Darkening Age, 5

Celsus and Democritus

Note of the Ed.: Celsus was Christianity’s first great critic. The following is an excerpt from Nixey’s chapter ‘Wisdom is Foolishness’:
 

Celsus did not soften his attack either. This first assault on Christianity was vicious, powerful and, like Gibbon, immensely readable. Yet unlike Gibbon, today almost no one has heard of Celsus and fewer still have read his work. Because Celsus’s fears came true. Christianity continued to spread, and not just among the lower classes. Within 150 years of Celsus’s attack, even the Emperor of Rome professed himself a follower of the religion.

What happened next was far more serious than anything Celsus could ever have imagined. Christianity not only gained adherents, it forbade people from worshipping the old Roman and Greek gods. Eventually, it simply forbade anyone to dissent from what Celsus considered its idiotic teachings. To pick just one example from many, in AD 386, a law was passed targeting those ‘who con­ tend about religion’ in public. Such people, this law warned, were the ‘disturbers of the peace of the Church’ and they ‘shall pay the penalty of high treason with their lives and blood’.

Celsus paid his own price. In this hostile and repressive atmosphere his work simply disappeared. Not one single unadulterated volume of the work by Christianity’s first great critic has survived. Almost all information about him has vanished too, including any of his names except his last; what prompted him to write his attack; or where and when he wrote it. The long and inglorious Christian practice of censorship was now beginning.

However, by a quirk of literary fate, most of his words have survived. Because eighty-odd years after Celsus fulminated against the new religion, a Christian apologist named Origen mounted a fierce and lengthy counter-attack. Origen was rather more earnest than his occasionally bawdy classical adversary. Indeed, it was said that Origen had even taken the words of Matthew 19:12 (‘For there are some eunuchs… which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake’) a little too much to heart and, in a fit of heavenly self-abnegation, castrated himself.

Ironically, it was the very work that had been intended to demolish Celsus that saved him. No books of Celsus have survived the centuries untouched, true—but Origen’s attack has and it quoted Celsus at length. Scholars have therefore been able to extract Celsus’s arguments from Origen’s words, which preserved them like flies in amber. Not all of the words—perhaps only seventy per cent of the original work has been recovered. Its order has gone, its structure has been lost and the whole thing, as Gibbon put it, is a ‘mutilated representation’ of the original. But nevertheless we have it…

In the ensuing centuries, texts that contained such dangerous ideas paid a heavy price for their ‘heresy’. As has been lucidly argued by Dirk Rohmann, an academic who has produced a comprehensive and powerful account of the effect of Christianity on books, some of the greatest figures in the early Church rounded on the atomists. Augustine disliked atomism for precisely the same reason that atomists liked it: it weakened mankind’s terror of divine punishment and Hell. Texts by philosophical schools that championed atomic theory suffered.

The Greek philosopher Democritus had perhaps done more than anyone to popularize this theory—though not only this one. Democritus was an astonishing polymath who had written works on a breathless array of other topics. A far from complete list of his titles includes: On History; On Nature; the Science of Medicine; On the Tangents of the Circle and the Sphere; On Irrational Lines and Solids; On the Causes of Celestial Phenomena; On the Causes of Atmospheric Phenomena; On Reflected Images… The list goes on. Today Democritus’s most famous theory is his atomism. What did the other theories state? We have no idea: every single one of his works was lost in the ensuing centuries. As the eminent physicist Carlo Rovelli recently wrote, after citing an even longer list of the philosopher’s titles: ‘the loss of the works of Democritus in their entirety is the greatest intellectual tragedy to ensue from the collapse of the old classical civilisation’…

Celsus wasn’t merely annoyed at the lack of education among these people. What was far worse was that they actually celebrated ignorance. They declare, he wrote, that ‘Wisdom in this life is evil, but foolishness is good’—an almost precise quotation from Corinthians. Celsus verges on hyperbole, but it is true that in this period Christians gained a reputation for being uneducated to the point of idiotic; even Origen, Celsus’s great adversary, admitted that ‘the stupidity of some Christians is heavier than the sand of the sea.’

Heisman’s suicide note, 2

How Rome was raped by Jesus’s penis of the spirit, contracting a deadly virus

The Roman historian Tacitus wrote that the founder of the sect of Christians, Christus,

had undergone the death penalty in the reign of Tiberius, by sentence of the procurator Pontius Pilate, and the pernicious superstition was checked for a moment, only to break out once more, not merely in Judea, the home of the disease, but in the capital itself, where all things horrible or shameful in the world collect and find a vogue.

In the view of Tacitus, Christianity did not merely spread like a disease—it was a disease. As with Marxism, it originally appealed to the lower social classes. Writing sometime between 177-180 C.E., the Roman philosopher Celsus wrote of:

a form of belief harmful to the well-being of mankind. Taking its root in the lower classes, the religion continues to spread among the vulgar: nay, one can say it spreads because of its vulgarity and the illiteracy of its adherents. And while there are a few moderate, reasonable and intelligent people who are inclined to interpret its beliefs allegorically, yet it thrives in its purer form among the ignorant.

Christianity conquered from the bottom up. The new religion conquered by attacking the Roman principle that might made right. Impotent against Christianity contagion within the Empire, Seneca raged:

The customs of that most accursed nation [more exactly: most criminal nation, sceleratissimae gentis] have gained such strength that they have been now received in all lands; the conquered have given laws to the conquerors.

Seneca correctly described the victory of a memetic virus that injected its codes of law into hosts that reproduced it and spread it further. Attack by a disease or plague of God’s holy, blessed goodness has a parallel and precedent in the Biblical story of the ten plagues visited upon Egypt. Christianity was to the Romans what the ten plagues were to the Egyptians: a reflex of divine retribution in the name of God.

Jesus could be considered a “new Moses” only because there was a “new Egypt” to be delivered from. Rome was that new Egypt, and its victims would become the new Hebrews. The Jesus movement unified the motley slaves of all nations into a novel form of Judaism. Yet Christianity cannot be understood as only a spiritual revolution against the Roman Empire.

