Chapter I.—The Number of those who fought for Religion in Gaul Under Verus and the Nature of their Conflicts.
1. The country in which the arena was prepared for them was Gaul, of which Lyons and Vienne 1350 are the principal and most celebrated cities. The Rhone passes through both of them, flowing in a broad stream through the entire rep. 212 gion.
2. The most celebrated churches in that country sent an account of the witnesses 1351 to the churches in Asia and Phrygia, relating in the following manner what was done among them.
I will give their own words. 1352
3. “The servants of Christ residing at Vienne and Lyons, in Gaul, to the brethren through out Asia and Phrygia, who hold the same faith and hope of redemption, peace and grace and glory from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.”
4. Then, having related some other matters, they begin their account in this manner: “The greatness of the tribulation in this region, and the fury of the heathen against the saints, and the sufferings of the blessed witnesses, we cannot recount accurately, nor indeed could they possibly be recorded.
5. For with all his might the adversary fell upon us, giving us a foretaste of his unbridled activity at his future coming. He endeavored in every manner to practice and exercise his servants against the servants of God, not only shutting us out from houses and baths and markets, but forbidding any of us to be seen in any place whatever.
6. But the grace of God led the conflict against him, and delivered the weak, and set them as firm pillars, able through patience to endure all the wrath of the Evil One. And they joined battle with him, undergoing all kinds of shame and injury; and regarding their great sufferings as little, they hastened to Christ, manifesting truly that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed to us-ward. 1353
7. First of all, they endured nobly the injuries heaped upon them by the populace; clamors and blows and draggings and robberies and stonings and imprisonments, 1354 and all things which an infuriated mob delight in inflicting on enemies and adversaries.
8. Then, being taken to the forum by the chiliarch 1355 and the authorities of the city, they were examined in the presence of the whole multitude, and having confessed, they were imprisoned until the arrival of the governor.
9. When, afterwards, they were brought before him, and he treated us with the utmost cruelty, Vettius Epagathus, 1356 one of the brethren, and a man filled with love for God and his neighbor, interfered. His life was so consistent that, although young, he had attained a reputation equal to that of the elder Zacharias: for he walked in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless, 1357 and was untirp. 213 ing in every good work for his neighbor, zealous for God and fervent in spirit. Such being his character, he could not endure the unreasonable judgment against us, but was filled with indignation, and asked to be permitted to testify in behalf of his brethren, that there is among us nothing ungodly or impious.
10. But those about the judgment seat cried out against him, for he was a man of distinction; and the governor refused to grant his just request, and merely asked if he also were a Christian. And he, confessing this with a loud voice, was himself taken into the order 1358 of the witnesses, being called the Advocate of the Christians, but having the Advocate 1359 in himself, the Spirit 1360 more abundantly than Zacharias. 1361 He showed this by the fullness of his love, being well pleased even to lay down his life 1362 in defense of the brethren. For he was and is a true disciple of Christ, following the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. 1363
11. “Then the others were divided, 1364 and the proto-witnesses were manifestly ready, and finished their confession with all eagerness. But some appeared unprepared and untrained, weak as yet, and unable to endure so great a conflict. About ten of these proved abortions, 1365 causing us great grief and sorrow beyond measure, and impairing the zeal of the others who had not yet been seized, but who, though suffering all kinds of affliction, continued constantly with the witnesses and did not forsake them.
12. Then all of us feared greatly on account of uncertainty as to their confession; not because we dreaded the sufferings to be endured, but because we looked to the end, and were afraid that some of them might fall away.
13. But those who were worthy were seized day by day, filling up their number, so that all the zealous persons, and those through whom especially our affairs had been established, were collected together out of the two churches.
14. And some of our heathen servants also were seized, as the governor had commanded that all of us should be examined publicly. These, being ensnared by Satan, and fearing for themselves the tortures which they beheld the saints endure, 1366 and being also urged on by the soldiers, accused us falsely of Thyestean banquets and Œdipodean intercourse, 1367 and of deeds which are not only unlawful for us to speak of or to think, but which we cannot believe were ever done by men.
