Pain is an effective motivator in gaining humanity’s attention, to the extent and severity of which pain and suffering are effectual in bringing into sharp focus the fragility and temporality of human life. Large scale pain and suffering within a society and globally, as seen during the great pandemics of history, can shake the very foundations of cultures and cause dramatic shifts in lifestyles and worldviews. How does one reconcile their worldview of humanity’s meaning, purpose, and value upon witnessing the wholesale ravaging of society?  What does man cling to when faced with his mortality in the final moments of agonizing death?

There are many events in history one can reference to display great suffering. However, sources of natural suffering, those not caused by humanity against humanity, can be the most challenging to rationalize and explain. Anthropomorphizing nature, one might say that natural suffering is a blind hunter that cares nothing about the age, sex, race, religion, or prosperity of its prey. Few examples of natural suffering rise to the level of devastation brought to humanity than the great plagues of history. The goal of this paper is to show how the Christian teachings of sacrificial love are displayed during incredible times of suffering to a watching world. To achieve this goal, two pandemic plagues, Antonine and The Black Death, will be historically examined in light of sound Christian teachings and perspectives. Furthermore, this historical examination will seek to shatter the sensibilities of a twenty-first-century Western audience, centuries detached from the apocalyptic experiences of their predecessors. In order to rightly judge the teachings of Christ and adequately assess the implications of those teachings, especially during a pandemic, one must examine the context, as intimately as possible, of those that lived through such horrific times.

Rome 165-266 CE: The Antonine Plague

“There were caravans of carts and wagons hauling the dead from cities.” ~Marcus Aurelius[1]

At the height of the Roman Empire under the reign of Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (165 CE), the first outbreak of the plague erupted in the Roman empire. Known as the Antonine Plague, and sometimes referred to as the Plague of Galen, it inflicted vast devastation upon the Roman empire. Historians believe the plague to be a significant contributing factor in the empire’s eventual collapse.[2] Roman historian Dio Cassius (155-235 CE) estimated the plague took nearly 2,000 lives per day in Rome during the first outbreak.[3] However, a second outbreak 80 years later struck Rome with enormous devastation, claiming approximately 5,000 lives per day and decimated a third of the population, estimated at 60 to 70 million lives total.[4] The disease description, mostly written by the Greek physician and eye witness of the plague, Galen, leads many modern researchers to conclude the affliction was an outbreak of smallpox.[5] However, to appreciate the dread and terror sweeping the Roman empire, the writings of Cyprian and Dionysius provide a glimpse into both the physical and psychological burdens of the plague. 

Thaschus Caecilius Cyprianus (200-258 CE), most commonly known as Saint Cyprian, was the Bishop of Carthage and notable Early Christian writer. He lived during and recorded his experiences of the second outbreak of the Antonine plague and died as a martyr under the persecution of Emperor Valerian. Cyprian wrote of the plague saying:

“Afterwards there broke out a dreadful plague, and excessive destruction of a hateful disease invaded every house in succession of the trembling populace, carrying off day by day with abrupt attack numberless people, every one [sic] from his own house. All were shuddering, fleeing, shunning the contagion, impiously exposing their own friends, as if with the exclusion of the person who was sure to die of the plague, one could exclude death itself also. There lay about the meanwhile, over the whole city, no longer bodies, but the carcases [sic] of many, and, by the contemplation of a lot which in their turn would be theirs, demanded the pity of the passers-by for themselves.”[6]

Living during the second outbreak, Cyprian provides a telling insight to the devastation upon the civic systems as he speaks of there no longer being bodies, but carcasses that litter the city. When contrasted with the account of Marcus Aurelius during the first outbreak, describing the caravans of wagons carrying the dead, it is an indication that the death toll had overwhelmed society’s ability to care and dispose of the dead properly. For those in Rome, death from an invisible assailant surrounded and permeated their senses. Where the eyes might turn from seeing the dead, indeed the smell of death and decay filled the air and served as constant reminders to man’s psyche of his mortality and inevitable fate.

Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria, Saint Dionysius, wrote of the despair, “Now, indeed, everything is tears and every one [sic] is mourning, and wailings resound daily through the city because of the multitude of the dead and dying.”[7] Christians alike were not immune to the dread and sorrow as Cyprian remarks “it disturbs some that the power of this Disease attacks our people equally with the heathens, as if the Christian believed for this purpose, that he might have the enjoyment of the world and this life free from the contact of ills; and not as one who undergoes all adverse things here and is reserved for future joy.”[8] However, the accounts of people’s actions, driven by despair, are remarkable. According to Cyprian, “No one regarded anything besides his cruel gains. No one trembled at the remembrance of a similar event” and in harkening to the Lord’s teaching, recorded in the Gospel of Matthew 7:12, “No one did to another what he himself wished to experience.”[9] While unclear if Cyprian is referring to Christian and non-Christian alike, Dionysius makes a clear distinction between the actions of Christians and what he refers to as “the heathen.” Relative to the Christians, Dionysius writes:

“The most of our brethren were unsparing in their exceeding love and brotherly kindness. They held fast to each other and visited the sick fearlessly, and ministered to them continually, serving them in Christ. And they died with them most joyfully, taking the affliction of others, and drawing the sickness from their neighbors to themselves, and willingly receiving their pains…Truly the best of our brethren departed from life in this manner, including some presbyters and deacons and those of the people who had the highest reputation; so that this form of death, through the great piety and strong faith it exhibited, seemed to lack nothing of martyrdom.”[10]

The actions of Christians not only demonstrated compassion to those suffering but, in many cases, the willingness to provide the most basic needs, food and water, for those too ill to fend for themselves saved the lives of those that were able to overcome the infection.[11]

However, in sharp contrast, Dionysius spares little detail in his witness of the non-Christians, “But with the heathen everything was quite otherwise. They deserted those who began to be sick and fled from their dearest friends. And they cast them out into the streets when they were half dead, and left the dead like refuse, unburied. They shunned any participation or fellowship with death; which yet, with all their precautions, it was not easy for them to escape.”[12] Even Galen, the famous Greek physician of the first outbreak, fled out of Rome “retiring to a country estate in Asia Minor until the danger receded.”[13]

While the accounts of Christian compassion during the Antonine pandemic are admirable, it is vital to assess the worldview system behind those actions. As discussed later, belief and hope of eternal life along with gratitude and love for the one that gives that hope fueled Christian actions. Unfortunately, this compassion has not been as consistent as it should have been throughout history, as will be shown next. It is for this reason that, when discussing how the Christian teachings of sacrificial love are displayed during incredible times of suffering, the focus must remain on actions that align with actual Christian teaching and not actions merely done in the name of Christianity, as seen during The Black Death of the fourteenth century.

Europe 1346-1353 CE: The Black Death

“India was depopulated, Tartary, Mesopotamia, Syria, Armenia were covered with dead bodies…In Caramania and Caesarea none were left alive…” ~Tales from the East[14]

The Black Death was so overwhelming, so brutal, so swift in bringing death to entire civilizations that medieval man was “equipped with no form of defense – social, medical or psychological – against a violent epidemic of this magnitude.”[15] Those who were brave enough to care for the sick many times “were seized by the plague whilst administering spiritual aid; and, often by a single touch, or a single breath of the plague-stricken, perished even before the sick person they had come to assist.”[16] The infected most commonly had black swellings the size of eggs in their armpits and groins that oozed blood and pus and spreading boils and black blotches on the skin, accompanied by severe pain, continuous fever, spitting of blood, heavy sweating, and foul smell.[17] Victims died within five days of the first symptoms. However, many perished much more quickly, going to sleep well and dying before waking the next morning.[18] The speed in which the Black Death spread was incomprehensible, wiping out over a third of the population of Europe, 50 to 75 million lives, in less than ten years.[19]

