Bible History for the Use of Catholic Schools - R. Gilmour


First Period:
From the Birth of Christ to the Fall of Rome

1.—The Beginning of the Church.

1. Four thousand years before the coming of Christ, Adam was created. With the birth of Christ begins the Christian era. Under the reign of Augustus, Emperor of Rome, Christ was born, and at the age of thirty years began to preach in Jerusalem and Judea.

2. At the end of three years He was seized upon and put to death, but after three days rose again, and for forty days appeared to His apostles and other devout men and women. He then ascended into heaven, and in ten days after the Holy Ghost came upon the apostles, and they began to preach the Gospel.

3. When it was noised abroad through Jerusalem that the Holy Ghost had visibly descended upon the apostles, great multitudes came together, when Peter, rising up, began to preach. The multitude were amazed, for each one heard him and the other apostles speaking in his own tongue: Jews and Gentiles, Medes and Persians, and citizens from Egypt and Arabia. At this first sermon three thousand were converted.

4. To the gift of tongues was also added the gift of miracles. The sick were cured, the lame walked, and the Church grew apace. In a short time Jerusalem was in great commotion. The apostles spread themselves everywhere, passing from town to village, and from country to country.

5. At first Peter confined himself to preaching to the Jews, passing through Judea and Samaria, then into Asia Minor, where for eight years he resided at Antioch. After this he passed over to Rome, where he fixed his see, and for twenty-five years, as Bishop of Rome, governed the whole Church. The Popes, being the successors of Peter, are also called Bishops of Rome, where, with but short interruptions, they have always resided.

2.—The Apostles.

[Illustration] from Bible History for Catholics by R. Gilmour


1. At first the other apostles preached in Jerusalem and in the villages throughout Judea, but soon they also passed to other lands, visiting Arabia and Persia. Everywhere great numbers were converted, churches established, priests and bishops ordained; miracles and the gift of tongues proving the divinity of their mission.

2. The Greater and Lesser James confined themselves to Jerusalem, the latter becoming the bishop thereof. Bartholomew went to Persia, Thomas to India; Philip preached in Phrygia, Andrew in Achaia, whilst Matthew spent himself for the Parthians and Ethiopians. Jude died in Armenia, Simon in Persia; and Matthias, who was chosen to fill the place of Judas, was beheaded at Colchis.

3. For a time John preached in Judea and Samaria, but at length went also to Rome, where he was seized upon and banished to Patmos, an island in the Aegean Sea. Here he was favored with the revelations which he has recorded in the Apocalypse. After the death of Domitian he was released and went to Ephesus, where he wrote his gospel and for many years preached charity to his people. He died at the age of ninety-one years, the last of the apostles and the only one who died a natural death.

4. At first St. Paul was a fiery persecutor of the Church, assisting and consenting to the stoning of St. Stephen, the first martyr. Not content with persecuting the Christians at Jerusalem, he obtained letters from the high priest and went to Damascus, there to persecute the Church. On the way, Jesus appeared to him. Falling from his horse, he was lifted up blind and led into the city, where he was baptized by Ananias, and at once became a most zealous apostle.

5. After he had preached at Damascus, St. Paul went to Galicia and Greece, stopping at Athens and Corinth. From thence he passed into Asia Minor and Judea, and going up to Jerusalem, he met Peter and other apostles, with whom he conferred on matters concerning the future of the Church.

6. Whilst preaching in Judea he was frequently cast into prison, scourged, and his life threatened. After many years he was sent a prisoner to Rome, where he met St. Peter, who had long dwelt there. For two years he was allowed the freedom of the city, preaching openly and converting many.

7. During the persecution of Nero, he was seized upon, and with St. Peter cast into prison, where he remained for nearly nine months. While there, he converted the jailer' and a number of the prisoners. At the prayer of Peter a fountain of water burst forth in the floor of the prison, and they were baptized.

8. In the year 67 they were both condemned to death, and on the 29th of June St. Paul was beheaded on the Ostian way, just outside the walls of Rome; while St. Peter was crucified on Mount Janiculum, within the walls. Both places are yet shown and constantly visited by pious pilgrims. The bodies of these two great saints are buried in Rome,—the one in St. Peter's Church, the other in the Church of St. Paul.

3.—The Spread of Christianity.

[Illustration] from Bible History for Catholics by R. Gilmour


1. The conversion of the world to Christianity is the most wonderful event in history. Conquerors, such as Alexander and Caesar, have subdued nations; after centuries of toil and sacrifice Greece and Rome grew into power; but nothing in history is like to the work of the apostles.

