous evidences of carelessness in diction be explained. The exegesis of the homilies was simpler than that of the scientific commentaries, but nevertheless demanded no mean degree of intelligence from the auditor. Origen's chief aim was the practical exposition of the text, verse by verse; and while in such barren books as Leviticus and Numbers he sought to allegorize, the wealth of material in the prophets seldom rendered it necessary for him to seek meanings deeper than the surface afforded. Whether the sermons were delivered in series, or the homilies on a single book were collected from various series, is unknown. The homilies preserved are on Genesis (17), Exodus (13), Leviticus (18), Numbers (28), Joshua (16), Judges (9), I Sam. (2), Psalms xxxvi.- xxviii. (9), Canticles (2), Isaiah (9), Jeremiah (7 Greek, 2 Latin, 12 Greek and Latin), Ezekiel (14), and Luke (39).



Origen, trained in the school of Clement and by his father, was essentially a Platonist with occasional traces of Stoic philosophy. He was thus a pronounced idealist, regarding all things temporal and material as insignificant and indifferent, the only real and eternal things being comprised in the idea. He therefore regards as the purely ideal center of this spiritual and eternal world, God, the pure reason, whose creative powers call into being the world with matter as the necessary substratum.


Likewise Platonic is the doctrine that those spirits capable of knowing supreme reason, but imprisoned in the body in this world, will rise after death to divinity, being purified by fire. In his attempt to amalgamate the system evolved by Greek thought with Christianity, Origen found his predecessors in the Platonizing Philo of Alexandria and even in the Gnostics. His exegesis does not differ generally from that of Heracleon, but in the canon of the New Testament and in the tradition of the Church, Origen possessed a check which kept him from the excesses of Gnostic exegesis.


He was, indeed, a rigid adherent of the Bible, making no statement without adducing some Scriptural basis. To him the Bible was divinely inspired, as was proved both by the fulfilment of prophecy and by the immediate impression which the Scriptures made on him who read them. Since the divine Logos spoke in the Scriptures, they were an organic whole and on every occasion he combatted the Gnostic tenet of the inferiority of the Old Testament. He was aware of the discrepancies between the Old and New Testaments and the contradictory accounts, of the Gospels; but he considered these only as inconsistencies that lend themselves to an unspiritual historical exegesis according to the letter.


Class Survey

  1. This physical world is only temporary. We go to a spiritual world in the afterlife.

Psalms 37:28,29 Eccl. 1:4

  1. Aside from some moral lessons, prophecies about Christ, and the ten commandments, the Old Testament does not really apply to us today, and should only be studied secondarily to the New Testament.

The Old Testament reveals the growth of the God's people. It constitutes most of the Bible and instructs us on worship, living, etc.

Dividing Old and New Testaments: Dispensationalism. Ramist Logic.

There is a strong Aristotelian influence on gnosticism as well. “Reasoning our way to God”. Aristotelian logic demands the categorization of what is known in order for it to be known. Thus the categorization of the law into Judicial, Moral, and Civil law by Aristotelian theologians during the Middle Ages gave way to this wording in the Westminster Confession.

We are bound by the whole Bible, not just pieces and parts of it. We are bound, even if they way we observe its Laws has changed, we are still bound by it.

  1. Redemption is more important than creation.

Redemption is oriented toward Creation. The purpose of redemption is to save creation from its bondage to sin. The purpose of redemption is to make God's original intent for man possible.

Romans 8:18-23

  1. Spiritual is good. Physical is bad.

Genesis 1.

  1. The most important aspect of the Old Testament is that it leads us to Christ.

Although the Old Testament points to Christ, it is not its sole focus. The Old Testament teaches us all of God's character, not just Christ.

  1. God is not a God of hate.

Ps. 5:5, Ps. 11:5, Ps. 26:5, Ps. 31:6, Ps. 119:113, Ps. 139:21-22


  1. The reason why God needed a new covenant is because all the others failed.

No, the purpose for each new covenant God makes is to reveal more of Himself to His people.

