The quantity of anti-Christian scribbling in online fora is extraordinary. Much of it presents “evidence” which is supposed to undermine Christianity. It can be an interesting task to take this material, and verify it — something that the posters never do, curiously — and see what, if anything it is based on.
I came across the following in the last few days, used as a “signature”. This is the entire text:
“Gaius Julius Caesar…Chief Priest…God made manifest and common Saviour of Mankind.” (Corpus Inscriptionum Graecarum 2957 [48/47])
I think we can see that this is intended as some form of anti-Christian comment, since there is no apparent reason to post it otherwise on all one’s posts. But what is the argument? It is insinuated, rather than stated. This is a common way to cast doubt on something by means of an argument that wouldn’t bear examination, if clearly and openly stated. That’s the first problem with this.
The next question is whether the item is what it appears to be. It is a good general principle never to trust these sorts of “quotes”. They can be wrong, misleading, selectively edited, and the “references” may be fake. The presence of dots indicates some massaging is going on; the use of Christian-sounding language likewise. But it’s fun to find out!
The CIG is a 19th collection of inscriptions, so is out of copyright. Annoyingly it does not seem to be online. But a google search reveals a quote from it in an online source, L. M. Sweet, Roman Emperor worship (1919).
The conclusion that Caesar favored his own deification has been questioned, but it seems to me the evidence indicates that he went rather far. At any rate, epigraphic evidence for the deification of Cassar at the time of his pro-consulship in Bithynia can be cited.95 Hirschfeld maintains that the deification of proconsuls was a customary and accepted procedure. Pompey and Antony were so honored as well as Caesar. It is interesting to note, and may go down on the credit side of Cicero’s career that he was offered honors like these and refused them, partly on the ground that they rightly belonged to the gods and the Roman people.
95. An Ephesian inscription (C. I. G. 2957) of the year 48-47 B.C. speaks of Caesar in a way that is strongly reminiscent of Egypt and the Ptolemies as: τὸν Αρεω καὶ Aφροδείτης θεὸν ἐποφανὴ καὶ κοινὸν τοῦ ἀνθρωπινου βιοῦ σωτῆρα. Of like tenor are C. I. G., 2369, 2214g, 2215, 2957 and C. I. A., III 428. …
Even from this, clearly incomplete quotation, we can see at once that using this description of Caesar as if he was a parallel to Christ is misleading.
A look at the Greek shows that it mentions Ares and Aphrodite. The Hellenistic term “soter” (saviour) appears, as it does for so many Seleucid or Ptolemaic monarchs.
My Greek is still minimal and I don’t have my books, but some of this looks suspect, even now. I’ll have to try it out in my Greek translator software! It should be a good test.
And… does anyone have the full text?
Later: Silly me. It’s in the PHI database:
Ephesos 948. Honorary inscription for Gaius Iulius Caesar by poleis, [demoi], and ethne (of Hellenes) in Asia; 48 BC; found at Ephesos: CIG 2957; LW 142; Syll3 760; Tuchelt, Frühe Denkm. 141; *IEph 251.
αἱ πόλεις αἱ ἐν τῆι Ἀσίαι καὶ οἱ καὶ Ἀφροδετης θεὸν ἐπιφανῆ καὶ κοινὸν τοῦ ἀνθρωπίνου βίου σωτῆρα.καὶ τὰ ἔθνη Γάϊον Ἰούλιον Γαΐο ὸν Καίσαρα, τὸν ἀρχιερέα καὶ αὐτοκράτορα καὶ τὸ δεύτερον ὕπατον, τὸν ἀπὸ Ἄρεως
Soter at the end agrees with Kaisara, of course.