St. Lucian of Antioch
January 7, Martyr


Roman martyrology: Nicomedia, Bithynia. Theologian, bishop and martyr. Lucian was arrested in Nicomedia, and was racked and put to death in the last persecutions of the Church by Roman officials for his faith.


Born at Samosata, Syria; died at Nicomedia, Bithynia, January 7, 312.

Saint Lucian was born of a wealthy family. After the death of his parents, he gave all his possessions to the poor and dedicated himself to the study of rhetoric, philosophy, and, under Macarius at Edessa, the Scriptures. Following his ordination to the priesthood in Antioch, he headed (some say founded) the theological school there of which the infamous heretic Arius was a member. Lucian made it his chief duty to examine the variants of the texts of the Greek version of the Old Testament and those of the four Gospels in order to record them, to correct spellings, improve the style and make comments, which Saint Jerome later declared quite important and used in preparing the Vulgate. Lucian also did much to promote the understanding of Scripture in its literal sense.

Lucian was a student or associate of Paul of Samosata, who was condemned at Antioch for heresy in 269, and it is possible that Lucian, too, was excommunicated and remained so under three bishops. He lived in a period of great disorder when heresy proliferated. Whether or not he was a known heretic, it seems he was in communion with the Church in 285 and at his death.

Being at Nicomedia when Diocletian's persecution began, he was arrested in 303 and imprisoned there for nine years; he was twice brought up for examination, when he defended himself ably and refused to renounce Christ. He may have been a heretic, but his Defense of Christianity, addressed to his executioners, gives indisputable historical evidence that Lucian underwent martyrdom for the faith:

"It has never been in secret or in some disgraceful way that we adored the unity of God announced to us in Jesus Christ and whose faith is inspired in us by the Holy Spirit," he wrote. He denounces the idols, exalts the beatitudes, and invites Christians to rejoice because of poverty, to preserve their gentleness as well as to strive for peace. "Look at how the pagans fear us," he exclaims, "that they must lead us before kings and tribunes as bound victims. But let them look in the history books and they will see the miracles which inevitably follow our deaths at their hand." He affirms the universality of redemption, declares that the voice of the Church leads us to God, and emphasizes his own fidelity.

At his trial he was asked: "Who are you?" His reply is a famous one: "I am a Christian."

"What is your profession?" "I am a Christian."

"What is your name?" "I am a Christian."

"Your origin?" "Christian."

"Your family?" "Christian."

To each question he gives the deservedly famous reply, one more audacious than any writer could have invented, and which won the acclaim of Saint John Chrysostom.

He died after being tortured, starved, and run through with a sword in 312 at Nicomedia, Bithynia (modern Izmid, Turkey).


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