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[XTalk] Destruction of texts?

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  • Robert M Schacht
    ... texts ... Hammadi ... could ... subject of the list. ... [Schacht]: I think Steve is right to point to Irenaus Against Heresies as the most prominent
    Message 1 of 3 , Jan 2, 2000
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      On Wed, 29 Dec 1999 17:06:45 -0500 Davies miser1-@... writes:
      >
      >
      > Sam Gibson wrote:
      > >
      > >... I am looking for evidence that the early Church set out to destroy
      texts
      > > that were either against Christianity, taught heretical paths (Nag
      Hammadi
      > > Library), or promoted other faiths. Does anyone have any leads that I
      could
      > > pursue? Offlist replies are OK if this is too far afield from the
      subject of the list.
      > >

      [Davies]:
      >
      > I don't know of any fourth century decrees that say "destroy all texts
      > but ours" in so many words... There was no police power in Xianity
      > before the fourth century.
      >
      > Of course even a cursory glance through the anti-heresy writers (e.g.
      > Irenaeus) reveals a mindset that unquestionably would have eagerly
      > destroyed all contrary texts if possible.

      [Schacht]:

      I think Steve is right to point to Irenaus Against Heresies as the most
      prominent example used in support of this legend. But, Sam, you have to
      keep in mind that at this time Irenaus' domain of influence was limited,
      and most of his attacks were arguing against heretical ideas, not arguing
      for the destruction of texts.

      Irenaus got the ball rolling, so to speak, but if you also read the
      writings associated with the ecumenical councils and the polemic they
      contained, you would get the idea that these guys were burning books
      right and left. But this would be jumping to conclusions. For one thing,
      you need to differentiate between the process of canonization (excluding
      heretical works from the canon), and the more extreme process of book
      destruction. The raging prose that is often encountered was usually
      associated with what teaching was reliable and authoritative, not with
      what should be destroyed and burned.

      So the legend that "the Church" set out to "destroy" texts is mostly
      anti-Christian polemic which mostly turns to vapor on closer examination.
      What you'll occasionally find is that some Churches destroyed some books
      now and then; but even after Constantine I'll bet you won't find much
      other than isolated cases of book destruction.

      IMHO.

      Bob

      ****
      I got to wondering about this some more, so I wrote to ex-Crosstalker and
      patristics expert Tom Kopecek, and he had this to say about the
      correspondence above:

      [Kopecek]:
      I haven't ever thought about what you call "this legend," to tell you to
      truth. But what is striking to me about such anti-heretical Fathers as
      Irenaeus, Hippolytus, and Epiphanius is not what Steve indicates in his
      last
      paragraph. In fact, off the top of my head (and it is really only that) I
      can't recall the evidence that Steve seems to have in mind when he speaks
      of
      "a mindset that unquestionably would have eagerly destroyed all contrary
      texts if possible."

      Irenaeus spends a good share of his five books quoting all manner and
      sorts
      of so-called heretics, and Hippolytus and Epiphanius do more.
      Furthermore,
      the Greek text of Hippolytus was edited by a classicist, because, without
      it, we would know little about many dimensions of the classical Greek
      philosophical tradition. Granted that Hippolytus aligns heresies with
      various philosophical positions, but I'd like to see the evidence that
      Steve
      is thinking about. Epiphanius, too, is fanatically pro-Nicaea, yet his
      Panarion or Medicine Box is full of texts totally against his point of
      view.
      I wrote a entire 500+ page, two-volume work which dealt in part with some
      of
      these entire texts which Epiphanius stuck into his volume. He was so
      confident of the truth of his brand of Catholicism that he didn't ignore
      them, as did the Rabbis, or, as far as I know (with my important
      qualification voiced above) try to "destroy" them.

      It's an interesting question, though.

      Tom

      ************************

      So I then come to this tentative conclusion: Far from destroying the
      texts of heretics, as the church-bashers would have it, we know about
      many of the heretics and what they believed *only* because of what the
      Fathers of the church preserved of their work. Of course, this is a good
      news, bad news situation: The good news is that we have substantial
      portions of the writing of heretics, mostly preserved by the Fathers of
      the church; the bad news is that it is a selected portion of those works,
      chosen by their critics who had their own agendas.

      So why did the originals not survive? I would guess that, rather than an
      official program of destruction, we consider these hypotheses:

      1. In the days before the printing press, copies had to be made by hand,
      so that copies of long non-canonical works would have been few in number.
      This decreased their chance of survival.

