Rev. Alban Butler (171173). Volume VII: July. The Lives of the Saints. 1866.
St. Procopius, Martyr
HE was a native of Jerusalem, but lived at Bethsan, otherwise called Scythopolis, where he was reader in the church, and also performed the function of exorcist, in dispossessing demoniacs, and that of interpreter of the Greek tongue into the Syro-Chaldaic.1 He was a divine man, say his acts, and had always lived in the practice of great austerity, and patience, and in perpetual chastity. He took no other sustenance than bread and water, and usually abstained from all food two or three days together. He was well skilled in the sciences of the Greeks, but much more in that of the holy scriptures; the assiduous meditation on which nourished his soul, and seemed also to give vigour and strength to his emaciated body. He was admirable in all virtues, particularly in a heavenly meekness and humility. Dioclesians bloody edicts against the Christians reached Palestine in April, 303, and Procopius was the first person who received the crown of martyrdom in that country, in the aforesaid persecution. He was apprehended at Bethsan, and led, with several others, bound to Cæsarea, our city, say the acts, and was hurried straight before Paulinus, prefect of the province.2 The judge commanded the martyr to sacrifice to the gods. The servant of Christ answered he never could do it; and this he declared with a firmness and resolution that seemed to wound the heart of the prefect as if it had been pierced with a dagger. The martyr added, there is no God but one, who is the author and preserver of the world. The prefect then bade him sacrifice to the four emperors, namely Dioclesian, Herculius, Galerius, and Constantius. This the saint again refused to do, and had scarcely returned his answer than the judge passed sentence upon him, and he was immediately led to execution and beheaded. He is honoured by the Greeks with the title of The Great Martyr. See his original Chaldaic Acts, published by Steph. Assemani, t. 2, p. 166, and a less accurate old Latin translation, given by Ruinart, and by Henry Valois, Not. in Euseb. l. 8. The author of these acts was Eusebius of Cæsarea, an eye-witness.
Note 1. Grotius and others demonstrate the Greek language to have been, in the first ages of Christianity, common in Palestine; but this cannot be extended to all the country people, as this passage and other proofs clearly show. Hence Eusebius wrote his Acts of the Martyrs of Palestine in Syro-Chaldaic; but abridged the same in Greek, in the eighth book of his Church History. [back]
Note 2. The old Latin Acts write his name Flavian, and some Fabian, by mistaking the Syriac name, which is written without vowels. [back]