Then Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the secretary, “I have found the scroll of the Torah in the temple of Yahweh,” and Hilkiah gave the scroll to Shaphan and he read it. 2 Kings 22:8
There were many cases of righteous kings and unrighteous kings of the kingdoms of Judah and Israel. One king would lead the people astray by building sacred poles, erecting statues of Ishtar, and even sacrificing their children to Molech. That king would die off and the next king would tear all the sacred poles down and chase away all the prophets of foreign gods, turning the people back to the creator, Yahweh. Sometimes there would be so much time that passed, the people would completely forget Yahweh God and His instructions for living a blessed life.
2Ki 22:8 Then Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the secretary, “I have found the scroll of the Torah in the temple of Yahweh,” and Hilkiah gave the scroll to Shaphan and he read it.
2Ki 22:9 Shaphan the secretary came to the king and returned the king a word, and he said, “Your servant poured out the money found in the temple, and they have given it into the hand of the doers of the work appointed over the temple of Yahweh.”
2Ki 22:10 Then Shaphan the secretary informed the king saying, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a scroll.” Then Shaphan read before the king.
2Ki 22:11 When the king heard the words of the scroll of the Torah, he tore his clothes.
2Ki 22:12 Then the king commanded Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam the son of Shaphan, Acbor the son of Micaiah, Shaphan the secretary, and Asaiah the servant of the king, saying,
2Ki 22:13 “Go, inquire of Yahweh for me and for the people and for all of Judah concerning the words of this scroll that was found. For the wrath of Yahweh that is kindled against us is great because our ancestors did not listen to the words of this scroll to do according to all that is written concerning us!”
King Josiah, who started reigning at the age of eight, was a king that followed Yahweh. When they were repairing the temple, they found a Torah scroll, which would contain books of the first five books of the Bible. They dusted it off, and started reading it. This would be similar to a modern, or maybe futuristic church doing some renovations, and finding a Bible that had fallen between a couple wall partitions, and the ones finding it bringing it to the priest. Josiah asked the priest to inquire of Yahweh about the scroll that was found.
2Ki 22:14 So Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam, Acbor, Shaphan, and Asaiah went to Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tikvah the son of Harhas, the keeper of the robes. Now she was living in Jerusalem in the second district. Then they spoke to her,
2Ki 22:15 and she said to them, “Thus says Yahweh the God of Israel, ‘Say to the man who sent you to me,
2Ki 22:16 “Thus says Yahweh, ‘Look I am bringing evil to this place and upon its inhabitants, according to all of the words of that scroll that the king of Judah has read
2Ki 22:17 because they have abandoned me and they have burned incense to other gods, provoking me to anger with all of the works of their hands. My wrath shall be kindled against this place and not be quenched.'”
2Ki 22:18 And to the king of Judah who sent all of you to inquire of Yahweh, thus you shall say to him, “Thus says Yahweh the God of Israel, ‘Concerning the words that you have heard,
2Ki 22:19 because you have a responsive heart, and you humbled yourself before Yahweh when you heard how I spoke against this place and against its inhabitants to become a desolation and a curse, and you have torn your clothes and wept before my face, I have also heard, declares Yahweh.
2Ki 22:20 Therefore look, I am gathering you to your ancestors, and you shall be gathered to your tombs in peace. Your eyes will not see all of the disaster that I am bringing onto this place.’“‘” Then they reported the word to the king.
So Josiah took the words of the scroll seriously, and Yahweh spared him from the disaster that was to come to the kingdom, deferring it to a later time. The words that struck them in the scroll most likely were the blessings and curses, realizing they had taken part in the curses for not following Yahweh’s instruction. Often these instructions are looked at as mean rules that the creator wanted to punish mankind with, where they are more like the laws of physics or geometry, or cause and effect. “If you do x, expect this” etc.. Here are some of the curses. I recommend reading the whole chapter in Deuteronomy which includes the blessings for obedience as well.
Deu 28:15 “And then if you do not listen to the voice of Yahweh your God by diligently observing all of his commandments and his statutes that I am commanding you today, then all of these curses shall come upon you, and they shall overtake you:
Deu 28:16 “You shall be cursed in the city, and you shall be cursed in the field.