15. When these accusations were reported, all the people raged like wild beasts against us, so that even if any had before been moderate on account of friendship, they were now exceedingly furious and gnashed their teeth against us. And that which was spoken by our Lord was fulfilled: The time will come when whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. 1368
16. Then finally the holy witnesses endured sufferings beyond description, Satan striving earnestly that some of the slanders might be uttered by them also. 1369
17. “But the whole wrath of the populace, and governor, and soldiers was aroused exceedingly against Sanctus, the deacon from Vienne, 1370 and Maturus, a late convert, yet a noble combatant, and against Attalus, a native of Pergamos 1371 where he had always been a pillar and foundation, and Blandina, through whom Christ showed that things which appear mean and obscure and despicable to men are with God of great glory, 1372 through love toward him manifested in power, and not boasting in appearance.
18. For while we all trembled, and her earthly mistress, who was herself also one of the witnesses, feared that on account of the weakness of her body, she would be unable to make bold confession, Blandina was filled with such p. 214 power as to be delivered and raised above those who were torturing her by turns from morning till evening in every manner, so that they acknowledged that they were conquered, and could do nothing more to her. And they were astonished at her endurance, as her entire body was mangled and broken; and they testified that one of these forms of torture was sufficient to destroy life, not to speak of so many and so great sufferings.
19. But the blessed woman, like a noble athlete, renewed her strength in her confession; and her comfort and recreation and relief from the pain of her sufferings was in exclaiming, I am a Christian, and there is nothing vile done by us.
20. “But Sanctus also endured marvelously and superhumanly 1373 all the outrages which he suffered. While the wicked men hoped, by the continuance and severity of his tortures to wring something from him which he ought not to say, he girded himself against them with such firmness that he would not even tell his name, or the nation or city to which he belonged, or whether he was bond or free, but answered in the Roman tongue to all their questions, I am a Christian. He confessed this instead of name and city and race and everything besides, and the people heard from him no other word.
21. There arose therefore on the part of the governor and his tormentors a great desire to conquer him; but having nothing more that they could do to him, they finally fastened red-hot brazen plates to the most tender parts of his body.
22. And these indeed were burned, but he continued unbending and unyielding, firm in his confession, and refreshed and strengthened by the heavenly fountain of the water of life, flowing from the bowels of Christ.
23. And his body was a witness of his sufferings, being one complete wound and bruise, drawn out of shape, and altogether unlike a human form. Christ, suffering in him, manifested his glory, delivering him from his adversary, and making him an ensample for the others, showing that nothing is fearful where the love of the Father is, and nothing painful where there is the glory of Christ.
24. For when the wicked men tortured him a second time after some days, supposing that with his body swollen and inflamed to such a degree that he could not bear the touch of a hand, if they should again apply the same instruments, they would overcome him, or at least by his death under his sufferings others would be made afraid, not only did not this occur, but, contrary to all human expectation, his body arose and stood erect in the midst of the subsequent torments, and resumed its original appearance and the use of its limbs, so that, through the grace of Christ, these second sufferings became to him, not torture, but healing.
25. “But the devil, thinking that he had already consumed Biblias, who was one of those who had denied Christ, desiring to increase her condemnation through the utterance of blasphemy, 1374 brought her again to the torture, to compel her, as already feeble and weak, to report impious things concerning us.
26. But she recovered herself under the suffering, and as if awaking from a deep sleep, and reminded by the present anguish of the eternal punishment in hell, she contradicted the blasphemers. How, she said, could those eat children who do not think it lawful to taste the blood even of irrational animals? And thenceforward she confessed herself a Christian, and was given a place in the order of the witnesses.
