Julian, 46

Editor’s note: I am relocating the below post, already published last Sunday, to this Sunday to make a point.

Gregory of Nazianzus was a ‘saint’ that has been mentioned several times in this site, especially in Karlheinz Deschner’s historical series. But scholarly writing lacks the vitality of a literary recreation of an epoch. That is why historical novels are important as a literary genre.

The next step would be to recreate the epoch in movies and TV series (something that we would have today hadn’t the American and the British betrayed their own race in the Second World War). Gregory’s father ‘was part Jew and part Greek’ wrote Vidal, and he added about this Gregory:

He tapped the painting. A flake of paint zigzagged to the ground. “One day the whole thing will disappear and then who will know what Marathon was like, when this picture’s gone?”

Had the Third Reich been allowed to thrive, you can imagine the power that film scenes describing the Semitic takeover of our civilisation in the 4th century would have been causing in a Jew-wise, Aryan audience.

In his novel Julian, Vidal wrote:

 
As I stood there looking up at the tarry shields, a youth approached me. He was bearded; his clothes were dirty; he wore a student’s cloak and he looked a typical New Cynic of the sort I deplore. I have recently written at considerable length about these vagabonds. In the last few years the philosophy of Crates and Zeno has been taken over by idlers who, though they have no interest in philosophy, deliberately imitate the Cynics in such externals as not cutting their hair or beards, carrying sticks and wallets, and begging. But where the original Cynics despised wealth, sought virtue, questioned all things in order to find what was true, these imitators mock all things, including the true, using the mask of philosophy to disguise licence and irresponsibility. Nowadays, any young man who does not choose to study or to work grows a beard, insults the gods, and calls himself Cynic. No wonder philosophy has earned the contempt of so many in this unhappy age.

Without ceremony, the New Cynic pointed at the wall. “That is Aeschylus,” he said. I looked politely at the painting of a bearded soldier, no different from the others except for the famous name written above his head. The playwright is shown engaged in combat with a Persian. But though he is fighting for his life, his sombre face is turned towards us, as though to say: I know that I am immortal!

“The painter was self-conscious,” I said neutrally, fully expecting to be asked for money and ready not to give it.

The Cynic grinned at me. Apparently he chose to regard neutrality as friendship. He tapped the painting. A flake of paint zigzagged to the ground. “One day the whole thing will disappear and then who will know what Marathon was like, when this picture’s gone?” As he spoke, something stirred in my memory. I recognized the voice. Yet the face was completely strange to me. Confident now that we were friends, he turned from the painting to me. Had I just arrived in Athens? Yes. Was I a student? Yes. Was I a Cynic? No. Well, there was no cause to be so emphatic (smiling). He himself dressed as a Cynic only because he was poor. By the time this startling news had been revealed to me, we had climbed the steps to the temple of Hephaestos. Here the view of the agora is wide and elegant. In the clear noon light one could see beyond the city to the dark small windows of those houses which cluster at the foot of Hymettos.

“Beautiful,” said my companion, making even that simple word sound ambiguous. “Though beauty…”

“Is absolute,” I said firmly. Then to forestall Cynic chatter, I turned abruptly into the desolate garden of the temple. The place was overrun with weeds, while the temple itself was shabby and sad. But at least the Galileans have not turned it into a charnel house. Far better that a temple fall in ruins than be so desecrated. Better of course that it be restored.

My companion asked if I was hungry. I said no, which he took as yes (he tended not to listen to answers). He suggested we visit a tavern in the quarter just back of the temple. It was, he assured me, a place much frequented by students of the “better” sort. He was sure that I would enjoy it. Amused by his effrontery (and still intrigued by that voice which haunted me), I accompanied him through the narrow hot streets of the near by quarter of the smiths, whose shops glowed blue as they hammered out metal in a blaring racket: metal struck metal in a swarm of sparks, like comets’ tails.

The tavern was a low building with a sagging roof from which too many tiles had been removed by time and weather. I bent low to enter the main door. I was also forced to stoop inside, for the ceiling was too low for me and the beams were haphazard, even dangerous in the dim light. My companion had no difficulty standing straight. I winced at the heavy odour of rancid oil burning in pots on the stove.

Two trestle tables with benches filled the room. A dozen youths sat together close to the back door, which opened on to a dismal courtyard containing a dead olive tree which looked as though it had been sketched in silver on the whitewashed wall behind it.

My companion knew most of the other students. All were New Cynics, bearded, loud, disdainful, unread. They greeted us with cheerful obscenities. I felt uncomfortable but was determined to go through with my adventure. After all, this was what I had dreamed of. To be just one among many, even among New Cynics. The moment was unique, or so I thought. When asked who I was, they were told “Not a Cynic.” They laughed good-humouredly. But then when they heard I was new to Athens, each made an effort to get me to attend lectures with his teacher. My companion rescued me. “He is already taken. He studies with Prohaeresius.” I was surprised, for I had said nothing to my guide about Prohaeresius, and yet Prohaeresius was indeed the teacher of my choice. How did he know?

