Blog recommendation: Papyrus Stories, by Jenny Cromwell

It’s been a while since I saw a blog that I wanted to add to the sidebar, but this evening I found one.  It’s called Papyrus Stories, and it may be found here:

There is also a linked Twitter account, @Papyrus_Stories.

The desert climate of Egypt has preserved enormous quantities of “waste paper”.  The rubbish dump of the Greek city of Oxyrhynchus in particular yielded so many in the excavations before 1914 that they are still being published a century later.

Most of these papyrus documents are things like personal letters, tax receipts, and the like.  So they shine a light into the lives of all sorts of people.

The blog posts consist of taking one such document, and telling the story that is found in it.  They are really very interesting and charming.



Investigating “quotations” online – another blog

Regular readers will know that I sometimes investigate supposed quotations from the ancients which I have found online.  Often they prove to be bogus.

I came across a blog which does nothing but check quotations.  I’d never heard of it, and it deserves wider notice:



Welcome to Christophe Guignard’s “Marginalia” blog

The excellent Christophe Guignard has started his own blog (in French), on details of ancient Christian literature and its Graeco-Roman context.  It’s called Marginalia.

He’s just done a post in both English and French on a “new” uncial fragment of John’s Gospel (0323).

He’s also interested in Syriac mss. at Sinai.

I think I shall add it to my RSS feed.


Piecing together Diogenes of Oinoanda

A new blog from the author of Antiochepedia:

Diogenes was an Epicurean Greek from the 2nd century AD who carved a summary of the philosophy of Epicurus onto a portico wall in the ancient city of Oenoanda in Lycia. The surviving fragments of the wall, which originally extended about 80 meters, 25,000 words long and filled 260 square meters of wall space. Less than a third of it has been recovered.

It sounds like a useful project:

The purpose of this blog is to gather together the disparate representations on the great inscription at Oinoanda so it will be accessible to the general public.


Egyptological taken offline by ‘hackers’

Via News from the Valley of the Kings, I learn that an online Egyptology magazine, Egyptological, has been attacked:

Kate and Andrea are very sad to announce that Egyptological will be unavailable for the forseeable future.  It has been targeted by a professional hacking group as part of an onslaught on Egypt-related web sites during the current unrest in Egypt.

Although we have been in negotiations with the hackers, which seemed to be going well, they have now announced their intention of resuming hostilities against us.  They apparently see Egyptology sites such as ours as representing a form of political threat.

Until we have been able to assess the level of damage inflicted upon our backup solution, and have been able to devise a new strategy for the future security of Egyptological, our site will remain unavailable.  We do not expect it to be recovered until the end of January.

This sort of thing is why we will end up with a heavily-policed and locked-down internet.  We shall all be poorer, because the criminal element will not behave decently unless restrained by fear of punishment.  I fear that the old days of the internet are truly dead.


A series of posts on Cyril of Alexandria at “All along the watchtower”

An incoming link draws my attention to a blog previously unknown to me, All along the watchtower.  The blog has begun a series of posts by “Chalcedon451” on Cyril of Alexandria.

It is certainly the case that few of the Fathers enjoy a lower reputation in the English-speaking world than Cyril.  “Chalcedon451” suggests that we have Gibbon to blame for this.

He’s probably right.  Few other than specialists had any access to the Fathers, and the impact of Decline and Fall on the literate world was immense.  His slurs on Eusebius are still repeated; his negative opinion of Cyril was likewise definitive. 

It is telling that the 19th century American pirate edition of the Fathers, the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers series, while it reprinted the translations of Augustine and Chrysostom, left sternly to one side the translations of Cyril of Alexandria in the same series.

I have always felt that Cyril suffers from his association with the Nestorian dispute.  That was a matter of high politics, in which he is unlikely to appear very pleasing to our eyes.  It would be much, much better if we could start with something we DO sympathise with, the Contra Julianum.  One of the last apologetic works of antiquity, the arguments of Cyril would at least be directed against the anti-Christianity of Julian the Apostate, rather than Nestorius, with whom many of us feel some sympathy.  A translation of this work is in progress; but it seems unlikely that it will be accessible to non-specialists.

It will be interesting to see what is said in the blog series, all the same.


Vale, the Cyprian Project

Rod Letchford has written and let me know that he has taken down the Cyprian Project, and allowed its domain name to expire.  This is sad news.  But apparently the number of  visitors was too low for him to carry on.  Various snapshots of the site may be found in the WaybackWhen machine at

One aspect of Rod’s site has already been missed, at least by me.  With immense labour, he compiled links to the PDF’s of the Patrologia Latina and Patrologia Graeca volumes online.   I linked to these from here, and I have always used them as my first point of reference for these things.  Now those lists are gone.

Rod has kindly allowed me to copy those files, and I have uploaded them to pages on this blog:

If anyone finds additional PDF’s, please add a note in the comment box on each page, and I will add them in.

Thank you, Rod, for the time and effort that you put into this.

I have to admit that I don’t dare look at the logs for the Tertullian Project.  I suspect that most of the material goes unvisited much of the time.  Fortunately the WordPress statistics for this blog provide enough encouragement that I continue to blog.


Writing your own “Atheist manual and cookbook”

Via the eChurch blog I learn that secularist scholar R. J. Hoffmann is getting a little fed up with some of his atheist co-religionists.  In this post he outlines the tactics the latter employ.

The Sure-Fire Atheist Rapid Response Manual

When I wrote Atheism’s Little Idea I said atheists were small. But (and this is embarrassing to confess) I had no idea how clever.

