King Herod ‘the Great’, Sulla, and Antiochus IV ‘Epiphanes’
Add to the mix Gaius Aurelius Valerius Diocletianus
Damien F. Mackey
“Diocletian’s goal was to wipe out the Church. He hunted down Christians
and their Scriptures. He especially loved to get hold of church leaders”.
Christian History for Everyman
The career of Gaius Aurelius Valerius Diocletianus (formerly Diocles) (c. 300 AD, conventional dating), follows a pattern remarkably similar to that of Antiochus IV ‘Epiphanes’ and Herod ‘the Great’. The latter ‘two’ I have identified as one in Part One of this series: https://www.academia.edu/36332492/King_Herod_the_Great_Sulla_and_Antiochus_IV_Epiphanes
and in Part Two:
This pattern can partly be perceived from the following comparison of Antiochus ‘Epiphanes’ and Diocletian, as provided at: https://housetohouse.com/the-indestructible-word-2/
When Antiochus Epiphanes became ruler in Syria in 175 b.c. [sic] he destroyed the Jewish temple, sold the people of Jerusalem into slavery, and sought to do away with their sacred writings, forcing Greek culture upon the Jews. This was all done in an effort to substitute Zeus worship for the worship of God. Frank E. Hirsch in, “Abomination of Desolation,” wrote, “The observance of all Jewish laws, especially those relating to the sabbath and to circumcision, were forbidden under pain of death. The Jewish cult was set aside; in all the cities of Judaea, sacrifices must be brought to the pagan deities. Representatives of the crown everywhere enforced the edict. Once a month the search was instituted, and whoever had secreted a copy of the law or had observed the rite of circumcision was condemned to death.” However, God saw to it that efforts to destroy the sacred writings of the Old Testament failed.
Roman emperor Diocletian decreed death for any person who owned the Bible. After two years he boasted, “I have completely exterminated the Christian writings from the face of the earth.” In fact, he is said to have erected a monument over the ashes of burned Bibles. However, when Constantine came to the throne and desired copies of the Bible, offering a reward to anyone who could deliver one, within twenty-five hours fifty copies of God’s word were offered to the emperor.
Voltaire was a notorious French infidel. In 1778, he boasted that within one hundred years the Bible would be no more. Later, the very press that printed the blasphemous prediction was used to print Bibles, and the house in which he lived was used by the Geneva Bible Society to store Bibles and as a distribution center.
Bob Ingersoll, an American agnostic, once held a Bible up and boasted. “In fifteen years I will have this book in the morgue.” Within fifteen years, Ingersoll was in the morgue; however, the word of God lives on. —Wendell Winkler
Regarding the ‘Great Persecution’ of Diocletian – most reminiscent of that of king Antiochus – we read at: https://www.christian-history.org/diocletian.html
Diocletian and the Great Persecution
I won’t spent a lot of time on the details of Diocletian and his Great Persecution. We have a higher goal than the details.
Roman Coin with Diocletian’s inscription
The Great Persecution, from A.D. 303 to 311, was a time of sudden transition and massive change in the history of Christianity. It’s the change and what caused it that we want to focus on.
To do so, I want to rename the Great Persecution and give you my unique (but historically accurate) perspective.
Let’s call it …
The Great Judo Throw
I took judo for several years as a child. Even though I was very small, I was pretty good at it. In Judo, you don’t have to be stronger than your opponent. Instead, you make your opponent’s strength work for you.
I must have had a good teacher because I remember lots of surprise on the faces of larger kids as they crashed to the ground.
There’s a secret to getting your opponent to help you throw him.
You push really hard. Your opponent automatically pushes back.
When they push, you pull and rotate into a throw. It’s amazing how far their momentum will carry them.
The Push: Diocletian Persecutes the Church
Though it’s popular to believe that Christians were always being persecuted in the Roman empire, it’s not true. Empire-wide persecutions were rare, and the Great Persecution under Diocletian was the only one of any great length, lasting eight years.