“I know all about you,” he said mysteriously. “I read minds, tell fortunes.” He was interrupted by one of the youths, who suggested that I shave my beard since otherwise I might be mistaken for a New Cynic and give them a bad name by my good behaviour. This was considered witty in that room. Others debated whether or not I should be carried off to the baths to be scrubbed, the traditional hazing for new students, and one which I had every intention of avoiding. If necessary, I would invoke lèse majesté!

But my guardian shoved the students away and sat me down at the opposite table close to the courtyard door, for which I was grateful. I am not particularly sensitive to odours, but on a blazing hot day the odour of unwashed students combined with thick smoke from old burning oil was almost too much for me. The tavern-keeper, making sure I had money (apparently my companion was deep in his debt), brought us cheese, bitter olives, old bread, sour wine. To my surprise, I was hungry. I ate quickly, without tasting. Suddenly I paused, aware that I was being stared at. I looked across the table at my companion. Yes?

“You have forgotten me, haven’t you, Julian?”

Then I identified the familiar voice. I recognized Gregory of Nazianzus. We had been together at Pergamon. I burst out laughing and shook his hand. “How did such a dedicated Christian become a New Cynic?”

“Poverty, plain poverty.” Gregory indicated the torn and dirty cloak, the unkempt beard. “And protection.” He lowered his voice, indicating the students at the other table. “Christians are outnumbered in Athens. It’s a detestable city. There is no faith, only argument and atheism.”

“Then why are you here?”

He sighed. “The best teachers are here, the best instructors in rhetoric. Also, it is good to know the enemy, to be able to fight him with his own weapons.”

I nodded and pretended agreement. I was not very brave in those days. But even though I could never be candid with Gregory, he was an amusing companion. He was as devoted to the Galilian nonsense as I was to the truth. I attributed this to his unfortunate childhood. His family are Cappadocian. They live in a small town some fifty miles south-west of Caesarea, the provincial capital. His mother was a most strong-willed woman named… I cannot recall her name but I did meet her once a few years ago, and a most formidable creature she was. Passionate and proud and perfectly intolerant of everything not Galilean.

Gregory’s father was part Jew and part Greek. As a result of his wife’s relentless admonitions, he succumbed finally to the Galilean religion. According to Gregory, when his father was splashed with water by the bishop of Nazianzus, a great nimbus shone all round the convert. The bishop was so moved that he declared, “Here is my successor!” A most generous-minded man, that bishop! Most of us prefer not to name our successor. In due course, Gregory’s father became bishop of Nazianzus. So his predecessor had the gift of prophecy, if nothing else.

All in a rush Gregory was telling me of himself. “… a terrible trip, by sea. Just before we got to Aegina, the storm struck us. I was sure the ship would sink. I was terrified. I’d never been (I still am not) baptized. So if I died like that at sea… Well, you must know yourself what I went through.” He looked at me sharply. “Are you baptized?”

I said that I had been baptized as a child. I looked as reverent as possible when I said this.

“I prayed and prayed. Finally I fell asleep, exhausted. We all did. I dreamed that something loathsome, some sort of Fury, had come to take me to hell. Meanwhile, one of the cabin boys, a boy from Nazianzus, was dreaming that he saw—now this is really a miracle—Mother walking upon the water.”

“His mother or your mother or the mother of Jesus?” I am afraid that I asked this out of mischief. I couldn’t help myself.

But Gregory took the question straight. “My mother,” he said. “The boy knew her, and there she was walking across that raging sea. Then she took the ship by its prow and drew it after her to a safe harbour. Which is exactly what happened. That very night the storm stopped. A Phoenician ship found us and towed us into the harbour of Rhodes.” He sat back in triumph. “What do you think of that?”

“Your mother is a remarkable woman,” I said accurately. Gregory agreed and talked at enthusiastic length about that stern virago. Then he told me of his adventures in Athens, of his poverty (this was a hint which I took: I gave him a good deal of money during the course of my stay), of our friend Basil who was also in Athens and was, I suspect, the reason for Gregory’s attendance at the University. Wherever Basil went, Gregory followed. At Athens they were nicknamed “the Twins”.

“I am expecting Basil now. We’re both due at Prohaeresius’s house this afternoon. We’ll take you. You know we live together here. We study together. We argue almost as a team against the local Sophists. And we usually win.”

This was true. Both he and Basil were—are—eloquent. I deplore of course the uses to which their eloquence is put. Today they are most active as Galilean apologists, and I often wonder what they think of their old companion who governs the state. Nothing good, I fear. When I became emperor I asked them both to visit me at Constantinople. Gregory agreed to come, but never did. Basil refused. Of the two, I prefer Basil. He is plain, like me. He is misguided in his beliefs but honest. I suspect Gregory of self-seeking.

