Christianity’s Criminal History, 110

(Iconic image of Tatian)

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.
 

Natural Science

Even geometry seemed disgraceful to Christians. Still at the beginning of the 4th century they refused to make bishop the Christian Nemesius of Emesa because he was dedicated to the study of mathematics.

Geometry and other scientific occupations were considered little less than impious activities. The historian of the Church Eusebius attacked these ‘heretics’ with these words: ‘Neglecting the Sacred Scriptures of God they were occupied with geometry; for they are earthly men, they speak earthly and do not know Him who comes from on high. They eagerly study the geometry of Euclid and admire Aristotle and Theophrastus’.

The natural sciences were the subject of particular condemnation on the part of Christian theology. The repercussions of that condemnation lasted for a long time and even led some researchers to the stake. In the usual school education on the natural sciences (and history) did not find a place until very early in the Modern Age. In the very universities they were not imposed as independent disciplines until the 17th century. Already in the last days of the ancient age, medicine experienced a strong decline—except perhaps in Mesopotamia—in favour of the predilection for the occult. The patriarch Severus of Antioch, for example, and also the Armenian Eznik of Kolb insist on the existence of demons in man and reject any attempt at naturalistic explanation by physicians.

Already the apologist Tatian, disciple of Justin, reproves medicine and makes it derive from the evil spirits: ‘Namely, the demons separate with their cunning men from the veneration of God, persuading them to put their trust in herbs and roots’.

These words exude that deep aversion, so typical of the ancient Christians, about nature, the here, and the earthly. ‘Why do people place their trust in the powers of matter and do not trust God? Why don’t you go to the most powerful of the lords and prefer to be healed by herbs?’

In this way medicine as a whole was reduced to diabolical work, the work of the evil spirits. ‘Pharmacology and everything related to it comes from the same workshop of lies’. Analogous is the opinion of Tertullian, who made fun of doctors and researchers of Nature, and that attitude continued throughout the Middle Ages and even later. It was natural for Tatian to have no esteem for science as a whole:

How to believe a person who claims that the sun is an incandescent mass and the moon, a body like the Earth? All these are no more than debatable hypotheses and not proven facts. What utility can research report on the proportions of the Earth, on the positions of the stars, on the course of the sun?

The purely scientific explanations do not count anymore. Those people who, in the 4th century, were looking for a geophysical explanation of earthquakes (instead of considering them caused solely by the wrath of God!) were inscribed in the list of ‘heretics’ by the bishop of Brescia.

Since the supreme criterion for the reception of the scientific-natural theories was that of its degree of compatibility with the Bible, science not only stagnated: the very knowledge accumulated since time immemorial was discarded. The prestige of science waned to the same extent that the Bible ascended.

The theory of the rotation of the Earth and its spherical shape goes back to the Pythagoreans of the 5th century BC. The Christian Church renounced this knowledge in favour of the Mosaic story of creation and the biblical text preaching that the Earth was a disk surrounded by the seas. European students did not know about its spherical figure until a millennium later, in the High Middle Ages, through the Arab universities of Spain!

Lactantius defames natural science by calling it pure nonsense. The Doctor of the Church Ambrose reproves it radically as an attack on the majesty of God. He is not interested in the least about the question of the position of the Earth. That is something without any relevance for the future. ‘It is enough to know that the text of Sacred Scripture contains this observation: He suspended the Earth on nothingness’. St. Ambrose’s notion of natural philosophy is illustrated by the heartfelt affirmation that ‘the gospel according to John contains all natural philosophy’.

Christianity’s Criminal History, 107


 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.

 

The theatre, ‘The temple of the devil’

Almost unanimously (with very few exceptions, such as those of Victorinus of Pettau and Gaius Marius Victorinus), the Fathers of the Church denigrated the spectacles: this constituted an important component in their anti-Hellenic polemic. The shows really reflected to them all the iniquity of the Greco-Roman world.

The Father of the Church Salvian of Marseilles, who in the 5th century considered the visit to spectacles by Christians a crime and also sought to know that God hates these amusements, informs us that when an ecclesiastical festival coincided with the games, most of the spectators were sitting in the theatre. The suaviludii (fans of shows) used all kinds of arguments to defend theatre attendance and their censors tried to refute them. At the indication, for example, that there was no express prohibition in Sacred Scripture, Tertullian replies with Psalm I, 1, ‘Avoid the meetings of the ungodly’.

The theatre happened to be a domain of the devil, of the evil spirits, and the ‘Fathers’ almost whipped it up, giving it attributes such as ‘immoral’ (turpis), obscene (obscoenus), ‘repulsive’ (foedus) and many other similar epithets. It was, however, ‘very infrequent’ the case that the theatre was attacked because of its—still then current—cultic meaning, the veneration of the gods. In this sense, only Irenaeus, Tertullian, and the Syrian bishop Jacob did it; and Sarug (451-452), who stated that ‘Satan tries to restore paganism through comedy’. All others demonized the theatre for reasons of an almost exclusively moral nature.

The Philippic of Tatian Oratio ad Graecos, an authentic invective against Greek culture, gives us an idea of the poisonous bile that those paladins of the anti-dramaturgy of primitive Christianity were spewing. The actor appears in it as

boastful and dissolute ruffian without restraint, who as soon as he looks with sparkling eyes as he moves waving his hands, delirious under his clay mask, it assumes the role of Aphrodite, followed by that of Apollo… And such a scoundrel is applauded by all!

Many pious ‘Fathers’ saw how the vices penetrated the hearts of the spectators through their eyes and ears as if they were open windows. According to St. Ambrose (introibit mors) ‘death will penetrate through the window of your eyes’ and the stage choir is ‘lethal’. For Jerome, theatrical music also threatens morals. Moreover, the very critical mention of representations was sinful, said Salvian. Even married women, according to Augustine, ‘take home new knowledge’ learned from that ‘lascivious bustle’.

It was necessary to wait for Theodosius I so that, in 392, the careers of cars were prohibited; a prohibition that in 399 was extended to all the spectacles during Sundays, but with so scarce success that in the year 401 the Synod of Carthage requested that the measures already adopted were intensified.

The Church, since Clement of Alexandria and Tertullian, considered attendance at shows incompatible with Christianity, and ended up strictly prohibiting it to priests and laymen in the III and IV Council of Carthage, threatening the transgressors with excommunication. The bishop of Rome, Eusebius, did not allow the performance of comedians even in the banquets of homage.

