Saturday, October 27, 2007

A Study on Checking Citations

Stephanie/Mountain Mama, over at Sojourner in a Strange Land posted an article a few days ago that I wanted to discuss. First, I want to be clear that this is not intended to be criticism of Stephanie, who is always nice enough to let me comment on her blog, and to answer my questions.

This article wasn't written by her, and it only indirectly relates to Catholicism, so it isn't strictly on topic for this blog. However, a little clearing up of things Catholic never hurts. More directly, as we have just been discussing the trustworthiness of sources, I thought that it might be of general interest.

The article is called The Origin of Christianity, by A.B. Traina. Its purpose is generally to say that all branches of Christianity existing today are corruptions, and that Jesus intended those who follow him to keep the Law.

So, I'll get started now.

"The Roman Catholic Church claims to be the one and only church of God, the true bride of Christ, and that all Protestant sects are heretics."

Reading Dominus Iesus will clear that up.

"Anyone may verify the above by referring to any religious encyclopedia on the life of Constantine. Thus began the Roman Catholic Church, from whence sprang the church daughters making up the sects of Christianity."

Elena discussed the myth that Constantine started the Catholic Church here.

Traina quotes from Eusebius to say that the Apostles "still preserved most of the ancient customs in a strictly Israelite manner."

However, the Eusebius translation I have online says "and hence observed, after the manner of the Jews, the most of the customs of the ancients."

I notice that the very important word "strictly" is missing, and either one says that they observed "most" of the customs, not all. I don't know if this was intentional manipulation, or just a different translation.

I actually tried to track this quote down further, because Eusebius was quoting Philo. Traina says that this quotation came from Philo's On A Contemplative Life of Supplicants, but I was unable to find it there. That text is pretty dense, so I could easily have missed it. I wonder if Traina quoted from Eusebius instead of Philo directly because he couldn't find the quote, either? Philo is a lot to read through to track it down to verify.

Traina then quotes from Hegisippus, who quotes from Eusebius's Ecclesiastical Histories again. I'm not sure why he doesn't just quote from Eusebius directly, but it is an accurate quote.

"In addition to these things the same man, while recounting the events of that period, records that the Church up to that time had remained a pure and uncorrupted virgin, since, if there were any that attempted to corrupt the sound norm of the preaching of salvation, they lay until then concealed in obscure darkness.8. But when the sacred college of apostles had suffered death in various forms, and the generation of those that had been deemed worthy to hear the inspired wisdom with their own ears had passed away, then the league of godless error took its rise as a result of the folly of heretical teachers, who, because none of the apostles was still living, attempted henceforth, with a bold face, to proclaim, in opposition to the preaching of the truth, the knowledge which is falsely so-called."

But when you read that quote in context, you see that Eusebius does not feel that Christianity became corrupted. Rather, he refers to a time when heresies became to arrive and be battled by the orthodox Christians. He relates several of these heresies, including the Menander the Sorcerer, Nicholas, Cerinthus, and the Ebionites.

The Ebionites are an interesting group in the context of this article, because Eusebius says that "In their opinion the observance of the ceremonial law was altogether necessary, on the ground that they could not be saved by faith in Christ alone and by a corresponding life."

We'll come back to the Ebionites later.

Traina then quotes Dr. Jesse Lyman Hurlbut as saying "For fifty years after St. Paul's life a curtain hangs over the church, through which we vainly strive to look; and when it at last rises, about 120 years A. D. with the writings of the earliest church fathers we find a church in many aspects very different from that in the days of St. Paul and St. Peter."

There is no curtain during this time period. The people writing during this time are called the Apostolic Fathers because they spanned the time period during the lifetime of the apostles, and the later Early Church Fathers. Clement, a pupil of Peter write during this time, as did Ignatius of Antioch, and Polycarp, who were pupils of St. John, write during this time. They are but a few of the writings from this time period.

Traina then says that "A small section of the Judean Christians endured for two centuries, but with ever decreasing numbers . . . the Ebionites, a people by themselves, scarcely recognized by the general church and despised as apostates by their own race."

Wait, now Traina is asserting here that the Ebionites were the true followers of Jesus. I said that we would be back to them. The thing is, that Eusebius, who Traina has quoted as a reliable source, describes the beliefs of the Ebionites. In his third book, the 27th chaper is called The Heresy of the Ebionites. It's short, so I'm copying it in its entirety.

1. The evil demon, however, being unable to tear certain others from their allegiance to the Christ of God, yet found them susceptible in a different direction, and so brought them over to his own purposes. The ancients quite properly called these men Ebionites, because they held poor and mean opinions concerning Christ.

2. For they considered him a plain and common man, who was justified only because of his superior virtue, and who was the fruit of the intercourse of a man with Mary. In their opinion the observance of the ceremonial law was altogether necessary, on the ground that they could not be saved by faith in Christ alone and by a corresponding life.

3. There were others, however, besides them, that were of the same name, but avoided the strange and absurd beliefs of the former, and did not deny that the Lord was born of a virgin and of the Holy Spirit. But nevertheless, inasmuch as they also refused to acknowledge that he pre-existed, being God, Word, and Wisdom, they turned aside into the impiety of the former, especially when they, like them, endeavored to observe strictly the bodily worship of the law.