27. “But as the tyrannical tortures were made by Christ of none effect through the patience of the blessed, the devil invented other contrivances,—confinement in the dark and most loathsome parts of the prison, stretching of the feet to the fifth hole in the stocks, 1375 and the other outrages which his servants are accustomed to inflict upon the prisoners when furious and filled with the devil. A great many were suffocated in prison, being chosen by the Lord for this manner of death, that he might manifest in them his glory.
28. For some, though they had been tortured so cruelly that it seemed impossible that they could live, even with the most careful nursing, yet, destitute of human attention, remained in the prison, being strengthened by the Lord, and invigorated both in body and soul; and they exhorted and encouraged the rest. But such as were young, and arrested recently, so that their bodies had not become accustomed to torture, were unable to endure the severity of their confinement, and died in prison.
29. “The blessed Pothinus, who had been entrusted with the bishopric of Lyons, was dragged to the judgment seat. He was more than ninety years of age, and very infirm, scarcely indeed able to breathe because of physical weakness; but he was strengthened by spiritual zeal through his earnest desire for martyrdom. Though his body was worn out by old age and disease, his life was preserved that Christ might triumph in it.
30. When he was brought by the soldiers to the tribunal, accompanied by the civil magistrates and a multitude who shouted against him in every manner as if he were Christ himself, he bore noble witness.
31. Being asked p. 215 by the governor, Who was the God of the Christians, he replied, If thou art worthy, thou shalt know. Then he was dragged away harshly, and received blows of every kind. Those near him struck him with their hands and feet, regardless of his age; and those at a distance hurled at him whatever they could seize; all of them thinking that they would be guilty of great wickedness and impiety if any possible abuse were omitted. For thus they thought to avenge their own deities. Scarcely able to breathe, he was cast into prison and died after two days.
32. “Then a certain great dispensation of God occurred, and the compassion of Jesus appeared beyond measure, 1376 in a manner rarely seen among the brotherhood, but not beyond the power of Christ.
33. For those who had recanted at their first arrest were imprisoned with the others, and endured terrible sufferings, so that their denial was of no profit to them even for the present. But those who confessed what they were were imprisoned as Christians, no other accusation being brought against them. But the first were treated afterwards as murderers and defiled, and were punished twice as severely as the others.
34. For the joy of martyrdom, and the hope of the promises, and love for Christ, and the Spirit of the Father supported the latter; but their consciences so greatly distressed the former that they were easily distinguishable from all the rest by their very countenances when they were led forth.
35. For the first went out rejoicing, glory and grace being blended in their faces, so that even their bonds seemed like beautiful ornaments, as those of a bride adorned with variegated golden fringes; and they were perfumed with the sweet savor of Christ, 1377 so that some supposed they had been anointed with earthly ointment. But the others were downcast and humble and dejected and filled with every kind of disgrace, and they were reproached by the heathen as ignoble and weak, bearing the accusation of murderers, and having lost the one honorable and glorious and life-giving Name. The rest, beholding this, were strengthened, and when apprehended, they confessed without hesitation, paying no attention to the persuasions of the devil.”
36. After certain other words they continue:
“After these things, finally, their martyrdoms were divided into every form. 1378 For plaiting a crown of various colors and of all kinds of flowers, they presented it to the Father. It was proper therefore that the noble athletes, having endured a manifold strife, and conquered grandly, should receive the crown, great and incorruptible.
37. “Maturus, therefore, and Sanctus and Blandina and Attalus were led to the amphitheater to be exposed to the wild beasts, and to give to the heathen public a spectacle of cruelty, a day for fighting with wild beasts being specially appointed on account of our people.
38. Both Maturus and Sanctus passed again through every torment in the amphitheater, as if they had suffered nothing before, or rather, as if, having already conquered their antagonist in many contests, 1379 they were now striving for the crown itself. They endured again the customary running of the gauntlet 1380 and the violence of the wild beasts, and everything which the furious people called for or desired, and at last, the iron chair in which their bodies being roasted, tormented them with the fumes.
