They shoot webpages, don’t they? Some notes for a reader

It’s fun, knowing a lot about the ancient world.  But it does mean that we are cut off from the great majority of people.  Most people don’t.

To such people, the web is full of misinformation.  Web pages that we might smile at and ignore are a real source of perplexity.

It’s easy for us.  We know the sources.  We know where to find online translations.  We’re accustomed to wading through Jacobean English.  Syriac and Coptic authors hold no terrors for us.

We may not all be salaried and tenured holders of teaching posts, but we are in a very different place to someone who has no such interests.  It’s as if we were confronted with something about the private lives of undersea orchids, or something like that.  Someone could tell us a lie, and we might feel dubious, but we would find difficulty in verifying it.

This week I had a letter from a corrrespondent, wishing to know the facts about some passages in a web page.  The page is here.  It turns out to be a page by a certain Tony Bushby, an Australian, about whom I wrote negatively earlier here, entitled “The forged origins of the New Testament”.

I thought that I would engage with the queries put to me, and post them here, in case they may be useful again.  I have edited the queries slightly for ease of reading.

The first section reads as follows:

WHAT THE CHURCH DOESN’T WANT YOU TO KNOW

In a remarkable aside, the Church further admits that,

“the earliest of the extant manuscripts [of the New Testament], it is true, do not date back beyond the middle of the fourth century AD” (Catholic Encyclopedia, op. cit., pp. 656-7).

That is some 350 years after the time the Church claims that a Jesus Christ walked the sands of Palestine, and here the true story of Christian origins slips into one of the biggest black holes in history. There is, however, a reason why there were no New Testaments until the fourth century: they were not written until then, and here we find evidence of the greatest misrepresentation of all time.

There are perils in using reference works a century old, as Mr Bushby might have realised.  In 1900 it was true to say that the oldest physical copies of the New Testament were 4th century (that is, much older than the oldest copies of most classical texts).  But since then a host of fragments and portions of books of the New Testament, written on papyrus, have emerged from the sands of Egypt, notably at Oxyrhynchus.  A look at Metzger’s Text of the New Testament will put this one to rest.

The author continues:

It was British-born Flavius Constantinus (Constantine, originally Custennyn or Custennin) (272-337) who authorized the compilation of the writings now called the New Testament.

No ancient source records any such thing, sadly.

After the death of his father in 306, Constantine became King of Britain, Gaul and Spain, and then, after a series of victorious battles, Emperor of the Roman Empire.

At this point even children may snicker.  The Romans did not use the title of “King” for their rulers, considering it equivalent to “tyrant”.

This elementary piece of information is known to everyone who has read any Roman history at all, even at school level.  So the author is stating a falsehood which reveals that he has no education in Roman history whatsoever.

In truth, one of Constantine’s main problems was the uncontrollable disorder amongst presbyters and their belief in numerous gods.

“Presbyters”?!  And “belief in numerous gods”?!

It turns out that Bushby means the church fathers by “presbyters”, although why he adopts this strange way of referring to them he does not tell us.  Quite who, precisely, believed in “numerous gods” he does not say either.  There is a reference to Optatus of Milevis, book 1, chapter 15 (here); but this only refers to the Donatist schism, when two different men claimed to be bishop.

Then there is this:

They were instructed to bring with them the testimonies they orated to the rabble, “bound in leather” for protection during the long journey, and surrender them to Constantine upon arrival in Nicaea (The Catholic Dictionary, Addis and Arnold, 1917, “Council of Nicaea” entry).

Their writings totaled,

“in all, two thousand two hundred and thirty-one scrolls and legendary tales of gods and  saviors, together with a record of the doctrines orated by them”

(Life of Constantine, op. cit., vol. ii, p. 73; N&PNF, op. cit., vol. i, p. 518).

But … the NPNF translation is online, yet I do not find those words in it.

As for this “Catholic Dictionary” of 1917 (!), that is also online here.  Curiously he doesn’t give a page number.  I refuse to spend time looking for it, but I was unable to find the word “scrolls” in it, nor the phrase “bound in leather.”

