Darkening Age, 6

In chapter three of The Darkening Age: The Christian
Destruction of the Classical World
, Catherine Nixey wrote:

A few decades after Celsus wrote On the True Doctrine, an even more monumental assault was made on the Christian faith by another Greek philosopher. It shocked the Christian community with its depth, breadth and brilliance. Yet today this philosopher’s name, like Celsus’s, has been all but forgotten. He was, we know, called Porphyry. We know that his attack was immense—at least fifteen books; that it was highly erudite and that it was, to the Christians, deeply upsetting. We know that it targeted Old Testament history, and poured scorn on the prophets and on the blind faith of Christians…

This much, then, is known—but not much more. And the reason we don’t know is that Porphyry’s works were deemed so powerful and frightening that they were completely eradicated. Constantine, the first Christian emperor—now famed for his edict of ‘toleration’—started the attack.

In a letter written in the early part of the fourth century; he heaped odium on the long-dead philosopher, describing him as ‘that enemy of piety’; an author of ‘licentious treatises against religion’. Constantine announced that he was henceforth ‘branded with infamy’, overwhelmed ‘with deserved reproach’ and that his ‘impious writings’ had been destroyed.

In the same letter Constantine also consigned the works of the heretic, Arius, to the flames and announced that anyone who was found hiding one of Arius’s books would be put to death.

Constantine burning the above-mentioned books
(illustration from a book of canon law, ca. 825).

A century or so later, in AD 448, Porphyry’s books were burned again, this time on the orders of the Christian emperors Theodosius II and Valentinian III.

Why Europeans must reject Christianity, 13

by Ferdinand Bardamu

 
Christianity: bringer of violence and bloodshed

Word of mouth is notoriously ineffective as a means of spreading religious propaganda. This explains why Christianity’s growth remained largely unspectacular until the early 4th century. Of course, the primary reason for the Christianization of the empire was the conversion of Constantine to the new religion. The influence of Christianity in the empire was continuously reinforced and strengthened by the imperially coercive legislation of his successors. Christianization also sanctioned acts of religious violence against pagans, which contributed significantly to the religion’s spectacular growth in numbers and influence. Christianity unleashed a wave of violence that nearly drowned Europe in an ocean of blood. Without Constantine, and the religious violence of his successors, Christianity would have remained just another competing religion in the provincial backwaters of the empire, like Mithraism or the Eleusinian Mysteries.

The imperial policy of Christianization was further aided by the religion’s intrinsic advantages over rival philosophical and religious belief systems, making it more palatable to the ignorant masses. This facilitated its rapid spread across the empire until, by the reign of Theodosius in the late 4th century, most urban areas were predominantly Christian. These advantages included the egalitarian ethos of the Christian church. Unlike Mithraism, which was elitist, Christianity accepted all potential recruits, regardless of ethno-linguistic or socio-economic difference. The Christians of the first three centuries practiced a form of primitive communism. This attracted the chronically indigent, as well as freeloaders. Another advantage was the child-like simplicity of Christian doctrine.

The Crisis of the 3rd century, where rival claimants fought each other for the title of Caesar, was an internecine conflict lasting for decades. It produced widespread economic instability and civil unrest. This disruption of daily life encouraged men and women to seek refuge in the mystery religions, but also Christianity, which offered easy answers in an increasingly chaotic and ugly world. The Christian religion promised life everlasting to those who successfully endured tribulation on earth.

Passage of the edict of Milan in 313 meant that Christians would go from being a persecuted minority to a persecuting majority. Although persecution of religious dissidents had occurred before Constantine, such events were comparatively rare. Roman “persecution” of Christianity was mild and sporadic. It was not even religious in nature, but political; Christians refused to swear loyalty to the state by offering the pinch of incense to the emperor’s genius. Christians were not so much persecuted as they were subjected to Roman police action for disobeying the laws of the land. In contrast, Christian persecution of pagans and heretics was entirely motivated by religious hatred. It combined the authoritarian anti-pagan legislation of the emperors with the bigotry of the clergy and the violence of the Christian mob.