39. And not with this did the persecutors cease, but were yet more mad against them, determined to overcome their patience. But even thus they did not hear a word from Sanctus except the confession which he had uttered from the beginning.
40. These, then, after their life had continued for a long time through the great conflict, were at last sacrificed, having been made throughout that day a spectacle to the world, in place of the usual variety of combats.
41. “But Blandina was suspended on a stake, and exposed to be devoured by the wild beasts who should attack her. 1381 And because she appeared as if hanging on a cross, and because of her earnest prayers, she inspired the combatants with great zeal. For they looked on her in her conflict, and beheld with their outward eyes, in the form of their sister, him who was crucified for them, that he might persuade those who believe on him, that every one who suffers for the glory of Christ has fellowship always with the living God.
42. As none of the wild beasts at that time touched her, she was taken down from the stake, and cast again into prison. She was preserved thus for another contest, that, being victorious in more conflicts, she might make the punishment of the crooked serpent irrevocable; 1382 and, though small and weak and despised, yet clothed with Christ the mighty and conquering Athlete, she p. 216 might arouse the zeal of the brethren, and, having overcome the adversary many times might receive, through her conflict, the crown incorruptible.
43. “But Attalus was called for loudly by the people, because he was a person of distinction. He entered the contest readily on account of a good conscience and his genuine practice in Christian discipline, and as he had always been a witness for the truth among us.
44. He was led around the amphitheater, a tablet being carried before him on which was written in the Roman language This is Attalus the Christian, and the people were filled with indignation against him. But when the governor learned that he was a Roman, he commanded him to be taken back with the rest of those who were in prison concerning whom he had written to Cæsar, and whose answer he was awaiting.
45. “But the intervening time was not wasted nor fruitless to them; for by their patience the measureless compassion of Christ was manifested. For through their continued life the dead were made alive, and the witnesses showed favor to those who had failed to witness. And the virgin mother had much joy in receiving alive those whom she had brought forth as dead. 1383
46. For through their influence many who had denied were restored, and re-begotten, and rekindled with life, and learned to confess. And being made alive and strengthened, they went to the judgment seat to be again interrogated by the governor; God, who desires not the death of the sinner, 1384 but mercifully invites to repentance, treating them with kindness.
47. For Cæsar commanded that they should be put to death, 1385 but that any who might deny should be set free. Therefore, at the beginning of the public festival 1386 which took place there, and which was attended by crowds of men from all nations, the governor brought the blessed ones to the judgment seat, to make of them a show and spectacle for the multitude. Wherefore also he examined them again, and beheaded those who appeared to possess Roman citizenship, but he sent the others to the wild beasts.
48. “And Christ was glorified greatly in those who had formerly denied him, for, contrary to the expectation of the heathen, they confessed. For they were examined by themselves, as about to be set free; but confessing, they were added to the order of the witnesses. But some continued without, who had never possessed a trace of faith, nor any apprehension of the wedding garment, 1387 nor an understanding of the fear of God; but, as sons of perdition, they blasphemed the Way through their apostasy.
49. But all the others were added to the Church. While these were being examined, a certain Alexander, a Phrygian by birth, and physician by profession, who had resided in Gaul for many years, and was well known to all on account of his love to God and boldness of speech (for he was not without a share of apostolic grace), standing before the judgment seat, and by signs encouraging them to confess, appeared to those standing by as if in travail.
50. But the people being enraged because those who formerly denied now confessed, cried out against Alexander as if he were the cause of this. Then the governor summoned him and inquired who he was. And when he answered that he was a Christian, being very angry he condemned him to the wild beasts. And on the next day he entered along with Attalus. For to please the people, the governor had ordered Attalus again to the wild beasts.
51. And they were tortured in the amphitheater with all the instruments contrived for that purpose, and having endured a very great conflict, were at last sacrificed. Alexander neither groaned nor murmured in any manner, but communed in his heart with God.