The tax collectors Jesus associated with were Jews who collected taxes from other fellow Jews. They often made their profit by charging extra (and thus breaking Jewish law). They were also popularly considered traitors for collaborating with Romans against their own people. Since tax collectors were considered impure for associating with gentiles in this way, Jesus may have associated with Jewish tax collectors out of a kind of identification with them. Does this mean that Jesus identified with Rome on some level? Instead of the justice of retaliatory revenge or even simple self-defense, Jesus proscribed what most Jews would consider unjust:

You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist an evil person…

The alternative to retaliation is turning the other cheek. Total forgiveness meant both forgiving his persecutors and forgiving the Roman oppression that provoked this dynamic. Salvation was for everyone; everyone including ultimate sinners such as Caesar himself—and Jesus himself. How could Jesus hold that his mother Mary should have resisted his evil Roman rapist father when it made the goodness of himself possible?

Long before Jesus was born, the Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus and his successors were called “the son of a god”. Far from being an inexplicable coincidence, Crossan and Reed explained:

Christians must have understood, then, that to proclaim Jesus as Son of God was deliberately denying Caesar his highest title and that to announce Jesus as Lord and Savior was calculated treason.

Worshipping Jesus as the “son of God” was tantamount to ejaculating Jesus’s spiritual seed right in the face of Caesar and Augustus.

Pilate, with or without realizing it, ultimately sanctioned the destruction of Jesus’s part-Roman blood. But what would the hypothetical acceptance of Jesus by the Roman aristocracy represent for their empire? Roman acceptance of Jesus would represent, not only a repudiation of the warrior virtues that made Rome, but a precedent and model of miscegenation that would spell the end of Rome as a kin selective order. And this is a central reason why the triumph of Christianity parallels the genetically maladaptive or un-kin selective disintegration of the Roman Empire. For the ancient Romans to accept Jesus as one of their own would have collapsed the sociobiological foundations of the pagan Roman Empire—and it did.

Edward Gibbon, well known for his negative appraisal of the empire crumbling effects of Christianity in The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, wrote that the early Christians:

refused to take any active part in the civil administration or the military defence of the empire… it was impossible that the Christians, without renouncing a more sacred duty, could assume the character of soldiers, of magistrates, or of princes. This indolent, or even criminal disregard to the public welfare, exposed them to the contempt and reproaches of the Pagans, who very frequently asked, what must be the fate of the empire, attacked on every side by the barbarians, if all mankind should adopt the pusillanimous sentiments of the new sect?

Good news! Jesus has come to free you from the boundaries between Roman and barbarian that were a foundation for the struggle for imperial existence. What the Christian world inherited from Jesus was an ancient postmodernism that deconstructed the Roman Empire from within. At every point, the Kingdom of God offered the victims of Rome a binary ethical opposite against the Kingdom of Caesar. In the Christian discovery of the universal individual soul of infinite, God-given value, a thread was found, that when pulled, was able to unravel the entire Caesar-centered world.

The great Roman hierarchy was built on a central contradiction: the glorified selfish altruism of duty to Rome. Christianity worked by exposing this contradiction to Jesus’s radicalization of the ideal of altruism: consistent self-sacrifice unto the self-destruction of the ego. This was the seditious genius of Jesus. Christianity deconstructed the Roman hierarchy by pulling the thread of altruism loose from its conventional association with familial love and thus unraveled the whole structure as if a yarn from a knitted sweater.

The Kingdom of God was simultaneously and indivisibly both political and religious. The Kingdom of God could break all the sociobiological rules only by destroying kin selective altruism and the entire order of social rank emergent from a world ruled by selfish genes:

To destroy the house of the powerful
you must defeat the arms that protect it (i.e. Matt. 12:29).

The conquest of the Jewish homeland by the Roman war machine was a desecration of its religious-kin selective boundaries. The rape of Mary by a Roman soldier(s) was a desecration of Judaism’s religious-kin selective boundaries. If Jesus’s existence was God’s will, then this implied that God willed the overcoming of all sociobiological boundaries.

Jesus was only returning the favor with non-violent warfare that deeming the preservation of all sociobiological boundaries immoral. Positing itself as the ultimate good, early Christianity was the Trojan horse that opened the sociobiological boundaries of the Roman Empire from the inside out and from the bottom-up. This disarming and destruction of sociobiological barriers is of the essence of Christianity.

As Paul put it in his letter to the Galatians (3:28), “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Jesus.” Paul’s evangelical mission focused, not on total Jews or total pagans, but those culturally between Jews and pagans. Both Jews and pagans were opposed to Paul, but gentiles attracted to Judaism became fertile missionary ground for early Christianity. Such persons reflected Jesus himself as the living border between Jew and gentile.

In the struggle for existence in a hostile world, it matters little whether one’s method of destruction is a machete or morality. Morality is a form of social control. It disarms seemingly stronger enemies of their own weapons from the inside. Jesus commanded the jihad of love against his enemies because love kills.

Just as the strength of Roman altruism made possible the vanquishing of the Jewish state, the strength of Christian altruism made possible the vanquishing of the declining Roman state. Just as Jesus was born through violation of the sociobiological boundaries of the Jewish state, Christianity was born through violation of the sociobiological boundaries of the Roman state. Just as Roman conquerors penetrated the territorial-sociobiological boundaries of the ancient Jewish state, the Jewish-based God memes of Christianity penetrated the ancient Roman world.

Jesus’s hatred for the family was also hatred of his Roman father for raping his mother and abandoning him to an orphan’s fate. The rape of Mary symbolized the larger Roman rape of the Jewish homeland. The spiritual penis of Jesus would rape Rome back and inseminate Rome with his love seeds just as his hated Roman father had raped his Jewish mother. After contracting the meme-virus equivalent of HIV, Rome would die of the cultural equivalent of AIDS as its sociobiological immune system was weakened beyond the capacity for resistance.

The imperial theology of Roman was a religion of rape. Rape of this kind stems from the logic of selfish genes. The “son of man” was greatest rapist of the sociobiological boundaries built by the selfish genes.

