April 29, 2004
The big conspiracy

Bill Allison has a couple of interesting posts about the Council of Nicea, here and here. In the former Bill wonders, "Why is it that those who imagine malfeasance on the part of the Church fathers in assembling the Bible always assume that they erred on the side of conservatism?" and spins a counter-scenario:

"By Jupiter's beard!" cried Vincentius as the passage from the Gospel of John was read. Though he was one of two priests sent by Pope Sylvester as his representatives to the Council, he was valued for his ability to appeal to the more conservative elements of Roman society, who had been shocked by Constantine's imposition of this primitive faith from the boondocks on the Empire, not for his knowledge of the Christian scripture, or even the proper method of Christian swearing. "He said what should be cut off of a man who indulges in adultery? And that a woman, who once sinned in this way, should be stoned, even should she not be discovered until her seventieth year? Don't you know the kind of woman -- with all due respect -- that Constantine's mother is?"

Actually, a few years ago I read this book, postulating rational explanations for various cultural oddments, that claimed Jesus was really a militant desert messiah like the others at the time and the peace-and-love stuff was added later to make Christians non-threatening to Roman authorities. Since the author seemed to be a Marxist (or something close to it), I gathered he found this Jesus more appealing than the render-unto-Caesar guy. Though what he thought of the adultery matter, he didn't say.

Posted by Camassia at April 29, 2004 11:44 AM | TrackBack

I'm always truly annoyed by that theory about adjusting the text to make it more palatable to the Romans. It was circulating quite a bit during the whole Passion hubbub, and it was just ridiculous. Haven't these folks read Mark? And Revelation?

You're right -- there's no reason to presume that what we have in the canon was the most "conservative" material -- or that there was some great churchwide conspiracy to suppress certain documents. That's the other annoying thing about the Jesus Seminar and other historical-Jesus types who rely so much on the Gospel of Thomas.

Posted by: Mark on April 29, 2004 10:45 PM
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