  1. The Bible applies to Spiritual things and reason applies to physical things.

Romans 8:18-23

Gnosis: gr. Knowledge

Although Gnosticism is not concretely defined in general, all its forms had one thing in common, and that is that the physical realm is evil or base, and that the spiritual world is good or superior. Christian Gnosticism in general believed:

  1. That the god of the Old Testament and the god of the New Testament are two separate gods. The god of the Old Testament is an evil, lesser god who created the physical world. The god of the New Testament is the greater good god.

  2. That the elect are spiritual beings that have emanated from the good god's essence (and are thus shared in his divine essence), and were trapped by this evil god and made to live in physical bodies in his world.

  3. Jesus was this greater good god's incarnation (although he wasn't really in a physical body) to bring the news of redemption to those who are trapped souls. They could be saved by this new knowledge (gnosis).

  4. The god of the New Testament is a good god, and is not capable of hate, or judgment (he does not judge), or the massacres that the god of the Old Testament was involved with.

  5. The Gnostics also held that there were several “layers”, “aeons”, or other “evil gods the spirit would have to find its way through to return to the good god.

This means that the physical world was seen as something of no value. It was only temporary, and a by product of an evil demiurge.

The Old Testament was of no value as it was just an account or this evil demiurge's enslavement of the elect.

Redemption is far more important, since creation only involves the evil demiurge.

The true god is not a god of hate or judgment.


Beginnings of Gnosticism

Acts 8:4-25: Account of Simon the magician (Magus).

Justin's Apology mentions Simon Magus having lived in Samaria at the time of Emperor Claudius (41-54 AD)


Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the pointless discussions and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge. 21 Although some claim to have it, they have abandoned the faith. May grace be with all of you! I Timothy 6:20-21

The word Gnosis appears only here in Scripture.


One of the most original theologians of early Christianity. Defended Gnosticism from the scriptures themselves.

After reading Isaiah 45:7, concluded that since a good tree cannot produce bad fruit, there had to be two gods.

Marcion, unlike other gnostics before him, utilized Scripture to defend his doctrine. Especially Paul's epistles (read II Co. 5:1-5, also Paul's distinctions between flesh and spirit).

Marcion's form of gnosticism was especially threatening to the Church:

  1. As it more closely resembled Christian doctrine than the other forms.

  2. Had sought to compile its own canon before the orthodox Church had.

  3. The Marcion brand of gnosticism had a definite organized church for almost four centuries.

Some distinctives from other forms of gnosticism:

  1. Did not mythologize his doctrine (no “layers” or “aeons” ), stuck strictly to Scripture.

  2. Did not believe that the elect came from the good god, but they also were created by the evil demiurge. So essentially the purpose of redemption was not to return to the essence of god, but be in a relationship to god.


Read Gonzalez pp. 68-71 “Irenaeus of Lyons”


For next Week:

There is no required reading, however it is suggested that you read Chapter 9 in Gonzalez' book The Story of Christianity.

The Gospel in the Roman World

“… You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you;
and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem,
and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Acts 1:8


The story recorded for us in Acts is primarily the fulfillment of this promise that Jesus made at His Ascension. The apostles saw the token of that fulfillment within their own lives. Jesus had promised them that they would be witnesses to the ends of the physical world, but even within their own lives they became witnesses to all of the Roman world (see Acts 24:5, Romans 1:8, Colossians 1:6). The history of the Church is the continuation of the same story.

In last week’s lesson we talked about the church’s Jewish identity, its relationship to the various movements within Jewish culture, politics, and religion, and the contribution that the universal presence of synagogues throughout the empire made to the growth of the New Testament church. This week, we are going to switch our focus to the Church as a largely Gentile body and the response of the empire.

One significant response of the empire was organised persecution. In fact, our word martyr, which we typically use to mean one who dies for their beliefs, is just a direct transliteration of the Greek word for witness. When the early church spoke of someone as a martyr, the focus was not on that person’s action, rather it was on the truth to which it witnessed.


