Christianity’s Criminal History, 97

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Most of the written statements about the martyrs are false, but all of them were considered as totally valid historical documents (4 of 7)

Mar Jacob, the one tear into pieces, after the ten fingers of the hands and three of the feet have been torn off, smiling, makes deep comparisons: ‘Third toe, follow your companions and do not worry. For the same as the wheat that falls to the earth and in the spring makes your companions grow, you too will be reunited in an instant with your companions on the day of the resurrection’. Is not this well said? But after dropping the fifth toe, he cries out for vengeance: ‘Oh God, direct my punishment and make my revenge fall on the ruthless people’.

Often these saints become rude and insult their impious torturers or judges according to all the rules of the religion of love; they augur them ‘gnashing of teeth for eternity’, insult them by calling them ‘impure, dirty, blood lickers’, ‘lewd ravens, who rest on corpses’, ‘a snake of a thirst-eater’, ‘greens’ of hatred ‘like a bad viper’, a lascivious looking for ‘women in the bedroom’, an ‘impure dog’. Saint Aitillah tells his executioner: ‘You really are an irrational animal’. And St. Joseph does not think precisely of loving his enemy, of offering him the other cheek. The writer says: ‘Joseph filled his mouth with saliva and suddenly spit on his face and said: “You, impure and stained, you are not ashamed”.’

After Mar Jacob had been cut one by one all fingers and toes, accompanied each time by a noble or poisonous sentence against the ‘butcher wolves’, he remains firm in the faith and ready for more torture. ‘Why are you lounging?’ he asks impatiently. ‘Don’t forgive your eyes. For my heart rejoices in the Lord and my soul rises up to him, who loves the mortified’.

Thus, after the ten fingers and toes, the executioner’s helpers systematically cut, with grinding teeth, new members and with each of those who fall, the holy man makes comments with a pious sentence. After losing his right foot, he says: ‘Every limb you cut off from me will be a sacrifice to the king of heaven’.

They cut off his left foot and he said: ‘Hear me, O Lord, for You are good and great is Your goodness for all. They call you’. They cut off his right hand and he shouts: ‘The grace of God was great with me; free my soul from the deep realm of the dead’. They cut off his left hand and he said: ‘Look, you did miracles with the dead’. They approached and cut off his right arm and he spoke again: ‘I want to praise the Lord in my life and sing hymns of praise to my God as long as I exist; He likes my praise; I want to rejoice in the Lord’.

The perverse ‘pagans’ cut off his left arm, tear off the right leg of the knee… and finally ‘the glorious’ is reduced to ‘head, thorax and abdomen’. Then he reflects briefly on the situation and ‘opens again the mouth’ to tell God a brief speech. It is already daring to talk in such a reduced state—he has lost everything for Him!:

Lord, God, merciful and compassionate. I beg you, listen to my prayer and listen to my pleas. Here I am without my members. I’m here in half body and I’m silent. I have nothing, Lord, I do not have fingers to implore you; nor have the persecutors left me hands to extend them toward You. They have cut my feet off, my knees have been ripped off, the arms are away, the legs are cut. Here I am before You as a destroyed house, of which only a crown of tiles remains. I beg you. Lord, God…

And at night the Christians stole the corpse, or rather, ‘picked up the twenty-eight dismembered members’ and the rest. And then fire fell from heaven that ‘licked the blood from the straw until the members of the saint blushed and became like a ripe rose’.

Acts of martyrs!

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1 Reply on “Christianity’s Criminal History, 97

  1. This appears to be a poetic account of a martyrdom written long after the fact by a Christian named Mar Jacob, not a martyrdom of Mar Jacob. In any case, it’s fictive, and obviously medically impossible. Blood loss from such traumatic amputations would have quickly rendered the victim unconscious, and unable to utter any of these witty rejoinders. In the second volume of his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Edward Gibbon describes a slightly more plausible account, which he seems to accept as valid:

    The next day the general edict of persecution was published; and though Diocletian, still averse to the effusion of blood, had moderated the fury of Galerius, who proposed that every one refusing to offer sacrifice should immediately be burnt alive, the penalties inflicted on the obstinacy of the Christians might be deemed sufficiently rigorous and effectual. It was enacted that their churches, in all the provinces of the empire, should be demolished to their foundations; and the punishment of death was denounced against all who should presume to hold any secret assemblies for the purpose of religious worship. The philosophers, who now assumed the unworthy office of directing the blind zeal of persecution, had diligently studied the nature and genius of the Christian religion; and as they were not ignorant that the speculative doctrines of the faith were supposed to be contained in the writings of the prophets, of the evangelists, and of the apostles, they most probably suggested the order that the bishops and presbyters should deliver all their sacred books into the hands of the magistrates; who were commanded, under the severest penalties, to burn them in a public and solemn manner. By the same edict, the property of the church was at once confiscated; and the several parts of which it might consist were either sold to the highest bidder, united to the Imperial domain, bestowed on the cities and corporations, or granted to the solicitations of rapacious courtiers. After taking such effectual measures to abolish the worship and to dissolve the government of the Christians, it was thought necessary to subject to the most intolerable hardships the condition of those perverse individuals who should still reject the religion of nature, of Rome, and of their ancestors. Persons of a liberal birth were declared incapable of holding any honours or employments; slaves were for ever deprived of the hopes of freedom; and the whole body of the people were put out of the protection of the law. The judges were authorised to hear and to determine every action that was brought against Christian. But the Christians were not permitted to complain of any injury which they themselves had suffered; and thus those unfortunate sectaries were exposed to the severity, while they were excluded from the benefits, of public justice. This new species of martyrdom, so painful and lingering, so obscure and ignominious, was, perhaps, the most proper to weary the constancy of the faithful: nor can it be doubted that the passions and interest of mankind were disposed on this occasion to second the designs of the emperors. But the policy of a well-ordered government must sometimes have interposed in behalf of the oppressed Christians; nor was it possible for the Roman princes entirely to remove the apprehension of punishment, or to connive at every act of fraud and violence, without exposing their own authority and the rest of their subjects to the most alarming dangers.

    Zeal and punishment of a Christian.

    This edict was scarcely exhibited to the public view, in the most conspicuous place of Nicomedia, before it was torn down by the hands of a Christian, who expressed at the same time, by the bitterest invectives, his contempt as well as abhorrence for such impious and tyrannical governors. His offence, according to the mildest laws, amounted to treason, and deserved death. And if it be true that he was a person of rank and education, those circumstances could serve only to aggravate his guilt. He was burnt, or rather roasted, by a slow fire; and his executioners, zealous to revenge the personal insult which had been offered to the emperors, exhausted every refinement of cruelty, without being able to subdue his patience, or to alter the steady and insulting smile which, in his dying agonies, he still preserved in his countenance. The Christians, though they confessed that his conduct had not been strictly conformable to the laws of prudence, admired the divine fervour of his zeal; and the excessive commendations which they lavished on the memory of their hero and martyr contributed to fix a deep impression of terror and hatred in the mind of Diocletian.