Of The Fourth Persecution Of The Christians, Under Marcus Aurelius And Lucius Verus, Which Was Commenced About The Year 166
P. J. Twisck, in his Chronicle, gives as the beginning of the fourth persecution, the year A. D. 162; the writers of the Introduction to the Martyrs’ Mirror of the Defenseless Christian, fix the beginning in the year 164 (page 37, col. 2); J. Gysius, in Hist. Mart., fol. 16, col. 2, places it in the year 168, and A. Mellinus makes no mention at all as to the exact time of that persecution. However, all these writers abound with accounts of the inhuman tortures, which the faithful martyrs had to suffer at that time. [Although P. J. Twisck has placed the fourth persecution, together with the beginning of the reign of M. Aurelius, in the year 162, he, nevertheless, gives to understand in the sequel of his account, that this persecution Reached its climax in the year 168. Compare this with the time which the writers of the aforementioned Introduction, and J. Gysius have recorded.]
We, in order to pursue a middle course between the above mentioned writers, have noted the year 166 as the beginning of said persecution. However, there is but little difference between the above writers; for it is probable, that the decrees for the persecution of the Christians were first issued about the year 162; that about the year 164 they were carried into effect; and that about the year 168 they exhibited their full force, insomuch that the persecution was then at the height of its fierceness. However, we shall proceed to see, how atrociously the pious witnesses of Jesus Christ were then treated.
How Atrociously The Sincere Christians Were Treated During This Persecution
Everywhere, in all the cities, writes P. J. Twisck, the imperial edicts and decrees against the Christians were posted up; by reason of which the magistrates and officers proceeded very cruelly against them, persecuting them even unto death, with great atrocity and fury. For, no mode of torture, punishment, or death, however great, severe, and unmerciful, could be devised, produced, or planned, by these wicked men, these tyrants, and instruments of the devil, but what it was thought, that the Christians, as accursed, as enemies of the Kingdom, and as the cause of all misfortune, deserved a thousand times more. To be publicly mocked, eternally imprisoned, exiled, scourged, stoned, strangled, hanged, beheaded, and burned, was deemed far too little.
They began, at this time, to ply the poor people with red hot plates until they were dead; to tear the flesh from their bones with red hot tongues; to place them upon iron stools over a slow fire; to fry them in iron frying pans; to roast them on gridirons at a slow fire; to cast them, enveloped in close netting, before wild bulls, to serve as sport for them, and be tossed into the air by their horns.
All this was accompanied with still another cruelty. The bodies of the slain were thrown before the dogs, and guards placed beside them, to prevent the Christians from taking away and burying these bodies. In short, the misery was so great, that at Lyons alone Bishop Irenus with nineteen thousand of his sheep were cruelly butchered. Thus far P. J. Twisck, in his Chronicle, 2d book, for the year 162, page 43, col. 2, from Chron. Mich. Sac. fol. 103. Chron. Sebast. Fra. Also, Tyd. Thresor P. Memlce.
Thieleman J. Van Braght (1625-1664) was an Anabaptist who is best known for writing a history of the Christian witness throughout the centuries entitled “The Bloody Theater or Martyrs Mirror of the Defenseless Christians who baptized only upon confession of faith, and who suffered and died for the testimony of Jesus, their Saviour, from the time of Christ to the year A.D. 1660” (1660).