by Jaclyn Miller


 Did you know hundreds of thousands of people have been murdered for their faith in the God of the Bible?  These peaceable people had two main ties that bound them together: their belief that Jesus Christ came to save the world from sin and that the Bible is God’s Word and sole authority in their lives.  Many generations of religions and/or governments attacked, tortured, molested, and slaughtered these people simply because they held to the Bible.  From as early as the Jews of Jesus day, to the Roman Catholic Church during the Dark Ages, to the Protestant Reformers in Europe and even in the American colonies, to today, there has been unending persecution of Bible believers throughout the world.  Most people understand the Inquisition to be the height of religious persecution that occurred for only a few hundred years in Europe, but, in fact, religious persecution has continued for two millennia across the borders of many countries including the American colonies.

In America and most other free countries today, we take our religious freedoms for granted; to the point, we have all but forgotten why we wanted those freedoms.  Society calls out cries out for tolerance of everyone’s beliefs because, they claim, we all serve the “same God”.  Particularly, many of the churches that separated from the Roman Catholic Church during of the Reformation have begun talking with the Roman Catholic Church about becoming one church again.  Dr. David Cloud, founder of Way of Life Literature website (, wrote, “The lie that Catholicism is becoming more evangelical, more biblical, and more spiritual…is being used to encourage ecumenical relationships between Catholics and Protestants” (290).  Ever since the Roman Catholic Church lost the great power she had before the Reformation, Rome has been seeking to regain her glory years again.  Lutherans, Presbyterians, Anglicans, and etc. today do not fully understand why they separated in the first place.  If the churches that came out of the Reformation do not remember the history of the persecutions and vicious Inquisition against themselves, do Bible-believers even recall the persecutions they have endured for so long from the Jews, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Protestant Reformers?

To begin with, Religious persecution against Christians started with Jesus Christ Himself  being persecuted.  The Jews were looking for their Messiah to save them from the rule of the Romans, but when Jesus died, as He said, to save them from their sins instead. The Jews rejected Jesus and His followers as a result.  Dr. Phil Stringer, who is an author and active Bible conference speaker, says “The leaders of the Jewish Sanhedrin began the first persecution of Christians” (49).  Harold Chadwick, Editorial Director of Bridge-Logos Publishers, wrote in the updated version of “Foxe’s Book of Martyrs” that because He claimed to be the Son of God, “The first to suffer for the Church was Jesus Himself—not a martyr, of course, but the inspiration and source of all martyrdom” (4).  Because Christ was willing to suffer and die as He did on the cross, His disciples believed that He taught the truth and followed Him, even unto death.  Peter, one of the more famous disciples, “requested that he be crucified in an upside down position because he did not consider himself worthy to be crucified in the same manner as his Lord” (Chadwick 7).  “[Paul] was taken to the execution block and beheaded.” (Chadwick 8).  All but one of the twelve Disciples of Christ died violent deaths along with many other followers of Christ.   These men, guilty only of preaching in the name of Christ, were murdered by the Jews, who did not want to hear the truth.

In 70 A.D., the Roman Army under the leadership of Titus sacked Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple, but Christians were still persecuted, now by the Romans.  Contrary to popular belief today, Constantine, who came to power in 306 A.D., was not a Christian in the same way as the Bible teaches a Christian ought to be.  “Like many during his time, Constantine’s life and conduct were a mixture of Christianity and paganism.”(Chadwick 42).  Romans of Constantine’s day just added the God of the Bible to their other gods, instead of making the God of the Bible his sole authority.  This Christianity resembled that of the RCC, not of the Bible.  Constantine created the union between “church” and state though it still took some two hundred years for the RCC to gain its full power.  Additionally, Constantine approved the famous Edict of Milan, supposedly giving Christians the freedom to live out their faith.  In Chadwick’s book, he writes “During the thousand years of general peace Christians still suffered martyrdom for their faith in Christ” (46).  Despite the edict, true Bible-believers still suffered for their faith because the edict only approved the Roman Catholic version of Christianity.  However, the more they were persecuted, the more the Bible-believers spread the gospel around the world.

