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And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto death.                                          Revelation 12:11

        Here we take a look at the history of the lives, sufferings and deaths of some of the early Christian martyrs. The information presented herewith is derived from two basic sources: Fox's Book of Martyrs and Fox's Christian Martyrs of the World. Both of these books are must reads for any serious scholar of Christianity. And certainly should be read by those interested in the vast persecution that pervaded the early Church and its founding disciples and apostles.

 

Jesus Christ

The very first martyr in the name of God is of course, Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Of that there is no question. His death on the cross for all mankind, for all generations is the first, indeed most important, case of martyrdom for Christianity.

Stephen

The next martyr was Stephen. His deaths was a direct result of his preaching the Gospel and the faithful manner in which he exclaimed the glory of the Lord, even unto those betrayers and murders of Christ. Stephen was stoned to death in the street at Passover the Spring following Jesus' Crucifixion. The outrage Stephen caused was so great that there was great persecution of the Church through the regions of Judea and Samaria, particularly in Jerusalem. It is said that over 2,000 Christians suffered persecution and death as a direct result of Stephen.

James (the Great)

The next martyr was James, the son of Zebedee, elder brother of John. James' martyrdom was about 10 years after the death of Stephen. This occurred under the hand of the infamous Herod Agrippa who was determined not only to persecute the Christians but indeed annihilate them. James was undaunted when confronted with his impending death; when he was brought to the place of martyrdom, he continued to preach and exhort those around. His main accuser was so moved by the Apostle's conviction, this man repented and fell down at James' feet! Then, both men were beheaded at the same time!

Philip

Born at Bethsaida, in Galilee, he was one of the first to be called 'disciple'. He labored for Christ throughout Upper Asia and suffered martyrdom at Heliopolis, in Phrygia. He was scourged, thrown into prison and then crucified.

Matthew

Matthew was the tax collector that left all when Jesus simply said 'Follow me.' He was born at Nazareth. He wrote all of his gospel in Hebrew, but thanks to James, Jesus' brother (actually step-brother), the Gospel of Matthew was translated into Greek. Matthew labored for our Lord in Parthia, and Ethiopia where he suffered his death being slain by chopping apart by halberd.

James (the Less)

This disciple of Christ was supposed by many scholars to have been the brother of our Lord by a former wife of Joseph. He was the head of all the Churches of Jerusalem and the author of the Epistle in the New Testament bearing his name. At the age of 94, he was beaten and stoned by the Jews, still not dying they bashed his brains out with a club.

Matthias

Less is known about him than most of the other disciples, but he was elected to fill the place of Judas. He was stoned at Jerusalem and then beheaded.

Andrew

He was the brother of Peter. He preached the gospel to many Asiatic nations; but when he arrived at Odessa, he was seized and crucified on a cross, the two ends of which were fixed transversely in the ground; hence the derivation of the term, St. Andrew's Cross.

Mark

Mark was a Jew, born of the tribe of Levi. Very important tribe in the Jewish nation. He was converted to Christianity by Peter. In conjunction with Peter, he wrote the Gospel of Mark in the Greek language (instead of Hebrew which was his natural tongue). Mark was literally dragged and torn to pieces by the people of Alexandria.

Peter

The blessed Apostle Peter, the one whom Jesus declared to build his Church upon, was condemned to death at Rome by Nero. However, Peter had several, indeed many opportunities to escape. Many offered Peter refuge. He refused all. Peter recounts that while he was at the Gate of the city, preparing to flee, he saw Jesus Christ come down to meet him; worshipping Christ, Peter said that the Lord indicated that he was come again to be crucified. By this, Peter perceived that he was to be crucified for the Lord, and returned to the city. He ask that he be crucified with his head down and his feet upward, he being unworthy to be crucified in the same form and manner as the Lord.

Paul

Paul also suffered persecution and ultimately death under the hand of Nero. Two messengers of Nero, Ferega and Parthemius, were dispatched to Paul to tell him of his impending death. When they got to Paul, he was preaching the Word of God and instructing people in the way of the Lord; these messengers indicated that they too wanted to believe and wanted Paul to lead them in prayer. As Paul bowed in prayer, they beheaded him.

Jude

The brother of James was commonly called Thaddeus. He was crucified at Odessa.

Bartholomew

He preached in many countries, often translating the Gospel into the native language, including India where he was cruelly beaten and crucified.

Thomas

Also called Didymus, preached the Gospel in Parthia and India, where the pagan priests killed him by thrusting a spear through him.

Luke

The evangelist and author of the Gospel that carries his name. He traveled with Paul through various countries. He was hanged to death from an olive tree in Greece.

Simon

Preached the Gospel in Africa and even Great Britain, where he was crucified.

John

The 'beloved disciple' was a brother to James (the Great). He founded many Churches, including Smyrna, Pergamos, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea, and Thyatira. Captured at Ephesus, he was taken to Rome where he was put into a cauldron of hot, boiling oil. By a miracle of God, he was taken out without any injury! Domitian immediately banished him to the Isle of Patmos, where John wrote the book of Revelation. He is the only disciple of Christ to escape violent death.

 

 

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