Deu 28:17 “Your basket shall be cursed and your kneading trough.
Deu 28:18 “The fruit of your womb shall be cursed and the fruit of your ground, the calves of your cattle and the lambs of your flock.
Deu 28:19 “You shall be cursed when you come in, and you shall be cursed when you go out.
Deu 28:20 “Yahweh will send upon you the curse, the panic, and the threat in everything that you undertake, until you are destroyed and until you perish quickly because of the evil of your deeds in that you have forsaken me.
Deu 28:21 Yahweh will cause the plague to cling to you until it consumes you from the land that you are going to, to take possession of it.
Deu 28:22 Yahweh will afflict you with the wasting diseases and with the fever and with the inflammation and with the scorching heat and with the sword and with the blight and with the mildew, and they shall pursue you until you perish.
Deu 28:23 And your heavens that are over your heads shall be like bronze, and the earth that is under you shall be like iron.
Deu 28:24 Yahweh will change the rain of your land to fine dust and to sand; from the heaven it shall come down upon you until you are destroyed.
Deu 28:25 “Yahweh shall cause you to be defeated before your enemies; on one road you shall go against them, but you will flee on seven roads before them, and you shall become a thing of horror to all of the kingdoms of the earth.
Deu 28:26 And your dead bodies shall be as food for all of the birds of the heaven and to the animals of the earth, and there shall not be anyone to frighten them away.
Deu 28:27 “Yahweh shall afflict you with the boils of Egypt and with tumors and with the scurvy and with the skin rash that cannot be healed.
Deu 28:28 Yahweh shall afflict you with madness and with blindness and with confusion of heart.
Deu 28:29 And you shall be groping at noon just as the blind person gropes in the dark, and you shall not succeed in finding your way, and you shall only be abused and robbed all the time, and there will not be anyone who will rescue you.
Deu 28:30 You shall become engaged to a woman, but another man shall sleep with her; you shall build a house, but you shall not live in it; a vineyard you shall plant, but you shall not enjoy it.
Deu 28:31 Your ox shall be slaughtered before your eyes, and you shall not eat it; your donkey shall be stolen right before you, and it shall not be returned to you; your sheep and your goats shall be given to your enemies, and there shall not be anyone who rescues you.
Deu 28:32 Your sons and your daughters shall be given to other people, and you will be looking on longingly for them all day, but you will be powerless to do anything.
Deu 28:33 A people that you do not know shall consume the harvest of your land and all your labor, and you will be only oppressed and crushed for the rest of your lives.
Deu 28:34 You shall become mad because of what your eyes shall see.
Deu 28:35 Yahweh shall strike you with grievous boils on the knees and on the upper thighs from which you will not be able to be healed, from the sole of your foot and up to your crown.
Deu 28:36 Yahweh will bring you and your king whom you set up over you to a nation that you or your ancestors have not known, and there you will serve other gods of wood and stone.
Deu 28:37 And you will become a horror and a proverb and ridicule among all the peoples where Yahweh drives you there.
Deu 28:38 “You shall carry out much seed to the field, but you shall gather little produce, for the locust shall devour it.
Deu 28:39 You shall plant vineyards and you shall dress them, but you shall not drink wine and you shall not gather grapes, for the worm shall eat it.
Deu 28:40 There shall be olive trees for you in all of your territory, but you shall not anoint yourself, for your olives shall drop off.
Deu 28:41 You shall bear sons and daughters, but they shall not be yours, for they shall go into captivity.
Deu 28:42 The cricket shall take possession of all your trees and the fruit of your ground.
Deu 28:43 The alien that is in your midst shall ascend over you, higher and higher, but you shall go down lower and lower.
Deu 28:44 He shall lend to you, but you shall not lend to him; he shall be the head, but you shall be the tail.
Deu 28:45 “And all of these curses shall come over you, and they shall pursue you, and they shall overtake you until you are destroyed, because you did not listen to the voice of Yahweh your God, by observing his commandments and his statutes that he commanded you.
King Josiah not only read the scroll, he listened, understood and did what it said. He and his kingdom were able to live in peace because of it. They even restored the Passover.
2Ki 23:21 Then the king commanded all of the people, saying, “Keep the Passover to Yahweh your God, as has been written on the scroll of this covenant.”