2. Here were twelve uneducated men, without money or influence, from a nation despised, preaching a doctrine hated, yet in the face of every opposition, nay even death, they converted the world. To Jews and Gentiles, Medes and Persians, Greeks and Romans, Arabians and Ethiopians, even to the far distant India was the Gospel preached ere the death of Peter and Paul in the year 67, just thirty-four years after the death of Christ.

3. Not only had the Gospel been thus preached to the whole world, and the Church organized, congregations formed, bishops and priests ordained, but the whole of the Scriptures were written with the exception of the Gospel of St. John, which was written later on, in the year 94.

4. The New Testament is divided into Gospels and Epistles, Acts and Revelations. The Gospels were written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; the Acts of the Apostles, a short view of the establishment of the Christian Church, by St. Luke; the Epistles by Peter and Paul, James, John, and Jude; and the Apocalypse, or Revelations, by St. John. These, with the Old Testament, form the Bible—a sacred code of laws to guide and instruct mankind.

5. The fervor of the first Christians was as remarkable as was their conversion. They had but one heart and one soul. They held their goods in common, each giving what he had for the good of all. Prayer and the breaking of bread was their constant occupation; humility and chastity the virtues that distinguished them; and so kind to each other were they that the pagans in wonder used to cry out, "See how they love one another."

6. Not only did the apostles preach the Gospel and establish the Church, but under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost they determined the forms for the administration of the Sacraments and the celebration of the Mass. Their work was not of man but of God, hence must last forever. As Christ is unchangeable, so are His doctrines unchangeable. Man may change, but God and His works change not.

4.—The Persecutions of the Church—The Jews.

1. With the spread of Christianity rose enmities and hatreds amongst both Jews and Gentiles. As the Jews had persecuted Christ, so they also persecuted His apostles, and were the first to rise up against Christianity. They scourged Peter and John; stoned St. Stephen; cast St. James head-long from the roof of the Temple, and beat out his brains with a fuller's mallet.

2. They also seized upon the Christians wherever they were found, scourged them and threw them into prison; others they banished, some they put to death. The Christians, seeing this, fled, thus spreading the doctrine of Christ and adding to the fold by the virtues they practiced. Wherever the Jews were in power there the followers of Christ suffered.

3. Elsewhere the other apostles were equally maltreated. St. Bartholomew was skinned alive; St. Matthew died in Parthia, Andrew in Achaia; St. Philip was martyred in Phrygia, Thomas in India; St. Jude gave up his life in Armenia; and Simon shed his blood for the conversion of Persia. While at Rome St. John was cast into a caldron of boiling oil, but by a miracle came forth unhurt. Every one of the apostles, St. John alone excepted, as before mentioned, died by violence, giving their lives for their faith.

4. For a time God permitted these persecutions, but in time their punishment came, first on the Jews, then upon the Romans. In the year 69 the Jews revolted against Rome, when Titus, the Roman general, collected an army and besieged Jerusalem, surrounding the city with vast fortifications.

5. Soon famine, then pestilence, set in. The city was torn by factions from within, while the Romans battered down the walls from without. Neither young nor old were spared; Jerusalem was doomed. The prophecy of Christ was about to be fulfilled. Forewarned, the Christians had fled. Within one year, more than one million Jews died from pestilence or were killed by the Romans. The city was taken, the Temple burned, the people sold into slavery, and thus dispersed over the world as we now find them, without country or king. Truly the blood of Christ is upon them.

5.—Roman Persecutions.

[Illustration] from Bible History for Catholics by R. Gilmour


1. During the first three hundred years of the Christian era there were ten general persecutions raised against the Church by the Roman emperors, besides many local persecutions by governors and city magistrates. The first general persecution was raised by Nero (66). He had burned the city of Rome, and seeing the anger of the people, accused the Christians, who in the moment of passion were seized upon, cast into prison, or put to death.

2. Many were exposed to wild beasts, others thrown into the Tiber. Some were beheaded; some were crucified; others rolled up in pitch, and at night burned to light up the public gardens. Old men and tender women, even boys and girls, gave up their lives for Christ.

3. Nine other emperors proclaimed persecutions throughout the empire. Amongst these the persecutions under Domitian (93), Severus (202), Maximin (235), and Diocletian (303), were the most severe. During these three hundred years Rome looked more like a slaughter-house than a place where men might dwell. From every province of the empire Christians were dragged to Rome, to be torn to pieces in the amphitheatre, or burned at the stake for the amusement of the people. This was the age of martyrs.