Unfortunately Tony Bushby has “form”, as the police say, for producing “references” that do not actually exist.

My correspondent asks:

The impression I gleaned from this chapter is that writer blatantly claims that there is a black hole in the history of Jesus and his followers in which suggests that the that early Christians believed in many gods invalidating any authenticity of the NT as we know it.

Certainly Bushby says this.  But it is nonsense.  The monotheism of early Christians is one of their key features.

Let’s deal with the rest more briefly. Long ago I compiled a page containing every ancient source that mentions the council, which the reader may find useful.

The second question is as follows:

THE FIRST COUNCIL OF NICEA AND THE “MISSING RECORDS” …

“As yet, no God had been selected by the council, and so they balloted in order to determine that matter… For one year and five months the balloting lasted…”

(God’s Book of Eskra, Prof. S. L. MacGuire’s translation, Salisbury, 1922, chapter xlviii, paragraphs 36, 41).

At the end of that time, Constantine returned to the gathering to discover that the presbyters had not agreed on a new deity but had balloted down to a shortlist of five prospects:

  • Caesar
  • Krishna
  • Mithra
  • Horus
  • Zeus

(Historia Ecclesiastica, Eusebius, c. 325)

All of this is nonsense, recorded in no ancient source.

The rascal’s impudence in giving the Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius as his reference is breathtaking.  For, as we all know, Eusebius says nothing of the sort about the council, and the passages in which he deals with it may be found at the link to my page above.

But what on earth is the “Book of Eskra”, given here as a source?  It’s a modern apocryphon, it seems; published in 1882 in the USA.  The text of chapter 48 is here, but such modern fakery need not detain us.

The third query is on the following section:

HOW THE GOSPELS WERE CREATED:

Constantine then instructed Eusebius to organize the compilation of a uniform collection of new writings developed from primary aspects of the religious texts submitted at the council.

His instructions were:

“Search ye these books, and whatever is good in them, that retain; but whatsoever is evil, that cast away. What is good in one book, unite ye with that which is good in another book. And whatsoever is thus brought together shall be called The Book of Books. And it shall be the doctrine of my people, which I will recommend unto all nations, that there shall be no more war for religions’ sake.” (God’s Book of Eskra, op. cit., chapter xlviii, paragraph 31)

“Make them to astonish” said Constantine, and “the books were written accordingly”  (Life of Constantine, vol. iv, pp. 36-39).

Eusebius amalgamated the “legendary tales of all the religious doctrines of the world together as one”, using the standard god-myths from the presbyters’ manuscripts as his exemplars.

Merging the supernatural “god” stories of Mithra and Krishna with British Culdean beliefs effectively joined the orations of Eastern and Western presbyters together “to form a new universal belief” (ibid.). Constantine believed that the amalgamated collection of myths would unite variant and opposing religious factions under one representative story.

Again nothing in this nonsense need detain us.  No ancient source records any of this.

The reference to the Life of Constantine is odd.  In which edition do nine words cover four pages?

Enough.  It is a waste of life even to read this stuff.  All of this material is malicious twaddle.  It is sad to see that a human soul could write such stuff, and it is difficult to believe in the honesty of the man who wrote it.  But history it is not.

19 Responses to “They shoot webpages, don’t they? Some notes for a reader”


  1. ikokki

    Actually the compilation of a new sacred book from amalgamation of old sacred books reminds me of Frank Herbert’s Dune novels, where the Orange Catholic bible was compile from older sacred books by a synod of all the religions that survived a very destructive war. Perhaps that Australian is a sci-fi fa?

  2. sftommy

    Reminds me a few years back having read the Loeb version of Julius Obsequens I went to Wikipedia only to find UFO nuts referencing quotes that didn’t exist in the text. They obviously hadn’t read the text (which was only a single mornings reading).

    Bad scholarship has a long long shadow.

  3. NEO

    I’m sorry, but I must, those early Anglicans, with their big tent. :-)

  4. Anne Lillian White

    The above really says it all without further ado and my quest
    my quest for historic truth has been satisfied.
    Great job done. Many thanks for sharing your knowledge exposing the wheat from the chaff!