2Ki 23:22 For they had not kept this Passover from the days of the judges who had judged over Israel or during the days of the kings of Israel and the kings of Judah.
2Ki 23:23 But in the eighteenth year of King Josiah, this Passover was kept for Yahweh in Jerusalem.
2Ki 23:24 Moreover, the mediums and the spiritists, the household gods and the idols, and all of the abominations that were seen in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem, Josiah removed in order to establish the words of the law written on the scroll that Hilkiah the priest had found in the temple of Yahweh.
After this, Judah eventually went into captivity in Babylon, much like Israel went into captivity in Assyria. Israel never returned, (the ten tribes given to Jeroboam), but Judah returned to the land from Babylon. When they returned, we find the scribe, Ezra, in a similar situation as King Josiah, reading the Torah scroll to people who have never heard it.
Neh 8:1 All of the people gathered as one to the public square before the Water Gate. They asked Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses that Yahweh had commanded Israel.
Neh 8:2 So Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly for each man and woman to hear with understanding, on the first day of the seventh month.
Neh 8:3 He read from it facing the public square before the Water Gate from dawn until noon that day, opposite the men, women, and those with understanding. The ears of all the people were attentive to the book of the law.
Neh 8:4 Then Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden podium that had been made for the occasion. And beside him stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah on his right. On his left was Pedaiah, Mishael, Malkijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah, and Meshullam.
Neh 8:5 Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, because he was above all of the people. When he opened it all the people stood up.
Neh 8:6 Then Ezra blessed Yahweh the great God, and all of the people answered, “Amen! Amen!” while lifting their hands. Then they bowed down and worshiped Yahweh with their noses to the ground.
Neh 8:7 And Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites were teaching the people from the law while the people were in their places.
Neh 8:8 So they read the book from the law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that they could understand the reading.
Neh 8:9 Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all of the people, “This day is holy to Yahweh your God. Do not mourn nor weep.” For all of the people wept when they heard the words of the law.
Much like Josiah restarting the observance of Passover, Ezra had the people start observing the fall feast of tabernacles or sometimes translated as booths.
Neh 8:13 On the second day the heads of the families of all the people, the priests, and the Levites gathered together to Ezra the scribe to study the words of the law.
Neh 8:14 They found written in the law, which Yahweh had commanded by the hand of Moses, that the Israelites should live in booths during the festival of the seventh month,
Neh 8:15 and that they should proclaim and give voice in all of their cities in Jerusalem, saying, “Go out to the hill and bring olive tree branches, olive oil wood branches, myrtle shrub branches, palm tree branches, and other leafy tree branches to make booths, as it is written.”
Neh 8:16 So the people went out and brought them and made booths for themselves, each on his roof, in their courtyards, in the courtyards of the house of God, in the public square of the Water Gate, and in the public square of the Gate of Ephraim.
Neh 8:17 And all of the assembly of those who returned from captivity made booths and lived in the booths because the Israelites had not done it from the days of Jeshua son of Nun until that day. And there was very great joy.
Neh 8:18 And he read from the scroll of the law of God day by day from the first day up to the last day. They celebrated the festival for seven days, and on the eighth day there was an assembly according to the rule.
One could say that this sort of thing happened again in Jesus’ day. Except instead of the people finding a scroll, Yahweh sent his living Word to the Earth. Is the Word of Yahweh in the flesh different from the written Word? It’s a valid question that needs an answer. Here are some verses to consider:
Joh 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
Joh 14:7 If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him.
Psa 119:1 ALEPH. Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the LORD.
Psa 119:2 Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart.
Psa 119:3 They also do no iniquity: they walk in his ways.
Psa 119:142 Thy righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and thy law is the truth.
Pro 6:23 For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life:
Eze 11:17 Therefore say, ‘Thus says the Lord Yahweh: “And I will assemble you from the peoples, and I will gather you from the countries to which you were scattered among them, and I will give the land of Israel to you.
Eze 11:18 And when they come there, then they will remove all of its vile idols and all of its detestable things from it.
