Wheless, "Forgery in Christianity" - Checking the quotes
Part 1 : The Introduction

This sort of page is something I would rather not do.  Even the worst author may set someone on the path towards the light of knowledge.  However I find that a great many people presume that Wheless can be relied on for quotations from the Fathers.  Many of these quotes are somewhat strange.  It seemed to me, therefore, a good idea to test the accuracy of them.

In 1930 an American attorney named Joseph Wheless published a book with the title "Forgery in Christianity: ...".  The book is online here.   The purpose of the book was to provide a reference collection of embarassing quotations from Christian authors, and particularly the fathers:

"The proofs of my indictment ... are to be found in amplest retore of history and accredited ecclesiastic authorities, and in abounding incautious admissions made by the Accredited spokesmen of the Accused ... My task is simply to bring together the documentary proofs and expose them before the astonished eyes of the modern reader; that is the prime merit of my work. To accomplish this purpose with unimpeachable certitude, I need and make no apology for the liberal use of quotation marks in presenting the ensuing startling array of accusations and confessions; to be followed by the plenary proofs." (Intro pp.11-12).

The book is still in print, and is often referenced by the unwary.  The bile of the author is plain to any reader, but the value or otherwise of the book, as the author intended, is as a collection of proof-texts.

But we must ask whether the quotations are firstly accurate, and then fair.  We've all met the sort of 'quote' which is verbally accurate but so selected and arranged as to tell a fairy-story, if only in a TV documentary.  Wheless relied primarily upon the Catholic Encyclopedia, and upon the Ante-Nicene, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers collection.  These are now online, and the task of checking his statements is therefore relatively easy.   This page examines the citations from the Introduction to the work, and compares them with their sources.

Wheless also uses the Diegesis of the renegade 19th century clergyman Robert Taylor, whose life makes such odd reading in the Dictionary of National Biography.  The DNB mentions the work as 'a curious medley of random judgments and passages of secondhand learning.'

I have not checked his citations of authors such as Ingersoll and Lecky, and of course the documents of his own era, newspapers and the like, are likewise left alone.

The criteria I propose to use are these:

  1. Is the reference correct?
  2. Is the citation verbally accurate?
  3. Does the citation fairly represent the views of the author as expressed in that document?  (i.e. has the citation been made selectively to distort the quotation, or does it include all relevant words/phrases/qualifications?)

I have attached a summary, as it is a weary business to trudge through all this invective.

1. Wheless, Intro, p.5:

What Cicero said of the Pythian Oracles may as truly be applied to every form of priestcraft: "When men began to be less credulous, their power vanished."

Note the absence of a citation. However it is probably from Cicero's dialogue with Quintus, "De divinatione": (<http://www.thelatinlibrary.com/cic.divinatione.html>). The citation seems to be a very free paraphrase of the last two sentences of Book II, chapter 57, sect. 117:

LVII 117 Sed, quod caput est, cur isto modo iam oracla Delphis non eduntur non modo nostra aetate, sed iam diu [tantum modo], iam ut nihil possit esse contemptius? Hoc loco cum urguentur evanuisse aiunt vetustate vim loci eius, unde anhelitus ille terrae fieret, quo Pythia mente incitata oracla ederet. De vino aut salsamento putes loqui, quae evanescunt vetustate; de vi loci agitur, neque solum naturali, sed etiam divina; quae quo tandem modo evanuit? "Vetustate," inquies. Quae vetustas est, quae vim divinam conficere possit? Quid tam divinum autem quam adflatus e terra mentem ita movens ut eam providam rerum futurarum efficiat, ut ea non modo cernat multo ante, sed etiam numero versuque pronuntiet? Quando ista vis autem evanuit? An postquam homines minus creduli esse coeperunt?

"When however did this power/ability vanish? Was it not after men began to be less credulous?"


COMMENT: It's a misquote, but the general sense is fair enough.

2. Wheless, Intro p.6:

The great Church Father, Bishop St. Augustine (of whom more hereafter), was wise to the psychology of -- at least -- Pagan religion -- the mode of its incipience and the manner of its age-long persistence. The priests and the priest-taught, he tells, instilled the virus of superstition into their victims when "small and weak," when they knew not to resist or healthily to react against the contaminating inoculation; "then, afterwards, it was necessary that succeeding generations should preserve the traditions of their ancestors, drinking in this superstition with their mother's milk." (Augustine, City of God, xxii, 6.) 

NFPF: <http://www.ccel.org/fathers2/NPNF1-02/npnf1-02-28.htm#P4361_2382272>

But who believed that Romulus was a god except Rome, which was itself small and in its infancy? Then afterwards it was necessary that succeeding generations should preserve the tradition of their ancestors; that, drinking in this superstition with their mother's milk, the state might grow and come to such power that it might dictate this belief, as from a point of vantage, to all the nations over whom its sway extended. And these nations, though they might not believe that Romulus was a god, at least said so, that they might not give offence to their sovereign state by refusing to give its founder that title which was given him by Rome, which had adopted this belief, not by a love of error, but an error of love.


COMMENT: Augustine is not talking about religious education. "Small and weak" means Rome itself, not children. This passage of Wheless is grossly misleading to the ordinary reader, even though most of the words are accurate, because of the spin he puts on them, and the gloss added.

3. Wheless, Intro, p.8:

The Churches, the Federal Council of Churches, the Vicar of God and his adjutants, all ply amain the arts of enslaving the babe in the cradle, the child in the school. In the Encyclical of December 31, 1929, the right of the Church to the child is proclaimed as above that of parents and State; the secular public schools are damned, and the prole of the Faithful are forbidden to attend and mingle with the "irreligious" State pupils: "the frequenting of non-Catholic schools, namely, those which are open to Catholic and non-Catholic alike, is forbidden to Catholic children," as such a school is not "a fit place for Catholic students," who must be baited with "the supernatural." (Current History, March 1930, p. 1091, passim.)