As the Roman Catholic Church gained greater power over the people’s lives, she tightened her grip not only on the populace but also on the governments of that day.  The reign of the Roman Catholic Church across Europe was the second worst time of persecution for the Bible-believers because the Roman Catholic Church refused to allow the people to read the Bible in the vulgar (common) language (Cloud 61).  Yet, the people thirsted for the truth that can only be found in the Scriptures.  J. M. Cramp, college professor and college president in the 1800s, wrote that because the populace was “Shocked at the frauds and crimes which were daily perpetrated, they panted for something better than Rome proffered [offered].  The Gospel of Christ, as preached by the persecuted sects, satisfied their souls” (Cramp 87)  The Popes hated anyone who opposed their authority, but most of all those who insisted the Bible was the only authority by which a man should live.  “Cursing was first thought of, because it was easy, and the Church was expert at it…they said ‘all manner of evil against them falsely,’ hurled anathemas [permanent condemnation] at their heads, and called upon the people to ‘hate them with a perfect hatred’” (Cramp 88).  During this time, the Popes began issuing Papal bulls to threaten Christians with eternal separation from God.  When this was not enough, the Popes gathered armies to go on crusades by promising to those who served in them salvation from their sins.  “The human bloodhounds were at work in all directions” (Cramp 90).  These armies would either wipe out whole towns, as in the case of the town of Beziers, France.  Contingents would harass families; they did not always care that there might be Roman Catholics among those they slaughtered.  Male or female from the infant to the elderly, all were mistreated in the most horrific manner.  John T. Christian, professor of history in the Baptist Bible Institute, wrote “Mary [Bloody Mary] sought to burn all who were opposed to Romanism, Baptists and Reformers alike” (A History of the Baptists Volume 1 203)  It was not uncommon for these believers, while they were yet alive, to have their limbs cut off, stabbed many times, roasted in a fire like a pig, raped, have private parts cut off, their entrails torn out, and then be paraded around the town.  Oftentimes, the great crime that warranted such treatment was reciting Scripture in their mother tongue or denying that infant baptism had saving merit.  “Only when Rome lacked the power to accomplish its true intention did she countenance the distribution of the Bible in the vernacular languages, and even then she attempted to control such distribution and to force the people to read only those Bibles that contain Catholic notes approved by its hierarchy” (Cloud 44).  As the Roman Catholic Church began to lose power during the Reformation, it changed tactics.  Rome is now significantly destroying the foundation from which the Scriptures were translated. 

There is a common misconception that the Reformation finally brought peace among religions; however, true Christians continued in the “suffering, inflicted, not only by the Papists…but by their fellow-Protestants.  The Episcopalians and Presbyterians of England, the Lutherans of Germany, and the reformed in Switzerland…agreed in persecuting the Baptists” (Cramp 232).  The Reformers fought long and hard to gain their own religious freedom, but then turned around and persecuted those same Bible-Believers that Rome had.  Reformers treated these people no better than the Roman Catholic Church.  “Swiss Presbyterians had won freedom for themselves, but they were determined not to grant it to others” (Cramp 239).  “[John Calvin] was responsible in a large measure for the demon of hate and fierce hostility which the Baptists of England had to encounter” (Christian, A History of the Baptists Volume 1 198).  The leaders of these infant religions were just as harsh as Rome.  Protestants took away believer’s property, banished naked persons to the wilderness, and many other horrific punishments, just like Rome.  While popes issued papal bulls of condemnation of Bible-Believers, Protestant rulers issued laws against them.  “These warrants are substantially alike… word for word. Mary, the Papist, dooming to death the Protestant, and Elizabeth, the Protestant, ordering the execution of the Baptist” (Cramp 245).  Baptists had no relief from their persecutions during or after the Reformation.  There was no peace anywhere they moved in Europe; for if Rome was not attacking them, Reformists were.

