Christian Power Grab

What happened to the Apostles?

I get different reactions when sharing the lessons I’ve learned during my formation. One reaction I’ve heard was that the authors of the Bible and the Church had an agenda that consisted of power and control over the Christian community.

A power grab in order to control a large group of people? I explored this idea and came to an interesting conclusion. 

Briefly, who wrote the bible (and why was it written in Greek)?

The Bible is a collection of books divided into two major sections: the Old Testament and the New Testament. 

The first list of the Bible I could find came from the Paschal Letter of Bishop Athanasius of Alexandria in 367. Athanasius wrote to his Diocese, asking them to persevere in prayer and to be lifted by the scriptures. He then went on to list the scriptures and wrote the Books of the Old Testament and the New Testament. That list became a starting point for Councils to discuss and eventually canonized the Bible as we read it today.

New Testament

The list of the New Testament consists of 27 books, and the authors of these books are traditionally attributed as follows:

FOUR GOSPELS

Matthew: Traditionally attributed to the Apostle Matthew, one of the Twelve Apostles and a tax collector. Matthew was tortured and eventually martyred by being stabbed to death in Ethiopia or Persia.

Mark: Traditionally attributed to John Mark, a companion of the Apostle Peter. Mark was martyred in Alexandria, Egypt, where he was dragged through the streets by a mob and eventually died.

Luke: Traditionally attributed to Luke, a physician and companion of the Apostle Paul. 

John: Traditionally attributed to the Apostle John, one of the Twelve Apostles.  John lived to old age and died of natural causes on the island of Patmos. He is said to have been the only one of the Twelve Apostles who did not suffer martyrdom.

The Acts of the Apostles

Also traditionally attributed to Luke, who wrote the third Gospel. He wrote the Gospel and Acts as a two-part volume set meant to be read together.

EPISTLES

Attributed to the Apostle Paul:

Letter to the Romans.

The First Letter to the Corinthians.

The Second Letter to the Corinthians

The Letter to the Galatians.

The Letter to the Ephesians.

The Letter to the Philippian.

The Letter to the Colossians. 

The First Letter to the Thessalonians.

The Second Letter to the Thessalonians.

The First Letter to Timothy.

The Second Letter to Timothy. 

The Letter to Titus.

The Letter to Philemon.

The Letter to the Hebrews. Attributed to the Apostle Paul, but the authorship of this letter is traditionally unknown.

Tradition holds that the Apostle Paul was beheaded in Rome during the reign of Emperor Nero.

Attributed to the Apostle James:

The Letter of James.

Tradition holds that the Apostle James was stoned to death in Jerusalem.

Attributed to the Apostle Peter:

The First Letter of Peter.

The Second Letter of Peter.

Tradition holds that the Apostle and first Pope Peter was crucified upside down in Rome during the same persecution under Emperor Nero.

Attributed to the Apostle John:

The First Letter of John.

The Second Letter of John

The Third Letter of John

Attributed to the Apostle Jude/Thaddeus:

Tradition holds that the Apostle Jude was clubbed to death, and his head was then shattered with a broad ax.

The Letter of Jude

Attributed to the Apostle John:

The Book of Revelation

The books in the New Testament are traditionally dated to have been written before 100 AD. 

Who were the leaders of the Christian faith and the rulers of the empire they inhabited?

The Apostles, Bishops, Priests, and Deacons of the Early Church

Peter (Saint Peter): Tradition holds that Peter was crucified in Rome during the reign of Emperor Nero, around 64-68 AD. Peter requested to be crucified upside down, as he did not feel worthy to be crucified in the same manner as Jesus.

Paul (Saint Paul): Paul was also traditionally believed to have been executed in Rome, but he was beheaded, not crucified. His execution is thought to have occurred around 64-67 AD.

James, son of Zebedee (Saint James the Greater): According to tradition, James was martyred by King Herod Agrippa I in Jerusalem around 44-45 AD. 

In Acts 12:1-2, it is briefly noted that Herod Agrippa I, the king of Judea, had James executed by the sword. He was the first apostle to be martyred.

John (Saint John): John is believed to have lived a long life and died of natural causes, although he may have faced persecution. He is the only apostle traditionally thought to have not been martyred.

Andrew (Saint Andrew): Tradition suggests that Andrew was crucified on an X-shaped cross (known as a saltire cross) in the city of Patras in Greece.

Thomas (Saint Thomas): Thomas is believed to have been martyred in India, where he was speared to death.

Philip (Saint Philip): Philip’s martyrdom is traditionally associated with Hierapolis in modern-day Turkey, where he was said to have been crucified.

Matthew (Saint Matthew): Tradition holds that Matthew was martyred in Ethiopia by beheading. He was executed in the city of Nad-Davar (also known as Nadabar) in Ethiopia.

Bartholomew, also known as Nathaniel (Saint Bartholomew): Bartholomew was martyred by being flayed alive and then crucified in Armenia.

James, son of Alphaeus (Saint James the Less): James became the leader of the Christians in Palestine after Saint Peter’s departure for Rome. He was martyred shortly after preaching the Gospel near the Temple. He was stoned by the crowd and received a death blow from a club.

Thaddaeus (Saint Thaddaeus or Saint Jude): One common tradition holds that Thaddeus was martyred by being beaten with sticks or clubs and then crucified. According to some accounts, his martyrdom took place in the city of Edessa, which is in modern-day southeastern Turkey.

Simon the Zealot (Saint Simon): Sown in half.  Traditionally, some Christian traditions associate the martyrdom of Saint Simon the Zealot with various regions, including Persia (modern-day Iran) and Armenia.

