Julian, 12

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

 

But at that time I was hardly a philosopher. I studied what I was told to study. The deacon who gave me instruction was most complimentary. “You have an extraordinary gift for analysis,” he said one day when I was exploring with him John 14:25, the text on which the Arians base their case against the Athanasians. “You will have a distinguished future, I am sure.”

“As a bishop?”

“Of course you will be a bishop since you are imperial. But there is something even more splendid than a bishop.”

“A martyr?”

“Martyr and saint. You have the look of one.”

I must say my boyish vanity was piqued. Largely because of this flattery, for several months I was confident that I had been especially chosen to save the world from error. Which, in a way, turned out to be true, to the horror of my early teachers.

Bishop George was an arrogant and difficult man but I got on with him, largely because he was interested in me. He was a devoted controversialist. Finding me passably intelligent, he saw his opportunity. If I could be turned into a bishop, I would be a powerful ally for the Arians, who were already outnumbered by the Athanasians, despite the considerable help given them by Constantius.

Today, of course, the “pernicious” doctrine of the three-in-one God has almost entirely prevailed, due to the efforts of Bishop Athanasius. Constantius alone kept the two parties in any sort of balance. Now that he is dead the victory of the Athanasians is only a matter of time. But today none of this matters since the Galileans are now but one of a number of religious sects, and by no means the largest. Their days of domination are over. Not only have I forbidden them to persecute us Hellenists; I have forbidden them to persecute one another. They find me intolerably cruel!

Was I a true Galilean in those years at Macellum? There has been much speculation about this. I often wonder myself. The answer is not clear even to me. For a long time I believed what I was taught. I accepted the Arian thesis that the One God (whose existence we all accept) mysteriously produced a sort of son who was born a Jew, became a teacher, and was finally executed by the state for reasons which were never entirely clear to me, despite the best efforts of Bishop George to instruct me.

But while I was studying the life of the Galilean I was also reading Plato, who was far more to my taste. After all, I was something of a literary snob. I had been taught the best Greek by Mardonius. I could not help but compare the barbarous backcountry language of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John to the clear prose of Plato. Yet I accepted the Galilean legend as truth. After all, it was the religion of my family, and though I did not find it attractive I was unaware of any alternative until one afternoon when I was about fourteen.

I had been sitting for two hours listening to the deacon sing me the songs of Bishop Arius… yes, that great religious thinker wrote popular songs in order to influence the illiterate. To this day I can recall the words of half a dozen of his inane ballads which “proved” that the son was the son and the father was the father. Finally, the deacon finished; I praised his singing.

“It is the spirit which matters, not the voice,” said the deacon, pleased with my compliment. Then—I don’t know how it happened—Plotinus was mentioned. He was only a name to me. He was anathema to the deacon. “A would-be philosopher of the last century. A follower of Plato, or so he claimed. An enemy of the church, though there are some Christians who are foolish enough to regard him highly. He lived at Rome. He was a favourite of the Emperor Gordian. He wrote six quite unintelligible books which his disciple Porphyry edited.”

“Porphyry?”

As though it were yesterday, I can remember hearing that name for the first time, seated opposite the angular deacon in one of the gardens at Macellum, high summer flowering all about us and the day hazy with heat.

“Even worse than Plotinus! Porphyry came from Tyre. He studied at Athens. He called himself a philosopher but of course he was merely an atheist. He attacked the church in fifteen volumes.”

“On what grounds?”

“How should I know? I have never read his books. No Christian ought.” The deacon was firm.

“But surely this Porphyry must have had some cause…”

“The devil entered him. That is cause enough.”

By then I knew that I must read Plotinus and Porphyry. I wrote Bishop George a most politic letter, asking him to lend me the books of these “incorrigible” men. I wished to see, I said, the face of the enemy plain, and naturally I turned to the Bishop for guidance, not only because he was my religious mentor but because he had the best library in Cappadocia. I rather laid it on.

To my astonishment Bishop George immediately sent me the complete works of Plotinus as well as Porphyry’s attack on Christianity. “Young as you are, I am sure that you will appreciate the folly of Porphyry. He was an intelligent man misled by a bad character. My predecessor, as bishop of Caesarea, wrote a splendid refutation of Porphyry, answering for all time the so-called ‘inconsistencies’ Porphyry claimed to have detected in scriptures. I am sending you the Bishop’s works, too. I cannot tell you how pleased I am at the interest you are showing in sacred matters.”

What the good Bishop did not know was that the arguments of Porphyry were to form the basis for my own rejection of the Nazarene.

Published in: on October 1, 2017 at 3:14 pm  Comments (1)  
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Ancient book burning

Excerpts from Roger Pearse’s review of Joseph Hoffmann’s Porphyry’s Against the Christians: The Literary Remains:
 

The sixteen-book work by the Neoplatonist Porphyry Against the Christians is lost. Constantine ordered that all copies should be destroyed; a century later Theodosius tacitly acknowledged that this had not occurred by issuing a similar edict.

Constantine_burning_Arian_books

Constantine burning Arian books

Porphyry adopted an “idiot-boy” literalism as his tool to debunk. Anything that could be made to sound discreditable, anything that did not fit with the tenor of contemporary prejudice, any statement that could be made to sound contradictory, could be presented as a reason to deride the Christians. However, such a approach is unimpressive to anyone except a believer. Such people could have their faith in anti-Christianism bolstered, and be encouraged to sneer and have gibes ready to throw. But the unconvinced reader would see easily that such statements can be made about anything, however worthy.

Instead, the essential argument is an appeal to the irrational herd-instinct of mankind and its need to conform. Many of Porphyry’s arguments consist simply of assertion that something is shameful or embarrassing, rather than rational discussion. This can only work if the flavour of the times is such that the subject is unfashionable. To look for a modern analogy, modern readers will be aware that “anti-racism” has not acquired the power it has in our society by rational argument. Instead it relies on repeated assertion and intimidation, to create a climate in which only certain ideas can be said. In the ancient world, likewise, certain ideas went without saying. The Christian ethos was not part of this; and indeed, as a novelty, was embarrassing. The idea that the poor might be important was disgusting. Porphyry simply harps on the subconscious need to the reader to conform to what he knows society expects, rather than reasoning objectively what is right.

But once the times changed, the approach worked in reverse. It was Porphyry’s ideas that went against the tenor of the times.

Christmas gift

If, historically, the One Ring (greed) was the primary weakness for Western man, Christianity is also a major culprit. It is race-blind and compels us to navigate our passages favoring universalism. Based on theism, the belief in a personal, Hebraic god, it is hostile to “pagan” (Christian Newspeak for folkish) bonds for the supposed benefit of the “soul.” Our parents’ religion commands us to love our enemy (even Jews) and worship human weakness (including low-IQ negroes). Catholic and Protestant moral grammar goes at the very heart in today’s untamed equality: what Nietzsche called slave morality.

