12 Amazing points on the MYTHOLOGY of Jesus! Must read!

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12 Amazing points on the MYTHOLOGY of Jesus! Must read!

After reading the points below NO ONE can think Jesus is anything but a myth in the same mold as other gods that were fabricated in the same general area!

Below is a fantastic summary I found that CLEARLY shows Jesus was a myth! You are denying reality if you think any different!

[1] Jesus of Nazareth and the Gospel story cannot be found in Christian writings
earlier than the Gospels, the first of which (Mark) was composed only toward the
end of the first century CE.

[2] There is no non-Christian reference to Jesus earlier than the second century.
The two references in Flavius Josephus (end of the first century) are unreliable
and can be dismissed in their entirety as later Christian insertions.

[3] The early epistles, such as Paul and Hebrews, speak of their Christ Jesus
(Messiah Savior) as a spiritual, heavenly being, one revealed by God through
scripture, and do not equate him with a recent historical man. Paul is part of a
new salvation movement acting on revelation from the Spirit.

[4] Paul and other early writers place the death and resurrection of their Christ
in the supernatural/mythical world based on Platonic and Semitic cosmology,
and derive their information about these events, as well as other features of their
heavenly Christ, from scripture.

[5] The ancients viewed the universe as finite and multi-layered: matter below,
spirit above. The higher world of the heavens was regarded as the superior,
genuine reality, where spiritual processes and heavenly counterparts to earthly
things were located. Paul's Christ operates within this system.

[6] The pagan "mystery cults" of the period worshiped savior deities who had
performed salvific acts. Under the influence of Platonism, these acts came to be
interpreted by the cults as taking place in the supernatural/mythical world, not on
earth or in history. The Pauline Christ was similarly regarded as undergoing
death and resurrection in the heavenly realm. This new Christ belief also shared
other mythological concepts current in the ancient world.

[7] The most prominent philosophical-religious concept of the period was the
intermediary Son, a spiritual channel between the ultimate transcendent God and
humanity. Such intermediary concepts as the Greek Logos and Jewish
personified Wisdom were models for Paul's heavenly Christ and Son, who took
on an additional, sacrificial role under the inspiration of scripture.

[8] All the Gospels derive their basic story of Jesus of Nazareth from one
source: the Gospel of Mark, the first one composed. Subsequent evangelists
reworked Mark in their own interests and added new material. None of the
evangelists show any concern for creating genuine history. The Acts of the
Apostles as an account of the beginnings of the Christian apostolic movement is
historically unreliable, a second century piece of legend-making.

[9] The Gospels were not written as historical accounts, but present a symbolic
representation of a Galilean kingdom-preaching sect, combined with a fictional
passion story set on earth, probably meant to allegorize the heavenly Christ's
death and resurrection in the supernatural realm. They are constructed through
the process of "midrash," a Jewish method of reworking old biblical passages
and tales to reflect new beliefs. The story of Jesus' trial and crucifixion is a
pastiche of verses from scripture, and has nothing to do with "history
remembered."

[10] "Q" is a lost sayings collection extracted from Matthew and Luke, and
made no reference to a death and resurrection, or soteriological role for its Jesus.
It can be shown to have had no Jesus figure at its roots: some of which roots
were ultimately non-Jewish. The Q community preached the imminent coming of
the kingdom of God and the arrival of the heavenly Son of Man, and its
traditions were eventually assigned to an invented founder who was combined
with the spiritual Christ Jesus of the Pauline type in the Gospel of Mark. The
case for the existence of Q is much superior to any alternative explanation for the common material in Matthew and Luke.

[11] The initial variety of sects and beliefs about a spiritual heavenly Christ and
Son of God, some with a revealer role, others with a sacrificial one, shows that
this broad movement began in many different places, a multiplicity of largely
independent and spontaneous developments based on the Jewish scriptures and
other religious expressions of the time, not as a response to a single individual or
point of origin.

[12] Well into the second century, many Christian documents lack or reject the
notion of a past human man as an element of their faith. The type of Christ belief
which became later orthodoxy developed only through the course of the second
century, to eventually gain dominance toward its end. Only gradually did the
Jesus of Nazareth portrayed in the Gospels come to be accepted as historical and his 'life story' real.

 


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TP002 – The ignorant experienced lawyer?

Robert123 wrote:

X wrote: “Pliny is an experienced lawyer yet seems not to know much about the law.”

I agree that Pliny is an experienced lawyer, but he specifically mentioned that he had never attended a trial of a Christian before. He did not fully know how to proceed. For example, he wondered if the Christians should be prosecuted simply for being Christians even if no other crimes could be uncovered. This would appear to be a legitimate question. Even Hadrian issued instructions to his proconsul regarding similar issues concerning Christians several years later.

 

It could well be a legitimate question. Since there is no statute that Pliny can refer to, I suppose it is not strange that he has to belatedly resort to an imperial rescript; though one would think it was more sensible to do so before he’d executed people. However, provincial governors did have extensive powers due to their imperium. They were expected to be just, but if they couldn’t be just, they could be arbitrary; as long as it maintained peace.

So, I concede that my suspicion here is too vague and more knowledge of Roman law is needed. Trajan’s reply is very brief and not all that helpful, as he cannot make a general rule, doesn't state what the punishment should be and does not address the issue of whether an offender’s age is to be considered. If the letters are authentic, this would seem to indicate that Christiani are not considered to be a serious problem.

The reference from Eusebius to Hadrian’s ca. 124 rescript to Caius Minucius Fundanus is interesting. Tertullian doesn't mention it and the version in Justin’s First Apology  reflects the Greek of Eusebius. We don’t have the original letter to Hadrian and what we do have is from an apologist, so isn’t independent. It does seem to be internally consistent though and if we can trust Eusebius, that rescript seems to state that the accused should only be punished if they commit crimes, not for just being Christians.


Disclaimer:

I do not claim to be an expert on this subject. In fact, for me, this dialogue is a means to the end of gaining knowledge and I appreciate your helpful contributions.
 

Summary:

The case for suspicion TP002 is not strong enough. It is quite possible that Pliny didn’t know what to do about the Christiani because legal cases against them were so rare. In all his decades as a lawyer and in his time as a Consul, Praetor and legal advisor to Trajan, he may well have never encountered a precedent he could use.

 

 


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Hi X,I just wanted to let

Hi X,

I just wanted to let you know that I am still here and reading your responses. I think it's great that you are actively seeking out divergent viewpoints concerning whether or not the letter of Pliny is genuine. You seem to be delving very deeply into the issue of authenticity. 


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Still reading and pondering

Robert123 wrote:

Hi X,

I just wanted to let you know that I am still here and reading your responses. I think it's great that you are actively seeking out divergent viewpoints concerning whether or not the letter of Pliny is genuine. You seem to be delving very deeply into the issue of authenticity. 

Cheers.

I may be delving a bit too deeply, for I'm getting a bit bogged down on the authenticity of the Hadrian rescript. I've almost finished that though and will then return to the next talking point.

The background reading is worthwhile though.

Ideally, someone else would discuss Tacitus or something with you in the meantime.


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TP002 addendum - The Hadrian rescript

Before I move on to the next topic, I'll post some of my notes on the Hadrian rescript.

The below assumes that persecution existed under Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius.



The case against the Hadrian rescript:

Tertullian doesn't mention it and the provenance is dubious, having being found with other crudely forged rescripts in Justin’s Apology.

No attempt was made to preserve the letter the rescript was supposedly a response to.

It portrays the Christians in a very positive light and as victims. More emphasis is placed on punishing false accusers of Christians.

If the Trajan rescript is authentic and persecution existed from Trajan through to Marcus Aurelius, the Hadrian rescript is inconsistent because it means that Christians should only be punished for normal crimes.
If Trajan’s rescript is inauthentic and Hadrian’s rescript means that Christians should only be punished for normal crimes, it is unlikely that Hadrian need to write such a rescript.

Supporters of authenticity seem not to have seriously considered the case against and are very trusting of Christian sources.


The case for the Hadrian rescript:

Most historians seem to accept it.

Assuming that Justin and Eusebius are reliable,
If the Trajan rescript is authentic and Hadrian’s rescript means Christians should be punished for being Christians, this is a reaffirmation of Trajan, but with an orderly judicial process added.
If the Trajan rescript is inauthentic and Hadrian’s rescript means Christians should be punished for being Christians, persecution started under Hadrian.
If the Trajan rescript is inauthentic and Hadrian’s rescript means that Christians should only be punished for normal crimes, then this is consistent with persecution probably starting under Antoninus Pius. Hadrian is being nice to Christians because he wants to avoid disorder.


