Of Watchtowers, and Chatelaines, and a Wolf in the Flock

Icon depicting the First Council of Nicaea.

Icon depicting the First Council of Nicaea. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You know, I used to write some about Christianity, for the most part, I don’t anymore. There is a reason for that, and it’s not that I’ve changed.

The reason is that my co-author, Jess and her contributors, at All along the Watchtower, do a far better job, so why be a pale imitation, when you can go and read the real thing. Watching it grow from its founding one year ago today (I found it at the end of June)has been one of the favorite things in my life.

Jess has taken it from post number one through 760+ posts and 62,000 views and 12,000+ comments, with six authors, and more to the point she has done it without losing the special tone that she imparts to it.

I am to blame for her sometimes being called the Chatelaine and I am quite proud of it but I may have been superseded this week when a distinguished commenter said this.”…Your blog is turning into a fascinating salon, with yourself as a deft and sympathetic Madame Recamier.” I will easily yield pride of place for that title.

I have no idea of how Jess has done it but she has managed to take a bunch of very strong willed Christians from across the spectrum, as well as the globe, and get us to all play nice (mostly) with each other. It’s a very impressive performance.

So follow this link over and say congratulations to her, and then look around a bit at what I firmly believe is the best ecumenical (while not syncretic) blog in all the internet. I promise you’ll be fascinated, and most likely enchanted as well.

For myself, I’,m very proud to be her friend, and to share my little pulpit with her.

Happy Anniversary, Jess, and many more.

And then; there is this

From the Washington Post:

Growing up Catholic in England, Candida Moss felt secure in life, yet was told in church that Christians have been persecuted since the dawn of Christianity. Now, as an adult and a theologian, she wants to set the record straight.Too many modern Christians invoke, to lamentable effect, an ancient history of persecution that didn’t exist, Moss argues in her newly published book, “The Myth of Persecution: How Early Christians Invented A Story of Martyrdom.”

Although anti-Christian prejudice was fairly widespread in the church’s first 300 years, she writes, “the prosecution of Christians was rare, and the persecution of Christians was limited to no more than a handful of years.”
We asked Moss, professor of New Testament and early Christianity at the University of Notre Dame, to talk about the travails of early Christians, and how they are misappropriated in the public sphere today. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Q: You argue that modern myths of Christian persecution are rooted in an ancient myth, and you focus on Pliny, a first- and second-century Roman who governed what is now Turkey. Why should we know about him?

A: He’s the first Roman official to actually talk about Christians. He writes to the Emperor Trajan and says, “What am I supposed to do about them? They’re not doing anything wrong, but when they’re in the courtroom they’re very stubborn.” Those charges could get you killed in the Roman world. And Pliny has other concerns: Christians were not purchasing the meat associated with the Roman temples. And he thinks of Christians not as a religious group, but prone to superstition, which the Romans considered a kind of madness that could spread like a disease.

Pliny and Trajan agree that there will be no seeking out of Christians, but if they do end up in courtrooms and are stubborn, he will give them three chances to curse Christ and make a sacrifice in the Roman temple. If they don’t, they will be killed. I’m not saying what Pliny did was right, but it’s very far from the story I grew up with, about Christians being hunted down.

Candida Moss debunks the ‘myth’ of Christian persecution – The Washington Post.,

Which is sort of fine, her examples are, I think, correct. But it strikes me as very disingenuous to write an article on persecution of Christians, and not mention Nero. It strikes me also as far beyond reason to write that article without mentioning either classical or modern Islam. And so what we have here is a very slanted article, designed more than anything to get Obama of the hook for the birth control mandate. And my verdict on the effort?



St. George’s Day

St George's Cross - the flag of England.

St George’s Cross – the flag of England. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


So it’s the feast day of the saint who may be the most famous of the dragonslayers. Nobody really seems to know much about him but, he’s a busy saint. he does seem to have been a Roman soldier and Eusebius wrote about him, maybe.


Here’s what the Catholic Herald UK had to say


St George is patron saint not merely of England, but of Aragon, Catalonia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Greece, Lithuania, Palestine, Portugal and Russia. It is just a shame that nothing certain is known about him.

The tale of a distinguished soldier in the Roman army, who was tortured and martyred after tearing up the edict which instituted the Emperor Diocletian’s persecution of 303, is first found in Eusebius’s Ecclesiastical History (c 325).
Eusebius, though, never accorded a name to this martyr, describing him simply as “a man of no mean origin”. It is pure conjecture to hazard that he might have been referring to St George.