52. But when Attalus was placed in the iron seat, and the fumes arose from his burning body, he said to the people in the Roman language: Lo! this which ye do is devouring men; but we do not devour men; nor do any other wicked thing. And being asked, what name God has, he replied, God has not a name as man has.
53. “After all these, on the last day of the contests, Blandina was again brought in, with Ponticus, a boy about fifteen years old. They had been brought every day to witness the sufferings of the others, and had been pressed to swear by the idols. But because they remained steadfast and despised them, the multitude became furious, so that they had no compassion for the youth of the boy nor respect for the sex of the woman.
54. Therefore they exposed them to all the terrible sufferings and took them through the entire round of torture, repeatedly urging them to swear, but being unable to effect this; for Ponticus, encouraged by his sister so that even the heathen could see that she was confirming and strengthening him, having nobly endured every torture, gave up the ghost.
p. 217 55. But the blessed Blandina, last of all, having, as a noble mother, encouraged her children and sent them before her victorious to the King, endured herself all their conflicts and hastened after them, glad and rejoicing in her departure as if called to a marriage supper, rather than cast to wild beasts.
56. And, after the scourging, after the wild beasts, after the roasting seat, 1388 she was finally enclosed in a net, and thrown before a bull. And having been tossed about by the animal, but feeling none of the things which were happening to her, on account of her hope and firm hold upon what had been entrusted to her, and her communion with Christ, she also was sacrificed. And the heathen themselves confessed that never among them had a woman endured so many and such terrible tortures.
57. “But not even thus was their madness and cruelty toward the saints satisfied. For, incited by the Wild Beast, wild and barbarous tribes were not easily appeased, and their violence found another peculiar opportunity in the dead bodies. 1389
58. For, through their lack of manly reason, the fact that they had been conquered did not put them to shame, but rather the more enkindled their wrath as that of a wild beast, and aroused alike the hatred of governor and people to treat us unjustly; that the Scripture might be fulfilled: He that is lawless, let him be lawless still, and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still. 1390
59. For they cast to the dogs those who had died of suffocation in the prison, carefully guarding them by night and day, lest any one should be buried by us. And they exposed the remains left by the wild beasts and by fire, mangled and charred, and placed the heads of the others by their bodies, and guarded them in like manner from burial by a watch of soldiers for many days.
60. And some raged and gnashed their teeth against them, desiring to execute more severe vengeance upon them; but others laughed and mocked at them, magnifying their own idols, and imputed to them the punishment of the Christians. Even the more reasonable, and those who had seemed to sympathize somewhat, reproached them often, saying, Where is their God, and what has their religion, which they have chosen rather than life, profited them?
61. So various was their conduct toward us; but we were in deep affliction because we could not bury the bodies. For neither did night avail us for this purpose, nor did money persuade, nor entreaty move to compassion; but they kept watch in every way, as if the prevention of the burial would be of some great advantage to them.”
In addition, they say after other things:
62 . “The bodies of the martyrs, having thus in every manner been exhibited and exposed for six days, were afterward burned and reduced to ashes, and swept into the Rhone by the wicked men, so that no trace of them might appear on the earth.
63. And this they did, as if able to conquer God, and prevent their new birth; that, as they said, they may have no hope of a resurrection, 1391 through trust in which they bring to us this foreign and new religion, and despise terrible things, and are ready even to go to death with joy. Now let us see if they will rise again, and if their God is able to help them, and to deliver them out of our hands.”