There’s a species of ant in Papua New Guinea that is so small you need a magnifying glass to see that they’re insects and not swirling grains of sand.  But drop a crumb of cheese on the ground and an army of ten zillion will appear out of nowhere, through the floor cracks where they live invisibly, and devour the cheese before you can retrieve and pop it subtly into your mouth.  …

When the atheists had grown tired of my “endless harangues against atheism” last year they swarmed at me, Jacques Berlinerblau, and Michael Ruse all at once. We said, in different tones, that they were playing too rough, were turning people off (including fellow unbelievers) with their flatfooted tactics, and needed to behave like adults with real arguments and day jobs.

The atheist swarm may actually have eaten the other two because I haven’t heard from them in a long time.

But it was then I learned their strange language and breeding habits:  Like all small things, their safety is in numbers. One atheist alone is hardly a match for his (or her) natural enemies, the Christian Nation, the low-wattage Dims and flabby franks like me who send mixed signals about what they really believe. But one thousand atheists on a single mission can take down a faitheist, an accommodationist and a Associate Reformed Presbyterian pre-Millennialist going through a divorce in about a minute. I’ll tell you this: if Osama bin Laden had ranted about atheists and not “the West” (where is that exactly?) he would have been cheese crumbs in October 2001.

I have come to be a huge admirer of how the atheists organize for their own protection and what they are able to accomplish on a low budget.  I have wondered how this is possible ever since I was almost eaten last spring.

Most of us have been the victims of the group lynching tactic described here.

But Hoffmann goes further.  He has observed that these people behave as if they were following instructions.  And he has devised a “manual” of tactics.

Now  this made me smile indeed!  You see, I have often thought of doing the same!  Once you have observed a few atheist fora, and seen the kinds of arguments made, and the dishonest tactics deployed to beat up opposition, such a manual almost writes itself.

Hoffmann’s work is a first draft, but so often it hits the nail on the head.  A few extracts will give you a flavour of what he says.  And it’s all true! — every last word of it.

(5)  If you don’t understand the Straw Man Defense, resort immediately to one of the following:

(a) Call the enemy arrogant.  Our enemies are all arrogant or they wouldn’t be blogging against us so this is bound to work.  Words like “pompous,” “misguided,”  ”pathetically out of touch,” “incredibly uninformed” and similar expressions will work just as well.  Try to avoid “full of shit” and if you use the word “erroneous”: remember there are two r’s.  (see also spelling tips under accommodation/accomodation/akomodation).

(b)  Call the enemy ignorant. This is basic because anyone who disagrees with atheism is ignorant.  You can also use some of the same words: incredibly ignorant, unbelievably ignorant; I don’t know how you’re able to tie your shoes-ignorant.

The next one brought a wry smile to my face.  Not only atheists try this ploy, as I found out last week when I was on the receiving end of a (futile) attempt to lynch me on my own blog:

(6)  If you find that a website is “moderated” say that it violates the fundamental right of Free Speech guaranteed to atheism in the Constitution. …

How often have I heard that tired old attempt to manipulate me into allowing people to lynch me on my own personal blog?

Dr Hoffmann’s post is sane and civilised.  Indeed it has reminded me that, long ago, I had quite a bit of respect for atheists.  My own ideas about the shape of Roman paganism I owe to an atheist author whom I read from a library shelf long ago.  Likewise I was impressed with the precision thinking that I found in J. S. Mill.

But when I came online, I found something else.  I found atheism that was dishonest, abusive, and hateful.  Almost all the online atheist writing is beneath contempt.

This is not a question of disagreement about religion, but simply about honesty.  An intelligent atheist must find his co-religionists painfully embarassing.

Writing these words recalls an early online experience.  I have never forgotten encountering a post, back in 1998 or so, in some now vanished or decrepit usenet forum, by an atheist named Steven Carr, who seemed to be a student in Edinburgh or something of the kind.  It was about the apocryphal gospels, and he was trying to wear down someone talking about the bible by hitting them with factoids.  In those days I knew much less about Christian history than I do now, but even then I knew enough to see that the post was not honest, even from an atheist point of view.  It was clear to me that he was engaged in deliberate deception of someone that he believed wouldn’t know much about the apocrypha, attempting to bully with pseudo-scholarship.  I remember reading that post, and thinking to myself: “If you know enough about the history of the bible to write that lot, you know enough to know that your argument is neither fair nor an accurate representation of the facts.”

I have seen so much dishonest argument since.

I happened to see a post in a forum the other day, in response to some post of my own.  It was the same Steven Carr.  He was looking rather the worse for the 14 years that he had spent labouring for atheism.  Hate does funny things to those who indulge it.  Any pretence at reason or logic had long departed.  All he could manage was abuse.  He spat a mindless jeer in my direction, utterly irrelevant to my post.  That was all that was left of him.  He had become just a barking, rabid dog.

It is possible to be indifferent to truth, and interested only in convenience, in winning rather than being in the right.  But those who despise the right use of the intellect need not expect to enjoy the use of it for very long.

Hoffmann, it seems, has enough sanity to realise that atheists are destroying themselves.   We may commend him for this brave stand.  A principled atheism is not always a bad thing.  Superstition and priestcraft are not good things, and any student of modern Anglican affairs can find ample examples of the latter.  Christians will remember that Christ was crucified, not by atheists, but by a plot hatched by the religious authorities of the day.

Let us hope that Dr Hoffmann can achieve a revolution in atheism.

UPDATE: I have just deleted the first attempt in the comments to use this blog to attack Dr. Hoffmann for “censorship”.