Diocletianic Persecution

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The Christian Martyrs' Last Prayer, by Jean-Léon Gérôme (1883)


Diocletianic Persecution

Why were Christians persecuted and what did that persecution look like?

The Diocletianic Persecution was sometimes called the Great Persecution in the Roman empire. In 303, The Emperors including Diocletian at the beginning of the 4th century issued a series of edicts rescinding the legal rights of Christians. This tells us that Christians had legal rights at that point even before Constantine. But rights at Law are not the same as Legal rights. Freedom of religion had existed in Rome but there were times when private religion was outlawed and everyone was commanded by the rulers of the world of Rome to apply to public religion through the Temples of Rome which were government institutions.

Of course Early Church and the true Christians who looked to the Church for their Daily ministration refused to make such an application to the men who called themselves Benefactors but who exercised authority one over the other. This refusal to become a part of the Covetous Practices of a socialist state was the Christian conflict.

Rome had outlawed foreign religions through the edicts of Emperor Septimius Severus but now they demanded that everyone comply with traditional Roman religious practices.

What were those practices?

They demanded all inhabitants sacrifice to the gods many. Modern Christians do not even know who those gods were then or now. They do not understand the real meaning of Religion or why the Corban of the Pharisees made the word of God to none effect. They lack knowledge[1] of the true message of Christ and are often under a Strong Delusion.

In a nation where public welfare was run through government buildings called Temples what did that mean sacrifice to the gods?

The Latin word salus means "safety", "salvation", "welfare". Salus was the goddess of security and well-being so this would include individual welfare, health care and prosperity. This prosperity was perceived as important for the peace of the state and the Pax deorum (“peace of the gods”) was the goal of Roman state religion.

Being at peace with the gods was mutually beneficial to the state and the Roman public welfare (salus publica; cf. Cic. Rab. perd. 5). If the Romans were not providing to the gods their desired worship there would be shortages in the treasuries of the Temples and there would be a shortage in the distributions of salus or welfare and riots would ensue in their decaying cities.

The Christian community grew from 250 to 300 A.D. The estimated population of 1.1 million may have grown to as many as 6 million which may have been about 10% of the empire's total population.

With the rise of its popularity among successful Romans who paid into the Church rather than the Pagan Temples of Rome came jealousy and envy. Christians received a lot of criticism but the real problem as always was the money.

The Christian apologist Arnobius of Sicca wrote Adversus Nationes. He composed it in response to Diocletian's persecution of Christians, and attributes that persecution to financial concerns of providers of welfare benefits through the pagan temples. The Modern Christians do not know how those Temples worked and what they relate to in these modern times.

"The augurs, the dream interpreters, the soothsayers, the prophets, and the priestlings, ever vain...fearing that their own arts be brought to nought, and that they may extort but scanty contributions from the devotees, now few and infrequent, cry aloud, 'The gods are neglected, and in the temples there is now a very thin attendance. Former ceremonies are exposed to derision, and the time-honoured rites of institutions once sacred have sunk before the superstitions of new religions.'"[2]

Religion was more than just superstitions and doctrines. It was the performance of the peoples duty to their fellow man by providing a Daily ministration for the needy of society. Fortūna, equivalent to the Greek goddess Tyche, was the goddess of fortune while Spes was the goddess of hope. The Christians only practiced Pure Religion and did not depend on the the fortunes of the Fathers of Rome in hope for their benefits. Christians depended upon Charity and not the "extort(ed) but scanty contributions from the devotees" subject to the Genius of Rome.[3]

These were cults and the word cult was a noun from cultus originating from the past participle of the verb colo, colere, colui, cultus, which means "to tend, take care of, cultivate".

Cultus was an aspect of the contractual nature of Roman religion.

You could choose any cult, but you had to contribute to one, and would need the symbol of that temple displayed by you out side or in your house. You might carry a pendant.

Understanding things like the Imperial Cult of Rome and the two Welfare_types will give you a perspective on the Christian conflict and the difference between what Rome was doing and what we are doing today.

Gaius Aurelius Valerius Diocletianus Augustus was "the embodiment of irrational ferocity" Henry Chadwick

Roman government become despotic because the people wanted to force their neighbor to secure their welfare. Corruption followed from this centralization power by focusing the greed and covetous of every man's soul, their "genius", into the office of the emperor. When Diocletian was asked to come back from retirement and settle the grab for power, he replied, "If you could show the cabbage that I planted with my own hands to your emperor, he definitely wouldn't dare suggest that I replace the peace and happiness of this place with the storms of a never-satisfied greed."

A votive deposit or votive offering is one or more objects displayed or deposited, without the intention of recovery or use by the giver, in a sacred place for broadly religious purposes. The Sacrifices upon the living Altars of the Kingdom of God were votive offerings and the compelled and even voluntary offerings given to the temple of Rome were also votive deposits. Things sacred were things given up or over to the priests of religious institutions. Religion was the fulfillment or performance of your duty to your fellow man. That duty included the care or welfare of other members of your society who fell into need.

