Category: Book releases

Books authored by Andrew C. Phiri

The Tenth Persecution, 303 AD

Diocletian was born in 240 BC and grew up during the Third Century Crisis, a period when the Roman empire was very unstable and on the verge of collapse because of power struggles and ineffective rulers. Young Diocletian joined the military and rose through the top ranks.

Rise of Diocletian

It was around 282 BC when a division of Roman soldiers (i.e. a legion)  had proclaimed their commander, Carus, as the new emperor. Emperor Carus liked Diocletian and elevated him to the highest ranks.

Emperor Carus only ruled for about a year and (like was explained earlier) was killed by a lightening. His sons  – Numerian and Carinus – succeeded him. They only ruled for a very short period of time. Numerian died of an illness (most likely a result of being poisoned). Carinus was in conflict with Diocletian. A battle between Carinus and Diocletian ensued. Carinus was unpopular and most of his men defected to Diocletian’s side. Carinus got killed by his own soldiers and the armies of both the western and eastern empire rallied behind Diocletian and proclaimed him emperor.

Emperor Diocletian became determined to completely put to an end the instability that characterized the empire. There were two main challenges for Diocletian to overcome: the internal struggles for power in the empire, and the horde of barbarian tribes (especially from the eastern side of the empire) which kept attempting to attack and destroy Rome. Diocletian was set to protect the empire from collapsing through various reforms.

Diocletian established himself as a powerful dictator who could never be challenged. He de-politicized the army and ensured total allegiance to his authority.

Noticing that the empire faced immense danger of Persian invasions on its eastern borders, he realized that the empire was too vast to be governed from one central point, Rome.  In 285 AD he divided the empire into two halves – the western half to be ruled by a lesser emperor (addressed by the title Caesar) and himself (a senior emperor addressed by the title Augustus[1]) to rule over the eastern half of the empire. With these developments, Rome ceased to be the capital of the empire;  the Western Empire was ruled from Milan ( a city in northern Italy), and the Eastern Empire from Nicomedia (now Izmir in Turkey)

In 293 AD another change was made: each half of the empire would have both an Augustus and a Caesar so that the whole empire now had four rulers. This system became known as the Tetrarchy (i.e. “government by four people”). During the Tetrarchy, Emperor Diocletian was Augustus of the eastern half of the empire and watched over Thrace, Asia, and Egypt. Galerius as Ceaser under Diocletian watched over Illyria, the Danubian provinces, and Achaea. Emperor Maximian was Augustus of the western empire and watched over Italy, Sicily, and Africa. Constantius was Ceaser serving under Maximian and ruled over Gaul, Spain, and Britain.

The tetrarchy was an effective system of administration which made the presence of imperial authority felt throughout the empire.

Now, Diocletian is much known for two things – first, the great organization (administration) he established in the empire and second, the terrible, worst, and last persecution he caused upon Christians.

Beginning of Christian Persecution

Sometime in the year 299 AD there was an  important ceremony of sacrifices in Antioch which was officiated by emperors. Performing the ritual were  haruspices. Haruspices were diviners in the religion of Rome and used to read entrails of sacrificed animals in order to predict the future. At the special event of 299 AD they failed to read the omen of the entrails and accused the Christians to be causers of the failure. The emperors ordered people to offer sacrifices to purify the place. The order was extended to all men serving in the army; everyone was required to offer a sacrifice or he would be dismissed.

Such orders to offer sacrifices always put Christians in trouble. Christians soldiers would refuse to sacrifice, get accused of disobedience, and were killed. This time Emperor Diocletian decided to recall every Christian from serving in the army. However, Caesar Galerius was bent on influencing Diocletian to further exterminate Christians. Diocletian was at first reluctant to enforce such an extreme response to Christian’s exclusive lifestyles, but he later turned into an ugly monster that devised every possible tool and way to inflict pain on Christians.

After returning from Antioch, Diocletian was angry with Deacon Romanus, a  Christian leader who had been vocal against pagan sacrifices. He ordered that his tongue be pulled from his mouth. John Foxe tells the details of the torture of this saint: “he was scourged, put to the rack, his body torn with hooks, his flesh cut with knives, his face scarified, his teeth beaten from their sockets, and his hair plucked up by the roots. Soon after he was ordered to be strangled, November 17, A.D. 303.

On 24th February, 303 AD Diocletian issued The Edict Against the Christians which ordered the destruction of Scriptures and worship places of Christians, and further prohibited them from meeting for prayers.

