I am trying to learn when did things start to go wrong in Christianity and when did it start to change from a peaceful, loving religious group into a movement that engaged in war and physical repression, including executions, in the Middle Ages. Therefore I was wondering who was the first person killed by a Christian, two Christians or a group of Christians due to religious disagreements.

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    Maybe you should ask at History instead. – curiousdannii Nov 8 '18 at 23:50
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    The way the question is worded sounds provoking. I think a better way to ask this would be "under what context(s) did killing in the name of Christ first become an acceptable practice, which groups did it, and how was it sanctioned?" Since I also don't know of any Christian groups that practice this today, I'd think you'd also ask for when it became unsanctioned again. Unless you do know of Christian groups who officially sanction this type of killing today, which would be worth mentioning. – kraftydevil Nov 10 '18 at 9:09

Your question starts with a couple of assumptions that don't hold up. First, the earliest Christians had plenty of heated disagreements, starting with doctrinal conflicts over the extent to which the Law of Moses was binding (or not) on Gentile believers. Chapter 15 of Acts, and the whole of Paul's letter to the church at Galatia, record those issues. Second, even at the peak of the Inquisitions, only a very small percentage of accused heretics were sentenced to death.

(Please note, I bring these up not to justify anything -- even one killing by the church for heresy was one too many. I just want to correct some common misconceptions, ones that I used to share until I dug more deeply into the facts.)

That said, the specific you're seeking, THE first person to die for heresy, may be a detail lost to history. Based on my own very limited research, the earliest major, fatal action against a heretical movement was the persecution of the Donatists during the time of Augustine:


It seems there were strong political factors involved, not merely the suppression of a heresy. And according to the article, even though Augustine argued that the use of force was justified, he later protested the extremes that the Roman authorities were going to.

So to sum it up, TL;DR style: the use of violence against heresy seems to have come about in conjunction with the church becoming a political force rather than a strictly spiritual organization.

  • I also found this link, but I don't have an account at that site to look over the whole chapter. oxfordscholarship.com/view/10.1093/acprof:oso/… – JDM-GBG Nov 8 '18 at 23:55
  • My first assumption that it was a lovely and peaceful religion comes from Jesus teachings on putting the other cheek, give your belongings to those who ask and forgive and love your enemies, I never said there were no heated disagreements. My second assumption, I said killing machine because just at the start of the Inquisition thousands of Cathars were slaughtered, if I remember correctly. – freethinker36 Nov 9 '18 at 1:13
  • "Lovely and peaceful religion," ok. Your wording at first though was "peaceful, loving religious group." Not the same thing; one refers to the ideals and principles, the other to the actual behavior of the people. – JDM-GBG Nov 9 '18 at 3:39
  • My mistake, I intended to say "loving" not lovely. – freethinker36 Nov 10 '18 at 1:59

Religions are composed of people, and people are sinful and foolish. You'll find all kinds who identify as Christian or otherwise, good and evil. Your query is, thus, fundamentally flawed. There was never a transition point where Christianity became a "full fledged killing machine." Christianity, along with pretty much any other ideology, has at times been used to justify horrific acts, and at other times has been used to motivate man to be the best he can be. Just look at the late Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.

But if you are interested in the first recorded deaths that occurred in relation to Christianity, you'll find those in scripture:

Acts 5:3-5 Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? 4 Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.” 5 When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened.

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