False Gods Of The Bible And The Ancient World
In this page I start with all the references in the Bible to False Gods that I could find. Then I have post the various definitions of the False Gods of the Ancient World. I have also included some stories of Christian Martyrs that refused to worship these False Gods in any form.
Note: I have drawn these descriptions of the False Gods of the Bible and History from Webster's Dictionary, and various Encyclopedias. The Stories of the Martyrs are drawn from the Fox book of Martyrs. The Early Religion of Rome was drawn From the Decline and fall of The Roman Empire as well as other respected Historical works. If you have any questions as to a particular source please feel free to email me.
Judg:2:11: And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD,
and served Baalim:
Judg:2:13: And they forsook the LORD, and served Baal and Ashtaroth.
Judg:3:7: And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and forgat the LORD their God, and served Baalim and the groves.
Judg:8:33: And it came to pass, as soon as Gideon was dead, that the children of Israel turned again, and went a whoring after Baalim, and made Baal-berith their god.
Judg:10:6: And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the LORD, and served Baalim, and Ashtaroth, and the gods of Syria, and the gods of Zidon, and the gods of Moab, and the gods of the children of Ammon, and the gods of the Philistines, and forsook the LORD, and served not him.
Judg:10:10: And the children of Israel cried unto the LORD, saying, We have sinned against thee, both because we have forsaken our God, and also served Baalim.
1Sam:7:3: And Samuel spake unto all the house of Israel, saying, If ye do return unto the LORD with all your hearts, then put away the strange gods and Ashtaroth from among you, and prepare your hearts unto the LORD, and serve him only: and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.
1Sam:7:4: Then the children of Israel did put away Baalim and Ashtaroth, and served the LORD only.
1Sam:12:10: And they cried unto the LORD, and said, We have sinned, because we have forsaken the LORD, and have served Baalim and Ashtaroth: but now deliver us out of the hand of our enemies, and we will serve thee.
1Sam:31:10: And they put his armour in the house of Ashtaroth: and they fastened his body to the wall of Beth-shan.
1Kgs:18:18: And he answered, I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father's house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the LORD, and thou hast followed Baalim.
2Chron:17:3: And the LORD was with Jehoshaphat, because he walked in the first ways of his father David, and sought not unto Baalim;
2Chron:24:7: For the sons of Athaliah, that wicked woman, had broken up the house of God; and also all the dedicated things of the house of the LORD did they bestow upon Baalim.
2Chron:28:2: For he walked in the ways of the kings of Israel, and made also molten images for Baalim.
2Chron:33:3: For he built again the high places which Hezekiah his father had broken down, and he reared up altars for Baalim, and made groves, and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served them.
2Chron:34:4: And they brake down the altars of Baalim in his presence; and the images, that were on high above them, he cut down; and the groves, and the carved images, and the molten images, he brake in pieces, and made dust of them, and strowed it upon the graves of them that had sacrificed unto them.
Jer:2:23: How canst thou say, I am not polluted, I have not gone after Baalim? see thy way in the valley, know what thou hast done: thou art a swift dromedary traversing her ways;
Jer:9:14: But have walked after the imagination of their own heart, and after Baalim, which their fathers taught them:
Hosea:2:13: And I will visit upon her the days of Baalim, wherein she burned incense to them, and she decked herself with her earrings and her jewels, and she went after her lovers, and forgat me, saith the LORD.
Hosea:2:17: For I will take away the names of Baalim out of her mouth, and they shall no more be remembered by their name.
Hosea:11:2: As they called them, so they went from them: they sacrificed unto Baalim, and burned incense to graven images.
Rom:11:4: But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal.
2Pt:2:15: Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness;
Jude:1:11: Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core.
Rv:2:14: But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication. ,
Two images of the Roman Gods, Jupiter on left Saturn on the right
Saturnalia \Sat`ur*na"li*a\, n. pl. [L. See Saturn.] 1. (Rom. Antiq.) The festival of Saturn celebrated in December, originally during one day the 17th, but afterward during seven days, as a period of unrestrained license and merriment for all classes, extending even to the slaves.
