Robin Lane Fox's
Pagans and Christians
Part 1: a critical review of the evidence both for and against
the existence of christianity in the pre-nicene epoch
Welcome to Part One of a two part review. Here we are defending the Eusebian
fiction postulate against Fox's citations from ancient historical sources that
appear - at first glance - to represent evidence for the existence of
christianity in the pre-nice epoch.
In other papers related to the thesis that Constantine invented christianity
in the fourth century, and implemented it in the Roman Empire with effect
from his military supremacist council of Nicaea, we have emphasised that the field
of this thesis is ancient history. An alternative theory of the history
of antiquity is being explored
in which the christian "Biblical History" was inserted
into the political history of the Roman Empire
no earlier than the rise of Constantine.
As outlined in earlier articles, this thesis in the field of ancient history
is founded on one hypothesis - the Eusebian fiction postulate. In this
we postulate that Eusebius fraudulently misrepresented the natural course of
ancient history under instructions from Constantine. As Smedley Butler keenly
perceived, "War is Racket".
The Eusebian fiction postulate (and thus the theory of ancient history constructed
therefrom) is falsifiable in the usual Popperian formality. Just one unambiguous
citation from the field of ancient history, to the effect that christians existed
before Constantine, and the hypothesis (and the theory) is refuted, either in
whole or in part.
I have retained an index of citations which in the past I have written
articles about, in an attempt to reasonably outline an independent
interpretation of the evidence, with respect to the postulate.
Before reading Robin Lane Fox it looked something like this:
Index of Apparent Exceptions to the Eusebian Fiction Postulate
Formal statement of the Eusebian Fiction Postulate [c.325 CE]
Dating of old christian papyrus manuscripts & fragments [c.120 CE?]
The (presumed) christian church of Dura Europos [c.256 CE?] & papyrii fragments
The Inscription of Abercius, presumed christian [c.216 CE?]
The Christians for Christians Inscriptions of Phrygia [3rd century?]
The Catacombs of Rome; and especially the Catacombs of St.Callixtus. [3rd century?]
The recent archeological diggings at Megiddo, Israel. [pre-Constantinian?]
With this in mind, in the following annotated review of Robin Lane Fox's (RLF) book,
"Pagans and Christians, in the Mediterranean World from the second century AD
to the conversion of Constantine", we have extracted and listed a certain subset
of all citations gleaned from the enjoyable read of this author's exhaustive work .
We deal with this specific subset of citations below.
I would like to acknowledge the research of Professor Robin Lane Fox.
We are all students of life and of ancient history
Mountain Man Graphics, Australia
Southern Winter of 2007
Robin Lane Fox's Exception Register
Citations made by the author in support of pre-Constantinian christianity are:
- PREFACE TO THE BOOK: Opening sentence:
"The subjects of this book need
no apology for their importance."
[Editor: Preface - "Let the evidence speak for itself.".]
- (1) Opening chapter cites two christians of the prenice epoch:
Cyprian of Carthage .. "born again christian" ... problems with "Pontius Vita"
(2) Hilarion, to become subject of Jerome's hagiography.
[Editor: (1) Our postulate is that the writings of the Bishop Cyprian of Carthage,
tendered by Eusebius in his Ecclesiastical History, are Eusebian (historical) fiction.]
[Editor: (2) Hilarion is too late witness for pre-Nicene "christianity".
Also, we first learn of his life from Jerome in 390 CE.]
- (3) 257 CE: Letters of two Roman emperors to one provincial administrator
mentions "christians" - See Acta Cypriani 1.1
[Editor: (3) As reported in Eusebius' Historia Ecclesiastica.]
- (4,5,6,7,8) citations for Abercius (4), Dura Europa (5), Origen (6), Agbarus (7) , Mani (8), Bardaisan -- all via Eusebius/Jerome.
p.292: "of the major christian authors between 100 and 250, all except Irenaeus
wrote from cities; : Rome, Carthage, Alexandria, Ephesus and Antioch.
p.293: Paul, Acts, Eusebius, etc; Barnabas
[Editor: (4) The Inscription of Abercius is not unambiguously "christian".