4. These men, moreover, thought that it was necessary to reject all the epistles of the apostle, whom they called an apostate from the law; and they used only the so-called Gospel according to the Hebrews and made small account of the rest.

5. The Sabbath and the rest of the discipline of the Jews they observed just like them, but at the same time, like us, they celebrated the Lord's days as a memorial of the resurrection of the Saviour.

6. Wherefore, in consequence of such a course they received the name of Ebionites, which signified the poverty of their understanding. For this is the name by which a poor man is called among the Hebrews.

Just to summarize, there were some Ebionites denied the Virgin Birth and divinity of Jesus. Other groups did not, but deny the Virgin Birth, but did deny His divinity, as well as rejected all the letters of St. Paul.

Traina says "Not only was the Sabbath dropped from the new religion, and Sunday (a holiday of the pagans adopted" but Eusebius specifically says that the Ebionites celebrated the Sabbath AND the Sunday as the Lord's Day, as a memorial of the resurrection.

Traina also takes issue with sprinkling taking the place of full immersion baptism. He has implied that we don't know what the Christians before 120 A.D. did, so I assume that he feels sprinkling was a pagan innovation after that date. However, there is evidence to the contrary.

The Didache, or Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, is an early Christian document dating to around 100 A.D. It was considered authoritative enough that it was included by several people in the canon of the New Testament, although it did not make the cut in the end. Just to be clear, it is not in the Catholic New Testament canon, which does not differ from that of other denominations, nor is it considered authoritative in the same was as the New Testament. But, it is an important resource on occasions just such as these.

On baptism, the Didache says:
"And concerning baptism, baptize this way: Having first said all these things, baptize into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in living water. But if you have no living water, baptize into other water; and if you cannot do so in cold water, do so in warm. But if you have neither, pour out water three times upon the head into the name of Father and Son and Holy Spirit. But before the baptism let the baptizer fast, and the baptized, and whoever else can; but you shall order the baptized to fast one or two days before."

While sprinkling was not the rule among early Christians, they clearly considered it a valid form of baptism.

The Didache also speaks concerning observation of the Lord's Day. "But every Lord's day gather yourselves together, and break bread, and give thanksgiving after having confessed your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure."

Next, Traina quotes a "Brothingham" writing about the pagan origins of what he has seen in St. Peter's Cathedral in Rome. I tracked down the quotation, and it is actually from a book called Atlantis, the Antediluvian World. It was written by Ignatius Donnelly in 1882, not by Brothingham. The quote is there, on page 211, but Donelly quotes a Frothingham, which I would guess just means a typo on Traina's part.

Brothingham says, speaking of St. Peter's Cathedral in Rome: "Into what depth of antiquity the ceremonies carried me back ! To the mysteries of Eleusis, to the sacrificial rites of Phoenicia. The boys swung the censors as censors had been swung in the adoration of Bacchus. . .
I was not able to find that Donnelly provided any sources for Frothingham's quote. However, the original Cathedral of St. Peter's in Rome was not built until 1470. It is not even close to being the earliest church in Rome, although it is what we think of as the most important one there today. If this Frothingham quote is supposed to insinuate that a person who was familiar with pagan worship found the ceremonies found the ceremony similar, then it is obviously not true.

Because of the "depths of antiquity" is in the quote, I shall assume that this Frothingham is merely saying that the Catholic Mass has its origins in these ceremonies. That would fit in with the rest of Donnelly's book, which is about how all religion, even Judaism, has its roots in the religion of Atlantis, the first civilization. Traina is using this book to point to corruption in Christianity, but Atlantis says that Judaism is equally corrupt!

Another quotation that Traina provides for the pagan roots of Christianity has for its citation, Pike, Morals and Dogma. Pike was a Freemason, and is book is on the esoteric roots of Freemasonry. To give another few examples of Pike's writing, he says that the Hebrew word for queen comes from the word for the moon god, and that the bronze serpent which Israelites looked upon and lived was from the Phoenitian cosmogony. Again, if Christianity is corrupt by this account, then so is Judaism.

There are now many different resources available from various Christian groups which point to the pagan or Babylonian roots of Catholicism. Or Atlantan, if you read Mr. Donnelly's book. Many Christians have found these books very convincing because of the citations which they provide. Candy, herself, has a photo essay available which shows the sorts of information which has been disseminated. Candy directs you to a book called The Two Babylons by Alexander Hislop for additional information.

Many Bible Christians consider The Two Babylons as very authoritative on this sort of thing. Christians such as Ralph Woodrow, who has his own evangelistic association. Mr. Woodrow found The Two Babylons so compelling, he wrote his own book about the pagan origins of Cathoicism. But then, he started actually checking Hislop's citations, much as I have done here for Mr. Traina's citations. And in the same way, they were not what they were purported to be. So Mr. Woodrow recanted his book, and wrote a different book called The Babylon Connection? debunking The Two Babylons.

So, what is my point in all of this? We are all busy, and often, just finding time to read a book is a challenge. We tend to take citations for granted, especially if we trust our source. I have put in a considerable amount of time checking the citations from this one small article, which had most of the sources available online. It certainly isn't practical to do this for every single thing that we read. But in the end, it is good to keep in mind that citations can lie, or be manipulated, even if they are telling us what we want to hear.

1 comment:

Tracy said...

Great post Kelly, very interesting to read!