4. During this period the catacombs were dug, and in them the Christians hid, buried their dead, and held their religious services. In them are found to-day the bodies of the martyrs, with the symbols of faith on their tombs—pictures, altars, chalices, inscriptions, teaching every article of Catholic faith, showing beyond a doubt the identity of the Catholic religion of to-day with the religion of Christians in the first ages of the Church.

5. During these persecutions St. Polycarp was first burned at the stake and finally stabbed to death; St. Ignatius was devoured by lions; Sts. Perpetua and Felicitas were tossed on the horns of a furious heifer, and afterward slain by the sword; St. Agnes was beheaded; St. Lawrence roasted on a gridiron; and St. Cecilia, condemned to be suffocated in the bath, from which she came forth unharmed, met her death by the blows of the executioner. All that human cruelty could devise was tried; but the Christians remained firm, adding daily to their numbers by the virtues of their lives and the constancy of their faith. So widespread and so deeply rooted did Christianity become, that in the year 320 Constantine the Great declared himself a Christian, and persecutions ceased. Christ had triumphed; the world was converted.


[Illustration] from Bible History for Catholics by R. Gilmour


1. With the spread of Christianity rose heresy. In the time of the apostles the Jewish converts sought to unite the ceremonial law of Moses with the new law of Christ. Against this St. Paul preached. At the Council of Jerusalem (51), St. Peter presiding, it was resolved not to impose the observance of the Mosaic law upon the Christian Church.

2. After this came Simon of Samaria, called Magus because he was a magician. When Sts. Peter and John came to Samaria to confirm the faithful who had been baptized by Philip, Simon, seeing the effect of the sacrament, offered to buy what he regarded as a magical power. St. Peter rebuked him and warned him of the wickedness of his conduct. Instead of profiting by the rebuke, Simon became the enemy of the apostles, and began to teach false doctrines. After him came the Ebionites and Cerinthians, who are spoken of by St. John, and against whom he wrote his gospel, to prove the divinity of Christ which they denied.

3. In the second and third centuries rose the Gnostics, who taught that the world was eternal; then the Manicheans, who held that there were two eternal principles, one good, the other bad; also the Sabellians, who denied that there are three persons in God. Against these the principal Christian writers were Irenaeus and Tertullian, Cyprian and Origen.

4. In the year 319 Arius, a priest of Alexandria, attacked the divinity of Christ, teaching that the Son was not equal to the Father. At the Council of Nice (325) he was condemned, and, refusing to retract, was banished. Ten years after (336), returning to Constantinople, he attempted to force himself into the Church, but the hand of God came upon him and he died, his blood gushing out of his mouth and his bowels bursting forth.

5. In the year 417 came Pelagius, who taught many grave errors on the subjects of Grace and Original Sin. Against this latter heresy God raised up the great St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, in Africa, whose writings remain a monument for all ages. Around him are clustered the names of St. Athanasius, who wrote against Arius, and Sts. Jerome, Basil, and Gregory of Nazianzen, who are a tower of strength in the cause of Christianity.

7.—Heresies. (Concluded.)

1. In the year 430 Nestorius, Bishop of Constantinople, began to preach that the Blessed Virgin was not the Mother of God, but only the Mother of Christ, contrary to the true faith that teaches there is but one person in Christ, and that consequently the Blessed Virgin is the Mother of God. Nestorius was condemned at the Council of Ephesus (431); then banished. He died in 439, HIS TONGUE ROTTING IN HIS MOUTH.

2. In combating the errors of Nestorius, Eutyches, a monk of Constantinople, fell into another error. Nestorius had taught there were two persons in Christ: Eutyches taught there was but one nature in Christ, while the true doctrine is that there are two natures in Christ, one human, the other divine. This heresy was condemned, first at the Council of Chalcedon (451), and again at the Council of Constantinople, held in the year 553.

3. The above heresies, together with the later heresy against the Holy Ghost, in which it was taught that the Holy Ghost did not proceed from the Father and the Son, but from the Father only, constitute the great heresies of the Church down to the time of the Protestant Reformation, when Luther and Calvin revived the old Pelagian heresies on Grace and Justification and added several of their own.

4. This heresy on the Holy Ghost is held by the present schismatic Greek Church, now spread through Russia and Turkey. The Nestorian and Eutychian heresies still survive in some parts of Asia and Persia.