A few days after the edict had been issued there was an inferno which gutted a portion of the imperial palace. Galerius blamed it on Christians. Even after an investigation into the matter did not find the causers of the fire, Christians had to bear the consequences: A Christian by the name Peter Cubicularius was stripped of his clothes and scourged. Salt and vinegar were poured into his wounds. After this excruciating experience he was slowly boiled over an open flame.  A terrible persecution thereafter ensued in which “no distinction was made of age or sex” writes John Foxe. “the name of Christian was so obnoxious to the pagans that all indiscriminately fell sacrifices to their opinions. Many houses were set on fire, and whole Christian families perished in the flames; and others had stones fastened about their necks, and being tied together were driven into the sea. The persecution became general in all the Roman provinces, but more particularly in the east; and as it lasted ten years, it is impossible to ascertain the numbers martyred, or to enumerate the various modes of martyrdom.

Cause of the Diocletian Persecution?

As to why the Diocletian Persecution occurred, Jean Cousin in Encyclopaedia Britannica wrote:

The reasons for this persecution are uncertain, but various explanations have been advanced: the possible influence of Galerius, a fanatic follower of the traditional Roman religion; the desire to restore complete unity, without tolerance of a foreign cult that was seen as separatist and of individuals who were forming a kind of state within the state; the influence of anti-Christian philosophers such as Porphyry and governors such as Hierocles on the scholarly class and on the imperial court; the fear of an alienation of rebellious armies from emperor worship; or perhaps the disturbances provoked by the Christians themselves, who were agitated by doctrinal controversies. At any rate, some or all of these factors led Diocletian to publish the four edicts of 303–304, promising all the while that he would not spill blood. His vow went unheeded, however, and the persecutions spread through the empire with an extreme violence that did not succeed in annihilating Christianity but caused the faith of the martyrs to blaze forth instead (Cousin, 2017).

But our Lord had clearly foretold saying, “Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me” (Joh.15:20-21). And as history has repeatedly shown, no amount of suppression or persecution can break the spirit of a people who believe. The flames of fire, or cruelty of a sword, can never vanquish the faith of a soul that is sincerely devoted to a cause. Amidst all the trials and cruelty the Christians suffered, God had not abandoned them. Satan, the master of political systems of this world, sought to destroy the saints but faith in God’s Word and the joy of the Lord gave them strength to press on. Prophecies, like the ones which came through the aging and last surviving apostle of Jesus, John, were a source of encouragement: “Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life”(Rev.2:10).

Indeed, when historians are listing failures of Diocletian, one thing that cannot go unmentioned is that despite his campaign against the Christians having been the largest and bloodiest, it not only failed to eliminate Christianity but was shortly followed by its increased popularity, and only about a decade later became the state religion of the empire. It was such a sharp and unpredictable swing in history.

[1] The first emperor of Rome was Augustus. After his death his name became the official title of emperors.

The Ninth Persecution, 274 AD

From the year 235 through 284 AD the Roman Empire became so unstable, nearly collapsing. In Roman history this period is known as The Crisis of the Third Century. The empire suffered from invasions, civil wars, and economic problems. The crisis was triggered by the assassination of Emperor Severus (see Fifth Persecution) after which a power struggle ensued which lasted for about 50 years! This led to the empire disintegrating into three competing states, namely the Gallic Empire (consisting of Gaul, Britannia, and Hispania), the Palmyrene Empire (eastern Syria, Palestina, and Aegyptus), and the Roman Empire (Italy).

Aurelian was a mighty emperor who engaged in various wars which led to victory over the Gallic and Palmyrene empires. Aurelian was eager to subdue all the territories and thereby restore order and the glory of the Roman Empire. This he accomplished and thus ended the Third Century Crisis, earning himself the title Restorer of the world”.

One faith, One Empire

It is interesting to note that Aurelian wasn’t just interested in political unity; he desired to establish one religion wherein all the people, despite having their own gods, were supposed to worship the Sun god as the main deity of the Roman Empire.

25th December – Birth of the Sun God

A new temple, built in 274 AD, was dedicated to the Sun god on 25th December. [1]Aurelian’s doctrine was “One faith, One Empire”. However, this doctrine only came to be fully enforced during the reign of Constantine the Great when Rome embraced Christianity. As stated in Britannica Encyclopaedia, Aurelian “sought to subordinate the divergent religions of the empire to the cult of the Unconquered Sun (Sol Invictus) and so create the kind of religious unity that came only later with Constantine.”

