Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Christ Conspiracy: The Holy Forgery Mill (addendum)

The Christ Conspiracy: The Holy Forgery Mill, pt 2

In the chapter "The Holy Forgery Mill", the following claim is made:

The truth is that very few early Christian texts exist because the autographs, or originals, were destroyed after the council of Nicea and the "retouching" of 506 CE under Emperor Anastasius, which included "revision" of the Church fathers' worksl, catastrophic acts that would be inconceivable if these "documents" were truly the precious testaments of the very Apostles themselves regarding the "Lord and Savior," whose alleged advent was so significant that it sparked profound fanaticism and endless wars.[1]
The entry l in the references is: l. Higgins, I, 680. Since I have not been able to obtain the edition of Anacalypsis she uses, I cannot be entirely sure of this, but I assume it corresponds to 682 in the edition I have been using. For this claim, he presents the following argument:
[...] this is not the only correction the Gospels are said to have undergone. Lardner says,

Victor Tununensis, an African Bishop, who flourished about the sixth century and wrote a Chronicle, ending at the year 566, says, When Messala was Consul (that is, in the year of Christ 506) at Constantinople, by order of the Emperor Anastasius, the holy Gospels being written by illiterate Evangelists are censured and corrected.
As may be expected, great pains have been taken to run down and depreciate this piece of evidence to a dry fact, the truth or falsity of which the narrator must have known. Victor was a Christian Orthodox Bishop. It is not credible that he would in his Chronicle record a fact like this if it were false. [2, p 682]
 In fact, it turns out Victor Tunnunensis was not in a good standing in the church, and had in fact been imprisoned in 544 (22 years before his chronicle was finished) for his support of the Three Chapters [3], a weird little conflict in church history (but are they not all?). Could including such a detail be a way of getting back at the church?

Even then, he does nowhere support the contention that the autographs were destroyed. I have not been able to find the relevant bits in his Chronicle, and my Latin reading is slow, so whether this further is a quote-mine by Lardner is a thing I am working toward checking, and will do at some point later in time. I still have not found Lardner's book, and chances are I will not get around to it. Even then, we're still dealing with a third-hand quote here.

Repeating what would appear to be utter blasphemy, in the 11th and 12th centuries, the "infallible Word of God" was "corrected" again by a variety of church officials. In addition to these major "revisions" have been many others, including copying and translation mistakes and deliberate mutilation and obfuscation of meaning.[1]
This bit is even further removed from its original source, a source I am not confident I can obtain, and which I am not confident says what it is made out to say. The source closest in the chain is Higgins - who I find less credible than I would find an admitted liar -, who quotes a French writer named Beausobre, who quotes a Mister Simon, who quotes (some) Benedictine monk. The more direct quotes of Beausobre in Anacalypsis make it clear he is speculating.

The learned Beausobre has the following passage: "Il se peut faire, dit M. Simon, que cette histoire ait été prise de quelque ancien livre Apocryphe, ou elle étoit commune dans les premiers siècles du Christianisme, et peut-être croyoit-on, qu'elle venoit des Apôtres, ou de leurs disciples. C'est pourquoi ceux qui ont osé retoucher en tant d'endroits les premiers exemplaires du Nouveau Testament, dans la seule vue de le rendre intelligible à tout le mond,e n'auront fait aucune difficulté d'y ajouter cdes sortes d'histoires, qu'ils croyoient être véritables. Je mets au bas de la page le jugement d'un autre savant moderne, me contentant de remarquer, que si les Hérétiques ôtent un mot du texte Sacré, ou s'ils en ajoutent un, ce sont de sacrilégés violateurs de la sainteté des écritures. Mais, si les Catholiques le font, cela s'appelle RETOUCHER les premiers exemplaires, les réformer pour les rende plus intelligibles. M. Simon fait l'honneur aux Bénédictins d'avoir réformé de même les ouvrages des Pères, afin de les accomoder à la foi de l'église. Mettons le passage de M. Simon, Dissert p. 51. Nous lisons dans la vie de Lanfranc, Moine Bénédictin, et nesuite Archévêque de Cantorbéri, qui a été publiée par les Bénédictins de la congrégation de St. Maur, avec les ouvrages de cet archévêque, qu'ayant trouvé les livres de l'écriture beaucoup corrumpus par ceux qui les avoient copies, il s'étoit appliqué à les CORRIGER; AUSSI-BIEN QUE LES LIVRES DES SAINTS PÈRES SELON LA FOI ORTHODOXE-SECUNDUM FIDEM ORTHODOXAM." [2, p 680]
(Translation, courtesy of a friend): It could be, says Mr Simon, that this story was taken from some ancient apocryphal book, or was a commonplace story in the first centuries of Christianity, and it may have been believed to have come from the apostles or their disciples. This is why those who dared to falsify the first editions of the New Testament in so many places, in the sole intent of making it intelligible to everyone, would have no problem adding this kind of stories, which they considered true. I put at the bottom of the page the judgement of another modern scholar, and will only remark that, if heretics take a word out of the sacred text, or if they add one, this is a sacrilegious violation of the sanctity of the scripture, but if Catholics do it, this is called falsifying the first edition, reforming it to make it more intelligible. Mr Simon argues that the Benedictines reformed in a similar way the books of the fathers, to make them more conform to the faith of the church. Let us take this exceprt from Mr. Simon, Dissert. p. 51. We read in The Life of Lanfranc, Benedictine Monk and then archbishop of Canterbury, which was published by the Benedictines of the Congregation of St. Maur, with the books of this archbishopric, that having found the books of Writing quite corrupted by those who had copied them, he made his best to correct them, as well as the books of the Holy Fathers according to the Orthodoxy-Secundum faith.
Very speculative sources, and sources now in their fourth generation - quoted and quoted and quoted in such ways that tracing the original work is near impossible. I suspect quote-mines here as well, but in this particular instance, I will not hunt down the entire chain of sources, it gets too tedious, and I will never make any progress in writing this blog that way. Considering the time depth of the sources, as well, it is possible the intended meaning has been misinterpreted; further, an archbishop of Canterbury in the tenth century is unlikely to have affected the writings used in the Greek church, the Syriac church, the Coptic church, or the Russian church - especially as the Great Schism happened only four years later than she claims these alterations occured.

We can see that a data-point restricted to Canterbury is exaggerated to cover all of Christianity. Very scholarly.

We can definitely see that there are great problems with these claims and I would wager a guess here, that if we read more closely - and in context - the protestant argument presented here, that it expresses reasons for why the protestants should try and obtain texts from the greek orthodox Christians in order to possibly get rid of potential Roman distortions?

Finally, third-hand references are not good scholarly praxis.

[1] Acharya S/D.M. Murdock, The Christ Conspiracy
[2] Godfrey Higgins, Anacalypsis vol 1
[3] Catholic Encyclopedia,


  1. Most scholars hold that Victor's account is a distorted version of the dispute between the Emperor Anastasius and the Patriarch of Constantinople Macedonius as to whether 1 Timothy 3:16 should read OS (he) or ThS (God abbreviated). The dispute led to the deposition and exile of Macedonius.

    Andrew Criddle

  2. Looking into it further: Westcott and Hort in Notes on Select Readings Page 22 regard Victor as referring to the dispute over Matthew 27:49. Where Macedonius supported the interpolation from John about the spear piercing Jesus' side but Macedonius' opponents appealed to a magnificent copy of Matthew's Gospel to show that the passage is not authentic in Matthew. (Source a letter of Severus of Antioch who was involved in the dispute.)

    In any case Victor is in all probability referring to Anastasius deposing a Patriarch over issues of the textual criticism of the New Testament