The physical devastation to Europe equaled the psychological impact on the minds of the living. As if descending into instinctual survival, many abandoned any sense of altruism, even to those of the closest bonds. As described in the Decameron, “One man shunned another … kinsfolk held aloof, brother was forsaken by brother, oftentimes husband by wife; nay, what is more, and scarcely to be believed, fathers and mothers were found to abandon their own children to their fate, untended, unvisited as if they had been strangers.”[20] On a secular worldview, there is little reason for dismay at the recorded behavior of humanity when faced with such merciless devastation. If there no afterlife, then self-preservation is the most logical behavior for humanity. However, Christianity teaches of an afterlife, accountability of actions in this life, and eternal salvation for those who declare Jesus Christ as their Lord and savior. Nevertheless, while there are accounts of selfless acts of Christians performing their obligation to care and love the weak and sick, the record of the church and many actions done in the name of Christ during the Black Death is disheartening and not representative of the teachings of Christ. It would be an oversight to focus solely on the noble actions and not acknowledge the evil performed by many claiming to be followers of Christ.

Whether fairly or unfairly, many believed the church had failed them during the Black Death. The people rationalized the speed of contagion and swiftness of death as the judgment of God, and the church was all the more willing to remind man continually that he had brought it on himself.[21] Nevertheless, if the church knew this to be true, would not the church have been in a position to warn the people?[22] There had been no prophetic warning, no sign, no pleading to repent before the coming destruction, only the heaping of condemnation upon the flock for their wickedness after it was too late.[23]

Penitents took to the streets, repenting of sins, wearing sackcloth sprinkled with ash, weeping, praying, carrying candles and relics, begging for mercy.[24] Nevertheless, the plague raged on, and penance escalated to self-flagellation. Starting as small movements numbers-wise, albeit highly disruptive and influential, the Flagellants proclaimed a “Heavenly Letter brought to earth by an angel which stated that God…had scourged Christendom and would have destroyed the world altogether but for the intercession of the angels and the Virgin and…the Flagellants.”[25] With good intentions, the Flagellants believed they were society’s redeemers, and as with any works-based approach to redemption, pride will quickly become a corrupting factor.[26]

Flagellants traveled from town to town, marching in groups of 300 to 1,000 men, stripped to the waist, beating themselves with leather whips tipped with iron spikes, re-enacting the scourging of Christ.[27] As their popularity grew, many became arrogant and began assuming many of the duties of the clergy by hearing confession, granting absolution, and imposing penance.[28] The clergy that protested were swiftly persecuted by having services interrupted, churches seized, and some labeled as antichrists and stoned.[29] As the corruption grew and the group’s discipline began to unravel, the attention of the Flagellants, along with other Christians, turned upon the Jews, blaming them for poisoning city wells and intending to destroy Christendom.[30] Numerous accounts exist of Flagellants arriving in a town and immediately stirring mobs against the Jewish community and leading hundreds away for execution.[31] The wholesale murder by burning at the stake of Jewish communities throughout Europe by many claiming to be Christian, clergy, and the Flagellants left a stain on the reputation of the church. 

Upon considering the suffering, violence, and devastation brought about by the church and the plague, one wonders if the light of Christ was shown anywhere in the world during these times. Had Christianity and its message of self-sacrifice and love of one’s neighbor all but been abandoned? While it appeared that many within the church supported and joined the Flagellants, was the official church position supportive of their bizarre ritualistic behavior and violent outbursts of persecution? To understand what appeared to be the failure of the church during the Black Death, one must understand numerous factors that contributed to what were arguably insurmountable challenges.

First, just as in war, those that are selfless and care not for their safety but the safety of others are typically the first to perish. However, those that place their safety first will tend to have a better chance of survival. When considering the swiftness of infection and death, the best of the clergy died swiftly, while the less noble and sacrificial survived.[32] Estimates show that the church experienced a nearly immediate fifty percent reduction of force, across Europe, of its clergy due to fatalities from the plague.[33] Stories had been told of the extraordinary Christian charity shown by nuns “having no fear of death” tending to the “sick with all sweetness and humility.”  New nuns were replacing those who had fallen ill and perished from their duties, until finally all, including the nuns, were dead.[34] Saint Catherine of Siena is said to have started an active ministry to the sick in her hometown when most others had fled, but she stayed to nurse the ill and bury the dead, day and night tirelessly caring for those whom the physicians had despaired.[35] While there is no excuse for the behavior of many proclaiming to be Christian yet living contrary to Christian teaching, one must factor the incredible devastation wrought upon nearly all that would have acted selflessly towards others. The vast majority of those that survived were the ones that fled, and the ones that fled would not have witnessed the actions to preserve the tales of the brave that sacrificially served. Thus, it is plausible with the brave, diligent, and noble of the clergy dead, the church suffered an enormous strain, having to fill the ranks with untrained, less noble men and women who lacked the oversight and discipline necessary for them to fulfill their ordained tasks.