Conclusion:

I’ve been unable to find any recent published research online that disputes the Hadrian rescript and haven’t read Overbeck yet, so more research is needed before even attempting to assign probabilities to the above, but I’ll leave it there for now. Despite most scholars accepting it, it does seem suspicious, particularly due to its provenance and the way it portrays Christians.


Some sources:

http://www.earlychurchtexts.com/public/hadrian_rescript_to_caius.htm
http://www.freefictionbooks.org/books/t/14944-thoughts-of-marcus-aurelius-antoninus?start=7
http://tertullian.org/fathers2/NPNF2-01/footnote/fn23.htm
Vridar
http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/1086763?uid=3737536&uid=2&uid=4&sid=21101599205523
http://www.scribd.com/doc/27132606/The-Life-and-Principate-of-the-Emperor-Hadrian-A-D-76-138
http://books.google.com.au/books?hl=en&lr=&id=BdQtshCmxZwC&oi=fnd&pg=PA141#v=onepage&q&f=false
http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=7799967
http://books.google.com.au/books?id=j2dAY4kKZRgC&pg=PA170&lpg=PA170#v=onepage&q&f=false
http://books.google.com.au/books?id=thXUHM5udTcC&pg=PA340&lpg=PA340#v=onepage&q&f=false
http://books.google.com.au/books?id=bS49AAAAIAAJ&pg=PA173&lpg=PA173#v=onepage&q&f=false
http://books.google.com.au/books?id=blVB5qsbnwIC&pg=PA186#v=onepage&q&f=false
http://books.google.com.au/books?id=fmJDV7Ke9b0C&pg=PA209#v=onepage&q&f=false


 


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 Hi X,Our main discussion

 

Hi X,

Our main discussion at the moment obviously concerns whether or not the letter of Pliny to Trajan is genuine or simply a product of a Christian forger or interpolator. In my opinion, there are fairly strong reasons to rule out any tampering by Christians in both letters 96 and 97. Below is a quick overview of the topic by Robert E. Van Voorst in Jesus Outside the New Testament:

“The text of these two letters is well-attested and stable, and their authenticity is not seriously disputed. Their style matches that of the other letters of Book 10, and they were known already by the time of Tertullian (fl.196-212). Sherwin-White disposes of the few suggestions, none of which have gained credence, that the letters are whole cloth forgeries or have key parts interpolated. Murray J. Harris has adduced good reasons to conclude that Letter 96 has not been interpolated by a Christian scribe. Christian interpolators would not testify to Christian apostasy or predict that most Christians would return to Greco-Roman gods if given the chance. Neither would they speak so disparagingly of Christianity, calling it amentia (“madness” ), superstitio prava (“depraved superstition” ), or contagio (“contagion” ). Moreover, a predominantly negative tone toward Christianity is spread throughout Letters 96 and 97, one that no Christian would convey.”

Although there are some aspects of Pliny’s letter to Trajan that makes Christians look good, I would have to agree with Murray J. Harris that it would be difficult to conceive of a forger painting such negative pictures of Christians in so many other respects. If I had no knowledge of Christians other than what I had read in Letters 96 and 97, for example, my view of them would be such that I would be uninterested in finding out more about their religion. I would wonder, for instance, why so many individuals had left Christianity to return to their former religions. Did Christianity fail to meet their spiritual or ethical needs? It sure sounds like this is the case. This is probably not a religion that I would want to take part in. In fact, even before these individuals turned apostate, they were scared off from even eating together by an edict of the Emperor. Are Christians required to be cowards, too?

We do read, of course, about some Christians who refused to curse Christ and were willing instead to be executed or sent to Rome. These Christians, nevertheless, were guilty of “obstinacy and unbending perversity.” To believe in their “perverse and depraved superstition” was “insanity.” The “contagion” of their religion had indeed spread into the cities and the country, but it was still “possible to stop it and set it right.” Indeed, there is a light at the end of the tunnel since “almost deserted [pagan] temples begin to be resorted to, long disused ceremonies of religion are restored, and fodder for victims finds a market, whereas buyers till now were very few.” Will paganism triumph over Christianity in the end? Pliny’s narrative certainly suggests that this may be the ultimate outcome. Pliny ends his letter with a ray of sunshine: “From this it may easily be supposed, what a multitude of men can be reclaimed, if there be a place for repentance.”  This letter sounds like it was written by anyone but a Christian.

If we look at, by contrast, the known interpolation in Josephus, we discover that Christians and Christ are being painted in a very positive light. This is a religion that I definitely would be interested in learning more about. In this passage, Jesus is described as a “wise man, if indeed it is right to call him a man.” He is further portrayed as “a worker of amazing deeds and a teacher of people who accept the truth with pleasure.” He also “won over both many Jews and Greeks.” As if this wasn’t enough, the Christian interpolator next claims that Josephus believed that Jesus was actually the Messiah. (Elsewhere, Josephus claims that Emperor Vespasian was the Messiah.) The interpolator goes on to write that Jesus even rose from the dead on the third day and appeared to his followers! Finally, the tribe of Christians continued to thrive to that very day. This particular passage from Josephus sounds exactly as if it were written by a Christian and not the stated author. 

There is a vast difference between the tone of the Pliny letter and that of the passage in Josephus. If a Christian did forge the correspondence between Pliny and the Emperor, I believe that he failed miserably in his attempt to arouse sympathy for the Christian movement. It is much easier to believe that Letters 96 and 97 are genuine.

Everything that I have written above is simply meant to give you more food for thought, X. I totally respect the fact that you are weighing all the evidence from multiple sources and attempting to arrive at a reasoned conclusion. Even if we ultimately disagree, I am still confident that you gathered all the pertinent facts and didn’t simply build a case around preconceived notions regarding authenticity.  


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Revised case for and against

Thanks for that. I’ve added my interpretation of your points to the case for authenticity. I hope I’ve understood your points correctly.
 

So, the summary of the case for authenticity is now:

101 - Most historians accept it. See Robert E. Van Voorst in Jesus Outside the New Testament, Sherwin-White and Murray J. Harris.
102 - Tertullian (fl.196-212) quotes from it.
103 - The style matches that of the other letters of Book 10.
104 - Christian interpolators would not testify to so much Christian apostasy as that wouldn’t be a good recruitment advertisement.
105 - Christian interpolators would not predict that most Christians would return to Greco-Roman gods if given the chance.
106 - Despite the letter having some positive portrayal of Christianity, Christian interpolators would not refer to Christianity as amentia (“madness” ), superstitio prava (“depraved superstition” ) or contagio (“contagion” ) or write in a predominantly negative tone toward Christianity.
107 - It portrays many Christians as cowards for not being willing to be martyrs.
108 - It is quite unlike the Josephus interpolations.
109 - It is standard in this era for letters to use the literary devices of making the author seem important and the emperor even more important.  Flattery of Trajan may explain why Pliny looks incompetent and why all problems are neatly resolved and Trajan doesn't mind the incompetence.
110 - Tertullian quotes it as ‘to Christ and god’ but the later manuscript supposedly had ‘to Christ as to a god’.


The case against is now:

001 - It makes Pliny look incompetent as he’s allowed this superstition to spread and undermine society.
002 - Pliny is an experienced lawyer yet seems not to know much about the law.
003 - It is the only time Christo is mentioned by Pliny.
004 - Roman laws were codified soon after by Hadrian in the Edictum Julianum and in them there is no mention of a law against Christians or instances of Trajan or Hadrian or Pliny purging them.
005 - The manuscript of book ten is lost, we don’t know what it originally said.
006 - Rome was generally tolerant of religions and didn’t execute people for no reason.
007 - The refutation of the idea of Christians being cannibals pops up. It may be an attempt to promote the idea that Nero persecuted the Christians.
008 - It is unlikely that there were so many Christians in Bithynia at the time. No evidence of many Christians till at least 3rd century. Also, Pliny has been working there for over a year and hadn’t heard of them till now.
009 - How did Tertullion get hold of a letter that wasn’t supposed to have been published?
010 - Did Christians sing antiphonic hymns in that era?
011 - Would Pliny differentiate between Christians and Jewish sects?
012 - No archaeological or other external evidence of so many Christians then.
013 - The letter is vague, giving no names or dates or placenames.
014 - In the panegyric, Pliny praises Trajan for “his abandonment of vexatious and petty prosecutions for high treason” yet here he is killing people for no clear reason.
015 - Christians have a history of interpolating into history.
016 - Justin Martyr (ca. 150) doesn’t know of these letters.
017 - Ordinary people were not legally expected to offer prayer to Trajan or curse their local god.
018 - If the Christians were purged, why did Marcion succeed in Bithnyia and Pontus?
019 - Trajan’s reply is odd. He says do not seek them out, no law can be made, but kill them if they are denounced to you. Otherwise leave them be and ignore anonymous letters even though I just told you to kill them if it isn't anonymous.
020 - Why would Pliny think that Trajan would be interested in the details of the Christian ceremony?
021 - Even if the arguments for are persuasive, all it takes is one glaring anomaly to undermine the integrity of the passage.


