BY these persecutions hetherto in the booke before precedent, thou maiest vnderstande (Christian Reader) how the fury of Satā & rage of men, haue done what they coulde 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
Ex Tertul. cōtra Iudeos.2 The second reason is out of Tertullian, who liuyng neare about, or rather somwhat before the tyme of thys Eleutherius, in hys booke Contra Iudæos, manifestlye importeth the same: where the said Tertulliā testifieng howe the Gospell was dispersed abroade by the sounde of the Apostles, and there reckening vppe the Medes, Persians, Parthians, and dwellers in Mesopotamia, Iewry, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, Egipt, Pamphilia, with manye mo, at length commeth to the coastes of the Moorians, and al the borders of Spaine: with diuers nacions of Fraunce, and ther amongest all other reciteth also the partes of Britayne, whiche the Romanes could neuer attayne to, & importeth 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 him vnknowen: in al which places sayth he, reigneth the name of Christ, which now beginneth to be common. Thys hath Tertullian. Note here, howe among other diuers beleuing nations, he mencioneth also the wildest places of Britayne to be of the same number. And these in hys tyme were christened, who was in þe same Eleutherius tyme, as is aboue sayd. Then, was not Pope Eleutherius, the first whych sent the Christian fayth into thys realme, but the Gospell was here receiued before hys tyme, eyther by Ioseph of Arimathia, as some Chronicles recorde, or by some of the Apostles or of their scholers, which had bene here preaching 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 woordes 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 probation I take the testimonye of Bede, where he affirmeth that in hys tyme, and almost a thousand yeare after Christ, here in Britaine: Easter was kept after the maner of the East church, in the full moone: what day in the weeke so euer it fell on, and not on the sonday, as we do now. Wherby it is to be collected, that the first preachers in this lande, haue come out from the East part of the world, where it was so vsed, rather then from Rome.
Ex Nicephoro. lib. 2. cap. 40.5 Fiftly I maye alledge the woordes of Nicephorus, lib. 2. cap. 40. where he saith, þt Simō Zelotes did spread þe Gospel of Christ to the west Oceane, and 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 þe Scots in hys tyme did celebrate their Easter, not after the Romane manner, but after the Greekes. &c. And as the sayde Britaines were not vnder the Romane order in the time of this Abbot of Cluniake: so neyther were they nor would be, vnder þe Romane Legate, in the time of Gregory: nor would admit any primacie of the Byshop of Rome, to be aboue them.
Ex epist. Eleutherū ad Lucinm.7 For the seuenth argument, moreouer I may make my probation by the playne wordes of Eleutherius, by whose epistle written to king Lucius, we maye vnderstand, þt Lucius had receaued the fayth of Christ in his land, before þe king sent to Eleutherius for the Romain lawes: for so the expresse wordes of the letter doe manifestly purporte, as hereafter followeth to be seene. By al which cōiectures, it may stād probably to be thought, that the Britaines were taught firste by the Grecians of the East church, rather then by the Romanes.
Peraduenture Eleutherius might helpe somethyng, eyther 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 dede the most part of our English stories cō-