22 February 2003
The Early Christian Martyrs were as courageous as they were numerous. Unwilling to conform to the Roman Empires polytheist society they suffered unto death for their beliefs, with hope of eternal life.
II.Life for the Early Christians
III.Why were Christians Martyred?
IV.Giving Christians the Opportunity to Renounce Christ
V.Most Notable Martyrs
"If sanctity and spirituality have to do essentially with our union with God in Christ through the Holy Spirit, martyrdom, as we have already seen in the first part, provided in the earliest centuries of the Church and ideal means to such union. Martyrdom's importance was rooted in its close connection with Christ's own death and resurrection. To be put to death for faith, that is, to be martyred (literally, to become a "witness"), was to experience ahead of schedule the final eschatological event." (McBrien 1). The Persecution of the early Church seems to read like a tragedy written for the stage rather then real life. Christians weren't continuously persecuted by the Roman government and for a period of time did enjoy some freedom and therefore were viewed by the Roman people to be unsociable in their dealing with society (2). The persecution of the church was first started by the Jews and then the Gentiles and continued for nearly three hundred years. This persecution is one of the worst recorded of all times and was definitely a disproportionate struggle (3).
Life for the Early Christian
Divine intervention made it possible for the roots of Christianity to be planted in society before the Roman government really knew what had taken place (4). What they perceived as small and annoying at the start became a problem deeply rooted in the fabric of their society. The policy of the Roman government was tolerant to a certain degree. As long as one paid homage to the Emperor then they had the freedom to worship their own god. Freedom of thought and learning institutions were also free to teach as they wish. The only overriding consideration was that the Emperor be given due respect.
Other religions that were inherited by the conquest of other cultures were tolerated as long as they did not impede the goals of the state. Even Christianity which did not appear to be a specific country's religion, but did claim to be the only true universal religion, therefore receiving members from among every people and every sect was tolerated in the beginning by the government. The common people however viewed Christians as Atheist because they worshiped and invisible God and did not participate in their polytheistic society (5). These pagans often spread rumors of cannibalism, incest and other malicious lies so that Christians would be perceived as dangerous to the establishment. The Emperors soon realized that Christians would not worship them, would not serve in the army and would not participate in the revelries of their society. This new attitude of Christians was now evident to all and led to the brutal implementation of centuries of persecution (6).
Why Were Christians Martyred?
The Early Christians were persecuted many times by the Romans over a span of three hundred years (7). There are numerous significant and interconnected reasons for the persecution of the early church. The initial dilemma was one of identity. Christianity, in the beginning, was viewed as being associated with Jewish traditions and not a separate religion (8). Rome was satisfied with a policy of containment with the Jewish people when Christianity appeared, so long as they didn't stir too much ruckus as they did with the crucifixion of Jesus. It is important to note that Roman society was pluralistic and only accepted Jewish religion because it was a nation. Christianity on the other hand was unique in that it spread across geographical,...