Furthermore, the church, calling upon assistance from the state, restored order, stopped the persecution of Jews, and disbanded the Flagellants. Pope Clement VI condemned the Flagellants’ persecution of the Jews, regarding them as the most dangerous enemy to the church.[36] The Pope, acting in determination and responsibility, published Bulls calling on Christians to behave with tolerance and restraint, and warned of ex-communication for those participating in persecutions.[37] Eventually, the persecutions waned, but not before exacting a death toll on the Jewish population unrivaled until the Nazi exterminations of the twentieth century.[38]

The Coherence of Suffering on a Christian Worldview

“We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world” ~C. S. Lewis[39]

Examining the Antonine Plague showed a distinct contrast between the actions of the Roman Christians and the Pagans in response to the pandemic. However, when examining the Black Death Plague, the actions of Christians and non-Christians was not as discernable. To contemplate the reasons for the actions of Christians being different in the two pandemics is beyond the scope of this paper. However, it is worth noting that many circumstances would contribute to such analysis, such as cultural context, the health of the church, blending of church and state, blending of secular philosophies into church teaching, and the seeming lack of accounts of noble deeds. To this last point, it is crucial to consider the difference between the two plagues in their swiftness of contagion and death. It is plausible that many who acted nobly in response to the Black Death Plague and those they were assisting did not live long enough to have their story recorded. Nevertheless, when one evaluates the teachings of Christianity, the alignment of actions recorded and inferred show their consistency.

It is no surprise that Christians and non-Christians, when faced with suffering, may act similarly, as fundamentally all are human beings who share many of the same instinctual fears of harm and desires of self-preservation. Thus, it is essential to examine the Christian worldview, shaped by its teachings, to reach conclusions as to the justifications of actions during times of suffering. All genuine followers of Christ hold to the authority of Scripture; thus, one must first examine the Bible to determine what Christianity teaches regarding the love of another and self-preservation.

As recorded in the Gospel of Luke 10:27, when Jesus was asked by the Pharisees what shall one do to inherit eternal life, Jesus asked what is written in the Law, and the response given was, “You shall love the Lord your God…and…You shall love your neighbor as yourself…” Jesus explained that the answer was correct and then further explained, through the parable of the Good Samaritan, that everyone, even the lowest of social standing, is considered one’s neighbor. This same account, given in the Gospel of Matthew 22:37, is referred to as the “greatest commandment” in the Law. Thus, the teaching from Scripture, for Christians, is that we are to love everyone, even the “lowest,” as we love ourselves. Furthermore, in the Gospel of John 15:12-13, Jesus teaches, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” Jesus showed this love when he willingly went to the cross to pay for our sins. Moreover, he is commanding us to do that for others!

Directly from Scripture, these three passages make clear the expectations of Christian actions towards those suffering.[40] The expectation is sacrificial love. Sacrificial love as a sign of gratitude and works, glorifying Christ and the hope of salvation secured by Jesus on the cross. As Saint Cyprian, during the Antonine Plague, preached:

“Moreover, if the Christian know and keep fast under what condition and what Law he has believed, he will be aware that he must suffer more than others in the world…The fear and faith of God ought to make you prepared for everything, although it should be the loss of private estate, although the constant and cruel harassment of your limbs by agonizing disorders, although the deadly and mournful wrench from wife, from children, from departing dear ones…nor let them weaken nor break the Christian’s faith…since all the injury inflicted by present troubles is to be despised in the assurance of future blessings.”[41]