These encyclicals are now online: (<http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Pius11/index.htm>). The one in question proves to be 'Rappresentanti In Terra' (On Christian Education) December 31, 1929. (https://www.papalencyclicals.net/pius11/p11rappr.htm ). 


COMMENT: The language is extreme - surely any community is entitled to preserve itself? - but the facts appear to be correct.

4. Wheless, Intro, p.9:

Thus the Church enchains the Reason. The proudest boast today of the Church for its ex-Pagan Saint Augustine, is that: "as soon as a contradiction -- [between his "philosophy" and his religious doctrines] -- arises, he never hesitates to subordinate his philosophy to religion, reason to faith"! (Cath. Encyc. ii, 86.) 

Catholic Encyclopedia, "Life of St. Augustine of Hippo" (<http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02084a.htm>) 

It is now easy to appreciate at its true value the influence of neo-Platonism upon the mind of the great African Doctor. It would be impossible for anyone who has read the works of St. Augustine to deny the existence of this influence. However, it would be a great exaggeration of this influence to pretend that it at any time sacrificed the Gospel to Plato. The same learned critic thus wisely concludes his study: "So long, therefore, as his philosophy agrees with his religious doctrines, St. Augustine is frankly neo-Platonist; as soon as a contradiction arises, he never hesitates to subordinate his philosophy to religion, reason to faith. He was, first of all, a Christian; the philosophical questions that occupied his mind constantly found themselves more and more relegated to the background" (op. cit., 155). But the method was a dangerous one; in thus seeking harmony between the two doctrines he thought too easily to find Christianity in Plato, or Platonism in the Gospel.


COMMENT: The CE author is not discussing  faith and reason, but Christianity and Neo-Platonism!

5. Wheless, Intro, p.9:

So this great ex-Pagan Saint of the Church surrenders his reason to faith, and avers: "I would not believe the Gospels to be true,
unless the authority of the Catholic Church constrained me"! (Augustine, De Genesi.)

This is more difficult.  Firstly, Augustine wrote 3 different works De Genesi : De Genesi Adversus Manichaeos libri II; De Genesi Ad Litteram liber imperfectus; and De Genesi Ad Litteram libri XII.  Secondly none of these existed in English in 1930.  (The first two have never been translated, even now).  (Quasten, Patrology IV pp. 377-8).  So Wheless has not checked his reference, or read the source he quotes.

However Augustine did say something like this, in Contra epistolam Manichaei quam vocant fundamenti liber I.  This exists in the NPNF (<http://www.ccel.org/fathers2/NPNF1-04/npnf1-04-12.htm#P952_485346>)

5. Let us see then what Manichaeeus teaches me; and particularly let us examine that treatment which he calls the Fundamental Epistle, in which almost all that you believe is contained. For in that unhappy time when we read it we were in your opinion enlightened. The epistle begins thus:-" Manichaeus, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the providence of God the Father. These are wholesome words from the perennial and living fountain." Now, if you please, patiently give heed to my inquiry. I do not believe Manichaeus to be an apostle of Christ. Do not, I beg of you, be enraged and begin to curse. For you know that it is my rule to believe none of your statements without consideration. Therefore I ask, who is this Manichaeus? You will reply, An apostle of Christ. I do not believe it. Now you are at a loss what to say or do; for you promised to give knowledge of the truth, and here you are forcing me to believe what I have no knowledge of. Perhaps you will read the gospel to me, and will attempt to find there a testimony to Manichaeus. But should you meet with a person not yet believing the gospel, how would you reply to him were he to say, I do not believe? For my part, I should not believe the gospel except as moved by the authority of the Catholic Church. So when those on whose authority I have consented to believe in the gospel tell me not to believe in Manichaeus, how can I but consent? Take your choice. If you say, Believe the Catholics: their advice to me is to put no faith in you; so that, believing them, I am precluded from believing you;-If you say, Do not believe the Catholics: you cannot fairly use the gospel in bringing me to faith in Manichaeus; for it was at the command of the Catholics that I believed the gospel;-

(Ego vero Evangelio non crederem, nisi me catholicae Ecclesiae commoveret auctoritas. [PL])


COMMENT: Augustine is certainly not discussing gospels, plural, since evangelio is singular.  He is referrring to the scripture.  But he is in fact reiterating the common patristic defense against perversion of the scriptures by heretics (see Tertullian, De praescriptione haereticorum, for a full exposition) by referring back to the churches founded by the apostles and the common doctrine taught by them (he is NOT, of course, articulating the position of the Council of Trent).  Quite why this is unreasonable, Wheless does not say.

6. Wheless, Intro. p.13:

"Substitution of false documents and tampering with genuine ones was quite a trade in the Middle Ages. Innocent III (1198) points out nine species of forgery [of ecclesiastical records] which had come under his notice." (CE. vi, 136.)

Catholic Encyclopedia, "Forgery, Forger":

If a judge discovers an evident forgery he ought to repudiate the document and punish the guilty party; but in case he considers it merely doubtful he ought to make inquiries at the office of the Roman Curia which is supposed to have issued it.

Substitution of false documents and tampering with genuine ones was quite a trade in the Middle Ages. In the chapter Dura vi, "De crimine falsi", written in 1198, (pars decisa), Innocent III relates that he had discovered and imprisoned forgers who had prepared a number of false Bulls, bearing forged signatures either of his predecessor or of himself. To obviate abuses, he orders under pain of excommunication or suspension that pontifical Bulls be received only from the hands of the pope or of the officials charged to deliver them. He orders bishops to investigate suspicious letters, and to make known, to all those having forged letters, that they are bound to destroy them, or to hand them over within twenty days, under pain of excommunication. The same pope legislated severely against forgery and the use of forged documents. In the chapter Ad falsariorum, vii, "De crimine falsi", written in 1201, forgers of Apostolic Letters, whether the actual criminals or their aiders and abetters, are alike excommunicated, and if clerics, are ordered to be degraded and given over to the secular arm.