Deacon Stephen, according to Acts of the Apostles, was stoned to death.

The first five popes of the Catholic Church:

  1. Martyred Saint Peter (c. AD 30 – AD 64/67): Saint Peter is considered the first pope and is traditionally believed to have been the leader of the early Christian Church in Rome. He was one of the apostles of Jesus.
  2. Martyred Saint Linus (c. AD 67/68 – AD 76/79): Saint Linus is traditionally recognized as the second pope and succeeded Saint Peter as the Bishop of Rome.
  3. Martyred Pope Saint Anacletus (also known as Cletus) (c. AD 76/79 – AD 88/92): Pope Saint Anacletus is considered the third pope.
  4. Martyred Pope Saint Clement I (c. AD 88/92 – AD 97/101): Pope Saint Clement I is traditionally recognized as the fourth pope and is known for his influential letter to the Corinthians.
  5. Martyred Pope Saint Evaristus (c. AD 97/101 – AD 105/107): Pope Saint Evaristus is considered the fifth pope.

 

Bishop Ignatius of Antioch was sentenced to a martyr’s death in the arena by Emperor Trajan around 110 A.D.

Bishop Polycarp of Smyrna was sentenced to be burned alive at the stake. However, when the flames did not harm him, he was ultimately killed by a dagger.  Polycarp’s martyrdom took place in Smyrna (modern-day Izmir, Turkey) around AD 155-167. 

Here is a list of Roman emperors, from Augustus (the first Roman Emperor) to Constantine the Great:
    1. Augustus (27 BC – AD 14)
    2. Tiberius (AD 14 – AD 37)
    3. Caligula (AD 37 – AD 41)
    4. Claudius (AD 41 – AD 54)
    5. Nero (AD 54 – AD 68)
    6. Galba (AD 68 – AD 69)
    7. Otho (AD 69)
    8. Vitellius (AD 69)
    9. Vespasian (AD 69 – AD 79)
    10. Titus (AD 79 – AD 81)
    11. Domitian (AD 81 – AD 96)
    12. Nerva (AD 96 – AD 98)
    13. Trajan (AD 98 – AD 117)
    14. Hadrian (AD 117 – AD 138)
    15. Antoninus Pius (AD 138 – AD 161)
    16. Marcus Aurelius (AD 161 – AD 180)
    17. Commodus (AD 180 – AD 192)
    18. Pertinax (AD 193)
    19. Didius Julianus (AD 193)
    20. Septimius Severus (AD 193 – AD 211)
    21. Caracalla (AD 211 – AD 217)
    22. Macrinus (AD 217 – AD 218)
    23. Elagabalus (AD 218 – AD 222)
    24. Alexander Severus (AD 222 – AD 235)
    25. Maximinus Thrax (AD 235 – AD 238)
    26. Gordian I (AD 238)
    27. Gordian II (AD 238)
    28. Pupienus (AD 238)
    29. Balbinus (AD 238)
    30. Gordian III (AD 238 – AD 244)
    31. Philip the Arab (AD 244 – AD 249)
    32. Decius (AD 249 – AD 251)
    33. Gallus (AD 251 – AD 253)
    34. Aemilian (AD 253)
    35. Valerian (AD 253 – AD 260)
    36. Gallienus (AD 260 – AD 268)
    37. Claudius Gothicus (AD 268 – AD 270)
    38. Aurelian (AD 270 – AD 275)
    39. Tacitus (AD 275 – AD 276)
    40. Florianus (AD 276)
    41. Probus (AD 276 – AD 282)
    42. Carus (AD 282 – AD 283)
    43. Carinus (AD 283 – AD 285)
    44. Diocletian (AD 284 – AD 305)
    45. Maximian (AD 286 – AD 305)
    46. Constantius Chlorus (AD 293 – AD 306)
    47. Galerius (AD 293 – AD 311)
    48. Maxentius (AD 306 – AD 312)
    49. Licinius (AD 308 – AD 324)
    50. Constantine the Great (AD 306 – AD 337)

54-305 AD Period

During this time, Christian leaders faced imprisonment, torture, and martyrdom for refusing to abandon their faith or worship Roman gods.

Nero (54-68 AD): Known for brutal persecution after blaming Christians for the Great Fire of Rome in AD 64. Limited to Rome.

Diocletian (284-305 AD): The Diocletianic Persecution was an empire-wide effort in the late 3rd and early 4th centuries to suppress Christianity. It included destroying scriptures, churches, and torturing Christians.

Diocletian’s persecution was more extensive and prolonged, impacting Christians throughout the Roman Empire.

It’s considered one of the most severe persecutions in Christian history.

Final Thoughts

From the beginning of the Early Church, those who preached the Gospel faced persecution and martyrdom. They knew they were going to be persecuted and killed and accepted it as a gift.

Their monotheistic beliefs clashed with the polytheistic Roman religion, causing religious conflict. These Christian leaders steadfastly refused to renounce their faith or worship Roman gods, leading to their martyrdom.

Additionally, Christianity challenged the social and political norms of the time by advocating love for all, including marginalized individuals. This created fear and accusations of disrupting social order. At times of crisis, Christians were scapegoated and blamed for various problems, which further fueled persecution.

As Christianity grew in followers, Roman authorities viewed it as a threat and attempted to suppress it. The martyrdom of Christian leaders served as powerful examples of faith and dedication, inspiring others to remain committed to their beliefs. 

It’s tough to implement a power grab and control a group of society if you are dead.