Eze 11:19 And I will give to them one heart, and a new spirit I will give in their inner parts. And I will remove their heart of stone from their body, and I will give to them a heart of flesh,
Eze 11:20 so that they may walk in my statutes, and they will keep my regulations, and they will do them, and they will be to me a people, and I myself will be to them as God.
Eze 11:21 But to the heart of their abominations and the detestable things their heart is going. I will bring their way on their head,” declares the Lord Yahweh.'”
With this concept of Jesus being the living Word of God and writing his laws on our heart, removing the stoney heart and replacing it with a heart of flesh, would the heart of flesh contain different laws than that of the “stone” tablets on the stoney hearts? Maybe it’s not the laws that changed, but that it is no longer about keeping a set of rules, and that with our heart of flesh from Jesus, we desire to serve Yahweh so much, our way will not desire to part from the Truth or Yahweh’s desire for us to live. If that is the case, won’t we want to learn the way of Yahweh to understand the way of his Truth? From personal experience, the Spirit of Truth will direct you in His ways, but once one discovers His ways that are written down, it makes the journey so much easier. At that point a person can throw out the commandments of men, which are burdensome and often go against the Truth of Yahweh. Here are some interesting verses in Acts often overlooked in regards to how to learn the Way.
Act 15:13 After they finished speaking, James replied, “Brothers, listen to me.
Act 15:14 Simeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take from them a people for his name.
Act 15:15 And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written,
Act 15:16 “‘After this I will return, and I will rebuild the tent of David that has fallen; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will restore it,
Act 15:17 that the remnant of mankind may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who are called by my name, says the Lord, who makes these things
Act 15:18 known from of old.’
Act 15:19 Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God,
Act 15:20 but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood.
Act 15:21 For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues.”
These verses are often used to teach that all believers only need to be concerned with, “to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood”, However, with only these instructions, can one define sexual immorality? What does it mean to be polluted by idols? Strangled and blood what? Where is the instruction not to murder? Does this mean murder was okay for the new converts? These instructions were intended for people coming out of Temples with unclean animal sacrifices, temple prostitutes and many other nasty things. The key verse often over looked is at the very end. These instructions were a starting point and the people would learn the finer points through teaching. “For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues.” It is implied here that new believers, former Gentiles, people of the nations, grafted back into the green olive tree, would seek to learn the ways of Yahweh on the Sabbath where it was being taught every Sabbath day.
How to serve Yahweh has been contentious ever since. The confusion between faith and works still abounds today. Make no mistake, I am not suggesting salvation can come through any works we do, but only in faith in the living Word, Jesus, the Messiah or Greek-Latin term Christ.
Act 13:38 Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you,
Act 13:39 and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.
Act 13:40 Beware, therefore, lest what is said in the Prophets should come about:
Act 13:41 “‘Look, you scoffers, be astounded and perish; for I am doing a work in your days, a work that you will not believe, even if one tells it to you.’”
Act 13:42 As they went out, the people begged that these things might be told them the next Sabbath.
When Yahweh God saves you through Christ Jesus, you will want to learn what makes the Father happy, His ways, and instructions to live a successful life in Jesus. If this is not the case, then what can we say other than there is a rebellious spirit? I am suggesting that even if once a person is saved, and that person disregards Yahweh’s instruction, they will have to contend with the curses. All one has to do is take a look around to see that. Paul speaks of this situation by saying the only way to identify sin is through the law.
Rom 7:7 What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”
Rom 7:8 But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead.
Rom 7:9 I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died.
Rom 7:10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me.
Rom 7:11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me.
Rom 7:12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.
We can contrast the written Word of Yahweh to the Word that came in flesh. In Germanic English, He is called Jesus, in Greek, He is called Iesous, and in Hebrew by the name of his Father Yah, Yahusha. Joshua in English, or the eternal existing one who saves. The contrast comes from comparing how the people of God would not deny His written Word when threatened by the Greek conquerors, much like the early church would not deny the Word that came in the flesh when threatened by the Sanhedrin or Roman government. From a book ignored by the church today, yet regarded through the ages, we see what the people of Yahweh faced with the Greeks in the books of the Maccabees. From the King James Version we read of an old scribe who was being forced to eat swine’s flesh at a heathen sacrifice to their gods. The Greeks sacrificed swine to their gods, made pork part of their sacred feasts, and defiled Yahweh’s temple with it, along with temple prostitutes and all the same sort of things that James was addressing with the council in Acts chapter 15 many years later.
