The Pogrom in the Coliseum


The Pogrom in the Coliseum

Norman Saville

     It’s an old joke. A priest, a minister and a rabbi were strolling in the jungle. Suddenly, a lion jumped out in front of them. 

“Help!” hollered the priest. “Run for your life!” shouted the minister. 

“I should worry,” said the rabbi. “They only eat Christians.” 

     But it’s only a joke. Because so many of the martyrs who faced the lions in the Roman Coliseum were in fact Jews. They were born Jews. They were raised and educated in Jewish homes. And then, they did what more than a million Jews of their day did: 

They met the Messiah of the Jewish people! 

     So many Jews followed this Messiah that, in those days, Jews and Christians were considered to be the same. When the Roman emperor Vespasian determined to put to death ” … all who said they were descendents of David,” he meant everyone who believed in one God. And Domitian, who became emperor by killing his own brother, ordered the deaths of all people “… qui en mores Judaeornm transierant;” that is, all jews who believed that the true Messiah was Jesus Christ. 

     How many thousands of the people killed by the Roman lions were born Jews? The number must have been immense, because history records great shiploads of Jewish captives brought to Rome after the emperor 

     Titus destroyed Jerusalem in 70 c.e. The Coliseum itself was built with Jewish forced labor; an estimated 40,000 captive Jews worked eight years to build the huge arena. How many of those Jews were followers of their Messiah … and were kept around to be killed for the amusement of the Roman mob? 

     All through the Roman Empire’s history there have been bitter persecutions against Jewish and Gentile Christians. In O’Reilly’s Martyrs of the Coliseum we read: 

     “The houses of the Christians were wrecked and laid in ruins, their goods became the prey of rapine, their bodies of the ferocious Hctors, who tore them like 

wild beasts, dragging their matrons by the hair along the streets, callous alike to the claims of pity for the aged and of those still in tender years. The innocent were submitted to torments usually reserved for the vilest criminals.” 

Is that really very different from what the Cossacks did in the Jewish Pale? 

In Fox’s Book of Martyrs we learn: 

     “Nero had some (Christians) sewn up in skins of wild beasts, and then worried by dogs until they expired; and others dressed in shirts made stiff with wax, fixed to axletrees, and set on fire in his gardens in order to illuminate them.” 


     “During the persecutions of Maximinius, numberless Christians were slain without trial, and buried indiscriminately in heaps, sometimes 50 or 60 being cast into a pit together, without the least dignity.” 


     “A variety of fabricated tales were, during Domitian’s reign, composed in order to injure the Christians. Such was the infatuation of the pagans that if famine, pestilence or earthquakes afflicted any of the Roman provinces, it was laid upon the Christians.” 

     The same lies, the same torments, the same pogroms that Jews have endured for centuries. Jews and Christians are brothers in persecution, and have been for 2,000 years. Just as Hitler had his spiritual ancestor in Nero, so the Six Million had their spiritual ancestors in the ancient Christian martyrs. 

    Then what went wrong with the Christians? What kind of “brothers” were the sadists of the Inquisition, the Cossacks, the Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan? Didn’t every one of them torture and murder Jews in the name of Jesus Christ? 

     Every one of them can be proved a liar by their actions…not toward Jews alone …but also toward their alleged brothers and sisters in Christ: 

  • The Inquisition strangled and burned Christian dissidents; 
  • The Cossacks terrorized every enemy of the Tzar, including the people of Christian East Europe; 
  • The Klan has lynched untold numbers of black Christians, burned dozens of their churches; 
  • The Nazis killed fifty million people-including Catholic and Protestant Germans who wouldn’t cooperate in their “final solution.” 

     Do actions like that have anything to do with Jesus, the man who said “Love ye one another.” and “Father, forgive them.” and “By their fruits ye shall know them.”? 

     No, the real Christians are not those spiritual descendents of Nero. The Christians never went wrong. 

     Christians are people who hid Anne Frank and thousands of other Jews from the Gestapo…at the risk of their own lives. 

     Christians in America are backing Israel to the hilt…because we share the prophecy, as well as the suffering, of our Jewish brothers. 

     Christians are the kind of people who give you folders like this to read… because we want to share the best of everything we have with you. 

     And aren’t those actions totally in keeping with the Jewish traditions of hospitality and mercy and shalom? Don’t they have their heritage in the very law of Moses: 

     “Keep thee far from a false matter; and the innocent and righteous slay thou not; for I will not justify the wicked.” Exodus 23:7 

     “Also thou shalt not ‘oppress a stranger: for ye know the heart of a stranger, seeing ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.” Exodus 23:9 

     Yes, true Christians are the heirs of everything that’s good in Judaism … including the greatest gift of the God who chose the Jewish people: your Messiah Himself. 

     Oh? He’s not your Messiah? That’s the lie that’s been told for centuries by the Neros and the Nazis and the Cossacks and the Ku Klux Klan. But I care enough about you to tell you the truth: 

      You do not lose your Jewishness by becoming a Christian. Just the opposite: Christian belief will strengthen your bonds to your history, your heritage, and your God. 

     Oh? I’m meshuggeh? All right; make me prove every word I’ve said…by the words of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and the other prophets of Yahweh. 

A brother spiritual survivor of the pogrom in the Coliseum,

 Norman Saville, 1985

Source Ministries © 2022

About the Author: Norman Saville is a Jewish writer who lived in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in 1982. I had the privilege of leading Norman to the Lord at that time under some most unusual circumstances. His conversion was quite dramatic. Afterward, Norman began to write and speak of the great things that Jesus Christ had done in his life. He even put an add in the local newspaper inviting people to his baptismal service and included a testimony of his Christian conversion.

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