The destruction of non-Canonical texts?

Discussion about the New Testament, apocrypha, gnostics, church fathers, Christian origins, historical Jesus or otherwise, etc.
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lsayre
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The destruction of non-Canonical texts?

Post by lsayre » Thu May 21, 2020 2:40 pm

Do any Patristic era writers ever openly mention the intentional burning or destruction of what they would have considered heretical books or documents?

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Secret Alias
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Re: The destruction of non-Canonical texts?

Post by Secret Alias » Thu May 21, 2020 2:43 pm

“Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind.”
― Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote

Stuart
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Re: The destruction of non-Canonical texts?

Post by Stuart » Thu May 21, 2020 5:55 pm

Unfortunately that is a pattern of all religions. What the Catholics did not destroy the Abbysids destroyed. It is said the bathes (which they took from the Byzantines) were fueled for 2 years running just on the books taken from the great libraries of Alexandria and Damascus.

Nag Hammadi manuscripts were probably buried sometime after 376 AD, when Athanasius condemned most Apocrypha as heretical. But he doesn't say destroy them or anything, so organized destruction might be later. But it's pretty clear the texts which survived the Diocletian persecution only were given resources to be reproduced if they were deemed acceptable. So the Canonical books got mass reproduction, those deemed readable some. The others sporadic at best. Most manuscripts only survive a century or two at most, so low reproduction rates alone could lead to extinction, even without a persecution. Practices of those like the Abbysids and the Inquisitions, which systematically destroyed everything they could, using the full enforcement apparatus of the State could exterminate sects. The first such practice using the State I'm aware of was Qin Shi Huang around 220 BC. But I'm sure he was not the first.

Every piece of history we have is a lucky survivor. That's why I'd love to see the library at Herculaneum fully excavated. Who knows how many several hundreds of unknown works will be recovered. It could give a huge insight into antiquity and change our knowledge of it. But that would be a multi billion dollar effort and tens of millions of dollars to maintain. The Italians can't do it alone, it needs to be all of us in the West. (Unintended PSA :confusedsmiley: )
“’That was excellently observed’, say I, when I read a passage in an author, where his opinion agrees with mine. When we differ, there I pronounce him to be mistaken.” - Jonathan Swift

cantonin_01
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Re: The destruction of non-Canonical texts?

Post by cantonin_01 » Thu May 21, 2020 9:11 pm

A discourse of Pseudo-Cyril (of Jerusalem) mentions that he burned or ordered a monk to burn the Gospel of the Hebrews. He was really catty about it too, if I may say. “Oh, so there are FIVE gospels now?”

lsayre
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Re: The destruction of non-Canonical texts?

Post by lsayre » Fri May 22, 2020 8:12 am

I was trying to understand why we don't have so many of the referenced non-canonical texts available to be read. I presumed this might be to their ordered destruction. Apparently this is not likely to be the main reason, and therefore my presumption was flawed.

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Secret Alias
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Re: The destruction of non-Canonical texts?

Post by Secret Alias » Fri May 22, 2020 8:18 am

Yes they were destroyed. Look Constantine destroying 'Arian' (i.e. pre-Nicaean) books:

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Read Amnon Linder - https://books.google.com/books?id=pMBlQ ... AHoECAEQAQ - demanding the burning of Jewish and sectarian books.
“Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind.”
― Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote

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Secret Alias
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Re: The destruction of non-Canonical texts?

Post by Secret Alias » Fri May 22, 2020 8:21 am

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“Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind.”
― Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote

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Secret Alias
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Re: The destruction of non-Canonical texts?

Post by Secret Alias » Fri May 22, 2020 8:25 am

Laws governing Jews who possessed books which 'defamed' Christianity in late antiquity - https://books.google.com/books?id=Xt6b2 ... al&f=false
“Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind.”
― Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote

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DCHindley
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Re: The destruction of non-Canonical texts?

Post by DCHindley » Fri May 22, 2020 11:51 am

lsayre wrote:
Fri May 22, 2020 8:12 am
I was trying to understand why we don't have so many of the referenced non-canonical texts available to be read. I presumed this might be to their ordered destruction. Apparently this is not likely to be the main reason, and therefore my presumption was flawed.
There are probably several reasons for the relatively small number of surviving "heretical" documents.

In the early days (2nd-3rd Century CE) we do see fragments of non-canonical gospels and other narratives in the dumps of Egypt. That kind of accidental preservation (due to Egypt's dry environment) really only shows us a rough snap-shot of what was being read there. It is also possible that any lack of remains that we might expect (based on the polemical and apologetic writings of church writers), was also accidental.

Funny thing is that, despite plenty of fragments of NT books, no clear fragments of Marcion's Evangelion or Apostolikon, or even his famous Antitheses, with the exception of maybe one fragment.

Still, there is Acts of the Apostles 19:19
And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver.
.

Our sample, though, leaves out the rest of the Roman world. Our sample of surviving literature is so small that there is no significant statistical certainty that they accurately reflect "the way it was."

IIRC, I believe that the Romans periodically burned books of magic, or of philosophers (including established ones), through to Constantine's time. Magic books might be used to do harm to the emperor or key citizens, philosophers can make aristocrats look bad, etc.

Now when Constantine assumed the sole rule ca. 323 CE, he did so with the support of Christians such as Eusebius, who had ridden out the persecutions, especially that of Maximinus Daia in Asia Minor/Syria, who had approved the publication of what were purported to be the personal diaries of PIlate and even Jesus himself. These Acta presented Jesus in an unfavorable light that would justify his execution, probably for being a revolutionary, around 19/20 CE (IIRC).

I think that Constantine did make some concessions to his Christian supporters, such as authorizing a new edition of Josephus' works with a few edits to make it impossible for the execution of Jesus to have taken place in the period indicated by these Acta.

But Constantine also took sides with Christians in their differences with "heretics," with he and his successors at times ordering books be burning. These same parties also burned books of philosophers, etc, when they felt threatened by them.

DCH

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Secret Alias
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Re: The destruction of non-Canonical texts?

Post by Secret Alias » Fri May 22, 2020 11:58 am

There's book burning in Alexandria at the time of George too https://books.google.com/books?id=Ie7CD ... ng&f=false. Again Arian book burning where 'Arian' means in part 'pre-Nicene Alexandria.'
“Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind.”
― Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote

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