I am looking into your new points, but since many of them hinge on understanding the mindset of second century Christian apologists, it isn't easy. It's a three hundred pipe problem, so I don't feel too bad about being so slow, considering that people have been arguing about this for many decades.


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Hi X,Yes, I think you

Hi X,

Yes, I think you definitely understood my points correctly and represented them fairly. I would like to add, however, that my argument for the authenticity of the Pliny letter is best understood as cumulative in nature. In other words, because Letter 96 has such a variety of negative things to say about Christians and Christianity, it is best understood as coming from outside of Christian circles. The writer portrays large numbers of Christians as acting cowardly, becoming apostates, eager to return to former religions, worshippers of a superstition, and believers in a contagious insanity. Paganism itself looks as if it may rebuild its numbers in Bithynia and eventually triumph over Christianity. In fact, at the close of the letter, the temples are already being resorted to once again and the sacrificial system receives new impetus. The tone of Letters 96 and 97 is so negative that it is difficult to conceive of the writer eliciting any sympathy for the Christian religion in his readers.     


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TP104 - Apostasy

I will try to eventually deal with your other points (I really am reading a little on this subject on most days), but I'll concentrate on the apostasy issue for now.

Robert123 wrote:
Christian interpolators would not testify to Christian apostasy if given the chance.

If I had no knowledge of Christians other than what I had read in Letters 96 and 97, for example, my view of them would be such that I would be uninterested in finding out more about their religion. I would wonder, for instance, why so many individuals had left Christianity to return to their former religions. Did Christianity fail to meet their spiritual or ethical needs? It sure sounds like this is the case. This is probably not a religion that I would want to take part in.

We do read, of course, about some Christians who refused to curse Christ and were willing instead to be executed or sent to Rome. These Christians, nevertheless, were guilty of “obstinacy and unbending perversity.” To believe in their “perverse and depraved superstition” was “insanity.”
 

That would be a strong argument if the Pliny epistles were generally available to potential Christians and were being used in their raw form for general recruitment, but I see no evidence for that. They would only be encountered by a subset of the educated, who would be mainly Romans, but the average target Christian demographic was the uneducated, slaves and women who would have got their information from local spruikers who would filter the information as required.

When discussing Pliny in his Apology, Tertullian admits that Trajan drove some from their steadfastness and doesn't seem to consider the apostasy of these Christians under torture to be particularly embarrassing.

Apostasy is a persistent theme in Christian writings of the second century, even in what became canon, because it is considered to be a serious risk. The concern is that believers will stray from the true path and since there are so many competing Christian factions, there are many paths to stray from.

In his Prescription Against Heretics, Tertullian deals with the reality of apostasy by stating that believers shouldn’t be alarmed by heresies as these heresies were foretold. Justin accepts that many Christians are false and quotes: "Many shall come in My name, clothed outwardly in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves." So, it isn't embarrassing for apologists to acknowledge the existence of apostasy, as it can be explained as a fulfilment of prophecy, though true believers can transcend this.

As regards the portrayal of the insane, perverse, obstinate, depraved superstition; it could be argued that this is exactly how Christians as victims would expect a cruel tyrant to be represented.

In summary, the existence of references to apostasy in the epistles is not a strong argument for authenticity, since apostasy at the time was very real and was often discussed. Educated people reading the epistles would expect such references and the ordinary potential Christian would not encounter them directly as they would have these references interpreted for them by apologists and presbyters.
 

 

 


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Revised case for

Robert123 wrote:

Hi X,

Yes, I think you definitely understood my points correctly and represented them fairly. I would like to add, however, that my argument for the authenticity of the Pliny letter is best understood as cumulative in nature. In other words, because Letter 96 has such a variety of negative things to say about Christians and Christianity, it is best understood as coming from outside of Christian circles. The writer portrays large numbers of Christians as acting cowardly, becoming apostates, eager to return to former religions, worshippers of a superstition, and believers in a contagious insanity. Paganism itself looks as if it may rebuild its numbers in Bithynia and eventually triumph over Christianity. In fact, at the close of the letter, the temples are already being resorted to once again and the sacrificial system receives new impetus. The tone of Letters 96 and 97 is so negative that it is difficult to conceive of the writer eliciting any sympathy for the Christian religion in his readers.     

Added, now giving the case for as:


101 - Most historians accept it. See Robert E. Van Voorst in Jesus Outside the New Testament, Sherwin-White and Murray J. Harris.
102 - Tertullian (fl.196-212) quotes from it.
103 - The style matches that of the other letters of Book 10.
104 - Christian interpolators would not testify to so much Christian apostasy as that wouldn’t be a good recruitment advertisement.
105 - Christian interpolators would not predict that most Christians would return to Greco-Roman gods if given the chance.
106 - Despite the letter having some positive portrayal of Christianity, Christian interpolators would not refer to Christianity as amentia (“madness” ), superstitio prava (“depraved superstition” ) or contagio (“contagion” ) or write in a predominantly negative tone toward Christianity.
107 - It portrays many Christians as cowards for not being willing to be martyrs.
108 - It is quite unlike the Josephus interpolations.
109 - It is standard in this era for letters to use the literary devices of making the author seem important and the emperor even more important.  Flattery of Trajan may explain why Pliny looks incompetent and why all problems are neatly resolved and Trajan doesn't mind the incompetence.
110 - Tertullian quotes it as ‘to Christ and god’ but the later manuscript supposedly had ‘to Christ as to a god’.
111 - The tone of Letters 96 and 97 is so negative that it is difficult to conceive of the writer eliciting any sympathy for the Christian religion in his readers. It is best understood as coming from outside of Christian circles.


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Hi X,Well, you taught me a

Hi X,

Well, you taught me a new word. I had no idea until tonight what a “spruiker” was. I’m already beginning to feel intellectually superior to my friends and neighbors with my enhanced vocabulary.  Smiling

Are you, by any chance, from Australia?

Okay, I see that I need to clarify further what I meant when I wrote about the “apostasy issue.” Sorry for the miscommunication.

I am not arguing that a Christian historian or author would never write about Christian apostasy. Indeed, the writings of the Apostles were already mentioning apostasy as early as the mid-first century. What I am attempting to relate is the notion that a forger or interpolator (an individual whose apologetics is based on systematic lies and deception) would be unlikely to give Christianity a black eye by insisting that most Christians would leave the faith in a heartbeat. Further, this hypothetical forger who authored the Pliny letter had overwhelmingly negative things to say about Christianity and Christians in general (see my above post). Why would he tarnish the reputation of his own religion in the eyes of the Roman readers whom he is trying to impress? This would make little sense.

Strangely enough, it would actually appear that our alleged forger gives his Roman readers the perfect recipe for wiping out Christianity from the Empire altogether: Offer the Christians a chance to repent! This tactic has already worked wonders in Bithynia, according to our source. Christians are leaving their religion in seemingly high numbers (with the exception of certain die-hards) and returning to the traditional gods. The temples are being resorted to once again, and sacrificial animals are being purchased to satisfy the requirements of the various cultic rituals. Eradicating Christianity will be an epic struggle, undoubtedly, but signs of progress are already apparent. Here is the hypothetical forger’s key observation that he relates to his Roman audience: “From this it may easily be supposed, what a multitude of men can be reclaimed, if there be a place for repentence.” In other words, give the Christians half a chance to curse Christ and abandon their religion and they’ll return to paganism faster than you can say “apostate.”

I can’t imagine a Christian forger writing this.  


 

 

 


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TP104 apostasy again

Robert123 wrote:

Hi X,

Well, you taught me a new word. I had no idea until tonight what a “spruiker” was. I’m already beginning to feel intellectually superior to my friends and neighbors with my enhanced vocabulary.  Smiling

Are you, by any chance, from Australia?

Sorry about the long delay, I had to read some apologetics and scratch my head a lot. Yes, Australian. I’d always assumed that spruiker was Yiddish and was therefore likely to be known around the world, but since it seems to be only Australian, a Dutch source is more likely.

Robert123 wrote:

Okay, I see that I need to clarify further what I meant when I wrote about the “apostasy issue.” Sorry for the miscommunication.