      2. The burning of the library in Alexandria may have destroyed many of
      the extant copies of heretical works

      3. Canonical works were more likely to survive than non-canonical works
      not because the later were intentionally destroyed, but because there was
      more motivation to go to the time and trouble of copying the canonical
      works, and less motivation to go to the time and trouble of copying
      non-canonical works. Put another way, more resources were invested in the
      copying of canonical works than non-canonical works, unless the
      non-canonical works had a patron.

      4. As manuscripts aged and wore out, if resources were scarce (and when
      weren't they?), they would more likely to be allocated to copying texts
      that were canonical.

      Bob
    • Yuri Kuchinsky
      ... Isolated cases, Bob? Here are quite a few of these isolated cases for you. I suppose it was the Blue Fairy who flew into the window and spirited all these
      Message 2 of 3 , Jan 3, 2000
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        On Sun, 2 Jan 2000, Robert M Schacht wrote:
        > On Wed, 29 Dec 1999 17:06:45 -0500 Davies miser1-@... writes:

        > > Of course even a cursory glance through the anti-heresy writers (e.g.
        > > Irenaeus) reveals a mindset that unquestionably would have eagerly
        > > destroyed all contrary texts if possible.

        ...

        > So the legend that "the Church" set out to "destroy" texts is mostly
        > anti-Christian polemic which mostly turns to vapor on closer
        > examination. What you'll occasionally find is that some Churches
        > destroyed some books now and then; but even after Constantine I'll bet
        > you won't find much other than isolated cases of book destruction.

        Isolated cases, Bob?

        Here are quite a few of these isolated cases for you. I suppose it was the
        Blue Fairy who flew into the window and spirited all these texts away?

        Regards,

        Yuri.

        [quote]

        From the homepage of Robert Kraft,

        http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/rs/rak/kraft.html

        gopher://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/11/courses/rels/535


        VARIETIES OF EARLY CHRISTIANITY RelSt 535
        Lost Books of Early Christian Literature R. Kraft

        This list is based on Goodspeed-Grant chapter 16;
        the arrangements attempts to be roughly chronological.
        Goodspeed-Grant do not claim to be exhaustive here!
        [Add now NHL Coptic texts of which no Greek exists.]

        Gospel "Q" (?) -- no complete text
        "Signs" Source of GJn -- no complete text
        "We" Source of Acts -- no complete text
        Letter(s) of Paul to the Corinthians -- no text [see 1-2 Cor]
        Letter of Paul to the Laodiceans (?) -- no text [see Eph?]
        Letter of Paul to the Alexandrians -- no text [see Mur.Canon]
        Letter of Polycarp to the Philippians -- no complete Greek text
        Epistle of the Apostles -- no Greek text [Ethiopic]
        Letter of the Gallican Churches -- no complete text
        Shepherd of Hermas -- no complete Greek text
        Revelation of Peter -- no complete Greek text
        Sibylline Oracles Books 9, 10, 15 -- no text
        Pistis Sophia -- no Greek text
        Gospel of the Egyptians -- no complete text [see NHL]
        Gospel of the Hebrews -- no complete text
        Gospel of Peter -- no complete text
        British Museum Gospel -- no complete text
        Gospel of Thomas -- no complete Greek text [see NHL Coptic]
        Traditions of Matthias -- no text
        Secret Sayings of Matthias -- no text
        Gospel of Matthias(?) -- no text
        Gospel of Ebionites -- no complete text
        Gospel of Basilides -- no text
        Gospel of Judas(?) -- no text
        Gospel of Truth -- no Greek text [Coptic]
        Gospel of Philip -- no Greek text [Coptic]
        Gospel of Bartholomew(?) -- no text
        Gospel of Barnabas(?) -- no text
        Gospel of Apelles(?) -- no text
        Gospel of Cerinthus(?) -- no text
        Gospel of Eve(?) -- no text
        Gospel of Perfection(?) -- no text
        Acts of Paul -- no complete text
        Acts of John -- no complete text
        Acts of Peter -- no complete text
        Acts of Andrew -- no complete text
        Clementine Recognitions -- no complete Greek text
        Preaching of Peter -- no text
        Preachings of Peter -- no text
        Journeys of Peter -- no text
        Ascents of Jacob/James -- no text