COMMENT: The author of the CE is making the point that Innocent III tried to stamp out a vice in contemporary society, not trying to promote it!

7. Wheless, Intro. p.13:

Bishop Eusebius of Caesarea, the great "Father of Church History" (324 A.D.) whom Niebuhr terms "a very dishonest writer," -- of which we shall see many notable instances, -- says this: "But it is not our place to describe the sad misfortunes which finally came upon [the Christians], as we do not think it proper, moreover, to, record their divisions and unnatural conduct to each other before the persecution -- [by Diocletian, 305 A.D.]. Wherefore we have decided to relate nothing concerning them except things in which we can vindicate the Divine judgment. ... But we shall introduce into this history in general only those events which may be useful first to ourselves and afterwards to posterity." (Ecclesiastical History, viii, 2; N&PNF. i, 323-324.)


COMMENT: This attack on Eusebius derives from the anti-imperial movement of the 1850's (cf. Cameron & Hall, Eusebius:Vita Constantini, Oxford 1999), and is not accepted as evidence by the patristic scholar Lightfoot, whose verdict on this citation in this context is here.

8. Wheless, Intro. p.13:

Eusebius himself fraudulently "subscribed to the [Trinitarian] Creed formed by the Council of Nicea, but making no secret, in the letter which he wrote to his own Church, of the non-natural sense in which he accepted it." (Cath. Encyc. v, 619.) 

CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Eusebius of Caesarea:

We have already spoken of the profession of faith which he brought forward to vindicate his own orthodoxy, or perhaps in the hope that the council might adopt it. It was, in view of the actual state of the controversy, a colourless, or what at the present day would be called a comprehensive, formula. After some delay Eusebius subscribed to the uncompromising creed drawn up by the council, making no secret, in the letter which he wrote to his own Church, of the non-natural sense in which he accepted it.


COMMENT: Language is extreme, and men may make reservations without being fraudulent, but the basic facts are correct.  Various words have been modified, so it isn't a true quotation, but these changes by Wheless do not seem to much affect the sense.

9. Wheless, Intro. p.13:

As St. Jerome says, "Eusebius is the most open champion of the Arian heresy," which denies the Trinity. (Jerome, Epist. 84, 2; N&PNF. vi, 176.) 

Jerome, Letter 84:

2. It is charged against me that I have sometimes praised Origen. ... I have praised the commentator but not the theologian, the man of intellect but not the believer, the philosopher but not the apostle. ... How foolish it would be to eulogize a system so far as to endorse its blasphemy! The blessed Cyprian takes Tertullian for his master, as his writings prove; yet, delighted as he is with the ability of this learned and zealous writer he does not join him in following Montanus and Maximilla.(4) Apollinaris is the author of a most weighty book against Porphyry, and Eusebius has composed a fine history of the Church; yet of these the former has mutilated Christ's incarnate humanity,(5) while the latter is the most open champion of the Arian impiety.(6) "Woe," says Isaiah, "unto them that call evil good and good evil; that put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter."(7) We must not detract from the virtues of our opponents--if they have any praiseworthy qualities--but neither must we praise the defects of our friends. Each several case must be judged on its own merits and not by a reference to the persons concerned. While Lucilius is rightly assailed by Horace(1) for the unevenness of his verses, he is equally rightly praised for his wit and his charming style.


COMMENT: Arianism was also Trinitarian, and Jerome does not accuse it of this.  Jerome's remark on Eusebius is in passing, not a solemn judgement.

10. Wheless, Intro. p.13:

Bishop Eusebius, as we shall see, was one of the most prolific forgers and liars of his age of the Church, and a great romancer; in his hair-raising histories of the holy Martyrs, he assures us "that on some occasions the bodies of the martyrs who had been devoured by wild beasts, upon the beasts being strangled, were found alive in their stomachs, even after having been fully digested"! (quoted, Gibbon, History, Ch. 37; Lardner, iv, p. 91; Diegesis, p. 272). 

Gibbon, ch. 37 is online, but contains no such phrases.


COMMENT: I have been unable to locate the real source for the quote.  It is doubtless some quote from a romance about a martyr.

11. Wheless, Intro. p.13:

To such an extent had the "pious frauds of the theologians been thus early systematized and raised to the dignity of a regular doctrine," that Bishop Eusebius, "in one of the most learned and elaborate works that antiquity has left us, the Thirty- second Chapter of the Twelfth Book of his Evangelical Preparation, bears for its title this scandalous proposition: 'How it may be Lawful and Fitting to use Falsehood as a Medicine, and for the Benefit of those who Want to be Deceived'" -- (quoting the Greek title; Gibbon, Vindication, p. 76).


COMMENT: This is indeed what Gibbon says, and Wheless repeats it in good faith.  However it is in fact a mistranslation of the Greek chapter title, which itself may not be authorial.  For more notes, see here.

12. Wheless, Intro. p.14:

St. John Chrysostom, the "'Golden Mouthed," in his work 'On the Priesthood,' has a curious panegyric on the clerical habit of telling lies -- "Great is the force of deceit! provided it is not excited by a treacherous intention."' (Comm. on I Cor. ix, 19; Diegesis, p. 309.)