The main problem here seems to be that we have a difference of opinion regarding how the letters would be interpreted.
If I were a late second century Christian forger/interpolator, I’d expect the letters to be interpreted roughly as follows:

A long time ago there was a remote province where Christianity was flourishing to an extraordinary and unprecedented degree until some of the locals started to target Christians, often under the cowardly cloak of anonymity. The cruel, smug and arrogant governor reacted by insulting and torturing these harmless and virtuous people and then demanded that they worship Roman gods on penalty of death. Amazingly, some of the Christians there were so brave that they were actually willing to martyr themselves.

The emperor stops the torture, insists that the Christians not be sought out and clamps down on the anonymous claims; but sadly, though unsurprisingly, he still requires Christians to worship Roman gods.


Robert123 wrote:

I am not arguing that a Christian historian or author would never write about Christian apostasy. Indeed, the writings of the Apostles were already mentioning apostasy as early as the mid-first century.
What I am attempting to relate is the notion that a forger or interpolator (an individual whose apologetics is based on systematic lies and deception) would be unlikely to give Christianity a black eye by insisting that most Christians would leave the faith in a heartbeat.

I don’t read the letters as suggesting that “most Christians would leave the faith in a heartbeat”. I’d say that they suggest that most Christians would pretend to worship Roman gods if the alternative was torture and death.
If apologists admitted that apostasy existed, I don't see why a forger wouldn't admit that apostasy existed.

Martyrologies often use a narrative where the weak flounder and the few heroic martyrs resist as an example to true believers. Tertullian, who is quite an extremist, often accuses Christians of moral laxity when promoting his faction over other Christian splinter groups. He rails against the ‘weak’ Christians who flee from persecution, so apologists like him do not fear that admitting the existence of apostasy will encourage it, for even hard-line fanatics wouldn’t really expect all their followers to become martyrs.

Robert123 wrote:

Further, this hypothetical forger who authored the Pliny letter had overwhelmingly negative things to say about Christianity and Christians in general (see my above post). Why would he tarnish the reputation of his own religion in the eyes of the Roman readers whom he is trying to impress? This would make little sense.

If he is creating a portrait of an unsympathetic Roman tyrant for a mainly Christian audience, one would expect such a tyrant to write derogatorily about Christians. Presumably, in Tertullian's era, this is what many Romans and provincials did think of Christians, so to suggest otherwise would be suspicious.
 
Robert123 wrote:

Strangely enough, it would actually appear that our alleged forger gives his Roman readers the perfect recipe for wiping out Christianity from the Empire altogether: Offer the Christians a chance to repent! This tactic has already worked wonders in Bithynia, according to our source. Christians are leaving their religion in seemingly high numbers (with the exception of certain die-hards) and returning to the traditional gods. The temples are being resorted to once again, and sacrificial animals are being purchased to satisfy the requirements of the various cultic rituals. Eradicating Christianity will be an epic struggle, undoubtedly, but signs of progress are already apparent. Here is the hypothetical forger’s key observation that he relates to his Roman audience: “From this it may easily be supposed, what a multitude of men can be reclaimed, if there be a place for repentence.” In other words, give the Christians half a chance to curse Christ and abandon their religion and they’ll return to paganism faster than you can say “apostate.”

I can’t imagine a Christian forger writing this.


In the late second century, Christians did have a chance to repent, so the recipe already existed and was being followed. Tertullian writes as if the content of the letters was currently being implemented.
 


Robert123
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 Hi X,X wrote: “Sorry

 

Hi X,

Quote:
“Sorry about the long delay, I had to read some apologetics and scratch my head a lot. Yes, Australian. I’d always assumed that spruiker was Yiddish and was therefore likely to be known around the world, but since it seems to be only Australian, a Dutch source is more likely.”

Don’t worry about the long delay, it’s kind of nice to go at a more leisurely pace. I’ve always wanted to visit Australia, but the flight over there is so long that I’d probably crawl out of my skin. My sister made it there a few years ago—she absolutely loved it.

Quote:
“The main problem here seems to be that we have a difference of opinion regarding how the letters would be interpreted.
If I were a late second century Christian forger/interpolator, I’d expect the letters to be interpreted roughly as follows:

A long time ago there was a remote province where Christianity was flourishing to an extraordinary and unprecedented degree until some of the locals started to target Christians, often under the cowardly cloak of anonymity. The cruel, smug and arrogant governor reacted by insulting and torturing these harmless and virtuous people and then demanded that they worship Roman gods on penalty of death. Amazingly, some of the Christians there were so brave that they were actually willing to martyr themselves.

The emperor stops the torture, insists that the Christians not be sought out and clamps down on the anonymous claims; but sadly, though unsurprisingly, he still requires Christians to worship Roman gods.”

I want to be able to agree with you as much as possible, so I’ll reiterate once again that I believe that Pliny’s letter does make Christians look good to a certain extent.

If we accept the forger hypothesis, then who was the intended audience? Well, at the very least we know that Tertullian attempted to sway the provincial governors of Rome with this “forgery” in his Apology for the Christians. This apology was written in approximately 197 A.D. and referenced Pliny’s Letter and Emperor Trajan’s reply from circa 112 A.D. This is a difference of only 85 years. Here is the problem. Tertullian just challenged numerous extremely powerful leaders of Rome to believe that Pliny the Younger and Emperor Trajan developed a carefully prescribed policy towards Christians. This was an extremely dangerous game to play. If Tertullian was found to be lying, the Christians would fall into even deeper disrepute in the eyes of the Romans who would perhaps feel even more justified in persecuting them. Tertullian would do much better to simply rely on the other arguments espoused in his Apology.   

Provincial governors were very powerful men who had the ear of the Emperor. There is no reason to believe that they would not be granted access to police reports, magistrate reports, provincial reports, edicts of governors, Senate records and even Imperial records when warranted. A persecution would leave a long paper trail. It is not feasible to believe that the policy toward Christians of such an esteemed statesman as Pliny the Younger and the Emperor Trajan would be unknown to the leaders of Rome if they desired to know the truth of the matter. This particular forgery was doomed to failure the moment Tertullian included it in his Apology. It would have been a foolhardy attempt to curry favor from powerful men who had the ability to discover whether or not the Pliny letter was authentic or a clever hoax.

In the spirit of agreeing with you as much as possible, X, I will now rewrite what you have written above with the least amount of change possible. My additions will be capitalized. I will write from the viewpoint of a Roman provincial governor.

A long time ago there was a remote province where Christianity was flourishing to an extraordinary and unprecedented degree until some of the locals started to target Christians, often under the cowardly cloak of anonymity. The ESTEEMED governor reacted by insulting THE RECALCITRANT and torturing TWO DEACONESSES. These CHRISTIANS were harmless and virtuous people, SANS THE RECALCITRANT. THE GOVERNOR demanded that they worship Roman gods on penalty of death. Amazingly, some of the Christians there were so brave that they were actually willing to martyr themselves.

The Emperor DOES NOT stop the MURDER, ALTHOUGH HE insists that the Christians not be sought out and clamps down on the anonymous claims; but unsurprisingly, he still requires Christians to worship Roman gods.”

In my opinion, this reading better represents how a Roman in a position of authority would interpret the Pliny letter.

Quote:
“I don’t read the letters as suggesting that ‘most Christians would leave the faith in a heartbeat’. I’d say that they suggest that most Christians would pretend to worship Roman gods if the alternative was torture and death.”

Either way, it reflects poorly upon Christians. The New Testament demands martyrdom in the face of persecution. One is not allowed to pretend that he/she is of another faith to stay alive.

Quote:
“If apologists admitted that apostasy existed, I don't see why a forger wouldn't admit that apostasy existed. Martyrologies often use a narrative where the weak flounder and the few heroic martyrs resist as an example to true believers. Tertullian, who is quite an extremist, often accuses Christians of moral laxity when promoting his faction over other Christian splinter groups. He rails against the ‘weak’ Christians who flee from persecution, so apologists like him do not fear that admitting the existence of apostasy will encourage it, for even hard-line fanatics wouldn’t really expect all their followers to become martyrs.”

I think a forger or interpolator would tailor his message to his particular audience. An intelligent forger would present Christianity as an indisputable truth that men would be willing to die for if his audience consisted of Roman nobility/leaders. Why would he want most Christians to look weak and unsure of their faith? Romans admired strength and courage. Legionaries were not allowed to be taken captive in war. They were expected to win or die fighting. It was taken for granted that gladiators would die well in the arena. It was even considered “virtuous” for a Roman citizen to commit suicide under certain circumstances to retain his honor, etc. An individual whose apologetics consisted of deception would not make Christians look weak in the face of Roman officials who despised any hint of cowardice.

