Christian Deceptions: Case Study: Textual Problems


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    When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
    Corinthians 13:12


    This case study is a little different. Here we will look at how the mainstream Churches have changed their views, and why they have changed their views, on the reliability of the Bible.

    Porphyry (c.232-c.303) demonstrated that the book of Daniel could not have been written when Jews and Christians claimed it was. His works were later condemned and burned , and facts he had unearthed were denied, then forgotten. Christian writings attempting to refute his works were also burned, as even these works were too compromising. Again, early Christians had been well aware that the scriptures contradicted each other, but this too was denied. Anyone who could read could see the contradictions for themselves. For a long time laymen were not permitted to learn to read, so there was little danger of them finding out the truth. Those who let out the secret were dealt with. Those outside the Church could expect death. Those inside could expect the same, unless they were already respected scholars. Pierre Abélard is perhaps the best known example. In the eleventh century he was sentenced to life imprisonment for listing Church contradictions in a work entitled Sic et Non (Yes and No).

    When humanist scholars returned to Hebrew and Greek texts of the Bible, they discovered that many passages had been badly misinterpreted. The authority of many medieval accretions was destroyed, and this created a wave of reaction against the Church. Humanists ridiculed the Church in works such as Sebastian Brandt's Narrenschiff (Ship of Fools) of 1494, and Erasmus's Moriae Encomium (In Praise of Folly) of 1509. Written soon after the introduction of printing, such works became best sellers, and their widespread popularity ensured the life and liberty of their authors. Humanism and the revival of learning would fuel the Reformation.

    When Protestant Churches came into being, the Bible became available to all, even in vernacular translations. Now it was not only scholars who were aware of discrepancies and textual irregularities in the Bible. By the seventeenth century men of learning were starting to air the existence of contradictions publicly. In his Leviathan, published in 1651, Hobbes gave cogent reasons why Moses could not possibly have written the whole of the Pentateuch. He risked his life in doing so. A few years later, in 1679, a student at Edinburgh University made the same assertion, along with other similar ones, and was hanged for it. Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677) risked persecution by Jews and Christians when he pointed out biblical mistakes, inconsistencies and impossibilities, thus denying the infallibility of scripture. Newton doubted the authenticity of the New Testament but chose to keep his views to himself.

    In an academic study of 1711 a German minister, H. B. Witter, disclosed his discovery that the Bible's account of the creation was really two interwoven stories, written by different authors and at different times (see page 30 ). In the 1720s Thomas Woolston was put under house arrest for life, for voicing doubts about the Resurrection and other biblical miracles. In 1753 Jean d"Astruc, a physician to Louis XV, took Witter's ideas a stage further, revealing in an anonymous booklet that different hands could be seen in the book of Genesis. By the simple method of stripping out the text in which the author referred to God as Jahveh, and the text in which the author referred to him as Elohim, is was possible to identify coherent strands that had been edited together. Suddenly the duplication — two creations, two accounts of the flood, and so on — made sense. Witter's ideas rapidly gained acceptance among scholars.

    A few years later Thomas Paine popularised the right to doubt in England. In The Age of Reason he established that the Old Testament books could not have been written by the authors ascribed to them, that their chronologies were absurd, that they contradicted themselves on many points, and that many of the claims traditionally made for them were untenable. He purported to show that the story of Jesus was false and that the canonical gospels had not been written by their ascribed authors. He said that the biblical story of Jesus had every mark of fraud and imposition stamped upon the face of it. At the time Paine's findings were denied, and he was considered a blasphemous atheist. But now the facts were available to all, not just a closed circle of scholars. People were teaching themselves to read specifically so that they could read Paine's works for themselves.



    By the end of the seventeenth century the genie was well and truly out of the bottle. Protestant scholars were pioneering new forms of biblical criticism, particularly in Germany, where biblical scholarship was not under Church control as it was elsewhere in Europe. H. S. Reimarus , Professor of Hebrew and Oriental Languages at Hamburg, rejected the biblical miracle stories, held that Jesus was a failed revolutionary, and deduced that biblical authors were fraudulent. Such opinions were highly controversial, and would have cost Reimarus his job if they had been published during his lifetime.