The First Council of Arles denies the charioteers and all the theatre staff permission to receive Communion while they are holding shows. The VII Council of Carthage prohibits all actors in 419 from filing complaints against clerics. If an actor, a ‘flute of Satan’ (Jacob of Sarug), wanted to convert to Christianity, the old ecclesiastical constitutions and the councils generally demanded the abandonment of his profession.

Christianity’s Criminal History, 105


 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.
 

The hostility to the classic culture of the first Greco-Christian writers

We already showed above how decidedly, with what resolutely rude expressions, Tatian, the ‘philosopher of the barbarians’, the self-proclaimed Herald of Truth, about the year 172 and against everything that had rank and renown in Greco-Roman culture vilified philosophy, poetry, rhetoric and the school.

The writer Hermas inserts at the very beginning of his jibe of the non-Christian philosophers the words of Paul, ‘The wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God’ without allowing another truth to prevail than that of the Gospel. In a rather coarse way, ignorant of any deep and superficial sense, Hermas describes philosophy as ‘lacking in foundation and utility’, of ‘pure adventurous, absurd, chimerical and abstruse speculation’, even though he only knows his victims through mere readings of compendiums.

The same with the majority of Christian authors. Ignatius of Antioch, a fanatical adversary of Christians from other orientations to his (‘beasts with human figure’) and first in using the term ‘catholic’, repudiates almost the entire teaching school, and any contact with Greco-Roman literature, which he apostrophises as ‘ignorance’, ‘foolishness’, its representatives being ‘rather lawyers of death than of truth’. And while he affirms that ‘the end of time has come’, ‘nothing of what is visible here is good’ and sarcastically asks, ‘where is the boasting of those who are called wise?’, he affirms that Christianity has overcome all this and has ‘eradicated ignorance’. He is considered ‘one of the great peaks of early Christian literature’ (Bardenhewer).

Towards 180, Bishop Theophilus of Antioch decrees in his three books Apologia ad Autolycum (Apology to Autolycus) that all the philosophy and art, mythology and historiography of the Greeks are despicable, contradictory and immoral. Moreover, he rejects in principle all worldly knowledge and refers to the Old Testament praiseworthy, ‘lacking in science, shepherds and uneducated people’. Incidentally, Theophilus, who did not become a Christian and a bishop until he was an adult, owed his education to the classical world. That world whose representatives, of course, ‘have raised and continue to falsely pose the questions when, instead of speaking of God, they do it about vain and useless things’; authors who, not possessing ‘an iota of truth’ are all of them possessed by evil spirits. It is evident, then, that ‘all others are in error and that only Christians possess the truth, having been indoctrinated by the Holy Spirit, who spoke through the prophets and announced everything in advance’.

Apart from Tatian, Ignatius and Theophilus of Antioch, also Polycarp and the Didache radically repudiate ancient literature. The Didache, the Shepherd of Hermas, the Letter of Barnabas and the Letters to Diognetus do not mention it. The Syrian Didascalia (complete title: Catholic Doctrine of the Twelve Apostles and Holy Disciples of our Redeemer), falsified by a bishop, says: ‘Get away from all the writings of the pagans, for what have you to do with foreign words and laws?… What do you miss in the word of God, that you throw yourself to devour those stories by pagans?’

Only the Father of the Church Irenaeus and the ‘heretic’ Origen, among Christians who write in Greek during the first centuries, lend almost full recognition to all branches of knowledge. However, Irenaeus disapproves almost the totality of Greek philosophy, to which he does not grant a single true knowledge. And Origen, who precisely makes very wide use of it, rejects the rhetoric as useless. All the Greco-Christian writers agree, however, on one point: all place the New Testament far above all the literature of Antiquity.

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Christianity’s Criminal History, 101

 

Editors’ note:

To contextualise these translations of Karlheinz Deschner’s encyclopaedic history of the Church in 10-volumes, Kriminalgeschichte des Christentums, see the abridged translation of Volume I (here).

 

The Christian Book Burning
and the Annihilation of Classical Culture

Where is the wise person? Where is the educated one? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?

—St. Paul, I Corinthians 1:20

Charlatanism is initiated among you by the schoolteacher, and as you have divided the science into parts [sacred & profane], you have moved away from the only true one.

—Tatian

After Jesus Christ, all research is already pointless. If we believe, we no longer demand anything that goes beyond our faith.

—Tertullian

If you want to read historical narratives, there you have the Book of The Kings. If, on the contrary, you want to read the wise men and philosophers, you have the prophets… And if you long for the hymns, you also have the psalms of David.

—Apostolic Constitution (3rd Century)

Religion is, therefore, the central core of the entire educational process and must permeate all educational measures.

Lexicon for Catholic Life (1952)

 
Constantine ordered to burn the fifteen books of the work Against the Christians written by Porphyry, the most astute of the opponents of Christianity in the pre-Constantinian era: ‘The first state prohibition of books decreed in favour of the Church’ (Hamack). And his successors, Theodosius II and Valentinian III, condemned Porphyry’s work again to the bonfire, in 448. This happened after Eusebius of Caesarea had written twenty-five books against this work and the doctor of the Church Cyril nothing less than thirty.

Towards the end of the 4th century, during the reign of Emperor Valens, there was a great burning of books, accompanied by many executions. That Christian regent gave free rein to his fury for almost two years, behaving like ‘a wild beast’, torturing, strangulating, burning people alive, and beheading. The innumerable records allowed to find the traces of many books that were destroyed, especially in the field of law and the liberal arts. Entire libraries went to the fire in the East. Sometimes they were eliminated by their owners under the effect of panic.

On the occasion of the assaults on the temples, the Christians destroyed, especially in the East, not only the images of the gods but also the liturgical books and those of the oracles. The Catholic Emperor Jovian (363-364) had the Antioch library destroyed by fire: the same library installed there by his predecessor Julian the Apostate. Following the assault on the Serapis in 391, during which the sinister Patriarch Theophilus himself destroyed, axe in hand, the colossal statue of Serapis carved by the great Athenian artist Bryaxis, the library was consumed by flames.

After the library of the Museum of Alexandria, which already had 700,000 rolls, was consumed by a casual fire during the siege war by Cesar (48-47 BC), the fame of Alexandria as a city possessing the most numerous and precious bibliographic treasures only lasted thanks to the library of the Serapis, since the supposed intention of Antony to give Cleopatra, as compensation for the loss of the library of the museum, the entire library of Pergamum, with 200,000 rolls , does not seem to have come to fruition. The burning of libraries on the occasion of the assault on the temples was indeed something frequent, especially in the East.