  5. Andrew Harrington

    Thanks for sharing.
    I always heard all these rumors about the Council of Nicea and the canon, but never found any such information when I read through history. (There are LOTS of propaganda for the canon — almost EVERY book I have ever read about the canon of the bible – Christian or not — is seriously about 90% lies, which is really sad).

    And thanks for the link to your Council of Nicea reference page. That will really help me in compiling all the sources into a single narrative for that time period.

  6. Roger Pearse

    @sftommy: Julius Obsequens? Really? That is quite funny, isn’t it? Because that is such a short work! But most people never think to verify quotations and references. However … you don’t have a link to the UFO people doing that somewhere, do you? For future reference.

    @Neo: Hmm!

    @Ikokki: It’s hard to say where he got this stuff from. As his references are worthless, it’s anybody’s guess. I saw later last night a refutation of him here at tectonics.org, which also linked to another refutation here. Both seem sound on a quick glance.

  7. Roger Pearse

    @Andrew: I think the canon issue is one to address in another thread. There is a lot of mythology around, that’s for sure.

  8. Roger Pearse

    @Anne: You’re welcome.

  9. Suburbanbanshee

    Other than St. Moses the Black, there seems to be a suspicious dearth of accounts of runaway slaves and fleeing criminals among the desert hermits, etc. Of course, it could be argued that anybody who ran off would tend to think first of being a bandit or circumcellion (or just living in a slum in a big city somewhere) than trying desert hermit life, but it does seem strange….

    I also saw something about Egyptian villagers having a long tradition of tax evasion through not being home when the tax collectors come, so maybe all the malcontents in Egypt ended up with the villagers prudently deciding to be elsewhere?

  10. Suburbanbanshee

    That was supposed to be “other topics we should talk about in another thread.”

  11. the Revision Division

    […] PEARSE: No, you can’t believe everything you read on the internet. Even if it seems to confirm your misconceptions about the early Church. “There are perils in […]

  12. Roger Pearse

    @Suburbanbanshee: LOL. Interesting topic, tho.

  13. DCHindley

    <<<>

    But … the NPNF translation is online, yet I do not find those words in it.>>

    The source of the citation is actually:

    Law Notes, Volume 11, E. Thompson Company, 1908

    [July 1907]

    STORIES FROM THE LAW REPORTS: THE LIABILITY OF A FALSE PROPHET.
    Ellis vs Newbrough, 6 N. Mex. 181, 27 Pac. Rep. 490

    … is the founder of a new religious sect liable in damages for seducing a member of an old communion from the faith of his fathers and inducing him to join a community composed of the new sectarians? This question was answered in the negative in Ellis v. Newbrough… In that case the defendants, the leaders of the “Faithists,” who had established a religious Utopia in New Mexico which they called the First Church of the Tae in the Land of Shalam, induced the plaintiff to abandon his home in far-off Georgia and cost his lot with the faithful seekers after the Life Everlasting. The plaintiff, according to his complaint, was persuaded by the false and fraudulent representations of the defendant to become a member of the community, whereupon he did to the new faith “consecrate his life, his labor, and all his worldly effects and prospects, together with those of his two children, placing all good faith und confidence in said community.”

    The plaintiff, after living in the community for more than two years, reached the conclusion that he had been led to follow faIse gods, and that he had been greatly damaged thereby, whereupon he brought his action, alleging that “he has sustained great damage in loss of time and labor and opportunity, and in the education of his children, and that he has suffered great anguish of mind in consequence of the dishonor and humiliation brought upon himself and his children by reason of his connection with said defendants in said community, to the damage of the plaintiff in the sum of $10,000.”

    … The court, however much it may have been distressed at seeing the plaintiff in such sad case, held that the law could afford him no remedy.

