16 February 2010

The Great Persecution and its Consequences - Henry Chadwick

The Diocletianic Persecution lasted from AD 303 - 313. In a series of edicts released between AD 303 and 304, Diocletian ordered the destruction of all Christian churches, the confiscation of all Bibles, liturgical books, and sacred vessels, forbade the gathering of Christians to worship, ordered the arrest of all clergy, and made refusal to sacrifice to the pagan gods punishable by death.

The worst legacy of the persecution was once again schism. As in modern times the Christians differed among themselves about the point at which resistance to the State must be absolute. In the East sacrifice was regarded as apostasy, not the surrender of sacred books and church plate. But in the West opinion was divided, passion ran high, and in consequence, although persecution was briefer and left most western provinces unaffected, the scars were more serious than in the East.

...in Numidia especially, the surrender of the scriptures or indeed of any books which the police were ready to accept as such (one bishop handed in medical treatises) was regarded as apostasy. To think otherwise was to derogate from the glory of those who had died rather than surrender, since it implied that they had been overdoing it [emphasis mine].
Have a contemplative first week of Lent (Clean Week!), ladies and gents.