It happened once again under the responsibility of Theophilus, following the destruction of an Egyptian sanctuary in Canopus and that of the Marneion of Gaza in 402.

At the beginning of the 5th century, Stilicho burned in the West—with great dismay on the part of the Roman aristocracy faithful to the religion of his elders—the books of the Sibyl, the immortal mother of the world, as Rutilius Claudius Namatianus complained. To him, the Christian sect seemed worse than the poison of Circe.

In the last decades of the 5th century, the libelli found there (‘these were an abomination in the eyes of God’—Rhetor Zacharias)—were burnt in Beirut before the church of St. Mary. The ecclesiastical writer Zacharias, who was then studying law in Beirut, played a leading role in this action supported by the bishop and state authorities. And in the year 562 Emperor Justinian, who had ‘pagan’ philosophers, rectors, jurists and physicians persecuted, ordered the burning of Greco-Roman images and books in the Kynegion of Constantinople, where the criminals were liquidated.

Apparently, already at the borderline of the Middle Ages, Pope Gregory I the Great, a fanatical enemy of everything classical, burned books in Rome. And this celebrity—the only one, together with Leo I, in gathering in his person the double distinction of Pope and Doctor of the Church—seems to have been the one who destroyed the books that are missing in the work of Titus Livy. It is not even implausible that it was he who ordered the demolition of the imperial library on the Palatine. In any case, the English scholastic John of Salisbury, bishop of Chartres, asserts that Pope Gregory intentionally destroyed manuscripts of classical authors of Roman libraries.

Everything indicates that many adepts of the Greco-Roman culture converted to Christianity had to prove to have really moved their convictions by burning their books in full view. Also, in some hagiographic narratives, both false and authentic, there is that commonplace of the burning of books as a symbol, so to speak, of a conversion story.

It was not always forced to go to the bonfire. Already in the first half of the 3rd century, Origen, very close in this regard to Pope Gregory, ‘desisted from teaching grammar as being worthless and contrary to sacred science and, calculating coldly and wisely, he sold all his works of the ancients authors with whom he had occupied until then in order not to need help from others for the sustenance of his life’ (Eusebius).

There is hardly anything left of the scientific critique of Christianity on the part of adherents to classical culture. The emperor and the Church took care of it. Even many Christian responses to it disappeared! (probably because there was still too much ‘pagan poison’ on its pages). But it was the classical culture itself on which the time came for its disappearance under the Roman Empire.
 

The annihilation of the Greco-Roman world

The last emperor of classical antiquity, the great Julian, certainly favoured the adherents of the old culture, but simultaneously tolerated the Christians: ‘It is, by the gods, my will that the Galileans not be killed, that they are not beaten unjustly or suffer any other type of injustice. I declare, however, that the worshipers of the gods will have a clear preference in front of them. For the madness of the Galileans was about to overthrow everything, while the veneration of the gods saved us all. That is why we have to honour the gods and the people and communities that venerate them’.

After Julian’s death, to whom the orator Libanius felt united by faith and friendship, Libanius complains deeply, moved by the triumph of Christianity and by its barbarous attacks on the old religion.

Oh! What a great sorrow took hold not only of the land of the Achaeans, but of the entire empire… The honours of which the good ones participated have disappeared; the friendship of the wicked and unbridled enjoys great prestige. Laws, repressive of evil, have already been repealed or are about to be. Those that remain are barely fulfilled in practice.

Full of bitterness, Libanius continues to address his co-religionists:

That faith, which until now was the object of mockery and that fought against you so fierce and untiring, has proved to be the strongest. It has extinguished the sacred fire, the joy of sacrifices, has ordered to savagely neat [its adversaries] and demolish the altars. It has locked the shrines and temples, if not destroyed them or turned them into brothels after declaring them impious. It has abrogated any activity with your faith…

In that final assault on the Greco-Roman world, the Christian emperors were mostly and for a long time less aggressive than the Christian Church. Under Jovian (363-364), the first successor of Julian, Hellenism does not seem to have suffered major damage except the closure and demolition of some temples. Also the successors of Jovian, Valentinian I and Valens, during whose government appears for the first time the term pagani referring the faithful of the old polytheism, maintained an attitude of relative tolerance toward them.

The Catholic Valentinian with plenty of reasons, because his interest was in the army and needed inner peace, tried to avoid religious conflicts. He still covered the high positions of the government almost evenly, even with a slight predominance of the believers in the gods.

Under Valens, nevertheless, the high Christian officials already constituted a majority before the Hellenes. Yet he fought the Catholics, even using the help of the Hellenes for reasons, of course, purely opportunistic.

Although the emperor Gratian, for continuing the rather liberal religious policy of his father Valentinian I, had promised tolerance to almost all the confessions of the empire by an edict promulgated in 378, in practice soon followed an opposite behaviour, for he was strongly influenced by the bishop of Milan, Ambrose.

Under Valentinian II, brother of Gratian, things really turned around and the relationship between high Christian officials and the adherents of the old culture was again balanced and the army chiefs, two polytheists, played a decisive role in the court. Even in Rome two other Hellenes of great prestige, Praetextatus and Symmachus, exerted the charges of praetorian and urban prefect respectively.

Gradually, however, Valentinian, as his brother once did, fell under the disastrous influence of the resident bishop of Milan, Ambrose. Something similar to what would happen later with Theodosius I. Ambrose lived according to his motto: ‘For the “gods of the heathen are but devils” as the Holy Scripture says; therefore, anyone who is a soldier of this true God must not give proof of tolerance and condescension, but of zeal for faith and religion’.

And indeed, the powerful Theodosius ruled during the last years of his term, at least as far as religious policy was concerned, strictly following Ambrose’s wishes. First, the rites of non-Christians were definitively banned at the beginning of 391. Later the temples and sanctuaries of Serapis in Alexandria were closed, which soon would be destroyed. In 393 the Olympic games were prohibited. The infant emperors of the 5th century [1] were puppets in the hands of the Church. That is why the court also committed itself more and more intensely in the struggle against classical culture, a struggle that the Church had already vehemently fuelled in the 4th century and that led gradually to the systematic extermination of the old faith.

The best-known bishops took part in this extermination, which intensified after the Council of Constantinople (381), with Rome and the East, especially Egypt, as the most notorious battlefields of the conflict between the Hellenes and the Christians.
 
___________

[1] Deschner is referring to emperors Arcadius, Theodosius II and Honorius whose reigns will be described in other translations of his books.

Christianity’s Criminal History, 89

Below, an abridged translation from the third volume of
Karlheinz Deschner’s Kriminalgeschichte des Christentums.