As Manu Rodríguez, a Nietzschean from Spain, said yesterday (my translation), “Christianity is the art of making wolves and bears into kids and lambs. It is the art of weakening, neutralizing and undermining the morale of the population, making even defense impossible.” Earlier this year another visitor of this blog sent me an email containing this paragraph:

Because of your blog I have ordered tons of books that you have read and thus gain the same insights that you do. I have Hellstorm on my shelf now; I have not read it yet. I am about to commence reading Porphyry’s Against the Christians. I can’t wait. The Bible is a book that has plagued me all my life. It is nice to finally read one of the original refutations of this Jewish nonsense.

A year ago I reposted excerpts of a chapter about the Gospels’ nativity fictions that I typed directly from a book authored by a secular scholar on the Bible. Porphyry (234-305 C.E.) was the forgotten pioneer in this field of research.

The reason white nationalists are uninterested in secular studies of the New Testament is the same they are so reluctant to assess the data about the subject that the dollar will crash. The double-helix of the US was precisely a structure intertweaving capitalism with Christianity. But American white nationalists want to save their race without destroying the One Ring wielded by the Kwa* and without dismissing their parents’ religion. They ignore that the nation of their founding fathers was hard-wired to become New Zion (click on the picture of Mammon on the sidebar).

Since this month we will celebrate Christmas with our families, I must say that an intellectual among those who blame Mammon also blames the other big factor. This is a translated quotation from “Rasse und Gestalt: unsere Identität,” a September 2013 speech by Tom Sunic:

The Christian teaching of equality and its contemporary offsprings, liberalism and Marxism is the main cause of so-called anti-racism and self-hatred as well as today’s mongrelized multicultural society. It’s futile to inspirit race consciousness or folk consciousness and to oppose mass immigration of non-Europeans, without first fighting and eliminating the legacy of Christianity.

I would go further and claim that the word “Christian” was 4th century Newspeak of the time. Translated back to Greco-Roman Oldspeak, we could say that Christian is a codeword for artificial Jew. What most significant can be that in this darkest hour of the West, on June 13 of this year in fact, Pope Francis said: “Inside every Christian is a Jew.”

Jorge Mario Bergoglio, whose mother language is Spanish, is the first one in history who has adopted the name of St Francis (Francisco I) when nominated Pope. In my compilation of several authors, The Fair Race, you’ll find much support of Sunic’s quote: a deranged Christian sense of compassion à la St Francis did transmute into secular, runaway liberalism.

Elsewhere I have mentioned the image that Kenneth Clark chose to depict St Francis in the 1969 TV series Civilisation: Hesdin’s The Fool. I added that in Erasmus’ most famous book, The Praise of Folly, women, “admittedly stupid and foolish creatures,” are Folly’s pride. Erasmus took a surprisingly modern, “liberal” position about the role of women in society. Since Folly praises ignorance and lunacy, Erasmus reasoned, women must be instrumental for the Christian cause. In his book Folly is only interested in following the steps of Jesus, the exemplar of charitable simplicity against the budding intellectualism of the 16th century. The fact that Erasmus took St Paul’s (a Jew) “praise of folly” against the best minds St Paul encountered in Athens (whites) speaks for itself and needs no further comment.

I must iterate I find it most significant that the current Pope is the first one to use the name of Francis: the feminine, Christian paradigm of charitable simplicity par excellence. Last month, Pope Francis addressed the European Parliament saying that no longer fertile Europe should accept immigrants.

the-name-of-the-roseYes: I’ve put the Pope and all of his Cardinals in my black list for black sorcery

But here I can only say that the saint of Assisi was one of the most venerated religious figures in history and my idol when, at sixteen, I was struggling with my internalized father. Unlike the current Pope, the medieval Church somehow knew that when the purest gospel reached mainstream Christianity it would be the end of civilization. See, for example, Umberto Eco’s depiction of the Fraticelli in The Name of the Rose, which chapter on Jorge de Burgos’ scary sermon about the coming of the Antichrist I reread a couple of days ago.

Online you can also see the final pages of The Antichrist. If Nietzsche were alive, wouldn’t he say that the suicidal folie en masse that in the 20th and 21st centuries affects westerners is but the culmination of the psyop started by St Paul?

 

______________

(*) Kwa means Amerikwa: a negative word used to describe the degenerate, racially destructive, Jewified, niggrified, pussified, and depressing place that America has become.

For the context of Sunic’s point of view see also “The Christian problem encompasses the Jewish problem”: perhaps the entry I’ve updated the most in this blog.

Like Sunic I believe that reading literature in traditional, printed books is important to understand the darkest hour. My favorite historical novels are precisely Julian (1964), which depicts 4th century Christianity after the death of Constantine and The Name of the Rose (1980), a complete immersion into the zeitgeist of Christendom a thousand years later. If you prefer non-fiction, remember the above-cited words about Porphyry’s Against the Christians (“It is nice to finally read one of the original refutations of this Jewish nonsense”).

Christmas gifts of Nietzsche’s The Antichrist would probably be a little rude, even though the philosopher tells the plain truth about how the authors behind the gospels inverted our Aryan values. But Julian and The Name of the Rose may appear innocuous enough as gifts for our family, at least at the time of delivering the presents.

On Spain and literature – II

“Zionist Occupied Government? Pffft! Zionist Occupied Culture? Closer. Zionist Occupied Soul? Bingo! The Inner Jew.”

—Sebastian Ronin

retrato de soledad anaya
 
On page 227 of her textbook, Soledad Anaya mentions that Naples and Sicily, Flanders, Germany, Hungary and Bohemia; Portugal and all the kingdoms of Spain itself became subject to the scepter of Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, in addition to the rich new lands of America. Anaya mentions that the subsequent, various Philip kings lost, one by one, all the European lands; and she also recounts in passing the religious wars that ripped Christendom apart. On the same page, Anaya began her introduction of one of the Spanish poets of the time, Luis de León, born in 1527, “who has been described as the greatest of the Spanish lyricists.” Luis de León professed in the Convent of St. Augustine and was a teacher of theology and scriptures. But at the very end of that same page, Anaya tells us that in 1572 he was put in jail by the Inquisition of Valladolid, accused of not having the Vulgate as authentic, something considered contrary to the warnings of the Council of Trent.

I made a pause while reading that page and thought about writing an entry, “Iberian blunder on a colossal scale.” But it is a huge subject and I must limit myself to mention only a couple of thoughts of my soliloquy.

Precisely what I value the most about my favorite philosopher of the Greco-Roman world, Porphyry or Tyre, is that he could have prevented what the Führer called the greatest calamity that fell upon the white race: Christianity (for a couple of entries explaining my admiration of Porphyry, see here and here). It comes as a shocker to see that, unlike Revilo Oliver, Ben Klassen, William Pierce and others, most American white nationalists still stick to their parents’ religion. This month for example, Matt Parrott wrote in his Facebook page, “I’ll be praying for his [Craig Cobb] merciful treatment, for his health and vitality, and for his discovery of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ while he’s being persecuted.”