Roman god of agriculture concerned with the sowing of seed. Equated with the Greek god Kronos. His consort was Ops. He was the father of Jupiter. His temple was constructed in the Roman Forum as early as the fifth century BC. It served as the Roman treasury (aerarium). His festival was the Saturnalia, observed on December 17 but later extended to seven days. It was the most popular Roman festival, characterized by a suspension of all business, a reversal of the roles of master and slave, the exchange of gifts (including candles to symbolize the reborn sun god), and a loosening of moral restrictions. Our Saturday was named after Saturn.
King of the Roman gods, son of Saturn(whom Jupiter overthrew), brother and husband of Juno. He was particularly concerned with oaths, treaties, confederations and with the most ancient and sacred form of marriage. Jupiter, the name, is derived from the same root word as Zeus (bright). He was improperly called Jove also. Originally the god of the sky, Jupiter was worshiped as god of rain, thunder, and lightning. He developed into the prime protector of the state, and as the protector of Rome he was called Jupiter Optimus Maximus. As Jupiter Fidius he was guardian of law, defender of truth, and protector of justice and virtue. The Romans identified Jupiter with Zeus, the supreme god of the Greeks, and assigned to the Roman god the attributes and myths of the Greek divinity Zeus. Jupiter with the goddess Juno and Minerva, formed the triad (Trinity) whose worship was the central cult of the Roman state.
"Behold,...moved by your prayer I come to you--I, the natural mother of all life, the mistress of the elements, the first child of time, the supreme divinity, the queen of those in hell, the first among those in heaven, the uniform manifestation of all the gods and goddesses--I, who govern by my nod the crests of light in the sky, the purifying wafts of the ocean, and the lamentable silences of hell--I, whose single godhead is venerated all over the earth under manifold forms, varying rites, and changing names. Thus, the Phrygians that are the oldest human stock call me Pessinuntia, Mother of the Gods. The aboriginal races of Attica call me Cecropian Minerva. The Cyprians in their island-home call me Paphian Venus. The archer Creatans call me Diana Dictynna. The three-tongued Sicilians call me Stygian Proserpine. The Elusinians call me the ancient goddess Ceres. Some call me Juno. Some call me Bellona. Some call me Hecate. Some call me Rhamnusia. But those who are enli ghtened by th e earliest rays of that divinity the sun, The Ethiopians, the Arii, and the Egyptians who excel in antique lore, all worship me with their ancestral ceremonies and call me by my true name, Queen Isis." Apuleius, 2nd. century A.D.
All the evidence in the subject now available goes to prove, that the early Egyptians before the first Dynasty believed that Osiris(Jupiter) was a man-god, son of (Helios or Ra or Saturn) and brother and husband of Isis.(AKA: Goddess of ten thousand names, Juno, Diana, Venus, ect.) Osiris who was murdered and Isis claimed his body was entombed in a tree that sprang from a sprout to a tree three times its normal size in a single day when touched by Osiris's dead body. After a long search Isis (AKA: Goddess of ten thousand names, Juno, Diana ect.) recovered her Brother's/Husband's dead body from the tree. Latter his enemies found his dead body and he was cut into fourteen pieces. Isis found all of the pieces but one and the various pieces of his body were reassembled and Osiris was reborn. Isis claimed Osiris was reborn in her son Horus. We know from very interesting text at the ancient city of Dendera that during the month of Khoiak (December) a number of festiva ls were celeb rated at all the sanctuaries of Osiris in Egypt. The elaborate ceremonies were performed in the temples in commemoration of every event which took place in the life, death, and resurrection of Osiris. In the text at Dendera the uses of the various Temples are described. Detailed instructions are given for the making of the funeral chest, and the Statue of Osiris, (which was to be buried in the coffin), and of the incense, and the amulets, and of the fourteen divine members, and all the materials, etc. which were employed in the ceremonies. On the 12th day of Khoiak, the Festival of the Ploughing of the Earth and the Festival of the Tena, were celebrated (Saturn Roman God of Farmers) on the 16th day the Festival of Osiris began (Khent Amenti). On the 24th day the statue of Osiris from the preceding year was taken from its place in the temple and buried suitably. The new reborn Osiris was embalmed in the sanctuary on his birthday the 25th of the month; on the last day of t he month the T et was set in Tettu, because on this day the divine pieces of Osiris were brought to be put back together. The new Osiris remained for seven days because of the tradition, which declared that the god had remained for seven days in the womb of his mother Nut when she was with child. In connection with the ceremonies in the great Temples, at Dendera, thirty-four papyrus boats with tamarisk trees were employed, and these trees were lit up with 365 lights or lamps to signify Osiris rebirth.
