FOX'S BOOK OF MARTYRS
History of Christian Martyrs to the First General Persecutions
Christ our Savior, in the Gospel of St. Matthew, hearing the
confession of Simon Peter, who, first of all other, openly
acknowledged Him to be the Son of God, and perceiving the secret
hand of His Father therein, called him (alluding to his name) a
rock, upon which rock He would build His Church so strong that
the gates of hell should not prevail against it. In which words
three things are to be noted: First, that Christ will have a
Church in this world. Secondly, that the same Church should
mightily be impugned, not only by the world, but also by the
uttermost strength and powers of all hell. And, thirdly, that
the same Church, notwithstanding the uttermost of the devil and
all his malice, should continue.
Which prophecy of Christ we see wonderfully to be verified,
insomuch that the whole course of the Church to this day may seem
nothing else but a verifying of the said prophecy. First, that
Christ hath set up a Church, needeth no declaration. Secondly,
what force of princes, kings, monarchs, governors, and rulers of
this world, with their subjects, publicly and privately, with all
their strength and cunning, have bent themselves against this
Church! And, thirdly, how the said Church, all this
notwithstanding, hath yet endured and holden its own! What
storms and tempests it hath overpast, wondrous it is to behold:
for the more evident declaration whereof, I have addressed this
present history, to the end, first, that the wonderful works of
God in His Church might appear to His glory; also that, the
continuance and proceedings of the Church, from time to time,
being set forth, more knowledge and experience may redound
thereby, to the profit of the reader and edification of Christian
As it is not our business to enlarge upon our Savior's
history, either before or after His crucifixion, we shall only
find it necessary to remind our readers of the discomfiture of
the Jews by His subsequent resurrection. Although one apostle
had betrayed Him; although another had denied Him, under the
solemn sanction of an oath; and although the rest had forsaken
Him, unless we may except "the disciple who was known unto the
high-priest"; the history of His resurrection gave a new
direction to all their hearts, and, after the mission of the Holy
Spirit, imparted new confidence to their minds. The powers with
which they were endued emboldened them to proclaim His name, to
the confusion of the Jewish rulers, and the astonishment of
I. St. Stephen
St. Stephen suffered the next in order. His death was
occasioned by the faithful manner in which he preached the Gospel
to the betrayers and murderers of Christ. To such a degree of
madness were they excited, that they cast him out of the city and
stoned him to death. The time when he suffered is generally
supposed to have been at the passover which succeeded to that of
our Lord's crucifixion, and to the era of his ascension, in the
Upon this a great persecution was raised against all who
professed their belief in Christ as the Messiah, or as a prophet.
We are immediately told by St. Luke, that "there was a great
persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem;" and that
"they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea
and Samaria, except the apostles."
About two thousand Christians, with Nicanor, one of the
seven deacons, suffered martyrdom during the "persecution that
arose about Stephen."
II. James the Great
The next martyr we meet with, according to St. Luke, in the
History of the Apsotles' Acts, was James the son of Zebedee, the
elder brother of John, and a relative of our Lord; for his mother
Salome was cousin-german to the Virgin Mary. It was not until
ten years after the death of Stephen that the second martyrdom
took place; for no sooner had Herod Agrippa been appointed
governor of Judea, than, with a view to ingratiate himself with
them, he raised a sharp persecution against the Christians, and
determined to make an effectual blow, by striking at their
leaders. The account given us by an eminent primitive writer,
Clemens Alexandrinus, ought not to be overlooked; that, as James
was led to the place of martyrdom, his accuser was brought to
repent of his conduct by the apostle's extraordinary courage and
undauntedness, and fell down at his feet to request his pardon,
professing himself a Christian, and resolving that James should
not receive the crown of martyrdom alone. Hence they were both
beheaded at the same time. Thus did the first apostolic martyr
cheerfully and resolutely receive that cup, which he had told our
Savior he was ready to drink. Timon and Parmenas suffered
martyrdom about the same time; the one at Philippi, and the other
in Macedonia. These events took place A.D. 44.
Was born at Bethsaida, in Galilee and was first called by
the name of "disciple." He labored diligently in Upper Asia, and
suffered martyrdom at Heliopolis, in Phrygia. He was scourged,
thrown into prison, and afterwards crucified, A.D. 54.