        [[here the sequence becomes more strictly chronological]]
        Apology of Quadratus -- no text
        Aristo's Dialogue of Jason and Papiscus -- no text
        Apology of Aristides -- no complete Greek text
        Justin's Dialogue with Trypho -- no complete text
        Justin's Against the Greeks -- no text
        Justin's Against All Heresies (=? Refutation) -- no text
        Justin's Against Marcion -- no text
        Justin's On the Soverignty of God -- no text
        Justin's Psaltes -- no text
        Justin's On the Soul -- no text
        Letter to Diognetus -- no complete text
        Tatian's Diatessaron -- no Greek or Syriac text
        Tatian's Problems -- no text
        Tatian's On Perfection according to the Savior -- no Greek text
        Tatian's On Animals -- no text
        Tatian's On Demons (?) -- no text
        Tatian's Chronicle -- no text
        Rhodo, Solutions -- no text
        Rhodo, Against the Heresy of Marcion -- no text
        Rhodo, On the Six Days' Work of Creation -- no text
        Marcion, Contradictions -- no text
        Teaching (Doctrina) of the Apostles (short form) -- no Greek text
        Papias, Interpretations of Sayings of the Lord -- no text
        Odes of Solomon -- no complete Greek text
        Hegesippus, Memoirs -- no text
        Melito, On the Conduct of Life and the Prophets -- no text
        Melito, On the Church -- no text
        Melito, On the Lord's Day -- no text
        Melito, On the Faith of Man -- no text
        Melito, On His Creation -- no text
        Melito, On the Obedience of Faith -- no text
        Melito, On the Senses -- no text
        Melito, On the Soul and Body -- no text
        Melito, On Baptism -- no text
        Melito, On Truth -- no text
        Melito, On the Creation and Generation of Christ -- no text
        Melito, On Prophecy -- no text
        Melito, On Hospitality -- no text
        Melito, A Key [to the Scriptures] -- no text
        Melito, On the Devil and the Revelation of John -- no text
        Melito, Apology -- no text
        Melito, Selections from the Old Testament -- no text
        Theophilus of Antioch, Against the Heresy of Hermogenes -- no text
        Theophilus of Antioch, Against Marcion -- no text
        Theophilus of Antioch, Gospel Harmony (?) -- no text
        Theophilus of Antioch, Catechetical Books -- no text
        Theophilus of Antioch, On History -- no text
        Theophilus of Antioch, Commentary on Proverbs -- no text
        Irenaeus, Refutation of Gnosticism -- no Greek text
        Irenaeus, Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching -- no Greek text
        Irenaeus, On Knowledge -- no text
        Irenaeus, On Schism -- no text
        Irenaeus, On the Ogdoad -- no text
        Irenaeus, On Sovereignty -- no text

        Clement of Alexandria, Outlines [of Scripture] -- no text
        Clement of Alexandria, On the Passover -- no text
        Clement of Alexandria, On Fasting -- no text
        Clement of Alexandria, On Evil-speaking -- no text
        Clement of Alexandria, On Patience -- no text
        Clement of Alexandria, On Providence -- no text
        Clement of Alexandria, On the Prophet Amos (?) -- no text

        Tertullian, On Baptism -- no Greek text
        Tertullian, On the Hope of the Faithful -- no text
        Tertullian, On Paradise -- no text
        Tertullian, Against the Followers of Apelles -- no text
        Tertullian, On the Origin of the Soul -- no text
        Tertullian, On Fate -- no text
        Tertullian, On Ecstasy -- no text
        Tertullian, Garments of Aaron -- no text
        Tertullian, To a Philosophic Friend -- no text
        Tertullian, On Flesh and Soul -- no text
        Tertullian, On Submission of Soul -- no text
        Tertullian, Superstition of the World -- no text
        Tertullian, On Shows -- no Greek text
        Tertullian, On the Veiling of Virgins -- no Greek text
        Tertullian, On Clean and Unclean Animals (?) -- no text
        Tertullian, On Circumcision (?) -- no text