2Ma 6:18 Eleazar, one of the principal scribes, an aged man, and of a well favoured countenance, was constrained to open his mouth, and to eat swine’s flesh.
2Ma 6:19 But he, choosing rather to die gloriously, than to live stained with such an abomination, spit it forth, and came of his own accord to the torment,
2Ma 6:20 As it behoved them to come, that are resolute to stand out against such things, as are not lawful for love of life to be tasted.
2Ma 6:21 But they that had the charge of that wicked feast, for the old acquaintance they had with the man, taking him aside, besought him to bring flesh of his own provision, such as was lawful for him to use, and make as if he did eat of the flesh taken from the sacrifice commanded by the king;
2Ma 6:22 That in so doing he might be delivered from death, and for the old friendship with them find favour.
2Ma 6:23 But he began to consider discreetly, and as became his age, and the excellency of his ancient years, and the honour of his gray head, whereon was come, and his most honest education from a child, or rather the holy law made and given by God: therefore he answered accordingly, and willed them straightways to send him to the grave.
2Ma 6:24 For it becometh not our age, said he, in any wise to dissemble, whereby many young persons might think that Eleazar, being fourscore years old and ten, were now gone to a strange religion;
2Ma 6:25 And so they through mine hypocrisy, and desire to live a little time and a moment longer, should be deceived by me, and I get a stain to mine old age, and make it abominable.
2Ma 6:26 For though for the present time I should be delivered from the punishment of men: yet should I not escape the hand of the Almighty, neither alive, nor dead.
2Ma 6:27 Wherefore now, manfully changing this life, I will shew myself such an one as mine age requireth,
2Ma 6:28 And leave a notable example to such as be young to die willingly and courageously for the honourable and holy laws. And when he had said these words, immediately he went to the torment:
2Ma 6:29 They that led him changing the good will they bare him a little before into hatred, because the foresaid speeches proceeded, as they thought, from a desperate mind.
2Ma 6:30 But when he was ready to die with stripes, he groaned, and said, It is manifest unto the Lord, that hath the holy knowledge, that whereas I might have been delivered from death, I now endure sore pains in body by being beaten: but in soul am well content to suffer these things, because I fear him.
2Ma 6:31 And thus this man died, leaving his death for an example of a noble courage, and a memorial of virtue, not only unto young men, but unto all his nation.
Below is a small part from Eusebius’s Ecclesiastical History, which is recorded in the Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, Series 2, Volume 1. It is a free download on ccel.org, and I recommend reading the entire book. This small part will give some examples of what children of Yahweh had to endure in the early church. Just like the children of Yahweh of the written Word were required to deny the Word, these Christians were being forced to deny the Word that came in the flesh. I highlighted one example of someone walking in the name of the LORD blameless, to show what was being done in the pre-Roman church.
- The country in which the arena was prepared for them was Gaul, of which Lyons and Vienne are the principal and most celebrated cities. The Rhone passes through both of them, flowing in a broad stream through the entire region.
- The most celebrated churches in that country sent an account of the witnesses to the churches in Asia and Phrygia, relating in the following manner what was done among them.
I will give their own words.
- “The servants of Christ residing at Vienne and Lyons, in Gaul, to the brethren through out Asia and Phrygia, who hold the same faith and hope of redemption, peace and grace and glory from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.”
- Then, having related some other matters, they begin their account in this manner: “The greatness of the tribulation in this region, and the fury of the heathen against the saints, and the sufferings of the blessed witnesses, we cannot recount accurately, nor indeed could they possibly be recorded.
- For with all his might the adversary fell upon us, giving us a foretaste of his unbridled activity at his future coming. He endeavored in every manner to practice and exercise his servants against the servants of God, not only shutting us out from houses and baths and markets, but forbidding any of us to be seen in any place whatever.
- But the grace of God led the conflict against him, and delivered the weak, and set them as firm pillars, able through patience to endure all the wrath of the Evil One. And they joined battle with him, undergoing all kinds of shame and injury; and regarding their great sufferings as little, they hastened to Christ, manifesting truly that ‘the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed to us-ward.’