(5) we regard the archeological evidence from Dura-Europa as inconclusive.
(6) We regard Origen as a partially Eusebian forged author.
(7) We regard the letter to Jesus from Agbarus, and the reply from Jesus to Agbarus,
as reported to be in the possession of Eusebius at the time of writing his history,
as simply another instance of fraudulent misrepresentation.
(8) "The Legends of Mani" are not known outside Eusebius, and extentions of Eusebius,
by subsequent fourth and fifth century writers. Our position is that we see Mani as a
well travelled Persian sage, but that he he knew anything about "christianity"
is simply another fraudulent misrepresentation by Constantine's propaganda.]
- (9) c.110 CE: the Pliny to Trajan communique; Tertullian and Origen
[Editor: (9) Interpolation of the patristic writings (Constantine/Eusebius)]
- (10) p.294: "The Christians for Christians Epitaphs of Phrygia"
Says Fox: "one of which is dated mid-third century" cites [FN:4].Elsa Gibson.
Cites therefrom other inscriptions relating "Rouben", and to "christian" magistrate:
Fox: "Phrygia also gives us our greatest cluster of early christian epitaphs.
[Editor: See below. I had previously reviewed the work.]
At least 20 were put up in the years between 240 and 300, on the latest collection of evidence."
p.587: "Evidence for the christian's growing presence is very tenuous indeed."
[Editor: We emphatically dispute the actual veracity of Fox's claim here.
Fox cites the book by Elsa Gibson, which I have separately reviewed.
In our review of these Phrygian inscriptions, we note the existence
of "interpolated gravestones" by "a later ("christian"?) hand".
We also note the absence of dating on most of the citations in Gibson, and
the fact that the citations are gathered together to a set of 40 citations
because "more than half look like they came from the same workshop".
In addition to these, further issues are raised with respect to this class
of Greek Phrygian inscriptions. Students are referred to this separate review.]
"In Phrygia, we hear of one town which had gone completely christian before Constantine." [FN:4]
[FN:4] cites Eusebius
"In 324/5 the Phrygian settlement of Orcistus petitoned Constantine, referring to its totally christian population."
[Editor: A rich landholder was prompted in a dream to become Christian c.325 CE
Constantine was making an impact on the publicity stakes. His supremacy was well regarded.
Town councils and rich "pagans" were trying to get in on the ground floor.]
- (11) p.295: In Eumenia christian athlete "Helix" - citizenship in several cities, member of councils
[Editor: Citation (11) yet to be examined.
One reference found at
- (12) Epitaph from Nicomedia, Bithnya: 3rd century christian wood carver, originally from Phoenicia
[Editor: Citation (12) yet to be examined.]
- (13) christian epitaph in Ostia, the port
[Editor: The following reference is from the online article
“Connections with Elites in the World of the Early Christians,”
by Philip A. Harland (York University, Toronto)
An inscription from Ostia described "(which is probably Christian)"
is the grave of Basilides, who was an imperial slave serving as assistant to Sabinus,
the imperial paymaster for the port, probably around 250 CE. (CIL XIV 1876).(16)
We will await further details of the inscription, however the description here
"(which is probably Christian)" implies a certain ambiguity.]
- (14) p.302: "best evidence for prominent christians lies in the letter of an emperor" - Valerian, 258 CE
RL Fox comments: "Were all other Valerian suspects somewhat hypothetical?
[Editor: Citation (14) resolves to Eusebius, and/or Tertullian (via Eusebius) as the source.]
- (15) A funerary inscription (ROME!) from the Severan period.
Prosenes is claimed to be a christian, and a servant of emperor?