During Aurelian’s reign persecutions of Christians took place. John Foxe notes that Felix, bishop of Rome, was the first to be killed in 274 AD. There was also another believer called Agapetus, who after selling his estate gave the money to the poor. He was arrested, tortured, and beheaded.

Following the death of King Shapur of the Sassanid Empire Aurelian wanted to seize the opportunity to attack the empire. It was during his advances towards Persia that he got murdered by his own people.

After Aurelian’s death his successors ruled for short periods before being killed. Tacitus had succeeded Aurelian but died of a fever. The new ruler, Florianus, only ruled for three months before being killed by his own soldiers. Then came Probus who was also killed by his disgruntled soldiers. The new ruler, Carus, was killed by a lightening! During the reign of these short-lived emperors Christians enjoyed some peace. However, what would be the worst persecutions were just about to start during the reign of the next emperor, Diocletian.

Maximian decimates 6,666 Christian Soldiers

When Diocletian became emperor, he appointed Maximian as ruler over the western empire. This evil Maximian had ordered his soldiers to march over to Gaul to quell a rebellion. He ordered them to offer a pagan sacrifice and to swear that they would participate in the killing of Christians in Gaul. The soldiers could neither make the sacrifice nor take the oath. Maximian became angry at this and ordered for every tenth soldier to be slain with the sword. He hoped for the remaining soldiers to feel afraid at the killings but it was not so. The remaining soldiers could not offer the sacrifice or take the oath. A second decimation was ordered, then the third, until all six thousand, six hundred and sixty-six soldiers all got killed!

Various other persecutions occurred against Christians, but all these cannot be compared to those which occured under  Diocletian.

[1] This date is believed,  by some Christian writers, to have been later adopted for Christmas celebrations. This was after Pagan Rome converted to Christianity during the reign of Constantine the Great. Like Britannica Encyclopaedia notes:

December 25 was first identified as the date of Jesus’ birth by Sextus Julius Africanus in 221 and later became the universally accepted date. One widespread explanation of the origin of this date is that December 25 was the Christianizing of the dies solis invicti nati (“day of the birth of the unconquered sun”), a popular holiday in the Roman Empire that celebrated the winter solstice as a symbol of the resurgence of the sun, the casting away of winter and the heralding of the rebirth of spring and summer. Indeed, after December 25 had become widely accepted as the date of Jesus’ birth, Christian writers frequently made the connection between the rebirth of the sun and the birth of the Son.

While it may be difficult to comprehend how the early church, which was so “intent on distinguishing itself categorically from pagan beliefs and practices”, could so easily Christianize a pagan idea, it is important to be aware that there are many other unscriptural teachings which crept into the church unawares.

The Eighth Persecution, under Valerian, 257 AD

During the reign of Valerian the Roman empire faced various dire challenges of unrest, disorder, and war. The eastern side of the empire was under threat of being taken over by the Sasanian Empire. Antioch and Armenia which used to be under Rome had already fallen under Sassanid rulers.

Sensing the imminent disaster that his huge empire was faced with, Emperor Valerian decided to appoint his son to take care of problems in the West as he marched eastward to repel Persian forces. The Neo-Persian empire was ruled by Shapur the Great. This ruler was known for religious tolerance. His attitude enabled Christianity and other religions to flourish during his reign in his empire.

In 257 AD Antioch and Syria were recovered. In this same year when Valerian went to war against the Persians he sent two letters to the Roman senate asking them to order Christians to offer sacrifices to the Roman gods or face severe punishment. The following year in 258 AD he wrote a second letter in which he ordered the killing of Christian ministers and confiscation of their properties and treasures. It was at this time that the sad but wonderful testimony of saint Lawrence, a minister of the Gospel, happened.

Lawrence presents Treasures to the Emperor

Lawrence was a deacon in Rome, serving under Sixtus, the bishop of Rome. Lawrence had been entrusted with keeping the treasury and wealth of  the church, out of which distributions used to be made to the needy.

In August 258 AD Emperor Valerian commanded that all Christian leaders, including deacons and bishops, be killed and their properties confiscated and surrendered to the Imperial treasury. On 6th August 258,  Bishop Sixtus was killed. Next Lawrence was ordered to surrender the riches of the church.