- First of all, they endured nobly the injuries heaped upon them by the populace; clamors and blows and draggings and robberies and stonings and imprisonments, and all things which an infuriated mob delight in inflicting on enemies and adversaries.
- Then, being taken to the forum by the chiliarch and the authorities of the city, they were examined in the presence of the whole multitude, and having confessed, they were imprisoned until the arrival of the governor.
- When, afterwards, they were brought before him, and he treated us with the utmost cruelty, Vettius Epagathus, one of the brethren, and a man filled with love for God and his neighbor, interfered. His life was so consistent that, although young, he had attained a reputation equal to that of the elder Zacharias: for he ‘walked in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless,’ and was untiring in every good work for his neighbor, zealous for God and fervent in spirit. Such being his character, he could not endure the unreasonable judgment against us, but was filled with indignation, and asked to be permitted to testify in behalf of his brethren, that there is among us nothing ungodly or impious.
- But those about the judgment seat cried out against him, for he was a man of distinction; and the governor refused to grant his just request, and merely asked if he also were a Christian. And he, confessing this with a loud voice, was himself taken into the order of the witnesses, being called the Advocate of the Christians, but having the Advocate in himself, the Spirit more abundantly than Zacharias. He showed this by the fullness of his love, being well pleased even to lay down his life in defense of the brethren. For he was and is a true disciple of Christ, ‘following the Lamb whithersoever he goeth.’
- “Then the others were divided, and the proto-witnesses were manifestly ready, and finished their confession with all eagerness. But some appeared unprepared and untrained, weak as yet, and unable to endure so great a conflict. About ten of these proved abortions, causing us great grief and sorrow beyond measure, and impairing the zeal of the others who had not yet been seized, but who, though suffering all kinds of affliction, continued constantly with the witnesses and did not forsake them.
- Then all of us feared greatly on account of uncertainty as to their confession; not because we dreaded the sufferings to be endured, but because we looked to the end, and were afraid that some of them might fall away.
- But those who were worthy were seized day by day, filling up their number, so that all the zealous persons, and those through whom especially our affairs had been established, were collected together out of the two churches.
- And some of our heathen servants also were seized, as the governor had commanded that all of us should be examined publicly. These, being ensnared by Satan, and fearing for themselves the tortures which they beheld the saints endure, and being also urged on by the soldiers, accused us falsely of Thyestean banquets and Œdipodean intercourse, and of deeds which are not only unlawful for us to speak of or to think, but which we cannot believe were ever done by men.
- When these accusations were reported, all the people raged like wild beasts against us, so that even if any had before been moderate on account of friendship, they were now exceedingly furious and gnashed their teeth against us. And that which was spoken by our Lord was fulfilled: ‘The time will come when whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.’
- Then finally the holy witnesses endured sufferings beyond description, Satan striving earnestly that some of the slanders might be uttered by them also.
- “But the whole wrath of the populace, and governor, and soldiers was aroused exceedingly against Sanctus, the deacon from Vienne, and Maturus, a late convert, yet a noble combatant, and against Attalus, a native of Pergamos where he had always been a pillar and foundation, and Blandina, through whom Christ showed that things which appear mean and obscure and despicable to men are with God of great glory, through love toward him manifested in power, and not boasting in appearance.
- For while we all trembled, and her earthly mistress, who was herself also one of the witnesses, feared that on account of the weakness of her body, she would be unable to make bold confession, Blandina was filled with such power as to be delivered and raised above those who were torturing her by turns from morning till evening in every manner, so that they acknowledged that they were conquered, and could do nothing more to her. And they were astonished at her endurance, as her entire body was mangled and broken; and they testified that one of these forms of torture was sufficient to destroy life, not to speak of so many and so great sufferings.
- But the blessed woman, like a noble athlete, renewed her strength in her confession; and her comfort and recreation and relief from the pain of her sufferings was in exclaiming, ‘I am a Christian, and there is nothing vile done by us.’
