This is an occasional series of readings from and brief notes and commentary upon Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical History: Book 9, chapter 5-7.
Notes and Commentary:
These chapters describe the renewal
of persecution against Christians under the tyrant Maximin.
Chapter 5 describes
a forged memoir concerning Pilate that blasphemed Christ. The pagans widely distributed
this false report and required teachers in schools to review it with their young
It is also relayed that a commander
or dux compelled certain “infamous women” to claim to be former Christians
and to spread false stories of lewd practices in the churches, which Maximin
recorded in documents that were then widely published.
Chapter 6 begins by
noting that this dux eventually paid for his sin by taking his own life.
Meanwhile, however, the persecution
Three were put to death in Emessa
of Phoenicia, given to wild beasts, including Silvanus who had served as bishop
for 40 years.
Peter of Alexandria was beheaded,
alongside other Egyptian bishops.
Lucian, the presbyter of Antioch,
stood before the emperor at Nicomedia, was imprisoned, and then put to death.
Maximin’s zeal made this persecution
seem worse than the first.
Chapter 7 notes how
Maximin set up brazen tablets in the cities describing petitions against the
Christians and his ordinances in reply against them. All the while, children in
the schools were still being taught from the forged memoirs regarding Pilate
Eusebius provides a translation of
one of the ordinances posted at Tyre from Maximin, “the hater of God”, against
Christians, in response to public petitions. In this tablet he commends the pagans
for continuing to worship the immortal gods rather than be deceived by the
Christians. He asserts that they will be protected and rewarded by Zeus for
this. Those, like Christians, who fail to worship the gods put the city as risk
for the failure of crops, defeat in war, and suffering under storms.
Such tablets were posted in every
city and gloom came over the Christians. Just when the believers were about to despair,
however, God, “the Champion of His own Church”, intervened.
The respite from the Diocletian persecution
was short-lived. The reputations of Christians were smeared by false reports
and even through indoctrination of children in school. Pagans were blaming
Christians for things like crop failures, wars, and storms, because they did
not worship the gods. Though disheartening, the believers endured and relief
was just around the corner.