Jesus was the most insane spiritual rapist in history. He raped his own mind into faith that he was the son of God, and not the son of a Roman rape fiend. Yet he overcame the accusation that he a natural born rapist by sublimating his fate and becoming a truly God-like supernatural rapist. Jesus’s God-like spiritual penis raped the social boundaries of the ancient Roman world, inseminated that world with selfish memes that violated its sociobiological boundaries and, in doing so, gave birth to Christianity.

Race and appearance of Jesus

A brief exchange in my previous post moves me to copy-and-paste the below paragraphs from a Wikipedia article with the same title of this entry.

 
Despite the lack of direct biblical or historical references, from the 2nd century onward various theories about the appearance of Jesus were advanced, but early on these focused more on his physical appearance than on race or ancestry. Larger arguments of this kind have been debated for centuries.

Justin Martyr argued for the genealogy of Jesus in the biological Davidic line from Mary, as well as from his non-biological father Joseph. But this only implies a general Jewish ancestry, acknowledged generally by authors.

The focus of many early sources was on Christ’s physical unattractiveness rather than his beauty. The 2nd century anti-Christian philosopher Celsus wrote that Jesus was ‘ugly and small’ and similar descriptions are presented in a number of other sources as discussed extensively by Eisler, who in turn often quotes from Dobschütz’ monumental Christusbilder. Tertullian states that Christ’s outward form was despised, that he had an ignoble appearance and the slander he suffered proved the ‘abject condition’ of his body.

According to Irenaeus he was a weak and inglorious man and in The Acts of Peter he is described as small and ugly to the ignorant. Andrew of Crete relates that Christ was bent or even crooked: and in The Acts of John he is described as bald-headed and small with no good looks.

As quoted by Eisler, both Hierosolymitanus and John of Damascus claim that ‘the Jew Josephus’ described Christ as having had connate eyebrows with goodly eyes and being long-faced, crooked and well-grown. In a letter of certain bishops to the Emperor Theophilus, Christ’s height is described as three cubits (four feet six), which was also the opinion of Ephrem Syrus (320–379 AD), ‘God took human form and appeared in the form of three human ells (cubits); he came down to us small of stature.’

Theodore of Mopsuhestia likewise claimed that the appearance of Christ was smaller than that of the children of Jacob (Israel). In the apocryphal Lentulus letter Christ is described as having had a reddish complexion, matching Muslim traditions in this respect. Christ’s prediction that he would be taunted ‘Physician, heal yourself’ may suggest that Christ was indeed physically deformed (‘crooked’ or hunch-backed) as claimed in the early Christian texts listed above. In fact, Justin Martyr, Tertullian, and Ambrose actually considered lack of physical attractiveness in Jesus as fulfilling the Messianic prophecy ‘Suffering Servant’ narrative of Isaiah 53.

A study on the 2001 BBC series Son of God attempted to determine what Jesus’ race and appearance may have been. Assuming Jesus to be a Galilean Semite, the study concluded in conjunction with Mark Goodacre that his skin would have been ‘olive-coloured’ and ‘swarthy’—these results were criticised by some media outlets for being ‘dismissive’ and ‘dumbed down’. However, this type of analysis suggests, that even though Caucasian, Jesus may not have fit into all modern definitions of whiteness in the Western world.

In academic studies, beyond generally agreeing that ‘Jesus was Jewish’, there are no contemporary depictions of Jesus that can be used to determine his appearance. It is argued that Jesus was of Middle Eastern descent because of the geographic location of the events described in the Gospels, and, among some modern Christian scholars, the genealogy ascribed to him.

For this reason, he has been portrayed as an olive-skinned individual typical of the Levant region. In 2001, a new attempt was made to discover what the true race and face of Jesus might have been. The study, sponsored by the BBC, France 3 and Discovery Channel, used one of three 1st-century Jewish skulls from a leading department of forensic science in Israel. A face was constructed using forensic anthropology by Richard Neave, a retired medical artist from the Unit of Art in Medicine at the University of Manchester.

The face that Neave constructed suggested that Jesus would have had a broad face and large nose, and differed significantly from the traditional depictions of Jesus in renaissance art. Additional information about Jesus’ skin colour and hair was provided by Mark Goodacre, a senior lecturer at the Department of Theology and Religion at the University of Birmingham. Using 3rd-century images from a synagogue—the earliest pictures of Jewish people—Goodacre proposed that Jesus’ skin colour would have been darker and swarthier than his traditional Western image.

He also suggested that he would have had short, curly hair and a short cropped beard. This is also confirmed in the First Epistle to the Corinthians, where Paul the Apostle states that it is ‘disgraceful’ for a man to have long hair. As Paul allegedly knew many of the disciples and members of Jesus’ family, it is unlikely that he would have written such a thing had Jesus had long hair.

Although not literally the face of Jesus, the result of the study determined that Jesus skin would have been more olive-coloured than white, and that he would have most likely looked like a typical Galilean Semite of his day. Among the points made was that the Bible records that Jesus’ disciple Judas had to point him out to those arresting him. The implied argument is that if Jesus’ physical appearance had differed markedly from his disciples, then he would have been relatively easy to identify. James H. Charlesworth states Jesus’ face was ‘most likely dark brown and sun-tanned’.

Published in: on April 28, 2018 at 12:18 am  Comments (6)  

Why Europeans must reject Christianity, 4

by Ferdinand Bardamu

 
A religion for simple-minded folk

Scholars have long noted the great appeal Christianity has always had for the lowest dregs of humanity. Few intellectuals were ever attracted to the religion; those who converted became anti-intellectual extremists who turned their back on Western culture and civilization.

The 2nd-century Latin theologian Tertullian, one of the most bigoted Christian anti-intellectuals to have ever lived, famously asked:

What indeed has Athens got to do with Jerusalem? What concord is there between the Academy and the Church?… We want no curious disputation after possessing Christ Jesus, no inquisition after enjoying the gospel! With our faith, we desire no further belief.