- “But Sanctus also endured marvelously and superhumanly all the outrages which he suffered. While the wicked men hoped, by the continuance and severity of his tortures to wring something from him which he ought not to say, he girded himself against them with such firmness that he would not even tell his name, or the nation or city to which he belonged, or whether he was bond or free, but answered in the Roman tongue to all their questions, ‘I am a Christian.’ He confessed this instead of name and city and race and everything besides, and the people heard from him no other word.
- There arose therefore on the part of the governor and his tormentors a great desire to conquer him; but having nothing more that they could do to him, they finally fastened red-hot brazen plates to the most tender parts of his body.
- And these indeed were burned, but he continued unbending and unyielding, firm in his confession, and refreshed and strengthened by the heavenly fountain of the water of life, flowing from the bowels of Christ.
- And his body was a witness of his sufferings, being one complete wound and bruise, drawn out of shape, and altogether unlike a human form. Christ, suffering in him, manifested his glory, delivering him from his adversary, and making him an ensample for the others, showing that nothing is fearful where the love of the Father is, and nothing painful where there is the glory of Christ.
- For when the wicked men tortured him a second time after some days, supposing that with his body swollen and inflamed to such a degree that he could not bear the touch of a hand, if they should again apply the same instruments, they would overcome him, or at least by his death under his sufferings others would be made afraid, not only did not this occur, but, contrary to all human expectation, his body arose and stood erect in the midst of the subsequent torments, and resumed its original appearance and the use of its limbs, so that, through the grace of Christ, these second sufferings became to him, not torture, but healing.
- “But the devil, thinking that he had already consumed Biblias, who was one of those who had denied Christ, desiring to increase her condemnation through the utterance of blasphemy, brought her again to the torture, to compel her, as already feeble and weak, to report impious things concerning us.
- But she recovered herself under the suffering, and as if awaking from a deep sleep, and reminded by the present anguish of the eternal punishment in hell, she contradicted the blasphemers. ‘How,’ she said, ‘could those eat children who do not think it lawful to taste the blood even of irrational animals?’ And thenceforward she confessed herself a Christian, and was given a place in the order of the witnesses.
- “But as the tyrannical tortures were made by Christ of none effect through the patience of the blessed, the devil invented other contrivances,—confinement in the dark and most loathsome parts of the prison, stretching of the feet to the fifth hole in the stocks, and the other outrages which his servants are accustomed to inflict upon the prisoners when furious and filled with the devil. A great many were suffocated in prison, being chosen by the Lord for this manner of death, that he might manifest in them his glory.
- For some, though they had been tortured so cruelly that it seemed impossible that they could live, even with the most careful nursing, yet, destitute of human attention, remained in the prison, being strengthened by the Lord, and invigorated both in body and soul; and they exhorted and encouraged the rest. But such as were young, and arrested recently, so that their bodies had not become accustomed to torture, were unable to endure the severity of their confinement, and died in prison.
- “The blessed Pothinus, who had been entrusted with the bishopric of Lyons, was dragged to the judgment seat. He was more than ninety years of age, and very infirm, scarcely indeed able to breathe because of physical weakness; but he was strengthened by spiritual zeal through his earnest desire for martyrdom. Though his body was worn out by old age and disease, his life was preserved that Christ might triumph in it.
- When he was brought by the soldiers to the tribunal, accompanied by the civil magistrates and a multitude who shouted against him in every manner as if he were Christ himself, he bore noble witness.
- Being asked by the governor, Who was the God of the Christians, he replied, ‘If thou art worthy, thou shalt know.’ Then he was dragged away harshly, and received blows of every kind. Those near him struck him with their hands and feet, regardless of his age; and those at a distance hurled at him whatever they could seize; all of them thinking that they would be guilty of great wickedness and impiety if any possible abuse were omitted. For thus they thought to avenge their own deities. Scarcely able to breathe, he was cast into prison and died after two days.
- “Then a certain great dispensation of God occurred, and the compassion of Jesus appeared beyond measure, in a manner rarely seen among the brotherhood, but not beyond the power of Christ.
- For those who had recanted at their first arrest were imprisoned with the others, and endured terrible sufferings, so that their denial was of no profit to them even for the present. But those who confessed what they were were imprisoned as Christians, no other accusation being brought against them. But the first were treated afterwards as murderers and defiled, and were punished twice as severely as the others.
