Early Church Fathers a Myth?

I am looking for help in obtaining any proof from secular sources of the actual existence of some of the early Church Fathers. A fundamentalist I am dealing with is demanding proof of Ignatius of Antioch’s, Origen’s, and others’ existence from secular sources because he won’t believe “papists.” He believes the fathers were invented out of whole cloth by the Church.

Wow. Just… wow.

Ignatius of Antioch’s existence is a lot better documented in writing than Julius Caesar’s.

Now, obviously when it comes to coins and public works that say “Julius built me,” you’d have the opposite situation. But most of Roman history and literature only survived in a few manuscripts, which Christians made a lot of copies of.

Other than recent finds of papyrus out in the desert in Egypt, there is no Greek or Latin pagan literature that survives any other way than through Christian copyists. So if your guy is looking for pagan testimony, why does he believe that if he doesn’t believe his fellow Christians?

And does he also believe that Venus is Caesar’s mommy and all the emperors became stars in the night sky, if some pagan said so?

Bishops, OTOH, were not building bridges or public baths with inscriptions on them, for the most part. (Later you do get churches that say which bishop built them, but that was after Christianity became legal.) Nor were they minting coins. There are some catacomb inscriptions, but those only apply to Roman bishops.

Furthermore, most pagan records of court transcripts of martyred Christians existed in Roman archives, but were only transcribed by Christians writing up martyrologies. We can’t walk down to the Forum today and look up the scrolls about the death of St. Justin Martyr, because the records were destroyed or sent to Byzantium a long time ago.

So basically, your inquirer obviously shouldn’t believe in any historical figures’ known deeds, although he can be allowed to believe in their names and pictures. This puts Roman history on the same footing as the history of the Scythians – ie, king lists and not much else.

He shouldn’t believe anything in the Bible, either, since it came down to us through Christian copyists hired by that evil, evil Church. What a terribly shaky tradition.

Pah. I’m too disgusted to give you a good argument. I’m pretty sure there’s a Catholic Answers tract along these lines, but I’m too disgusted to think of search terms.

You might want to find out exactly what church he belongs to, as any group in the Wesleyan or Calvinist traditions has a founder who leans heavily on patristics.

Also, the whole deal with Origen involved a lot of imperial stuff later on, so he’s definitely very well documented. We even have his pupil St. Gregory Thaumaturgus’ farewell speech, where he outlines Origen’s teaching techniques. Origen was also extremely prolific, so I’d like to ask your friend who wrote thousands of pages of Greek patristics in the exact same style if it wasn’t Origen, and who went to the trouble of excerpting thousands of pages into later anthologies, and why we are still finding stuff by the same guy in those papyri out in the trashpiles in the Egyptian desert!

I have an evangelical buddy who does a lot of patristics study, and I will ask him for ideas. He’s been on the Internet longer than me, so he’s probably heard this kind of stupidity before. :slight_smile:

Come to think of it, it sounds like your guy has probably been reading Bart Ehrman’s Forgery and Counterforgery, which claims that much (not all) patristics was written dishonestly by early Christians. This was a followup to his book Forged!, which claimed that the Bible was also mostly written dishonestly by later Jews and Christians.

So yeah, it’s not good stuff for a Christian to be eating up, and you might want to be gentle about pointing out the Bible passing-down also coming through the Church. Because heck, this guy might be two steps from thinking the Bible is all made up, also.

And no wonder because this truth will blow fundamentalism right out of the water. But even when you show him the truth, he will most likely still reject everything that came down to us from the ECF’s and continue on with his fundamentalist belief in the Scriptures as the only thing that is relevant to true Christianity.

Remember, when talking with someone like this, always ask for references and make sure the references are properly referenced.

Wait till that guy finds out the bible was written in, by for, the Catholic Church :cool: He will no doubt have a cow on the spot. :smiley:

Have him google any ECF, and you can probably find the burial place.

Example is St. jerome…wdtprs.com/blog/2009/09/30-sept-st-jerome-where-is-he-buried-2/

Clement of Rome…en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pope_Clement_I

Or St. Peter…amazon.com/St-Peters-Bones-Relics-First/dp/0307985091

Remember, when talking with someone like this, always ask for HIS references and make sure the references HE gives are properly referenced.

He thinks he has problems with the ECF’s? Wait till he finds out that the bible he puts all his faith in was written in, by for, the Catholic Church :cool: He will no doubt have a cow on the spot. :smiley:

they never give up do they??? God Bless, Memaw

It’s likely this guy wouldn’t believe even if Jerome or Clement or Origen or Tertullian were to come back from the dead and appear in front of him. :rolleyes:

From my personal limited experience, by all means give him the information from the others BUT prepare a line in the sand. The line in the sand is for the other person to provide absolute proof in support of their argument. If you don’t, it is likely you will spend hours, days and weeks in cycles of studying which will be futile as the person’s heart and mind is closed. The quote below is sage advice given to me on a forum by Br Benedict Mary which may be helpful in the future, although the context is not quite the same.

