Schaff, Philip. History of the Christian Church (The Complete Eight Volumes in One). Amazon Kindle Edition, 2014.
Volume 2, Ante-Nicene Christianity A.D. 100-325, “Chapter 2. Persecution of Christianity and Christian Martyrdom.” (continued)
§17. Trajan. A.D. 98-117 - Christianity Forbidden - Martyrdom of Symeon of Jerusalem, and Ignatius of Antioch.
After a brief bibliography, Schaff notes that Trajan was a very good emperor. However, he misunderstood Christianity. It was included in lists of prohibited secret societies (Schaff 2014, Loc. 12744). An exchange of letters between Pliny and Trajan in 109-111 describes some pagan attitudes toward early Christians. They preferred to ignore Christianity but punish it when it became evident (Schaff 2014, Loc. 12765). In this view, Schaff discusses the martyrdoms of Symeon of Jerusalem and Ignatius of Antioch, during Trajan’s reign.
§18. Hadrian. A.D. 117-138
Schaff speaks highly of Hadrian in general, but considers him morally and emotionally unstable. While he was not friendly to Christianity, he was not uniformly hostile (Schaff 2014, Loc. 12808).
§19. Antoninus Pius. A.D. 137-161. The Martyrdom of Polycarp.
In his bibliography Schaff notes the Martyrdom of Polycarp, calling it “the oldest, simplest, and least objectionable of the martyr-acts” (Schaff 2014, Loc. 12821). Because of this document, Polycarp frequently appears in scholarly work. Antoninus Pius was generally protective of Christians. However, popular opinion against Christianity was very strong at his time (Schaff 2014, Loc. 12834). Polycarp’s death is generally assigned to 155, in Smyrna. He knew the apostle John and is considered an important link between the apostles and the 2nd century (Schaff 2014, Loc. 12847).
§20. Persecutions under Marcus Aurelius. A.D. 161-180.
Marcus Aurelius is known to have written a series of wise sayings late in life (Schaff 2014, Loc. 12847). Schaff notes that Aurelius was generally good natured by that he had little care for Christianity (Schaff 2014, Loc. 12867). As a Stoic philosopher he rejected the idea of the resurrection out of hand (Schaff 2014, Loc. 12874). There were a number of persecutions in this time, but nothing throughout the empire. However, Schaff does consider that the written record of criticisms of Christianity shows its rise in importance (Schaff 2014, Loc. 12883). Schaff recounts several instances of persecution in brief.
§21. Condition of the Church from Septimius Severus to Philip the Arabian. A.D. 193-249.
As the third century began, Septimius Severus was at the start of a line of emperors who were not as committed to the Roman gods. However, they pursued policies opposed to the spread of Judaism and Christianity (Schaff 2014, Loc. 12919). This led to another spate of persecutions.
§22. Persecutions under Decius, and Valerian. A.D. 249-260. Martyrdom of Cyprian.
Under the emperor Decius Trajan (249-251) there was a very heavy persecution of Christians (Schaff 2014, Loc. 12957). Because of the pivotal role of bishops in the Church, they were especially hard-hit. Some chose to work in public and be arrested as a testimony to Christ. Some went into hiding in order to be available for their critical ministry tasks (Schaff 2014, Loc. 12976).
§12. Temporary Repose. A.D. 260-303.
After 260, Christianity was relatively well received in the Roman empire. Christianity grew rapidly. Congregations gathered in buildings dedicated to worship. They also gathered books and special vessels for the Sacrament (Schaff 2014, Loc. 13004). At the same time, Schaff says, discipline and commitment waned.
§24. The Diocletian Persecution, A.D. 303-311.
The coming to power of Diocletian in 284 set the stage for a new period of persecution. Though he is normally considered a very capable leader, Schaff notes he was eventually persuaded to issue edicts against Christianity in 303 (Schaff 2014, Loc. 13048). While some have suggested this was a reaction against Christian attempts to take over government, Schaff thinks it unlikely. Christians were known to be politically passive in that time period (Schaff 2014, Loc. 13057). Schaff also notes the extent of the persecution was unprecedented. Eusebius, an eyewitness, describes it in detail (Schaff 2014, Loc. 13067).
§25. The Edicts of Toleration. A.D. 311-313.
Galerius, the advisor of Diocletian who was likely responsible for the persecution, arranged an edict of toleration in 311, because the persecution had not succeeded. The edict also asked Christians to pray for their rulers (Schaff 2014, Loc. 13104). The edicts of toleration were followed quickly by a conflict between Maxentius, who held Rome, and Constantine, from the West (Schaff 2014, Loc. 13114). Constantine overcame Maxentius and pursued toleration and religious pluralism (Schaff 2014, Loc. 13123). Constantine is normally considered the first of the Christian emperors.
§26. Christian Martyrdom.
Schaff observes the heroic Christian response to the martyrdoms up to the 4th century. Christians did not engage in revolution, but in witness of Christ as the Savior (Schaff 2014, Loc. 13151). During the times of persecution Schaff notes three types of people who denied the faith. Some would make offerings, some would turn over sacred books, some would bribe magistrates. These were excommunicated. Sometimes they were restored to the Church, sometimes not (Schaff 2014, Loc. 13171). Some others, of course, stood firm in the faith and were either killed or tortured.
Schaff notes that the early persecution of Christians is often compared to the various more recent Christian use of force, generally by Rome against Protestants and other sects (Schaff 2014, Loc. 13199). He concludes that Christians have not always been innocent of crimes, but that a true biblical faith does not endorse violent means to achieve an earthly kingdom of God.
§27. Rise of the Worship of Martyrs and Relics.
Christians quickly remembered the martyrs. This practice fairly soon became worship, both of the martyrs and their relics (Schaff 2014, Loc. 13264). The day of the martyr’s death was remembered as his day of heavenly birth. Martyrdom was often seen as a special baptism which earned virtue (Schaff 2014, Loc. 13273). Because of this special merit, the prayers of the departed would be sought on behalf of the living.
(Schaff 2014, Loc.