 
Interpolations in the New Testament

Christians were very fond of interpolations. They have constantly modified, reduced and expanded the New Testament writings and, for that, they had the most diverse motives. They used interpolations, for example, to reinforce the historicity of Jesus or to promote and strengthen certain ideas of faith. Not everyone was able to modify a complete work, but he could easily distort the text of an opponent by introducing or deleting something for his own profit. Falsifications were also done to impose unpopular opinions that the author was not in a position to impose but that, under the name of someone famous, there was a chance to achieve it.

Important authors also fell into this practice. Tatian reviewed Paul’s epistles for aesthetic reasons and Marcion did so for content reasons. Dionysius of Corinth in the 3rd century and Jerome in 4th century complain about the numerous interpolations in the Gospels. But St. Jerome, patron of Catholic faculties and who made ‘the most shameful fabrications and deceptions’ (C. Schneider), accepted the commission of the murderous Pope Damascius to revise the Latin Bibles, of which there was not even two that coincided in somewhat long passages. Scholars have modified the text in some 3,500 places to legitimize the Gospels. And in the 16th century the Council of Trent declared as authentic this Vulgate destined for general diffusion, although the Church had rejected it for several centuries.

Well, in this case it was, so to speak, an intervention of the ‘official’ type. But usually it was produced clandestinely. And one of the most famous interpollations of the New Testament is linked to the dogma of the Trinity that, apart from later additions, the Bible does not proclaim, and for very good reasons.

The classical world knew hundreds of trinities since the 4th century BC. There was a divine Trinity at the top of the world, all the Hellenistic religions had their Trinitarian divinity, there were the dogmas of Trinity of Apis, of Serapis, of Dionysus, there was the Capitoline trinity: Jupiter, Juno and Minerva; there was a thrice-greatest Hermes, the god of the universe three times unique, who was ‘only and three times one’, etc.

But in the first centuries there was no Christian trinity because well into the 3rd century Jesus himself was not even considered as God, and ‘there was hardly anyone’ who thought of the personality of the Holy Spirit, as discreetly ironizes the theologian Harnack. (Except, let’s be fair, the Valentinian Theodotus: a ‘heretic’! He was the first Christian who, by the end of the 2nd century, called the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit a Trinity, something that the Christian tradition still did not dream of.) According to the theologian Weinel, ‘there was rather a revolted mass of ideas about the celestial figures’.

Everything that in Christianity was not pagan comes from the Jews. Another trinity characterised the ‘Holy Scriptures’ in the Revelations of John: God the Father, the seven spirits and Jesus Christ. Soon St. Justin finds a tetralogy: God the Father, the Son, the army of angels and the Holy Spirit. As has been said, ‘a revolted mass’. But little by little, the ancient doctrine—which until the 4th century was widespread even in ecclesiastical circles—, the Christology of the angels, fell into disrepute and was considered heretical. In its place a true dogma was imposed, in addition to all the Christian Churches: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

At last they had the right people all together, but unfortunately not yet in the Bible. Therefore it was fabricated. Fabrication was necessary because in the New Testament there were—and they are—‘false’ opinions, even of Jesus. For example, in the Logion of Matthew 10, 5: ‘Do not go to the nations of the pagans and do not set your foot in the cities of the Samaritans either. Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel’. From what fate the Greco-Romans would have been spared, and also the Jews, if the Christians had followed these words of Jesus! But for a long time they had done the opposite. In evident contradiction with Matthew 10, 5, the ‘risen’ says right there ‘Go and teach all peoples and baptise them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit…’

This passage, the mandate of the mission of Christ, is considered true precisely because the Christians soon went on the mission to the pagans: the opposite of the first mandate of Jesus, preach only to the Jews. And to justify this in practice, at the end of the Gospel the mandate to do mission in the wider world is interpolated. And, incidentally, this contained the biblical foundation, the locus classicus, for the Trinity. However, considering that the preaching of Jesus himself lacks the slightest sign of a Trinitarian conception and that none of the apostles was commissioned to baptise, how Jesus, who exhorts to go ‘only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel’ expressly forbids ‘the path toward the pagan peoples’. How could this Jesus ask to do the mission for the world?

The latter mandate, which is increasingly questioned by rationalism, is considered by critical theologians to be a forgery. The ecclesiastical circles introduced it to justify a posteriori both the practice of the mission among the ‘pagans’ and the custom of baptism, and to have an important biblical testimony for the dogma of the Trinity.

Precisely for that reason in the first epistle of John there was another falsification, minimal in appearance but of special bad reputation, the Johannine Comma.

What was modified was the passage (First Epistle of John 5:7-8): ‘There are three who bear witness: the Spirit, the Water and the Blood, and the three are one’, leaving it as ‘There are three who testify in heaven, the Father and the Word and the Holy Spirit, and the three are one’. The addition is missing in almost all Greek manuscripts and almost all of the old translations.

Before the 4th century, none of the Greek Fathers of the Church used it, nor did they cite it, as a careful verification has pointed out in the writings of Tertullian, Cyprian, Jerome, and Augustine. The fabrication comes from North Africa or Spain, where it appears for the first time about 380. The first to question it was R. Simon in 1689. Today, the exegetes reject it almost with total unanimity. However, on January 13, 1897, a decree of the Roman Office proclaims its authenticity.

Christianity’s Criminal History, 82

Below, an abridged translation from the third volume of
Karlheinz Deschner’s Kriminalgeschichte des Christentums.

 
The ‘Holy Scriptures’ are piled up

No evangelist intended to write a kind of revelation document, a canonical book. No one felt inspired, neither did Paul, and in fact none of the authors of the New Testament. Only the Book of Revelation: the one that, with difficulty, became part of the Bible pretends that God dictated the text to the author. But in 140 Bishop Papias did not consider the Gospels as ‘Holy Scriptures’ and gave preference to oral tradition. Even St. Justin, the greatest apologist of the 2nd century, sees in the Gospels—which he hardly quotes while he never ceases to mention the Old Testament—only ‘curiosities’.

The first to speak about an inspiration of the New Testament, which designates the Gospels and the epistles of Paul as ‘holy word of God’, was the bishop Theophilus of Antioch at the end of the 2nd century: a special luminary of the Church. On the other hand, in spite of the sanctity and divinity that he presupposes about the Gospels, he wrote a piece of apologetics about the ‘harmony of the Gospels’, as they were evidently a little too inharmonious.

