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The History of the Church: From Christ to Constantine
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History of the Church Eusebius > Persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire

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message 1: by Manuel (last edited Sep 01, 2018 07:43AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Manuel Alfonseca | 1630 comments Mod
From Nero to Constantine, persecution of Christians was almost continuous, although there were aggravations and remissions. Eusebius discusses the persecutions in chronological order, interspersed with other subjects, but the matter is too important to deserve a special discussion header. Martyrs can also be discussed here.


Manuel Alfonseca | 1630 comments Mod
Some of the descriptions of martyrdom are horrifying, with the life of the martyrs being prolonged, so that they could be subject to longer torture. We usually think that Christian martyrs in the Roman Empire were killed quickly, but Eusebius makes it clear that sometimes it was not so.

On the other hand, it is curious that during the persecutions in the time of Decius and Valerian the bishops in the Middle East were not killed, just deported. When the persecutions ended in the time of Gallienus, Eusebius says that the Emperor wrote to the main bishops allowing them to return to their seats.


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John Seymour | 1966 comments Mod
I've seen several times lately a claim that 30 of the first 33 popes died as martyrs. But Eusebius only notes two martyrs in the first twelve (at least through Book 4): Peter and Telesphorus. Eusebius lived in Caesarea, so it is possible he didn't have all the sources, but the lineage of the bishops of Rome seems a particular interest, so . . . .


Manuel Alfonseca | 1630 comments Mod
John wrote: "I've seen several times lately a claim that 30 of the first 33 popes died as martyrs. But Eusebius only notes two martyrs in the first twelve (at least through Book 4): Peter and Telesphorus. Euseb..."

Eusebius limits his accounts of martyrdoms to the Middle East, with the single exception of the martyrs in Lyons in book V, which he explains in detail. In fact, in the appendix to book VIII he even justifies himself for speaking about some martyrs from Egypt, for he was centering on those from Palestine. In the same place he says that the Western part of the Empire was subject to the great persecution (Diocletian's) for just two years, rather than eight, as the Eastern part, in a way that gives the impression that he is embittered by the difference. This may explain why he does not mention the martyrdoms of several Popes.

Remember, anyway, that after the Council of Nicea, during the origins of Arianism, Eusebius was the leader of the debate against St. Athanasius, who finally came victorious. Eusebius, who speaks against many of the heresies at the beginning of Church history, was not too far from falling in the next one, and even protected Arius.


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John Seymour | 1966 comments Mod
Manuel wrote: "Eusebius limits his accounts of martyrdoms to the Middle East, with the single exception of the martyrs in Lyons in book V, which he explains in detail. In fact, in the appendix to book VIII he even justifies himself for speaking about some martyrs from Egypt, for he was centering on those from Palestine. In the same place he says that the Western part of the Empire was subject to the great persecution (Diocletian's) for just two years, rather than eight, as the Eastern part, in a way that gives the impression that he is embittered by the difference. This may explain why he does not mention the martyrdoms of several Popes."

But he does mention the martyrdom of two bishops of Rome: Telesphorus (Book V, para. 6) and Fabian (Book VI, para 39). I don't sense any bitterness or any suggestion that he is slighting Rome. It may be that sitting in Palestine he simply doesn't have full records from the West. But it is curious.


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John Seymour | 1966 comments Mod
There are a few places in Book VIII where Eusebius mentions Christians taking their own lives to avoid torture or rape, seemingly with approval. Is this just a reflection of Roman culture, not yet Christianized or is something else going on? I've always understood suicide to be a mortal sin, yet Eusebius seems to view these Christians as martyrs.


Manuel Alfonseca | 1630 comments Mod
John wrote: "There are a few places in Book VIII where Eusebius mentions Christians taking their own lives to avoid torture or rape, seemingly with approval. Is this just a reflection of Roman culture, not yet ..."

In the Catholic Church there was a tendency to accept that a woman may kill herself to avoid being raped. There is also the opposite view. Augustine, for instance, declared that although they may have done "what was right in the sight of God," in his view the women "should not have assumed that rape would necessarily have deprived them of their purity." And in another place he said that it was worse for a woman to commit self-murder than to suffer rape. He believed that the early Christian virgins who committed suicide to preserve their chastity were either acting under divine command or were simply mistaken in their judgement.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, nr. 2282, says about this: Grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide.

You can find a more complete treatment of the problem here:
https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/9f07...


message 8: by Jill (new)

Jill A. | 719 comments I was also troubled by his apparent approval of suicide as preferable to being raped or killed.


message 9: by John (new) - added it

John Seymour | 1966 comments Mod
Manuel wrote: "John wrote: "There are a few places in Book VIII where Eusebius mentions Christians taking their own lives to avoid torture or rape, seemingly with approval. Is this just a reflection of Roman cult..."

Thank you for adding some depth to my understanding of the issue.


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