Contemporary pagan philosophers frequently observed that the earliest converts were drawn from the ranks of stupid, ignorant people. Celsus, an early pagan critic of the new religion, wrote that it was Christian policy to turn away the wise and the educated; only boys, fools and slaves were considered as potential converts. “Their favorite expressions,” wrote Celsus, “are ‘Do not ask questions, just believe!’ and: ‘Your faith will save you!’ ‘The wisdom of this world,’ they say, ‘is evil; to be simple is to be good.'”

The educated pagan was contemptuous of folk belief. To be worthy of belief, religions had to be logically consistent and empirically grounded. They had to have some basis in science and philosophy. Anything else was “superstition.” In classical antiquity, superstition was defined as fear of “daemons” and belief in the supernatural causation of natural and physical phenomena, such as disease.

To the pagan intellectual, Christianity embodied everything they hated about superstition. What made Christianity especially reprehensible was that it had inherited all the worst features of Judaism, namely intolerance and bigotry. The religion also spread like a contagious disease. As the pagan intellectual saw it: Christianity was devised and spread by ignorant men for the benefit of ignorant men, especially because of its close resemblance to the superstitious beliefs of the masses. The triumph of Christianity led to a complete reversal of elite pagan values in late antiquity. The educated man now embraced wholeheartedly the beliefs of the semi-barbaric multitudes.

St. Augustine, originally educated in the classical curriculum and trained in rhetoric, could state with confidence that all diseases were of supernatural origin, in open defiance of well-established Greek medical practice. Whereas before Constantine, there existed a significant gap between the beliefs of the educated pagan and the hoi polloi, after Constantine, there was no such gap. For the first time in classical antiquity, the elite and the masses were indistinguishable in terms of belief, with all naively subscribing to veneration of saints, their relics and miracles.

The triumph of Christianity in the West was the triumph of a profound ignorance that lasted centuries.

Apocalypse for whites • VII

by Evropa Soberana

 
Greek anti-Semitism

The Alexandrian school has special relevance, as here lived the most important Jewish population (almost half of the total), and also the most important ‘anti-Semitic’ tradition (I use quotation marks because the Syrians, the Babylonians and the Arabs were Semites and the Alexandrians had nothing against them).

As an important part of Jewish history had taken place in Egypt, these Hellenised Egyptian writers attacked Jewry harshly. In addition, the Greeks of the Near East had long been badly living with the Jews, and during that time a real animosity had developed between the two peoples.

Hecataeus of Abdera (around 320 BCE), not an Alexandrian himself, was probably the first pagan who wrote about Jewish history, and he did not do it on good terms:

Due to a plague, the Egyptians expelled them… The majority fled to uninhabited Judea, and their leader Moses established a cult different from all the others. The Jews adopted a misanthropic and inhospitable life.

Manetho (3rd century BCE), an Egyptian priest and historian, in his History of Egypt—the first time someone wrote the history of Egypt in Greek—said that at the time of King Amenhotep, the Jews left Heliopolis with a colony of lepers under the command of a renegade Osiris priest named Osarseph, whom he identifies with Moses. Osarseph would have taught them habits contrary to those of the Egyptians, and ordered them not to relate to the rest of the villages, and also made them burn and loot numerous Egyptian villages of the Nile valley before leaving Egypt in the direction of Asia Minor.

Mnaseas of Patrae (3rd century BCE), a disciple of Eratosthenes, was the first to say something that would later be recurrent in Greek and also in Roman anti-Semitism: that the Jews, in the temple of Jerusalem, worshiped a golden donkey’s head.

Agatharchides of Cnidus (181-146 BCE) in Affairs in Asia mocks the Mosaic law and its practices, especially Sabbath rest.

Posidonius of Apameia (philosopher and historian, 135-51 BCE—bust left), called ‘the Athlete’, said that Jews are ‘an ungodly people, hated by the gods’.

Lysimachus of Alexandria (1st century BCE) said that Moses was a kind of black magician and an impostor; that his laws, equivalent to those recorded in the Talmud, were immoral and that the Jews were sick:

The Jews, sick with leprosy and scurvy, took refuge in the temples, until the king drowned the lepers, and sent other hundred thousand to perish in the desert. A certain Moses guided and instructed them so that they would not show good will towards any person and destroyed all the temples they found. They arrived in Judea and built a city of temple robbers.

Apollonius Molon (around 70 BCE) of Crete, grammarian, rhetorician, orator and teacher of Caesar and Cicero in an academy of Rhodes, dedicated an entire work to the Jewish quarter, calling them misanthropes and atheists disguised as monotheists:

They are the worst among the barbarians. They lack any creative talent; they have not done anything for the good of humanity, and do not believe in any god… Moses was an impostor.

Diodorus Siculus (around 50 BCE), a Greek historian of Sicily, wrote in his Bibliotheca Historica (below, a medieval illuminated manuscript of Diodorus’ book):

The Jews treated other people as enemies and inferiors. The ‘usury’ is their practice of lending money with excessive interest rates. This has caused for centuries the misery and poverty of the Gentiles, and has been a strong condemnation for Jewry.

Already King Antiochus’ advisors were telling him to exterminate the Jewish nation completely, because the Jews were the only people in the world that resisted mixing with other nations. They judged all other nations as their enemies and passed on that enmity as an inheritance to future generations. Their holy books contain aberrant rules and inscriptions hostile to all mankind.

Strabo (64 BCE-25 CE), Greek geographer, in his Geographica admires the figure of Moses, but thinks that the later priests distorted his history and imposed on the Jews an unnatural lifestyle. In the following quote it is clear that the Jews, already in those times, constituted a powerful international mafia:

Jews have penetrated all countries, so it is difficult to find anywhere in the world where their tribe has not entered and where they are not powerfully established.

