Is Foxe’s book called Foxe’s Book of Martyrs historically and biblically accurate? I was interested in purchasing it, and wanted to know what you thought about it.


Foxe’s book of martyrs is mostly accurate, but it is extremely biased against the Catholic Church.  The coverage of them martyrdoms in the early Church is generally good.  It can serve as a great inspiration to see the early Christians standing up to withering persecution by the Roman empire.  However, if you take a fair look at Church history, you will find that this book was written more as a polemic against Catholicism than as an accurate story of the martyrdoms experienced by Christians at the hands of her enemies.  What this book does not report is the sad story of Protestants using their faith as an excuse to kill Catholics, and more significantly, the Anabaptists in the sixteenth century.  Foxe describes the brutal oppression of th early Protestants in England, but fails to mention the murders and executions which the Anglicans committed against the Catholics once they took power in England.  In fairness to the Anglican leaders, Roman Catholics plotted incessantly to restore Catholic power in England throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. For national security reasons some of the mistreatment of the Catholic elite may have been justifiable, but this does not excuse the unchristian behavior and the oppression of the common believers who wanted to submit to Rome.  Also, Protestant England jailed and killed many Purintans and other dissenters.  Their treatment of religious dissenters was hardly better than that described of Catholics against Protestants.
Arguably the most blatant omission of Foxe is the treatment by both the Lutherans and the Reformed Zwingliites of the Anabaptists in the sixteenth century.  The Anabaptists were, arguably, the most Christian of all the groups which arose at the time of the Reformation.  They rejected the tie between Church and state, taught baptism of adults upon a confession of faith, preached personal devotion and commitment to Jesus, lived a simple, Christ-like lifestyle and generally gave greater honor to the scriptures than the Lutherans and the followers of Zwingli and Calvin, yet they were viciously persecuted.  Thousands were arrested and killed by both by burning at the stake and drownings at the hands of the Protestants that Foxe is presenting as innocentof such atrocities.  Zwingli himself did not die a martyr.  He died in a battle, fighting as a soldier against his religious rivals.
So, as a study of the courage of early Christians to follow Christ, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, although a bit outdated, is a good source of information and inspiration to believers.  Its coverage of abuses of Protestants at the hands of the Roman Church is generally accurate and can also serve as an inspiration to us as well, but the treatement in this case is unbalanced and is more of a polemic than a fair treatment of Christian-on-Christian persectuion in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
As for being biblically accurate, I do not know what you mean by this part of your question.   I do not know any questions relevant to biblical accuracy of this book.
John Oakes

Comments are closed.