Wow. I wonder if Americans know how and why the Iberians lost their power in both Europe and the Americas? It was precisely what Spain did not tolerate in Luis de León; precisely what Christian Rome did not tolerate in Porphyry, what caused the fall of both Rome and Spain.

I have added to WDH many entries on how this Semitic-inspired religion (“prolefeed for the gentiles”) did not pay any attention to the racial boundaries. But the real point is that white nationalism, as a project that doesn’t reject our parents’ faith, is a lost cause insofar as the Christian problem has been more serious than the Jewish problem, even according to Hitler’s table talk.

Sebastian Ronin also believes that white nationalism is a non-starter. It should be a no-brainer among racialists that, in order to save the race, the first thing to do is to abandon the faith that amalgamated the Aryan psyche with the Semitic one. Only in such way it is possible to understand, as Tom Sunic does, why the US committed the vilest act in all Western history: siding the subversive tribe against her brothers in the century when we were born, and perpetrating with the other Allies a true Holocaust of Germanic people. Although Sunic has been video-recorded as politely saying to white nationalist Christians “Give up this Christianity!” I see no reason why not saying the same in more direct terms:

There’s no way to save the white race except by rejecting the Inner Jew to use Ronin’s words in the epigraph above, which I interpret as rejecting the symbol “Jesus Christ.” So let’s start with the very honorific name of this semi-historical or completely fictional personage, whoever he was. Just as “The Buddha” is a title of the very human Siddhattha, “Jesus Christ” is a title of the very human Yeshu.

Hermann Samuel Reimarus

The following is excerpted from a classic in Christological studies, Albert Schweitzer’s The Quest of the Historical Jesus, published in 1906: a scholarly yet readable introduction to the field of New Testament studies from a modern viewpoint. Schweitzer’s second chapter is titled “Hermann Samuel Reimarus”:

Hermann_Samuel_Reimarus

“Von dem Zwecke Jesu und seiner Junger.” Noch ein Fragment des Wolfenbuttelschen Ungenannten. Herausgegeben von Gotthold Ephraim Lessing. Braun- schweig, 1778, 276 pp. (The Aims of Jesus and His Disciples: A further Instalment of the anonymous Woltenbiittel Fragments. Published by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing. Brunswick, 1778.)


Before Reimarus, no one had attempted to form a historical conception of the life of Jesus. Luther had not so much as felt that he cared to gain a clear idea of the order of the recorded events. Speaking of the chronology of the cleansing of the Temple, which in John falls at the beginning, in the Synoptists near the close, of Jesus’ public life, he remarks: “The Gospels follow no order in recording the acts and miracles of Jesus, and the matter is not, after all, of much importance. If a difficulty arises in regard to the Holy Scripture and we cannot solve it, we must just let it alone.”

When the Lutheran theologians began to consider the question of harmonising the events, things were still worse. Osiander (1498-1552), in his “Harmony of the Gospels,” maintained the principle that if an event is recorded more than once in the Gospels, in different connexions, it happened more than once and in different connexions. The daughter of Jairus was therefore raised from the dead several times; on one occasion Jesus allowed the devils whom He cast out of a single demoniac to enter into a herd of swine, on another occasion, those whom He cast out of two demoniacs; there were two cleansings of the Temple, and so forth. The correct view of the Synoptic Gospels as being interdependent was first formulated by Griesbach.

Thus there had been nothing to prepare the world for a work of such power as that of Reimarus. It is true, there had appeared earlier, in 1768, a Life of Jesus by Johann Jakob Hess (1741-1828), written from the standpoint of the older rationalism, but it retains so much supernaturalism and follows so much the lines of a paraphrase of the Gospels, that there was nothing to indicate to the world what a master-stroke the spirit of the time was preparing.

Not much is known about Reimarus. For his contemporaries he had no existence, and it was [David Friedrich] Strauss who first made his name known in literature. He was born in Hamburg on the 22nd of December, 1694, and spent his life there as a professor of Oriental Languages. He died in 1768. Several of his writings appeared during his lifetime, all of them asserting the claims of rational religion as against the faith of the Church; one of them, for example, being an essay on “The Leading Truths of Natural Religion.” His magnum opus, however, which laid the historic basis of his attacks, was only circulated, during his lifetime, among his acquaintances, as an anonymous manuscript.

In 1774 Lessing began to publish the most important portions of it, and up to 1778 had published seven fragments, thereby involving himself in a quarrel with Goetze, the Chief Pastor of Hamburg. The manuscript of the whole, which runs to 4000 pages, is preserved in the Hamburg municipal library.

The following are the titles of [some] Fragments which he published:

• The Passing of the Israelites through the Red Sea
• Showing that the books of the Old Testament were
not written to reveal a Religion
• Concerning the story of the Resurrection
• The Aims of Jesus and His Disciples

The monograph on the passing of the Israelites through the Red Sea is one of the ablest, wittiest, and most acute which has ever been written. It exposes all the impossibilities of the narrative in the Priestly Codex.

To say that the fragment on “The Aims of Jesus and His Disciples” is a magnificent piece of work is barely to do it justice. This essay is not only one of the greatest events in the history of criticism, it is also a masterpiece of general literature. The language is as a rule crisp and terse, pointed and epigrammatic—the language of a man who is not “engaged in literary composition” but is wholly concerned with the facts. At times, however, it rises to heights of passionate feeling, and then it is as though the fires of a volcano were painting lurid pictures upon dark clouds. Seldom has there been a hate so eloquent, so lofty a scorn; but then it is seldom that a work has been written in the just consciousness of so absolute a superiority to contemporary opinion. And withal, there is dignity and serious purpose; Reimarus’ work is no pamphlet. This was the first time that a really historical mind, thoroughly conversant with the sources, had undertaken the criticism of the tradition.

[Chechar’s note: Because the Christians destroyed all copies of Porphyry’s book, we don’t really know if Porphyry’s anti-Christian polemic was also “thoroughly conversant with the New Testament sources.” From a few fragments discovered by the end of the 20th century I believe it was. One could barely imagine the revolution in thought that could have occurred since the later phases of the Roman Empire and the Early Middle Ages had Porphyry’s biblical criticism been allowed to survive 1,300 years before Reimarus…]

It was Lessing’s greatness that he grasped the significance of this criticism, and felt that it must lead either to the destruction or to the recasting of the idea of revelation. He recognised that the introduction of the historical element would transform and deepen rationalism. Convinced that the fateful moment had arrived, he disregarded the scruples of Reimarus’ family and the objections of Nicolai and Mendelssohn, and, though inwardly trembling for that which he himself held sacred, he flung the torch with his own hand.

