Genesis Of A Church

October 15, 2020 Category: History, Religion


{1  The Roman chronicler, Eusebius of Caesarea Maritima (a contemporary of Emperor Constantine), wrote that “Saint Peter” eventually “came to Rome and was crucified with his head downwards.”  He attributed this to a statement made by Origen, who died c. 254.  There is zero evidence for this claim, and–of course–oodles of incentive for a proto-Christian theologian to concoct the tale.

Simon-Peter’s burial in Rome is little other than a convenient urban legend propagated by those with a vested interest in upholding a self-serving historiography.  There is no public record of the execution of a Cephas / Simon-Peter in Rome during Nero’s reign.  In his “Annals”, Tacitus (56-117) describes the persecution of Christians in Rome at that time and does not so much as even mention “Peter”.

There are only two other places that this particular story is (obliquely) mentioned.  First: In a single place in just one of Tertullian’s many writings (“Scorpiace”, c. after 200).  Second: By Dionysius of Corinth, who comments–in passing–that the burial place of Peter was said to be Rome.  Dionysius made the comment in a letter to the Church of Rome in the late 2nd century, thanking the Romans for their financial help.

Based on this urban legend (and others) surrounding Simon-Peter and Saul of Tarsus, “Vatican Hill” soon became a designated place of pilgrimage and commemoration.  For example, in a document entitled “The Passion of Peter & Paul” (from the late 5th century), the story of the crucifixion of Peter in Rome is recounted.  Such a document is question-begging, as it is based on the pre-existing lore.

The fact of the matter remains that EVEN IF Simon-Peter ever made it to Rome, it was solely to be tried and executed (not to proselytize), thereby imbuing Rome with no significance outside of, perhaps, being a place of martyrdom for one of the apostles.  Indeed, Rome’s ONLY significance was political, not spiritual.  That fact alone reveals much about the priorities of the early “Vatican”.}

{2  While the man christened as the Bishop of Rome was designated by a cabal of prelates, other presbyters throughout Christendom were typically elected by the laity.  The selection of the Bishop of Rome is purportedly guided by the hand of god–a supposition that is brought into question by dubious outcomes.  I explore this matter in Appendix 1.}

{3  The term, “Gospel” (a word derived from the Old English “god-spell”, meaning “glad tidings”) is actually used in place of the original term in ancient Greek, commonly transliterated as “evangelion” (meaning “good message”).  In reference to the Jewish Messiah, “evangelion” was first used by Saul of Tarsus in his first letter to the Corinthians (15:1).  It is now pejoratively referred to as “Good News”.  In Classical Antiquity, the term was often used to refer to “good news of a triumph” (esp. a military victory).}

{4  The “Book Of Revelation” was penned by a neurotic anti-Roman propagandist named “John” from the Greek island of Patmos.  The screed–written entirely in symbolism–could be appropriated to serve as fire and brimstone…if taken literally.  This came in handy, as it was effective at keeping the laity “in line”.  The anonymously-written Letter To The Hebrews had tremendous ecclesiastical value as well; for it could be used to rationalize sacerdotalism…and thus the existence of the “Magisterium” (read: Vatican bureaucracy).}

{5  This key transition would happen during the pontificate of the Arian-sympathizing Damasus (who would remain pontiff until 384).  Damasus came of age during the Roman legitimation of (Arian) Christianity.  He would pursue his career amongst the Roman presbyters; and thus in a palpably anti-Arian context.  So it is little surprise that he presided over the Council of Rome in 382–ironically fulfilling Athanasius’ mission of including “The Book Of Revelation” in the canon.}

{6  Myriad Abrahamic figures claimed to be the promised Messiah during that time.  The claim was commonplace…and myriad groups claimed to have found THE ONE.  That such claims formed around JoN is unsurprising.  In fact, it would have been rather remarkable if such claims HADN’T formed around this famed Nazarene.}

{7  For a meticulous explication of the various Christian texts in the Faith’s earliest days, see Bart Ehrman’s “Lost Christianities”.  The emerging Trinitarian model required some sort of rationalization–a way of making sense of itself (lest it forfeit the illusion of credence amongst the laity).  For centuries, there would be a protracted feud for which various councils were convened–from the Council of Chalcedon in 451 to the Second Council of Constantinople in 553.  The notion that everything had been figured out from the beginning is, therefore, preposterous.  The catechism that prevailed was just a concatenation of historical accidents…over the course many centuries.}

{8  The Codex Vaticanus is the oldest copy of the New Testament available.  Tellingly, it does not have anything past verse 8 in the last chapter of Mark.  The bit about a resurrection (Mark 16:9-20) was not added until c. 400.  This provocative addendum was likely inspired by the ascension of Elijah to heaven in the Hebrew Bible.}