- For the joy of martyrdom, and the hope of the promises, and love for Christ, and the Spirit of the Father supported the latter; but their consciences so greatly distressed the former that they were easily distinguishable from all the rest by their very countenances when they were led forth.
- For the first went out rejoicing, glory and grace being blended in their faces, so that even their bonds seemed like beautiful ornaments, as those of a bride adorned with variegated golden fringes; and they were perfumed with the sweet savor of Christ, so that some supposed they had been anointed with earthly ointment. But the others were downcast and humble and dejected and filled with every kind of disgrace, and they were reproached by the heathen as ignoble and weak, bearing the accusation of murderers, and having lost the one honorable and glorious and life-giving Name. The rest, beholding this, were strengthened, and when apprehended, they confessed without hesitation, paying no attention to the persuasions of the devil.”
- After certain other words they continue:
“After these things, finally, their martyrdoms were divided into every form. For plaiting a crown of various colors and of all kinds of flowers, they presented it to the Father. It was proper therefore that the noble athletes, having endured a manifold strife, and conquered grandly, should receive the crown, great and incorruptible.
- “Maturus, therefore, and Sanctus and Blandina and Attalus were led to the amphitheater to be exposed to the wild beasts, and to give to the heathen public a spectacle of cruelty, a day for fighting with wild beasts being specially appointed on account of our people.
- Both Maturus and Sanctus passed again through every torment in the amphitheater, as if they had suffered nothing before, or rather, as if, having already conquered their antagonist in many contests, they were now striving for the crown itself. They endured again the customary running of the gauntlet and the violence of the wild beasts, and everything which the furious people called for or desired, and at last, the iron chair in which their bodies being roasted, tormented them with the fumes.
- And not with this did the persecutors cease, but were yet more mad against them, determined to overcome their patience. But even thus they did not hear a word from Sanctus except the confession which he had uttered from the beginning.
- These, then, after their life had continued for a long time through the great conflict, were at last sacrificed, having been made throughout that day a spectacle to the world, in place of the usual variety of combats.
- “But Blandina was suspended on a stake, and exposed to be devoured by the wild beasts who should attack her. And because she appeared as if hanging on a cross, and because of her earnest prayers, she inspired the combatants with great zeal. For they looked on her in her conflict, and beheld with their outward eyes, in the form of their sister, him who was crucified for them, that he might persuade those who believe on him, that every one who suffers for the glory of Christ has fellowship always with the living God.
- As none of the wild beasts at that time touched her, she was taken down from the stake, and cast again into prison. She was preserved thus for another contest, that, being victorious in more conflicts, she might make the punishment of the crooked serpent irrevocable; and, though small and weak and despised, yet clothed with Christ the mighty and conquering Athlete, she might arouse the zeal of the brethren, and, having overcome the adversary many times might receive, through her conflict, the crown incorruptible.
- “But Attalus was called for loudly by the people, because he was a person of distinction. He entered the contest readily on account of a good conscience and his genuine practice in Christian discipline, and as he had always been a witness for the truth among us.
- He was led around the amphitheater, a tablet being carried before him on which was written in the Roman language ‘This is Attalus the Christian,’ and the people were filled with indignation against him. But when the governor learned that he was a Roman, he commanded him to be taken back with the rest of those who were in prison concerning whom he had written to Cæsar, and whose answer he was awaiting.
- “But the intervening time was not wasted nor fruitless to them; for by their patience the measureless compassion of Christ was manifested. For through their continued life the dead were made alive, and the witnesses showed favor to those who had failed to witness. And the virgin mother had much joy in receiving alive those whom she had brought forth as dead.
- For through their influence many who had denied were restored, and re-begotten, and rekindled with life, and learned to confess. And being made alive and strengthened, they went to the judgment seat to be again interrogated by the governor; God, who desires not the death of the sinner, but mercifully invites to repentance, treating them with kindness.
- For Cæsar commanded that they should be put to death, but that any who might deny should be set free.
After reading a short portion of what early believers endured, it makes the myth that believers in the end times will not suffer tribulation less believable. In order to endure that sort of torture for their faith, they had to have more than a mediocre experience with Yahweh. They too, must have found the scroll.
Featured image taken by Emma Vail in New Brunswick, Canada.
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