The “Great” Persecution?
It is argued that the Great Persecution was hardly great. It was possibly sporadic in the west and occasional in the east. Constantius and Maximian, co-emperors in the west, were not interested in it.
However, there is no doubt about the effects. At least the leaders of the churches were very affected, and many showed up at the Council of Nicea (A.D. 325) bearing scars from the persecution.
It was intense. Diocletian’s goal was to wipe out the Church. He hunted down Christians and their Scriptures. He especially loved to get hold of church leaders.
Note: Diocletian retired in 305 (the only Roman emperor ever to voluntarily retire), and the persection was carried on the east by Galerius. Constantius (then Constantine) and Maximian (then Maxentius) in the west had little interest in the persecution.
He was trying to turn them back to paganism, to the old Roman religion with the emperor as a God. Therefore, anyone he caught and tried could be released by offering a sacrifice to the gods or to the emperor.
They could also gain great favor by turning over copies of the Scriptures to be burned.
In addition, Diocletian destroyed their church buildings. This was something that couldn’t be done earlier, as Christians rarely had devoted meeting places in the 2nd century. It was too easy to see them destroyed or taken over. While empire-wide persecutions were rare, local persecutions at the whim of a governer or prelate were not.
It was a horrible, difficult time for Christians (at least for the leaders). Many Christians fell away, and many others were tortured, thrown in a dungeon, or put to death.
The following piece, by Rev. Adrian Dieleman, appropriately lumps together, as ‘Antichrist’ types, Antiochus, Herod and Diocletian: http://www.trinityurcvisalia.com/OTSer/dan11.html
Antiochus, however, will not be completely successful in his campaign against the “holy covenant.” Daniel reminds and assures us that “the people who know their God will firmly resist him.” Those, in other words, who live for the Lord, who walk with Him, who read His Word, who spend time in prayer, who faithfully attend worship, have the tools they need to fight off the attacks of the evil one. As I said before, those who put on the armor of God will be able to take their stand against him.
Daniel’s message is that God will always preserve for Himself a church; no matter how hard the Antichrist tries, he will never succeed in total destroying the “holy covenant.” Of course, he won’t be the first to discover this. Pharaoh discovered the church can’t be wiped out. Jezebel and Ahab and Herod found that out too.
The emperor Diocletian set up a stone pillar on which was inscribed these words: For Having Exterminated The Name Christian From the Earth. If he could see that monument today, how embarrassed he would be!
Another Roman leader made a coffin, symbolizing his intention “to bury the Galilean” by killing His followers. He soon learned that he could not “put the Master in it”. He finally surrendered his heart to the Savior, realizing that the corporate body of Christ and its living Head, the Lord Jesus, cannot be destroyed.
Like Antiochus Epiphanes, the Antichrist will attack the “holy covenant.” Though his attacks are directed against the church, the real object of his attacks is God. Says Daniel,
(Dan 11:36) “The king will do as he pleases. He will exalt and magnify himself above every god and will say unheard-of things against the God of gods.
He would love to defeat God and sit on God’s throne as King of heaven and earth. But since he cannot do that, he decides instead to establish his throne on earth and pretends that he is God. Daniel says he has no regard for any god, “but will exalt himself above them all” (vs 37).
As for Sulla, who is also an integral part of this series, his name occurs in connection with Diocletian in the following passage: http://www.korcula.net/history/mmarelic/diocletian.htm “Diocletian’s retirement, an act of self-denial, which in its intentions and results, recalled the abdication of Sulla, threw the constitution back into the melting pot. Diocletian’s great palace and his luxurious baths were dedicated in 305-306 A.D [sic]”.
Did Diocletian, too, die the same disgusting, wormy death as did Antiochus ‘Epiphanes’, as did Sulla, as did Herod ‘the Great’, as did Galerius? He was not supposed to have died well: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diocletian#Retirement_and_death “Deep in despair and illness, Diocletian may have committed suicide. He died on 3 December 312”. Yeah, yeah, yeah.