The first repressive laws against paganism were passed by Constantine. In 331, he issued an edict that legalized the seizure of temple property. This was used to enrich church coffers and adorn his city of Constantinople. He redirected municipal funds from the curiae to the imperial treasury. The curiae used these funds for the construction and renovation of temples, as well as for pagan banquets, processions and festivals. The redirection of municipal funds significantly diminished the influence of paganism in the public sphere. Constantine also showed preference for Christians when considering prospective candidates for government posts. For the first time in the empire’s history, conversion to Christianity was considered an attractive proposition.

Pagan temples and statuary were first vandalized and destroyed under Constantine. Christians believed that this first wave of iconoclasm was in fulfillment of scriptural command: “Ye shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves; . . . for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God” (Exod. 34.13f). The earliest Christian iconoclasm included the partial destruction of a Cilician temple of Asklepios and the destruction of temples to Aphrodite in Phoenicia (ca. 326 AD).

Constantine’s sons, Constans and Constantius II, followed in their father’s footsteps. In 341, Constans issued an edict banning animal sacrifice. In 346, Constans and Constantius II passed a law ordering the closure of all temples. These emperors were egged on by the Christian fanatic Firmicus Maternus who, in an exhortation addressed to both emperors in 346, called for the “annihilation of idolatry and the destruction of profane temples.” The fact that pagans continued to occupy important posts in the imperial administration made it difficult to legislate the active destruction of temples, statuary and inscriptions without alienating a large segment of the empire’s population. Nevertheless, Constantine’s sons turned a blind eye to private acts of Christian vandalism and desecration.

After the death of Constantius II, Julian was made emperor in 361. Having succumbed to the influence of pagan tutors in his youth, he developed a deep hatred for the “Galilean madness.” Accession to the throne allowed him to announce his conversion to Hellenism without fear of retribution. Julian set about reversing the anti-pagan legislation first enacted by his uncle. He re-opened the temples, restored their funding and returned confiscated goods; he renovated temples that had been damaged by Christian vandals; he repealed the laws against sacrifice and barred Christians from teaching the classics. Julian’s revival of pagan religious practice was cut short in 363, when he was killed in battle against the Persian Sassanids.

His successor Jovian revoked Julian’s edicts and re-established Christianity as most favored religion in the empire. The emperors who came after Jovian were too occupied with barbarian invasion to be concerned with internal religious squabbles; it was more expedient to simply uphold the toleration imposed on pagans and Christians alike by the Edict of Milan. Anti-pagan conflict again came to the forefront with Gratian. In 382 he angered pagans by removing the altar of Victory from the Senate. In the same year, Gratian issued a decree that ended all subsidies to the pagan cults, including priesthoods such as the Vestal Virgins. He further alienated pagans by repudiating the insignia of the pontifex maximus.

In 389, Theodosius began his all-out war on the old Roman state religion by abolishing the pagan holidays. According to the emperor’s decrees, paganism was a form of “natural insanity and stubborn insolence” difficult to root out, despite the terrors of the law and threats of exile. This was followed by more repressive legislation in 391, which re-instated the ban on sacrifice, banned visitation of pagan sanctuaries and temples, ended imperial subsidies to the pagan cults, disbanded the Vestal Virgins and criminalized apostasy. He refused to return the altar of Victory to the Senate house, in defiance of pagan demands. Anyone caught performing animal sacrifice or haruspicy was to be arrested and put to death. In the same year, the Serapeum, a massive temple complex housing the Great Library of Alexandria, was destroyed by a mob of Christian fanatics. This act of Christian vandalism was a great psychological blow to the pagan establishment.