8.—Fall of the Roman Empire.

1. With the conversion of Constantine, Rome seemed for a short time to have received a new lease of life, but this was not to be. Rome had sinned too deeply. For three hundred years she had persecuted the Church; the blood of the martyrs was on her head; she must fall. The decree had long before gone forth, and by the mouth of His prophets God had foretold what He would do. Pagan Rome must fall and Christian Rome take her place.

2. Conquest had made Rome rich, and with wealth had come corruption and weakness. Society was divided into two classes, master and slave. Owing to war and conquest the latter class was far more numerous than the former. Besides, the exactions of Rome had made the provinces very discontent. Everywhere there were murmurings and signs of the coming storm. The people were oppressed; the slaves ready for revolt; the provinces growing in power; there was but needed a spark to fire the volcano on which Rome rested. The occasion came towards the latter part of the fourth century.

3. In the year 361 Julian, surnamed the Apostate, mounted the throne of the Caesars. At first he pretended to be a Christian, but in a short time threw off the mask, and attempted to restore the Pagan religion. This seems to have been the last drop; the cup was full; God's patience was exhausted; the time was come, and God sent forth His hosts to destroy this proud and sinful Mistress that for twelve hundred years had ruled the world.

4. To falsify the words of Christ, "that the Temple of Jerusalem should be destroyed," Julian undertook to rebuild it. He called together the Jews and began to clear away the ruins. When the last stone of the original foundation had been removed, and the workmen were about to begin the foundations for the new Temple, balls of fire burst forth from the earth, so that the work had to be abandoned. Thus the very prophecy, "that not a stone should be left upon a stone of that grand building," which he had attempted to falsify, was by him literally fulfilled.

5. In a war with the Persians Julian was killed, crying out, "O Nazarean, Thou hast conquered." He had attempted to war against God, but, as ever must be, failed.

9.—Rome Destroyed.

[Illustration] from Bible History for Catholics by R. Gilmour


1. In the beginning of the fifth century vast hordes of barbarians began to descend from the north of Europe, and to sweep over the fairest provinces of the Roman Empire. Wherever they came they left ruin and desolation behind.

2. First came the Visigoths, in the year 410, led by the warlike Alaric. They invaded Italy, and took Rome, giving up the city to pillage and killing many of the inhabitants. After the death of Alaric they settled in France and Spain, and there founded a kingdom.

3. In the year 451, Attila, King of the Huns, swept through Europe, desolated France, and, crossing over to Italy, appeared before Rome. At the prayer of St. Leo, then Pope, the city was spared, and Attila withdrew his army. Genseric, the warlike king of the Vandals, had established his kingdom in Africa, and made Carthage its capital. In the year 455, crossing the sea with a numerous fleet and going up the Tiber, he entered Rome. For two weeks the Vandals continued to pillage the city, and it was only by the entreaties of Pope Leo that the buildings were saved from destruction and the lives of the inhabitants were spared. Still later, in 546, the Goths, under Totila, again took Rome and pillaged it.

4. The Saxons invaded Britain, while the Franks over-ran the greater part of France, ultimately giving their name to the country. Such was the condition of things when Odoacer, King of the Heruli, in the year 476, took Rome, and, making himself master of the country, proclaimed himself King of Italy. With him ended the Roman Empire that for twelve hundred years had been a power and a terror to the nations of the earth, and for much of the time had ruled the world.

5. While Rome was virtuous she was strong; but when luxury and pride crept in she grew weak, and, by her corruptions, fell with none to mourn her. Had she retained her virtue; had she not yielded to the corruptions of wealth; had she received Christ and not imbrued her hands in the blood of His saints—she had not fallen, as she did, a scoff and a byword to the nations of the earth. Like proud Babylon, she rose up against God and trusted in her own strength. For a time man may turn his back upon God, but in the end God will assert His power.

10.—The Christian Apologists.

1. Coeval with the rise of Christianity rose a contest with paganism. In the light of Christian truth the shallowness and falsehood of pagan philosophy was easily seen. The worship of false gods was widespread and deeply rooted, while the knowledge of the true God was known only to the Jews, a race despised and of little power or influence. Everywhere irreligion prevailed.

2. Because the Christians could not and would not accept these gods, and so refused to worship them, they were declared enemies to the state and offenders against the religion of the gods. They were accused of sacrilege; of adoring an ass's head; of atheism and immorality; of disloyalty to the secular powers and a divided allegiance; and, lastly, of eating a child at their religious feasts.