I would also like you to notice, X, that Tertullian’s apology presents Christians as an extremely tough group that are willing to be shredded by the iron claw, crucified, burned with fire and suffer numerous other tortures. They are willing to die because they believe they possess the Truth. A forger writing the Letter of Pliny would very likely adopt the same tactic in order to persuade the Roman rulers of the veracity of the Christian religion.

Quote:
“If he is creating a portrait of an unsympathetic Roman tyrant for a mainly Christian audience, one would expect such a tyrant to write derogatorily about Christians. Presumably, in Tertullian's era, this is what many Romans and provincials did think of Christians, so to suggest otherwise would be suspicious.”

I’m not sure what a forger would gain by attempting to fool individuals who are already Christians. I essentially agree with what you wrote earlier: “the Pliny epistles…would only be encountered by a subset of the educated, who would be mainly Romans.” It makes more sense that a forger would be attempting to sway the opinion of the Roman elite. It makes even more sense, in my opinion, that the Pliny letter and the response from the Emperor are genuine.

Quote:
“In the late second century, Christians did have a chance to repent, so the recipe already existed and was being followed. Tertullian writes as if the content of the letters was currently being implemented.”

I contend that Christians were legally given a chance to repent because of the legislation of Trajan.

Let me leave you with this one last observation. Would a forger who is attempting to convince powerful Romans that Christianity should be left alone write the following:

“Trajan to Pliny: …If they [Christians] are accused and convicted, they must be punished….”

The punishment is death. No forger would put into the mouth of the Emperor Trajan the words that Christians must be put to death. This would become a legal precedent. The forger would be encouraging a pogrom against his own people. It wouldn’t happen.

In conclusion, the Pliny letter accurately reflects the ethical values practiced by the Christians as portrayed at length both in the New Testament and in the Apology of Tertullian. The Emperor instructs Pliny not to actively seek Christians out or entertain anonymous accusations against them, but he also advocates the execution of those who do not renounce Christianity and are brought to trial through normal procedures. The Pliny letter reveals that Christianity had gained a large following in Bithynia, but it also makes clear that the eradication of this “disease” is possible and taking place thanks to the pardons available to those who renounce their faith.    


 

  

 


x
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TP202 – The Intended Audience

Yes, just getting from point A to point B in general is tiresome enough. Long plane journeys are like some terrace of purgatory.

Instead of trying to address all your points, I’ll just attend to one hydra head first, namely the intended audience issue, as other points depend on this.

I did originally write that the Pliny epistles “would only be encountered by a subset of the educated, who would be mainly Romans”. That is so for the books of epistles in their complete form, but for a hypothetical forger/interpolator, all that would be necessary would be to create or amend what are now called letters 96 and 97 of book 10 (the rescript letters). It would then just require an educated Christian like Tertullian to read the rescript letters and to circulate their content in Christian circles. It doesn't really matter who read the epistles as a whole and we don’t even know when they were first published as a whole.

Christians made up a very small percentage of the population at that time and were generally considered to be unpatriotic, eccentric fools by Romans, so their writings were unlikely to be taken very seriously, if they were read at all outside the Christian milieu.
 

As you point out, Christians are hardly likely to be able to write their own laws in the name of Trajan and have them accepted as law. We have examples of Christians forging rescripts, such as those found at the end of Justin’s First Apology and when they did this, it wasn’t for the purpose of passing laws or setting a legal precedent.

Forged official documents were not uncommon. Pliny relates how he rejected some doubtful imperial documents that were found in the provincial archive, instead relying on the imperial archive. So, it wouldn't be a great problem if Romans did encounter such forgeries, as people would realise that this was commonplace.

Even though Tertullian's Apology is addressed to the provincial governors, it is likely to have been a rhetorical open letter, mainly read by or orated to Christians.

For Tertullian's writings as rhetorical see:
 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apologeticus#Addressees_and_audience


This work is ostensibly addressed to the provincial governors of the Roman Empire, more specifically the magistrates of Carthage- "that the truth, being forbidden to defend itself publicly, may reach the ears of the rulers by the hidden path of letters"— and thus bears resemblance to the Greek apologues. It is structured as an appeal on behalf of the Christians and pleads “for toleration of Christianity, attacking pagan superstition, rebutting charges against Christian morality, and claiming that Christians are no danger to the State but useful citizens”.[8] Its readership is likely to have been composed of Christians, whose faith was reinforced through Tertullian's defense against rationalizations and rumours and who “would have been hugely enheartened by Tertullian’s matchless confidence in the superiority of the Christian religion”.[9]

Note 9 p1036 - Wright, David & Philip F. Esler. "Tertullian." The Early Christian World. Vol. 2. (London: Routledge, 2000). 1027-047.


http://www.tertullian.org/articles/mckechnie_pallio.htm


The Apologeticum, for instance, is cast in the defence-speech mould and addressed to the 'governors of the Roman Empire, seated on a lofty and conspicuous tribunal' (Tert. Apologeticum 1.1); but right after the opening address to these (vaguely identified) 'governors of the Roman Empire', Tertullian says that people accused of being Christians don't get to make their defence in court like people accused of other things - and hopes that the truth will come to the rulers' ears by the 'secret road of silent letters' (ibid.).

http://books.google.com.au/books?id=lXcpe9ZOQtoC  (page 31 re 'Against the Jews' being for a Christian audience)

In The Apology, Tertullian even claims:

“We on the other hand can show you a protector, if the letters of the honoured emperor M. Aurelius be searched, in which he testifies that the famous drought in Germany was put a stop to by the rain which fell in answer to the prayers of the Christians who happened to be in his army.“

“Accordingly Tiberius, in whose time the Christian name first made its appearance in the world, laid before the senate tidings from Syria Palaestina which had revealed to him the truth of the divinity there manifested, and supported the motion by his own vote to begin with. The senate rejected it because it had not itself given its approval. Caesar held to his own opinion and threatened danger to the accusers of the Christians.”

“All these things with reference to Christ, Pilate, who himself also in his own conscience was now a Christian, reported to the then emperor Tiberius.”

Claims of this nature would be unlikely to be addressed to Governors or even taken seriously by educated Romans, so were presumably also intended for mainly Christian consumption.

Celsus notes that Christians rarely interacted with cultured people and Lucian also refers to their gullibility. They could write whatever they liked in writings that were only circulated amongst themselves.

It is also interesting that Tertullian, for all his admittedly entertaining rabble rousing and Roman baiting, remained unmolested. If Roman rulers read Tertullian and persecution of Christians was so common, why did he survive? For now, I’m minded to think that his letters were mainly read by and orated to Christians along the lines of firebrand preachers through the ages. The rulers had more important things to worry about than this.

Re “I’m not sure what a forger would gain by attempting to fool individuals who are already Christians,” I’ll try to tackle that in depth next (maybe) / eventually in TP201 – Purpose of Forgery, but some reasons could be to suggest things Christians would like to hear such as:


Christians are harmless, persecuted victims
Christians were plentiful a long time ago
Romans are cruel and arrogant braggarts
Trajan showed some mercy to Christians
Roman law re Christians is arbitrary and contradictory
Some Christians were heroic martyrs
Some Christians were weak and possibly heretics, thus fulfilling the prophecy that a falling away will take place

The question arises as to how we could come to have the Pliny letters in their current form. From what I can gather, the known ancestor of the ten book manuscript is referred to as pi and was written in Italy at the end of the fifth century. The forgery hypothesis would require that this manuscript was ultimately composed from a Christian source. Considering that the Empire became Christian and most non-Christian writing was lost, this doesn’t seem far-fetched. If I remember correctly, the original letters would have been written and published (if published early) before the codex was common, so adding to them wouldn’t have been quite as difficult.

I feel that the forgery/interpolation hypothesis is possible, but to be considered plausible or likely, the other arguments to support it need to be strong, since a forgery/interpolation hypothesis is an extraordinary claim and needs extraordinary evidence. Also, this sort of debate is a very difficult one since a good forgery will look very much like the real thing.

After all this time I’m still unconvinced as to whether we are dealing with a forgery or interpolation or neither and feel that I need to read more, but my uncertainty should at least help me maintain some impartiality. I am still arguing the case for a forgery/interpolation though, since I still have my suspicions and someone has to attempt it.

The quest for certainty may be impossible, but I’ve learnt a lot while looking, so I’m grateful for your thought provoking replies and patience.
 


Robert123
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Hello there

Hello there X,

Quote:
“Yes, just getting from point A to point B in general is tiresome enough. Long plane journeys are like some terrace of purgatory.”