Christianity’s Criminal History, 102

Editors’ note: To contextualise these translations of Karlheinz Deschner’s encyclopaedic history of the Church in 10-volumes, Kriminalgeschichte des Christentums, read the abridged translation of Volume I. In the previous chapter, not translated for this site, the author describes the high level of education in the Greco-Roman world before the Christians burned entire libraries and destroyed an amazing quantity of classical art.

 
Since the time of Jesus Christianity has taught to hate everything that is not at God’s service

The Gospel was originally an apocalyptic, eschatological message, a preaching of the imminent end of the world. The faith of Jesus and his disciples was, in this respect, firm as a rock, so that any pedagogical question lacked any relevance for them. They did not show the slightest interest in education or culture. Science and philosophy, as well as art, did not bother them at all.

We had to wait no less than three centuries to have a Christian art. The ecclesiastical dispositions, even those enacted in later times, measure artists, comedians, brothel owners and other types with the same theological standard.

Soon it was the case that the ‘fisherman’s language’ (especially, it seems, that of the Latin Bibles) provoked mockery throughout all the centuries, although the Christians defend it ostensibly. This, in despite Jerome and Augustine confess on more than one occasion how much horror is caused by the strange, clumsy and often false style of the Bible. Augustine even said it sounded like stories of old women! (In the 4th century some biblical texts were poured into Virgil hexameters, without making them any less painful.) Homines sine litteris et idiotae (illiterate and ignorant men), thus the Jewish priests describe the apostles of Jesus in the Latin version of the Bible.

As the Kingdom of God did not come upon the Earth, the Church replaced it with the Kingdom of Heaven to which the believers had to orient their entire lives. This meant according the plans of the Church; for the benefit of the Church, and in the interest of the high clergy. For whenever and wherever this clergy speaks of the Church, of Christ, of God and of eternity, it does so solely and exclusively for their own benefit. Pretending to advocate for the health of the believer’s soul, they thought only of their own health. All the virtues of which Christianity made special propaganda, that is, humility, faith, hope, charity, and more, lead to that final goal.

In the New Testament it is no longer human pedagogy what matters, which is barely addressed. What is at stake is the pedagogy of divine redemption.

In the work of Irenaeus, creator of a first theological pedagogy, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Gregory of Nazianzus and Gregory of Nyssa, the idea of a divine pedagogy is often discussed and God becomes the proper educator. Ergo all education must, in turn, be engaged in the first and last line of God and this must be his role.

That is why Origen teaches that ‘we disdain everything that is chaotic, transient and apparent and we must do everything possible to access life with God’. Hence, John Chrysostom requires parents to educate ‘champions of Christ’ and that they should demand the early and persistent reading of the Bible. Hence, Jerome, who once called a little girl a recruit and a fighter for God, wrote that ‘we do not want to divide equally between Christ and the world’.

‘All education is subject to Christianization’ (Ballauf). Nor does the Doctor of the Church Basil consider ‘an authentic good he who only provides earthly enjoyment’. What was encouraged is the ‘attainment of another life’. That is ‘the only thing that, in our opinion, we should love and pursue with all our strength. All that is not oriented to that goal we must dismiss as lacking in value’.

Such educational principles that are considered chimerical, or ‘worthless’ (everything that does not relate to a supposed life after death), find their foundation even in Jesus himself: ‘If someone comes to me and does not hate his father, his mother, his wife, his children, his brothers, his sisters and even his own life, he can not be my disciple’.

How many misfortunes such words have been sowing for two thousand years…

Julian, 23

Julian presiding at a conference of Sectarians
(Edward Armitage, 1875)

 
Julian Augustus

As I sat on the bench in the sun, revelling in warmth and anonymity, a dark man approached me. He gave me a close look. Then he said, “Macellum?”

At first I was annoyed at being recognized. But when I realized that this young man was the physician Oribasius, I was glad that he spoke to me. In no time at all we were talking as if we had known each other all our lives. Together we took the baths. In the circular hot room, as we scraped oil from one another, Oribasius told me that he had left the court.

“To practise privately?”

“No. Family affairs. My father died. And now I have to go home to Pergamon to settle the estate.”

“How did you recognize me? It’s been two years.”

“I always remember faces, especially those of princes.”

I motioned for him to lower his voice. Just opposite us two students were trying to overhear our conversation.

“Also,” whispered Oribasius, “that awful beard of yours is a give-away.”

“It’s not very full yet,” I said, tugging at it sadly.

“And everyone in Nicomedia knows that the most noble Julian is trying to grow a philosopher’s beard.”

“Well, at my age there’s always hope.”

After a plunge in the cold pool, we made our way to the hall of the tepidarium, where several hundred students were gathered, talking loudly, singing, occasionally wrestling, to the irritation of the bath attendants, who would then move swiftly among them, cracking heads with metal keys.

Oribasius promptly convinced me that I should come stay with him in Pergamon. “I’ve a big house and there’s no one in it. You can also meet Aedesius…. ”

Like everyone, I admired Aedesius. He was Pergamon’s most famous philosopher, the teacher of Maximus and Priscus, and a friend of the late Iamblichos.