Chrysostom, On the Priesthood, Book 1:

Chrysostom: But, my admirable and excellent Sir, this is the very reason why I took the precaution of saying that it was a good thing to employ this kind of deceit, not only in war, and in dealing with enemies, but also in peace, and in dealing with our dearest friends. For as a proof that it is beneficial not only to the deceivers, but also to those who are deceived; if you go to any of the physicians and ask them how they relieve their patients from disease, they will tell you that they do not depend upon their professional skill alone, but sometimes conduct the sick to health by availing themselves of deceit, and blending the assistance which they derive from it with their art. For when the waywardness of the patient and the obstinacy of the complaint baffle the counsels of the physicians, it is then necessary to put on the mask of deceit in order that, as on the stage, they may be able to hide what really takes place. ... Do you see the advantage of deceit? And if any one were to reckon up all the tricks of physicians the list would run on to an indefinite length. And not only those who heal the body but those also who attend to the diseases of the soul may be found continually making use of this remedy. Thus the blessed Paul attracted those multitudes of Jews:15 with this purpose he circumcised Timothy,16 although he warned the Galatians in his letter17 that Christ would not profit those who were circumcised. For this cause he submitted to the law, although he reckoned the righteousness which came from the law but loss after receiving the faith in Christ.18 For great is the value of deceit, provided it be not introduced with a mischievous intention. In fact action of this kind ought not to be called deceit, but rather a kind of good management, cleverness and skill, capable of finding out ways where resources fail, and making up for the defects of the mind. For I would not call Phinees a murderer, although he slew two human beings with one stroke:19 nor yet Elias after the slaughter of the 100 soldiers, and the captain,20 and the torrents of blood which he caused to be shed by the destruction of those who sacrificed to devils.21 For if we were to concede this, and to examine the bare deeds in themselves apart from the intention of the doers, one might if he pleased judge Abraham guilty of child-murder22 and accuse his grandson23 and descendant24 of wickedness and guile. For the one got possession of the birthright, and the other transferred the wealth of the Egyptians to the host of the Israelites. But this is not the case: away with the audacious thought! For we not only acquit them of blame, but also admire them because of these things, since even God commended them for the same. For that man would fairly deserve to be called a deceiver who made an unrighteous use of the practice, not one who did so with a salutary purpose. And often it is necessary to deceive, and to do the greatest benefits by means of this device, whereas he who has gone by a straight course has done great mischief to the person whom he has not deceived.


COMMENT: Chrysostom wrote 44 sermons on 1 Corinthians, but none on 1 Cor. ix, 19, as a search of the Patrologia Graeca confirms.  The real source is the text on the Priesthood quoted.  This tells us that Wheless did not verify his quotations.  The quote is fair, provided that the analogy with soothing a sick patient is remembered.  The idea derives from Plato.

13. Wheless, Intro. p.14:

Chrysostom was one of the Greek Fathers of the Church, concerning whom Dr. (later Cardinal) Newman thus apologetically spoke: "The Greek Fathers thought that, when there was a justa causa, an untruth need not be a lie. ... Now, as to the just cause, ... the Greek Fathers make them such as these self- defense, charity, zeal for God's honor, and the like." (Newman, Apology for His Life, Appendix G, p. 345-6.) He says nothing of his favorites, the Latin Fathers;

Newman, Apologia pro sua vita, Appendix

And now I think the historical course of thought upon the matter has been this: the Greek Fathers thought that, when there was a justa cause, an untruth need not be a lie. St. Augustine took another view, though with great misgiving; and, whether he is rightly interpreted or not, is the doctor of the great and common view that all untruths are lies, and that there can be no just cause of untruth. In these later times, this doctrine has been found difficult to work, and it has been largely taught that, though all untruths are lies, yet that certain equivocations, when there is a just cause, are not untruths.

Further, there have been and all along through these later ages, other schools, running parallel with the above mentioned, one of which says that equivocations, &c. after all are lies, and another which says that there are untruths which are not lies.

And now as to the "just cause," which is the condition, sine qud non. The Greek Fathers make them such as these, self-defence, charity, zeal for God's honour, and the like.

St. Augustine seems to deal with the same "just causes as the Greek Fathers, even though he does not allow of their availableness as depriving untruths, spoken with such objects, of their sinfulness. He mentions defence of life and of honour, and the safe custody of a secret.


COMMENT: We can see why Newman said this, having looked at Chrysostom.  But since he immediately goes on to discuss the Latin father, Augustine, it is hard to see why Wheless says he does not.  Unless, of course, Wheless did not know that Augustine was one of the Latin fathers?

14. Wheless, Intro. p.14:

The Great Latin Father St. Jerome (c. 340-420), who made the celebrated Vulgate Version of the Bible, and wrote books of the most marvelous Saint-tales and martyr-yarns, thus describes the approved methods of Christian propaganda, of the Fathers, Greek and Latin alike, against the Pagans: "To confute the opposer, now this argument is adduced and now that. One argues as one pleases, saying one thing while one means another. ... Origen, Methodius, Eusebius, and Apollinaris write at great length against Celsus and Porphyry. Consider how subtle are the arguments, how insidious the engines with which they overthrow what the spirit of the devil has wrought. Sometimes, it is true, they are compelled to say not what they think but what is needful. ... 

"I say nothing of the Latin authors, of Tertullian, Cyprian, Minutius, Victorianus, Lactantius, Hilary, lest I should appear not so much to be defending myself as to be assailing others. I will only mention the APOSTLE PAUL. ... He, then, if anyone, ought to be calumniated; we should speak thus to him: 'The proofs which you have used against the Jews and against other heretics bear a different meaning in their own contexts to that which they bear in your Epistles. We see passages taken captive by your pen and pressed into service to win you a victory, which in volumes from which they are taken have no controversial bearing at all ... the line so often adopted by strong men in controversy -- of justifying the means by the result." (Jerome, Epist. to Pammachus, xlviii, 13; N&PNF. vi, 72-73; See post, p. 230.)