That is an excellent way to put it.  Smiling

Quote:
“Instead of trying to address all your points, I’ll just attend to one hydra head first, namely the intended audience issue, as other points depend on this.

I did originally write that the Pliny epistles “would only be encountered by a subset of the educated, who would be mainly Romans”. That is so for the books of epistles in their complete form, but for a hypothetical forger/interpolator, all that would be necessary would be to create or amend what are now called letters 96 and 97 of book 10 (the rescript letters). It would then just require an educated Christian like Tertullian to read the rescript letters and to circulate their content in Christian circles. It doesn't really matter who read the epistles as a whole and we don’t even know when they were first published as a whole.”

Okay, I now have a better grasp on what you were attempting to say. Thanks.

Quote:
“Christians made up a very small percentage of the population at that time and were generally considered to be unpatriotic, eccentric fools by Romans, so their writings were unlikely to be taken very seriously, if they were read at all outside the Christian milieu.”

I agree that Christians made up a relatively small proportion of the population of the Roman Empire during the lifetime of Pliny. I would argue, however, that certain “hotspots” did exist where Christians thrived in larger numbers such as in the province of Asia. I also agree with you that the Romans considered Christians to be “unpatriotic, eccentric fools.” I will talk about whether or not Roman pagans read Christian material below.

Quote:
“As you point out, Christians are hardly likely to be able to write their own laws in the name of Trajan and have them accepted as law. We have examples of Christians forging rescripts, such as those found at the end of Justin’s First Apology and when they did this, it wasn’t for the purpose of passing laws or setting a legal precedent.”

Okay, I think we actually had a miscommunication on this point. Here is what I was attempting to say: A Christian forger would never create a document in which the Emperor Trajan instructs his governor to execute Christians. Trajan’s rescript to his governor Pliny actually demands the death penalty for Christians. Here is the relevant excerpt: “If they [Christians] are accused and convicted, they must be punished….” The punishment is death. This rescript is very likely genuine for the simple reason that a forger would never encourage the persecution and execution of his fellow Christians. It would be inconceivable for him to write such a thing.

Quote:
“Forged official documents were not uncommon. Pliny relates how he rejected some doubtful imperial documents that were found in the provincial archive, instead relying on the imperial archive. So, it wouldn't be a great problem if Romans did encounter such forgeries, as people would realise that this was commonplace.”

I won’t argue that forged documents didn’t exist. I will argue that a Christian would be extremely unlikely to forge a document in which an Emperor directed his provincial governor to murder Christians.

Quote:
“Even though Tertullian's Apology is addressed to the provincial governors, it is likely to have been a rhetorical open letter, mainly read by or orated to Christians.

For Tertullian's writings as rhetorical see:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apologeticus#Addressees_and_audience

This work is ostensibly addressed to the provincial governors of the Roman Empire, more specifically the magistrates of Carthage- "that the truth, being forbidden to defend itself publicly, may reach the ears of the rulers by the hidden path of letters"— and thus bears resemblance to the Greek apologues. It is structured as an appeal on behalf of the Christians and pleads “for toleration of Christianity, attacking pagan superstition, rebutting charges against Christian morality, and claiming that Christians are no danger to the State but useful citizens”.[8] Its readership is likely to have been composed of Christians, whose faith was reinforced through Tertullian's defense against rationalizations and rumours and who “would have been hugely enheartened by Tertullian’s matchless confidence in the superiority of the Christian religion”.[9]

Note 9 p1036 - Wright, David & Philip F. Esler. "Tertullian." The Early Christian World. Vol. 2. (London: Routledge, 2000). 1027-047.

The Apologeticum, for instance, is cast in the defence-speech mould and addressed to the 'governors of the Roman Empire, seated on a lofty and conspicuous tribunal' (Tert. Apologeticum 1.1); but right after the opening address to these (vaguely identified) 'governors of the Roman Empire', Tertullian says that people accused of being Christians don't get to make their defence in court like people accused of other things - and hopes that the truth will come to the rulers' ears by the 'secret road of silent letters' (ibid.).”

I agree with you, X, that although Tertullian’s Apology was addressed to the provincial governors, in reality it was more like an open letter. I disagree, however, that its primary audience was Christians alone. While Christians were undoubtedly interested in what the Apologists of the second century wrote, it was pagans who the Apologists were attempting to persuade to adopt Christianity. An extremely powerful member of the Church such as Tertullian would likely also, of course, draw the attention of the North African governors since “secret societies” had been outlawed since the days of Julius Caesar and rumors were rampant about what Christians did behind closed doors. The Apologists at this time were defending themselves against charges of cannibalism, incest, infanticide etc. The authorities would further be interested in the Church since the Christian population began to explode throughout the Roman Empire starting around 170 A.D. The rising population of Christians needed to be monitored closely and their literary works would provide one way of doing this.

Here is an excerpt from The Rise of Christianity by W.H.C. Frend, which is considered one of the standard academic texts on early Christianity: “Often using the form of “open letters” addressed to the emperors or to pagan magistrates, their real target was literate provincial opinion. The amount they [the Apologists] wrote suggests that there was a real market for these works of popular Christian philosophy among Christians and their opponents at this time [130-200 A.D.].

The Encyclopedia of Early Christianity relates the following about Tertullian’s Apology: “From a rhetorical point of view, Tertullian’s Apology (A.D. 197) marks the climax of Christian efforts in the second century to speak to pagans in polished literary forms….”

The Early Church notes that “It inhered in the nature of the church’s existence that from the start it was engaged in debate with critics, and that the formulation of its doctrines was hammered out in an intellectual dialogue, both within the church itself and also with those outside it.” The author also relates that “the Gnostic crisis was already beginning to pass its zenith when the debate with educated pagans began to be taken seriously. Justin Martyr and his successors who wrote in defense and vindication of the faith [i.e. the Apologies] marked out the path for Clement of Alexandria and Origen….”

The text Early Christian Fathers states “The danger of persecution on the one hand, and increasing opportunities for the propagation of the gospel on the other, produced the ancient Christian writings that are known generally, from the title of some of them, as Apologies…though in form a plea for toleration, the Apology was certainly written even more as an appeal for conversion [of Jews and pagans, as the author goes on to say].

There is no doubt that the early church was zealous in its missionary activity throughout the Roman Empire as attested by contemporary writers and its eventual domination during the reign of Constantine. Indeed, the New Testament demanded that the gospel be spread to the ends of the earth. It would only make sense that the early Apologies would focus on converting pagans as well as strengthening the Christian flock that already existed.

Quote:
“In The Apology, Tertullian even claims:

“We on the other hand can show you a protector, if the letters of the honoured emperor M. Aurelius be searched, in which he testifies that the famous drought in Germany was put a stop to by the rain which fell in answer to the prayers of the Christians who happened to be in his army.“

“Accordingly Tiberius, in whose time the Christian name first made its appearance in the world, laid before the senate tidings from Syria Palaestina which had revealed to him the truth of the divinity there manifested, and supported the motion by his own vote to begin with. The senate rejected it because it had not itself given its approval. Caesar held to his own opinion and threatened danger to the accusers of the Christians.”

“All these things with reference to Christ, Pilate, who himself also in his own conscience was now a Christian, reported to the then emperor Tiberius.”

Claims of this nature would be unlikely to be addressed to Governors or even taken seriously by educated Romans, so were presumably also intended for mainly Christian consumption.

I agree with you that much of the above would not be taken seriously by educated Romans, but discerning pagans also would not take seriously a fair amount of what the Classical historians wrote (such as Herodotus, Suetonius, Tacitus) either. For example, Herodotus informs us that ants existed that were larger than foxes and kicked up dirt laden with gold. Tacitus asserts that the Jews were originally lepers who were cursed by the gods and kicked out of Egypt into the desert. Suetonius apparently often mixes fact with fiction and his writings are only partially reliable. The Christian Apologists and the Classical Historians were not quite as different as one would imagine. There is no reason that a Roman governor would dismiss an entire treatise by a Christian or pagan simply because some facts were misconstrued.  

Quote:
“Celsus notes that Christians rarely interacted with cultured people and Lucian also refers to their gullibility.”

It is true that at this time the personal missionary efforts of the Christians were mainly directed at slaves, women, children and artisans. Celsus, Athenagoras and Tatian all testify to this particular fact. The Apologies, however, were essentially a second front written more for literate Jewish and Pagan audiences. It is interesting and telling to note that starting around A.D. 190, upper-class and educated pagan males began to finally embrace Christianity. The Rise of Christianity relates the following: “First in Alexandria and then in Carthage and Rome there were serious and successful attempts to spread the faith to educated pagans, accompanied by a Christian apologetic compiled with an explicit missionary purpose. The success of this propaganda during the period 190-220 resulted in violent but sporadic persecution which in 202 may have received encouragement from the emperor.”

