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:


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:


“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:


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.


A curious tale about the burial of St Peter – a fake by Leo the Great?

Headbanger websites can be very frustrating.  You know the sort of thing — the sort of website that eagerly recounts how the Fathers of the Church boasted of being liars, how Mithras had 12 disciples and was born of a virgin (sic), and so on.

But they can also be a joy, for they can direct your attention to areas of antiquity that you would never otherwise investigate.  It’s great fun, looking up the “quotations” they give, for they are nearly always bunk!

One such site has come to my attention today.  It rejoices in the name of “” and an article, “Tomb of St Peter a shocking invention” is here.

Around 442, Pope Leo the Great (440-461) devised an extraordinary money-making scheme that was destined to have profound repercussions upon the development of Christianity for centuries to come. The record of this enterprising connivance is found in both the extant writings of Pope Leo and Salvianus (d. 456), a distinguished historian of Marseilles who wrote an open letter to the Church of Rome that now forms part of a book called, ‘On God’s Government’. …

Salvianus made the now-famous comment that ‘two priests could not meet in Rome without bursting into laugher’, a reference to the gullibility of the people who believed what the developing priesthood was expounding about the Gospel story of Jesus Christ. Salvianus revealed that Pope Leo the Great ‘conceived a shocking invention’ when he ordered the construction of a stone enclosure in a cemetery that, more than 1000 years later (1506), became the site for the commencement of the building of the largest and most splendid structure in Christendom, St. Peter’s Basilica. The comments of Salvianus are supported in one of Pope’s Leo’s 173 own letters that still exist today, and this is what he said:

‘To this primitive worthy [St. Peter] we owe a debt of gratitude … let us feign that his holy carcass was transported from a monastery near Cologne lest the devil come to seize his soul … it would please the Almighty if his body was seen to rest in this city, the body that suffered such exquisite torments. Who then, after these centuries, is able to attest any different to the fact of an old skeleton, for it is a matter of faith that it is really that of St. Peter laid to rest in the Holy City, and that faith will nourish the confidence of the rabble’.

(‘On God’s Government’, Vol., iii, 9, Vol., 53 of the Migne Collection; expanded upon in ‘Campbell’s Lecture on Ecclesiastical History’, and Isaac Taylor’s ‘Ancient Christianity’)

Workmen covered the crude structure with timber planks and ‘town-criers in bright attire’ were dispatched to spread the news among the populous that the burial place of the Turn-key of Heaven, St. Peter, had been found in the Eternal City. In reality, the bones were those of a common thief and they became honoured as St. Peter himself. Pope Leo celebrated the ‘discovery’ by naming the ‘tomb’, ‘Memoria’ ² and he renamed Rome, the ‘Pardon of Peter’ by which it was known for centuries (ibid, p. 225).

[2] ‘Secrets of the Christian Fathers’, Bishop J. W. Sergerus, 1685, reprint 1897, p. 169.

So what do we make of that?

Well the first thing we do is to start looking at the supposed evidence for these claims.  Here the site authors at least try to reference their claims, which is to their credit, although they plainly have just repeated older literature.  No matter; it will be interesting to look into that older literature too.

First the big quotation in the middle!  That is referenced to Salvian’s De gubernatione dei, book 3, chapter 9.  The Latin text is referenced to the Patrologia Latina 53, although the column number would have been nice.  But we have some perfectly good English translations of this work, and book 3 chapter 9 is here.

And the passage reads … oh.  It’s not there.  The chapter contains nothing of this kind.  In fact a search on “Peter” using Ctrl-F finds nothing in the whole book; nor does “Cologne”.  This tells us, then, that the site authors have not verified their material.

Let’s leave that to one side for a moment and pick up another statement in it:

Salvianus made the now-famous comment that ‘two priests could not meet in Rome without bursting into laugher’, a reference to the gullibility of the people who believed what the developing priesthood was expounding about the Gospel story of Jesus Christ.

Did he, by George?  Whereabouts, one wonders?

Well, if it is famous, it should be possible to get a reference by using Google on the “two priests could not meet in Rome without bursting into laughter” bit.  And we find …

We find an 1803 book as the second result, by a certain Elihu Palmer, Prospect: or View of the Moral World, vol. 1, p.60, states:

Cato, the great Roman orator was surprised that two priests could possibly meet without bursting into fits of laughter–but tears of blood would not have atoned for the misery and distress that they brought upon the human race.

If this is a saying of Cato the Elder, then of course it is unlikely to have much to do with the 5th century AD!  But the book is clearly an ignorant atheist rant, and so is most probably about as reliable as our first webpage.

Famous, however, the “saying” plainly is not.  Google does not bring up much.  Nor does the version found here, “two priests could possibly meet without bursting into fits of laughter” doesn’t seem to have any wider currency.

That’s two statements, neither of which is showing any sign of being true.  What else can we discuss?

Let’s look up the reference #2 given, this “Sergerus” fellow, and his book “Secrets of the Christian Fathers”, supposedly reprinted in 1897.  A quick Google search doesn’t find this book, although it is referenced a bit, always in hate literature.  Hmm.  I mistrust that title, if it really is a 1685 publication.

So I go to COPAC.  I search for an author named “Sergerus”.  I get two, or more likely one man under the same name, a Joh. Theophilus Sergerus and a Joh. Gottlieb Sergerus; the middle name is the same meaning, and three works from 1754, 1759 and 1777.  None of these look right.

What about the book title?  COPAC reports no book with that title.

So where did the authors of the web-page really get all this stuff?  It would seem that it is just garbled tenth-hand hearsay.

OK, I’ll search for the title of the book.  This brings up this site, attributing a different quote to the same book.  The page is apparently authored by a certain Tony Bushby.  In fact as I keep searching by title, the only person I come across, again and again, is this Tony Bushby, reposted on a dozen websites.

Which means …

I go back to the “Vatileaks” website, and find an about page.

About Vati Leaks

VATI LEAKS is a site dedicated to publishing unknown and suppressed information that has been hidden from the people by the Vatican hierarchs in an attempt to conceal the truth about its past.

Tony Bushby

After achieving the necessary academic qualifications, Tony Bushby became a self-employed architectural draftsman ….

Well, it seems that I shall be obliged to ask Mr Bushby where his “Secrets of the Christian Fathers” book might be found, for I can otherwise find no trace of it.  (I have written using the website form).

What else?  There’s a reference to “Campbell’s lecture on Ecclesiastical history”, which proves to be this book (1807).   Leaving aside the mis-spelling (“Lectures”), it seems to contain nothing relevant.  There’s “Isaac Taylor’s ‘Ancient Christianity’” which is here (1840), and concerned with the tractarian controversy.  A search in that book on “Peter” gives 13 references, none relevant.

This is a wee bit disturbing.  All the references lead nowhere, and nobody else knows anything of any of it.  Is this book a hoax?

Update: A correspondent writes that Cato quote is in Cicero div. 2.24.51, and glossed later by Augustine somewhere.  The Perseus Cicero doesn’t seem to show it, but at Lacus Curtius here, it appears in Book 2 of De Divinatione, right at the start of chapter 24:

24. “But indeed, that was quite a clever remark which Cato made many years ago: ‘I wonder,’ said he, ‘that a soothsayer doesn’t laugh when he sees another soothsayer.’ 52 For how many things predicted by them really come true? If any do come true, then what reason can be advanced why the agreement of the event with the prophecy was not due to chance?

I have not discovered the quotation by Augustine, however.