Pagans, dissatisfied with the imperially-sponsored cultural revolution that threatened to annihilate Rome’s ancestral traditions, rallied around the usurper Eugenius. He was declared emperor by the Frankish warlord Arbogast in 392. A nominal Christian, Eugenius was sympathetic to the plight of pagans in the empire and harbored a certain nostalgia for pre-Christian Rome. He restored the imperial subsidies to the pagan cults and returned the altar of Victory to the Senate. This angered Theodosius, emperor in the east. In 394, Theodosius invaded the west and defeated Eugenius at the battle of Frigidus in Slovenia. This ended the last serious pagan challenge to the establishment of Christianity as official religion of the empire.

Apologists for Christianity argue that imperial anti-pagan legislation was more rhetoric than reality; their enforcement would have been difficult in the absence of a modern police state apparatus. This objection is contradicted by archaeological and epigraphic evidence. First, based on stratigraphic analysis of urban temples, cult activity had virtually ceased by the year 400, after passage of the Theodosian decrees. Second, temple construction and renovation declined significantly under the Christian emperors. In Africa and Cyrenaica, temple construction and renovation inscriptions are far more common under the first Tetrarchy than the Constantinian dynasty, when pagans still constituted a significant majority of the empire’s citizens. By the end of the 4th century, the authoritarian legislation of the Christian emperors had seriously undermined the strength and vitality of the old polytheistic cults.

The emperors did not stop with the closure of pagan religious sites. In 435 AD, a triumphant Theodosius II passed an edict ordering the destruction of all pagan shrines and temples across the empire. He even decreed the death penalty for Christian magistrates who failed to enforce the edict. The Code Justinian, issued between 529 to 534, prescribes the death penalty for public observance of Hellenic rites and rituals; known pagans were to seek instruction in the Christian faith or risk property confiscation; their children were to be seized by officials of the state and forcibly converted to the Christian religion.

Imperially mandated closure of all urban temples resulted in the privatization of polytheistic worship. This further exacerbated the decline of the pagan religious cults because of the object-dependent nature of ritual practice, which could not be fully realized in the absence of statuary, processions, festivals, lavish banquets and monumental building. In urban areas, imperial legislation was clearly effective. This was ruthlessly enforced by professional Christians and zealous magistrates, who used the additional muscle of the Roman army to get their own way, especially when preaching and public example failed.

Pagan rites and rituals were still observed at rural sanctuaries and temples for some time after the closure of urban centers of worship. These remained off the beaten track, so to speak, and were harder to shut down.

Churchmen like the fiery John Chrysostom, cognizant of this fact, exhorted the rich landowning class of the east to convert the heathen on their country estates. Those who allowed pagan worship on their rural properties were just as guilty of violating imperial anti-pagan legislation as the pagans themselves. Itinerant Christian evangelists, like Martin of Tours, fanned out across the countryside, winning souls for Christ through a campaign of intimidation, harassment and violence. In the end, aggressive evangelism, privatization of pagan religious practice and social marginalization ensured the death of paganism in rural areas.

Christianization of the empire was complete by 600 AD, although it is unclear to what extent Christ was considered just another deity to be worshipped alongside the old pagan gods.

Why Europeans must reject Christianity, 8

by Ferdinand Bardamu

 
Section II: Christian book burning and literary vandalism

There was widespread, active destruction of heretical and pagan writings through book burning. Although sometimes used by pagan magistrates to destroy subversive literature, it was only during the imperially coerced Christianization of Rome that book burning increased significantly in volume and frequency. Under the Nicene state religion, book burning became a prominent form of ritualized violence against heresy and paganism. The literature that was burned was chiefly of the magical, astrological, religious, philosophical or anti-Christian variety. People had their limbs amputated for copying heretical and other banned books.

According to the book of Acts, Christianity began its campaign of active literary destruction as early as the 1st century. A group of Ephesian converts, in response to a Jewish sorcerer’s failed exorcism, gathered together their religious and prophetic books and had them burnt. This act of religious violence is spoken of with approval as an example of how god’s word spread widely, gaining influence among the people. This served as one of the chief theological justifications for the many book burnings that were carried out in Christian Rome.

