BY these persecutions hetherto in the booke before precedēt, thou mayest vnderstand (Christian reader) how the fury of Sathan & rage of men haue done what they could to extinguish the name & religion of Christ.
Foxe's decision to expand the 'second age' of the church, briefly mentioned in the 1563 edition of the martyrology, into a separate, second book in 1570 'contayning the next 300. yeres following' the 'Ten Persecutions of the Church' allowed him much more space to broaden the historical and polemical foundations of his underlying narrative. In this passage, he took the oppotunity to do so, firstly in assembling the 'domestical histories' to confute the proposition that British Christianity owed its origins to Rome. The issue was, as he put it, 'a great controversie in these our popish days'. Foxe's response was both to deny the deduction and to assail the premise. Even if British Christianity owed something to Rome, especially at the time of St Augustine of Canterbury, it 'foloweth not therby, that we must therfore fetch our religion from thence still, as from the chiefe welhead and fountayne of all godlines'. The Christianity which then prevailed in Rome was very different: 'For then, neither was any vniuersal Pope aboue al churches and councils...neither any name or vse of the Masse....Neither any sacrifice propiciatory....Neither were then any images of sayntes departed....Likewise neyther reliques nor peregrinations...'. His attack upon the premise was undertaken with seven documented 'probations'. The nature of Foxe's argument is such that he seems to have been aware that the evidence being adduced here was, if not flimsy, certainly deductive and capable of being construed in different ways.[Back to Top]
The second issue which he was able to confront was the importance of the monarchy in England to his overarching narrative. By emphasising the significance of King Lucius and his conversion, and cataloguing the succession of British kings until the coming of the Saxons, Foxe was beginning, even at this early part of his narrative, to construct one of the important building-blocks for his argument about the dynamic forces that would triumph in the protestant reformation. It was also a moment for an earnest aside on 'what incommoditie commeth by lacke of succession'. With Elizabeth's succession such an unresolved problem, a present danger to the protestant cause in England in 1570 as Foxe saw it, his reminder of how the English 'inwrapped themselues in such miserye and desolation, which yet to this day amongst them remayneth' had long-term consequences, which he did not hesitate to emphasise, and contemporary resonances, which he did not need to insist upon.[Back to Top]
How did Foxe put together his seven 'probations' describing the pre-Augustinian possibilities of the Christian conversion of Britain? His proofs were almost entirely extracted from the Magdeburg Centuries volumes I-III (mainly vol. 2, chs. 2-3). It is interesting to note that a similar list, however, appeared at the beignining of Matthew Parker's De Antiquitate Britanniae (1572). Although both entering the same debate, Foxe and the De Antiquitate differ in certain ways. They both cite Gildas, Tertullian's Adversus Judaeos, Origen's Fourth Homily on Ezechiel, and Nicephorus. The De Antiquitate adds evidence from Julius Caesar whilst Foxe adduces that of Bede, Peter of Cluny and the epistle of Eleutherius to King Lucian (which he prints). Foxe's source for this letter is interesting. It had been printed in William Lambarde, Archaionomia (London: 1568), fol 131. It is possible that Foxe simply reproduced it from that source. However, comparing the two sources leads us to suppose that he had perhaps been given the epistle in manuscript form. It is possible that he had completed the drafting of this book before the publication of Lambarde's book in 1568. This, at least, would explain why Foxe did not cite the Anglo-Saxon law-codes in Book Two from Lambarde, choosing instead to take them directly from Brompton's Chronicle.[Back to Top]
Matthew Phillpott and Mark Greengrass
University of Sheffield
Now because the tyeng vp of Sathan geueth to the Church some rest, & to me some leysure to addresse my selfe, to the handlyng of other storyes: I mynde therfore (Christ wylling) in this present booke, leauyng a while the tractacion of these generall affayres, partainyng to the vniuersall Churche: to prosecute such domestical historyes, as more neare concerne this our countrey of England and Scotlēd, done here at home: begynnyng first with kyng Lucius, with whom the fayth first begā here in this Realme, as the sentence of the some writers doth hold.
MarginaliaThe first planting of Christē fayth in England.
Question. And for somuch here may ryse, yea and doth ryse, a great cōtrouersie in these our Popish dayes, concernyng the first origine and plantyng of the fayth in this our Realme: it shalt not be greatly out of our purpose, somewhat to stay and say of this question, whether the Church of England first receiued the fayth from Rome or not. The which, although I graunt so to be, yet beyng so graunted, it litle auayleth the purpose of them whiche would so haue it: MarginaliaWhether Christiā Religion in this Realme came firste from Rome. for be it so, that England first receaued the Christian fayth and Religion from Rome, both in the tyme of Eleutherius their Byshop. Clxxx. yeares after Christ: and also in the tyme of Austen, whom Gregory sent hether. DC. yeares after Christ. Yet their purpose foloweth not therby, that we must therfore fetch our Religiō frō thence still, as from the chief welhead and fountayne of all godlynes. MarginaliaAunswere.
Gildas. And yet as they are not able to proue the second, so neither haue I any cause to graunt the first: that is, that our Christiā fayth was first deriued from Rome, which I may proue by. vj. or vij. good coniecturall reasons. Whereof, the first I take of the testimony of Gildas, our countreymā, who in his history affirmeth plainely, that Britayne receaued the Gospell in the tyme of Tiberius the Emperour, vnder whom Christ suffered. Lib. De victoria, Aurelij Ambrosij. And sayth moreouer, Ioseph of Arimathie after the dispersiō of the Iewes, was sent of Philip þe Apostle from Fraunce to Britayne, about the yeare of our Lord. 63. and here remayned in this land all hys tyme: and so with his fellowes, layd the first foundation of Christian fayth among the Britayne people. Wherupon other preachers & teachers commyng afterward confirmed the same, and encreased it.
