An alternative theory of
the history of christianity
""Demonstration and refutation
together with their fallacies
are useful in arguing with others;
and perception and inference
together with their fallacies
are useful for self-understanding"
-- Dignaga (India, about 550AD)
The Catacombs of St. Callixtus
It is often asserted that in the catacombs of Rome
there exists the ancient evidence of tombs and their
inscriptions bearing witness to the existence of the
christian religion before the rise of Constantine.
This assertion is being disputed at this page.
There are a large number of documents on the web which
relate to the Radiocarbon Dating in the Catacombs of St.Callixtus..
To my knowledge, none of these archeological citations
are able to determine that there were in fact christians
using the catacombs before Constantine turned up in Rome 312 CE.
For example, the paper published in RADIOCARBON, Vol 47, Nr 3,
2005, p 395–400 © 2005 by the Arizona Board of Regents on behalf
of the University of Arizona: "RADIOCARBON DATES FROM THE CATACOMBS
OF ST. CALLIXTUS IN ROME" - (Rutgers, van der Borg, de Jong).
ABSTRACT: This paper reports the first chronological assessment
of the Christian catacombs of Rome by radiocarbon dating. The
organic materials dated were found in a set of burial rooms in
the so-called Liberian region of the catacombs of St. Callixtus
on the Appian Way. 14C dating of small samples by accelerator mass
spectrometry (AMS) represents a major advance over traditional
archaeological dating methods used in catacomb archaeology; however,
AMS 14C dating raises questions about sample reliability and
chronological evaluation. We briefly explore these questions.
Our position is that Constantine may have been the first to
use these catacombs in any formal christian manner. Certainly,
there were others following him, who made substantial renovations
to the catacombs.
Renovations under Damasus
Pope Saint Damasus I was pope from 366 to 383,
and was probably born near the city of Idanha-a-Nova (in Lusitania,
Hispania), in what is present-day Portugal, under the Western Roman
Empire. His life coincided with the rise of Constantine I and the
reunion and redivision of the Western and Eastern Roman Empire as
well as what is sometimes known as the Constantinian shift associated
with the widespread legitimization of Christianity and the later
adoption of Christianity as the religion of the Roman state.
The Catholic Encyclopaedia tells us this about Damasius:
Consequently, there appears to be no unambiguous evidence, scientific,
archeological, radiocarbon dating or otherwise, by which we may state
that christians actually existed in the PreNicene Epoch, before the
rise to power of the despot Constantine.
Damasus restored his own church (now San Lorenzo in Damaso) and provided for the proper housing of the archives of the Roman Church (see VATICAN ARCHIVES). He built in the basilica of St. Sebastian on the Appian Way the (yet visible) marble monument known as the "Platonia" (Platona, marble pavement) in honour of the temporary transfer to that place (258) of the bodies of Sts. Peter and Paul, and decorated it with an important historical inscription (see Northcote and Brownlow, Roma Sotterranea). He also built on the Via Ardeatina, between the cemeteries of Callistus and Domitilla, a basilicula, or small church, the ruins of which were discovered in 1902 and 1903, and in which, according to the "Liber Pontificalis", the pope was buried with his mother and sister. On this occasion the discoverer, Monsignor Wilpert, found also the epitaph of the pope's mother, from which it was learned not only that her name was Laurentia, but also that she had lived the sixty years of her widowhood in the special service of God, and died in her eighty-ninth year, having seen the fourth generation of her descendants. Damasus built at the Vatican a baptistery in honour of St. Peter and set up therein one of his artistic inscriptions (Carmen xxxvi), still preserved in the Vatican crypts. This subterranean region he drained in order that the bodies buried there (juxta sepulcrum beati Petri) might not be affected by stagnant or overflowing water. His extraordinary devotion to the Roman martyrs is now well known, owing particularly to the labours of Giovanni Battista De Rossi. For a good account of his architectural restoration of the catacombs and the unique artistic characters (Damasan Letters) in which his friend Furius Dionysius Filocalus executed the epitaphs composed by Damasus, see Northcote and Brownlow, "Roma Sotterranea" (2nd ed., London, 1878-79). The dogmatic content of the Damasan epitaphs (tituli) is important (Northcote, Epitaphs of the Catacombs, London, 1878). He composed also a number of brief epigrammata on various martyrs and saints and some hymns, or Carmina, likewise brief. St. Jerome says (Ep. xxii, 22) that Damasus wrote on virginity, both in prose and in verse, but no such work has been preserved. For the few letters of Damasus (some of them spurious) that have survived, see P.L., XIII, 347-76, and Jaffé, "Reg. Rom. Pontif." (Leipzig, 1885), nn. 232-254
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