Persecution In the Third Century, Part 3

Septimius Severus
Septimius Severus

The History of Christianity #58

Our History of Christianity Scripture verse today is Hebrews 12:3 which reads: “For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.”

Our History of Christianity quote today is from John Piper. He said: “Once upon a time, there was a safe, private place to take your controversial stand for Jesus. No more. If you are going to stand, you will be shot at—either figuratively or literally.”

Today, in the History of Christianity, we are looking at “Persecution In the Third Century” (Part 3) from Dr. Justo L. Gonzalez’s fine book, The Story of Christianity (Volume 1).

Persecution Under Septimius Severus (Part 3)

The next two emperors, Elagabalus (218 AD-222 AD) and Alexander Severus (222 AD-235 AD), pursued a syncretistic policy similar to that of Septimius Severus. But they did not attempt to force Jews and Christians to accept syncretism, or to stop seeking converts. It is said that Alexander Severus had on his private altar, jointly with his various gods, images of Christ and of Abraham. His mother, Julia Mammea, went to hear Origen lecture in Alexandria.

Under Emperor Maximin there was a very brief persecution in Rome. At that time the church in that city was divided, and the two rival bishops, Pontianus and Hippolytus, were sent to work in the mines. But again the storm passed, and it was even rumored – with little basis in fact – that Philip the Arabian, who ruled the empire from 244 AD to 249 AD, was a Christian.

In short, during almost half a century, persecution was rare, while the number of converts to Christianity was great. For this entire generation of Christians, the martyrs were worthy of great admiration, but they had lived in times past, and those evil times were not likely to be repeated. Every day there were more Christians among the aristocracy, and the ancient rumors about Christian immorality had little credence among the masses. Persecution was a distant memory, both painful and glorious.

Then the storm broke.

Next time, we will look at Persecution Under Decius.

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