Furthermore, Martin Luther, writing about the Black Death Plague[42],

“Those who are engaged in a spiritual ministry…must likewise remain steadfast before the peril of death. We have a plain command from Christ, “A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep but the hireling sees the wolf coming and flees” [John 10:11]. For when people are dying, they most need a spiritual ministry which strengthens and comforts their consciences by word and sacrament and in faith overcomes death.”[43]

Thus, both Saint Cyprian and Martin Luther believed it to be a fundamental teaching of Christ to love and suffer alongside the sick and dying sacrificially. This love was to emulate Christ to the world and to represent Christ’s love, in giving of his life, so that we may have eternal life. Furthermore, both of these great teachers saw the immense suffering of the plagues to be an opportunity given by God to glorify Him. Martin Luther comments, “if a deadly epidemic strikes…” it is “to test our faith and love our faith in that we may see and experience how we should act toward God; our love in that we may recognize how we should act toward our neighbor.”[44]

When one evaluates the teachings of Christianity and the actions, recorded and inferred, of Christ-followers during the Antonine and Black Death plagues, their alignment is consistent. Finally, it is the words of Saint Cyprian, as he continues in his sermon “On the Mortality,” where he uses a call to battle metaphor, similar to Lewis’ writing of God’s megaphone, to awaken the church to represent the good of following Christ amid great suffering:

“By the dread of the mortality and of the time the lukewarm are inflamed, the slack are nerved up, the slothful are stimulated, the deserters are compelled to return, the heathens are constrained to believe, the ancient congregation of the faithful is called to rest, the new and abundant army is gathered to the battle with a braver vigour, to fight without fear of death when the battle shall come, because it comes to the warfare in the time of the mortality.”[45]


[1] Rodney Stark, The Rise of Christianity: How the Obscure, Marginal Jesus Movement Became the Dominant Religious Force in the Western World in a Few Centuries (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996).

[2] S. Florino, S. Sabbatani, “The Antonine Plague and the Decline of the Roman Empire.” US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health. April 28, 2020. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20046111

[3] John Horgan. “Antonine Plague.” Ancient History Encyclopedia. April 23, 2020. https://www.ancient.eu/Antonine_Plague/.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Pontius of Carthage, “The Life and Passion of Cyprian, Bishop and Martyr,” in Fathers of the Third Century: Hippolytus, Cyprian, Novatian, Appendix, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, trans. Robert Ernest Wallis, vol. 5, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1886), 270.

[7] Eusebius of Caesaria, “The Church History of Eusebius,” in Eusebius: Church History, Life of Constantine the Great, and Oration in Praise of Constantine, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, trans. Arthur Cushman McGiffert, vol. 1, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1890), 307.

[8] Cyprian of Carthage, “On the Mortality,” in Fathers of the Third Century: Hippolytus, Cyprian, Novatian, Appendix, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, trans. Robert Ernest Wallis, vol. 5, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1886), 472.

[9] Pontius of Carthage, Life and Passion of Cyprian, Fathers of Third Century, 270.

[10] Eusebius, The Church History of Eusebius., Eusebius: Church History, 306–307.

[11] Horgan. “Antonine Plague.” Ancient History Encyclopedia. https://www.ancient.eu/Antonine_Plague/.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Stark, Rise of Christianity, 85.

[14] Philip Ziegler, The Black Death. (New York, NY: John Day Company, 1969), 15.

[15] Ibid., 17.

[16] Ibid., 20.

[17] Mark Galli, “When a Third of the World Died,” Christian History Magazine-Issue 49: Everyday Faith in the Middle Ages (Carol Stream, IL: Christianity Today, 1996).

[18] Ibid.

[19] Ziegler, The Black Death, 22.

[20] Decameron quoted in M. Galli, (1996). When a Third of the World Died. Christian History Magazine-Issue 49: Everyday Faith in the Middle Ages.

[21] Ziegler, The Black Death, 260.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Galli. When a Third of the World Died. Christian History Magazine.

[25] Ziegler, The Black Death, 88.

[26] Galli. When a Third of the World Died. Christian History Magazine.

[27] Ibid.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Ibid.

