The Martyrdom of Cyril Lucaris

November 4, 2015 (David Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061, 866-295-4143,;)

The following description of the life and death of Cyril Lucar (Lucaris or Loukaris) (1572-1638) is from James Townley, Illustrations of Biblical Literature, exhibiting the history and fate of the sacred writings from the earliest period to the present century, 1856, p. 63.

There are many things in this fascinating account to be of interest for a Bible believer.

It shows the historic hatred of the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church toward those who reject their doctrines. Lucaris was persecuted because he was trying to “reform” Greek Orthodoxy, which is nothing more than slightly modified Catholicism. Toward this end he sent many young Greek theologians to universities in Switzerland, the Netherlands, and England. In the following account, we see the dastardly hand of the Jesuits, who were willing to do any evil deed in their blind support of the Papacy.

The account of Lucaris also describes the historic hatred of Islam toward Bible believers. At the time, Constantinople was the capital of the Islamic Ottoman Empire, which persecuted and murdered Christians from its inception to its end. The nation of Turkey, which arose from the Ottomans, continues to persecute Christians today. The Janissaries, mentioned in the following account, was the elite Ottoman military corps composed of children stolen from Christian families, forcibly converted to Islam, and trained as professional soldiers. The children were obtained through the Ottoman’s horrible practice called
devshirme, whereby the sultan’s agents would periodically take one-fifth of all boys from Christian families. Also called Blood Levy, it was introduced by Sultan Orkhan (1326-1359). “On a fixed date, all the fathers were ordered to appear with their children in the public square. The recruiting agents chose the most sturdy, handsome, and intelligent children. Any father who shirked his duty to provide children was severely punished. This system was open to all kinds of abuse. The recruiting agents often took more than the prescribed number of children and sold the ‘surplus’ children back to their parents. Those unable to buy back their children had to accept their being sold into slavery” (Ibn Warraq, Why I Am Not a Muslim, 1995, p. 231). Parents who resisted were killed. Some parents deliberately mutilated their children to make them unattractive to the recruiting agents.

There is also the mention of Codex Alexandrinus, which was given to England by Lucaris. He brought it from Alexandria to Constantinople and presented it to Charles I. It remained in the king’s library until it was given to the British Library in 1753. Today it resides in the Library’s Ritblat Gallery. This codex is one of the oldest and most complete New Testament manuscripts, and, unlike Vaticanus and Sinaiticus, it has “God” in 1 Timothy 3:16. (In The Revision Revised of 1881, John Burgon stated his opinion that Alexandrinus is older than the other two famous uncials.) Modern textual critics argue that the strokes differentiating “He who” from “God” in the Greek capital letters were added later. This is an unproven conjecture, though it is stated as a fact. See

Also, there is the mention in the following of the first translation of the New Testament into modern Greek. This was printed in Geneva in 1638 and it contains “God” in 1 Timothy 3:16.

“The tragical fate of Cyril Lucar, who presented the Alexandrian manuscript to King Charles I., demands the tear of sympathy from every pious and candid lover of literature and religious liberty. A native of Crete, educated at Venice, and extensively learned, he was successively patriarch of Alexandria [as Cyril III] and Constantinople [as Cyril I]. In his younger days he had travelled over a considerable part of Europe, and understood not only the Greek, Arabic, and Turkish languages, but also the Latin and Italian. Possessing a mind superior to the slavish condition of his country, he formed various plans for the promotion of the common cause of Christianity, and the particular church under his care. He collected an excellent library, which he furnished with the choicest manuscripts; the Alexandrian MS. was one of them. He also patronized a Greek, named Nicodemus Metaxa, who had resided some years in England, and who having learned the art of printing, had procured a printing-press and types from London; and employed him to print catechisms and other books for the instruction of the Greeks in the principles of their religion. With the same benevolent design of aiding the interests of religion, he promoted an edition of the New Testament in the vernacular Greek, undertaken by Maximus Calliopolitus, at the instance of Cornelius Haga, the Dutch ambassador at Constantinople, and printed at Geneva in 1638, in quarto. To this edition he wrote a preface, in which he vindicated the propriety of translating the Scriptures into the vulgar tongues and the right of all persons to read them. With the utmost liberality he also forwarded the designs of Dr. [Edward] Pococke, and other learned men, who visited Constantinople, in order to acquire a more extensive and accurate knowledge of the languages, customs, and literature of the East.

“During his travels, his inquiries had been directed to the disputes between the Romish and reformed churches; the result of which had been an attachment to the doctrines and discipline of the latter: he therefore now ventured upon the bold step of printing, at Constantinople, a ‘Confession of the faith and doctrines of the Greek Church,’ dedicated to the English monarch, Charles I. He also conceived the design of reforming the Greek Church, and rendering its doctrines and ritual more Scriptural. He occasionally attended public worship in the British ambassador’s chapel, and even undertook to be godfather to the infant son of Sir Peter Wych, who was named Cyril, after the patriarch.

“His attachment to the Reformed Church, and correspondence with its learned members, exposed him, however, but too fatally to the machinations of his determined enemies. For nearly twenty years, the Jesuits, aided by the credit and influence of the French ambassador, perplexed and misrepresented him. In this nefarious business his adversaries were assisted by the stratagems of some perfidious Greeks, particularly Cyril, bishop of Berea, a man of dark, malignant, and violent spirit. Sometimes he was represented as the enemy of Islamism, and his arguments in defense of the divinity of Christ as blasphemy against Mohammed; at others, as employing the Greek press for the purpose of circulating inflammatory and seditious publications. At one time he was deposed; at another heavily fined; but the influence of the British government, and the exertions of its ambassadors, shielded him the ultimate designs of his enemies, till the fatal deed was effected by Bairam, a bashaw [high civil officer], in 1638.

“Bairam, being a favourite of the grand seignior, and bribed for the purpose, took advantage of the grand vizier’s [prime minister] absence to persuade the Sultan Murad IV, then on his way to the siege of Bagdat [Baghdad, in the Persian War], that the death of Cyril was necessary for the safety of the state. An order was immediately signed for his execution, and sent to the governor of Constantinople, who apprehended and confined him in one of the castles on the Bosphorus; and afterward, on the 27th of June, delivered him to a band of Janissaries, to execute the sentence of the sultan. The venerable patriarch was then carried out to the sea, as though he was to be again banished; but scarcely had they quitted the shore before he perceived they intended to take away his life, and kneeling down, prayed with great fervency and recollection; while the Turkish officers inhumanly insulted him, and, fastening the bow-string round his neck, strangled him; then stripped him, and threw his body into the sea, which, being driven to the shore, was buried by his friends. The rage of his enemies pursued him to the grave, they dug up his corpse, and again cast it into the sea: it was, however, recovered a second time, and buried in a Greek chapel, on a small island over against the bay of Nicomedia, from whence it was afterward brought to Constantinople, and decently interred. Such was the end of the great and good Cyril Lucar, whose piety and sufferings will endear his memory to distant generations!” (James Townley,
Illustrations of Biblical Literature, 1856, p. 63).


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