Lawrence requested to be given three days to collect the treasures of the church. The Roman officials waited. Lawrence began to gather the treasures, going to homes of poor Christians and gathering them into one place. On the third day he stretched his arm over a gathering of poor Christians and boldly proclaimed to the roman prefect:

These are the precious treasure of the Church; these are the treasure indeed, in whom the faith of Christ reigneth, in whom Jesus Christ hath His mansion-place. What more precious jewels can Christ have, than those in whom He hath promised to dwell? For so it is written, ‘I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in.’ And again, ‘Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.’ What greater riches can Christ our Master possess, than the poor people in whom He loveth to be seen?

The Emperor Valerian was so enraged at this defiance that he ordered for the immediate destruction of Lawrence:

Kindle the fire (he cried)–of wood make no spare. Hath this villain deluded the emperor? Away with him, away with him: whip him with scourges, jerk him with rods, buffet him with fists, brain him with clubs. Jesteth the traitor with the emperor? Pinch him with fiery tongs, gird him with burning plates, bring out the strongest chains, and the fire-forks, and the grated bed of iron: on the fire with it; bind the rebel hand and foot; and when the bed is fire-hot, on with him: roast him, broil him, toss him, turn him: on pain of our high displeasure do every man his office, O ye tormentors.

Valerian decreed for all Christian civil servants (who refused to offer sacrifices) to be made slaves! This time, at Edessa, it seems the heavens could tarry no longer for the judgment that awaited the evil rulers of Rome.

Battle of Edessa and Humiliation of Valerian

As Valerian prepared to confront the Persians, in 259 AD, a terrible plague fell on his army. This was in the town of Edessa. A number of soldiers died and the Roman army became very vulnerable. The Persians besieged the town and defeated the Romans. Valerian requested for a  peace treaty with the Persian ruler but he got betrayed, captured, and made a slave in Persia! These events greatly shook the Roman empire into a confusion of hopelessness.

In Persia Valerian suffered extreme humiliation: he was used as a stool by the Persian ruler when climbing his horse. It is said that one day when Valerian asked for his release in exchange for a great ransom, Shapur forced him to drink molten gold after which he was skinned. The tormentor was severely tormented and died.

Humiliation of Valerian by Shapur I. Art work by Hans Holbein (1497/1498 – 1543).

> Forthcoming: The Ninth Persecution

The Seventh Persecution, under Decius, 249 AD

Numerous persecutions took place during the reign of Decius. There was a vehement desire to exterminate Christians. One account of persecution involved chastity and unwavering faith in the face of seduction.

Beautiful but chaste Agatha

 It is the story of Agatha, a very beautiful woman who lived in Sicily. The governor of Sicily, Quintian, got so attracted to Agatha’s beauty that he made several attempts to be in love with her but it was to no avail. Next he conspired with Aphrodica, a promiscuous woman, to lure Agatha into an immoral life.

Aphrodica tried all she could to influence Agatha into prostitution but she failed. The evil conspirators could not understand the impregnable discipline and chastity of this attractive virgin. Unknown to them was the power of the Gospel in her heart which kept her from sin. That’s how a true believer is consecrated; he or she remains faithful even when sin becomes so attractive or luring. It is not so with some professed believers: they appear clean and innocent not because that’s what they truly are but because they haven’t had an opportunity to sin secretly, where no man can see them!

Quintian became frustrated over his failure to have Agatha. His lust turned into anger and resentment. When Agatha confessed she was a Christian Quintian  found an opportunity to frustrate and persecute her. Events that followed next, in Agatha’s life, was horrendous.

Agatha had her breasts cut. She was stripped naked and thrown on hot coals of fire which were mingled with glass. She was later taken to prison where she died on 5th February, 251 AD.

Soldiers defy an Order

In the same year Agatha died the emperor, Decius, ordered the people of Ephesus to offer sacrifices to idols in a pagan temple he had erected. Strangely, seven of his soldiers defied the order. This was not good for the emperor: their refusal clearly testified of the growing influence of Christianity. He decided to give them time to reconsider. He proceeded to attend an expedition giving the soldiers time to reflect on the grave offence they committed. However, after he left the soldiers escaped and went into hiding in a large cave. On his return the emperor was informed about the matter and the whereabouts of the soldiers. He ordered for the mouth of the cavern to be closed up with a huge stone. There the soldiers perished with hunger.

Origen the Theologian and Apologetic

Origen, known as “the greatest genius the early church ever produced”[1] taught  logic, cosmology and natural history. Although some of his teachings were controversial and considered heretic, he was a Christian scholar, theologian and apologetic[2] whose writings established fundamental principles of theology. Christian churches in  Palestine and Arabia regarded him as the ultimate authority on all matters of theology.