Reimarus takes as his starting-point the question regarding the content of the preaching of Jesus. “We are justified,” he says, “in drawing an absolute distinction between the teaching of the Apostles in their writings and what Jesus Himself in His own lifetime proclaimed and taught.” What belongs to the preaching of Jesus is clearly to be recognised. It is contained in two phrases of identical meaning, “Repent, and believe the Gospel,” or, as it is put elsewhere, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”

Jesus shared the Jewish racial exclusiveness wholly and unreservedly. According to Matt. x. 5 He forbade His disciples to declare to the Gentiles the coming of the Kingdom of God. Evidently, therefore, His purpose did not embrace them. Had it been otherwise, the hesitation of Peter in Acts x. and xi., and the necessity of justifying the conversion of Cornelius, would be incomprehensible.

Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are no evidence that Jesus intended to found a new religion. In the first place the genuineness of the command to baptize in Matt. xxviii. 19 is questionable, not only as a saying ascribed to the risen Jesus, but also because it is universalistic in outlook, and because it implies the doctrine of the Trinity.

The “Lord’s Supper,” again, was no new institution, but merely an episode at the last Paschal Meal of the Kingdom which was passing away, and was intended “as an anticipatory celebration of the Passover of the New Kingdom.” A Lord’s Supper in our sense, “cut loose from the Passover,” would have been inconceivable to Jesus, and not less so to His disciples. Miracles have no basis in fact, but owe their place in the narrative to the feeling that the miracle-stories of the Old Testament must be repeated in the case of Jesus, but on a grander scale. It is useless to appeal to the miracles, any more than to the “Sacraments,” as evidence for the founding of a new religion…

For [a] popular uprising, however, He waited in vain. Twice He believed that it was near at hand. The first time was when He was sending out the disciples and said to them: “Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes” (Matt. x. 23). He thought that, at the preaching of the disciples, the people would flock to Him from every quarter and immediately proclaim Him Messiah; but His expectation was disappointed. The people in Jerusalem refused to rise, as the Galilaeans had refused at the time when the disciples were sent out to rouse them.

All this implies that the time of the fulfilment of these hopes was not thought of by Jesus and His disciples as at all remote. In Matt. xvi. 28, for example, He says: “Truly I say unto you there are some standing here who shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.” There is no justification for twisting this about or explaining it away. It simply means that Jesus promises the fulfilment of all Messianic hopes before the end of the existing generation.

Thus the disciples were prepared for anything rather than that which actually happened. Jesus had never said a word to them about His dying and rising again, otherwise they would not have so played the coward at His death, nor have been so astonished at His “resurrection.” The three or four sayings referring to these events must therefore have been put into His mouth later, in order to make it appear that He had foreseen these events in His original plan.

Inasmuch as the non-fulfilment of its eschatology is not admitted, our Christianity rests upon a fraud.

Such is Reimarus’ reconstruction of the history. We can well understand that his work must have given offence when it appeared, for it is a polemic, not an objective historical study. But we have no right simply to dismiss it in a word, as a Deistic production, as Otto Schmiedel, for example, does; it is time that Reimarus came to his own, and that we should recognise a historical performance of no mean order in this piece of Deistic polemics. His work is perhaps the most splendid achievement in the whole course of the historical investigation of the life of Jesus, for he was the first to grasp the fact that the world of thought in which Jesus moved was essentially eschatological.

In the light of the clear perception of the elements of the problem which Reimarus had attained, the whole movement of theology, down to Johannes Weiss, appears retrograde. In all its work the thesis is ignored or obscured that Jesus, as a historical personality, is to be regarded, not as the founder of a new religion, but as the final product of the eschatological and apocalyptic thought of Late Judaism. Every sentence of Johannes Weiss’s Die Predigt Jesu vom Reiche Gottes (1892) is a vindication, a rehabilitation, of Reimarus as a historical thinker.

Even so the traveller on the plain sees from afar the distant range of mountains. Then he loses sight of them again. His way winds slowly upwards through the valleys, drawing ever nearer to the peaks, until at last, at a turn of the path, they stand before him, not in the shapes which they had seemed to take from the distant plain, but in their actual forms. Reimarus was the first, after eighteen centuries of misconception, to have an inkling of what eschatology really was.

The sole mistake of Reimarus—the assumption that the eschatology was earthly and political in character. Thus theology shared at least the error of the man whom it knew only as a Deist, not as an historian, and whose true greatness was not recognised even by Strauss, though he raised a literary monument to him.

The solution offered by Reimarus may be wrong; the data of observation from which he starts out are, beyond question, right, because the primary datum of all is genuinely historical. He recognised that two systems of Messianic expectation were present side by side in Late Judaism. But what matters the mistake in comparison with the fact that the problem was really grasped?

The attitude of Jesus towards the law, and the process by which the disciples came to take up a freer attitude, was grasped and explained by him so accurately that modern historical science does not need to add a word, but would be well pleased if at least half the theologians of the present day had got as far.

Further, he recognised that primitive Christianity was not something which grew, so to speak, out of the teaching of Jesus, but that it came into being as a new creation, in consequence of events and circumstances which added something to that preaching which it did not previously contain; and that Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, in the historical sense of these terms, were not instituted by Jesus, but created by the early Church on the basis of certain historical assumptions.

Still more remarkable is his eye for exegetical detail. He has an unfailing instinct for pregnant passages like Matt. x. 23, xvi. 28, which are crucial for the interpretation of large masses of the history. The fact is there are some who are historians by the grace of God, who from their mother’s womb have an instinctive feeling for the real. They follow through all the intricacy and confusion of reported fact the pathway of reality, like a stream which, despite the rocks that encumber its course and the windings of its valley, finds its way inevitably to the sea. No erudition can supply the place of this historical instinct, but erudition sometimes serves a useful purpose, inasmuch as it produces in its possessors the pleasing belief that they are historians, and thus secures their services for the cause of history.

In truth they are at best merely doing the preliminary spade-work of history, collecting for a future historian the dry bones of fact, from which, with the aid of his natural gift, he can recall the past to life. More often, however, the way in which erudition seeks to serve history is by suppressing historical discoveries as long as possible, and leading out into the field to oppose the one true view an army of possibilities. By arraying these in support of one another it finally imagines that it has created out of possibilities a living reality. This obstructive erudition is the special prerogative of theology, in which, even at the present day, a truly marvellous scholarship often serves only to blind the eyes to elementary truths.

Reimarus’ work was neglected, and the stimulus which it was capable of imparting failed to take effect. He had no predecessors; neither had he any disciples. His work is one of those supremely great works which pass and leave no trace, because they are before their time; to which later generations pay a just tribute of admiration, but owe no gratitude.

Thus the magnificent overture in which are announced all the motifs of the future historical treatment of the life of Jesus breaks off with a sudden discord, remains isolated and incomplete, and leads to nothing further.

JVLIAN excerpts – VII

“Why were you so ungrateful to our gods
as to desert them for the Jews?”

—Julian, addressing the Christians

Julian

The memoir of Julian Augustus


Homoiousios. What does that mean?”