Until the second half of the 2nd century the authority of the Gospels was not gradually accepted yet. Still, by the end of that same century the Gospel of Luke was accepted with reluctance; and that of John with was accepted with a remarkable resistance. Is it not odd that proto-Christianity did not speak of the gospels in the plural but in singular, the Gospel? In any case, throughout the 2nd century a fixed canon ‘of the Gospels did not yet exist and most of them were really considered a problem’ (Schneemelcher). This is clearly demonstrated by two famous initiatives of that time which tried to solve the problem of the plurality of Gospels with a reduction.

In the first place, there is the widespread Marcion Bible. This ‘heretic’, an important figure in the history of the Church, compiled the first New Testament in Sacred Scripture, and was the founder of the criticism of its texts, written shortly after the year 140. With it Marcion completely distanced himself from the bloodthirsty Old Testament, and only accepted the Gospel of Luke (without the totally legendary story of childhood) and the epistles of Paul; although, significantly, the latter without the forged pastoral letters and the epistle to the Hebrews, also manipulated. Moreover, Marcion deprived the remaining epistles of the ‘Judaistic’ additions, and his action was the decisive motive for the Catholic Church to initiate a compilation of the canon; thus beginning to constitute itself as a Church.

The second initiative, to a certain extent comparable, was the Diatessaron of Tatian. This disciple of St. Justin in Rome solved the problem of the plurality of the Gospels in a different way, although also reducing them. He wrote (as Theophilus) a ‘harmony of the Gospels’, adding freely in the chronological framework of the fourth Gospel the three synoptic accounts, as well as all kinds of ‘apocryphal’ stories. It had great success and the Syrian Church used it as Sacred Scripture until the 5th century. The Christians of the 1st century and to a large extent also those of the next century did not, therefore, possess any New Testament. As normative texts they used, until the beginning of the 2nd century, the epistles of Paul; but the Gospels were still not cited as ‘Scripture’ in religious services until the middle of that century.

The true Sacred Scripture of those early Christians was the sacred book of the Jews. Still in the year 160, St. Justin, in the broadest Christian treatise up to that date, almost exclusively referred to the Old Testament. The name of the New Testament (in Greek he kaine diatheke, ‘the new covenant’, translated for the first time by Tertullian as Novum Testamentum) appears in the year 192. However, at this time the limits of this New Testament were not yet well established and the Christians were discussing this throughout the 3rd and part of the 4th century, rejecting the compilations that others recognised as genuine. ‘Everywhere there are contrasts and contradictions’, writes the theologian Carl Schneider. ‘Some say: “what is read in all the churches” is valid. Others maintain: “what comes from the apostles” and third parties distinguish between sympathetic and non-sympathetic doctrinal content’.

Although around 200 there is in the Church, as Sacred Scripture, a New Testament next to the Old—being the central core the previous New Testament of the ‘heretic’ Marcion, the Gospels and the epistles of Paul—, there were still under discussion the Acts of the Apostles, the Book of Revelation and the ‘Catholic Epistles’. In the New Testament of St. Irenaeus, the most important theologian of the 2nd century, the book Shepherd of Hermas also appears which today does not belong to the New Testament; but the Epistle to the Hebrews, which does belong in today’s collection, is missing.

The religious writer Clemente of Alexandria (died about 215), included in several martyrologies among the saints of December 4, barely knows a collection of books of the New Testament moderately delimited. But even the Roman Church itself does not include around the year 200, in the New Testament, the epistle to the Hebrews; nor the first and second epistles of Peter, nor the epistle of James and the third of John. And the oscillations in the evaluation of the different writings are, as shown by the papyri found with the texts of the New Testament, still very large during the 3rd century.

(Papyrus Bodmer VIII, at the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, showing 1 and 2 Peter.)

Even in the 4th century, Bishop Eusebius, historian of the Church, includes among the writings that are the subject of discussion the epistles of James, of Judas, the second epistle of Peter and the so-called second and third epistles of John. Among the apocryphal writings, Eusebius accepts, ‘if you will’, the Revelation of John. (And almost towards the end of the 7th century, in 692, the Quinisext Council, approved in the Greek Church canons, appear compilations with and without John’s Book of Revelation.) For the North African Church, around the year 360, the epistle to the Hebrews, the epistles of James and Judas do not belong to the Sacred Scriptures; and according to other traditions, neither belonged the second of Peter and the second and third of John.

On the other hand, prominent Fathers of the Church included in their New Testament a whole series of Gospels, Acts of the Apostles and Epistles that the Church would later condemn as apocryphal but in the East, until the 4th century, they enjoyed great appreciation and were even considered as Sacred Scripture, among others, Shepherd of Hermas, the Apocalypse of Peter, the Didache, etc. And even in the 5th century it is possible to find in a codex some ‘apocryphal’ texts, that is, ‘false’ together with the ‘genuine’ ones.

The so-called Catholic epistles needed the most time to enter the New Testament as the group of the seven epistles. The Father of the Church St. Athanasius, the ‘father of scientific theology’ was the first one to determine its extension (whom the investigators also blame for the falsification of documents, collecting the 27 known writings, among them the 21 epistles). St. Athanasius lied without the slightest hesitation when affirming that the apostles and teachers of the apostolic era had already established the canon. Under the influence of Augustine, the West followed the resolution of Athanasius and consequently delimited, almost about the beginnings of the 5th century, the Catholic canon of the New Testament in the synods of Rome in 382, Hippo Regius in 393 and Carthage in 397 and 419.

The canon of the New Testament, used in Latin as a synonym for ‘Bible’, was created by imitating the sacred book of the Jews. The word canon, which in the New Testament appears only in four places, received in the Church the meaning of ‘norm, the scale of valuation’. It was considered canonical what was recognised as part of this norm, and after the definitive closure of the whole New Testament work, the word ‘canonical’ meant as much as divine, infallible. The opposite meaning was received by the word ‘apocryphal’.

The canon of the Catholic Church had general validity until the Reformation. Luther then discussed the canonicity of the second epistle of Peter (‘which sometimes detracts a little from the apostolic spirit’), the letter of James (‘a little straw epistle’, ‘directed against St. Paul’), the epistle to the Hebrews (‘perhaps a mixture of wood, straw and hay’) as well as the Book of Revelation (neither ‘apostolic nor prophetic’; ‘my spirit cannot be satisfied with the book’) and he admitted only what ‘Christ impelled’.

On the contrary, the Council of Trent, through the decree of April 8, 1546, clung to all the writings of the Catholic canon, since God was its auctor (author). In fact, the real auctor was the development and the election through the centuries of these writings along with the false affirmation of their apostolic origin.