“You’ll like Pergamon. Thousands of Sophists, arguing all day long. We even have a woman Sophist.”

“A woman?”

“Well, perhaps she’s a woman. There is a rumour she may be a goddess. You must ask her, since she started the rumour. Anyway, she gives lectures on philosophy, practises magic, predicts the future. You’ll like her.”

“But you don’t?”

“But you will.”

At that moment we were joined by the two young men from the hot room. One was tall and well built; his manner grave. The other was short and thin with a tight smile and quick black eyes. As they approached, my heart sank. I had been recognized. The short one introduced himself. “Gregory of Nazianzus, most noble Julian. And this is Basil. We are both from Cappadocia. We saw you the day the divine Augustus came to Macellum. We were in the crowd.”

“Are you studying here?”

“No. We’re on our way to Constantinople, to study with Nicocles. But Basil wanted to stop off here to attend the lectures of the impious Libanius.”

Basil remonstrated mildly. “Libanius is not a Christian, but he is the best teacher of rhetoric in Nicomedia.”

“Basil is not like us, most noble Julian,” said Gregory. “He is much too tolerant.”

I found myself liking Basil and disliking Gregory, I suppose because of that presumptuous “us”. Gregory has always had too much of the courtier in him. But I have since come to like him, and today we are all three friends, despite religious differences. They were agreeable companions, and I still recall with pleasure that day we met when I was a student among students with no guardian to inhibit conversation. When it was finally time to leave the baths, I promised Oribasius that somehow or other I would join him in Pergamon.

Meanwhile, Gregory and Basil agreed to dine with me. They were just the sort Ecebolius would approve of: devout Galileans with no interest in politics. But I knew instinctively that Oribasius would alarm Ecebolius. Oribasius had been at court and he moved in high circles. He was also rich and worldly and precisely the sort of friend a sequestered prince should not have.

I decided to keep Oribasius my secret for the time being. This proved to be wise.

Published in: on December 24, 2017 at 10:00 am  Comments Off on Julian, 23  
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Kriminalgeschichte, 45

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

 
It was not fought for faith, but for power and for Alexandria

The exacerbated interest in faith was not really more than the obverse of the question. From the beginning, this secular dispute was less about dogmatic differences than about the core of a typical clerical policy. ‘The pretext was the salvation of souls’—admitted even Gregory of Nazianzus, son of a bishop and holy bishop in turn, who avoided meddling in worldly matters and who often eluded his ecclesiastical offices by fleeing—, ‘and the motive was anxiety of domain, not to mention tributes and taxes’.

The hierarchical ambitions for power and the disputes over the Episcopal sees, in whose course the theological rivalries were often forgotten, gave duration and vehemence to those enmities. It not only excited the Church but, at least in the East, also the state. Not only did the council fathers sometimes engage in quarrels until the Holy Spirit spoke, but also lay people beat themselves bloody in public.

Any dispute produced there between the clergy, Arian and Monophysite, iconoclasm exceeds the limits of a mere quarrel between friars and shocks all political and social life for centuries. This makes Helvetius affirm, in a lapidary way: ‘What is the consequence of religious intolerance? The ruin of the nations’.

And Voltaire assures that ‘If you count the murders perpetrated by fanaticism from the brawls between Athanasius and Arius up to the present day, you will see that these disputes have contributed to the depopulation of the Earth rather than the warlike confrontations’, which undoubtedly it has been very often a consequence of the complicity between the throne and the altar.

However, just as the policies of the State and the Church were intimately intertwined, so were the latter and theology. Of course, there was no official doctrine about the Trinity, but only different traditions. Binding decisions ‘were only made in the course of the conflict’ (Brox).

In spite of this, each of the parties, especially Saint Athanasius, liked to call his desire for prestige and power a matter of faith; thus could accusations be constantly presented and justified. Athanasius immediately theologises any political impetus and treats his rivals as heretics. Politics becomes theology and theology, politics. ‘His terminology is never clear enough, the question is always the same’ (Loofs). ‘With Athanasius it is never about formulas’ (Gentz).

What most characterizes the ‘father of orthodoxy’ is that he leaves his extremely confused dogmatic position, using it until the 350s, to designate the ‘true faith’, those topics that would later be used to stigmatize the Arian or semi-Arian ‘heresy’: that he, the defender of Nicaea and the homousios, rejected for a long time the theory of hypostasis, thereby delaying the union; and that he, the bulwark of orthodoxy, even cleared the way for an ‘heretical doctrine’, Monophysitism.

For that reason, the Catholics of the 5th and 6th centuries had to ‘touch up’ the dogmatic treatises of their doctor of the Church. However, for a long time the Arians proposed a formula of profession that coincided literally with that often used by Athanasius, but then appeared as ‘Arian heresy’ since whatever the opponent said, it was always bad in advance, malignant and diabolical; and any personal enemy was an ‘Arian’.

