Welcome to Mondays @ Soul Survival. Each week I feature a book that I consider a valuable resource. This week’s selection is Foxe’s Book of Martyrs by by John Foxe, editied by Harold J. Chadwick.
John Foxe was a 16th century English historian best known for writing Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. His book gives a detailed account of Christian martyrs throughout Western history.
His book is about courageous men, women and children who have been tortured and killed because of their confessions of faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. But, even more, it’s a book about God’s amazing grace that enabled them to endure persecutions and often horrible deaths.
Foxe’s Book of Martyrs has been edited and updated many times since John Foxe wrote the first volume in English in 1563 under the title, Acts and Monuments of These Latter and Perillous Dayes, but it became known almost immediately as the Book of Martyrs.
At the time it was written many of the events the author describes were still taking place and it was written more like a reporter would write today. Foxe probably witnessed many of the events or knew people who did. Other stories were sent to him by those who had suffered or knew people who had.
Editor, Harold Chadwick writes:
Without question the book began in Foxe’s mind when he was at Magdalen College at Oxford University, where he held a fellowship for seven years. He had first been sent by his parents to Brasenose College at the University when he was sixteen. During that time Reformation doctrines were strong throughout Oxford and Cambridge Universities, and Foxe was highly influenced by them. He began intensive study of the Scriptures and began to question the doctrines and practices of the Roman church. Before long he was an affirmed Protestant and nothing ever turned him from that path. This so changed his conduct that before long suspicions began to arise about his allegiance to the Church of Rome. Then it was reported that Foxe was taking solitary walks in the evening and could be heard sobbing and pouring out prayers to God. When questioned about this practice, he openly stated his new religious opinions, and was almost immediately expelled from the college as a confirmed heretic.
Sometime later he married Agnes Randell, a fellow believer, and stayed for a time with her parents.
By this means and others, Foxe kept himself concealed for some time from the papist inquisitors. This continued from the reign of King Henry VIII, through the open and peaceful days of Edward VI, and into the reign of Queen Mary I, who brought back into England all of the Roman Catholic doctrines and the pope’s power. Knowing then what was to happen, Foxe and his family left England and traveled first to Strasbourg, France, then to Frankfurt, Germany, and then to Basel, Switzerland. There he found a number of English refugees who had fled England to avoid the cruelty of the persecutors, and there began work on his now famous book.
Foxe’s history of the martyrs starts with the first century martyrs, including Jesus Himself and Stephen who was martyred about 8 years after the crucifixion. Continue reading