Below, an abridged translation from the third volume of
Karlheinz Deschner’s Kriminalgeschichte des Christentums.
Most of the written statements about the martyrs are false, but all of them were considered as totally valid historical documents (2 of 7)
The tolerance of the Romans in religious matters was generally great. They had it before the Jews, guaranteeing their freedom of worship, and even after the wars fought against the Jews, they were not forced to worship the gods of the state and released from the obligatory offerings to the emperors.
Until the beginning of the 3rd century, the hatred against Christians—who considered themselves exclusive; who, with all humility (!) thought of themselves as special, like the ‚God of Israel‘, ‚chosen people‘, ‚holy people‘ who felt themselves as the ‚golden part’—came mostly from the common peoples. For a long time the emperors imagined themselves too strong before this dark sect to intervene seriously. ‚They avoided whenever possible‘ the trials against Christians (Eduard Schwartz).
For two hundred years they were not subjected to any ‚persecution‘. Emperor Commodus had a Christian favourite. In Nicomedia, the main Christian church was in front of Diocletian’s residence. Also his preceptor of rhetoric, the Father of the Church Lactantius, remained safe in the vicinity of the sovereign during the toughest persecutions against the Christians. Lactantius never appeared before the courts or went to jail.
Almost everyone knew Christians, but they did not like to get their hands dirty by persecuting them. When it was necessary because the adepts of the Greco-Roman culture were furious, the officials did everything possible to release the imprisoned. The Christians only had to renounce their faith—and they did it massively, it was the general rule—and nobody bothered them again.
During the most intense persecution, that of Diocletian, the state only demanded the fulfilment of the offering of sacrifices that the law imposed on all citizens. Non-compliance was punished, but in no case the practice of the Christian religion. Even during the persecution of Diocletian, the churches were able to dispose of their property.
Even with Emperor Decius, in the year 250, we cannot speak of a general and planned persecution of Christians. At that time the first Roman bishop is killed in a persecution. Fabian died in prison; there was no death sentence on him. But up to that date, the ancient Church already considered as ‚martyrs‘ eleven of the seventeen Roman bishops, although none of them had been martyrs! For two hundred years Christianity had lived side by side with the emperors. And in spite of that, on the Catholic side they still lie—with ecclesiastical imprimatur (and dedication: ‚To the beloved mother of God‘)—in the mid-20th century: ‚Most of the popes of that time died as martyrs‘ (Rüger).
(Cornelius by Master of Meßkirch.) The ‚pope‘ Cornelius, who died peacefully in 253 in Civitavecchia, appears as beheaded in the acts of the martyrs. Also falsified are those that make the Roman bishop Stephen I (254-257) victim of the persecutions of Valerian. Pope St. Eutychian (275-283) even buried ‚with his own hands‘ 342 martyrs, before following them himself.
The Church tried to cover up the apostasy of several popes at the beginning of the 4th century by falsifying the documents. The Liber Pontificalis, the official list of the papacy, points out that the Roman bishop Marcellinus (296-304), who had made sacrifices to the gods and had delivered the ’sacred‘ books, soon repented and died martyred: a complete forgery.
In the Roman martyrology, one pope after another gain the crown of martyrdom—almost everything is pure deception. (Interestingly, until the end of the 3rd century the cult of the martyrs had not begun in Rome.)
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