Read Philippians 1:12-30


Emperor Worship and Persecution

  1. Emperor Worship

    1. Because the Empire covered a vast territory and encompassed many different nations (in the ethnic or cultural sense), Rome had an interest in trying to create a unified culture that transcended national interests.

    2. One of the means by which this was pursued was the attempt to convince Roman subjects that the gods they worshipped were the same gods under different names. For the most part, this was policy was well received. The Jews and Christians, however, were unwilling to accept any identification of the one true God with the idols of the pagans. Their lack of visible representations of gods caused them to be labeled atheists, and was a cause of suspicion.

    3. Additionally, there was suspicion about the character of Christians. Rumours of Christian teaching on the eucharist had expanded into a belief that Christians practiced all manner of wickedness, including cannibalism. The unwillingness of many Christians to participate in many of the cultural activities of the empire such as the theater, which were deeply imbued with the pagan worldview contributed to the belief that the Christians had a “hatred of mankind” (Tacitus). Justin Martyr in his Apology devotes considerable space to the refutation of the charges of atheism and wickedness.

    4. However, it was a more basic political reality that occasioned the various persecutions. Many of the Roman provinces had a tradition that their rulers were either descended from the gods, or were gods themselves. To the pragmatic Roman mind, adoption of this tradition seemed a good way to guarantee political loyalty. Of course, some emperors, like Nero and Caligula seem to have embraced the tradition with a degree of enthusiasm that suggests that they believed their own propaganda.

  2. Persecution under Nero

    1. The first recorded Roman persecution of Christians took place under Emperor Nero. In an attempt to free himself from suspicion that he was responsible for the fire which destroyed much of Rome in 64 A.D, he accused the Christians of starting the fires.

    2. Although the initial charge was arson, the very act of claiming the name of Christ soon became a crime. Nero issued an edict against Christians in 68A.D., but it is no longer extant.

    3. The tradition of the early Church informs us that Peter and Paul were both killed during this persecution. Paul was beheaded outside the city. Peter was crucified. He did not regard himself worthy of suffering the same manner of death as our Lord, so at his own request, he was crucified upside down.

    4. We have no contemporary historical documentation that Nero’s persecution extended beyond Rome. However, 1 Peter clearly indicates the expectation of suffering soon to come in the provinces of Asia Minor. Eusebius implies that there was some persecution throughout the eastern provinces.

    5. A strong case can be made that the warnings of persecution which the Lord gave to the church in Smyrna in Rev 2 refer to the Neronic persecution.

  3. Persecution under Domitian

    1. Began as an attack on the Jews, but included Christians because there was still not a clear distinction between them in the view of most Romans.

    2. This persecution was more organised than that of Nero. It was particularly fierce in Asia Minor.

  4. Second Century Persecution

    1. The Correspondence Between Pliny and Trajan (108 A.D.)
      PLINY, LETTERS 10.96-97
      Pliny to the Emperor Trajan

      It is my practice, my lord, to refer to you all matters concerning which I am in doubt. For who can better give guidance to my hesitation or inform my ignorance? I have never participated in trials of Christians. I therefore do not know what offenses it is the practice to punish or investigate, and to what extent. And I have been not a little hesitant as to whether there should be any distinction on account of age or no difference between the very young and the more mature; whether pardon is to be granted for repentance, or, if a man has once been a Christian, it does him no good to have ceased to be one; whether the name itself, even without offenses, or only the offenses associated with the name are to be punished.

      Meanwhile, in the case of those who were denounced to me as Christians, I have observed the following procedure: I interrogated these as to whether they were Christians; those who confessed I interrogated a second and a third time, threatening them with punishment; those who persisted I ordered executed. For I had no doubt that, whatever the nature of their creed, stubbornness and inflexible obstinacy surely deserve to be punished. There were others possessed of the same folly; but because they were Roman citizens, I signed an order for them to be transferred to Rome.