    Scholars started wondering who had written the Pentateuch if it had not been Moses. J. G. Eichorn (1752-1827), a German Old Testament scholar, confirmed d"Astruc's view that there are two distinct strands in Genesis, a J strand where God is called Jahveh, and an E strand where he is referred to as Elohim. There were thus at least two authors. Eichorn's work was fiercely rejected by theologians, and attempts to have it translated into English were frustrated by Church and university authorities. It was finally translated only in the twentieth century.

    By the end of the eighteenth century scholarly scepticism was gathering pace, though scholars were still paying a high price for their integrity. W. M. L. De Wette , a Berlin professor in the first part of the nineteenth century, doubted biblical miracles and regarded the stories of Jesus" birth and the Resurrection as mythical. He was deprived of his professorial chair. Around the same time F. C. Baur founded the Tübingen School, which held that the New Testament was largely a second century synthesis of ideas from Jewish followers of Peter and gentile followers of Paul. In 1835 the first part of D. F. Strauss's Leben Jesu (Life of Jesus) was published. Comparing the gospel accounts, Strauss deduced that the miracle stories were mythical, and that the gospel stories were not eyewitness accounts, but later conflations of garbled traditions. He was dismissed from his post at Tübingen University. His colleagues, though sympathetic, dared not speak out for fear of their own positions.

    No matter how many teachers were dismissed, or professors deprived of their chairs, the movement was now unstoppable. In the same year the Berlin philologist Karl Lachmann argued that contrary to Church teaching, the Mark gospel was an earlier work than the Matthew gospel, a view that is now almost universally accepted. By the 1880s Julius Wellhausen had identified the four main strands running through the Pentateuch.

    Closely related to textual analysis of the Bible was modernism. Modernists accepted the fallibility not only of the Bible, but also of other authorities, including tradition, councils and popes.

    Modernists were however still sincere Christians. Attempting to salvage something from the consequences of their own scholarship they advocated the reinterpretation of Church teachings. They held that Christianity must be continuously revised in the light of contemporary requirements and advances in scientific opinion. As time went on, and scholarship became more refined, positions veered ever further from traditional teaching. Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965) believed Jesus to have been a badly mistaken man whose crucifixion came as rather a nasty shock to him. Rudolf Bultmann, Professor at Marburg between 1921 and 1951, saw almost the whole of the New Testament as mythical. German Protestants had to accommodate themselves to an entirely new theology where the Bible was at best figurative rather than literal, and at worst a mish-mash of various people's fantasies. Many scholars, like D. F. Strauss, ended their lives no longer Christians at all.



    The position of the Church of England had been crystallised soon after the Reformation. Its position on any matter of doctrine that might have been in doubt was stated explicitly in the 39 Articles of Religion. The King's Declaration prefixing the Articles specifically prohibited "the least difference from the said Articles" and took pride that clergymen "all agree in the true, usual, literal meaning of the said Articles". Nevertheless, scepticism grew within the Church of England. Many educated people, including at least one Archbishop of Canterbury, had harboured doubts about the Trinity even in the seventeenth century, but most kept their views to themselves*. By the early eighteenth century Anthony Collins was able to point out discrepancies between Old Testament prophecies and their supposed fulfilment in the New*. Widespread doubts were becoming publicly visible in the late eighteenth century as more and more people read Thomas Paine.

    By the nineteenth century a school of Modernists known as Neologians flourished in Oxford. They survived through influential support and a relatively liberal atmosphere. Even so, many clerics felt obliged to leave the Church, even though it meant giving up their university positions. Notable losses included Arthur Hugh Clough (1848), J. A. Froude (1849) and Sir Leslie Stephen (1862). The Professor of Theology at King's College, London lost his chair in 1853 for making observations about eternity that now seem particularly unremarkable*.