Helios - (Sol, Saturn, Ra, Nimrod) The sun, seen as a man driving a chariot of fire-breathing horses and sunbeams crowned upon his head.
Cush became the father of Nimrod; he was the first on earth to be a mighty man. He was a mighty hunter before the Lord; therefor it is said, "Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the Lord." The beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, and Accad, all of them in the land of Shinar. From that land he went into Assyria, and built Nineveh, Rehoboth-Ir, Calah, and Resen between Niveveh and Calah; that is the great city.(Genesis 10:8-12)
It is believed that Nimrod established his empire by forming horseback hunting parties to kill off the predators, which had multiplied faster than Humans after the flood. He was the first man to tame the horse, with which he hunted the wild beast and gathered people from the forests into cities. They built a tower to watch the heavens to predict the next flood. Nimrod created, and named the various constellations, and invented Astrology dividing the Heavens into 12 zodiacs, they used astrology to find the perfect baby to sacrifice to the sun, this would ensure no more floods. Nimrod which comes from the Hebrew verb 'nimrodh' (which is translated,"Let us revolt"). Nimrod denies that God is involved with the affairs of the world. He denies the flood is an act of God', and as a result of Mankind's behavior.
In the midst of Nimrod's war of conquest Nimrod and Semiramis met, in not so savory circumstances, for tradition states that she was an inn/brothel keeper in the city of Erech, leading one to speculate upon the nature of their initial acquaintance.
Very little has come down to us through the millennia concerning Semiramis' rise to power, but it is safe to assume that it was initially upon Nimrod's coattails that she rode, although later in life as well as throughout history her influence overwhelmingly obscured that of her husband. Of course, it would not do to have an ex-harlot upon the throne, so the "polite fiction" was invented that she was a virgin sprung from the sea at Nimrod's landing, and hence a suitable bride for the emperor(thus the title Semiramis which has totally obscured her original name).
Nimrod was a great Hunter and Warrior soon people began to worship him instead of the true God as preached by Noah. Semiramis and Nimrod formed a false religion aimed at supporting their rule and comforting peoples fear of another flood. The religion invented was based upon baby sacrifice and the newely invented art of Astrology and Worship of the King as God and the sun and the moon and planets. All this was done to "predict" the future and thereby maintain control of his subjects through fear and lies. He reassure the people that if they would sacrifice their babies to the Sun God their would not be another flood of the Earth.
Although Nimrod was a brilliant strategist, he made a fatal blunder when he allowed Semiramis to retain full control over the religious system they had created. Through it Semiramis could control the minds and hearts of the people.
When a schism occurred between them she was able to turn the religion from a tool of support into a deadly weapon. The rift between husband and wife occurred when the queen became pregnant with an illegitimate son, and the king threatened her with both dethronement and exposure of her true origin. Semiramis, of course would not allow this to take place, and devised a plot to overthrow Nimrod.
During the course of the New Year's festivities (winter solstice) at which the advent of Nimrod's rule was celebrated, there was a certain feast exclusively for the royal family and the upper echelons of the priesthood. During this feast, a year-old ram was traditionally sacrificed by being torn limb-from-limb while still alive, and it's flesh eaten raw. This ram symbolized the old year passing into the heavens to allow room for the New Year. A newborn lamb was then presented which, symbolizing the New Year, and would be kept and fattened for the next year's ceremonies. This year Semiramis directed the ritual according to the formula, with the exception that when the time came for the ram to be slaughtered, it was the king who was torn to pieces at the hands of the priesthood and Semiramis. Her illegitimate son was to be installed as king. Thus Nimrod, the mighty hunter, died a horrible death as a trapped beast himself.
Following the death of Nimrod, his wife with some alterations continued this form of worship. She claimed that her husband had become the Sun God, and was to be forever worshiped. Some time after this, Queen Semiramis gave birth to a son named Tammuz, who she declared was actually Nimrod reborn, and that the "Spirit of Rebirth" had reincarnated him her womb. She was worshiped as the mother of the gods, Queen of Heaven.Semiramis assumed the regency for her infant son, and ruled as absolute monarch for 42 more years.