Whose occupation was that of a toll-gatherer, was born at
Nazareth. He wrote his gospel in Hebrew, which was afterwards
translated into Greek by James the Less. The scene of his labors
was Parthia, and Ethiopia, in which latter country he suffered
martyrdom, being slain with a halberd in the city of Nadabah,
V. James the Less
Is supposed by some to have been the brother of our Lord, by
a former wife of Joseph. This is very doubtful, and accords too
much with the Catholic superstition, that Mary never had any
other children except our Savior. He was elected to the
oversight of the churches of Jerusalem; and was the author of the
Epistle ascribed to James in the sacred canon. At the age of
ninety-four he was beat and stoned by the Jews; and finally had
his brains dashed out with a fuller's club.
Of whom less is known than of most of the other disciples,
was elected to fill the vacant place of Judas. He was stoned at
Jerusalem and then beheaded.
Was the brother of Peter. He preached the gospel to many
Asiatic nations; but on his arrival at Edessa he was taken and
crucified on a cross, the two ends of which were fixed
transversely in the ground. Hence the derivation of the term,
St. Andrew's Cross.
VIII. St. Mark
Was born of Jewish parents of the tribe of Levi. He is
supposed to have been converted to Christianity by Peter, whom he
served as an amanuensis, and under whose inspection he wrote his
Gospel in the Greek language. Mark was dragged to pieces by the
people of Alexandria, at the great solemnity of Serapis their
idol, ending his life under their merciless hands.
Among many other saints, the blessed apostle Peter was
condemned to death, and crucified, as some do write, at Rome;
albeit some others, and not without cause, do doubt thereof.
Hegesippus saith that Nero sought matter against Peter to put him
to death; which, when the people perceived, they entreated Peter
with much ado that he would fly the city. Peter, through their
importunity at length persuaded, prepared himself to avoid. But,
coming to the gate, he saw the Lord Christ come to meet him, to
whom he, worshipping, said, "Lord, whither dost Thou go?" To whom
He answered and said, "I am come again to be crucified." By
this, Peter, perceiving his suffering to be understood, returned
into the city. Jerome saith that he was crucified, his head
being down and his feet upward, himself so requiring, because he
was (he said) unworthy to be crucified after the same form and
manner as the Lord was.
Paul, the apostle, who before was called Saul, after his
great travail and unspeakable labors in promoting the Gospel of
Christ, suffered also in this first persecution under Nero.
Abdias, declareth that under his execution Nero sent two of his
esquires, Ferega and Parthemius, to bring him word of his death.
They, coming to Paul instructing the people, desired him to pray
for them, that they might believe; who told them that shortly
after they should believe and be baptised at His sepulcher. This
done, the soldiers came and led him out of the city to the place
of execution, where he, after his prayers made, gave his neck to
The brother of James, was commonly called Thaddeus. He was
crucified at Edessa, A.D. 72.
Preached in several countries, and having translated the
Gospel of Matthew into the language of India, he propagated it in
that country. He was at length cruelly beaten and then crucified
by the impatient idolaters.
Called Didymus, preached the Gospel in Parthia and India,
where exciting the rage of the pagan priests, he was martyred by
being thrust through with a spear.
The evangelist, was the author of the Gospel which goes
under his name. He travelled with Paul through various
countries, and is supposed to have been hanged on an olive tree,
by the idolatrous priests of Greece.
Surnamed Zelotes, preached the Gospel in Mauritania, Africa,
and even in Britain, in which latter country he was crucified,
The "beloved disciple," was brother to James the Great. The
churches of Smyrna, Pergamos, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea, and
Thyatira, were founded by him. From Ephesus he was ordered to be
sent to Rome, where it is affirmed he was cast into a cauldron of
boiling oil. He escaped by miracle, without injury. Domitian
afterwards banished him to the Isle of Patmos, where he wrote the
Book of Revelation. Nerva, the successor of Domitian, recalled
him. He was the only apostle who escaped a violent death.
Was of Cyprus, but of Jewish descent, his death is supposed
to have taken place about A.D. 73.
And yet, notwithstanding all these continual persecutions
and horrible punishments, the Church daily increased, deeply
rooted in the doctrine of the apostles and of men apostolical,
and watered plentously with the blood of saints.