      Soon accusations spread, as usually happens, because of the proceedings going on, and several incidents occurred. An anonymous document was published containing the names of many persons. Those who denied that they were or had been Christians, when they invoked the gods in words dictated by me, offered prayer with incense and wine to your image, which I had ordered to be brought for this purpose together with statues of the gods, and moreover cursed Christ--none of which those who are really Christians, it is said, can be forced to do--these I thought should be discharged. Others named by the informer declared that they were Christians, but then denied it, asserting that they had been but had ceased to be, some three years before, others many years, some as much as twenty-five years. They all worshipped your image and the statues of the gods, and cursed Christ.

      They asserted, however, that the sum and substance of their fault or error had been that they were accustomed to meet on a fixed day before dawn and sing responsively a hymn to Christ as to a god, and to bind themselves by oath, not to some crime, but not to commit fraud, theft, or adultery, not falsify their trust, nor to refuse to return a trust when called upon to do so. When this was over, it was their custom to depart and to assemble again to partake of food--but ordinary and innocent food. Even this, they affirmed, they had ceased to do after my edict by which, in accordance with your instructions, I had forbidden political associations. Accordingly, I judged it all the more necessary to find out what the truth was by torturing two female slaves who were called deaconesses. But I discovered nothing else but depraved, excessive superstition.

      I therefore postponed the investigation and hastened to consult you. For the matter seemed to me to warrant consulting you, especially because of the number involved. For many persons of every age, every rank, and also of both sexes are and will be endangered. For the contagion of this superstition has spread not only to the cities but also to the villages and farms. But it seems possible to check and cure it. It is certainly quite clear that the temples, which had been almost deserted, have begun to be frequented, that the established religious rites, long neglected, are being resumed, and that from everywhere sacrificial animals are coming, for which until now very few purchasers could be found. Hence it is easy to imagine what a multitude of people can be reformed if an opportunity for repentance is afforded.

      Trajan to Pliny

      You observed proper procedure, my dear Pliny, in sifting the cases of those who had been denounced to you as Christians. For it is not possible to lay down any general rule to serve as a kind of fixed standard. They are not to be sought out; if they are denounced and proved guilty, they are to be punished, with this reservation, that whoever denies that he is a Christian and really proves it--that is, by worshiping our gods--even though he was under suspicion in the past, shall obtain pardon through repentance. But anonymously posted accusations ought to have no place in any prosecution. For this is both a dangerous kind of precedent and out of keeping with the spirit of our age.

      This text is part of the Internet Medieval Source Book. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts related to medieval and Byzantine history.

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    2. This policy continued as the basic framework for persecution of Christians

    3. The Martyrdom of Ignatius (107 AD)

      1. We do not know who his accuser was.

      2. He was likely over 70 at the time of his martyrdom.

      3. The ease with which fellow believers could write to him and visit with him on his journey to martyrdom illustrates how the policy that Pliny would soon adopt was typical of the Roman response.

      4. Apparently some of the recipients of his letter in Rome were influential, for he feared that they would be able to use their influence to see him released.

    4. The Martyrdom of Polycarp (155 AD)

      1. 86 years old at the time.

      2. As a youth, he had known both Ignatius and John the Apostle.

  5. Martyrdom in Present Times
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Discussion Questions


  1. How did the Roman persecution of believers differ from the Jewish persecution of believers?

  2. Are there any modern parallels to Rome’s policies of syncretism?

  3. How are Roman emperor worship and many modern nationalist movements similar? How are they different? How ought we to respond as Christians?

  4. What were the similarities in the way in which Polycarp and Ignatius approached their martyrdoms? What were their differences?

  5. The writer of Polycarp’s martyrdom intentionally focuses on some details which recall the death of Christ and others which recall certain events of the Old Testament. Can you identify these? What is the author’s point in doing so?

  6. From what ought believers to draw courage as they face persecution?

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