Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume V/Cyprian/The Treatises of Cyprian/Exhortation to Martyrdom/Part 6

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5. That God is so angry against idolatry, that He has even enjoined those to be slain who persuade others to sacrifice and serve idols.

In Deuteronomy: “But if thy brother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or thy wife which is in thy bosom, or thy friend which is the fellow of thine own soul, should ask thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, the gods of the nations, thou shalt not consent unto him, and thou shalt not hearken unto him, neither shall thine eye spare him, neither shalt thou conceal him, declaring thou shalt declare concerning him. Thine hand shall be upon him first of all to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people; and they shall stone him, and he shall die, because he hath sought to turn thee away from the Lord thy God.”[1] And again the Lord speaks, and says, that neither must a city be spared, even though the whole city should consent to idolatry: “Or if thou shalt hear in one of the cities which the Lord thy God shall give thee, to dwell there, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known,[2] slaying thou shalt kill all who are in the city with the slaughter of the sword, and burn the city with fire, and it shall be without habitation for ever. Moreover, it shall no more be rebuilt, that the Lord may be turned from the indignation of His anger. And He will show thee mercy, and He will pity thee, and will multiply thee, if thou wilt hear the voice of the Lord thy God, and wilt observe His precepts.”[3] Remembering which precept and its force, Mattathias slew him who had approached the altar to sacrifice. But if before the coming of Christ these precepts concerning the worship of God and the despising of idols were observed, how much more should they be regarded since Christ’s advent; since He, when He came, not only exhorted us with words, but with deeds also, but after all wrongs and contumelies, suffered also, and was crucified, that He might teach us to suffer and to die by His example, that there might be no excuse for a man not to suffer for Him,[4] since He suffered for us; and that since He suffered for the sins of others, much rather ought each to suffer for his own sins. And therefore in the Gospel He threatens, and says: “Whosoever shall confess me before men, him will I also confess before my Father which is in heaven; but whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.”[5] The Apostle Paul also says: “For if we die with Him, we shall also live with Him; if we suffer, we shall also reign with Him; if we deny Him, He also will deny us.”[6] John too: “Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father; he that acknowledgeth the Son, hath both the Son and the Father.”[7] Whence the Lord exhorts and strengthens us to contempt of death, saying: “Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear Him which is able to kill soul and body in Gehenna.”[8] And again: “He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he who hateth his life in this world, shall keep it unto life eternal.”[9]


  1. Deut. xiii. 6–10.
  2. The Oxford edition inserts here, “Thou shalt inquire diligently; and if thou shalt find that that is certain which is said.”
  3. Deut. xiii. 12–18.
  4. Or, “for a man who does not suffer.”
  5. Matt. x. 32, 33.
  6. 2 Tim. ii. 11, 12.
  7. 1 John ii. 23.
  8. Matt. x. 28.
  9. John xii. 25.