Quote:
“It is also interesting that Tertullian, for all his admittedly entertaining rabble rousing and Roman baiting, remained unmolested. If Roman rulers read Tertullian and persecution of Christians was so common, why did he survive? For now, I’m minded to think that his letters were mainly read by and orated to Christians along the lines of firebrand preachers through the ages. The rulers had more important things to worry about than this.”

From all the evidence available it would appear that any substantial persecution of the Christians was only sporadic and usually limited to a single province at any particular time. Mob action appeared to be the greatest threat to Christians with Roman governors and Emperors only occasionally entering into the fray. Any depiction of an empire-wide and sustained Christian bloodbath is simply wrong.

Quote:
“Purpose of forgery:

Christians are harmless, persecuted victims
Christians were plentiful a long time ago
Romans are cruel and arrogant braggarts
Trajan showed some mercy to Christians
Roman law re Christians is arbitrary and contradictory
Some Christians were heroic martyrs
Some Christians were weak and possibly heretics, thus fulfilling the prophecy that a falling away will take place”

Even if we were to grant that the above were valid reasons to create a forgery, it would still not explain why the forger would invent the death penalty for Christians convicted in a court of law.

Quote:
“The question arises as to how we could come to have the Pliny letters in their current form. From what I can gather, the known ancestor of the ten book manuscript is referred to as pi and was written in Italy at the end of the fifth century. The forgery hypothesis would require that this manuscript was ultimately composed from a Christian source. Considering that the Empire became Christian and most non-Christian writing was lost, this doesn’t seem far-fetched. If I remember correctly, the original letters would have been written and published (if published early) before the codex was common, so adding to them wouldn’t have been quite as difficult.”

Anything is possible, but I still must confess that I am not very convinced of this particular hypothesis.

Quote:
“I feel that the forgery/interpolation hypothesis is possible, but to be considered plausible or likely, the other arguments to support it need to be strong, since a forgery/interpolation hypothesis is an extraordinary claim and needs extraordinary evidence.”

Fair enough.

Quote:
“After all this time I’m still unconvinced as to whether we are dealing with a forgery or interpolation or neither and feel that I need to read more, but my uncertainty should at least help me maintain some impartiality. I am still arguing the case for a forgery/interpolation though, since I still have my suspicions and someone has to attempt it.”

Okay, X, no problem.

Quote:
“The quest for certainty may be impossible, but I’ve learnt a lot while looking, so I’m grateful for your thought provoking replies and patience.”

Thanks for the compliment. You’ve actually been my favorite debate partner to date. You really do your research, and I appreciate that you don’t take anything personally and genuinely seem to be a really cool person. Have a great day, my friend.


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 
  


 

  


 

 


 

 


 


 


 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 


 

  


 

 

 


x
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TP202 - Intended audience - continued

Quote:
I agree that Christians made up a relatively small proportion of the population of the Roman Empire during the lifetime of Pliny. I would argue, however, that certain “hotspots” did exist where Christians thrived in larger numbers such as in the province of Asia.


It is hard to know the actual numbers, but the province of Asia does seem like an early Christian hotspot; though around 110 CE there is less evidence for Christians in Bithynia and Pontus, being before Marcion’s success.

Estimates by Stark and others give roughly 100 Christians per city around 100 CE totalling about 8,000 and that at a maximum, Christians made up about 1 in 2,000 of the population then. I’d call this a very small percentage rather than a relatively small proportion.
 

See http://factsanddetails.com/world.php?itemid=1418 and http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/improbable/luck.html#18.2

Quote:
Here is what I was attempting to say:

A Christian forger would never create a document in which the Emperor Trajan instructs his governor to execute Christians. Trajan’s rescript to his governor Pliny actually demands the death penalty for Christians. Here is the relevant excerpt: “If they [Christians] are accused and convicted, they must be punished….” The punishment is death.

This rescript is very likely genuine for the simple reason that a forger would never encourage the persecution and execution of his fellow Christians. It would be inconceivable for him to write such a thing.

I won’t argue that forged documents didn’t exist. I will argue that a Christian would be extremely unlikely to forge a document in which an Emperor directed his provincial governor to murder Christians.



Yet we have many examples of Christians making up stories of being executed by the authorities, particularly in the martyrologies.

There is also the later forged epistle supposedly from the Syrian governor Tiberianus to Trajan, which happily shows Christians being persecuted and executed:
 

“I am quite tired out in punishing and destroying the Galileans, called here by the name of Christians, according to your commands; and yet they cease not to offer themselves to be slain: nay, though I have laboured, both by fair means and threatening, to make them conceal themselves from being known to be Christians, yet can I not stave them off from persecution.”

Presumably the propagation of this theme was partly driven by the idea of sharing Christ’s suffering and execution. We also see echoes in the Pliny letters of the Pilate-like reluctant executioner. Creating stories about the suffering of Christians isn’t the same as encouraging that suffering, though some Christian writers did encourage martyrdom.

Tertullian said that the blood of Christian martyrs became “the seed of the church” and political agitators throughout history have exaggerated the crimes of their enemies.

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I agree with you, X, that although Tertullian’s Apology was addressed to the provincial governors, in reality it was more like an open letter. I disagree, however, that its primary audience was Christians alone. While Christians were undoubtedly interested in what the Apologists of the second century wrote, it was pagans who the Apologists were attempting to persuade to adopt Christianity. 

Here is an excerpt from The Rise of Christianity by W.H.C. Frend, which is considered one of the standard academic texts on early Christianity: “Often using the form of “open letters” addressed to the emperors or to pagan magistrates, their real target was literate provincial opinion. The amount they [the Apologists] wrote suggests that there was a real market for these works of popular Christian philosophy among Christians and their opponents at this time [130-200 A.D.].

The Encyclopedia of Early Christianity relates the following about Tertullian’s Apology: “From a rhetorical point of view, Tertullian’s Apology (A.D. 197) marks the climax of Christian efforts in the second century to speak to pagans in polished literary forms….”

The Early Church notes that “It inhered in the nature of the church’s existence that from the start it was engaged in debate with critics, and that the formulation of its doctrines was hammered out in an intellectual dialogue, both within the church itself and also with those outside it.” The author also relates that “the Gnostic crisis was already beginning to pass its zenith when the debate with educated pagans began to be taken seriously. Justin Martyr and his successors who wrote in defense and vindication of the faith [i.e. the Apologies] marked out the path for Clement of Alexandria and Origen….”

The text Early Christian Fathers states “The danger of persecution on the one hand, and increasing opportunities for the propagation of the gospel on the other, produced the ancient Christian writings that are known generally, from the title of some of them, as Apologies…though in form a plea for toleration, the Apology was certainly written even more as an appeal for conversion [of Jews and pagans, as the author goes on to say].

There is no doubt that the early church was zealous in its missionary activity throughout the Roman Empire as attested by contemporary writers and its eventual domination during the reign of Constantine. Indeed, the New Testament demanded that the gospel be spread to the ends of the earth. It would only make sense that the early Apologies would focus on converting pagans as well as strengthening the Christian flock that already existed.



I agree that Christians were attempting to convert pagans and attempting to strengthen their flock. They were also very concerned about combating the heresies of the competing Christian factions. The issue in dispute though is the proportion of the readers who were pagans. This is difficult to know, but I agree that the relative proportion of pagans would have increased by the time of Tertullian.

For example, in recent times we see proselytising by the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Mormons and Scientologists. They attempt to convert non-believers, but very few of these non-believers actually seriously read The Watchtower or Dianetics. They are mainly read by believers, even though ideally, the primary audience would be non-believers. I am assuming that this would be the case for all proselytising throughout history.

According to Stark, most Christian converts were converted by friends and family rather than by reading apologies. The provision of social services, such as a burial society was also an important factor.

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An extremely powerful member of the Church such as Tertullian would likely also, of course, draw the attention of the North African governors since “secret societies” had been outlawed since the days of Julius Caesar and rumors were rampant about what Christians did behind closed doors. The Apologists at this time were defending themselves against charges of cannibalism, incest, infanticide etc. The authorities would further be interested in the Church since the Christian population began to explode throughout the Roman Empire starting around 170 A.D. The rising population of Christians needed to be monitored closely and their literary works would provide one way of doing this.


It was only necessary for the authorities to seriously engage with Christians if they were a serious threat. The Romans generally seemed to see Christians more as an occasional nuisance, as illustrated in about 185, where a mob of Christians marched to the home of C Arrius Antoninus, the governor of Asia, and demanded to be executed. The governor told them that if they wanted to die they have cliffs to throw themselves off and ropes with which to hang themselves.