I knew. I rattled my answer like a crow taught to speak. “It means that Jesus the son is of similar substance to God the father.”

Homoousios. What does that mean?”

“That Jesus the son is of one substance with God the father.”

“The difference?”

“In the first case, Jesus was created by the father before this world began. He is God’s son by grace but not by nature.”

“Why?”

“Because God is one. By definition singular. God cannot be many, as the late Presbyter Arius maintained at the council of Nicaea.”

“Excellent.” I received a series of finger-snappings as applause. “Now in the second case?”

Homoousios is that pernicious doctrine”—I had been well-drilled by Eusebius—“which maintains that the father and the son and the holy spirit are one and the same.”

“Which cannot be!”

“Which cannot be,” I chirruped obediently.

“Despite what happened in Nicaea.”

“Where in the year 325 Bishop Athanasius of Alexandria…”

“A mere deacon at the time…”

“Opposed my cousin Bishop Eusebius as well as Presbyter Arius, and forced the council to accept the Athanasian doctrine that the father, son and holy spirit are one.”

But the battle is far from over. We are gaining ground every year. Our wise Augustus believes as we believe, as the late Presbyter Arius believed. Two years ago at Antioch we Eastern bishops met to support the true doctrine. This year shall meet again at Sardica and, with the Emperor’s aid, the true believers shall once and for all destroy the doctrine of Athanasius. My son, you are to be a priest. I can tell. You have the mark. You will be a great force in the church. Tomorrow I shall send you one of my deacons. He will give you religious instruction, both of you.”

“But I’m to be a soldier,” said Gallus, alarmed.

“A God-fearing soldier has the strength of twenty,” said Bishop George automatically. “Besides, religious training will do you no harm.” And curiously enough, it was Gallus who became the devout Galilean while I, as the world knows, returned to the old ways.

But at that time I was hardly a philosopher. I studied what I was told to study. The deacon who gave me instruction was most complimentary. “You have an extraordinary gift for analysis,” he said one day when I was exploring with him John 14:24, the text on which the Arians base their case against Athanasius. “You will have a distinguished future, I am sure.”

“As a bishop?”

“Of course you will be a bishop since you are imperial. But there is something even more splendid than a bishop.”

“A martyr?”

“Martyr and saint. You have the look of one.”

I must say my boyish vanity was picked. Largely because of this flattery, for several months I was confident that I had been especially chosen to save the world from error. Which, in a way, turned out to be true, to the horror of my early teachers.

Bishop George was an arrogant and difficult man but I got on with him. Largely because he was interested in me. He was a devoted controversialist. Finding me passably intelligent, he saw his opportunity. If I could be turned into a bishop, I would be a powerful ally for the Arians, who were already outnumbered by the Athanasians, despite the considerable help given them by Constantius. Today, of course, the “pernicious” doctrine of the three-in-one God has almost entirely prevailed, due to the efforts of Bishop Athanasius. Constantius alone kept the two parties in any sort of balance. Now that he is dead the victory of Athanasius is only a matter of time. But today none of this matters since the Galileans are now but one of a number of religious sects, and by no means the largest. Their days of domination are over. Not only have I forbidden them to persecute us Hellenists; I have forbidden them to persecute one another. They find me intolerable cruel!

Was I a true Galilean in those years at Macellum? There has been much speculation about this. I often wonder myself. The answer is not clear even to me. For a long time I believed what I was taught. I accepted the Arian thesis that the One God (whose existence we all accept) mysteriously produced a sort of son who was born a Jew, became a teacher, and was finally executed by the state for reasons which were never entirely clear for me, despite the best efforts of Bishop George to instruct me. But while I was studying the life of the Galilean I was also reading Plato, who was far more to my taste. After all, I was something of a literary snob. I had been taught the best Greek by Mardonius. I could not help but compare the barbarous back-country language of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John to the clear prose of Plato. Yet I accepted the Galilean legend as truth. After all, it was the religion of my family, and though I did not find it attractive, I was unaware of any alternative until one afternoon when I was fourteen.

I had been sitting for two hours listening to the deacon sing me the songs of Presbyter Arius… yes, that great religious thinker wrote popular songs in order to influence the illiterate. To this day I can recall the words of half a dozen of his inane ballads which “proved” that the son was the son and the father was the father. Finally, the deacon finished; I praised his singing.

“It is the spirit what matters, not the voice,” said the deacon, pleased with my compliment. Then—I don’t know how it happened—Plotinus was mentioned. He was only a name to me. He was anathema to the deacon. “A would-be philosopher of the last century. A follower of Plato, or so he claimed. An enemy of the church, though there are some Christians who are foolish enough to regard him highly. He lived at Rome. He was a favorite of the Emperor Gordian. He wrote six quite unintelligible works which his disciple Porphyry edited.”

“Porphyry?” As though it were yesterday, I can remember hearing that name for the first time, seated opposite the angular deacon on one of the gardens at Macellum, high summer flowering all about us and the day hazy with heat.

“Even worse than Plotinus! Porphyry came from Tyre. He studied at Athens. He called himself a philosopher but of course he was merely an atheist. He attacked the church in fifteen volumes.”

“On what grounds?”

“How should I know? I have never read his books. No Christian ought.” The deacon was firm.

“But surely this Porphyry must have had some cause…”

“The devil entered him. That is cause enough.”

By then I knew that I must read Plotinus and Porphyry. I wrote Bishop George a most politic letter, asking him to lend me the books of these “incorrigible” men. I wished to see, I said, the face of the enemy plain, and naturally I turned to the Bishop for guidance, not only because he was my religious mentor but because he had the best library in Cappadocia. I rather laid it on.

To my astonishment Bishop George immediately sent me the complete works of Plotinus as well as Porphyry’s attack on Christianity. “Young as you are, I am sure you will appreciate the folly of Porphyry. He was an intelligent man misled by a bad character. My predecessor, as bishop of Caesarea, wrote a splendid refutation of Porphyry, answering for all time the so-called ‘inconsistencies’ Porphyry claimed to have detected in scriptures. I am sending you the Bishop’s works too. I cannot tell you how pleased I am at the interest you are showing in sacred matters.” What the good Bishop did not know was that the arguments of Porphyry were to form the basis for my own rejection of the Nazarene.



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My two ¢:

Porphyry was a thinker in real history—outside Vidal’s novel—; in my opinion, a thinker more important than Plato or Aristotle because, hadn’t Julian life been taken so early during his reign, Porphyry’s exegesis of the New Testament would have prevented the dark ages of Europe.

Alas, every singly copy of Porphyry’s book was destroyed by the triumphant Church, with only a few fragments being exegetically unearthed by Joseph Hoffmann as late as… 1994!

I have typed some of these fragments directly from Hoffmann’s book for WDH, here.