This harassment continued even on the North American continent.  History books cast the colonies as a place of religious bliss from the start.   However, “As the Puritans settled around the Pilgrims, they brought their ideas of a state church with them, and they soon began to harass the Baptists and other non-conformists” (Stringer 184).  Religious freedom was a major reason for the emigration to America, yet leaving Europe and starting over completely was not enough.  Protestants wanted freedom for themselves, but not for others.  “Most colonial governments treated Baptists with hostility or outright persecution” (Stringer 187).  Though it is touted as representative of all the colonies at the time, Providence, Rhode Island was an anomaly of religious liberty among the colonies.  Even as late as “1768, three Baptists were arrested for witnessing in Virginia, and they continued to preach through the window of the Culpepper County jail” (Stringer 188).  These three were eventually let go, but others were whipped viciously or banished to the wilderness for similar acts of faith.  Part of a law passed in Massachusetts against Baptists reads, “It is ordered and agreed, that if any person or persons… shall either openly [condemn] or oppose the baptizing of infants…every such person or persons shall be sentenced to banishment” (qtd. in Christian, A History of the Baptists volume 2 54).  It was not until after the colonies won the War for Independence that Baptists finally had relief from their persecutions, but even then, it was only in the United States of America.

In the United States of America, we live a life bathed in freedom.  We have forgotten the price that was paid for this freedom and the lack of freedom that other countries suffer.  “During this century alone, more Christians have been killed for their faith than in all previous centuries combined” (Chadwick 323).  This persecution has only worsened in the last one hundred years.  The media does not report on these controversially religious massacres occurring around the world.  “Communists persecuted Christians, destroyed their churches, imprisoned them, tortured them, and killed them.  During the height of Communism worldwide, an average of 330,000 Christians were killed every year” (Chadwick 326).  This is just in the last 40 years.  While the USSR has been dissolved, there are still other Communist countries persecuting more than 150,000 Christians a year.  In China in 1990, Mother and daughter were imprisoned for the mother’s beliefs (Chadwick 348-349).  China does not want the people to have freedom to worship God as they believe He ought to be worshipped.  Over the last year, China has been clamping down harder on its people by not allowing them free reign of the internet.  Additionally, Islamic countries do not want any other religion but that of Islam.  Muslims have even burned their own Koran and blamed it on the Christians falsely (Chadwick 365).  There is still widespread persecution of Bible-Believers around the world today.  Even in America, Christians are told to be tolerant of others’ beliefs, to be non-judgmental, which is contrary to what the Bible teaches.  While we don’t have the physical persecution like that of other countries, we still are looked down upon for our beliefs.  We, American Christians, face the least amount of persecution, but are the most afraid to stand up for the Bible because we might offend someone else.

Bible-believing Christians have continuously been persecuted from the time of Christ until the present.  The Jews were the first to reject the Disciples and other Christians.  While Constantine is considered the first Christian to rule Rome, he also discriminated against the Bible-believers; furthermore, he started the “state-church” of the Roman Catholic Church.  When Rome held sway over all Europe, she viciously attacked anyone who opposed her.  Once the Protestant Reformers gained their own freedom, they began to persecute Bible-Believers just as much as the RCC even in the colonies of the New World.  Religious liberty did not exist for Baptists until the United States had gained its independence, but even then, this freedom is found only in certain countries.  Many have heard of the Inquisition, but have not been told about any of the other intense persecutions that have happened for the last two-thousand years.  As time rolls on, the story of the discrimination of Bible-Believers is lost in the past.  These important, yet often neglected, accounts must be taught lest history repeats itself, and in ten years, the Roman Catholic Church regain her glory years, once again leaving no safe haven for those that oppose her.

 Works Cited

Chadwick, Harold J. The New Foxe's Book of Martyrs. North Brunswick: Bridge-Logos Publishers, 1997. Print.

Christian, John T. A History of the Baptists Volume 1. Texarkana: Bogard Press, 1922. Print.

—. A History of the Baptists Volume 2. Texarkana: Bogard Press, 1926. Print.

Cloud, David. Rome and The Bible. Port Huron: Way of Life Literature, 2009. Print.

Cramp, J. M. Baptist History: From the Foundation of the Christian Church to the Present Time. London: Baptist Heritage Publications, 1987. Print.

Stringer, Phil. The Faithful Baptist Witness. Chicago: Lightning Source, Inc., 2011. Print.


David L. Brown, Ph.D.

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