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Old 09-09-2013, 11:15 PM   #1
stephan huller
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Default Could Christian Books Be Found in Public Libraries in the Late Second Century?

I strongly suspect they were. Here are my reasons for thinking so:

1. Celsus draws on a wide range of sources. I don't think he was purchasing Christian manuscripts and keeping them in a private collection.
2. Part of the Catholic Church's effort to distinguish themselves from the heresies was their openness. They didn't have secret gospels. (Praescr Haer 22) What better way to demonstrate their openness than have their books in public libraries?
3. If Christians preached openly then what would stop them from wanting their books held in public libraries?
4. I think that the apologetic works - especially appeals to the Emperor - would have wanted to gain as great an audience as possible.
5. Tert., Apol. 31.1 (142,5-6 DEK.) says that Christians do not hide their books which "many occasions transfer to outsiders."

That's a start at least. Any thoughts would be appreciated.
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Old 09-09-2013, 11:36 PM   #2
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It is most fascinating that Celsus claimed the Jesus cult Christians were operating and teaching in Secret because if they did go public death would be imminent.

Against Celsus 1
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The first point which Celsus brings forward, in his desire to throw discredit upon Christianity, is, that the Christians entered into secret associations with each other contrary to law, saying, that “of associations some are public, and that these are in accordance with the laws; others, again, secret, and maintained in violation of the laws.”
Against Celsus 1.3
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After this, Celsus proceeding to speak of the Christians teaching and practising their favourite doctrines in secret, and saying that they do this to some purpose, seeing they escape the penalty of death which is imminent...
Origen's "Against Celsus" contradicts you from the very start. It is hardly likely that there were Jesus cult books in libraries in the 2nd century.

Also, in the writings attributed to Justin Martyr, he wrote virtually wrote nothing of any supposed Jesus cult texts except the Memoirs of the Apostles and the Apocalypse of John.
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Old 09-09-2013, 11:48 PM   #3
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Some Christians were in secret; he also mentions that the members of the 'great Church' did not share the views of heretics.
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Old 09-09-2013, 11:57 PM   #4
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Not much of an answer but at least the start of a discussion:
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A more curious inquiry, suggested by allusions to Christian writings in the Greek and Roman poets and humourists, would be, whether in the libraries of pagan Rome was to be found any representation of the uncouth and semi-barbarous literature of that despised sect, which was destined before long to displace the established religion of the empire, in the world of letters as well as of social influence. Our means of judging are too scanty to warrant a positive conclusion ; but we are not aware of a single ancient authority from which it appears that even the Christian Scriptures themselves, not to speak of the Christian apologists or polemic writers, were admitted to the honour of a place in any of the libraries of Greece or Rome. http://books.google.com/books?id=UQH...our%22&f=false
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Old 09-10-2013, 07:43 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by stephan huller View Post
I strongly suspect they were. Here are my reasons for thinking so:

1. Celsus draws on a wide range of sources. I don't think he was purchasing Christian manuscripts and keeping them in a private collection.
2. Part of the Catholic Church's effort to distinguish themselves from the heresies was their openness. They didn't have secret gospels. (Praescr Haer 22) What better way to demonstrate their openness than have their books in public libraries?
3. If Christians preached openly then what would stop them from wanting their books held in public libraries?
4. I think that the apologetic works - especially appeals to the Emperor - would have wanted to gain as great an audience as possible.
5. Tert., Apol. 31.1 (142,5-6 DEK.) says that Christians do not hide their books which "many occasions transfer to outsiders."

That's a start at least. Any thoughts would be appreciated.
I would not think so. I don't know how many "public libraries" there were; but being included in a library maintained at public expense would inevitably involve some kind of quality control, otherwise it would be filled instantly with trash. Rome was full of scribblers. Martial addresses himself to Domitian's librarian, pleading for inclusion. Christian literature had no claims to admission at any period prior to the 4th century.

Do not think of these libraries as being like modern public libraries, which reflect the push for general literacy at the back end of the 19th century. In antiquity a lot of people were not literate (although doubtless no fewer than in Jane Austen's England). Access to them would involve high rank, I expect, and manipulation of privilege.

There are studies of ancient libraries in existence, tho, which I have not read, or not read recently; but this is what my mind tells me.

On the points you raise:

1. Celsus probably obtained his books direct from Christians or Marcionites. As a rich man, he would merely need the loan of a copy and his slaves could make him more. He could likewise have obtained them from magistrates who had seized them.

2/3. This is a different thing. No doubt the Christians had no objection to pagans reading their works; but nobody did, because of the vile style (is it Jerome or Augustine who says this?)

4. Works presented to the emperor might be held, or might not. Who now knows?

5. The sense of this is that Christian books often fall into the hands of outsiders (e.g. in a persecution).

All the best,

Roger Pearse
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Old 09-10-2013, 08:11 AM   #6
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Quote:
Could Christian Books Be Found in Public Libraries in the Late Second Century?
Wouldn't they first have to be written? How do we know that any texts which we might today call "Christian", i.e. gospels for example, existed in the "late second century". Are you referring to Tatian's Diatessaron? What is our oldest extant manuscript of Diatessaron, or reference to this manuscript? Do we have a patristic author describing Diatessaron, to confirm its existence before the fourth century?

Who would be the author of such "Christian books"? Who would define "Christian"? Did the concept of "christianity" exist before the fourth century?

Other than Rome, where else would one expect to find public libraries? Would such libraries possess texts written in Greek?

We know that the library at Herculaneum had Greek manuscripts on one half, and Latin manuscripts on the other half. I was under the impression that this was not, however, a "public" library. Perhaps I am uninformed on this point. Where were the Hebrew manuscripts stored, i.e. in which "public" library? What about Coptic, Aramaic, Syriac, Turkish, Persian manuscripts? Weren't the libraries, outside of Rome, largely in the hands of private wealthy patrons, i.e. not "public", at all. Where were the manuscripts attributed to Mani stored? What about those of Zoroaster, Buddha, and other authors from the Silk Route?

Sam
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Old 09-10-2013, 08:23 AM   #7
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Sam I don't have time to answer these questions. since you don't seem to know anything it might be a good idea to have your opinions being led by actual information. My recommendation is actually read a book on this subject and perhaps many of them
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Old 09-10-2013, 08:27 AM   #8
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okay Roger what about Christians living at that time would they have objected to having their books in the library
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Old 09-10-2013, 08:44 AM   #9
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Eusebius claims that Serapion reported that he walked into a Gnostic library and “borrowed” a copy of the Gospel of Peter. See HE Book 6, Chapter XII. Serapion and His Extant Works
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Old 09-10-2013, 08:58 AM   #10
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useful reference thank you
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