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Why Europeans must reject Christianity, 6

by Ferdinand Bardamu

 
Christianity: bringer of ignorance

Christianity is dangerous because it elevates ignorance and stupidity over reason. In the gospel, Jesus encourages his followers to be like “sheep,” the stupidest and most docile of animals. Here, the ideal Christian is a character of low intelligence and little education. Jesus said that unless one becomes a child again one cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. In response to doubting Thomas, Jesus said: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” The apostle Paul echoed this point of view when he wrote “the wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of god.” Through a program of religious indoctrination from cradle to grave, the church forced Europeans to accept these beliefs as so many divinely revealed truths from heaven. Widespread acceptance of these beliefs helped retard scientific and technological progress in Europe for over a thousand years.

The fathers of the church promoted “holy ignorance” as an ideal to be emulated. Tertullian is noted among patristic writers for his militant anti-intellectualism. Although one of the most prominent despisers of classical philosophy and science, he was by no means in the minority. His attitude is typical of ecclesiastical officials during the patristic and medieval periods. This long list of Christian bigots includes Tatian, a noted apologist who regarded all pagan scientific and philosophical achievement as worthless, even harmful to the Christian faithful. Clement of Alexandria, another prominent ante-Nicene writer, argued that education was not necessary for salvation. Origen donated his extensive collection of pagan literature because of the fundamental incompatibility between secular learning and Bible study. The 4th century Apostolic Constitutions, an early work of canon law considered authoritative in the east, commands the Christian believer to shun all pagan learning as “strange” and “diabolical.”

Basil of Caesarea advised the faithful: “Let us Christians prefer the simplicity of our faith to the demonstrations of human reason… For to spend much time on research about the essence of things would not serve the edification of the Church.” Ironically, Basil is considered an example of moderation by apologists for Christianity. He believed that the usefulness of pagan literature should depend on level of scriptural agreement, making philosophy and science a kind of second- or third-rate handmaiden of theology. Writings least in accord with the Bible, almost all secular philosophy and science, were to be consigned to the trash bin.

Athanasius of Alexandria scorned all secular wisdom as blasphemy against the crucified god. In his famous hagiography of St. Antony, the illiterate monk is portrayed as a wise man. Despite his illiteracy, Antony’s hermit-like existence is considered the “perfect pattern of anchoretic life.” Antony even asks visiting pagan philosophers to become just like him in his “wisdom,” even though he is ignorant of all worldly learning.

The homilies of John Chrysostom, a noted anti-intellectual of the 4th century, are filled with vile denunciations of philosophy and science. He even periodically exhorted the Christian faithful to empty their minds of all secular wisdom. John routinely spewed vitriol against the classical heritage, advocating its systematic eradication, but only to magnify the power and influence of the gospel in daily life. Preaching before an elite audience in Constantinople, John’s vision was of a radically pure and ascetic Christianity, one stripped of all pagan influence. Given his oratorical ability and considerable powers of invective, as well as high standing in the patristic canon, there can be no doubt that John’s great hatred of secular knowledge played an influential role in the church’s decision to censor and suppress the writings of classical antiquity.

John Cassian, the great spiritual guide of Latin Christendom, advised the monk to seek out the company of uneducated peasants for his own personal edification. The abbot Arsenius, a former imperial tutor, regarded his education in classical Greek and Latin as inferior to the “wisdom” of illiterate Egyptian monks. The 4th century Christian ascetic and theologian Evagrius Ponticus declared: “Blessed is the man who has attained infinite ignorance.” The 5th century Statuta Ecclesia Antiqua banned the clergy from reading pagan books, unless their anti-Christian and heretical opinions needed to be refuted. This was incorporated into the 12th century Decretum Gratiani, a source of canon law for the Roman church until 1918.

Although considered a text-based religion, Christian teachings were orally transmitted until Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press in 1440. Patristic and medieval Christianity viewed literacy in a negative light. Church tradition had always maintained that the first apostles lived in a state of “blessed ignorance.” In imitation of these men, Christians refused to teach their congregations how to read and write, especially during the first three centuries of the church’s existence.

The ante-Nicene church produced no translations of the bible for the indigenous populations of the provinces and frontiers, even though these populations were in regular contact with itinerant missionaries since the earliest days of primitive Christianity. The few patristic exhortations to Bible reading were aimed at a small minority of educated Christians. Centuries of theological controversy contributed to a view of Bible reading as a subversive undertaking. It was actively discouraged by the clergy, who ensured that the common people under their pastoral care would remain illiterate for generations. During the Middle Ages, church councils were convened to forbid the laity from having in their possession the Bible in Latin or any of the Romance languages. The penalty was burning at the stake for anyone caught translating the Bible into the vernacular.

Paideia suffered under the new ecclesiastical and Christian imperial bureaucracy. Officials of church and state had more important things to do then educate little children in the rudiments of Latin grammar and arithmetic. Illiteracy deepened and became more widespread under Christian influence. The anti-educational priorities of the church, increasing in virulence with the passage of time, discouraged more and more people from getting an education. This continued until literacy vanished from entire regions of post-Roman Europe. The Christian church’s deep-seated hostility to learning and scholarship, besides its positive estimation of ignorance and illiteracy, maintained western Europe at a prehistoric level of development for centuries.

The 4th century, which saw the triumph of Christianity, was a period of significant intellectual decline. There were no great figures in science, architecture or medicine. The 4th century could boast of no philosophers of the same caliber as Plotinus; there were no great writers or dramatists. Schools were closed, higher studies were abandoned, and the pagan libraries were sealed shut. The intellectual and artistic productions of the age were of little depth and substance. The all-pervasive Christian hostility to the life of the mind brought about this age of sterility.

Kriminalgeschichte, 20

Note of the Editor: In this section Deschner says:

Therein lies the destructive tendency, of consequences that even reach us today, that instead of the ‘natural cosmos’ there is an ‘ecclesiastical cosmos’: a radical religious anthropocentrism, whose numerous repercussions and ‘progress’ endure beyond medieval theocracy [emphasis added].

Bingo! This is exactly what Savitri Devi tried to convey in Impeachment of Man, and also the Nazis right after they reached power.

Pay due attention how these early Christian writers refer to the adepts of Greco-Roman culture as ‘gentiles’ (the painting in this post depicts Clement, author of Exhortations to Gentiles).