Legislation that prescribed the burning of heretical and pagan, especially magical and astrological, books was enacted by Constantine in the early 4th century. These included books by Arius, the priest who denied that Christ was consubstantial with the father, and the Neoplatonist philosopher Porphyry, who wrote a book attacking the Christian religion. The pagan Library of Antioch, which contained Julian’s extensive collection of Greek and Roman classics, was burnt to the ground in 363 by the Christian emperor Jovian, an act of retaliation against Julian for replacing Christianity with Hellenistic paganism.

Imperial legislation prescribing the burning of pagan books, specifically by magicians and astrologers, is found in the Codex Theodosianus. The burning of pagan books continued into the 6th century, where it is well-attested in contemporary sources associated with the reign of Justinian. Not only were the books of heretics such as Nestorius and the Manicheans to be consigned to the flames, but also books by the hated Porphyry and other pagan critics of Christianity. The laws of Theodosius II and Valentinian, ordering their inquisitors to burn the writings of Porphyry and any pagan work judged anti-Christian, was maintained by the Codex Justinian. The Digest grants the inquisitor considerable latitude in deciding which books were sufficiently heretical, magical or anti-Christian enough to warrant being consigned to the flames.

There was a systematic and empire-wide destruction of pagan literature through book burning under Justinian. The most spectacular book burnings were carried out by Christian officials in Constantinople and Asia. Amantius, the Byzantine inquisitor, ruthlessly hunted down pagans in Antioch. He smashed their idols, burned their books and confiscated their wealth by imposing exorbitant fines. Justinian even found it necessary to ban pagans from all teaching positions in the empire. This legislation is associated with Justinian’s closing of the Neoplatonic Academy in 529, a great deathblow to secular education in philosophy and the sciences.

How successful was the church’s war on Western culture through incineration of pagan texts? The entire ancient corpus of magical, astrological and religious literature was so thoroughly destroyed that nothing has managed to survive. We have none of the many scholarly writings that could have shed light on traditional Greco-Roman polytheistic worship, such as Varro’s monumental Antiquitates rerum humanarum et divinarum.

Christian officials diligently rounded up and burnt any work of philosophy written from a materialist perspective, like those by Epicurus and his followers. The fragmentary literary remains of Epicurus, a voluminous author who published over 300 books, is due to the zealous efforts of Christian book burners. Christians also successfully eradicated all pagan literature that openly criticized the Nicene state religion on both rational and philosophical grounds.

Of the most famous anti-Christians, only fragments of their prolific literary output survive. Pagan anti-Christian writings were considered so dangerous that even their Christian refutations had to be incinerated along with them. Of the anti-Christian works that bothered Christians the most, Porphyry was repeatedly singled out by imperial legislation for burning, followed by Julian’s diatribe against the “Galileans.” We know that many pagans wrote against Christianity, but the fact that barely any of this literature survives is a clear indication that what Christianity could not dispel through reasoned argument, it silenced through brute force.

The monastic scriptoria played a major role in the church’s eradication of all secular knowledge. The monks would recycle parchment from secular manuscripts by scraping off the ink with a mild acidic solution; a “washed” parchment was then re-used for the copying of Christian manuscripts. This was subsequently known as a palimpsest. For centuries, manuscripts overwritten with patristic, biblical and liturgical texts were almost always of pagan origin.

The systematic destruction of classical literature somewhat abated by the eve of the Carolingian “Renaissance,” but the secular writings of antiquity were still far more likely to be destroyed by Christians than any other body of literature.