All this state of affairs was facilitated by the fact that for a time there had been total confusion in theological concepts, and the Arians had split again. Even Constantine II, who had gradually favoured them more and more radically— ‘to all the corrupt bishops of the Empire’ (Stratmann, catholic), ‘to the caricatures of the Christian bishop’ (Ehrhard, catholic)—, got so fed up of the dispute over the ‘nature’ of Christ that ended up forbidding it.

The theologians of the post-Constantinian era compared this war of religion, increasingly unintelligible, with a naval battle in the midst of the fog, a nocturnal combat in which it is impossible to distinguish the friend from the foe, but in which one hits with viciousness, often changing sides, preferably, of course, towards the side of the strongest in which all means are allowed; one hates intensely, intrigues are plotted and jealousies provoked.

Even Jerome, the father of the Church, affirmed in his moment that he did not manage to find peace and tranquillity neither in a small corner of the desert, because every day the monks asked him accounts of his faith. ‘I declare what they want, but it is not enough for them. I subscribe to what they propose to me and they do not believe it. It is easier to live among wild beasts than among such Christians!’

Numerous aspects of the chronology of the dispute are still controversial, even doubting the authenticity of many documents. However, the direct starting point was the revolt provoked by a debate about the Trinity around the year 318 in Alexandria, a city in which they fought for more than faith.

Alexandria, founded in 332-331 by Alexander the Great, the city of the poet Callimachus, the geographer Eratosthenes, the grammarian Aristophanes of Byzantium and Aristarchus of Samothrace. The city of Plotinus and later of Hypatia, was the main metropolis of the East, a cosmopolitan city of almost a million inhabitants, whose luxury only rivalled that of Rome.

Alexandria was mapped out with broad views, it was rich and an important commercial plaza, with a fishing fleet that obtained not insignificant catches and stood out for its monopoly in the papyrus industry, which supplied to the whole world.

Alexandria, the place where the Old Testament was translated into Greek (the Septuagint), was also the seat of a patriarchy—it is not true that St. Mark founded it; the first bishop of whom there is historical record is Demetrius I—, and it was, within the whole of the Church including that of the West, the largest and most powerful of all Episcopal sees. The two Egypts, Thebes, Pentapolis and Libya were under its jurisdiction.

This position had to be maintained, consolidated and expanded. The Alexandrian hierarchs, called ‘popes’ and who soon became immensely wealthy, intended during the 4th and 5th centuries to get at all costs the domination of the totality of the Eastern dioceses. Their theology was also opposed to that of Antioch, which also joined the struggle for rank between the two patriarchs, always winning he who supported the emperor and the ecclesiastical and imperial seat of Constantinople.

In constant struggle against ecclesiastical competitors and the State, a political apparatus of the Church arose here for the first time, similar to what would later be in Rome. According to this, the bishops of the secondary seats acted, who paid for any change of course with the loss of their Episcopal armchairs, or either they won them. Not one of the innumerable paleo-Christian churches of Alexandria was preserved.

Around the year 318, Patriarch Alexander would have preferred to silence the burning question about the ousia, the nature of the ‘Son’. There was a time when he was personally linked to the orator Arius (around 260-336), denounced by the Meletians and since 313 he was the presbyter of the church of Baucalis, the most prestigious in the city and the centre of a large group of followers formed by young women and workers of the dams.

But Arius, who was a kind and conciliatory scholar and probably composed the first popular songs of the Christian era (now totally forgotten), had renounced the Episcopal seat in favour of Alexander, and in the contest he participated less in a personal capacity than as an exponent from the school of theologians of Antioch, which he had neither founded nor directed. On the other hand, Bishop Alexander had previously defended, which was also reproached by Arians, ideas and doctrines similar to those he was now pursuing; he affirmed that Arius spent ‘day and night in insults against Christ and against us’.

After two public debates, at a synod that brought together 100 bishops, St. Alexander excommunicated and exiled Arius and all his followers—a decision that undoubtedly contributed to the struggle of the high office against the privileges of his priests—, and warned everywhere against the intrigues of the ‘heresiarch’. He also informed the Roman bishop Silvestre (314-335). And by means of two encyclicals, in 319 and probably in 324, he appealed to ‘all other beloved and venerable servants of God’, ‘to all the bishops beloved by God of all places’.

This resulted in measures and countermeasures being taken. Some princes of the Church anathematized Arius while others expressed their appreciation. Among the latter was the important intercessor before the court, the influential Bishop Eusebius, supreme pastor of Nicomedia, the city of residence of the emperor, who welcomed his banished friend; and Bishop Eusebius of Caesarea, already famous as biblical exegete and historian.

Two synods that resolved in favour of Arius made possible his rehabilitation and return. The Arian party of Alexandria was acquiring more and more force, coming to name a counter-bishop. Alexander defended himself in vain, lamented the ‘den of thieves’ of the Arians and came to fear for his own life. Riots followed, which spread throughout Egypt, and finally the Eastern Church split.