Λούγδουνος καὶ Βίεννα, the ancient Lugdunum and Vienna, the modern Lyons and Vienne in southeastern France.212:1351
μαρτύρων. This word is used in this and the following chapters of all those that suffered in the persecution, whether they lost their lives or not, and therefore in a broader sense than our word “martyr.” In order, therefore, to avoid all ambiguity I have translated the word in every case “witness,” its original significance. Upon the use of the words μ€ρτυρ and μ€ρτυς in the early Church, see Bk. III. chap. 32, note 15.212:1352
The fragments of this epistle, preserved by Eusebius in this and the next chapter, are printed with a commentary by Routh, in his Rel. Sacræ. I. p. 285 sq., and an English translation is given in the Ante-Nicene Fathers, VIII. p. 778 sq. There can be no doubt as to the early date and reliability of the epistle. It bears no traces of a later age, and contains little of the marvelous, which entered so largely into the spurious martyrologies of a later day. Its genuineness is in fact questioned by no one so far as I am aware. It is one of the most beautiful works of the kind which we have, and well deserves the place in his History which Eusebius has accorded it. We may assume that we have the greater part of the epistle in so far as it related to the martyrdoms. Ado, in his Mart., asserts that forty-eight suffered martyrdom, and even gives a list of their names. It is possible that he gained his information from the epistle itself, as given in its complete form in Eusebius Collection of Martyrdoms; but I am inclined to think rather that Eusebius has mentioned if not all, at least the majority of the martyrs referred to in the epistle, and that therefore Ados list is largely imaginary. Eusebius statement, that a “multitude” suffered signifies nothing, for μυρία was a very indefinite word, and might be used of a dozen or fifteen as easily as of forty-eight. To speak of the persecution as “wholesale,” so that it was not safe for any Christian to appear out of doors (Lightfoot, Ignatius, Vol. I. p. 499), is rather overstating the case. The persecution must, of course, whatever its extent, appear terrible to the Christians of the region; but a critical examination of the epistle itself will hardly justify the extravagant statements which are commonly made in regard to the magnitude and severity of the persecution. It may have been worse than any single persecution that had preceded it, but sinks into insignificance when compared with those which took place under Decius and Diocletian.
It is interesting to notice that this epistle was especially addressed to the Christians of Asia and Phrygia. We know that Southern Gaul contained a great many Asia Minor people, and that the intercourse between the two districts was very close. Irenæus, and other prominent Christians of Gaul, in the second and following centuries, were either natives of Asia Minor, or had pursued their studies there; and so the Church of the country always bore a peculiarly Greek character, and was for some centuries in sympathy and in constant communication with the Eastern Church. Witness, for instance, the rise and spread of semi-Pelagianism there in the fifth century,—a simple reproduction in its main features of the anthropology of the Eastern Church. Doubtless, at the time this epistle was written, there were many Christians in Lyons and Vienne, who had friends and relations in the East, and hence it was very natural that an epistle should be sent to what might be called, in a sense, the mother churches. Valesius expressed the opinion that Irenæus was the author of this epistle; and he has been followed by many other scholars. It is possible that he was, but there are no grounds upon which to base the opinion, except the fact that Irenæus lived in Lyons, and was, or afterward became, a writer. On the other hand, it is significant that no tradition has connected the letter with Irenæus name, and that even Eusebius has no thought of such a connection. In fact, Valesius opinion seems to me in the highest degree improbable.212:1353
Rom. viii. 18.212:1354
Of course official imprisonment cannot be referred to here. It may be that the mob did actually shut Christians up in one or another place, or it may mean simply that their treatment was such that the Christians were obliged to avoid places of public resort and were perhaps even compelled to remain somewhat closely at home, and were thus in a sense “imprisoned.”212:1355