Apion, Egyptian writer and main promoter of the pogrom of Alexandria of the year 38 CE that culminated in a massacre of 50,000 Jews at the hands of the Roman military, said that the Jews were bound by a mutual pact to never help any foreigner, especially if he was Greek:

The principles of Judaism oblige to hate the rest of humanity. Once a year they take a non-Jew, they kill him and taste his insides, swearing during the meal that they will hate the nation from which the victim came. In the Holy of Holies of the sacred temple of Jerusalem there is a golden ass head that the Jews idolize. The Shabbat originated because of a pelvic ailment that the Jews contracted when fleeing from Egypt, forced them to rest on the seventh day.

Plutarch (50-120) was initiated into the mysteries of Apollo in Chaeronea, and served as a priest in the sanctuary of Delphi. His work is one of the favourite sources of information about the lifestyles of Sparta. In his Table Talks Plutarch wrote that the Jews neither kill nor eat the pig or the donkey because they worship them religiously, and that in the Shabbat, they get drunk.

Philo of Byblos (64-141), a Hellenized Phoenician who wrote about Phoenician history, the Phoenician religion and the Jews, speaks of human sacrifices of the firstborn among Hebrews (remember the passage of Abraham and his son Isaac).

Celsus, a Greek philosopher of the 2nd century, especially known for The True Word, in which he attacked Christianity and also Judaism, wrote:

The Jews are fugitives from Egypt who have never done anything of value and were never held in esteem or had a good reputation.

Philostratus, a sophist of the 2nd and 3rd centuries, wrote:

The Jews are a people that have risen up against humanity itself… They have made their life apart and irreconcilable, and cannot share with the rest of humanity the pleasures of the table, nor join their libations or prayers or sacrifices…

They are separated from us by a gulf greater than that which separates us from the farthest Indies.

Kriminalgeschichte, 23

Editor’s Note: The book of Porphyry, of which the Christians destroyed all the copies and only fragments remain, is worth more than the opus of all Christian theologians together.

Yesterday I sent a message to Joseph Hoffmann, author of Porphyry’s ‘Against the Christians’: The Literary Remains. I asked him if he is willing to republish it in Lulu, as it is out-of-print (I own the copy I purchased in 1994).

Porphyry, a detail of the Tree of
Jesse
, 1535, Sucevița Monastery.

 

______ 卐 ______

 

Below, abridged translation from the first volume of Karlheinz
Deschner’s Kriminalgeschichte des Christentums

(Criminal History of Christianity)

 
Celsus and Porphyry: the first adversaries of Christianity

Before looking more closely at these new Christian majesties, let us look briefly at two of the first great adversaries of Christianity in antiquity.

Soon the pagans knew how to spot the weak points in the argument of the holy fathers and refute them, when not leading them ad absurdum.

While it is true that the first Christian emperors ordered the destruction of the anti-Christian works of these philosophers, it is possible to reconstruct them in part by cutting off the treatises of their own adversaries. Celsus’ work in particular is derived from a response of eight books written by Origen about 248. The most influential theologian of the early days of Christendom evidently took a lot of work in refuting Celsus, which is all the more difficult because in many passages he was forced to confess the rationale of his adversary.

In spite of being one of the most honest Christians that can be mentioned, and in spite of his own protests of integrity, in many cases Origen had to resort to subterfuges, to the omission of important points, and accuses Celsus of the same practices. Celsus was an author certainly not free of bias but more faithful to the reality of the facts. Origen reiterates his qualification of him as a first-class fool, although having bothered to write an extended replica ‘would rather prove the opposite’ as Geffcken says.

The True Word (Alethés Logos) of Celsus, originating from the end of the 2nd century, is the first diatribe against Christianity that we know. As a work of someone who was a Platonic philosopher, the style is elegant for the most part, nuanced and skilful, sometimes ironic, and not completely devoid of a will to conciliation. The author is well versed in the Old Testament, the Gospels, and also in the internal history of the Christian communities. Little we know of his figure, but as can be deduced from his work he was certainly not a vulgar character.

Celsus clearly distinguished the most precarious points of Christian doctrine, for example the mixing of Jewish elements with Stoicism, Platonism, and even Egyptian and Persian mystical beliefs and cults. He says that ‘all this was best expressed among the Greeks… and without so much haughtiness or pretension to have been announced by God or the Son of God in person’.

Celsus mocks the vanity of the Jews and the Christians, their pretensions of being the chosen people: ‘God is above all, and after God we are created by him and like him in everything; the rest, the earth, the water, the air and the stars is all ours, since it was created for us and therefore must be put to our service’. To counter this, Celsus compares ‘the thinness of Jews and Christians’ with ‘a flock of bats, or an anthill, or a pond full of croaking frogs or earthworms’, stating that man does not carry as much advantage to the animal and that he is only a fragment of the cosmos.

From there, Celsus is forced to ask why the Lord descended among us. ‘Did he need to know about the state of affairs among men? If God knows everything, he should already have been aware, and yet he did nothing to remedy such situations before’. Why precisely then, and why should only a tiny part of humanity be saved, condemning others ‘to the fire of extermination’?

With all reason from the point of view of the history of religions, Celsus argues that the figure of Christ is not so exceptional compared to Hercules, Asclepius, Dionysus and many others who performed wonders and helped others.

Or do you think that what is said of these others are fables and must pass as such, whereas you have given a better version of the same comedy, or more plausible, as he exclaimed before he died on the cross, and the earthquake and the sudden darkness?

Before Jesus there were divinities that died and resurrected, legendary or historical, just as there are testimonies of the miracles that worked, along with many other ‘prodigies’ and ‘games of skill that conjurers achieve’. ‘And they are able to do such things, shall we take them for the Sons of God?’ Although, of course, ‘those who wish to be deceived are always ready to believe in apparitions such as the ones of Jesus’.

Celsus repeatedly emphasises that Christians are among the most uncultured and most likely to believe in prodigies, that their doctrine only convinces ‘the most simple people’ since it is ‘simple and lacks scientific character’. In contrast to educated people, says Celsus, Christians avoid them, knowing that they are not fooled. They prefer to address the ignorant to tell them ‘great wonders’ and make them believe that

parents and teachers should not be heeded, but listened only to them. That the former only say nonsense and foolishness and that only Christians have the key of the things and that they know how to make happy the creatures that follow them… And they insinuate that, if they want, they can abandon their parents and teachers.