Ex Tertul. contra Iudeos. 2. The secōd reason is out of Tertullian, who liuyng neare about, or rather somwhat before the tyme of this Eleutherius, in hys booke Contra Iudæos, manifestly importeth the same: where the sayd Tertullian testifieng how the Gospell was dispersed abroad by the sounde of the Apostles, & there reckenyng vp the Medes, Persians, Parthiās, and dwellers in Mesopotamia, Iewry, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrigia, Egypt, Pamphilia, with many moe, at length cō meth to the coastes of the Moorians, and all the borders of Spayne: with diuers nations of Fraunce, & there amongst all other reciteth also the partes of Britayne, whiche the Romaines could neuer attayne to, and reporteth the same now to be subiect to Christ, as also reckeneth vp the places of Sarmatia, of the Danes, the Germanes, the Scithians, with many other prouinces and Iles to hym vnknowen: in all whiche places, sayth he, raigneth the name of Christ, which now begynneth to be common. This hath Tertulliā. Note here, how among other diuers beleuyng nations, he mentioneth also the wildest places of Britayne to be of the same number. And these in hys tyme were Christened, who was in the same Eleutherius tyme, as is aboue sayd. Then, was not Pope Eleutherius, the first whiche sent the Christian fayth into this Realme, but the Gospell was here receiued before his tyme, either by Ioseph of Arimathia, as some Chronicles recorde, or by some of the Apostles or of their scholers, which had bene here preachyng Christ, before Eleutherius wrote to Lucius.
Ex Origene hom. 4. in Ezechi. 3. My thyrd probation I deduct our of Origen. Home. 4. in Ezechielem, whose wordes be these: Britanniam in Christianam consentire religionem.
Britanniam in Christianam consentire religionem.
John Wade, University of Sheffield
Britain to agree to the Christian religion
Ex Beda. 4. For my fourth probatiō I take the testimony of Bede, where he affirmeth that in hys tyme, and almost a thousand yeare after Christ, here in Britayne: Easter was kept after þe maner of the East Church, in the full moone: what day in the Weeke soeuer it fell on, & not on the Sonday, as we do now. Wherby it is to be collected, that the first preachers in this land, haue come out frō the East part of the world, where it was so vsed, rather then from Rome.
Ex Nicephoro. lib. 2. cap. 40. 5. Fiftly I may alledge the wordes of Nicephorus, Lib. 2. cap. 40. where he sayth, that Symon Zelotes dyd spread the Gospel of Christ to the West Oceane, & brought the same vnto the Iles of Britayne.
Ex Pet. Cluniacensi ad Bernardum. 6. Sixtly may be added here also the wordes of Petrus Cluniacensis, who wryting to Bernard, affirmeth that the Scottes in hys tyme dyd celebrate their Easter, not after the Romane maner, but after the Greekes. &c. And as the sayd Britaynes were not vnder the Romane order in the tyme of this Abbot of Cluniake: so neither were they nor would be, vnder the Romane Legate, in the tyme of Gregory: nor would admit any primacie of the byshop of Rome, to be aboue them.
Ex epist. Eleutherū ad Lucinum. 7. For the seuenth argument, moreouer I may make my probation by the playne wordes of Eleutherius, by whose Epistle written to kyng Lucius, we may vnderstand, that Lucius had receaued the fayth of Christ in his land, before þe king sent to Eleutherius for þe Romane lawes: for so the expresse wordes of the letter do manifestly purporte, as hereafter followeth to be seene. By al which cōiectures, it may stand probably to be thought, that the Britaynes, were taught first by the Grecians of the East Churche, rather then by the Romanes.
Peraduenture Eleutherius might helpe somethyng, either to conuert the kyng, or els to encrease the fayth then newly sprong among the people: but that he precisely was the first, that cannot be proued. But graunt he were, as in deede the most part of our English storyes confesse, neither will I greatly sticke with them therin: yet what haue they got thereby, when they haue cast all their gayne? In few wordes to conclude this matter, if so be that the Christian fayth and Religion was first deriued from Rome to this our nation by Eleutherius, then let them but graunt to vs the same fayth and Religion, which then was taught at Rome: and from thence deriued hether by the sayd Eleutherius, and we will desire no more. For then neither was any vniuersall Pope aboue al Churches and Councels, whiche came not in before Pope Bonifacius tyme, whiche was 400. yeares after: neither any name or vse of þe masse, the partes wherof how and by whom they were compiled, here after in this booke followyng appeareth to be seene. Neither any sacrifice propiciatory for the scouring of Purgatory was then offered vpō halowed altars, but onely the communion frequented at Christian tables: where oblatiōs & giftes were offered, as wel of the people, as of the Priests to God: because they should appeare neither empty nor vnkynde before the Lord, as we may vnderstand by the tyme of Cyprian. Neither was then any transubstātiation heard of, which was not brought in before a thousand yeare after. Neither were thē any images of Saintes departed, set vp in churches, yea a great nūber of the Saints worshypped in this our tyme, were not as yet borne, nor the Churches wherin they were worshypped, were yet set vp: but came in long after, especially in the tyme of Irene and Con-[Back to Top]