Comments on Foxe's Book of Martyrs

gildas's picture

Foxe's aim is to restore Gospel truth and true history

In the first volume, Foxe made a careful historical denunciation of a thousand years of disinformation by an imperialistic, corrupting cult. Foxe studied and cited the oldest sources. He adduces the Roman church was ‘not apostolical’ and ‘turned truth into heresy’.

His study included earliest Celtic Christianity in Britain, which has a strong apostolic tradition, supported by scores of independent church fathers in Greece, Israel-Palestine, N Africa, and native British historians.

He says that ‘Religion remained in Britain uncorrupt, and the word of Christ truly preached, till about the coming of Augustine and of his companions from Rome’.

When in the 590s pope Gregory, the richest man and slave-owner in Europe, sent Augustine on a neo-imperialistic mission trying to impose his archbishopric on Britons and especially the Anglo-Saxons, it was to help Gregory seize Western Europe from his own sovereign, the emperor at Constantinople. Furthermore, Saxons had slavery, the British did not.

A century later, Bede wrote up a partial, Rome-view history. He carefully expunged facts about the Celtic British with their long tradition of Christianity. Various facts however slip through the account. Bede admits that Augustine ‘that man of God’ was instrumental in fraud, warfare and slaughter of 1200 fasting, defenceless Celtic Christian scholars of Bangor near Chester, one of the many colleges (p103 Penguin edition). British bishops opposing the Romans were very learned in the Bible in the original languages (Gregory knew neither Greek nor Hebrew); they used the Hebrew calendar of festivals; Celtic preachers were humble and voluntarily poor. The Church was non-hierarchical. Roman rites were mixed with imperial pagan cults. British Christians treated the Roman Catholic mission as corrupt heathens and refused to eat in the same house (p138).

The Romans convinced the Anglo-Saxon king, weak in logic and Scriptures, of the falsehood that Peter had some sort of primacy, and that the Church began and operated from Rome, not Jerusalem (p192). The Romans said that Peter passed the ‘primacy’ to some obscure, local, gentile peasant-bishop as unique, all-powerful ‘pope’. In this absurdity, Peter acting unilaterally delegitimised all other claims and decommissioned Christ’s still active apostles, evangelists and disciples such as John or James, the brother of Jesus, hundreds of whom had also seen his resurrection or been healed.

With that kind of irrationality at its ideological core, Rome required thought control on a massive scale. It is these matters that Foxe denounces.

The papal Roman authorities continued to publish a stream of forgeries such as the Donation of Constantine. (Foxe denounced this ‘forged and untrue constitution’ and many others. Young called it ‘the most gigantic fraud the world has ever seen’). It aimed to bring all of Europe’s emperors, kings and people under tonsured Roman control. Rome eventually owned vast tracts of Europe, controlled information, banned Bibles, and ignorant, simonistic priests crushed persisting opponents.

Compare this with the minor attempts at universal history by Communists or Nazis that lasted only a decade or a few at most. Hitler loved this idea of the often repeated big lie. The Nazis and Goebbels had a few years; Rome had a millennium. The other principle Goebbels used was never to admit an error. The core falsehood of the primacy of Peter is still repeated.

What do you do if a major institution whether a State or a Church continues to propagate false information? You resist. What if that institution does not allow free speech and free conscience? What if it uses all powers of torture and its logic to no avail on truth seekers? The strength of that individual resistance is an indicator as to how much that person is assured of the truth.

Foxe wanted an impartial project tracing truth, reason and belief to restore history, as well as moral kingship and statecraft. He therefore cites people who withstood torture and death. That resurgence of faith and truth is paralleled with the moral and material rise of Britain. Two key elements are the Bible and historical truth.