        Hippolytus, Refutation of All Heresies -- no complete Greek text
        Hippolytus, On Daniel -- no complete Greek text
        Hippolytus, On the Song of Songs -- no Greek text
        Hippolytus, On the Blessing of Moses -- no Greek text
        Hippolytus, On the Story of David and Goliath -- no Greek text
        Hippolytus, The Six Days of Creation -- no text
        Hippolytus, What Followed the Six Days -- no text
        Hippolytus, The Blessing of Jacob -- no Greek text
        Hippolytus, The Blessing of Balaam -- no text
        Hippolytus, Moses' Song -- no text
        Hippolytus, Elkanah and Hannah -- no text
        Hippolytus, The Witch of Endor -- no text
        Hippolytus, On the Psalms -- no text
        Hippolytus, On Proverbs -- no text
        Hippolytus, On Ecclesiastes -- no text
        Hippolytus, On Isaiah (part) -- no text
        Hippolytus, On Ezekiel (part) -- no text
        Hippolytus, On Zechariah -- no text
        Hippolytus, On Matthew (part) -- no text
        Hippolytus, Parable of the Talents -- no text
        Hippolytus, The Two Thieves -- no text
        Hippolytus, On the Revelation -- no text
        Hippolytus, Against Marcion -- no text
        Hippolytus, Against Artemon: the Little Labyrinth -- no text
        Hippolytus, Against 32 Heresies -- no text
        Hippolytus, Heads against Gaius (?) -- no text
        Hippolytus, In Defense of the Gospel and Revelation of John -- no text
        Hippolytus, On the Resurrection -- no text
        Hippolytus, On the Universe: Against the Greeks and Plato -- no text
        Hippolytus, On Good and the Source of Evil -- no text
        Hippolytus, Address to Severina -- no text
        Hippolytus, Determination of the Date of Easter -- no text
        Hippolytus, Chronicle -- no Greek text
        Hippolytus, Apostolic Tradition -- no Greek text

        Gaius, Dialogue with Proclus -- no text

        Origen, Hexapla -- no Greek text
        Origen, Homilies -- no Greek text of 554 out of 574
        Origen, Homilies -- no text of 388 out of 574
        Origen, Commentaries -- no Greek text of 275 out of 291
        Origen, Commentaries -- no text of ??? out of 291 ("very little
        preserved in Latin")
        Origen, On First Principles -- no complete Greek text
        Origen, Letters -- no text of 98 out of 100
        Origen, Miscellanies in 10 books -- no text

        Julius Africanus, Chronography -- no text
        Julius Africanus, Cestoi (or Paradoxa) -- no text
        Julius Africanus, Letter to Aristides -- no text

        Dionysius of Alexandria, On Nature -- no complete text
        Dionysius of Alexandria, On trials -- no text
        Dionysius of Alexandria, On Promises -- no complete text
        Dionysius of Alexandria, Refutation and Apology -- no text
        Dionysius of Alexandria, Exposition of Ecclesiastes (part) -- no text
        Dionysius of Alexandria, On Temptations -- no text
        Dionysius of Alexandria, Fifty Letters -- no text for most

        Nepos of Arsinoe%, Refutation of the Allegorists -- no text

        Novatian, On the Passover -- no text
        Novatian, On the Sabbath -- no text
        Novatian, On Circumcision -- no text
        Novatian, On the Priesthood -- no text
        Novatian, On Prayer -- no text
        Novatian, On Zeal -- no text
        Novatian, On Attalus -- no text

        Pamphilus, Defense of Origen -- no Greek text, only book 1 in Latin

        Lactantius, Symposium (or, the Banquet) -- no text
        Lactantius, Journey to Nicomedia -- no text
        Lactantius, Grammar -- no text
        Lactantius, Letters to Probus in 4 books -- no text
        Lactantius, Letters to Severus in 2 books -- no text
        Lactantius, Letters to Demetrianus in 2 books -- no text

        Victorinus, Against All Heresies -- no certain text
        Victorinus, Commentaries on Gen Ex Lev Isa Ezek Hab Qoh Cant Matt
        -- no text

        Eusebius of Caesaria, --

        //end (incomplete)//
      • Larry J. Swain
        ... Yuri, You make some amazing assumptions here. The list you produce is a list of lost works, nothing more. It does not demonstrate that the early church
        Message 3 of 3 , Jan 3, 2000
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          Yuri Kuchinsky wrote:

          > > So the legend that "the Church" set out to "destroy" texts is mostly
          > > anti-Christian polemic which mostly turns to vapor on closer
          > > examination. What you'll occasionally find is that some Churches
          > > destroyed some books now and then; but even after Constantine I'll bet
          > > you won't find much other than isolated cases of book destruction.
          >
          > Isolated cases, Bob?
          >
          > Here are quite a few of these isolated cases for you. I suppose it was the
          > Blue Fairy who flew into the window and spirited all these texts away?
          >
          > <list snipped>

          Yuri,
          You make some amazing assumptions here. The list you produce is a list of
          lost works, nothing more. It does not demonstrate that the early church went
          about destroying texts. Many of those listed are quite orthodox in nature
          which would indicate that the church would not have been seeking to destroy
          them, no? Lost, no longer available to us, is not the same as actively
          destroyed.

          Larry Swain
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