China’s Christian Martyrs

by Paul Hattaway

Hattaway does the reader a service by keeping the book unbiased as he even-handedly relates persecution of Christ-followers across Mainland China.

Monarch Books, Mayfield House, 256 Banbury Road, Oxford, England OX2 7DH and P.O. Box 2607, Grand Rapids, MI 49501, 2007, 496 pages, $16.99.

—Reviewed by Marvin J. Newell, executive director, CrossGlobal Link (formerly IFMA).

“Whatever you hear about China is true—somewhere!” said an old veteran missionary to China. “Whether it be persecution and oppression, or openness and acceptance of the gospel, all are true somewhere in the country.” This book by Paul Hattaway reveals that this quote is not only descriptive of China today, but has been the environment for Christianity in that country for centuries. Perhaps no church on earth has suffered more nor has experienced hostility against it to the depth and duration than that of the Chinese Church. Hattaway makes this undeniably clear as he recounts 1,200 years of Christian suffering, persecution and martyrdom in China.

This book is not for the faint of heart. Gruesome descriptions of believers’ deaths are recounted in detail. Beheadings, burnings, shootings, stabbings, hangings and every other thinkable (unthinkable!) means of execution are mentioned. But then, the premature death of a believer at the hands of Satan-driven men is never a pretty sight. What brings admiration to the reader is the courage and fortitude these believers exhibited in the midst of torture and impending death.

Hattaway does the reader a service by keeping the book unbiased as he even-handedly relates persecution of Christ-followers across Mainland China. The stories of Protestants as well as Catholics and Orthodox, Chinese believers and foreign missionaries, are related throughout the chronologically progressive chapters. Urban and rural settings, the majority Han Chinese as well as ethnic minority groups, the powerful as well as powerless are all included. This is indeed the most comprehensive one-volume account of martyrdom in the land of China through the ages. An ancillary benefit of the book is the historical flow of Chinese Church history.

I find only two deficiencies with the book that, if included, would have enhanced its value. One is the omission of a definition of martyrdom. Some of the stories seem to border on authentic martyrdom. The other is the absence of any documentation. Void of a bibliography and footnotes, the reader is left to the integrity of the author that these stories are true and verifiable. However, having read other works by Hattaway through the years, I personally would find it difficult to question the veracity of these heart-wrenching stories.

This book will take its place alongside Foxe’s Book of Martyrs as the definitive source of Christian martyrdom in China. But more than that, it will embolden Christians everywhere who read it to persevere under persecution, knowing that brothers and sisters in Christ in China poured out their lives as examples to be emulated in the walk of faith.

Check these titles:
Hefley, James and Marti Hefley. 1996. By Their Blood: Christian Martyrs of the Twentieth Century. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker.

Tson, Josef. 1997. Suffering, Martyrdom and Rewards in Heaven. Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, Inc.

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