That this was the case is further demonstrated by examination of the ratio of classical to Christian manuscripts. When extant manuscripts are considered, the ratio is 1:25 or 4%. A 7th century copy of the Vulgate, for example, is listed by Codices Latini Antiquiores (CLA) as a palimpsest with sheaves pilfered from the manuscripts of 9 different classical authors, including Livy, Cicero, and Seneca. Given the 4% ratio, the statistical likelihood of so many classical authors being used for a single manuscript because of fortuitous circumstance is so remote it borders on the impossible. This is made even more improbable given the fact that the libraries of the late antique and medieval periods were typically stocked with patristic, biblical and liturgical writings. The Vulgate manuscript would never have been assembled unless the church was deliberately targeting the ancient cultural patrimony of an entire civilization and people for systematic eradication.

The most notorious—and the most destructive—act of Christian cultural genocide was the deletion of Archimedes’ mathematical treatises. In their place was found a Byzantine liturgical manual. This is known as the famous Archimedes palimpsest. The most important of these manuscripts, the Method of Mechanical Theorems, reveals that Archimedes had a rudimentary understanding of the integral calculus; he was the first to calculate the area and volume of solid geometric figures using infinitesimal magnitudes. This was some 2000 years before Newton and Leibniz, the modern discoverers of the integral and differential calculus. If Christianity had not retarded scientific and technological development in ancient and medieval times, mankind would be far more advanced than he is now. Christianity was the single greatest impediment to material progress in the history of Europe.

Christians actively destroyed the writings of classical antiquity under the delusion that they were sanctifying a text formerly under demoniacal influence and reclaiming it for god. They believed that everything that had happened in the past was a mistake. Eradicating ancient civilization would reduce Europeans to a prehistoric existence, but it would free them from all worldly attachment. It would allow Europeans to focus exclusively on the redeeming work of god in Christ, the crucified Jew whose triumph over reason ushered in the Dark Ages.

Apocalypse for whites • XXXVII

by Evropa Soberana

Judaea, victorious

416 CE: A famous Christian leader known as ‘Sword of God’ exterminates the last ‘pagans’ of Bithynia, Asia Minor. That year, in Constantinople all public officials, army commanders and judges who are not Christians are fired.

423 CE: The emperor decrees that ‘paganism’ is ‘a cult of the devil’ and orders that all those who continue to practice it be imprisoned and tortured.

429 CE: The Athenians are persecuted, and the temple of the goddess Athena—the famous Parthenon of the Acropolis—is looted.

435 CE: In this year occurs the most significant action on the part of Emperor Theodosius II: He openly proclaims that the only legal religion in Rome apart from Christianity is Judaism!

Through a bizarre, subterranean and astonishing struggle, Judaism has not only persecuted the old culture, and Rome, its mortal archenemy, adopts a Jewish creed—but the Jewish religion itself, so despised and insulted by the old Romans, is now elevated as the only official religion of Rome along with Christianity!

We must recognise the conspiratorial astuteness and the implacable permanence of objectives of the original Judeo-Christian nucleus! What they did was literally turn the tables on their favour: turn Rome into anti-Rome; put at the service of Jewry everything that the Jews so hated; take advantage of the strength of Rome and its state apparatus, to put Rome against Rome itself in a sinister political- spiritual jiu-jitsu—from spitted slaves, trampled, insulted, despised and looked down, to absolute spiritual masters of the Roman Empire!

In a nutshell, Christianity was a subversive movement of agitation against Rome, against Greece and, ultimately, against the European world.

As already stated, we have to assume that what has come down to us from the Greco-Roman world is only a tiny part of what was really there and that it was taken away by the Judeo-Christian destruction. Christianity, as a slave rebellion devised and led by Jews with the aim of destroying Roman power—and, ultimately, all European power—was and is a doctrine aimed at converting vigorous peoples into a domesticated flock of sheep. Nietzsche understood it perfectly, but when will we be able to fully assimilate what this meant and what it still means today?

Read the whole Spanish-English translation: here!