The Phoenicians Worshiped the Father God Baal, The Mother Goddess Astarte/Ashtoreth, and the son Melqart /Tamuz. All of these Gods were primarily Gods of great force and of war.
Baal (ba'al), plural Baalim (ba'allm) [Semitic,= possessor], name used throughout the Old Testament for the deity or deities of Canaan. The term was originally applied to various local gods, but by the time of the Ugarit tablets (14th cent. B.C.), Baal had become the ruler of the universe. Baal (Hadad) is regularly denominated "the son of Dagan," although Dagan (biblical Dagon) does not appear as an actor in the mythological texts. Baal also bears the titles "Rider of the Clouds," "Almighty," and "Lord of the Earth." He is the god of the thunderstorm, the most vigorous and aggressive of the gods, the one on whom mortals most immediately depend. Baal resides on Mount Zaphon, north of Ugarit, and is usually depicted holding a thunderbolt. Baal, also known as El. In 1978, Israeli archaeologists excavating at an eighth-century B.C. site in the eastern Sinai desert found several Hebrew inscriptions mentioning Ba'al and El in the form of "Elohim," a name used to refer to God in the Hebre w Bible. Further, whenever the Jews refer to God or our God they use "Eloh, Elohaino or Elohim." The Ugarit tablets make him chief of the Canaanite pantheon. He is the source of life and fertility, the mightiest hero, and the lord of war. There were many temples of Baal in Canaan, and the name Baal was often added to that of a locality, e.g., Baal-peor, Baal-hazor, Baal-hermon. The Baal cult penetrated Israel and at times led to a syncretism. The practices of holy prostitution and child sacrifice were especially abhorrent to the Hebrew prophets, who denounced the cult and its "high places" (temples). This abhorrence probably explains the substitution of Ish-bosheth for Esh-baal, of Jerubbesheth for Jerubbaal (a name of Gideon), and of Mephibosheth for Merib-baal. The substituted term probably means "shame." The final detestation of the term is seen in the use of the name Beelzebub (see SATAN), probably the same as Baal-zebub . 1 Kings 11.4-8; 2 Kings 1. The B aal of 1 Chron. 4.33 is probably the same as RAMAH 3. As cognates of Baal in other Semitic languages there are Bel (in Babylonian religion) and the last elements in the Tyrian names Jezebel, Hasdrubal, and Hannibal.
Astarte also spelled ASHTART, great goddess of the ancient Near East, chief deity of Tyre, Sidon, and Elath, important Mediterranean seaports. She was called Asherar-yam, our lady of the sea, and in Byblos she was Baalat, our dear lady. Astarte was linked with mother goddesses of neighboring cultures, in her role as combined heavenly mother and earth mother. Cult statues of Astarte in many different forms were left as votive offerings in shrines and sanctuaries as prayers for good harvest, for children, and for protection and tranquillity in the home. Hebrew scholars now feel that the goddess Ashtoreth mentioned so often in the Bible is a deliberate compilation of the Greek name Astarte and the Hebrew word boshet, "shame," indicating the Hebrew contempt for her cult. Ashtaroth, the plural form of the goddess's name in Hebrew, became a general term denoting goddesses and paganism. King Solomon, married to foreign wives, "went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians " (I Kings 11 :5). Later the cult places to Ashtoreth were destroyed by Josiah. Astarte/Ashtoreth is the Queen of Heaven to whom the Canaanites had burned incense and poured libations (Jer. 44). Astarte, goddess of love and war, shared so many qualities with her sister, Anath, that they may originally have been seen as a single deity. Their names together are the basis for the Aramaic goddess Atargatis. Astarte was worshipped as Astarte in Egypt and Ugarit and among the Hittites, as well as in Canaan. Her Akkadian counterpart was Ishtar. Later she became assimilated with the Egyptian deities Isis and Hathor, and in the Greco-Roman world with Aphrodite, Artemis, and Juno, all aspects of the Great Mother. Anath, also spelled ANAT, chief West Semitic goddess of love and war, the sister and wife (helpmate) of the god Baal. Considered a beautiful young girl, she was often designated "the Virgin" i n ancient texts. Probably one of the best known of the Canaan ite deities, she was famous for her youthful vigour and ferocity in battle; in that respect she was adopted as a special favourite by the Egyptian king Ramses II (reigned 1279-13 BC). Although Anath was often associated with the god Resheph in ritual texts, she was primarily known for her role in the myth of Baal's death and resurrection, in which she mourned and searched for him and finally helped to retrieve him from the netherworld. Egyptian representations of Anath show a nude goddess, often standing on a lion and holding flowers. During the Hellenistic Age, the goddesses Anath and Astarte (q.v.) were blended into one deity, called Atargatis (q.v.).