χιλιαρχής, strictly the commander of a thousand men, but commonly used also to translate the Latin Tribunus militum.212:1356
Of the various witnesses mentioned in this chapter (Vettius Epagathus, Sanctus, Attalus, Blandina, Biblias, Pothinus, Maturus, Alexander, Ponticus) we know only what this epistle tells us. The question has arisen whether Vettius Epagathus really was a martyr. Renan (Marc Auréle, p. 307) thinks that he was not even arrested, but that the words “taken into the number of martyrs” (§10, below) imply simply that he enjoyed all the merit of martyrdom without actually undergoing any suffering. He bases his opinion upon the fact that Vettius is not mentioned again among the martyrs whose sufferings are recorded, and also upon the use of the words, “He was and is a true disciple” (§10, below). It is quite possible, however, that Vettius, who is said to have been a man of high station, was simply beheaded as a Roman citizen, and therefore there was no reason for giving a description of his death; and still further the words, “taken into the order of witnesses,” and also the words used in §10, “being well pleased to lay down his life,” while they do not prove that he suffered martyrdom, yet seem very strongly to imply that he did, and the quotation from the Apocalypse in the same paragraph would seem to indicate that he was dead, not alive, at the time the epistle was written. On the whole, it may be regarded as probable, though not certain, that Vettius was one of the martyrs. Valesius refers to Gregory of Tours (H. E. chaps. 29, 31) as mentioning a certain senator who was “of the lineage of Vettius Epagathus, who suffered for the name of Christ at Lyons.” Gregorys authority is not very great, and he may in this case have known no more about the death of Vettius than is told in the fragment which we still possess, so that his statement can hardly be urged as proof that Vettius did suffer martyrdom. But it may be used as indicating that the latter was of a noble family, a fact which is confirmed in §10, below, where he is spoken of as a man of distinction.212:1357
Luke i. 6.213:1358
κλῆρον, employed in the sense of “order,” “class,” “category.” Upon the significance of the word κλῆρος in early Christian literature, see Ritschls exhaustive discussion in his Entstehung der altkatholischen Kirche, 2d ed., p. 388 sq.213:1359
παρ€κλητον; cf. John xiv. 16.213:1360
πνεῦμα is omitted by three important mss. followed by Laemmer and Heinichen. Burton retains the word in his text, but rejects it in a note. They are possibly correct, but I have preferred to follow the majority of the codices, thinking it quite natural that Eusebius should introduce the πνεῦμα in connection with Zacharias, who is said to have been filled with the “Spirit,” not with the “Advocate,” and thinking the omission of the word by a copyist, to whom it might seem quite superfluous after παρ€κλητον, much easier than its insertion.213:1361
See Luke i. 67213:1362
Compare John xv. 13.213:1363
Rev. xiv. 4.213:1364
διεκρίνοντο. Valesius finds in this word a figure taken from the athletic combats; for before the contests began the combatants were examined, and those found eligible were admitted (εἰσκρίνεσθαι), while the others were rejected (ἐκκρίνεσθαι).213:1365
ἐξέτρωσαν, with Stroth, Zimmermann, Schwegler, Burton, and Heinichen. ἐξέπεσον has perhaps a little stronger ms. support, and was read by Rufinus, but the former word, as Valesius remarks, being more unusual than the latter, could much more easily be changed into the latter by a copyist than the latter into the former.213:1366
Gieseler (Ecclesiastical History, Harpers edition, I. p. 127) speaks of this as a violation of the ancient law that slaves could not be compelled to testify against their masters; but it is to be noticed that it is not said in the present case that they were called upon to testify against their masters, but only that through fear of what might come upon them they yielded to the solicitation of the soldiers and uttered falsehoods against their masters. It is not implied therefore that any illegal methods were employed in this respect by the officials in connection with the trials.213:1367
i.e. of cannibalism and incest; for according to classic legend Thyestes had unwittingly eaten his own sons served to him at a banquet by an enemy, and Œdipus had unknowingly married his own mother. Upon the terrible accusations brought against the Christians by their heathen enemies, see above, Bk. IV. chap. 7, note 20.213:1368