Jerome, Letter 48 (To Pammachius):

13. You are, no doubt, men of vast acquirements; but we too have studied in the schools, and, like you, we have learned from the precepts of Aristotle-or, rather, from those which he has derived from Gorgias-that there are different ways of speaking; and we know, among other things, that he who writes for display uses one style, and he who writes to convince, another.1116 In the former case the debate is desultory; to confute the opposer, now this argument is adduced and now that. One argues as one pleases, saying one thing while one means another. To quote the proverb, "With one hand one offers bread, in the other one holds a stone."1117 In the latter case a certain frankness and openness of countenance are necessary. For it is one thing to start a problem and another to expound what is already proved. The first calls for a disputant, the second for a teacher. I stand in the thick of the fray, my life in constant danger: you who profess to teach me are a man of books. "Do not," you say, "attack unexpectedly or wound by a side-thrust. Strike straight at your opponent. You should be ashamed to resort to feints instead of force." As if it were not the perfection of fighting to menace one part and to strike another. Read, I beg of you, Demosthenes or Cicero, or (if you do not care for pleaders whose aim is to speak plausibly rather than truly) read Plato, Theophrastus, Xenophon, Aristotle, and the rest of those who draw their respective rills of wisdom from the Socratic fountain-head. Do they show any openness? Are they devoid of artifice? Is not every word they say filled with meaning? And does not this meaning always make for victory? Origen, Methodius, Eusebius, and Apollinaris1118 write at great length against Celsus and Porphyry.1119 Consider how subtle are the arguments, how insidious the engines with which they overthrow what the spirit of the devil has wrought. Sometimes, it is true, they are compelled to say not what they think but what is needful; and for this reason they employ against their opponents the assertions of the Gentiles themselves. I say nothing of the Latin authors, of Tertullian, Cyprian, Minutius, Victorinus, Lactantius, Hilary, lest I should appear not so much to be defending myself as to be assailing others. I will only mention the Apostle Paul, whose words seem to me, as often as I hear them, to be not words, but peals of thunder. Read his epistles, and especially those addressed to the Romans, to the Galatians, and to the Ephesians, in all of which he stands in the thick of the battle, and you will see how skilful and how careful he is in the proofs which he draws from the Old Testament, and how warily he cloaks the object which he has in view. His words seem simplicity itself: the expressions of a guileless and unsophisticated person-one who has no skill either to plan a dilemma or to avoid it. Still, whichever way you look, they are thunderbolts. His pleading halts, yet he carries every point which he takes up. He turns his back upon his foe only to overcome him; he simulates flight, but only that he may slay. He, then, if any one, ought to be calumniated; we should speak thus to him: "The proofs which yon have used against the Jews or against other heretics bear a different meaning in their own contexts to that which they bear in your epistles. We see passages taken captive by your pen and pressed into service to win you a victory which in the volumes from which they are taken have no controversial bearing at all." May he not reply to us in the words of the Saviour: "I have one mode of speech for those that are without and another for those that are within; the crowds hear my parables, but their interpretation is for my disciples alone"?1120 The Lord puts questions to the Pharisees, but does not elucidate them. To teach a disciple is one thing; to vanquish an opponent, another. "My mystery is for me," says the prophet; "my mystery is for me and for them that are mine."1121

14. You are indignant with me because I have merely silenced Jovinian and not instructed him. You, do I say? Nay, rather, they who grieve to hear him anathematized, and who impeach their own pretended orthodoxy by eulogizing in another the heresy which they hold themselves. I should have asked him, forsooth, to surrender peaceably! I had no right to disregard his struggles and to drag him against his will into the bonds of truth! I might use such language had the desire of victory induced me to say anything counter to the rule laid down in Scripture, and had I taken the line-so often adopted by strong men in controversy-of justifying the means by the result.


COMMENT: Jerome does not advocate this as a method of Christian propaganda, but in defence of his own books against Jovinian.  He says that he has simply used the methods commonly used; and the sentiments attributed to him at the end are those which he has *refused* to adopt!

15. Wheless, Intro. p.14:

Of Eusebius and the others he again says, that they "presume at the price of their soul to assert dogmatically whatever first comes into their head." (Jerome, Epist. li, 7; id. p. 88.) 

Letter LI. From Epiphanius, Bishop of Salamis, in Cyprus, to John, Bishop of Jerusalem:

7. Instead of the three proofs from Holy Scripture which you said would satisfy you if I could produce them, behold I have given you seven. Who, then, will put up with the follies of Origen? I will not use a severer word and so make myself like him or his followers, who presume at the peril of their soul to assert dogmatically whatever first comes into their head, and to dictate to God, whereas they ought either to pray to Him or to learn the truth from Him. For some of them say that the image of God which Adam had previously received was lost when he sinned. Others surmise that the body which the Son of God was destined to take of Mary was the image of the Creator. Some identify this image with the soul, others with sensation, others with virtue. These make it baptism, those assert that it is in virtue of God's image that man exercises universal sway. Like drunkards in their cups, they ejaculate now this, now that, when they ought rather to have avoided so serious a risk, and to have obtained salvation by simple faith, not denying the words of God.


COMMENT: Eusebius is not mentioned here.  Nor is the suggestion one of dishonesty, but rather a reference to theological speculation.

16. Wheless, Intro. p.14:

And again, of the incentive offered by the gullible ignorance of the Faithful, for the glib mendacities of the priests: "There is nothing so easy as by sheer volubility to deceive a common crowd or an uneducated congregation." (Epist. lii, 8; p. 93.)

Letter LII. To Nepotian.

8. When teaching in church seek to call forth not plaudits but groans. Let the tears of your hearers be your glory. A presbyter's words ought to be seasoned by his reading of scripture. Be not a declaimer or a ranter, one who gabbles without rhyme or reason; but shew yourself skilled in the deep things and versed in the mysteries of God. To mouth your words and by your quickness of utterance astonish the unlettered crowd is a mark of ignorance. Assurance often explains that of which it knows nothing; and when it has convinced others imposes on itself. My teacher, Gregory of Nazianzus, when I once asked him to explain Luke's phrase sabbaton deuteropwton, that is "the second-first Sabbath," playfully evaded my request saying: "I will tell you about it in church, and there, when all the people applaud me, you will be forced against your will to know what you do not know at all. For, if you alone remain silent, every one will put you down for a fool." There is nothing so easy as by sheer volubility to deceive a common crowd or an uneducated congregation: such most admire what they fail to understand. Hear Marcus Tullius, the subject of that noble eulogy: "You would have been the first of orators but for Demosthenes: he would have been the only one but for you." Hear what in his speech for Quintus Gallius1360 he has to say about unskilled speakers and popular applause and then you will not be the sport of such illusions. "What I am telling you," said he, "is a recent experience of my own. One who has the name of a poet and a man of culture has written a book entitled Conversations of Poets and Philosophers. In this he represents Euripides as conversing with Menander and Socrates with Epicurus-men whose lives we know to be separated not by years but by centuries. Nevertheless he calls forth limitless applause and endless acclamations. For the theatre contains many who belong to the same school as he: like him they have never learned letters."


