Saturday, December 27, 2008

Swear by the Genius of Ceaser

The original article can be found at Solomon's Portico

The Cave of Letters, located near the Dead Sea, was the last refuge of Bar-Kochba and his followers. Within the cave were found numerous artifacts and scrolls.

more info

Some of these scrolls belonged to a woman named Babtha, a Jewish widow who lived in Nabatea.

Of interest to us is one of the scrolls found, a legal document showing possession of property that was certified by a Roman court. At the end of the document are these words...

"I Babtha daughter of Simon, swear by the genius of our lord Caesar that I have in good faith registered as has been written above."

Christians of this time period and later would die by refusing to say the words "I swear by the genius of our lord Caesar". A phrase that to everyone else was in common usage.

There are several examples of magistrates adjuring accused Christians to say these words. Most notably the account of the Scillitan Martyrs that were put to death around 180AD in the region of Numidia, North Africa.

From the account of the Scillitan Martyrs...

Saturninus the proconsul said: We too are religious, and our religion is simple, and we swear by the genius of our lord the Emperor, and pray for his welfare, as ye also ought to do.

Speratus said: If thou wilt peaceably lend me thine ears, I can tell thee the mystery of simplicity.

Saturninus said: I will not lend mine ears to thee, when thou beginnest to speak evil things of our sacred rites; but rather swear thou by the genius of our lord the Emperor.

Speratus said: The empire of this world I know not; but rather I serve that God, whom no man hath seen, nor with these eyes can see. I have committed no theft; but if I have bought anything I pay the tax; because I know my Lord, the King of kings and Emperor of all nations.

Of course these Christians were not slaughtered solely because they refused to swear by Caesar's genius, but it was their allegiance to Christ that brought them before the proconsul and prevented them from saying that phrase.

The Scillitan Martyrs were a group of Christians (probably a church congregation) that were tried and executed for their faith at around 180AD.

The group was from the town of Scillium near Carthage in the Roman province of Africa. (modern day Tunisia)

The document that tells us their story appears to be a legal document to record the proceedings of the trial.

An interesting exchange between the Roman proconsul and the Pastor deals with the letters the Christians had with them. They were Paul's epistles, giving us evidence (in my view) that they were considered scripture.

The exchange goes like this...
Saturninus the proconsul said: What are the things in your chest?

Speratus said: Books and epistles of Paul, a just man.

The text is located here

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