 

Above, Laocoön and His Sons. The sculpture that once was in the palace of Emperor Titus represents the tragic agony of the Ancient World: Classic, athletic, wise, beautiful, courageous and close to the gods, at the hands of the Eastern serpent.

Apocalypse for whites • XXXV

by Evropa Soberana

The destruction of the Greco-Roman World – 3

(Fifth century)

401
A crowd of Christians lynched the Hellenists in Carthage, destroying temples and idols. In Gaza, the Hellenists are lynched at the request of Bishop Porphyry, who also orders the destruction of the nine temples still standing in the city. That same year, the 15th Council of Chalcedon commands the excommunication—even after their deaths!—of Christians who keep good relationships with their Hellenist relatives.

St. John Chrysostom, ‘Holy and Father of the Church’, raises funds with the help of rich, boring, idle and resentful Christian women against the patriarchal Roman worship of perfection and war (such women are fascinated by the sickly Christian sadomasochism). Thus financed, he carries out a work of demolition of Greek temples. Thanks to John Chrysostom, the ancient temple of Artemis in Ephesus is demolished.

The immense temple of Artemis in Ephesus was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and had been built in the 6th century BCE over an area considered sacred since, at least, the Bronze Age. Its construction took 120 years and it could be said that it was perfectly comparable to a cathedral. The Christians end the existence of this
almost millennial building.

406-407
Emperor Arcadius returns to launch a decree in which he prohibits all non-Christian cults, which means that at this point so-called ‘paganism’ persists. A group of foederati tribes (federated to Rome, residents within its borders and faithful defenders of the empire), the Vandals, the Swabians and the Alans (the latter of Iranian origin, not Germanic) invaded France, destined for Spain.

408
Emperor Honorius of the Western Empire and Emperor Arcadius of the Eastern Empire ordered together that all Greco-Roman sculptures be destroyed. There are again destructions of temples, massacres and fires of their writings. Around this time, the famous African St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, ‘Saint, Father and Doctor of the Church’ massacred hundreds of adepts of the old ways in Calama, Algeria. (It will not be long before he died at the hands of the Vandals, a Germanic people that doesn’t walk around nonsense.) Augustine also established the persecution of judges who show mercy to the ‘idolaters’.

This same year of 408 the emperor Arcadius dies, being succeeded by the Emperor Theodosius II. To get an idea of the fanaticism, dementia and moral quality of this abortive subhuman, suffice it to say that he ordered children to be executed for playing with pieces of destroyed Greco-Roman statues. According to the same Christian historians, Theodosius II ‘meticulously followed the Christian teachings’.

Emperor Theodosius II. Judging by the quality of the portrait, the
empire was not in good shape under his reign, or perhaps
it is that the old sculptors had been killed.

While all this takes place, this same year of 408 a Roman chief of Germanic origin who had courageously defended the borders of the empire, Stilicho the vandal, is executed by a party of decadent Romans envious of his triumphs. After his unjust death, this party gives a sort of coup d’état and the women and children—we are talking about a minimum of 60,000 people—of the German foederati are massacred throughout Italy by the Christians. After this cowardly act the fathers and husbands of these families (30,000 men who had been faithful soldiers of Rome) went over the ranks of the Visigothic king Alaric, devastated with rage and calling for revenge against the murderers.

409
The Roman Empire collapses in irremissibly crisis, in filthy corruption and overwhelmed by the Germans. But the powerful Christians are in a hurry to eradicate the Greco-Roman legacy before the Germans discover it—lest the Germanised empire becomes Greece-Rome II! That same year, Swabians, Vandals and Alans cross the Pyrenees and invade Spain.

410
An army of Visigoths and other German allies loot Rome itself, continuing later in the south of France, Spain and Africa. From there, they try to dominate the Mediterranean.

Kriminalgeschichte, 23

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

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

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

 

______ 卐 ______

 

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

(Criminal History of Christianity)

 
Celsus and Porphyry: the first adversaries of Christianity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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