3. To combat these errors and false accusations—so similar to those of our own times—God raised up men of great learning, who not only refuted these errors and the heresies that rose among Christians themselves, but triumphantly vindicated the truth of Christianity, proving that Christ was the Messiah, and His religion but the fulfilment of the prophecies made by Moses and the prophets.

4. The most distinguished of these early writers—or, as they are called, Apologists, Fathers, Doctors—were Justin, martyr, Clement of Alexandria, and Origen among the Greeks; Tertullian and Cyprian among the Latins.

5. Justin (167) wrote two Apologies, or rather defences of Christianity—one to the Emperor Antoninus Pius, the second to Marcus Aurelius. For this latter he was put to death, and so won his martyr's crown.

6. Origen, the most illustrious of Clement's scholars, wrote (253) a triumphant vindication of Christianity in refutation of the false charges made against it by Celsus, a most learned and subtle Greek philosopher, while Tertullian (204), a priest of Carthage, wrote not only a complete refutation of the charges made by the pagans against Christianity, but proved most triumphantly the divinity and perpetuity of the Catholic Church.

7. The writings of these men will ever remain as monuments of Christian faith, and full and complete refutations of the falsehoods and weaknesses of pagan philosophy. They fully cover the controversy between paganism and Christianity, and are the storehouse from which all future writers on paganism have drawn.

11.—The Doctors and Fathers of the Church.

[Illustration] from Bible History for Catholics by R. Gilmour


1. Besides the Apologists, who devoted themselves to the defence of Christianity, its divinity and perfection, and the refutation of paganism, God also raised up, in the subsequent ages of the Church, men of great learning and deep thought to refute the heresies that from time to time arose to disturb Christian society.

2. Those ecclesiastical writers in. the early ages of the Church who were distinguished by a holy life were honored by the title of "Fathers of the Church," while those who in earlier or later times united in themselves exceptional learning and pure Catholic teaching with holiness of life are known as "Doctors of the Church."

The most distinguished among these Doctors and Fathers of the Church were Athanasius and Chrysostom, Basil and Gregory Nazianzen in the East; Jerome, Ambrose, and Augustine in the West.

3. Athanasius distinguished himself at the Council of Nice (325) by his brilliant refutation of Arianism, while Basil (360) and Gregory labored for the general defence of the Church. St. Chrysostom, Bishop of Constantinople (398), called the golden-mouthed, is considered the most eloquent of all the Christian orators, a worthy rival of Cicero and Demosthenes.

4. Jerome (420) immortalized himself by his translation of the Bible from the original Hebrew and Greek, giving us what is now known as the Vulgate, a work that will ever remain as a monument of erudition and correctness. Ambrose (385), Bishop of Milan, besides his able refutation of heresy and his general defence of religion, distinguished himself by his heroic rebuke of the Emperor Theodosius for the wanton massacre of the inhabitants of Thessalonica. He is also renowned as being the means in God's hands used for the conversion of St. Augustine.

5. St. Augustine was born in the year 354, and in the early part of his life embraced the errors of the Manicheans, much to the sorrow of his saintly mother, Monica. In 385 he was converted by the preaching of St. Ambrose and the prayers of his mother, and in 396 became Bishop of Hippo, Africa. St. Augustine is pre-eminently noted for his victorious defence of the Catholic religion against the heresies of his day.

6. Of all the great men known to Christianity, no two have so impressed themselves upon the Church as St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, the latter born in the kingdom of Naples, Italy, 1227. The former dealt with the entire body of revealed truth—God, the Holy Trinity; man, the powers of body and soul; grace, free will, and our future destiny; the latter, with society and government. St. Augustine sought to explain the dogmas of revelation, and to refute heresy, while St. Thomas laid down the principles on which society is built, and the binding influence of religion upon king and people. Between them, the whole body of Christian dogma has been explained, and every form of heresy, so far known, refuted. Nothing escaped them. The most profound truths, equally with the most minute details, are to be found in their works.

7. Besides the above, the Church has ever had men of great learning and ability, distinguished in every branch of knowledge. In more modern times the names of Albertus Magnus (1254), St. Francis de Sales (1654), Bossuet (1704), and St. Alphonsus Liguori (1787), will easily be recalled, together with a host of others distinguished in theology and philosophy, science and literature. No institution has done so much for the development of the human intellect as the Catholic Church, nor can; for to her alone has God given the great commission, "Go teach all nations."