all heard the stories and seen Hollywood's rendition of Christians
being fed to the lions and who were tortured and killed by
bloodthirsty Roman dictators. The Romans certainly had their go at
Christian persecution, but they pale in comparison to what some other
world powers have done.
The following can be checked out by Googling any number of legitimate sites on the Internet:
Edward Gibbon, author of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, wrote the following in Volume One, chapter 16 of his monumental work:
Two circumstances...insinuate that the general treatment of the Christians, who had been apprehended by the officers of justice, was not as bad as it is usually imagined to have been.
1. Christians who were condemned to work in the mines were permitted, by the humanity or negligence of their keepers, to build chapels and freely profess their religion in the midst of those dreary habitations. — Euseb. de Martyr. Palestin. c. 13.
2. The bishops were obliged to check and to censure the forward zeal of the Christians, who voluntarily threw themselves into the hands of the magistrates.
After the church had triumphed over all her enemies, the interest as well as vanity of the captives prompted them to magnify the merit of their respective sufferings. A convenient distance of time or place gave an ample scope to the progress of fiction. The frequent instances which might be alleged of holy martyrs whose wounds had been instantly healed, whose strength had been renewed, and whose lost members had miraculously been restored, were extremely convenient for the purpose of removing every difficulty and of silencing every objection. The most extravagant legends, as they led to the honor of the church, were applauded by the credulous multitude, countenanced by the power of the clergy, and attested by the suspicious evidence of ecclesiastical history.
In other words (and if you read the complete account), it was theChristian "thing to do" to try and get yourself martyredfor your faith. Citing various 1st & 2nd Century historians, Gibbons describes believers voluntarily jumping into pits of fire (para 2 above leaves out the details). As time marched on, the "facts" surrounding various events grew more inflated, to the point of being ridiculous.
I'm sure someone will point to John Foxe's Book of Martyrs to discount all of this. Yet Foxe does not contradict the historical evidence, nor does he focus on numbers. One need go no further than our own time and circumstance to show that Christian persecution is rampant and growing day by day.