The Roman legacy

by Manu Rodríguez (translated from Spanish)



Rome not only opened Europe’s doors to our Greek brothers, but also to the Syrians, and the Phoenicians, and Jews, and the Persians, and to the Egyptians…

It was a flood, a deluge of Eastern cults. Finally, nothing could be saved because we were not anchored onto anything solid. Uprooted, we went astray after a process of self-destruction that had even corroded our very roots, our very fundamentals (courtesy of our Cynic and Skeptic philosophers and Stoics). We navigated adrift, without a North; a wind without North. We laid at the mercy of anyone, of any clever devil. And that’s what happened to us: a clever devil caught us, and we were held captive in his cave for more than a thousand and five hundred years.

In no way did we need any morality or Eastern cult. The European natives (indigenae, born of the interior) had their own gods (indigetes, divinities of the interior), i.e., their own laws, norms, morals. We were doing well: they were the treasures of the families, the ancestral legacy. While these values were maintained nothing bad could happen to us.

It was the contempt for such symbolic significances what marked the beginning of our decline and ruin: the neglect of our being. We should have been stronger. Instead, notice our superficiality in detaching ourselves from the highest value; our folly, our decline, our stupidity, our decadence, our weakness. We disappointed our parents who are in heaven. We were perfidious, unfaithful, disloyal, infidels; unfair.

Anyone who abandons his people, his mother country, is an outcast, a bastard. Those who abandon their Fathers and their legacy, these are the true stateless. They have no country, no parents; they’re only infidels. But that was precisely our behavior. That’s what they did, by force or degree, all of our ancestors: the Romans, Greeks, Germans, Celts, Slavs… All of them disowned the Fathers during the fateful Christianization of Europe. I speak for our ancestors. Upon us falls such guilt, such error, such treachery.

We, the present generations of Europeans, have to repair such perfidy, such disloyalty. We must reclaim the thread with our ancestors, the legacy; give it life again.

Here’s what we missed, what we throw overboard, what was lost of our sight. I speak of the genius of Rome, from her being and her becoming, of a living branch of the Indo-European tree that has not perished. Of her success and failure we must all learn. They succeeded in both keeping their identity, which made them strong, and their ethical significances, moral and civic, so familiar.

The symbolic significances I mention below are taken from the Atlas of World History by Hermann Kinder and Werner Hilgemann, page 88. They are slogans that provide strength and firmness, and moral courage. They were the weapons that we could have used then, and failed to do; but we can use them now. There is still time. It is time to recover what makes us strong and asserts us. Let’s see if those significances remain valid. The following is a summary.

The preservation ( disciplina potestas) of the domestic or household order is made by the father (both parents we would say today without objection), by the authority (sapientia), the maturity of judgment (consilium) and integrity (probitas). The circumspection (diligentia), the rigor (severitas), and self-control (continentia, and temperantia) define the solemn character (gravitas) of their actions, acquired by the industriousness (industria) and tenacity (constantia). The offspring are educated in adult models (mos maiorum). Humility (modestia) and worship (reverentia) are the virtues that should govern the relationship of the younger generation with the older. Young people are also demanded obedience (obsequium), respect (verecundia) and purity (pudicitia, integritas morum).

As for the training of citizens this is what it says: Valor (virtus), independence of judgment and action (libertas), glory, devotion (pietas), fidelity or reliability (fides) and propriety in public life (dignitas) constitute the ideal virtues of a Roman citizen; something that he must put in the service of the community (res publica) in order to contribute to a greater power and greatness of his people (maiestas populi romani). The common good is the highest law (salus populi suprema lex).

cicero

I also recommend the reading of the treatise De officiis (On Duties) of Cicero.

Each of these Latin terms has a wider semantic field that expresses the translation (that I copied from the original). The auctoritas had a sense of moral standing, as when we say “so and so is an authority in a particular science or branch of knowledge.” The sapientia is both the wisdom, knowledge as intelligence, sanity. Pietas is the devotion we owe to the manes or Parents, the elder (mos maiorum) and to the res publica, the mother country. Sacrae patria deserere and deserere patriam were Roman expressions that designated desertion of the Fathers and the adoption of a foreign religion. Gloria is precisely fame, good reputation, be renown; reaching general and public honors after a cursus honorum full of merit, in the service of my people, for the greater glory of my people.

These values can be reclaimed today with dignity and without any demerit.

I remind my fellow citizens this past story because presently Europe (and the Magna Europe) runs a similar risk to that loss in the ancient world. This time it will be much worse because it is foreign people and foreign to our being what will dominate us. That was a purely ideological domination; this will also be a demographic domination. We will be clearly disadvantaged on earth and in heaven.

The decline was soon shown in Greece (since the Alexandrian period) and Rome (since the Carthaginian wars): corruption, despotism, injustice, immorality, treachery—in all areas of life. Polybius and Cicero warned in Rome, and Columella and Sallust, Tacitus, Persius and Juvenal. Everyone noticed it and pleaded: “Go back to the sources, Roman: return to the Fathers, purify and recover the aura, the prestige (auctoritas), the majesty.” All in vain. The echo of that failure still resonates today.

No, it was not the alien cults, nor the Jews or the Christians… It was us, our indifference and our nihilism, the cause of our destruction. There laid our weakness. We were not up to par. We failed to respond adequately to the Christian apologists, for example. There was no Demosthenes, no Cicero in the first Christian centuries. We watched them destroy our foundations. The philosophical schools provided arguments to the Christian propagandists (criticism of our gods, traditions and customs, our values). We weakened the security and confidence in ourselves, in our science, knowledge and powers. The future lords of Europe had little to add.

Doesn’t this story sound familiar to you, European? Behold our times. Haven’t we for more than two centuries been destroying ourselves? Which result we get from our current nihilism, our skepticism, our relativism, our political, moral and cultural indifference; our profound boredom? We repeat that history. We make the same mistakes. Again, we will be defeated.

________________________

Chechar’s note:

“We failed to respond adequately to the Christian apologists, for example. There was no Demosthenes, no Cicero in the first Christian centuries…”

Actually, we did not fail. But the imperial Church’s hate speech laws of the time managed to silence its critics to the point that only scholars of early Christianity have heard about the names of those who debunked and refuted the apologists. Joseph Hoffmann said about the wisest Roman intellectual during the first centuries of our era:

Throughout its first three centuries, the growing Christian religion was subjected not only to official persecution but to the attacks of pagan intellectuals, who looked upon the new sect as a band of fanatics bent on worldwide domination, even as they professed to despise the things of this world.

Prominent among these pagan critics was Porphyry of Tyre (ca. 232–ca. 305 C.E.), scholar, philosopher, and student of religions. His book Against the Christians (Kata Christianon), condemned to be burned by the imperial Church in 448, survives only in fragments preserved by the cleric and teacher Macarius Magnes.

Porphyry’s Against the Christians: The Literary Remains, translated by Hoffmann (Prometheus Books, 1994), is a must read for post-Christian nationalists.