 

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

(Criminal History of Christianity)

The defamation of the cosmos and pagan religion and culture (Aristides, Athenagoras, Tatian, Tertullian, Clement and others)
 
Aristides

By the middle of the 2nd century, Aristides, one of the first apologists, whipped (in a text of apologetics that was not discovered until 1889 in the monastery of St Catherine of Sinai) the divinization of water, fire, winds, sun and, of course, the cult of the land; this being the place ‘where the filth of humans and animals, both wild and domestic… and the decomposition of the dead’, ‘recipient of corpses’.

Nothing, then, of the animal kingdom or the vegetable kingdom. Nothing of pleasure. And the polytheistic worlds are ‘madness’, ‘blasphemous, ridiculous and foolish talk’, which are the source of ‘all evil, hideous and repugnant’, ‘great vices’, of ‘endless wars, great famines, bitter captivity, and absolute misery’, all of which falls upon humanity ‘because of paganism’ and only for that.
 
Athenagoras

[On the other hand], at the end of the 2nd century the Athenian Athenagoras wants to see God, the father of reason, even in creatures devoid of it, and demands that the image of God be honoured not only in the human figure, but also in birds and terrestrial animals. Prudently, this Christian declares that ‘it is necessary that each one choose the gods of his preference’. Athenagoras does not harbour the intention to attack their images and does not even deny that they are capable of working miracles; Augustine takes a very similar stance.

How humble, or could almost say pious, Athenagoras seems in his A Plea for the Christians, when he asks for the ‘indulgence’ of the pagans Marcus Aurelius and Commodus, and praises their ‘prudent government’, their ‘kindness and clemency’, their ‘peace of mind and love of humans’, their ‘eagerness to know’, their ‘love of truth’ and their ‘beneficent actions’. He even assigns them honorary titles that did not correspond to them.
 
Tatian

However, at the same time, that is, towards 172, the Eastern Tatian writes a tremendous philippic against paganism. For this disciple (Christianized in Rome) of St Justin and future leader of the Encratites ‘heresy’, for the ‘barbarian philosopher Tatian’, as he called himself, the pagans are pretentious and ignorant, quarrelsome and flatterers.

They are full of ‘pride’ and ‘bell-like phrases’, but also of lust and lies. Their institutions, their customs, their religion and their sciences are nothing more than ‘follies’, ‘stupidity under multiple disguises’, ‘aberrations’. In his Oratio ad Graecos Tatian criticizes ‘the talk of the Romans’, ‘the frivolity of the Athenians’, ‘the innumerable mob of your useless poets, your concubines and other parasites’.

The ex-pupil of the sophists finds ‘lack of measure’ in Diogenes, ‘gluttony’ in Plato, ‘ignorance’ in Aristotle, ‘gossip of old women’ in Pherecydes and Pythagoras, ‘vanity’ in Empedocles. Sappho is no more than a ‘dishonest female, a prey to wrath of the uterus’, Aristippus a ‘lustful hypocrite’, Heraclitus a ‘vain self-taught’. In a word: ‘They are charlatans not doctors’, ironizes the Christian, ‘great in words but lacking in knowledge’, who ‘walk on hooves like wild animals’.

Tatian makes a tabula rasa of the classical rhetoric, of the schools, of the theatre, ‘those hemicycles where the public greets listening to filth’. Even the plastic arts (by theme and chosen models), and even what the whole world has admired and still admires, the poetry and philosophy of the Greeks, Tatian continually opposes the ‘frivolity’, ‘folly’, the ‘sickness’ of paganism to Christian ‘prudence’. Faced with ‘the rival and deceitful doctrines of those whom the devil makes blind’ he opposes the ‘teachings of our wisdom’.

With this discourse (‘unique and forceful requisition against all the achievements of the Hellenic spirit in all disciplines’ according to Krause) it begins the undermining of all pagan culture, followed by ostracism and almost total oblivion in the West for more than a millennium.

Tatian militated on the very front of the ancient Church—which stretched from St Ignatius (who rejected all contact with pagan literature and could almost be said that rejected instruction in general) and his co-religionist Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, the polygraph Hermias and his Satire on pagan philosophers as crude as elemental, the father of the Church Irenaeus, the bishop Theophilus of Antioch and others who manifested their unrest against the old philosophy—, condemned as ‘false speculations’, ‘ravings, absurd, delusions of reason, or all these things at once’.

According to St Theophilus (a rather mediocre spirit, but the head of a prestigious site), what the representatives of Greek culture spread, without exception, is nothing more than ‘babble’, ‘useless talk’, since ‘they have not had the less hint of truth’, ‘have not found even the slightest bit of it’.
 
Tertullian

For Tertullian, the height of impiety and the culmination of the seven deadly sins, which are generally assumed in the Gentiles, is the worship of multiple gods, not taking into account that in the end these are but the forces of nature personified and deified, or those of sexual potency. Tertullian, perhaps more than any other Christian author before him, undertook a systematic struggle against this worship.

Tertullian notes with satisfaction that the pagans had little respect for their own idols and for the uses of their religion. He puts in sights the impassibility of the gods, the indignity of their myths; he mocks and gets scandalised that Christians cannot go anywhere without stumbling over gods. He prohibits them from any activity remotely related to ‘idolatry’, as well as the elaboration and sale of images and all professions useful to paganism, including military service.
 
Clement

Even a friend of Greek philosophy as Clement of Alexandria, in his Exhortations to Gentiles rebutted all those ‘sanctified myths’, ‘impious altars’, ‘diviners and insane and useless oracles’ and all their ‘schools of sophistry for unbelievers and gambling dens where madness abounds’.

As regards the ‘mysterious cults of the ungodly’ Clement intends to ‘reveal the delusions hidden in them’, their ‘holy frenzy’ since there is nothing more in them than ‘deceitful orgies’, ‘totally inhuman’, ‘seed of all evil and perdition’, ‘abominable cults’ that would no doubt only impress ‘the most uncultured barbarians among the Thracians, the most foolish among the Phrygians, and the most superstitious among the Greeks’.

Christians of antiquity did not understand the fascinating cycle of the life of plants, so celebrated by the pagans, or the interpretation of ancient myths in relation to fecundity, which implied the participation in tellurian and cosmic realities, as well as the experience, deeply religious, of the echo of the beautiful and the vital in every human being. Therein lies the destructive tendency, of consequences that even reach us today, that instead of the ‘natural cosmos’ there is an ‘ecclesiastical cosmos’: a radical religious anthropocentrism, whose numerous repercussions and ‘progress’ endure beyond medieval theocracy.

While condemning the divinization of the Cosmos, Clement launches in his Protrepticus a systematic anathema against sexuality, so linked with pagan cults, ‘with your demons and your gods and demigods, properly called as if we were talking about semi-donkeys [mules]’.