Famous writings of Origen include On The First Principles, Contra Celsum, and the Hexapla. In On the First Principles Origen established the fundamental principles of Christian theology. This became a very important work for Christian scholars. Contra Celsum  was a defense of Christianity against the pagan philosopher Celsum. In Origen Celsus met a mind that could challenge his wit. Thus, Contra Celsum became the most important reference work for early Christian apologetics. Hexapla  is a large volume of the Bible consisting of six columns. The columns compare the different languages into which Scripture was written. There is a column with the Hebrew text, another column with the Greek transliteration of it, and four other Greek versions of Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion, and a revised version of the Septuagint.

At the age of 64, in 250 AD, Origen fell in the hands of the persecutors. He got arrested and was so severely tortured. John Foxe wrote that Origen was “thrown into a loathsome prison, laden with fetters, his feet placed in the stocks, and his legs extended to the utmost for several successive days. He was threatened with fire, and tormented by every lingering means the most infernal imaginations could suggest.” It so happened that the Emperor Decius died around this time. His successor, Gallus, was engaged in a war which took some attention away from persecuting Christians. Origen retired to start living in Tyre where he shortly died from injuries he suffered from the tortures.

>The Eigth Persecution

[1] McGuckin, J.A. (2004). The Westminster Handbook to Origen. Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press.

[2] An apologetic is a person who provides a formal or logical defence or justification for a belief or doctrine.

The Sixth Persecution, under Maximus, 235 AD

During the time of Emperor Maximus “numberless Christians were slain without trial, and buried indiscriminately in heaps, sometimes fifty or sixty being cast into a pit together, without the least decency.” Maximus was succeeded by Gordian  “during whose reign, and that of his successor Philip, the Church was free from persecution for the space of more than ten years.” However, the terrible beast was not yet satisfied with the blood of martyrs. More persecution was yet to happen.

>The Seventh Persecution

Fifth Persecution, commencing with Severus, 192 AD

Some records indicate that Emperor Severus was kind towards Christians, and others present him as a persecutor. Tertullian for example writes about Severus employing a Christian as his personal physician. However, during his reign many persecutions occurred which historians like Eusebius have attributed to him.

Among the Christians killed during this time was the renowned teacher of the Word and preacher against heresy –  Irenaeus, bishop of Lugdunum (this place is situated in France and is now called Lyon). Irenaeus originated from Smyrna (the place is now called Izmir in Turkey). He was mainly influenced by ministry of Polycarp, who was in turn a disciple of apostle John, scribe of the book of Revelation. Irenaeus wrote the famous work, Against Heresies, in which he taught against heretical teachings of Gnosticism. He admonishes a believer to base his faith on Scripture and traditions of the apostles and their successors. Irenaeus’ ‘war’ against heretics made him noticeable before roman authorities. In 202 AD he was beheaded.

Another account of martyrdom that brings sorrow to the heart occurred in Africa. It involved some Christian women – Perpetia, Felicitus, Revocatus, Saturninus, Secundulus, and Satur.

Saturninus, Revocatus, and Satur were made to run between two rolls of armed men. They were severely injured as they passed.

Felicitus was heavy with child (she was pregnant). Together with  Perpetua they were stripped naked and then thrown to a mad bull. The bull first attached Perpetua. She lay unconscious dying. It then darted at Felicitus and gored her dreadfully. The executioner then used his sword to kill the two Christian women. All this happened on 8th March, 205 AD.

> The Sixth Persecution

The Fourth Persecution, under Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, 162 AD

The sight of cruelties suffered by Christians became too much to behold by spectators. At the writing of these words, as I read through the account of the fourth wave of persecutions, I shuddered with disgust and anger:

Some of the martyrs were obliged to pass, with their already wounded feet, over thorns, nails, sharp shells, etc. upon their points, others were scourged until their sinews and veins lay bare, and after suffering the most excruciating tortures that could be devised, they were destroyed by the most terrible deaths. 

Polycarp, the bishop of Smyrna, the church to which the Lord Jesus had sent these prophetic words –  “Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life” (Rev.2:10) – had this to answer to his tormentor who had offered him freedom if he denounced Christ: “Eighty and six years have I served him, and he never once wronged me; how then shall I blaspheme my King, Who hath saved me?”

