Ancient Roman legal text describes how early Christian books destroyed

Ancient Roman legal text describes how early Christian books were destroyed

The Culture
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[Gloria Romanorum Blog] It is a common theme in our post-Christian age to tar the early Church with certain atrocities against philosophy and science. One of the accusations most commonly trotted out is that the Christians burned the world-famous library at Alexandria. This “perniciously persistent” myth is tidily demolished by David Bentley Hart in a 2010 article in First Things. But even if the myth were true, the Roman Christians had a model to follow in that Hellenistic pagans themselves consigned Christian books to the flames during the persecutions. For a period of about eight years in the early 4th century AD, it was mandated by law that Christian books be burned, and Roman authorities went door-to-door in certain cities searching for them.

VIDEO: [Ancient Mysteries] Leonard Nimoy (a.k.a. Star Trek’s ‘Mr. Spock’) narrates this documentary on the beginning and possible end(s) of the famous Library of Alexandria. [Mar. 10, 2017]


During the earliest phase of the Great Persecution under the emperors Diocletian and Galerius, beginning an AD 303, an edict was promulgated demanding that all Christian books be burned. Here is the mention of this edict from the Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius, written about 20-30 years after the event:

“It was the nineteenth year of Diocletian’s reign [AD 303] and the month Dystrus, called March by the Romans, and the festival of the Saviour’s Passion was approaching, when an imperial decree was published everywhere, ordering the churches to be razed to the ground and the Scriptures destroyed by fire…”

Early Christian churches often housed libraries of valuable scriptural, catechetical, and historical works. But because churches were easy targets for persecutors, copies of Christian Scriptures and other books were dispersed in the homes of the minor orders: subdeacons, lectors and even grave-diggers.

We know that the burning of Christian books by imperial mandate did happen thanks to notices in other historical sources, including a fascinating Roman legal report taken in the city of Cirta in the province of Numidia. This report was read out during a trial in AD 320 and is drawn from the municipal acts of Cirta recorded by the curator Munatius Felix, a pagan.

This article continues at [Gloria Romanorum Blog] “The Scriptures Destroyed by Fire” ~ An official Roman transcript from the Great Persecution of AD 304

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