New Episcopal conferences, such as the Synod of Antioch in 324, again condemned Arius, writing to the ‘bishops of Italy, who depend on the great Rome’, although without considering the Roman power as sovereign or that it had come to play some role of relevance. And in the year 325 a council was held in the Emperor’s summer residence.

Kriminalgeschichte, 44

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

Athanasius at the Council of Nicea

 

Chapter 18: Athanasius, Doctor of
the Church (towards 295-373)

‘Saint Athanasius was the greatest man of his time and perhaps, pondering everything in a scrupulous way, the greatest that the Church could ever have presented’.

— Abbé de Bletterinni

‘The grateful posterity gave the efficient Alexandrian bishop the deserved nickname of “the Great”; both the Eastern and Western churches venerate him as a saint’.

— Joseph Lippl

‘Every political question is taken to the field of theology; his adversaries are heretics while he is the defender of pure faith. The adversaries learn from him the association between theology and politics. As a kind of anti-emperor, he anticipated the prototype of the great Roman popes, being the first of the great Egyptian patriarchs who ended up separating their country from imperial unity’.

— G. Gentz

‘The actors in the history of the Church were largely the same as those in the history of Byzantium in general’.

— Friedhelm Winkelmann

‘From the 4th century to the 7th, by the Father, by the Son and by the Holy Spirit, the schools of theology, the popes and the patriarchs fought with every means at their disposal. They judged, degraded and proscribed each other; there began to operate secret services and propaganda machinery; the controversies degenerated into wild ecstasies; there were riots and street skirmishes. There was murder; the military crushed the revolts; the anchorites of the desert, with the support of the court of Byzantium, instigated the multitudes; intrigues were hatched for the favour of emperors and empresses. State terror was unleashed; the patriarchs fought among themselves, they were elevated to the throne and dethroned again as soon as a new trinitarian conception succeeded’.

— Hans Kühner

 

Kühner goes on to say: ‘The first great doctors of the Church appeared, and the saints, against all human passions, performed a series of mental exercises worthy of all praise that have become part of both the history of the faith and of the history of thought’. However, it should be pointed out that this did not occur against all human passions but largely because of them, because he who takes the spirit seriously cannot believe that one is two or three or that three is equal to one.

Christian theology calls this supra-rational and not counter-rational or irrational. It calls it mystery, not absurd. And having so many things between heaven and earth that our scholastic philosophy cannot imagine, it is unnecessary to take for granted everything that has been imagined, nor do we have to take the greatest absurdity and consider it a great mystery. ‘If God’, says Diderot, ‘for whom we have reason, demands us to sacrifice reason, he is a conjurer who makes what he has just given disappear’.

 
The complicated nature of God and the dominion of darkness

Any science worth its salt is based on experience, but what comes to be known about God, if it exists? In the early days of Christianity, ‘a whole mass of the most diverse ideas’ about the celestial spirits was considered (Weinel, theologian). In the 2nd and early 3rd centuries, ‘hardly anyone’ cared about the ‘Holy Spirit’ (Harnack, theologian), and in the 4th century, according to Hilarius, doctor of the Church, no one knows what will be the creed of the following year.

However, the theologians went deeper and deeper into the subject in the course of time. They came to discover that God was something like a single being (ousia, substance) in three people (hypostaseis personae). That this triple personality was a consequence of two ‘processes’ (processiones): of the generation (generatio) of the Son from the Father and of the ‘exhalation’ (spiratio) of the Spirit between the Father and the Son. That these two ‘processes’ were equivalent to four ‘interactions’ (relationes): the quality of father and son, the exhalation and the exhaled being, and these four ‘interactions’ in turn give five ‘particularities’ (proprietates, notiones). That in the end, all this, in mutual ‘permeation’ (perichoresis, circuminsessio) would give only one God: actus purissimus!

As much as they have given themselves the headaches over the centuries, the theologians know ‘that any intellectual work on the Trinity dogma will remain “an unfinished symphony”’ (Anwander) or, no matter how deep they delve into it, ‘a mystery of impenetrable faith’, as the Benedictine Von Rudioff humbly writes, asserting with all seriousness that none of it ‘speaks against reason; we do not say that three is equal to one but that three people are a being’. However, in 1977, it seems to Karl Rahner ‘that the history of dogmas, in the broadest sense of the word, continues and must continue—and therefore the history of dogmas continues’.

No matter how much theologians may say—an endless process of often nebulous concepts, especially because in the history of dogmas they have imposed their beliefs by all means, including violence—, those disputes have never possessed any basis of experience. Because of this, and speaking through Helvetius, ‘the reign of theology was always seen as the domain of darkness’.

In the 4th century an attempt was made to shed light on this darkness, and everything became even darker. ‘Everyone suspects their neighbour’, recognises Basil, father of the Church, ‘the blasphemous tongues have been released’. But the councils, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, that tried to clarify the mysteries, only contributed to create greater confusion. Even Gregory of Nazianzus, the holy father of the Church, mocks the clerical conferences and admits that they seldom come to a good end, stoking more controversy instead of softening it: ‘I avoid the meetings of bishops because until now I have never seen any synod ending well; they do not solve any ill but simply create new ones. In them there is only rivalry and struggles for power’.