Rome and Israel, as Republics, both cared for the needy with freewill offerings through a system of ministers. These offerings (also called Corban, qorban, korban) or sacrifice were for religious purposes. Both nations began to force these offerings or contributions through government-run social welfare schemes. This was contrary to the teachings of Moses and the Torah, John the Baptist, Jesus and Paul the Apostle and therefore the early Christian Church. It was also against the principles of many Romans and Greeks like Polybius and Plutarch who warned the people of their Socialist tendencies.

In ancient Roman religion, Annona (Latin annōna “corn, grain; means of subsistence”, from annus "year") is the divine personification of the grain supply to the city of Rome. She is closely connected to the goddess Ceres, with whom she is often depicted in art.

Later edicts targeted the clergy and demanded universal sacrifice, ordering all inhabitants to sacrifice to the genius of the gods.

Diocletian's second edict targeted deacons, lectors, priests, and bishops. These people were essential to providing Church services to the needy of the Christian society. So many were arrested the prison system overflowed which caused ordinary criminals to be released.

The fourth edict at the beginning of 304 A.D. ordered all men, women, and children, to gather in a public space and offer a collective sacrifice. If they refused, they were to be executed.

The persecution varied in intensity across the empire — weakest in Gaul and Britain, where only the first edict was applied, and strongest in the Eastern provinces. Persecutory laws were nullified by different emperors at different times, but Constantine and Licinius's Edict of Milan (313) has traditionally marked the end of the persecution.

Evil Elements

There is always an element of a society or of the world[4] that wants to force contributions of their neighbors because they are both covetous and slothful. Early Christians practiced Pure Religion and did not take benefits from Public religion run by men who called themselves Benefactors but exercised authority in the collection of these votive offerings.

"Votive" means something "Given or dedicated in fulfillment of a vow or pledge: a votive offering." The term votive comes from a Latin term which means a vow[see: Vows and Swear not]. When Jews signed up for Herod's public Corban they vowed to pledge regular contribution by statutory directives. The same was true for those who signed up with Augustus and his free Bread and circuses of Rome. Many people saw the error of this way and with the hearing of the Gospel they repented and became Christians.

These same systems have been set up in almost every country and government of the world today. Your national social security contribution is your votive offering given to take care of the needy of your society and the administrators of those systems who enforce your pledges and vows according to statutory directives are your true religious ministers. Early Christians died rather than sign up for such Covetous Practices.

Modern Christians have need of Repentance. If people imagine themselves to be Christian but are not doing what Christ said, not keeping his commandments they may not be Christians at all but merely under a strong delusion, lieing to themselves and to God.

Are you truly faithful, a true believer, a follower of Christ? Are you a worker of iniquity or are you attending to the Weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith which include caring for the needs of our neighbors, the widows and orphans of our society through Pure Religion in matters of health, education, and welfare. We are NOT to do so by the Covetous Practices of modern governments.

The Way of Christ was not like the way of the world, nor the governments of the gentiles who depend on benefactors who exercise authority. Christ's ministers and true Christians do not depend upon systems of social welfare that force the contributions of the people like the corban of the Pharisees which made the word of God to none effect. Many people have been deceived to go the way of Balaam and the Nicolaitan and out of The Way of Christ.

The Christian conflict of the first century Church appointed by Christ was because they would not apply to the fathers of the earth for benefits but instead relied upon a voluntary network providing a daily ministration to the needy of society through Faith, Hope, and Charity by way of freewill offerings of the people, for the people, and by the people through the perfect law of liberty in Free Assemblies according to the ancient pattern of Tuns or Tens.

The modern Christians are in need of repentance.


"Follow me!" —Jesus the Christ.


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Footnotes

  1. Hosea 4:6 ¶ My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.
  2. Arnobius, Adversus Nationes, 1.24, qtd. in Davies, 79–80, from a translation by Bryce and Campbell.
  3. In Roman religion, the genius (Latin: [ˈɡɛ.nɪ.ʊs]; plural geniī) is the individual instance of a divine nature which is present in every individual. Much like a guardian angel or the Holy Spirit, the genius would guide each individual from birth to death. The rational powers and abilities of every human being were attributed to their soul, which was a genius.
  4. Galatians 4:3 Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world:
    Galatians 4:9 But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?
    Colossians 2:8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments (elements) of the world, and not after Christ.
    Colossians 2:20 Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments (elements) of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances,
    Hebrews 5:12 For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles (elements) of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.
    2 Peter 3:10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.
    2 Peter 3:12 Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?
  5. Matthew 20:25-26 But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister;
    Mark 10:42-43 But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister:
    Luke 22:25-26 And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.
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