[31] Ziegler, The Black Death, 106.

[32] Ibid., 262.

[33] Ibid.

[34] Galli. When a Third of the World Died. Christian History Magazine.

[35] Mark Galli and Ted Olsen, “Introduction,” 131 Christians Everyone Should Know (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 260.

[36] Ziegler, The Black Death, 106.

[37] Ibid.

[38] Ibid., 108.

[39] C. S. Lewis. The Problem of Pain. (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 1940), 92, Kindle Edition.

[40] See appendix[A1] for additional passages that support the expectation of Christian’s sacrificial love towards others.

[41] Cyprian of Carthage. On the Mortality. Roberts, Donaldson, & Coxe, Fathers of the Third Century, 470–473.

[42] The Black Death Plague had many additional outbreaks throughout Europe over the centuries after the most notorious fourteenth-century pandemic. Most of these outbreaks were isolated as not cause the devastation of the total European population; however, they were just as deadly within the smaller communities where the outbreak happened. Chris Sundheim. (1997). Pastors and Pestilence: Martin Luther’s Views on the Church, Christians and the Black Death. Historia: A Journal of the Eastern Illinois University History Department: Vol. 6. (20).

[43] Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 43: Devotional Writings II, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 43 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 121.

[44] Ibid., 127.

[45] Cyprian of Carthage. On the Mortality. Roberts, Donaldson, & Coxe, Fathers of the Third Century, 473.


Works Cited

Cyprian of Carthage, “On the Mortality,” in Fathers of the Third Century: Hippolytus, Cyprian, Novatian, Appendix, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, trans. Robert Ernest Wallis, vol. 5, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1886), 472.

Eusebius of Caesaria, “The Church History of Eusebius,” in Eusebius: Church History, Life of Constantine the Great, and Oration in Praise of Constantine, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, trans. Arthur Cushman McGiffert, vol. 1, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1890), 307.

Florino, S., Sabbatani S., “The Antonine Plague and the Decline of the Roman Empire.” US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health. Last Modified Dec. 17, 2009. Accessed April 28, 2020. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20046111

Horgan, John, “Antonine Plague.” Ancient History Encyclopedia. Last modified May 02, 2019. https://www.ancient.eu/Antonine_Plague/. Accessed April 23, 2020

Lewis, C. S.. The Problem of Pain. (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 1940), Kindle Edition.

Mark Galli, “When a Third of the World Died,” Christian History Magazine-Issue 49: Everyday Faith in the Middle Ages (Carol Stream, IL: Christianity Today, 1996).

Mark Galli and Ted Olsen, “Introduction,” 131 Christians Everyone Should Know (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 260.

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 43: Devotional Writings II, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 43 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 121.

Pontius of Carthage, “The Life and Passion of Cyprian, Bishop and Martyr,” in Fathers of the Third Century: Hippolytus, Cyprian, Novatian, Appendix, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, trans. Robert Ernest Wallis, vol. 5, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1886), 270.

Stark, Rodney, The Rise of Christianity: How the Obscure, Marginal Jesus Movement Became the Dominant Religious Force in the Western World in a Few Centuries (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996).

Sundheim, Chris. (1997). Pastors and Pestilence: Martin Luther’s Views on the Church, Christians and the Black Death. Historia: A Journal of the Eastern Illinois University History Department: Vol. 6. (20).

Ziegler, Philip, The Black Death. (New York, NY: John Day Company, 1969).


Appendix – Scripture References on Sacrificial Love [A1]

Matthew 10:38-39

And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Matthew 16:24-25

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Matthew 19:21

Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

Mark 10:45

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Luke 9:23-24

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.

Luke 14:27

Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.

Luke 14:33

So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

John 3:16 

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

John 12:25

Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

John 13:34

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.

John 15:13

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

Acts 2:44-45

And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.

Romans 12:1-2 

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

1 Corinthians 13:1-3

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

1 Corinthians 13:7

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Galatians 2:20

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Ephesians 5:1-2

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Ephesians 5:25

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,

Philippians 2:3-4

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Philippians 2:17

Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.

1 John 3:16

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.