{9  The writers of “John” even ripped off the “I am the Truth, the Life, and the Way” line written in the Tao Te Ching–a tract composed five centuries earlier.  Catchy memes are catchy memes, whether in ancient China or ancient Rome.}

{10  Constantine was not the only figure about which apocryphal tales were created by the Vatican.  Inevitably, various legends were formed around the strategic relationship between Constantine and Sylvester (and about the “deals” made between them), replete with a slew of forged documents…including stories of Sylvester slaying a dragon. (!)  It was inevitable hat Sylvester would become the subject of tall-tales used by Roman Catholic revisionists for self-serving purposes.  The so-called “Donation of Constantine” of the late 8th century (invoked to accord political authority to the Vatican, thereby legitimizing theocracy) is only the most infamous.  Before that were the “Symmachean” documents (c. 500), in which Sylvester cures Constantine of leprosy.}

{11 Note that while there are no manuscripts of the Gospels before the 4th century, a manuscript of the Pauline letters exists.  Known as “papyrus 46”, it is from c. 200 (+/- 25 years).}

{12  In 1953, two Franciscan monks discovered hundreds of 1st century ossuaries stored in a cave on the Mount of Olives near Jerusalem.  These artifacts mark the earliest traces of the Hebrew community known as “The Way”.  “Shimon Bar Yonah” (Simon, Son of Jonah) was inscribed on one of the ossuaries (as it so happens, next to ossuaries labeled “Jesus”, “Joseph”, “Mary”, “Judas”, and “Matthew”).  What are we to make of such things?  The same as we are to make of any remains found on Vatican Hill, beneath the current St. Peter’s basilica.}

{13  In the intervening time, we know that there were various Latin versions of the Bible.  In 1178, Petrus Comestor of Troyes rendered an Old French translation from Latin antecedents.  (That would serve as the basis for Guyart de Moulins’ French rendition in the early 14th century.)  Peter Valdes, founder of the Waldensians, also commissioned an Old French translation from Latin antecedent in the 1170’s.}

{14  The Benedictine monk, Bede of Northumbria had translated parts of the Bible into Old English in the 7th century; and Aldred of Chester did another in the 10th century.  John Wycliffe then did a translation into Middle English in the late 14th century.  However, those versions were quickly suppressed; and did not end up having a significant impact.}

{15  This odious “Holy Office” exists to the present day–though in diluted form.  It was shrewdly rebranded: the Congregation For The Doctrine Of The Faith.}

{16  Theologically, Arian Christianity hedged the Trinitarian view, holding that the Son was subordinate to the godhead; and thus was not ONE WITH the godhead.  This seemed to compromise on the deification of JoN, and so was seen as less amenable to unconditional worship.  Arianism might be thought of as a precursor to the Eastern Orthodox church–as it was prized by the “eastern bishops”, who were reticent to endorse the primacy of Rome’s bishop.  Though Arian theology was not exactly the prototype of Eastern Orthodoxy, Arianism certainly influenced–in part–the theology that prevailed in the East / Orient.  This is to be held in contradistinction with the theology of the Western (i.e. Roman Catholic) church, which was categorically anti-Arian.}

{17  It might be noted that, among other decisions made during the council, Eusebius (who was effectively the event’s chairman) announced that the Earth was to be considered less than 32 centuries old.  In other words, the world began in the 29th century B.C., during the early Sumerian city-states of the Bronze Age…which certainly would have come as a surprise to the Sumerians who lived prior to that.}

{18  The final decision to include “The Book of Revelation” in the official canon was validated at the first Council of Carthage in 397 (under the guidance of another fanatic, Augustine of Hippo), during the pontificate of Siricius.}

{19  The pro-Athenasius camp was also touted as “THE orthodox” camp, and euphemistically referred to as the “Nicene” version…even though the outcome of the Council of Nicaea was effectively split (ergo the on-going ideological feud for the ensuing two generations).  The prevailing camp included major clerical figures (evangelizers) like Jerome, Hilary of Poitiers, Eusebius of Vercelli, Ambrose of Milan, and–of course–Augustine of Hippo.}

{20  The establishment of the Vatican involved the inauguration of a totalitarian theocracy (or, rather, vice versa).  This meant the elimination of any separation of church and state that had existed in the Roman Empire up to that point, thereby–ironically–contravening Mark 12:17 and Matthew 22:21 (two Gospels to which the Vatican has rarely paid attention since its inception): “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and unto God that which is God’s.”  Since then, the Catholic Church has devoted the majority of its existence to preventing the separation of church and state.}

{21  Valentinian’s son, Valentinian II, who reigned the Western Empire out of Milan from 375 to 387, and then out of Vienne in Gaul from 388-392, adopted the Arian sympathies of his mother, Empress Justina.  He was faced with major push-back from the likes of Ambrose.}

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