Gospel Fictions

It seems to me that the etiology of Western malaise is more complicated than what the average nationalist has imagined. While reading MacDonald’s first trilogy study on Jewry I thought that the etiology was, at least, threefold.

First: the hardware. As MacDonald and many others have pointed out, whites “have some unique characteristics such as individualism, abstract idealism and universal moralism” that are apparently genetic (precisely the characteristics that presently are being exploited by the tribe).

Second: the software. If the above is a problem in the hardware (something like whites being wired the wrong way when dealing with other races), these hardware characteristics were augumented after a Catholic cult, which means “universal” including all ethnic groups in the world, took over the Roman Empire.

Third: the virus. Paradoxically, once Christianity starts to be abandoned by the white people, our universalist-individualist-idealistic frame of mind, taken to its ultimate logic naturally results in liberalism, a “virus” of the mind operating within the white psyche.

If our diagnosis of the West’s darkest hour is correct, then the Jewish Problem is an epiphenomenon of the deranged altruism resulting from the secular fulfillment of universal Christian values. (Proof of it is that Muslims don’t allow the suicidal empowerment of Jews in their nations.) It also means that both our hardware wiring and our Judeo-Christian software must be understood before we can grasp the whys of the psycho-ethical structure that is preventing us from taking elemental action (e.g., disempowering the Jews). For the Christian that I was, and this is purely anecdotal (others may find different venues), the first step to understand the virus was starting to question the historicity of the gospel narratives.

These are the excerpts I typed from Helms’ book. I do this in honor of Porphyry, the first man to write a prolegomena of what fifteen centuries later started to be called “higher criticism” of the Bible.

1.- The art of the Gospels
2.- How to begin a Gospel
3.- Jesus’ nativity legends
4.- Miracles (Synoptics)
5.- Miracles (Johannine)

 

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Note: I edited this article on Christmas 2012
and eliminated several redundant sentences. Incidentally, I didn’t take the trouble to type excerpts of the last two chapters of Randel Helms’ slim book; it looked like readers were simply uninterested in the subject.

Jesus’ miracles (Synoptics)

To overcome the deranged altruism of the white man that created the colored tsunami that’s killing us, Christianity must be debunked.

Below, part of Gospel Fictions’ fourth chapter, “Miracles I (The Synoptic Narratives)” by Randel Helms (ellipsis omitted):


Käsemann’s judgment is that the “great majority of the Gospel miracle stories must be regarded as legends.” The kind of incidents which in fact commend themselves as being historically credible are “harmless episodes such as the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law from a fever and the healing of so-called possessed persons.”

The next two chapters will examine the thirty-odd narratives in the Gospels which depict the Synoptic and Johannine attitudes toward miracles, demonstrating their literary lineage, and discuss how these fictional or legendary stories came to be composed.

Narratives about Jesus’ performing miracles were virtual requirements, given first-century Christianity’s understanding of the Old Testament. Matthew 11:2-5 makes this quite clear:

John, who was in prison, heard what Christ was doing, and sent his own disciples to him with this message: “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to expect some other?” Jesus answered, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind recover their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are made clean, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, the poor are hearing the good news.”

Matthew has Jesus list what are, in fact, signs of the advent of the New Age, as Isaiah had predicted: “The eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall hear. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart” (Isa. 35:5 LXX). Matthew combined Second Isaiah’s declaration using that prophet’s very words from the Septuagint.

The resurrection of a dead son

Both Elijah and Elisha mediate two striking miracles, the creation of abundance from little and the resurrection of a dead son. If these sound familiar to a reader of the Gospels, we should not be surprised.

Since Luke’s account of the raising of the widow of Nain’s son so clearly betrays its literary origins in the Septuagint, I shall begin with it:

And it came to pass [kai egeneto] afterwards that Jesus went to a town called Nain, accompanied by his disciples and a large crowd. As he approached the gate of the town he met a funeral. The dead man was the only son of his widowed mother; and many of the townspeople were there with her. When the Lord saw her his heart went out to her, and he said, “Weep no more.” With that he stepped forward and laid upon the bier; and the bearers halted. Then he spoke: “Young man, rise up!” The dead man sat up and began to speak; and Jesus gave him back to his mother. Deep awe fell upon them all, and they praised God. “A great prophet has arisen among us,” they said. (Luke 7:11-16)

Either Luke or some Greek-speaking Christian behind Luke composed this story on the basis of the account in the Septuagint version of Kings depicting the raising of the dead son of the widow of Sarapeta (III, [I] Kings 17:8-10, 17, 19-23 LXX). Both stories begin with a favorite Septuagintal formula, “And it came to pass.” Both concern the dead son of a widow (chera). In both the prophet “went” (eporeuthe) to the town, where he met a woman at the “gate of the city” (ton pylona tes poleos—LXX; te pyle te poleos—Luke), even though archaeological study has shown that the village of Nain in Galilee never had a wall. Nain’s fictional gate is there for literary reasons: Sarepta’s gate transferred. In both stories the prophets speak and touch the dead son, who then raises and speaks. In both stories it is declared that the miracle certifies the prophet (“Behold, I know that thou art a man of God”—LXX; “A great prophet has arisen”—Luke). And both stories conclude with precisely the same words: “and he gave him to his mother” (kai edoken auton te metri autou).

The raising of Jairus’ daughter

Early Christians knew, on the basis of Isaiah 26:19, that raising of the dead was to be one of the signs of the advent of God’s kingdom. The only Old Testament narratives of resurrection are in the stories of Elijah and Elisha. In Mark 5, Matthew 9, and Luke 8, the president of an unnamed synagogue, one Jairus (whose name, “He will awaken,” betrays the representative and fictional nature of the account), comes to Jesus. Like the Shunnamite woman to Elisha, “falls at his feet and entreats him many times,” saying, in both Mark and Luke, that his only daughter was dying. In Matthew, to align more closely with the story’s Old Testament source—as is typical of the careful and knowledgeable first evangelist—the child is already dead.

The story stays close to the Old Testament original. In both, the prophet, on the way to the child, receives a message that it is dead, but continues resolutely. In both stories the prophet seeks privacy for the miracle: “After turning all the others out, Jesus took the child’s father and mother and his own companions and went in where the child was lying,” just as Elisha shut the door upon himself and the child. And in both, the prophet touches the child and speaks, and the child awakes. In Mark, the parents were “ecstatic with great ecstasy” (exestesan… ekstasei megale—Mark 5:42); in Kings, the mother of the child is “ecstatic with all this ecstasy” (exestesas… pasan ten ekstasin tauten—IV Kings 4:31 LXX). Just as the widow of Nain’s son began as the widow of Sarepta’s son, so the daughter of Jairus began as the dead child of Shunnam.