There comes a time when a person refuses to accept the truth that we must say to friend/family, “I have explained the truth of the Catholic Faith and given you resources whereby you can read for yourself. We, however, seem to be going around in circles. Thus, I respectfully ask you to refrain from these discussions on the Catholic faith.”

If the friends/family will not respect that, then we need to walk away from them as St. Paul tells us repeatedly, for example in Titus 3:9-11 “But avoid stupid controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels over the law, for they are unprofitable and futile. As for a man who is factious, after admonishing him once or twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is perverted and sinful; he is self-condemned.”

And, the principle taught by Jesus in Matt 10:14 “And if any one will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town.”

Another example from St. Paul:

2 Thessalonians 3:6, 14 “Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is living in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us…If any one refuses to obey what we say in this letter (traditions), note that man, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed.”

Great points. I was also going down the road you did in reference to the origins of the bible. I really like what you offered in terms of the importance given to documenting bishops by the Romans as opposed to secular rulers. Exasperating, I know. This guy is a particularly nasty foe. The only reason I’m going back and forth with him at all is because I know a few open minded protestants are following our exchanges. Thank you for your input. It helps greatly!

You’re right on target with that. He has pretty much dismissed any argument offhandedly that I’ve made in reference to other topics.

Nice! I hadn’t heard of those works, but I agree it seems awfully likely that’s where he’s getting his garbage. I’ll call him on that.

That’s the same thing I run into at another Christian Forum to which I belong. But I am a glutton for punishment and I keep pounding away. For instance, I have started posting things from the Catechism and not giving any indication that is where they are from. I know this is sneaky but I have been getting some agreements so far and it should be interesting when I reveal my source.

My personal favorite guy is Nero Caesar. The guy was the Emperor of the Roman Empire (the most powerful man on earth) for 14 years. He’s one of the few Caesars thought to have died a natural death. A lot of people think he was the flippin’ anti-Christ. How many of his own writings have survived? None. How many contemporary accounts about him have survived? None. Not one scrap. The earliest account about the Emperor Nero was written 50 years after his death, by a guy who was a very young boy when Nero died. The next two earliest accounts were written 100 years after his death.

All three of these sources were written by guys who were (like Nero) members of the Roman senatorial class. How many writings by people who were not of the senatorial class are there? You can probably guess the answer.

And he was the most powerful man on earth.

This is just plain nonsense.

What about Lutherans? Would he believe us? Or are we too much like papists? Lots of the ECF’s are mentioned in the Book of Concord.


Okay, we do have an early pagan reference to St. Ignatius of Antioch and his writings!

The author, oddly enough, was the pagan philosopher, satirist, and early science fiction writer named Lucian of Samosata, and the book in question was his satirical biography of a guy he didn’t like or admire: “The Passing of Peregrinus.”

He is using the story of Peregrinus’ life (a real guy who is mentioned by both pagan and Christian authors, as both a Cynic philosopher and a Christian, among many other turns of belief) to make fun of the gullibility of Christians, whom Lucian said were known to allow dubious characters like Peregrinus to travel around from city to city, living off their co-religionists’ generosity. Peregrinus seems to have been a pretty confused guy who attempted to achieve martyrdom but was refused by pagan authorities, and ended up burning himself at the stake in AD 165. Lucian’s book apparently came out not long after this, as he framed Peregrinus’ death as “news.”

It turns out that Lucian of Samosata, or his subject Peregrinus, references Ignatius of Antioch’s letters in his Peregrinus bio, so they really must have had pretty widespread distribution. Here’s the reference:

"…by the [people of Elis] and by the other Greeks, to whom he said he had sent letters. The story is that he despatched missives to almost all the famous cities — testamentary dispositions, so to speak, and exhortations and prescriptions — and he appointed a number of ambassadors for this purpose from among his comrades, styling them “messengers from the dead” and "underworld couriers.” "

Here’s the footnote:

“In the letters of Ignatius he recommends to the Church of Smyrna the election of a special messenger, styled “ambassador of God” (Letter to Smyrna, 11) or “courier of God” (Letter to Polycarp, 7) to be sent to Syria. The verbal coincidence is notable (cf. Lightfoot), and seems to indicate a knowledge of these letters, but on the part of Peregrinus, not Lucian.”

Oddly enough, another science fiction writer has also written up Peregrinus - the science fiction writer Avram Davidson wrote two volumes of a projected fantasy series based on both Lucian’s bio and what other authors said about him. (Peregrine Primus and Peregrine Secundus, if you’re interested.) His Virgil fantasies are better, but he does a good job portraying the weirder corners of early Christianity (with help from Tertullian, Epiphanius, and other sources).

Time to do this and pray:

Some people aren’t worth debating: it’s the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary that is leading the charge to publish a new version of the Fragments of Origen’s Hexapla.

He trusts the testimony of pagans before he trusts the testimony and writings of the first Christians, who were martyred by those pagans? :rolleyes:

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