Melqart, Son of Baal (or El, Ruler of the Universe), God of Tyre, King of the Underworld, Protector of the Universe symbolized the annual cycle of vegetation and was associated with the female deity Astarte in her role as the maternal goddess. Also, he was considered the Heracles or Hercules of the Tyrians though he came from a more distant past than the Greek Heracles/Hercules. Melqart was also known as Eshmun by the Sidonians. The Greeks equated Melqart with Heracles who was held to be the mythical founder of the Macedonian dynasty. Melqart was also known by other names -- like other Phoenician gods and goddesses. He was known as Baal- Adon- Eshmun- Melqart the God of warand also as Thasian Heracles because he was worshipped on the island of Thasos. Also, a Temple of Melqart is known to have been on the island of Sancti Petri near Cadiz. Many historians such as Josephus Flavius refer to Melqart and Heracles interchangeab ly. Also, Herodutus, Theophrastus (Arsistotle's pupil) and Horace the Roman wrote about Melqart's Temple in Tyre. It had two pillars one of pure gold and the other of emeralds which shone brilliantly at night. Melqart made Tyre a Phoenician Jerusalem whose kings minted Tyrians coins with Melqart riding on the Phoenician Hippocampus (seahorse/monster). This unique position of Tyre in Phoenician mythology survived into the Christian Era as an amazingly modern city. The remains of the Temple of Eshmun (Sidon's Melqart) have been found in Sidon. The fame and name of Melqart travelled to the far corners of the Phoenician colonies around the Mediterranean and the other dominions and territories where the Phoenicians settled. The famous Pillars of Hercules of Gibraltar were actually known as the Pillars of Melqart but as time went by and the two gods became combined into one, the Pillars became those of Heracles or Hercules.
Because of the diverse languages, over time Nimrod, Semiramis, and Tammuz were called by different names from place to place. For instance, in Egypt, Tammuz was called Horus, the divine son in whom Osiris (Nimrod) was reincarnated after he was dismembered. The divine mother who gave birth to this divine son was Isis, the Egyptian name for Semiramis. Thus there were now three gods to whom worship was due, a Father God(Nimrod or Osiris or Saturn, Baal), his Son part Father part Son(Tammuz or Horus or Jupiter, Melqart), and a Mother Goddess Semiramis(AKA: Isis Goddess of ten thousand names, Juno, Diana, Venus Astarte, ect.), yet all of these were to be considered equal, because they were all to be considered equal parts of a triune god.
All Christians who died in the Pagan persecutions died for refusing to Sacrifice to the Roman God's, and to Caesar as God on Earth. The gods were as follows The Father God, Saturn(AKA: Osiris, Nimrod, Baal) The Son God Jupiter (AKA:Horus, Tammuz, Sol latter called Mithras, Baal) The Mother Goddesses Venus, Juno, Diana(AKA: Semiramis, Isis, Astarte) these were the God's that you had to sacrifice to along with saying Caesar is Lord.
In the begining the Roman Emperors forced all to say "Ceasar is Lord". Latter the sun, which was revered by millions of the inhabitants of the Roman Empire became the official state Religion after 200 A.D.. The sun had long been identified with the gods Zeus Jupiter, Saturn, Osiris and other gods as well as the Living God, Caesar. From before the time of Alexander the Great faith in the Sun god had spread throughout the Mediterranean world. To Rome, the divinity of the Sun came very early on; and then, centuries afterwards, in the superb dome of Hadrian's Pantheon which represented the solar system. In the first century B.C.. the area we know as Babylon fell under the control of Rome. The priest of the ancient Sun worship Religion, know as the Mystery Religion, moved their principal Temple and the centre of their worship to Pergamos, while still leaving local hereditary priest in charge of temples and the worshippers in Syria. This seems to have been a deliberate move on their part as within a short time of this move the priesthood and religion, through sorceries(prophetic council), gained favour with the Emperors of Rome. The Emperors soon were appointed Pontifex Maximus which was the designation for the high priest of the religion. Under Severus, worship of the Sun god as Rome's principal God grew. His grandnephew Elagabalus (218-22 A.D. ), to the alarm of conventional Romans, passed an edict granting this Syrian version of Sun worship special privilege and the title State religion. His journey from Syria to Rome which was a lavish six month moving party accompanied by sacrifices and ceremonies along the way in which he claimed his god El-Gabal(AKA: Helios, Ra, Sol, Osiris, Jupiter, Baal) the Syrian version of the Phoenician Father God Baal would take over the world and that eventually all peoples of the world would worship his God.