    Neologians, or Broad Churchmen as they came to be known, became ever more vocal. Their views seemed particularly threatening after Darwin published The Origin of Species in 1859. In 1860 a collection of Essays and Reviews by Broad Churchmen raised a storm of controversy, and two of its authors were tried for heresy: one for denying the inspiration of scripture, the other for denying eternal punishment. Five counts were upheld in the ecclesiastical court (the Court of Arches), and sentence passed, but the verdicts were overturned on appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. At around the same time the Bishop of Natal in South Africa was also tried for heresy for pointing out biblical contradictions, denying accepted authorship and doubting eternal punishment. He was condemned, deprived and excommunicated, but then acquitted on appeal to the Privy Council.

    The requirements of His Majesty's declaration had become untenable. In 1865 an Act of Parliament, the Clerical Subscription Act, decreed that the clergy were not to be bound by every word of the 39 Articles, but that they should assent to their general tone and meaning. The Church approved this in the following year. It opened the door to questioning all of the Articles openly, although the implicit understanding was that theologians should do so only amongst themselves. It was a sort of open secret among the educated classes that science had discredited traditional teachings and that they could no longer be interpreted literally. Yet it was not permissible to admit such a thing openly. In the 1880s an eminent Scottish professor, William Robertson Smith, was tried for contributing articles to the Encyclopaedia Britannica that discussed Wellhausen's discoveries and suggested the Bible could be analysed scientifically. Smith won his case but lost his chair at Aberdeen University.

    The fallibility of traditional Church teaching was still a sort of open secret, and scholars were still expected to keep quiet about certain matters in public. In the twentieth century a number of leading churchmen caused uproar in the Church by breaking this convention, for example by openly rejecting the Virgin Birth, denying the Resurrection, and questioning whether Christ had instituted the Eucharist at the Last Supper. Among them have been E. W. Barnes, the Bishop of Birmingham, in 1947; and J. A. T. Robinson, the Bishop of Woolwich, with his book Honest To God in 1963. Robinson felt safe enough to concede that "God is intellectually superfluous, emotionally dispensable and morally intolerable". Later, numerous theologians contributed to The Myth of God Incarnate in 1977; and David Jenkins, Prince Bishop of Durham, made various pronouncements throughout the 1980s on subjects such as his scepticism about Jesus" physical Resurrection. In his 1998 book Why Christianity Must Change or Die, John Spong Episcopal bishop of Newark, New Jersey, dismissed the idea that Jesus was divine and pointed out that the God that most traditional Christians believe in is an ogre. Richard Holloway, Archbishop of Edinburgh, published a book called Godless Morality in 1999, destroying the myth that morality is a specifically Christian characteristic. Each time there were excited calls for resignations, defrockings and heresy trials. The furore was not so much over the ideas, which were increasingly widely shared, but over the breaking of the convention that the faithful masses should not be told about scholarly opinion within the Church.


    Roman Catholics

    The experience of the Roman Church was somewhat different. It was wary of allowing its scholars access to the opinions of others because so many had so often defected in the past. A number of crusaders, for example, had joined the Eastern Churches, or converted to Islam, and preachers sent to convert heretics were themselves frequently converted. Even senior churchmen defected, most notably Bernardino Ochino (1487-1564). Ochino, who had been head of the Capuchin Order, had been granted permission to study Protestant books in order to refute them. In the course of his studies he converted to Protestantism. A safer reaction to the views of non-Catholics was to ignore them. Such views were heretical, and no good could come from studying them. The best safeguard was ignorance.

    Traditionalist Catholics saw Modernism as a dangerous heresy, its evil tentacles embacing schools, churches, colleges and other Christian institutions. Cartoon by Catholic cartoonist E J Pace (1880-1946)

    Pope Clement XI, in his constitution Unigenitus of 1713, insisted that the reading of the holy scriptures was not for everyone. Open debate was not for Roman Catholics. No matter that the genie had been long gone, the Roman Church still hoped to force the stopper back into the bottle. Cardinal Newman, who regarded anyone who questioned the infallibility of the Bible as being wicked at heart, kept his copy of Paine's The Age of Reason locked up in a safe to protect his students.

    Late in the nineteenth century Roman Catholic theologians became aware of the spectacular progress in understanding of the origins of the Bible that had been made by German Protestants. Catholic scholars were being left far behind, as the Germans" critical approach was almost universally accepted in academic circles outside the Roman Church. The then Pope, Leo XIII, relented. He permitted new research because he wanted Roman Catholic scholars to be able to refute the views of Protestant ones. His hopes misfired, for the more his theologians studied the Bible scientifically, the less easy they found it to accommodate themselves to Roman dogma.