On the one hand, of the important Council of Nicaea (325) hardly something survived, as well as some other synods. On the other hand, the victors prevented the circulation of the writings of their opponents, when they did not manage to destroy them.

Only a few fragments of Arius, or Asterius of Cappadocia, a moderate Arian, have come to us through quotations in replication writings. Although Catholic treatises were frequently disseminated, especially those written by the fathers of the Church Hilarius de Poitiers (died 367) and Athanasius of Alexandria (died 373), they only are subjective propaganda products. The no less tendentious historians of the 5th century Socrates, Sozomen, Theodoret and Philostorgius, of strict Arian tendency, are already of later generations.

A good idea of the spiritual historiography of that era and its unscrupulous tendency to falsify is provided by the first global history of the Church after Eusebius, that of Gelasius of Caesarea (died between 394 and 400).

Unknown until recently, it has been largely reconstructed and its importance lies in its sources: descriptions of the historians of the 5th century Church (Rufinus, the oldest in the West, Socrates and Gelasius of Cyzicus). Gelasius was also successor (the second) of Eusebius, a high dignitary and archbishop of Caesarea with jurisdiction throughout Palestine.

Friedrich Winkelmann has presented in a very concise manner the method of this unique and great contemporary history of the Church during the Trinitarian dispute: the stereotyped defamation of the adversary. The archbishop, author of the work, hardly cares about the advances or the differentiations produced. Of the Arians, he only relates reticences and intrigues; they are nothing but inconvertible troublemakers, ‘puppets of the devil who speaks through their mouth’.

Gelasius attributes to Arius a perjury. He also lies in saying that it was not Constantius but his son, the Emperor Constantine, who wanted to rehabilitate Arius. On the other hand, Constantine—another lie—did not banish Athanasius, the opponent of Arius, but sent him back to Alexandria full of honours. Gelasius is also the first to expose the falsehood that Constantine named in his testament Constantine II, the Catholic, heir to his kingdom; but that a local priest gave the testament to Constantius in exchange for the promise to support Arianism. The bishop of Caesarea not only masks all the negative, overlooking most of the events, but he also simply runs his imagination, against the strict truth; in sum, what manifests itself is ‘a great complex of a gross falsification of history’.

But was it Athanasius, doctor of the Church, no less scrupulous, agitator and apologist? Globally, he reprimands the Arians: ‘Whom haven’t they not outraged at their will? Whom have they not mistreated to the point that he died in misery or his relatives were harmed? Where is a place that does not show any memory of their wickedness? What adversary have they not annihilated, wielding pretexts invented in the manner of Jezebel?’

Even the Benedictine Baur speaks of a ‘civil war between Catholics and Arians’. Naturally, the same happens with all the authentic Catholic apologists: the Arians—whose name would soon become one of the worst insults in history of the Church—were prey to the devil and degraded the Christian name before a world, still half pagan, ‘with abominable intrigues, persecutory rage, lies and infamies of all kinds, even by means of mass murders’. Therefore, it was time ‘for this poisonous plant to disappear at last from the world’.

At the centre of this dispute among theologians was the question of whether Christ was true God, if he had the same nature as God himself. The Orthodox, although sometimes disappointed, affirmed this, while the Arians, the majority of the Eastern bishops at the height of their power (after the Council of Milan, 355), denied it.

When it seemed that the latter had almost won, they split into radicals, who considered the ‘Son’ and the ‘Father’ as totally disparate and different (anhomoios), semi-Arians, who in their opinion were considered more or less homousians, and a party that rejected the previous two and defended homoism, pointing out the similarity (which was left intentionally vague) or equality of ‘Father’ and ‘Son’, but not the ‘identity of nature’, the homousios of the Nicaeans.

The Arians and the Orthodox remained attached to monotheism, but for the first, no doubt closer to the primitive Christian faith, the ‘Son’ was totally different from the ‘Father’. He was a creature of God, although complete and very on top of all the others. Arius speaks of him with the utmost respect.

For the Orthodox Jesus was, in the mouth of Athanasius, ‘God made flesh’ (theos sarkophoros), but not a ‘man, who leads to God’ (anthropos theophoros); the ‘Father’ and the ‘Son’ being a single nature, an absolute unit; they were homousios, of the same nature. For only in this way was it possible to sustain the dogma of the double, or even triple, divinity and pray to the ‘Son’, the new one, as well as to the ‘Father’, as the Jews already did. The Arians were accused of ‘polytheism’ and ‘having a big God and a small one’.

