Another Jezebel in Power - A.D. 842

 •  3 min. read  •  grade level: 10
After the death of the Emperor Theophilus, Theodora his widow governed as regent during the minority of her son. Her concealed attachment to idolatry was well known to the priesthood, and no sooner was Theophilus dead than she applied herself to the complete accomplishment of her great object. When the way was clear, a solemn festival was appointed for the restoration of images. "The whole clergy of Constantinople, and all who could flock in from the neighborhood, met in and before the palace of the archbishop, and marched in procession with crosses, torches, and incense, to the church of St. Sophia. There they were met by the Empress and her infant son Michael. They made the circuit of the church, with their burning torches, paying homage to every statue and picture, which had been carefully restored, never again to be effaced till the days of later, more terrible Iconoclasts, the Ottoman Turks."
After so triumphant a re-establishment of images, the victorious party no doubt thought the right time was come to propose and endeavor to secure another triumph; they now urged the Empress to undertake the entire suppression of the Paulicians. They had preached against images, relics, and the rotten wood of the cross. They were not fit to live. The catholics gained their object! An edict was issued under the regency of Theodora, which decreed that the Paulicians should be exterminated by fire and sword, or brought back to the Greek church. But they refused all attempts which were made to gain them, and the fiery demon of persecution was let loose among them. Her inquisitors explored the cities and mountains of the lesser Asia, and executed their commission in the most cruel manner. The numbers of the sect, and the severity of the persecution, may be judged by the multitudes who were slain by the sword, beheaded, drowned, or consumed in the flames. It is affirmed by both civil and ecclesiastical historians, that, in a short reign, one hundred thousand Paulicians were put to death. Was there ever a more genuine daughter of Jezebel? She had not even an Ahab to stir up to do this cruel work, but with her own hand, as it were—alas! a woman's hand—by her own decree, she slaughtered one hundred thousand of God's saints, re-established the worship of idols, and nourished with royal favor the idolatrous priests of Rome.
The history of Iconoclasm has been remarkable for female influence. Helena was the first to suggest and encourage veneration for relics; Irene was the restorer of image-worship when threatened with destruction; and now Theodora not only re-establishes the idolatry which her husband had endeavored to suppress, but persecutes the true worshippers. Surely that woman Jezebel—symbol of the dominant church in the dark ages—has her antitype in these three women, especially the last two. The likeness is too striking to be questioned. But the whole system of Catholicism breathes the fearful spirit, and is characterized by the dark features of Jezebel's character. The word of the Lord cannot be broken. "There was none like unto Ahab, which did sell himself to work wickedness in the sight of the Lord, whom Jezebel his wife stirred up." This is the type. The antitype is, "I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols. And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not." (1 Kings 21:2525But there was none like unto Ahab, which did sell himself to work wickedness in the sight of the Lord, whom Jezebel his wife stirred up. (1 Kings 21:25); Rev. 2:20, 2120Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols. 21And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not. (Revelation 2:20‑21).)