carpus and papylus, agathonice

Carpus and Papylus

In the second century after Christ, Carpus and Papylus were brought before a governor in Rome and charged with the “crime” of being Christian. The governor of the district had discovered that Carpus and Papylus did not celebrate the pagan festivals. The governor ordered the two men to be arrested and commanded them to accept the Roman pagan religion. The men replied that they would never worship false gods.

Carpus, who was a leader in the church, said,

I am a Christian. I honor Christ, the Son of God, who has come in the latter times to save us and has delivered us from the madness of the devil. I will not sacrifice to these devils.”

Not even torture could persuade him to change his mind. He simply kept repeating,

I am a Christian and because of my faith and the name of our Lord Jesus Christ I cannot become one of you.”

Then the governor turned to the other. Papylus was a wealthy man with many children. Papylus said,

I have served God since my youth, I have never sacrificed to idols. I am a Christian. You cannot learn anything else from me. There is nothing I can say which is greater or more wonderful than this.” 

Both Carpus and Papylus were martyred; tradition holds that they were burned alive.

Seeing the witness of Carpus and Paylus, a woman named Agathonice came forward. She confessed that she too was a Christian. She then said to the governor,

If I am worthy, I desire to follow in the footsteps of my teachers.”

She was then sentenced to the same death as Carpus and Papylus. While she was led to the place of execution, she removed her clothes and gave them to the poor. When the crowd saw how beautiful she was, they all grieved. As she was hung over the fire, she cried out, “Lord Jesus Christ, help me because I am enduring this for your sake.”

Carpus, Papylus, and Agathonice never committed an actual crime. Furthermore, it was common knowledge that Christians at the time espoused love and peace, served the common good of society and prayed for the emperor. Christians demonstrated that they were good citizens of the empire. These three died because they stood on the Truth in question. They were convinced that Jesus alone was the only way of reconciliation between God the Creator and His creation. The exclusive Lordship of Jesus challenged all other ultimate claims on their lives – wealth, status, power, and Rome itself. They believed that Jesus tolerates no rivals. When forced to choose between worshipping Jesus AND the emperor or worshipping ONLY Jesus, they pledged their allegiance only to Jesus.

The church through the centuries has stood on the shoulders of a “cloud of witnesses” of men and women like Carpus, Papylus, and Agathonice who could foresee a future beyond their own lives.

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