    From a hasty examination of the religious writings used to convert the plaintiff it is difficult to determine which to admire the more — the imagination of the author or the credulity of the convert. The principal writing was entitled as follows: “Oahspe: A New Bible in the words of Jehovih and his Angel Embassadors. A sacred history of the dominions of the higher and lower heavens on the earth for the past twenty-four thousand years, together with a synopsis of the cosmogony of the universe; the creation of planets; the creation of man; the unseen worlds; the labor and glory of gods and goddesses in the ethereal heavens. With the new commandments of Jehovih to man of the present day. With revelations from the second resurrection, formed in words in the thirty-third year of the Kosmon era.” A neat, illuminative, and modest title that. The book was written in an admirable spirit, too, as was shown by the declaration in the preface that “it blows nobodys horn; it makes no leader.”

    The Oahspe contained a very interesting account of the circumstances attending its origin. This account was summarized by the court an follows: “That once upon a time the world was ruled by a triune composed of Brahma and Buddha and one Looeamong; that the devil, entering into the presence of Looeamong, tempted him by showing the great power of Buddha and Brahma, and induced him (Looeamong) to take upon himself The name Kriste, so that it came to pass that the followers of Kristie were called Kristeyans; that Looeamong or Kriste, through his commanding general, Gabriel, captured the opposing gods, together with their entire command of 7,600,000 angels, and cast them into hell, where there were already more than 10,000,000 who were in chaos and madness. This Kriste afterward assembled a number of his men to adopt a Code. At this meeting it in said there were produced 2,231 books and legendary taes of gods and saviors and great men, etc. This council was in session four years and seven months, and at the end of that time there had been selected and combined much that was good and great, and worded so as to be well remembered of mortals.”

    This statement, condensed though it is, shows that the book threw some valuable sidelights upon sacred history. After having agreed upon a Bible — or “adopted a platform,” as the court somewhat irreverently says — the council proceeded to the election of a god The contest for this honorable position seems to Lave been a free-for-all one, the contestants including, in addition to “Kriste,” heathen and Brahmin deities, to say nothing of others whose religious affiliations we are unable to classify. On the first ballot there were thirty-seven candidates, among them being such well-known divinities as Vulcan, Jupiter, and .Minerva. It seems that the convention was deadlocked for quite a while. “The record tells us that at the end of seven days’ balloting ‘the number of gods was reduced to twenty-seven.’ And so the convention or council remained in session ‘for one year and five months, the balloting lasted, and at the end of that time the ballot rested nearly equal on five gods, namely, Jove, Kriste, Mars, Crite, and Siva,’ and thus the balloting stood for seven weeks. At this point Hataus, who was the chief spokesman for Kriste, proposed to leave the matter of a selection to the angels. The convention, worn out with speech-making and balloting, readily accepted this plan. Kriste, who, under his former name of Looeamong. still retained command of the angels (for he had prudently declined to surrender one position until he had been elected to the other), together with his hosts, gave a sign in fire of a cross smeared with blood, whereupon be was declared elected, and on motion his selection was made unanimous.” J.C.M. [pp 67-69]

  14. Roger Pearse

    Interesting… but I don’t see the quote in there? (Confused) The story type seems similar tho. What am I missing?

  15. DCHindley

    I’m afraid that when I copied & pasted, the quote disappeared.

    “They were instructed to bring with them the testimonies they orated to the rabble, “bound in leather” for protection during the long journey, and surrender them to Constantine upon arrival in Nicaea (The Catholic Dictionary, Addis and Arnold, 1917, “Council of Nicaea” entry).

    Their writings totaled,

    “in all, two thousand two hundred and thirty-one scrolls and legendary tales of gods and saviors, together with a record of the doctrines orated by them”

    (Life of Constantine, op. cit., vol. ii, p. 73; N&PNF, op. cit., vol. i, p. 518).”

    There, that stayed put.

    “Bushby’s” story is entirely lifted, with some editorial embellishments, from the book of Oahaspe, and possibly all of it from the humerous summary in Law Review volume 11.

    Links are available at the ECW BC&H forum.

  16. Andrew Criddle

    This is the original passage from Oahspe A late 19th century product of automatic writing.

  17. Roger Pearse

    Thank you.

  18. Matt

    And, if Wikipedia is to be trusted, the Book of Eskra is part of Oahspe. So all of this guy’s ideas come from the same source….

  19. Roger Pearse

    It’s all very weird.