I’ve not been able to ascertain the size of this Christian population explosion around 170, but Christians would still have been a very small portion of the population, around one or two per cent. It seems that Christianity grew quite a lot towards the middle of the third century.

Yes, the governors would need to keep an eye on secret societies and perhaps monitor them partly via their writings, but it would only require a few people to do this, so this is an insignificant portion of the overall readership.

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I agree with you that much of the above would not be taken seriously by educated Romans, but discerning pagans also would not take seriously a fair amount of what the Classical historians wrote (such as Herodotus, Suetonius, Tacitus) either.

For example, Herodotus informs us that ants existed that were larger than foxes and kicked up dirt laden with gold. Tacitus asserts that the Jews were originally lepers who were cursed by the gods and kicked out of Egypt into the desert. Suetonius apparently often mixes fact with fiction and his writings are only partially reliable.

The Christian Apologists and the Classical Historians were not quite as different as one would imagine. There is no reason that a Roman governor would dismiss an entire treatise by a Christian or pagan simply because some facts were misconstrued.



I agree that standards of accuracy were very different in the ancient world. Interestingly, Herodotus may not have been too far from the truth, according to this:

http://www.livius.org/he-hg/herodotus/hist06.htm

“They say the outsize furry 'ants', first described by Herodotus in the fifth century BC, are in fact big marmots. These creatures -Herodotus calls them 'bigger than a fox, though not so big as a dog'- are still throwing up gold bearing soil from deep underground as they dig their burrows. Most important, the explorers say they have found indigenous people on the same high plateau who say that for generations they have collected gold dust from the marmots' work. 

Mr. Peissel, author of a book called The Ants' Gold, says his favored explanation is that confusion set in because in Persian the word for marmot is equivalent to 'mountain ant.' “
 

http://www.antlionpit.com/golddigging.html  says:

The fantastic story of the gold-digging "ant-lions" of India has a long and complicated history. The source might be the great Hindu (Sanskrit) epic, the Mahâbhârata (with origins around 1000 B.C.E.), which makes reference to ants that excavated gold (Kevan 1992).

Tacitus seems to have gotten the leper idea from Manetho and admits that he had several sources.

Yes, it is very difficult for us to get into the mindsets of ancient people. It is easy enough to forget how people thought in the 1970s and how difficult it was to obtain information then.

If Roman governors actually read Christian treatises, they may have accepted some miraculous claims that modern people wouldn’t, but since the Christian viewpoint differed so much from the Roman viewpoint, the vast majority of Romans would be more likely to believe pagan authors than Christian authors.  Just because non-Christians wrote some dubious things, it doesn’t mean that Romans would be equally likely to believe Christian and non-Christian authors.

Also, strange claims regarding history and nature in distant lands are of a different class than strange claims that are clearly Christian propaganda. Those educated in rhetoric should have been able to detect the difference.

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It is true that at this time the personal missionary efforts of the Christians were mainly directed at slaves, women, children and artisans. Celsus, Athenagoras and Tatian all testify to this particular fact. The Apologies, however, were essentially a second front written more for literate Jewish and Pagan audiences. It is interesting and telling to note that starting around A.D. 190, upper-class and educated pagan males began to finally embrace Christianity.

The Rise of Christianity relates the following: “First in Alexandria and then in Carthage and Rome there were serious and successful attempts to spread the faith to educated pagans, accompanied by a Christian apologetic compiled with an explicit missionary purpose. The success of this propaganda during the period 190-220 resulted in violent but sporadic persecution which in 202 may have received encouragement from the emperor.”



The apologies will have been written with the hope of converting people, as The Watchtower is, and will have achieved that to some extent, but the numbers converted will have been small, as is the case with all conversion literature. They would also have been written for and read by Christians in order to strengthen their faith and as a proselytising resource. The low rate of conversion seems to be supported by Stark.

I’ve not got around to properly researching the propaganda success between 190 and 220, but on page 8 of Apologetics in the Roman Empire, edited by Mark J. Edwards et al, it is stated that before Constantine, Christians were not allowed to orate in public places and that apologists were not much read outside the church.


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From all the evidence available it would appear that any substantial persecution of the Christians was only sporadic and usually limited to a single province at any particular time. Mob action appeared to be the greatest threat to Christians with Roman governors and Emperors only occasionally entering into the fray. Any depiction of an empire-wide and sustained Christian bloodbath is simply wrong.


This is the impression I get too.
 

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Even if we were to grant that the above were valid reasons to create a forgery, it would still not explain why the forger would invent the death penalty for Christians convicted in a court of law.


A martyrdom story with the empire as the villain would require a sentence of death. The Martyrdom of Polycarp is another example from roughly this era, though in a very different genre. Some Christians were already being executed, so the death penalty was not being invented as a new and dangerous idea.

It wasn’t for all courts of law, just the law in a remote province, decades ago.




Summary:
 

The purpose of this talking point was to try and determine who read Christian authors in the mid to late 2nd century, using Tertullian’s Apology as a pointer to who might read a hypothetical forgery of the Pliny letters. The lower the proportion of educated pagans who read a forgery, the more likely it is that the forgery will succeed. 

The concept ‘intended audience’ is a bit ambiguous. What matters is who actually did read this literature, though one could probably safely assume that the authors knew the likely readership. The Christian authors would no doubt have hoped that plenty of pagans would read and be converted by their arguments, but from experience, would also be realistic enough to accept that few pagans would read it or be converted.

Some non-Christians did read Christian writings, but the audience was probably mainly believers or those sympathetic to Christianity, because that’s the nature of conversion literature. Christians would be able to use Tertullian’s Apology to bolster their faith and as ready-made arguments when attempting to convert people. 

Most literate Romans wouldn’t be very interested in what they would see as superstitious nonsense that is both worse than and the seed of atheism, as Plutarch puts it. This is supported by the small numbers that actually did convert to Christianity in this era, even if the number of converts did increase significantly between 190 and 220.

As to an estimate of what proportion of readers were Christians and the limits to how outrageous forgeries can be, that’d need more research.

Ideally one would examine the use of forgeries and the growth of other religious and political organisations, but that is too big a task. However, for starters, we do have the example of Mormons and Scientologists in literate societies who manage to produce both forgeries and growth.

So, if the Pliny letters were forged in the mid to late second century and if most readers of this forgery were Christians plus some potential Christians, officials, neutrals and anti-Christians, such a forgery still wouldn’t be dangerous to Christians as it wouldn’t be used by governors as a means to prosecute Christians. In any case, the rescript only applied in Bithynia and Pontus around 112 under Pliny’s governorship. Also, since some Christians already were being executed in this era, such a forgery wouldn’t be creating a dangerous new idea.


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Thanks for the compliment. You’ve actually been my favorite debate partner to date. You really do your research, and I appreciate that you don’t take anything personally and genuinely seem to be a really cool person. Have a great day, my friend.


Agape! Ha ha. I suppose that it is a lot easier to have a civil discussion when the subject has already been debated for centuries and is a fairly obscure one from a distant, murky era and when there is a long rest between each of my posts.

My research is rather limited, due to my monolingual nature, lack of time and reliance on online sources, so your extracts from the standard textbooks are very useful as I am unlikely to ever buy them. I get the impression that you have studied this subject formally.


Cheers.

 


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I didn'tlook at this closely.

JesusNEVERexisted wrote:

BUMP!

Come on my friends!  Can't any of you PLEASE comment on these 12 great points raised?

But. What your doing is useing the old darkage Euro intepretation. That won't work. they got it wrong. In proper Christianity the importance of life is placed on the spiritual over  the physical. The Euro version is the opposite. Spiritual is equal to "person". It's the spiritual that is seen as you, not the bod. Rather then take up you challenge I invite you to go here--  The site address won't wok here, som onward and upward. I think it may still work in the General conversations forum--for Araujo.

The only possible thing the world needs saving from are those running it.

https://sites.google.com/site/oldseers

Knowledge trumps faith

Lies are nothing more then falsehoods searching for the truth


JesusNEVERexisted
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 The bottom line is

 The bottom line is allegorical fiction was very common when the bible was written. Even Christians admit much of the bible is symbolic and NOT literal. Not a SINGLE historical character EVER saw an earthly Jesus, Moses, Noah, Adam&Eve, etc. They are nothing but allegories and symbolism in bible stories!

The bible stories were made during a time when religious FICTION flourished and that's all the bible is!

Click here to find out why Christianity is the biggest fairy tale ever created!! www.nobeliefs.com/exist.htm www.JesusNEVERexisted.com