In 235AD Maximinus I, was unable to accept Christians refusal to join in pagan state festivals such as Saturnalia. He demanded every Christian perform a single act of worship to the State protector Jupiter (El-Gabal, Baal, Ra, Osiris Nimrod, Baal) once that had been made, the local Sacrificial Commission handed out a Certificate of Sacrifice (Libel1tls), examples of which have been found in Egypt. The members of the church, being mainly city people, found it hard to escape notice and were easy to pick out. Since you were unable to buy or sell or even enter the market without the Certificate of Sacrifice every day life became almost impossible. Many, succeeded in evading the tests. However, others were caught and called upon to sacrifice and confess with their lips "Caesar is Lord", they refused saying Jesus is Lord and were put to death.
The emperor Aurelian established a massive temple of the Unconquerable Sun as the central focal point of the entire religious system of the state (274 A.D.). Aurelian hoped that all the various gods could be united into one state religion. It was this religious system of sun worship that was in place at the time of the great Roman persecution of 303 A.D. The chief festival of this state religion began on December 17 and encompassed the festival of Saturnalia, which coincided with the festival of the religion favoured most by women, the festival of Isis and Osiris with its worshippers standing in the open squares and walking through the streets of the cities and towns singing hymns, this combined festival ended with the birthday of the God Sol (AKA:Helios, El-Gabal, Nimrod/Tamuz, Osiris/Horus, Saturn/Jupiter, Baal/Melqart) on December 25. Constantine the Great, even after his miraculous vision, and conversion from this Sun worship religion, continued to sacrifice and worship the Sun God until his death bed. He concentrated all the resources of his coin making efforts upon a single design of the Sun god, accompanied by the inscription "To the Sun, the Unconquerable Companion" (SOLI INVICTO COMITI)
The first persecution of Christians took place in the year 67, under Nero, the sixth emperor of Rome. This persecution had nothing to do with religion or the lack of sacrifices to the gods but was a punishment for the fires that destroyed Rome. Nero ordered that the city of Rome should be set on fire, this order was executed by his officers, guards, and servants. While the Imperial city was in flames, he went up to the tower of Macaenas, played upon his harp, sung the song of the burning of Troy, and openly declared that 'he wished the ruin of all things before his death".
This fire continued nine days. Nero, finding that the people were blaming him for the fire immediately set the blame on the Christians and excuse himself. This was the start of cruelty towards Christians. Nero was particularly cruel with his persecutions, he had some sewed up in skins of wild beasts, and then attacked by wild dogs eaten alive they died; and others dressed in shirts made stiff with wax, fixed to axletrees, and set on fire in his gardens, in order to illuminate them. This persecution was general throughout the whole Roman Empire; but it rather increased than diminished the spirit of Christianity. In the course of it, St. Paul and St. Peter were martyred.
The emperor Domitian, who was naturally inclined to cruelty, first slew his brother, and then raised the second persecution against the Christians. In his rage he put to death some of the Roman senators, some through malice; and others to confiscate their estates. He then commanded all the lineage of David be put to death. This persecution was more in hatred of the Jews As the Jewish Revolt was still fresh in his mind. Christians were just another sect of the Jewish faith.
Among the numerous martyrs that suffered during this persecution was Simeon, bishop of Jerusalem, who was crucified; and St. John, who was boiled in oil, and afterward banished to Patmos. Flavia, the daughter of a Roman senator, was likewise banished to Pontus; and a law was made, "That no Christian, once brought before the tribunal, should be exempted from punishment without renouncing his religion."
A variety of fabricated tales were, composed in order to prejudice the Pagans against the Christians. If famine, pestilence, or earthquakes afflicted any of the Roman provinces, it was laid upon the Christians and Jews for refusing to worship the State Gods.