COMMENT: 'Sheer volubility' is the exact opposite of what Jerome is advocating!

17. Wheless, Intro. p.14-15:

Father Jerome's own high regard for truth and his zeal in propaganda of fables for edification of the ignorant ex-pagan Christians is illustrated in numberless instances. He tells us of the river Ganges in India, which "has its source in Paradise"; that in India "are also mountains of gold, which however men cannot approach by reason of the griffins, dragons, and huge monsters which haunt them; for such are the guardians which avarice needs for its treasures." (Epist. cxxv, 6; N&PNF. vi, 245.)

Letter CXXII. To Rusticus:

Sometimes, you must know, the quicksands of vice3408 suck us down as we sail at ease through the calm water; and the desert of this world is not untenanted by venomous reptiles.

3. Those who navigate the Red Sea-where we must pray that the true Pharaoh may be drowned with all his host-have to encounter many difficulties and dangers before they reach the city of Auxuma.3409 Nomad savages and ferocious wild beasts haunt the shores on either side. Thus travellers must be always armed and on the alert, and they must carry with them a whole year's provisions. Moreover, so full are the waters of hidden reefs and impassable shoals that a look-out has constantly to be kept from the masthead to direct the helmsman how to shape his course. They may count themselves fortunate if after six months they make the port of the above-mentioned city. At this point the ocean begins, to cross which a whole year hardly suffices. Then India is reached and the river Ganges-called in holy scripture Pison-"which compasseth the whole land of Havilah"3410 and is said to carry down with it-from its source in paradise-various dyes and pigments. Here are found rubies and emeralds, glowing pearls and gems of the first water, such as high born ladies passionately desire. There are also mountains of gold which however men cannot approach by reason of the griffins, dragons, and huge monsters which haunt them; for such are the guardians which avarice needs for its treasures.

4. What, you ask, is the drift of all this? Surely it is clear enough. For if the merchants of the world undergo such hardships to win a doubtful and passing gain, and if after seeking it through many dangers they only keep it at risk of their lives; what should Christ's merchant do who "selleth all that he hath" that he may acquire the "one pearl of great price;" who with his whole substance buys a field that he may find therein a treasure which neither thief can dig up nor robber carry away?


COMMENT: For Jerome to repeat the scientific knowledge of his own time as an illustration in a letter is hardly either dishonest, or a zeal for propagation of fables!

18. Wheless, Intro. p.15:

He reaches the climax in his famous Lives of sundry Saints. He relates with all fervor the marvelous experiences of the "blessed hermit Paulus," who was 113 years of age, and for sixty years had lived in a hole in the ground in the remotest recesses of the desert; his nearest neighbor was St. Anthony, who was only ninety and lived in another hole four days' journey away. The existence and whereabouts of Paulus being revealed to Anthony in a vision, he set out afoot to visit the holy Paulus. On the way, "all at once he beholds a creature of mingled shape, half horse half man, called by the poets Hippo-centaur," with whom be holds friendly converse. Later "he sees a mannikin with hooked snout, horned forehead, and extremities like goat's feet," this being one of the desert tribe "whom the Gentiles worship under the names of Fauns, Satyrs, and Incubi," and whose strange, language Anthony was rejoiced to find that he could understand, as they reasoned together about the salvation of the Lord. "Let no one scruple to believe this incident," pleads Father Jerome'; "its truth is supported by" one of these creatures that, was captured and brought alive to Alexandria and sent embalmed to the emperor at Antioch. Finally holy Anthony reached the retreat of the blessed Paulus, and was welcomed. As they talked, a raven flew down and laid a whole loaf of bread at their feet. "See," said Paulus, "the Lord truly loving, truly merciful, has sent us a meal. For the last sixty years I have always received half a loaf; but at your coming the Lord has doubled his soldier's rations." During the visit Paulus died; Anthony "saw Paulus in robes of snowy white ascending on high among a band of angels, and the choirs of prophets and apostles." Anthony dragged the body out to bury it, but was without means to dig a grave; as he was lamenting this unhappy circumstance, "behold, two lions from the recesses of the desert with manes flying on their necks came rushing along; they came straight to the corpse of the blessed old man," fawned on it, roared in mourning, then with their paws dug a grave just wide and deep enough to bold the corpse; came over and licked the hands and feet of Anthony, and ambled away. (Jerome, Life of Paulus the First Hermit, N&PNF. vi, 299 seq.)

Jerome, Life of Paulus the First Hermit.


COMMENT: It is rather closed-minded to read a hagiography as if it were an eye-witness account, surely?

19. Wheless, Intro. p.15:

So gross and prevalent was the clerical habit of pious lies and pretenses "to the glory of God," that St. Augustine, about 395 A.D., wrote a reproving treatise to the Clergy, De Mendacio (On Lying), which he found necessary to supplement in 420 with another book, Contra Mendacium (Against Lying). This work, says Bishop Wordsworth, "is a protest against these 'pious frauds' which have brought discredit and damage on the cause of the Gospel, and have created prejudice against it, from the days of Augustine to our own times." (A Church History, iv, 93, 94.)

Augustine, On Lying :

1. There is a great question about Lying, which often arises in the midst of our every day business, and gives us much trouble, that we may not either rashly call that a lie which is not such, or decide that it is sometimes right to tell a tie, that is, a kind of honest, well-meant, charitable lie.