The other process, the heightening of the miraculous and the elimination of hints about the limitation of Jesus’ power to work miracles, is evident in later treatments of Mark’s account of Jesus at Nazareth. There in his own town, says Mark, he was not notably successful:

Jesus said to them, “A prophet will always be held in honour except in his home town, and among his kinsmen and family.” He could work no miracle there, except that he put hands on a few sick people and healed them, and he was taken aback by their want of faith. (Mark 6:4-6)

Matthew, with a more “advanced” theology and a more fully deified Jesus, could not accept Mark’s assertion, so he treated it as fiction, untrue; it was not that Jesus could not perform great miracles in the face of lack of faith in him, rather he chose not to do so. Bearing this in mind, we may more readily grasp why Matthew and Luke chose to leave out altogether two of Mark’s miracle stories. Jesus is asked to heal a deaf mute:

He took the man aside, away from the crowd, put his fingers into his [the man’s] ears, spat, and touched his tongue. Then, looking up to heaven, he sighted, and said to him, “Ephphatha,” which means, “Be opened.” With that his ears were opened and at the same time the impediment was removed and he spoke plainly. (Mark 7:33-35)

In the next chapter, Jesus is asked to cure a blind man:

He spat on his eyes, and laid his hands upon him, and asked whether he could see any thing. The blind man’s sight began to come back, and he said, “I see men; they look like trees, but they are walking about.” Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; he looked hard, and now he was cured so that he saw everything clearly. (Mark 8:23-25)

For Matthew and Luke, who eliminated both these stories from their revisions of Mark, the notion that Jesus needed any kind of ritual (magic word) or medicinal (spittle) help, or even that he needed a little time and repetition of the treatment, was unthinkable. (Matthew characteristically depicts Jesus’ miracle-working powers as instantaneous.)



A Romanized Jesus in this painting found in a Christian catacomb in Rome. The beardless Jesus (Romans regarded the beard as a feature of the Barbarians) also has short hair and is wearing a Roman tunic.





Matthew ensures his story replaces the two he removed from Mark by depicting the man as both mute and blind.

Then they brought him a man who was possessed. He was blind and dumb, and Jesus cured him, restoring both speech and sight… But when the pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebub prince of devils that this man drives the devils out.” (Matt. 12:22-24).

A miracle story grows here before our eyes. Luke’s mute becoming mute and blind.

Food miracles

Like so many of the other miracle stories, these too have their origins in the Old Testament.

The disciples, though they have presumably just witnessed Jesus feed five thousand with five loaves, naively ask, “How can anyone provide all these people with bred in this lonely place?” —Mk. 8:14. Mark obviously found two stories in unrelated layers of oral tradition and, failing to grasp that they were different versions of the same story, put them into narrative sequence, making the disciples appear unbelievable stupid.

In any event, both narratives stem from IV [II] Kings 4:42-44 read as a typological foreshadowing of the career of Jesus. Both Testaments specify the number of hungry persons (one hundred in the Old; four and five thousand—much greater miracles!—in the New); both specify the inadequate amount of food available (twenty loaves in the Old Testament; five and four loaves—again greater miracles—in the New). In both the prophets instruct their disciples to feed the people, and in both the disciples protest the inadequacy: Elisha’s disciple complains, “I cannot set this before a hundred men” (IV [II] Kings 4:43); while Jesus’ disciple asks “How can anyone provide all these people with bread?” (Mark 8:5). Finally, in both stories, the meager loaves are miraculously amplified to feed all present and more: “And they ate, and left some over” (IV [II] Kings 4:44); “They all ate to their heart’s content, and seven baskets were filled with the scraps that were left” (Mark 8:9).

Interestingly, the miracle of the loaves and fishes is one of the very few Synoptic miracle stories which have also been used in the Fourth Gospel.

Stilling the storm; walking on the sea

Jesus also showed his power over nature in fictions about water. The ancients knew from Psalm 107 what power Yahweh has over the sea (Ps. 107:25-30). In Jonah, the sailors “called on the Lord and said, ‘O Lord, do not let us perish’” (1:14); in the Psalm, “They cried to the Lord in their trouble.” As a consequence, Jonah says, the “sea stopped raging” (1:15); the psalmist, “the storm sank to a murmur, and the waves of the sea were stilled.”

Matthew knew, unlike Mark, that the stilling of the storm was based in part one on the Book of Jonah, for again he rewrote his version of Mark’s narrative. Taking key words from Jonah—“Lord,” “save us,” “we perish”—Matthew rewrites Mark: a fictional correction of a fictional account, each of which is based in its own way on the Old Testament.

With this in mind, the nature of the rest of the miracle story as Mark first wrote it is more easily grasped. If it seems strange that Jesus could sleep in the stern of a small open fishing-boat in the middle of a storm so violent that waves were breaking over the vessel and filling it with water, Jesus’ sleep should be seen not as a description of an event but as a literary necessity.

Jesus also showed his power over the sea by walking on it (Matt. 14; Mark 6; John 6); a variant of the stilling of the storm.

Both versions reveal their origin in the same part of the Old Testament, Psalm 106 of the Septuagint (107 Heb.), with perhaps additional influence from the Book of Job. Early Christians knew from Job 9:8 that the Lord “walks on the sea [peripaton epi tes thalasses] as on dry ground”; thus they also presented Jesus “walking upon the sea” (peripaton epi tes thalasses—Mark 6: 48). But for the basis of their narrative about this “predicted” event, they went to the Septuagint Psalms, as may best be seen by comparing Mark’s and John’s versions of the pericope. Matthew enriches his account with a fascinating addition about Peter’s effort to copy his Lord.

Chechar’s note:

It is tragic that erudite criticism on the New Testament, which started in the third century with the textual analyses of Porphyry, was lost after the Imperial Church burned all copies of Porphyry’s book. We had to wait until Reimarus in eighteenth-century Germany for the science of critical studies on the New Testament to be developed again.

Below, one of the few surviving fragments of Porphyry’s book, a comment about Matt. 14.25 & Mark 6.48:

Another section in the gospel deserves comment, for it is likewise devoid of sense and full of impossibility; I mean that absurd story about Jesus sending his apostles across the sea ahead of him after the banquet, then walking [on the sea] “at the fourth watch of the night.” It is related that they had been working all night to keep the boat adrift and were frightened by the size of the storm surging against the boat.

Those who know the region will tell us that, in fact, there is no “sea” in the locality but only a tiny lake which springs from a river that flows through the hills of Galilee near Tiberias. Small boats can get across it within two hours. And the lake is too small to have whitecaps caused by storm. Mark seems to be stretching the point to its extremities when he writes that Jesus—after nine hours had passed—decided in the tenth to walk across to his disciples who had been floating about on the pond for the duration!

As if this isn’t enough, he calls it a “sea”—indeed, a stormy sea—a very angry sea which tosses them about in its waves causing them to fear for their lives. He does this, apparently, so that he can next show Christ miraculously causing the storm to cease and the sea to calm down, hence saving the disciples from the dangers of the swell.

Again, this was written 1700 years ago!

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.