A century after Celsus, Porphyry took over the literary struggle against the new religion. Born about 233 and probably in Tyre (Phoenicia), from 263 Porphyry settled in Rome, where he lived for decades and became known as one of the main followers of Plotinus.

Of the fifteen books of Porphyry’s Adversus Christianos (Against the Christians), fruit of a convalescence in Sicily, today only some quotations and extracts are preserved. The work itself was a victim of the decrees of Christian princes, Constantine I and then, by 448, the emperors Theodosius II and Valentinian III who ordered the first purge of books in the interest of the Church.

Unfortunately, the conserved references of the work do not give as complete an idea as in the case of Celsus. We may suppose that Porphyry knew The True Word; some arguments are repeated almost verbatim, which is quite logical. As to the coming of Christ Porphyry asks, for example, ‘Why was it necessary to wait for a recent time, allowing so many people to be damned?’

Porphyry seems more systematic than Celsus, more erudite; he excels as a historian and philologist, as well as in the knowledge of the Christian Scriptures. He masters the details more thoroughly and criticises the Old Testament and the Gospels severely; discovers contradictions, which makes him a forerunner of the rationalistic criticism of the Bible. He also denies the divinity of Jesus: ‘Even if there were some among the Greeks so obtuse as to believe that the gods actually reside in the images they have of them, none would be so great as to admit that the divinity could enter the womb of virgin Mary, to become a foetus and be wrapped in diapers after childbirth’.

Porphyry also criticises Peter, and above all Paul: a character who seems to him (as to many others to date) remarkably disagreeable. He judges him ordinary, obscurantist and demagogue. He even claims that Paul, being poor, preached to get money from wealthy ladies, and that this was the purpose of his many journeys. Even St Jerome noticed the accusation that the Christian communities were run by women and that the favour of the ladies decided who could access the dignity of the priesthood.

Porphyry also censures the doctrine of salvation, Christian eschatology, the sacraments, baptism and communion. The central theme of his criticism is, in fact, the irrationality of the beliefs and, although he does not spare expletives, Paulsen could write in 1949:

Porphyry’s work was such a boast of erudition, refined intellectualism, and a capacity for understanding the religious fact, that it has never been surpassed before or since by any other writer. It anticipates all the modern criticism of the Bible, to the point that many times the current researcher, while reading it, can only nod quietly to this or that passage.

The theologian Harnack writes that ‘Porphyry has not yet been refuted’, ‘almost all his arguments, in principle, are valid’.

Kriminalgeschichte, 13

Below, abridged translation from the first
volume of Karlheinz Deschner’s Kriminalgeschichte
des Christentums
(Criminal History of Christianity)

 

______ 卐 ______

 

Chapter 3:

First malicious acts of Christians against Christians

‘No heretic is a Christian. But if he is not a Christian, every heretic is a devil.’ ‘Cattle for the slaughter of hell.’

—St Jerome, Doctor of the Church

 
In the origins of Christianity there was no ‘true faith’

The Church teaches that the original situation of Christianity was of ‘orthodoxy’, that is, of ‘true faith’; later, the ‘heresy’ would appear (de aíresis = the chosen opinion)… In classical literature it was called ‘heresy’ any opinion, whether scientific, political or from a religious party. Little by little, however, the term took on the connotation of the sectarian and discredited.

Now, the scheme ‘original orthodoxy against overcoming heresy’, essential to maintain the ecclesiastical fiction of an allegedly uninterrupted and faithfully preserved apostolic tradition, is nothing more than an a posteriori invention and as false as that same doctrine of the apostolic tradition. The historical model according to which Christian doctrine, in its beginnings, was pure and true, then contaminated by heretics and schismatics of all epochs, ‘the theory of deviationism’, as the Catholic theologian Stockmeier has written, ‘does not conform to any historical reality’.

Such a model could not be true in any way, because Christianity in its beginnings was far from being homogeneous; there existed only a set of beliefs and principles not very well established. It still ‘had no definite symbol of faith (a recognised Christian belief) nor canonical Scriptures’ (E.R. Dodds). We cannot even refer to what Jesus himself said, because the oldest Christian texts are not the Gospels, but the Epistles of Paul, which certainly contradict the Gospels in many essential points, not to mention many other problems of quite transcendence that arise here.

The early Christians incorporated not one, but many and very different traditions and forms. In the primitive community there was at least one division, as far as we know, between the ‘Hellenizing’ and the ‘Hebrew’. There were also violent discussions between Paul and the first original apostles… Ever since, every tendency, church or sect, tends to be considered as the ‘true’, the ‘unique’, authentic Christianity. That is, in the origins of the new faith there was neither a ‘pure doctrine’ in the current Protestant sense, nor a Catholic Church. It was a Jewish sect separated from its mother religion…

At the end of the second century, when the Catholic Church was constituted, that is, when the Christians had become a multitude, as the pagan philosopher Celsus joked, divisions and parties began to emerge, each of which called for their own legitimacy, ‘which was what they intended from the outset.’

And as a result of having become a multitude, they are distant from each other and condemn each other, to the point that we do not see that they have anything in common except the name, since otherwise each party believes in its own and has nothing in the beliefs of others.

At the beginning of the third century, Bishop Hippolytus of Rome cites 32 competing Christian sects which, by the end of the fourth century, according to Bishop Philastrius of Brescia, numbered 128 (plus 28 ‘pre-Christian heresies’). Lacking political power, however, the pre-Constantinian Church could only verbally vent against the ‘heretics’, as well as against the Jews. To the ever-deeper enmity with the synagogue, were thus added the increasingly odious clashes between the Christians themselves, owing to their doctrinal differences.

Moreover, for the doctors of the Church, such deviations constituted the most serious sin, because divisions, after all, involved the loss of members, the loss of power. In these polemics the objective was not to understand the point of view of the opponent, nor to explain the own, which perhaps would have been inconvenient or dangerous. It would be more accurate to say that they obeyed the purpose ‘to crush the contrary by all means’ (Gigon). ‘Ancient society had never known this kind of quarrel, because it had a different and non-dogmatic concept of religious questions’ (Brox).