Augustine, Against Lying

" Then1 also I wrote a Book against Lying, the occasion of which work was this. In order to discover the Priscillianist heretics, who think it right to conceal their heresy not only by denial and lies, but even by perjury, it seemed to certain Catholics that they ought to pretended themselves Priscillianists, in order that they might penetrate their lurking places. In prohibition of which thing, Icomposed this book. It begins: Multa mihi a misisti."


COMMENT: I was unable to see at a glance why Wheless supposes these treatises addressed to the clergy, or to justify the comment of Wordsworth (which I have not been able to verify.  UPDATE: it is now online here; Wordsworth does say this, but refers to two other works, against religious frauds).

20. Wheless, Intro. p.15:

While Augustine disapproves of downright lying even to trap heretics, -- a practice seemingly much in vogue among the good Christians: "It is more pernicious for Catholics to lie that they may catch heretics, than for heretics to lie that they may not be found out by Catholics" (Against Lying, ch. 5; N&PNF. iii, 483);

Augustine, Against Lying 4:

Whence it is gathered, that it is more pernicious, or to speak more mildly, that it is more perilous for Catholics to lie that they may catch heretics, than for heretics to lie that they may not be found out by Catholics. Because, whoso believes Catholics when they tall a lie to tempt people, is either made or confirmed a heretic; but whoso believes heretics when they tall a lie to conceal themselves, doth not cease to be a Catholic.


COMMENT: Not quite accurate citation, but fair context.

21. Wheless, Intro. p.15-16:

this Saint heartily approves and argues in support of the chronic clerical characteristics of suppressio veri, of suppression or concealment of the truth for the sake of Christian "edification," a device for the encouragement of credulity among the Faithful which has run riot through the centuries and flourishes today among the priests and the ignorant pious: "It is lawful, then, either to him that discourses, disputes, and preaches of things eternal, or to him that narrates or speaks of things temporal pertaining to edification of religion or piety, to conceal at fitting times whatever seems fit to be concealed; but to tell a lie is never lawful, therefore neither to conceal by telling a lie." (Augustine, On Lying, ch. 19; N&PNF. iii, 466.)

Augustine, On Lying 17:

17. But yet if the option were proposed to the man who chose to burn incense to idols rather than yield his body to abominable lust, that, if he wished to avoid that, he should violate the fame of Christ by some lie; he would be most mad to do it. I say more: that he would be mad, if, to avoid another man's lust, and not to have that done upon his person which he would suffer with no lust of his own, he should falsify Christ's Gospel with false praises of Christ; more eschewing that another man should corrupt his body, than himself to corrupt the doctrine of sanctification of souls and bodies. Wherefore, from the doctrine of religion, and from those utterances universally, which are uttered on behalf of the doctrine of religion, in the teaching and learning of the same, all lies must be utterly kept aloof. Nor can any cause whatever be found, one should think, why a lie should be told in matters of this kind, when in this doctrine it is not right to tell a lie for the very purpose of bringing a person to it the more easily. For, once break or but slightly diminish the authority of truth, and all things will remain doubtful: which unless they be believed true, cannot be held as certain. It is lawful then either to him that discourses, disputes, and preaches of things eternal, or to him that narrates or speaks of things temporal pertaining to edification of religion and piety, to conceal at fitting time whatever seems fit to be concealed: but to tell a lie is never lawful, therefore neither to conceal by telling a lie.


COMMENT: Augustine defends the idea that it is not a lie to (e.g.) refuse to tell a maniac the location of his victim - which is hardly unreasonable! - but to describe this as 'hearty approval' and 'argument in support' is absurd.  It's mentioned in passing in the middle of a passage as vehement as possible in the opposite direction.

22. Wheless, Intro. p.16:

The great Bishop did not, however, it seems, read his own code when it came to preaching unto edification, for in one of his own sermons he thus relates a very notable experience: "I was already Bishop of Hippo, when I went into Ethiopia with some servants of Christ there to preach the Gospel. In this country we saw many men and women without heads, who had two great eyes in their breasts; and in countries still more southly, we saw people who had but one eye in their foreheads." (Augustine, Sermon 37; quoted in Taylor, Syntagma, p. 52; Diegesis, p. 271; Doane, Bible Myths, p. 437.)


COMMENT: Wheless did not verify this for himself, but as he says copied it from Taylor and Doane.  There are quite a number of collections of the sermons of Augustine.  The correct reference is Pseudo-Augustine, Sermones Ad fratres in eremo, 37.  This can be found in the Patrologia Latina 40, cols.1301-1304.  The collection contains 76 sermons, cols.1233-1358, commencing (1233-6) with a discussion of the authenticity of the sermons.  The first 50 sermons in the collection are plainly composed by a single writer with a characteristic style, who refers to Sigebert of Gembloux as his 'compatriot' in sermon 31 and makes considerable use of the works of Petrus Comestor (Bonnes, p.177).  As such, they can only be medieval works, probably of the 12th century, and this text plainly belongs to the genre of marvellous stories of faraway places.  This has been known since at least the time of Robert Bellarmine in the 17th century.

This information is derived from the PL, and from the articles given below.  The latter also discuss the identity of the composer, whether it was Geoffrey, Bishop of Bath or the writer Geoffrey Babion, and whether these are in fact one and the same person. I have looked at all of these.  In addition, I did obtain the relevant passages from the PL CDROM, but then managed to leave the disk in the library, so I cannot verify the exact text yet.

I'd like to thank Dr. Andrew Criddle who wrote in and enabled me to find this text, and supplied me with these references. He adds: "Apart from the weird nature of a lot of the collection specific issues are that one of the sermons refers to Augustine disputing personally with Arius on Christian doctrine, another is a funeral oration for a bishop of Carthage otherwise unknown to history, and sermon 37, the one in question here, appears to believe that if one goes south from where Augustine lived in North Africa then one ends up in Ethiopia i.e. modern Sudan."