- (15A) The Marcus Inscription - A further inscription not mentioned by Fox,
but from the online article “Connections with Elites in the World of the Early Christians,”
by Philip A. Harland (York University, Toronto)
An inscription from about 240-50 CE
sheds much needed light on this issue
and provides us with information
about two such Christians as members
of the imperial household
(CIL VI 8987 ' ICUR X 27126 ' Clarke 1971).(15)
Alexander, an imperial slave, erected
a memorial for his deceased son, Marcus
who had been the keeper of the wardrobe
in the domestic service of the emperor.
Most importantly for our purposes is the fact
that Marcus had acquired an education --
a key factor in social advancement --
at the paedogogium ad Caput Africae,
a senior administrative training centre
for the young of the imperial family
(see Mohler 1940: 270-80).
As G.W. Clarke (1971: 122-23) points out,
the better graduates of this school
"would be well read, well spoken;
Here, then, is a clear example wherein a Christian family
they would expect to marry non-servile wives
(though not yet manumitted themselves),
to own  considerable property and other slaves,
to receive entree into (though not equal status with)
the major social and governmental circles,
and thus to wield themselves considerable de facto power."
was making advancements socially in the service of the emperor,
and it is likely that there were others like them.
[Editor: Citation (15A) The Marcus Inscription is yet to be examined.
It is cited but we are not informed of what is in the inscription.
Primarily, we are not informed on why it is presumed "christian"
I shudder to think that the presumption that it is "christian"
is contained in the above extract, as this verges on apologetic..]
- (16) Aristeides Apology to the emperor Hadrian; Athenogora's Embassy
p.306: with reference to these apologies to the emperor Fox says "The setting is a literary fiction". [FN:38]
[FN:38]: Against Barnes, JTS, 1975, p.111 I agree with Brunt, Studies in Lat.Hist, 1979, p.506-7
[Editor: Citation (16) resolves to Eusebius, and/or Tertullian (via Eusebius) as the source.]
- (17) p.306: "Celsus' book best understood as rebutting the impudent link between Platonism and christianity
which apologies like Justin had proposed in petitions to the Emperor".
[Editor: See our view of the author profile known as Celsus (Eusebius)]
- (18) Clement's Paedagogus: "urged an ethic of simplicity on Christian readers in a language the very denial of its ideal".
[Editor: Clement is Eusebian forgery.)]
- (19) Julius Africanus (Chronography sets the comparitive dating of Jewish, Christian, and pagan history")
[Editor: We know about (19) Julius Africanus through the intervention of Eusebius.
- (20) Galen p.308: Galen's reference "christians reluctance to ague their first principles instead of relying on faith".
[Editor: (20) My response to the 4 references in Galen
is that they are interpolations by a later (christian) hand
- (5.1) De pulsuum differentiis, iii.3
(which was "finished some time between 176 and 192")
"One might more easily teach novelties
to the followers of Moses and Christ
than to the physicians and philosophers
who cling fast to their schools."
- (5.2) De pulsuum differentiis, ii. 4:
"...in order that one should not at the very beginning,
as if one had come into the school of Moses and Christ,
hear talk of undemonstrated laws,
and that where it is least appropriate."
- (5.3) The following reference survives in Arabic
quotation and was written before 192.
"If I had in mind people who taught their pupils
in the same way as the followers
of Moses and Christ teach theirs --
for they order them to accept everything on faith --
I should not have given you a definition."
- (5.4) Galen's lost summary of Plato's Republic, as found in Arabic quotations.
"Most people are unable to follow
any demonstrative argument consecutively;
hence they need parables, and benefit from them...
just as now we see the people called Christians
drawing their faith from parables [and miracles],
and yet sometimes acting in the same way
[as those who philosophize].
For their contempt of death [and its sequel]
is patent to us every day, and likewise
their restraint in cohabitation..."
Walzer writes: "The most probable date for the publication of the summaries
of Plato...is about AD 180. We are thus tempted to infer that Galen's interest
in the Christians was later than his interest in the Jews; the latter he mentions
already during his first stay in Rome, the former not before AD 176.".