First ‘heretics’ in the New Testament

Paul the fanatic, the classic of intolerance, provided the example of the treatment that would be given by Rome to those who did not think like her, or rather, ‘his figure is fundamental to understand the origin of this kind of controversy’ (Paulsen).

This was demonstrated in his relations with the first apostles, without excepting Peter. Before the godly legend made the ideal pair of the apostles Peter and Paul (still in 1647, Pope Innocent X condemned the equation of both as heretical, while today Rome celebrates its festivities the same day, June 29), the followers of the one and the other, and themselves, were angry with fury; even the book of the Acts of the Apostles admits that there was ‘great commotion.’

Paul, despite having received from Christ ‘the ministry of preaching forgiveness’, contradicts Peter ‘face to face’, accuses him of ‘hypocrisy’ and asserts that with him, ‘the circumcised’ were equally hypocrites. He makes a mockery of the leaders of the Jerusalem community, calling them ‘proto-apostles’, whose prestige he says nothing matters to them, since they are only ‘mutilated’, ‘dogs’, ‘apostles of deceit.’ He regrets the penetration of ‘false brethren’, the divisions, the parties, even if they were declared in his favour, to Peter or to others.

Conversely, the primitive community reproached him those same defects, and even more, including greed, accusing him of fraud and calling him a coward, an abnormal and crazy, while at the same time seeking the defection of the followers. Agitators sent by Jerusalem break into his dominions, even Peter, called ‘hypocrite’, faces in Corinth the ‘erroneous doctrines of Paul’. The dispute did not stop to fester until the death of both and continued with the followers.

Paul, very different to the Jesus of the Synoptics, only loves his own. Overbeck, the theologian friend of Nietzsche who came to confess that ‘Christianity cost my life… because I have needed my whole life to get rid of it’, knew very well what was said when he wrote: ‘All beautiful things of Christianity are linked to Jesus, and the most unpleasant to Paul. He was the least likely person to understand Jesus’.

To the condemned, this fanatic wants to see them surrendered ‘to the power of Satan’, that is to say, prisoners of death. And the penalty imposed on the incestuous Corinth, which was pronounced, by the way, according to a typically pagan formula, was to bring about its physical annihilation, similar to the lethal effects of the curse of Peter against Ananias and Sapphira.

Peter and Paul and Christian love! Whoever preaches another doctrine, even if he were ‘an angel from heaven’, is forever cursed. And he repeats, tirelessly, ‘Cursed be…!’, ‘God would want to annihilate those who scandalize you!’, ‘Cursed be everyone who does not love the Lord’, anatema sit that became a model of future Catholic bulls of excommunication. But the apostle was to give another example of his ardour, to which the Church would also set an example.

In Ephesus, where ‘tongues’ were spoken, and where even the garments used by the apostles heal diseases and cast out devils, many Christians, perhaps disillusioned with the old magic in view of the new wonders, ‘collected their books and burned them up in the presence of everyone. When the value of the books was added up, it was found to total fifty thousand silver coins. In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.’

The New Testament already identifies heresy with ‘blasphemy against God’, the Christian of another hue with the ‘enemy of God’; and Christians begin to call other Christians ‘slaves of perdition’, ‘adulterous and corrupted souls’, ‘children of the curse’, ‘children of the devil’, ‘animals without reason and by nature created only to be hunted and exterminated’, in which the saying that ‘the dog always returns to his own vomit’ and ‘the pig wallows in his own filth’ is confirmed.

Porphyry

The following excerpts are taken from the introduction and epilogue of Joseph Hoffman’s book, Porphyry’s Against the Christians. Ellipsis omitted between unquoted passages:


wanderer
Persecution is a slippery term in the annals of the early church. An older generation of church historians, using the martyrologies and writings of the church fathers as their sources, believed that the era from Nero to Constantine was one of almost unremitting slaughter of professing Christians. Their opinion was enfeebled somewhat by the certainty that the Romans could have tried a “final solution” to the Christian problem much earlier, if they had wanted, and the fact that along with boasting of their many martyrs, church writers like Origen also bragged that rich folk, high officials, elegant ladies, and illuminati were entering the church in great numbers. The pagan writers tried to counter this trend in their insistence that Christianity was really a religion for the lazy, the ignorant and superstitious, and the lowborn—“women, yokels and children,” Celsus had sneered. But the ploy was ineffective. Diocletian’s persecutions revealed that Christianity had crept into the emperor’s bedroom: his wife, his daughter, their servants, the treasury official Audactus, the eunuch Dorotheus, even the director of the purple dye factory in Tyre, were Christians or Christian sympathizers. Insulting the new converts did not stop the process of conversion. The political solution of the third century, therefore, was an attempt to scare people off—to make being a Christian an expensive proposition. Persecution was the strong-arm alternative to failed polemical tactics by the likes of Celsus, Porphyry and Hierocles.

In 250 Decius decreed simply that Christians would be required to sacrifice to the gods of Rome by offering wine and eating sacrificial meat. Those who refused would be sentenced to death. To avoid this punishment, well-to-do Christians seem to have given up this new religion in substantial numbers, becoming in the eyes of the faithful “apostates,” a new designation derived from the Greek word revolt. The apostates also numbered many bishops, including the bishop of the important region of Smyrna, as well as Jewish Christians who rejoined the synagogue, as Judaism was not encompassed in the Decian order.

In the reign of Valerian (253-260) the focus shifted from the practice of the Christian faith to the church’s ownership of property. In August 257, Valerian targeted the wealth of the clergy and in 258 the riches of prominent Christian lay persons. The tactic was obviously intended to make upper-crust Romans think twice before throwing their wealth in the direction of the “beggar priests” as Porphyry called them.

