Foxe’s Book of Martyrs: The First Christian Martyrs

The most brutal emperor was Domitius Nero. It was he that slew most of the Roman senators and it was he that commanded Rome to be set on fire; and then he laid the blame on Christian men and caused them to be persecuted.

At that time of Nero, he was so enraged with Christians that a person might see cities full of dead, naked bodies lying in the streets with no regard to sex; there were men, women and even children cast out naked in the streets. Many in those days thought that he was the antichrist (Many even today think that he was the antichrist—but we know that he is yet to come and with even more rage.)

After that, about 40 years after the death of Christ, Titus slew many thousands of Jews. Also, 17,000 were sold as slaves and about 2,000 were brought to Rome to be devoured by wild beasts in the coliseum.

I will give the names of a few prominent martyrs. Stephen was the first, then James and Thomas, then Simon the brother of Jude, then Mark and Andrew.

Andrew it was said was very steadfast as he went to die on a cross. His body fainted not, nor did his understanding fail him. And with a very clear and kind voice he said,

“O cross, most welcome and long looked for! With a willing mind, joyfully and desirously, I come to thee, being the scholar of Him which did hang on thee: because I have always been the lover, and have coveted to embrace thee.”

Philip was a great preacher. He was crucified and also stoned to death. His daughters died with him.

James, the brother of our Lord took it upon himself to govern the church at that time. He was known to have the knees of a camel because he prayed so much on his knees to safeguard the people. The Scribes and Pharisees hated him. So, they went and threw him down from the top of the temple. Yet he was not killed by the fall, and turning, he fell upon his knees, saying, “O Lord God, Father, I beseech thee to forgive them, for they know not what they do.” He was then about to be stones, but someone stopped it because he was praying for them. Then someone present hit him on the head with an instrument and he died.

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