    A Roman Catholic Modernist movement soon created difficulties throughout Europe. In England the Modernist George Tyrrell was obliged to retire to the countryside after writing about Hell in 1899. He was later expelled from the Jesuit order and excommunicated. In France the threat to orthodoxy grew ever greater. Theological books by Lucien Laberthonnière in 1903 and 1904 were placed on the Index. Pierre Batiffol, who was associated with the Modernists, was forced to resign as Rector of the Institut Catholique at Toulouse in 1905, and his book on the Eucharist was placed on the Index in 1911. Alfred Loisy, one of the leaders of Roman Catholic Modernism in France, published works that acknowledged that, far from being divine and infallible, the Bible is full of errors. He doubted the Virgin Birth and the authenticity of the John gospel. Five of his works were placed on the Index in 1903-4, he lost his chair at the Institut Catholique in Paris, and he was excommunicated in 1907, along with Tyrrell.

    The Catholic cartoonist E J Pace, perhaps correctly, saw Modernism as the first step towards atheism. In the cartoon below drawn in 1922 he intends to horrify his readership by showing the steps from Christianity to atheism. It is not obvious why "no diety" appears before "agnosticism".


    Modernism was in danger of running away with orthodoxy, and had to be stopped. Pope Pius X condemned the Modernist movement in the decree Lamentabili, as part of his attack on theological novelties in 1907. He treated progress as something akin to heresy. Soon afterwards a papal encyclical, Pascendi dominici gregis, envisaged a massive conspiracy, inspired by Protestants, to undermine the Roman Church. The Pope was particularly opposed to the heresy of Americanism — a species of Modernism that upheld democracy, progress, secular education and unfettered reason. In 1910 Pius authorised a strong anti-Modernist oath to be taken by all ministers and teachers. More writers were excommunicated, and the Church was cleansed. Modernism apparently disappeared from the Roman Church, and Roman Catholic teaching was back in the Middle Ages. A Handbook of Heresies, published some 20 years later and bearing the Roman Catholic imprimatur, states the position as follows:

    In the Catholic Church, true to the dogmatic principle taught by the living Voice, Modernism could retain no foothold. Outside the Unity it was far otherwise: in all sects, but especially the Anglican Establishment, owing to her boast of comprehensiveness, and to her purposely ambiguous formulas, modernism has triumphed. One by one the old creeds, the old doctrines are restated, re-interpreted, rejected. To-day there is no sect in Europe of any size or standing that dares insist on the acceptance of any dogma whatever — in its literal meaning — as a condition of membership or even ministry. The Catholic Church alone stands today as she has ever stood, judging — not judged by — modern thought ...*

    The position is not really quite so straightforward. For one thing popes are still finding it necessary to censor clerical opinion. Hans Küng, Edward Schillebeeckx and Leonardo Boff have all been silenced for voicing opinions that differ from the Pope's . The first woman to hold a chair of Roman Catholic theology (Uta Ranke-Heinemann) had her teaching licence withdrawn in 1987, after she questioned the Virgin Birth. On the other hand, during the twentieth century the Roman Church has slowly been doing what it always said it would never do, reconciling itself to progress. Around the beginning of the 1980s, Pope John Paul II finally acknowledged what Eichorn had known well over a century before, that there are two distinct strands in Genesis, a J strand where God is called Jahveh, and an E strand where God is referred to as Elohim*. If John Paul II had said this when he was a young priest, he would never have been allowed a licence to teach theology, and could have been excommunicated as a Modernist heretic. If he had said it a few centuries earlier he would have been burned at the stake. The fact is that the Roman Church shifts ground just like the more liberal Churches — it is just that it moves so slowly that not everybody notices.

    Many biblical scholars now agree with Thomas Paine that the biblical story of Jesus has every mark of fraud and imposition stamped upon the face of it, and they may not have to wait long before a pope agrees, although his wording may be a little more diplomatic.


