Reading N°10 in the History of the Catholic Church
Fr. Fernand Mourret, S.S.
While Saul was undergoing his conversion at Damascus, the authorities at Jerusalem continued to plan new measures against the disciples of Christ. Up till then, the chief priests had always stopped short of capital punishment. We may well suppose that fear of the people had much to do with this restraint. It also seems that the procurator, Pontius Pilate, after his lamentable surrender in the matter of Christ's death sentence, showed himself less inclined to make new concessions to the religious authorities of Jerusalem. But the events of the years 36 and 37 allowed the enemies of the Christian name to push their boldness farther.
|The Pilate Inscription - the only known inscription bearing|
the name of Pontius Pilate, found in Caeserea.
Upon the evidence of an impostor, who claimed that he knew and could point out the place where Moses had buried certain precious vessels, a large number of Samaritans met together on Mount Garizim. Pilate looked upon this noisy gathering as the beginning of a revolt and had the unfortunate crowd pitilessly massacred. In this instance it would seem that the Roman governor, yielding to the promptings of his restless and somber temperament, had exceeded the bounds of a just repression. Because of his disinclination to help the chief priests in their strifes, the latter took advantage of the occasion to denounce him to the legate of Syria, Lucius Vitellius. This man, whose son, of the same name, later occupied the imperial throne, appears in history as the type of a common upstart. Just then, he was trying by every means to win the favor of the people whom he governed. Josephus relates that one of his first measures was to return to the Jews the priestly vestments which had been kept in the Antonia tower ever since Herod the Great. Vitellius cordially received the protests of the Jewish authorities and sent Pilate to Rome. He was banished to Vienne in Gaul. If we are to accept Eusebius' statement, Pilate, whose life had been a strangely tormented existence ever since the condemnation of Christ, committed suicide there. Meanwhile the death of Tiberius (March 16, A. D. 37) and the succession of Caligula did but encourage the criminal projects of the Jews. The policy of the new emperor, before madness deranged his mind, was to give the peoples of the East their autonomy and native rulers. A friend and companion of his debauches was Agrippa, the brother of Herodias. In Pilate's place, Vitellius put his friend Marcellus, who was agreed to his policy.
|Coin from the reign of Herod Agrippa I|
|The Martyrdom of Saint James the Greater|
Juan Fernández Navarrete (1526-1579)
Amidst the Paschal festivities of the year 42, the Jerusalemites and pilgrims who had come to Jerusalem from other places to celebrate the great Jewish solemnity suddenly learned that Peter, the chief of the Twelve, had been placed under arrest. Agrippa had carefully calculated the circumstances of this clever stroke, through which he displayed his zeal for the religion of his subjects, while at the same time he gratified his personal hatred.
|The Liberation of Saint Peter|
Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1617-1682)
|The Martyrdom of Saint James the Younger|
Pedro Orrente (1580-1644)
 The slaying of Stephen has been regarded as the result of a spontaneous outbreak. It was not officially approved, nor was it carried out by the Jewish and Roman authorities.
 Josephus, Antiquities, XV, xi, 4; XVIII, iv, 2.
 Eusebius, II, vii.
 Josephus, Antiquities, XVIII, v, 3; Suetonius, Caligula, 16.
 Josephus, XXX, vi, 3.
 Abdias (Historia certaminis apostolici) says: "Cervicem spiculatori porrexit."
 On St. James, son of Zebedee, usually called James the Greater, see Ermoni, "Les Eglises de Palestine aux deux pretniers siècles" in the Revue d'histoire ecclés., January 18, 1901.
 The reasons for adopting this date are set forth in Fouard, St. Peter and the First Years of Christianity, pp. 406 ff.
 Acts 12:5.
 Acts 12:1-19.
 Eusebius (V, xviii, 14) states that the Apostles stayed in Jerusalem for twelve years after the Ascension. Clement of Alexandria (Stromata, VI) testifies to the same tradition. In the corrected chronology, the Ascension is generally placed in the year 30.
 Eusebius, II, i and xxiii; III, v; IV, v; VII, xix. Cf. St. Jerome, De viris illustribus, chap. 2 (P. L., XXIII, 639).
 Eusebius, II, xxiii.
 Acts 21:20.
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