G. Morin, RB 10 ( 1893) pp.28-36 
G. Morin, RB 13 ( 1896) pp.346-347 
J.-P. Bonnes, Revue Benedictine 56 (1945-6) pp. 174-215, esp. 177.


23. Wheless, Intro. p.16:

A further admission of the inveteracy of ecclesiastical forgery and fraud may be cited from the Catholic Encyclopedia. Speaking deprecatingly of the "incredible liberty of discussion" which to the shock and scandal of the pious prelates "prevailed in Rome under the spell of the Renaissance," -- when men's minds were beginning to awaken from the intellectual and moral stupor of the Dark Ages of Faith, the Catholic thesaurus of archaic superstition and "Catholic Truth," admits:

"This toleration of evil [sic; i.e.: -- the free discussion of Church doctrines and documents] -- bore one good consequence: it allowed historical criticism to begin fair. There was need for a revision which is not yet complete, ranging over all that has been handed down from the Middle Ages under the style and title of the Fathers, the Councils, the Roman and other official, archives. In all these departments forgery and interpolations as well as ignorance had wrought mischief on a great scale." (CE. xii, 768.)

From The Catholic Encyclopedia, "The Renaissance" (<http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12765b.htm>):

At Rome and "incredible Liberty" of discussion prevailed under the spell of the Renaissance. Lord Acton quotes well-known instances. Poggio, the mocking adversary of the clergy, was for half a century in the service of the popes-Filelfo, a pagan unabashed and foul, was handsomely rewarded by Nicholas V for his abominable satires. Pius II had the faults of a smart society journalist, and took neither himself nor his age seriously. Platina, with whom Paul II quarreled on political grounds, wrote a vindictive slanderous book, "The Lives of the Roman Pontiffs", which, however, was in some degree justified by the project of reformation in "head and members" constantly put forth and never fulfilled until Christendom had been rent in twain. Yet Sixtus IV made Platina librarian of the Vatican. It is equally significant that "The Prince", by Machiavelli, was published with papal licence, though afterwards severely prohibited. This toleration of evil bore one good consequence: it allowed historical criticism to begin fair. There  was need of a revision whch is not yet complete, ranging over all that had been handed down from the Middle Ages under the style and title of the Fathers, the Councils, the Roman and other official archives. In all these departments forgery and interpolation as well as ignorance had wrought mischief on a great scale.


COMMENT: The "liberty" is not that represented by Wheless, but rather the liberty to publish the untrue, dishonest and pornographic. That the forgeries were official does not appear from this passage, where the correction of them, not least by the Benedictines of St. Maur, is welcomed and praised.  As such, Wheless has imposed his own agenda onto a passage which is about something else.

24. Wheless, Intro, p.18:

There is thus disclosed a very sharp and shaming contrast between the precept of the Lord Buddha: "Thou shalt not attempt, either by words or action, to lead others to believe that which is not true," and the confessed debasing principle of the Church, that the maintenance of its creed -- (even by the methods of fraud, forgery and imposture above hinted and to be evidenced) -- is superior to the principles of morality:

"To undo the creed is to undo the Church. The integrity of the rule of faith is more essential to the cohesion of a religious society than the strict practice of its moral precepts"! (CE. vii, 259). 

CE article "Heresy" (<http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07256b.htm>)

The first law of life, be it the life of plant or animal, of man or of a society of men, is self-preservation. Neglect of self-preservation leads to ruin and destruction. But the life of a religious society, the tissue that binds its members into one body and animates them with one soul, is the symbol of faith, the creed or confession adhered to as a condition sine qua non of membership. To undo the creed is to undo the Church. The integrity of the rule of faith is more essential to the cohesion of a religious society than the strict practice of its moral precepts. For faith supplies the means of mending moral delinquencies as one of its ordinary functions, whereas the loss of faith, cutting at the root of spiritual life, is usually fatal to the soul.


COMMENT: Wheless stops his quote just before the sentence which qualifies and explains it.  This is not playing fairly with the reader.

25. Wheless, Intro, p.19: 

The True Church lays down this amazing limitation on learning: "When a clearly defined dogma contradicts a scientific assertion, the latter has to be revised,"! (CE. xiii, 607.) 

Catholic Encyclopedia, "Science and the Church" (<http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/13598b.htm>):

As far as scientific facts are concerned, the believer rests assured that, so far, none of them has ever been in contradiction with an infallible definition. In case of an apparent difference between faith and science, he takes the following logical position: When a religious view is contradicted by a well-established scientific fact, then the sources of revelation have to be re-examined, and they will be found to leave the question open. When a clearly-defined dogma contradicts a scientific assertion, the latter has to be revised, and it will be found premature. When both contradicting assertions, the religious and the scientific, are nothing more than prevailing theories, research will be stimulated in both directions, until one of the theories appears unfounded.


COMMENT: The careful selection of one sentence conveys to the reader that the CE advocates precisely the opposite position from that actually advocated.  This again is not treating the reader fairly.


Of 25 citations:

  1. Reference: 2 not given, 18 correct, 2 false, 3 not quite right.
  2. Verbal accuracy: 3 not given, 18 correct, 2 false, 2 not quite right
  3. Fair representation: 1 not available, 6 correct, 14 false, 4 mixed or dubious

For a man intent on documentary proof of fraud, there is a significant level of error at even the basic level of accurate citation.  28% of the references are wrong or unavailable; 28% are inaccurate or can't be checked; and only 24% of the quotes correctly represent the author's views!  Of course these figures are only a guide.  Much real information is included, although heavily slanted.  Nevertheless we have seen a significant level of misinformation in Wheless' account, and in some cases deliberate misrepresentation would seem to be a possibility.

Constructive feedback is welcomed to Roger Pearse.

Written 2nd July 2002.

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