> The Fifth Persecution

Third Persecution, under Trajan, 108 AD

During the third persecution, Pliny the Younger, a magistrate, wrote to emperor Trajan, pleading that Christians did not deserve the atrocities committed against them. He explained that thousands of Christians were daily killed despite having never broken any Roman law. “The whole account they gave of their crime or error (whichever it is to be called) amounted only to this… that they were accustomed on a stated day to meet before daylight, and to repeat together a set form of prayer to Christ as a God, and to bind themselves by an obligation–not indeed to commit wickedness; but, on the contrary–never to commit theft, robbery, or adultery, never to falsify their word, never to defraud any man: after which it was their custom to separate, and reassemble to partake in common of a harmless meal.”

The words of Pliny brings these words of Christ to memory: “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (Joh.3:19).

Now despite all the cruel persecutions Christians suffered, their courage was most astonishing. The testimony of Ignatius, successor of apostle Peter’s work to oversee churches in Antioch, is most warming to the heart. In his letter to believers in Rome, he admonished: “Now I begin to be a disciple. I care for nothing, of visible or invisible things, so that I may but win Christ. Let fire and the cross, let the companies of wild beasts, let breaking of bones and tearing of limbs, let the grinding of the whole body, and all the malice of the devil, come upon me; be it so, only may I win Christ Jesus!” When he was thrown to the lions and he heard their roar, he proclaimed: “I am the wheat of Christ: I am going to be ground with the teeth of wild beasts, that I may be found pure bread.”

The faith and bravery of these martyrs in death was so great that it converted some pagans. It so happened one day that a pagan was so touched beholding the death of martyrs that he exclaimed, “Great is the God of the Christians!” For this  he was apprehended and killed.

Trajan was succeeded by Adrian who continued the persecutions. Adrian died in 138 AD and was succeeded by Antoninus Pius. This new emperor did not persecute Christians. His reign was peaceful.

>The Fourth Persecution

Second Persecution of Christians, under Domitian, 81 AD

Domitian started the second persecution against Christians. During his reign a law was passed that said “no Christian, once brought before the tribunal, should be exempted from punishment without renouncing his religion.” It was during this time that false superstitious beliefs were made up in Roman Society, all for the purpose of persecuting Christians: people believed that  famine, earthquakes, and pestilence were to be blamed on Christians!

It was during the Domitian Persecution that apostle John, writer of the book of Revelation was boiled in oil and then banished to the island of Patmos. Timothy, a disciple of Paul and bishop of Ephesus, was also killed in 97 AD. It so happened that one day Timothy met a procession of pagans who were celebrating the feast of Catagogion. During this feast people carried various images (idols) of gods they worshipped. Timothy got enraged and so severely rebuked the pagans of their stupid idolatry. The angry mob of pagans descended on Timothy, injuring him with clubs. Timothy was so badly injured and  bruised that he died two days later.

Other notable Christians who died during the Domitian Persecution include Simeon the bishop of Jerusalem, and Protasius and Gervasius.

> The Third Persecution

First Persecution of Christians, under Nero, 67 AD

Note: although the prophecy of Daniel presents the “little horn” as the persecutor of saints, It actually was only continuing what had already begun by the beast-system, way before the rise of the “ten horns” on the head of the beast. Pagan Rome was so ruthless and had no regard for human life. Killing was sport. Christians suffered during the Roman Empire. Fox’s Book of Martyrs chronicles the savagery murders. The accounts are so gruesome that one wonders how humans endured such extreme torture!

The first great persecution of Christians began in the year 67AD during the reign of  Nero, the sixth emperor of Rome. Fox’s Book of Martyrs records that “this monarch reigned for the space of five years, with tolerable credit to himself, but then gave way to the greatest extravagancy of temper, and to the most atrocious barbarities.”

The madness in Nero desired chaos during his reign. He was once heard publicly declaring that he wished the ruin of all things before his death. He was so determined to this end that he ordered his officers to set  the city of Rome on fire. However, this inferno caused a widespread anger and disgust among Romans. Nero excused himself by blaming the inferno incident on Christians and that initiated the great persecution.

Nero even refined upon cruelty, and contrived all manner of punishments for the Christians that the most infernal imagination could design. In particular, he had some sewed up in skins of wild beasts, and then worried by dogs until they expired; and others dressed in shirts made stiff with wax, fixed to axletrees, and set on fire in his gardens, in order to illuminate them. This persecution was general throughout the whole Roman Empire.

It was in the course of this great persecution that apostles Peter and Paul were martyred.

> The Second Persecution