For the popular masses of Constantinople, who, as everywhere, flocked to the preferred ‘National Church’, the question of faith was apparently captivating and fascinating, with the Christological dispute reaching a great popularity in streets, squares and theatres, as ironically says a contemporary of the late 4th century:

This city is full of artisans and slaves who are profound theologians, who preach in stores and on the streets. If you want to change a coin with a man, first he will inform you about where the difference between God the Father and God the Son lies, and if you ask for the price of a loaf of bread, instead of answering you they will explain that the Son is below the Father; and if you want to know if you have the bathroom ready, the bathroom attendant will answer you that the Son has been created from nothing.

Kriminalgeschichte, 12

A month ago I wrote that the oldest Christian texts are a treat if we compare them with the version of Christianity that conquered the United States: the worst Christianity of all times. I also said that it’s the worst precisely because it transmuted the anti-Semitism of the early theologians into the philo-Semitism brought to this continent by the spiritual sons of Cromwell.

Judge it by yourselves. In the first book of his ten-volume Criminal History of Christianity Karlheinz Deschner explains the anti-Judaism in the Church from the 2nd to the 4th centuries:

The increasing hostility against the Jews in times of primitive Christianity is observed in the writings of the iospatres aevi apostolici, that is, of the apostolic fathers, a designation created by the patristics of the 17th century to refer to the authors who lived shortly after the apostles: ‘When the earth was still warm from the blood of Christ’, according to the expression of St. Jerome…

St. Justin, an important philosopher of the second century, was much pleased (as was Tertullian, Athanasius, and others) about the terrible destruction of Palestine by the Romans, the ruin of their cities, and the burning of their inhabitants. All this is judged by the saint as a punishment from heaven, ‘what has happened to you is well deserved… criminal breed, children of harlot.’

And the invectives of the ‘very fine Justin’ (Harnack), whose celebration is attached to the 14th of April by disposition of Leo XIII (who died in 1903), do not end there. The saint devotes many other epithets to the Jews: he calls them sick souls, degenerates, blind, lame, idolaters, sons of bitches and sacks of evil. He states that there is not enough water in the seas to clean them.

This man, who according to the exegete Eusebius lived ‘at the service of the truth’ and died ‘for proclaiming the truth’, affirms that the Jews are guilty of all ‘injustices committed by all other men’, a slander in which did not fall even Streicher, Hitler’s propagandist.

At the beginning of the third century, the Roman bishop Hippolytus, disciple of St Irenaeus and father of the ‘early Catholic Church’, wrote a poisonous pamphlet, Against the Jews. He called them ‘slaves of the nations’ and demanded that the servitude of this people does not last seventy years as the captivity of Babylon, or four hundred and thirty years as in Egypt, but ‘for all eternity.’

St. Cyprian, who was a very wealthy man, rector and bishop of Carthage in the year 248 after divorcing his wife, devoted himself to collecting anti-Jewish aphorisms and thus supplied ammunition to all Christian anti-Semites of the Middle Ages. According to the teachings of this celebrated martyr, characterized by his ‘indulgence and cordial manliness for the good’ (Erhard), the Jews ‘have as father the devil’; exactly what the Stürmer said, the newspaper of agitation for the Hitler SS. The great author Tertullian says that the synagogues are ‘the sources of the persecution’ (fontes persecutionum)…

The Stürmer was the periodical that inspired Andrew Anglin to name his Daily Stormer.

Even the noble Origen thinks that the doctrines of the Jews of his time are only fables and vacuous words; to their ancestors he once again reproaches for ‘the most abominable crime’ against ‘the Saviour of the human race; that is why it was necessary that the city where Jesus suffered was destroyed, and that the Jewish people should be expelled from their homeland’…

With the increase of clergy power in the 4th century, the virulence of anti-Judaism also grew, as the theologian Harnack observed. It was becoming more frequent for the ‘fathers’ to write pamphlets against the Jews. Some of the oldest ones have been lost; our references begin with those of Tertullian, Hippolytus of Rome, and a number of Church doctors, from St. Augustine to St. Isidore of Seville in the 7th century. Anti-Jewish pamphlets became a literary genre within the Church (Oepke).

Gregory of Nazianzus, even today celebrated as a great theologian, condemned the Jews in a single litany, where he calls them murderers of God and of the prophets; enemies of God, people who hate God, despise the Law, devil’s advocates, race of blasphemers, slanderers, scoundrel of Pharisees, sinners, lapidary men, enemies of honesty, assembly of Satan, etcetera. ‘Not even Hitler made more accusations against the Jews in less words than the saint and bishop of sixteen hundred years ago.’

Deschner devotes a few pages to the anti-Semitic pronouncements of St. Ephrem (306-373), John Chrysostom, St. Jerome and Hilary of Poitiers. Then he tells us:

In 1940, in the middle of the Hitler era, Carl Schneider confesses that ‘rarely in history is anti-Semitism as determined and as uncompromising… as that of those early Christians’.

Compare this primitive Christianity with the standing applause with which all the congressmen, both Democrats and Republicans, received Benjamin Netanyahu—and tell me with a straight face that I am wrong that the worst type of Christianity conquered the most powerful nation in modern history!