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Saturday, March 30, 2013

Great Symbols of the Christian Faith: The Tongue Screw

 photo a0d6368d-6693-48ee-ae7e-26d73f557a68_zps69df34d4.jpgDuring this time when we reflect on the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus the Christ, I’m often reminded that the great symbol of Christianity, the cross, was an instrument of torture and death. How odd it would have been for early followers of Christ to see our cross necklaces today! 

I was recently introduced to another torture device from the chronicles of Christian history: the tongue screw. I’ve included an excerpt from a wonderful book I’ve been reading lately entitled, On This Day in Christian History by Robert J. Morgan.

Once you’ve read it, I encourage you to click on the banner in the right-hand column to receive a free copy of Tortured for Christ in order to learn more about how our brothers and sisters in Christ continue to suffer persecution for the cause of Christ throughout the world today. I read the book for the first time back in 1994 and it opened my eyes to realities I had never known. The words of Hebrews 13:3 remain as true as ever: “Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.”

The Tongue Screw

"Travel brochures of the Netherlands tell of windmills, dikes, and boys with their silver skates. But the years 1531 to 1578 were not so peaceful there. Hundreds of Protestants were slaughtered, including a young man named Hans.

Hans Bret supported his widowed mother by working in a bakery in Antwerp. The two belonged to a Protestant group there, and in his spare time Hans studied the Bible and taught new converts in the church, preparing them for baptism. One evening a knock sounded on the bakery door. Hans opened it to find a delegation of officers. The house was surrounded and Hans was arrested. For the next several months, authorities questioned and tortured him. From his dark isolation hold, Hans managed to smuggle letters to his mother.

From him alone we expect our strength to withstand these cruel wolves, so that they have no power over our souls. They are really more cruel than wolves – they are not satisfied with our bodies, tearing at them; but they seek to devour and kill our souls. 

Hans’s treatment worsened, and when intense torture failed to break his spirit, he was sentenced to the stake. Early on Saturday, January 4, 1577, the executioner came to Hans’s cell and ordered him to stick out his tongue. Over it he clamped an iron tongue screw, twisting it tightly with a vise grip. Then he seared the end of Hans’s tongue with a red-hot iron so that the tongue would swell and couldn’t slip out of the clamp. The officials didn’t want Hans preaching at his execution. The young man was taken by wagon to the marketplace, secured to a post with winding chains, and buried alive.

In the crowd, another Hans watched in horror – Hand de Ries, Bret’s pastor and friend. After the ashes cooled, he sifted through them and retrieved a keepsake – the tongue screw that had fallen from Bret’s consumed body. Shortly after, Hans de Ries married Hans Bret’s mother, and the tongue screw became a symbol of faithfulness, passed from generation to generation."

Morgan, Robert J. On This Day in Christian History. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1997: 7.

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