On 31 March 297, under the emperor Diocletian, the Manichean religion was outlawed. Like Christianity it was an “import” of dubious vintage. More particularly, it was Persian, and Rome was at war with Persia. Holy books and priests were seized and burned without much ado. Professing members of the cult were put to death without trial. The most prominent Roman Manicheans (the so-called honestiores) were spared, but their property was confiscated and they were sent to work in the mines. The process against the Manicheans boded worse things to come for the Christians.

Diocletian published his first decree against the Christians in February 303. The edict to stamp out (“terminate”) the Christian religion was issued. Diocletian had hoped to cripple the movement. Termination would have meant extermination. But the survival tactics of the movement made police work difficult. Christians had become sly. The enthusiasm of martyrdom was now paralleled by accomplished doubletalk.

Executions increased, especially after rumors reached Galerius that plots against the throne were being fomented in Christian circles. New edicts were issued with regularity, each a little more severe than the one before. The fourth edict (304) required that all the people of a city must sacrifice and offer libations to the gods “as a body,” Christians included. Diocletian abdicated, in declining health. Galerius issued an edict of toleration.

Maximinus Daia, who had an active retaining program in place, designed to reeducate lapsed Christians in their pagan heritage. But the life was going out of the movement to repress Christianity. The pagan critics had not succeeded in stemming the popularity of the movement, and the “persecuting” emperors (except perhaps Diocletian himself) had miscalculated both the numbers and the determination of the faithful. The movement was Rome’s Vietnam, a slow war of attrition which had been fought to stop a multiform enemy. Even at their worst under Diocletian, the persecutions had been selective and, in their intense form, short-lived. And (as has been known since the seventeenth century) the number of martyrs was not great.

The goal of the fourth edict against the Christians in 304, in fact, had been to compel loyalty to unpopular rulers, and in 308 the greatly detested Maximinus tried the same tactic, “to offer sacrifices and wine-offerings.” The tactic was ineffectual, Eusebius says, because even the enforcers had lost their heart to impose the penalties and to support the machinery required for the “sacrifice factories” Maximinus tried to set up.

Unhappy with this failure, he sponsored a literary attack, circulating forged gospels and memoirs containing the stock slanders against Jesus. These were posted in public gathering-places and schoolteachers were required to assign portions of them to children as lessons. To substantiate charges against the moral habits of the Christians, Maximinus then hired agents (duces) to round up prostitutes from the marketplace in Damascus. Tortured until they confessed to being Christians, they then signed statements to the effect that the churches routinely practiced ritual prostitution and required members to participate in sexually depraved acts. These statements were also distributed to the towns and cities for public display.

Desperate times, desperate men, desperate measures.

By the time Galerius issued his edict of toleration in favor of the Christians on 30 April 311 three waves of attack had failed: the erratic policies of emperors Nero and Marcus Aurelius; the literary and philosophical attacks, carried on in collusion with imperial sponsors; and the more sustained persecutions of the third century, ending in 311. Paganism was dying. Maximinus’ plan for “reeducating” Christians in the religion of their ancestors had failed.

After Constantine’s conversion—whatever it may have been—only Julian (332-363), his nephew, remained to pick up the baton for the pagan cause. Julian did his best to reestablish the old order. He reorganized the shrines and temples; outlawed the teachings of Christian doctrine in the schools, retracted the legal and financial privileges which the Christians had been accumulating since the early fourth century; wrote polemical treaties against the Christians himself, and—in a clever political maneuver—permitted exiled bishops to return to their sees to encourage power-struggles and dissention within the church. Naturally, the Christians despised him. The distinguished theologian Gregory of Nazianzus had been Julian’s schoolmate in Athens, where both learned a love for the classical writers (but where Julian had been converted to Greek humanism). Cyril of Alexandria wrote a long refutation of Julian’s Adversus Christianos (Against the Christians), parts of which hark back to Porphyry and Hierocles. All in all, this pagan interlude—never really a renaissance—lasted only three years, until Julian’s death in June 363.

In the middle of this period we have just described stands Porphyry of Tyre. Born in 232, Porphyry was eighteen when the persecution broke out under emperor Decius. Twelve years later, his dislike for Christianity was firmly established. Porphyry had heard Origen preach, studied the Hebrew scripture, especially the prophets, and the Christian gospels, and found them lacking in literary quality and philosophical sophistication. He had joined a “school” in Rome (ca. 262) run by the famous neoplatonic teacher, Plotinus, where he remained until about 270. In Sicily, following Plotinus’ death, and back again to Rome, Porphyry developed an intense dislike of popular religion—or superstition, as the Roman intellectuals of his circle preferred to call it, regarding Christianity as the most pernicious form of a disease infecting the empire. In a work titled Pros Anebo he pointed out the defects in the cults. Then he tackled Christian teaching in a work. Popular under the rescript of Galerius in 311, the work was targeted for destruction by the imperial church, which in 448 condemned all existing copies to be burned.

The first thing to say about Porphyry’s fifteen books against the Christians is that they are lost. The exact title is not known, and its popular title, Kata Christianon, can be dated securely only from the Middle Ages. Opinions radically differ over the question whether the books can be substantially restored. A few facts can be stated succinctly, however. First, the church was unusually successful in its efforts to eradicate all traces of Kata Christianon from at least 448. Not only were Porphyry’s books destroyed, but many of the works of Christian writers incorporating sections of Porphyry’s polemic were burned in order to eliminate what one critic, the bishop Apollinarius, called “poison of his thought.”

Second, the ninety-seven fragments gathered by Harnack, half of which were taken from the fourth-century writer Macarius Magnes, are enough—if barely enough—to give us shape of Porphyry’s critique. That Macarius does not name his opponent and sometimes seems to characterize rather than quote his opinions could easily be explained as a strategic decision by a Christian teacher who wished his defense to survive. Naming his adversary—or quoting him too precisely—would have almost certainly guaranteed the burning of Macarius’ defense. Put appositely, anyone wishing to write a defense of the faith in the fourth or fifth century would have been foolhardy to identify the enemy as Porphyry.

[Third], I think we owe it to Porphyry and his “interpreters” to permit them speak to us directly. Having been buried—more or less successfully—since 448, the words should be permitted to breathe their own air.