    New Scriptural Texts

    He who will not reason is a bigot; he who cannot is a fool, and he who dare not is a slave. George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788-1824)

    There are still a few sensitive areas where Churches will try to defeat science and scholarship by the traditional techniques of interpreting and "losing" important evidence. We have seen that traditionally the Church would destroy inconvenient writings and replace them with its own forgeries. It cannot hope to get away with forgeries in the twenty-first century, but there is still scope for traditional methods of manipulation. One such case in which the Roman Church has been involved is that of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which have been described as the most important archaeological discovery ever*.

    In 1948 a number of ancient scrolls were discovered in a cave in the Judæan hills, at a place called Qumran. More scrolls were discovered buried in nearby caves. The scrolls dated from before AD 70, most of them Old Testament biblical texts at least 1,000 years older than other known copies. There were also other texts, previously unknown. The excavation of these scrolls was overseen by Father Roland de Vaux, a Roman Catholic priest, who taught at the Ecole Biblique et Archéologique, a French Catholic Theological School in Jerusalem. This institution was run by Dominicans, and had been established in 1890, in accordance with the Church's then policy of using biblical and archaeological studies to strengthen the faith.

    Some of the scrolls disappeared, but others ended up in the Rockefeller Museum, the Palestine Archaeological Museum in East Jerusalem. A group of scholars was assembled to study the scrolls under the leadership of de Vaux, almost all Christians, and with a heavy concentration of Roman Catholics nominated by the Ecole. No Jews were included, ostensibly for political reasons, although the scrolls were clearly Jewish, and needed a Jewish historian to set them in context. No atheists were included, although one agnostic, John Allegro, was allowed access to selected texts. De Vaux continued to refuse to allow any Jews to work on the scrolls in the Rockefeller, even after Jerusalem came under Israeli control in 1967.

    It was soon apparent that the scrolls contained information that did not fit well with Christian orthodoxy. In particular the scrolls revealed that whoever occupied Qumran, they had their own Davidic messiah, whom they regarded as a "son of God" and as begotten of God. This text was not officially published, although details were leaked and published in the Biblical Archaeology Review in 1990*. In other inconvenient texts, the word messiah is translated as "thine anointed" apparently in order to disguise its full import — exactly as earlier translators had done with biblical texts. Also it came to light that the Qumran community practised baptism, recognised 12 leaders based in Jerusalem, and shared goods in common (cf. Acts 2:44-6). They also used many phrases now regarded as characteristically Christian (such as "followers of the Way" and "poor in spirit"). They also recognised a Teacher of Righteousness, echoing a title accorded to Jesus" brother James and perhaps to Jesus himself*. They ate meals together, a priest blessing the bread and wine.

    And when they gather for the Community table …and mix the wine for drinking, let no man stretch forth his hand on the first of the bread or the wine before the priest, for it is he who will bless the first fruits of bread and wine…And afterwards, the Messiah of Israel shall stretch out his hands upon the bread.... *

    Some passages link together and explain early Christian texts, but these too were not published. Despite many striking similarities between the community at Qumran and early Christianity, the Roman Catholic Church scholars insisted that they were completely different. De Vaux consistently misinterpreted evidence — archaeological, numismatic, textual and palaeographological in order to make the facts fit his preconceptions. Despite the evidence he continued to hold that the site was occupied by a peace-loving Essene community, and that it dated from a century or two before Christian times. In fact there is good evidence that Zealots occupied the site during and after the time of Jesus. De Vaux and his fellow priests not only advocated their own (objectively untenable) theory, but they also did their best to discredit anyone who made alternative suggestions about interpretation, virulently denouncing scholars like John Allegro, Robert Eisenman and Edmund Wilson who pointed out that de Vaux's team had interpreted the texts to suit their own religious beliefs. Sometimes the team found it necessary to minimise the importance of texts that do not conform to Roman Catholic preconceptions. In a particularly striking example, de Vaux dismissed one scroll (the important "copper scroll") as a mere fantasy, claiming that it was of interest to historians of folk-lore, and dismissing it as "a whimsical product of a deranged mind".