Justin, the celebrated philosopher, fell a martyr in this persecution. He was a native of Neapolis, in Samaria, and was born A.D. 103. Justin was a great lover of truth, and a universal scholar; he investigated the Stoic and Peripatetic philosophy, and attempted the Pythagorean; but the behavior of our of its professors disgusting him, he applied himself to the Platonic, in which he took great delight. About the year 133, when he was thirty years of age, he became a convert to Christianity, and then, for the first time, perceived the real nature of truth.
He kept a public school, taught many who afterward became great men, and wrote a treatise to confuse heresies of all kinds. As the pagans began to treat the Christians with great severity, Justin wrote his first apology in their favor. This piece displays great learning and genius, and occasioned the emperor to publish an edict in favor of the Christians.
The second apology of Justin, upon certain severities, gave Crescens the cynic an opportunity of prejudicing the emperor against Justin the writer of it; upon which Justin, and six of his companions, were apprehended. Being commanded to sacrifice to the pagan idols, they refused, and were condemned to be scourged, and then beheaded.
Several were beheaded for refusing to sacrifice to the image of Jupiter; in particular Concordus, a deacon of the city of Spolito.
Peter, a young man, amiable for the superior qualities of his body and mind, was beheaded for refusing to sacrifice to Venus. He said, "I am astonished you should sacrifice to an infamous woman, whose debaucheries even your own historians record, and whose life consisted of such actions as your laws would punish. No, I shall offer the true God the acceptable sacrifice of praises and prayers." Optimus, the proconsul of Asia, on hearing this, ordered the prisoner to be stretched upon a wheel, by which all his bones were broken, and then he was sent to be beheaded.
At Utica, a most terrible tragedy was exhibited: three hundred Christians were, by the orders of the proconsul, placed round a burning limekiln. A pan of coals and incense being prepared, they were commanded either to sacrifice to Jupiter, or to be thrown into the kiln. Unanimously refusing, they bravely jumped into the pit, and were immediately suffocated.
Sabinus, bishop of Assisium, refusing to sacrifice to Jupiter, and pushing the idol from him, had his hand cut off by the order of the governor of Tuscany. While in prison, he converted the governor and his family, all of whom suffered martyrdom for the faith. Soon after their execution, Sabinus himself was scourged to death, December, A.D. 304.
It has been said that the lives of the early Christians consisted of "persecution above ground and prayer below ground." Their lives are expressed by the Coliseum and the catacombs. But despite the awful story of persecution that we may read here, the inscriptions breathe forth peace and joy and triumph. Here are a few:
"Here lies Marcia, put to rest in a dream of peace."
"Lawrence to his sweetest son, borne away of angels."
"Victorious in peace and in Christ."
"Being called away, he went in peace."
Remember when reading these inscriptions the story the skeletons tell of persecution, of torture, and of fire.
But the full force of these epitaphs is seen when we contrast them with the pagan epitaphs, such as:
"Live for the present hour, since we are sure of nothing else."
"I lift my hands against the gods who took me away at the age of twenty though I had done no harm."
"Once I was not. Now I am not. I know nothing about it, and it is no concern of mine."
"Traveler, curse me not as you pass, for I am in darkness and cannot answer."
The most frequent Christian symbols on the walls of the catacombs, are, the good shepherd with the lamb on his shoulder, a ship under full sail, harps, anchors, crowns, vines, and above all the fish.
The fish, ichthys in Greek, is the symbol for the Savior Jesus Christ. It was so used already in the first century [but not during the time of the apostles], not primarily because the fish played a part in Jesus life or because he appointed his apostles to be spiritual fisherman using the net of the Gospel. Rather, it was because ichthys could be used as a rebus form of a pagan symbol of the Pagan God Gagon. The word consists of these five letters of the Greek alphabet: i-ch-th-y-s. When these five letters are regarded as initials for five words, we obtain this Christian declaration: Iesous Christos Theou Yios Sorter. These words say: Jesus Christ, God's Son, Savior. Very likely the fish symbol was used as a sign by which early Christians found and identified one another, especially in times of persecution. When scrawled on a wall or on the ground in the marketplace or near a fountain where people congregated, it let wandering Christians know that others of their faith had come to this community.