Editor: We must regard these references in Galen as later interpolations.
I would be interested to see the translator's notes about these in Galen.
In defence of this position I refer readers to the independent comments
of translators of Marcus Aurelius' Meditations, 11:3.]
- (21) 265 CE: papyrus letter sent by christian in Rome to brethren - [FN:41] P.Oxy. 907 also [FN:40] P.Oxy. 412
[Editor: Citation (21) to be checked.]
- (22) The martyr Perpetua; the "loyal christian gravediggers, underground heroes of christian cemetries and catacombs"
- (23) p.322: [FN:23 = acta phileae] Communique from Governor of Egypt to christian Bishop Phileas, 303CE "sacrifice to gods"
[Editor: Probably resolves to Eusebius Historia Ecclesiastica.
See also the political persecutions of Diocletian in Egypt (unrelated to "christianity")]
- (24) p.332: The writings of "knowing" Christian gnostics, who dissolved history and the Gospels into a complex myth
of Creation and the human predicament .... [were] ... "like Buddhist mystics".
[Editor: Take a neoplatonic/neopythagorean text and add "christian references".
Lo and behold, a "gnostic-christian letter appears from the jumble. (Eusebian forgery)]
- (24) [FN:55] P.Oxy, 3.405 - Irenaeus' "Overthrow of the So-Called Knowledge"
[Editor: Citation (24) to be checked.]
- (25) p.392: "Nobody remembered what Jesus looked like" [FN:68 = Clement]
by 200 CE he was being shown on early christian sarcophagi in a sterotypes pagan image,
as a philosopher teaching among his pupils .. shepherd and flock." [Citation??]
[Editor: Citation (25) to be checked.]
- (26) p.393: [FN:69] Cleveland Museum statuettes, dated 250-280 CE
[Editor: Citation (26) - story of Jonah, and is thus not unambiguously "christian".]
- (27) p.393: "In mid third century, variable figures of christ, with and without a beard could be seen
in the wall paintings of the house church in Dura".
- (28) [FN:71] "Small pottery objects c.250 CE stamped with portraits of Peter and Paul." (citation from Bishop Irenaeus)
[Editor: Citation (28) resolving to assertions by Bishop Irenaeus (Eusebius).]
- (29) p.589: "Allusion to christians in non-christian contexts,
the harvest is very thin indeed."[FN:13]
[FN:13] P. Bas 17; P. Oxy. 2276 and wills in P. Oxy. 2404 and 907.
p.590: the author makes the necessary disclaimer when he says
"two wills in which Christians (probably) .."
"It is hard to be sure what phrases establish a christian author
or christian presence in the papyrii,
but on a tight definition there is next to nothing before 300
which is not related to the problem of persecution."
[Editor: Citation (29) being checked. But again, here we have, for a good reason
the disclaiming word .... probably.]
Further non-Fox citations
(30) de Rossi's Cornelius stone (1849)
[Editor: The text below for citation (30) is from WIKI.]
Giovanni Battista de Rossi (1822-1894) considered the greatest
of the 19th century Roman archaeologists.
As a loyal member of the Catholic Church,
he was asked by Pope Pius IX to publish
his works under the Vatican imprint.
In 1857 the Vatican press printed his
Inscriptiones christianae Urbis Romae.
The work contained 1126 inscriptions
dating from the year AD 71 to 589
His most famous discovery was made in 1849.
In a shed belonging to a wineyard, he found
a stone with the partial inscription
The only possible name was Cornelius.
Pope Cornelius (251-253) died in exile,
and was therefore considered a martyr.
NB: A later edition of Inscriptiones
contained a total of 1374 inscriptions.
The first four were scrapped as forgeries,
meaning that the oldest known Christian
inscription in Rome is a memorial
to Emperor Caracalla's chamberlain Prosenes,
who died in 217.
Authors of Antiquity |