During Constantine’s reign (306-337) a church was built at Lydda, in Palestine, and dedicated to “a man of the highest distinction”. This important personage was subsequently identified as St George; once more, however, faith had outrun proof.
All that can be safely established is that the cult of St George originated in Palestine and during the fourth century spread into the Eastern Empire, from where it seeped gradually westwards.

In 494 Pope Gelasius I included George among those “whose names are rightly reverenced among us, but whose actions are known only to God”.

The first reference to St George in England is found in the Martyrology of the Venerable Bede, who died in 735. The earliest church dedication to St George in this country, certainly no later than the ninth century, was at Fordington, near Dorchester.

The story of St George and the Dragon was first discovered in Turkey and Georgia, during the 11th century. This legend was probably brought to England by Crusaders returning from the Holy Land. It gained immensely in popularity after it was included in Voragine’s Golden Legend (c 1270), which Caxton published in 1483.

Well before that, however, Richard I (1189-99) had solicited St George’s aid on Crusade, and seems to have adopted the flag with the red cross of the martyr. Edward III (1327-77) made George patron of the Knights of the Garter; and after the saint had been successfully invoked at the battle of Agincourt (1415) Archbishop Chichele ordered that St George’s Day should be observed on the same scale as Christmas Day.


Continue reading  St. George, the Soldier Saint


And so:


Advance banners in the name of St. George and England



Fascinating News: 13th Century Byzantine Chapel Found

From the NY Times a very fascinating story, via the Anchoress

Myra-Andriake Excavations

DEMRE, Turkey — In the fourth century A.D., a bishop named Nicholas transformed the city of Myra, on the Mediterranean coast of what is now Turkey, into a Christian capital.

Myra-Andriake Excavations

One wall of the chapel has a cross-shaped window that, when sunlit, beams its shape onto an altar table.

Myra-Andriake Excavations

A vibrant fresco that is unusual for Turkey was perfectly preserved.

Nicholas was later canonized, becoming the St. Nicholas of Christmas fame. Myra had a much unhappier fate.

After some 800 years as an important pilgrimage site in the Byzantine Empire it vanished — buried under 18 feet of mud from the rampaging Myros River. All that remained was the Church of St. Nicholas, parts of a Roman amphitheater and tombs cut into the rocky hills.

But now, 700 years later, Myra is reappearing.

Archaeologists first detected the ancient city in 2009 using ground-penetrating radar that revealed anomalies whose shape and size suggested walls and buildings. Over the next two years they excavated a small, stunning 13th-century chapel sealed in an uncanny state of preservation. Carved out of one wall is a cross that, when sunlit, beams its shape onto the altar. Inside is a vibrant fresco that is highly unusual for Turkey.

The chapel’s structural integrity suggests that Myra may be largely intact underground. “This means we can find the original city, like Pompeii,” said Nevzat Cevik, an archaeologist at Akdeniz University who is director of the excavations at Myra, beneath the modern town of Demre.

Mark Jackson, a Byzantine archaeologist at Newcastle University in England, who was not involved in the research, called the site “fantastic,” and added,“This level of preservation under such deep layers of mud suggests an extremely well-preserved archive of information.”

Occupied since at least the fourth century B.C., Myra was one of the most powerful cities in Lycia, with a native culture that had roots in the Bronze Age. It was invaded by Persians, Hellenized by Greeks, and eventually controlled by Romans.

Fascinating stuff

Hinge of History

English: Español: Trabajo propio. Máxima exten...

English: Español: Trabajo propio. Máxima extensión del Imperio Romano. Superpuesto en un mapa físico. Deutsch: (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We’ve talked several times here about events in history which have repercussions to our own day and beyond. For instance we talked about the Golden Hinds circumnavigation of the world,  we talked about the most famous day for battles in the English speaking world, including the first time since the Roman Empire when common freemen defeated the aristocracy, St. Crispin’s Day, we have even discussed the introduction of fire-breathing dragons to the battlefield. Today we’re going to discuss another one of them, which may be of nearly the same importance as Salamis.

What could that be? 2003 years ago on or about today, three Roman legions got ambushed and wiped out in the Teutoburger Wald. The antagonists were Varus a very corrupt former governor of Syria and Arminius (whose name is sometimes Germanized as Hermann).

I could tell you about it but I think I’ll let Cassius Dio a Roman historian do it instead. Read more of this post

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