At the beginning of the 4th century, the Synod of Elvira promulgated a series of anti-pagan provisions: against ‘worship of idols’, against magic, against pagan customs, against marriage between Christians and pagans or idolatrous priests, all sanctioned with the highest ecclesiastical penalties. The pagan cult involved excommunication even in articulo mortis, as well as for murderers and fornicators. However, the council in question abstained from extremist positions. In Canon 60, for example, it denied the categorisation of martyrs to those who had perished during the tumults resulting from the destruction of ‘idolatrous images’. This was because Christianity was not yet an authorized religion.

The tone changed when it was elevated to the category of official religion. In the conflict with the old believers the great inflection occurs in 311, when emperor Galerius authorized Christianity, albeit grudgingly.

Kriminalgeschichte, 18

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

(Criminal History of Christianity)

 

Chapter 4: First attacks against paganism

‘And you, too, Holy Emperor, have the duty of holding and punishing, and it is your duty, by virtue of the first commandment of the Most High, to pursue with your severity and in all possible ways the abomination of idolatry’. —Firmicus Maternus, Father of the Church

‘Two measures interested Firmicus: the destruction of the temples, and the persecution to death of those who did not think like him’. —Karl Hoheisel

 

If from the first moment the Christians fought with ‘holy wrath’ the Jews and ‘heretics’, they showed some moderation before the heathen, called héllenes and éthne by the treatise writers of the 4th century. The concept of ‘paganism’, which was very complex and referred to both religious and intellectual life, excluded only Christians and Jews, and later Muslims. It is not, of course, a scientific notion, but rather theological, coming from the late New Testament period, with obvious negative connotations.

Translated into Latin it gives gentes (arma diaboli, according to St. Ambrose), and then, as the adherents of the old religion were being reduced to rural zones, pagani, pagan. In the meaning that designated non-Christians, this word appears for the first time in two Latin epigraphs of the beginning of the 4th century. In the ordinary sense it meant ‘peasants’ and can also be understood as antonym of ‘military’. For example, the ‘heathen’, that is, those who were not soldiers of Christ, were called in ancient Gothic thiudos, haithns, that in old high German gives heidan, haidano (modern German: Heiden), with the probable meaning of ‘wild’.

We said, then, that the initial treatment given by Christianity to these ‘savages’ was rather mild, a notable behaviour. It preludes the tactics used by the Church during the next long millennium and a half: against the majority, prudence, make oneself be tolerated to survive; then destroy that tactic as soon as possible. If we have the majority, no tolerance! Otherwise, we are in favour of it. That is classic Catholicism, to this day!

At first, the pagans only saw in Christianity a dissident sect of Judaism. This was in line with the negative opinion that the Jews generally deserved, all the more so because, in addition to having inherited the intolerance and religious exclusiveness of them, they did not even represent, like Jewry, a coherent nation. The ancient believers only found ‘impiety’ in those innumerable groups, which also took no part in public life, something that made them suspects of immorality.

In a word, they were despised and made responsible for epidemics and famines, so it was not surprising from time to time the cry of ‘Christians to lions!’ Hence the fathers of the pre-Constantinian period wrote ‘Tolerance’ with capital letters, making it a virtue. They were untiring in their demand for freedom of worship and respect for their beliefs, while making protests of detachment, of virtue, as if they lived on earth but were already walking in heaven; loving all and not hating anyone, not returning evil for evil, preferring to suffer injustices than to inflict them, nor sue anyone, nor steal, nor kill.

If almost all the pagan things seemed to them ‘infamous’, Christians considered themselves ‘righteous and holy’. By 177, Athenagoras explained to the pagan emperors that ‘every one should be allowed to have the gods he chooses’.

Towards the year 200, Tertullian is in favour of freedom of religion; that some pray to heaven and the others to altars; that these worship God and others Jupiter. ‘It is a human right and a natural liberty for all to worship what seems best to them, since with such cults no one harms or benefits others’. Origen still cited a long series of common points among the religion of the pagans and the Christian, to better emphasise the prestige of the latter, and does not want to allow blasphemy against gods of any kind, even in situations of flagrant injustice. It is possible that some Fathers of the Church expressed themselves by conviction; in others it would be nothing but calculation and opportunism.
 

The anti-pagan issue in Early Christianity

But as much as they postulated religious freedom, they attacked the pagans in the same way they did with the Jews and ‘heretics’. That controversy, sporadic or we could almost say casual at first, gained ground since the end of the 2nd century, that is, when they began to feel strong. From the time of Marcus Aurelius (161-180) we know the names of six Christian apologists and the texts of three pieces of apologetics (from Athenagoras, Tatian and Theophilus).

Arnobius of Sicca, who was Lactantius teacher, authored seven pathetically boring mammoths of polemics, Against the pagans, whose gods had sex ‘like dogs and pigs’, ‘shameful members that an honest mouth cannot even name’. He criticises their passions ‘in the manner of unclean animals’, ‘with a frantic desire to exchange the filth of coitus’.

Like many other writers, Arnobius recounts the Olympic loves of Jupiter with Ceres, or with humans such as Leda, Danae, Alcmena, Electra and thousands of maidens and women, not forgetting the Catamite ephebe. ‘Nothing displeases Jupiter, until finally it would be said that the unfortunate was only born to be a seed of crimes, target of insults and common place with all excrement of the sewers of the theatre’: the theatres that, according to Arnobius, deserve to be closed, as well as burned most of the writings and books.

An adulterous god is a thousand times worse than another who exterminates humanity by a flood! Christians judged as ridiculous legends the stories of gods that Homer and Hesiod tell. On the other hand, that the Holy Spirit could make a maiden pregnant without altering her virginity was a very serious thing, as one of the most famous Catholics of the ancient time, Ambrose, demonstrated. That pagans buried the figure of a god and dispensed it funeral honours, and then celebrated their resurrection with feasts, also seemed highly laughable to Christians, even taking as holy their own liturgy of Holy Week and Easter Resurrection.

Just as the superstitious pagans tainted with magical practices, from the first moment the Christians believed that idolatrous cults were of direct diabolical inspiration; some, like Tertullian, also include in that qualification the circus, the theatre, the amphitheatre and the stadium.

It is significant, however, that all these criticisms, these censures and ridicule were not manifested until later; in the beginning, when Christians were still a minority, they had no choice but putting on a brave face to the bad weather. The ancient world was almost entirely pagan and, in front of this supremacy, the Christians acted with prudence and even made compromises if necessary, in order to be able to end it when the time came.

This is also evident in the oldest Christian authors.