Today in Christian History

April 22

April 22, 1418: The Council of Constance ends, having finally ended the Great Western Schism. When the schism began nearly 40 years earlier, three men had reasonable claims to the papacy. The council deposed all three and elected Martin V. (Martin then turned around and rejected further councils' right to depose a pope.) Though that part of the council is regarded as a triumph, the council also hastily condemned Jan Hus, a Bohemian preacher and forerunner of Protestantism, and sentenced him to execution by burning. And since his teachings were based on those of John Wycliffe (c. 1329-1384), the council had the Bible translator's body dug up, burned, and thrown into the Swift River (see issue 68: Jan Hus).

April 22, 1724: German philosopher Immanuel Kant, a pivotal figure in the history of modern philosophy and theology, is born in Konigsberg, East Prussia.

April 22, 1669: Colonial religious leader Richard Mather (father of Increase, grandfather of Cotton) dies at age 63. He helped author the Bay Psalm Book and the Cambridge Platform, which served for many years as the standard doctrinal statement for New England Congregationalism (see issue 41: American Puritans).

April 22, 1864: The motto "In God We Trust," conceived during the Civil War, first appears on American coinage.

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February 23, 155 (traditional date): Polycarp, the bishop of Smyrna, is martyred. Reportedly a disciple of the Apostle John, at age 86 he was taken to be burned at the stake. "You try to frighten me with fire that burns for an hour and forget the fire of hell that never burns out," he said. The flames, legend says, would not touch him, and when he was run through with a sword, his blood put the fire out (see issue 27: Persecution in the Early Church).

February 23, 303: Diocletian begins ...

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