    A suspicious level of control was exercised in the allocation of material, and some of it was kept secret. All fragments were brought first to de Vaux or another Ecole nominee (Milik), and complete secrecy was kept until they had had the opportunity to study them*. By the mid-1950s a gulf was opening up between John Allegro and other members of the team. Allegro's objective assessments were not at all to the liking of his Christian colleagues.

    In 1956 de Vaux was appointed to the Pontifical Biblical Commission , providing a direct chain of control from the Vatican. Since 1956 every director of the Ecole Biblique has also been a member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission. The Church seemed to be tightening its grip. By the end of 1957 Allegro realised that "the non-Catholic members of the team are being removed as quickly as possible.... "*. Later he claimed that ".... de Vaux will stop at nothing to control the scrolls material" and "I am convinced that if something does turn up which affects Roman Catholic dogma, the world will never see it. De Vaux will scrape the money out of some other barrel and send the lot to the Vatican to be hidden or destroyed.... "*. Since the Catholic faction exerted total control, there is no way of knowing whether Allegro was right. Many suspect that inconvenient material was suppressed, in much the same way that inconvenient material has been suppressed in previous centuries.

    Access to the scrolls was allowed only to those who could be trusted to promote the approved Church line. This seems to have been one reason why Jewish scholars were denied access, despite the fact that the scrolls were Jewish documents, written by Jews for Jews. Ignorance of Judaism was no bar to being involved, and dislike of Judaism appears to have been acceptable. John Strugnell, who became head of the Qumran team in 1987, published almost nothing of the mass of materials available to him. He was unusually open about his views on Judaism, even if badly mistaken about his facts. In a widely reported interview he disclosed that Judaism is "a horrible religion. It's a Christian heresy, and we deal with our heretics in different ways"*. Apart from any other implications, this did little to inspire confidence in his scholarship, and particularly his understanding of the relationship between Judaism and Christianity.

    In the opinion of many, the secrecy surrounding the Dead Sea Scrolls is an outrage*. The scrolls were kept secret for decades by men with strong religious convictions and a strong interest in maintaining Roman Catholic orthodoxy whatever the objective evidence might be. De Vaux never published a final report of the original excavations. There has never been a full inventory of all the scrolls and fragments , and some of the more interesting texts were published after forty years only because they had been leaked. After half a century, Allegro, the sole agnostic, was still the only scholar to have published all of the material in his care. The failure of the others is widely recognised as scandalous. Morton Smith, Professor Emeritus of Religion at Columbia University, has described the failure to publish the scrolls as "too disgusting" even to talk about. Geza Vermes, Reader in Jewish Studies at Oxford University, has called the secrecy about and excessive control over the scrolls "the academic scandal par excellence of the twentieth century".

    There are other candidates for the title "the academic scandal par excellence of the twentieth century", including archaeological abuses. An example is the archaeology carried out at St. Peter's Basilica, the church of the Vatican. According to a late tradition Saint Peter was buried here. In 1939 an archaeological excavation in the grottoes below the current Basilica uncovered Roman mausoleums from the necropolis. In the area under the high altar, the excavators found a structure resembling a temple that they named the aedicula (meaning little temple). There, they allegedly found the tomb of St Peter. This discovery lacks scientific credibility and a number of scholars consider the findings fraudulent. Here are a few of the relevant factors:

    • The excavators were Jesuits
    • Although it was already known that the basilica was built on top of a large pagan necropolis on the Vatican Hill, but no relevant independent experts with this specialism were involved.
    • the entire excavation was kept secret for 10 years.
    • The excavation destroyed the aedicula floor. Inadequate records were kept, so that it is impossible for independent archaeologists to assess whether the findings are genuine
    • the bones were found when the pope himself visited the excavation
    • An independent scholar allowed to examine the bones was only allowed to do so on condition that he did not publish the results.
    • The bones cannot all be Peter's, there are leg bones from at least 5 separate legs. The bones also includes the remains of farm animals.
    • The arrangement of bones sounds distinctly unlikely for the burial of an important Christian. The various bones, including chicken bones, had been heaped together and piled under a wall in an otherwise empty grave.
    • Soil attached to the bones does not appear to match soil in the grave.
    • In 1942, the Administrator of St. Peter's, Monsignor Ludwig Kaas,who oversaw the dig, but had no knowledge of archaeological practice, secretly ordered some of the bones to be stored elsewhere for safe-keeping.
    • After Kaas's death, tests revealed that the remains belonged to a man in his sixties. On the basis of this, Pope Paul VI announced on June 26, 1968 ,that the relics of St. Peter had been discovered. Antonio Ferrua, the leading archaeologist at the excavation said that he was not convinced that the bones that were found were those of St. Peter
    • There is no evidence that the grave was that of Saint Peter. The identification is based on an incomplete graffito, one possible meaning of which is "Peter is here". This graffito is itself suspect, but even if it were genuine and even if the incomplete text " en..." had been correctly interpreted as, it could mean "Peter [the graffiti artist] was here".
    • The graffito was found after the bones, when Catholics were looking for a connection to Peter.
    • The graffito was found on a piece of plaster. There is no photograph or other record of the location of the original plaster. The plaster is a fragment which had allegedly broken from a nearby wall. It is no longer possible to determine where it came from.

    The Church still advertises the site as the tomb of Saint Peter. Sceptical scholars suspect deliberate manipulation by someone who did not think through the implications of their fraud. Sceptics suggest that bones had been collected by the excavators from around the necropolis, and grouped together by Jesuits or Vatican officials, the graffito having also been found elsewhere, and possibly chipped to leave a few words that can be interpreted as meaning that Peter was nearby. By doing this, the Jesuits would be relieved of the embarrassment of a Pagan temple directly under the high alter of Saint Peter's Basilica, and furnished with evidence of the existence of the man they regard as the first pope. The sceptics' case is bolstered by the fact that the Vatican has still not permitted a proper independent scientific investigation of the evidence.




    A great deal of intellectual dishonesty is evidenced in the history of Christianity. This dishonesty seems to have continued from the earliest times to the present day. Why should any organisation have engaged in such extensive forgery, destruction and manipulation? Why have honest scholars been persecuted for 2,000 years whenever they have pointed out a problem? And why has it been necessary to shift ground so radically — so radically that bishops and popes now hold beliefs that were previously so heretical that people were burned alive for holding them?



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    §. Redwood, Reason, Ridicule and Religion , Ch. 7.

    §. Anthony Collins, Discourse of the Grounds and Reasons of the Christian Religion, 1724

    §. This was Frederick Denison Maurice, whose Theological Essays was published that year.

    §. Cozens, A Handbook of Heresies, p 85.

    §. Pope John Paul II's mention of the E and J strands was made during his Wednesday addresses on love and sexuality between 5 th August 1979 and 21 st May 1980.

    §. Harrington, Wisdom Texts from Qumran, p 92.

    §. The text is catalogued as 4Q246, Biblical Archaeology Review, March/April 1990, p 24, cited in Baigent and Leigh, The Dead Sea Scrolls Deception, pp 98 and 111.

    §. Zaddik (The "Righteous One" or the "Just One") occurs repeatedly in the Dead Sea Scrolls. For the title Zaddik applied to James see Eusebius, The History of the Church, 2:1 and 2:23 citing Clement of Alexandria, Hegesippus and Josephus. For the same title used by Stephen (presumably referring to Jesus) see Acts 7:52.

    §. The Rule of the Congregation, ii, 11-22.

    §. Letter from John Allegro to Muilenburg, 24 th December 1957, cited in Baigent and Leigh, The Dead Sea Scrolls Deception, p 101.

    §. Letter from John Allegro to Muilenburg, 24 th December 1957, cited in Baigent and Leigh, The Dead Sea Scrolls Deception, p 101.

    §. Letter from John Allegro to Awni Dajani, 10 th January 1959, cited in Baigent and Leigh, The Dead Sea Scrolls Deception, p 101.

    §. New York Times, 12 th December 1990.

    §. Much has been written about the academic scandal par excellence of the twentieth century, notably by John Allegro and Geza Vermes (both non-Catholic scholars in the field). A more populist work explains the scandal to a more general readership: Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh, The Dead Sea Scrolls Deception, Corgi (1992).

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