John xvi. 2.213:1369
καὶ δι᾽ ἐκείνων ῥηθῆναί τι τῶν βλασφήμων. The word βλασφήμων evidently refers here to the slanderous reports against the Christians such as had been uttered by those mentioned just above. This is made clear, as Valesius remarks, by the καὶ δι᾽ ἐκείνων, “by them also.”213:1370
Valesius maintains that Sanctus was a deacon of the church of Lyons, and that the words ἀπὸ Βιέννης signify only that he was a native of Vienne, but it is certainly more natural to understand the words as implying that he was a deacon of the church of Vienne, and it is not at all difficult to account for his presence in Lyons and his martyrdom there. Indeed, it is evident that the church of Vienne was personally involved in the persecution as well as that of Lyons. Cf. §13, above.213:1371
Pergamos in Asia Minor (mentioned in Rev. ii. 12, and the seat of a Christian church for a number of centuries) is apparently meant here. As already remarked, the connection between the inhabitants of Gaul and of Asia Minor was very close.213:1372
Cf. 1 Cor. 1:27, 28.214:1373
ὑπὲρ π€ντα ἄνθρωπον.214:1374
Blasphemy against Christianity, not against God or Christ; that is, slanders against the Christians (cf. §14, above), as is indicated by the words that follow (so Valesius also).214:1375
See Bk. IV. chap. 16, note 9.215:1376
The compassion of Jesus appeared not in the fact that those who denied suffered such terrible punishments, but that the difference between their misery in their sufferings and the joy of the faithful in theirs became a means of strength and encouragement to the other Christians. Compare the note of Heinichen (III. p. 180).215:1377
Cf. 2 Cor. ii. 15. Cf. also Bk. IV. chap. 15, §37, above.215:1378
μετὰ ταῦτα δὴ λοιπὸν εἰς πᾶν εἶδος διῃρεῖτο τὰ μαρτύρια τῆς ἐξόδου αὐτῶν.215:1379
διὰ πλειόνων κλήρων; undoubtedly a reference to the athletic combats (see Valesius note in loco).215:1380
τὰς διεξόδους τῶν μαστίγων τὰς ἐκεῖσε εἰθισμένας. It was the custom to compel the bestiarii before fighting with wild beasts to run the gauntlet. Compare Shortings and Valesius notes in loco, and Tertullians ad Nationes, 18, and ad Martyras, 5, to which the latter refers.215:1381
Among the Romans crucifixion was the mode of punishment commonly inflicted upon slaves and the worst criminals. Roman citizens were exempt from this indignity. See Lipsius De Cruce and the various commentaries upon the Gospel narratives of the crucifixion of Christ.215:1382
Compare Isa. xxvii. 1, which is possibly referred to here.216:1383
ὡς νεκροὺς ἐξέτρωσε. Compare §11, above.216:1384
Ezek. xxxiii. 11.216:1385
ἀποτυμπανισθῆναι. The word means literally “beaten to death,” but it is plain that it is used in a general sense here, from the fact that some were beheaded and some sent to the wild beasts, as we are told just below.216:1386
Renan (Marc Auréle, p. 329) identifies this with the meeting of the general assembly of the Gallic nations, which took place annually in the month of August for the celebration of the worship of Augustus, and was attended with imposing ceremonies, games, contests, &c. The identification is not at all improbable.216:1387
Cf. Matt. xxii. 11.217:1388
τήγανον: literally, “frying-pan,” by which, however, is evidently meant the instrument of torture spoken of already more than once in this chapter as an iron seat or chair.217:1389
The Christians were very solicitous about the bodies of the martyrs, and were especially anxious to give them decent burial, and to preserve the memory of their graves as places of peculiar religious interest and sanctity. They sometimes went even to the length of bribing the officials to give them the dead bodies (cf. §61, below).217:1390
Rev. xxii. 11. The citation of the Apocalypse at this date as Scripture (ἵνα ἡ γραφὴ πληρωθῇ) is noteworthy.217:1391
These words show us how much emphasis the Christians of that day must have laid upon the resurrection of the body (an emphasis which is abundantly evident from other sources), and in what a sensuous and material way they must have taught the doctrine, or at least how unguarded their teaching must have been, which could lead the heathen to think that they could in the slightest impede the resurrection by such methods as they pursued. The Christians, in so far as they laid so much emphasis as they did upon the material side of the doctrine, and were so solicitous about the burial of their brethren, undoubtedly were in large part responsible for this gross misunderstanding on the part of the heathen.