Is the Bible wrong about bats being birds?

This is going to be a short post, but it’s interesting to me and easily captures how easy it is to address some of the ‘challenges’ to the veracity of the Bible. Apparently, one scientific error in the Bible is describing bats as birds, even though today, we understand that bats are mammals and that these are two separate taxonomic classifications. Modern science suggests bats aren’t birds.

Leviticus 11:13-19: These you shall regard as detestable among the birds. They shall not be eaten; they are an abomination: the eagle, the vulture, the osprey, 14 the buzzard, the kite of any kind; 15 every raven of any kind; 16 the ostrich, the nighthawk, the sea gull, the hawk of any kind; 17 the little owl, the cormorant, the great owl, 18 the water hen, the desert owl, the carrion vulture, 19 the stork, the heron of any kind, the hoopoe, and the bat.

Is the Bible wrong? Well, I’ll leave the answer to this up to a user on the Hermeneutics Stackexchange website where this question was raised named Mark Edward.

The Hebrew word [for birds] was used for winged creatures that weren’t insects. Applying ‘modern science’ to an ancient culture’s classifications of the world is anachronistic.

The Tyndale Bible Dictionary reads:

Modern scientists classify organisms on the basis of internal and external structure, but the biblical writers generally classified organisms according to habitat.1


1 Editors: Walter A. Elwell, Philip Wesley Comfort, Tyndale Bible Dictionary, p.215.

That was easy. Ancients called bats birds because they classified animals with a different system than we use. Another “error” is just a classification difference between our current world and the world of the ancients (like the supposed biblical error on insects having four legs).

 

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Revelation 18 Condemns the Slave Trade?

Just two months ago in June the most recent issue of the journal New Testament Studies an interesting paper appeared titled Bodies and Souls: The Case for Reading Revelation 18.13 as a Critique of the Slave Trade by the scholar Murray Vaser. Now, this paper isn’t arguing that Revelation or the Bible condemns slavery as a concept, it’s clear that the Bible considers it possible for slaves to be treated in a way that wouldn’t be immoral. I, myself, will probably write out a fuller post on slavery eventually and its relationship to the Bible (far more complicated than the secularists believe, as everything about religion usually is). At multiple points in past scholarship, many scholars have suggested that this verse (Rev. 18:13) contains a critique of the slave trade, though this paper is the first full defense and articulation of such a position. Vaser quotes earlier scholars who’ve postulated this position, writing;

As Richard Bauckham explains, ‘[John] is pointing out that slaves are not mere animal carcasses to be bought and sold as property but are human beings’. Pierre Prigent adds: ‘Our author obviously sees in this [i.e. the slave trade] the height of the capital’s sinfulness’ (pp. 397-398).

Vaser argues that Revelation 18:13 criticizes the slave trade of Rome (being represented as Babylon in Revelation). Here’s what the text says;

Revelation 18:11-13: “The merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her because no one buys their cargoes anymore— 12 cargoes of gold, silver, precious stones and pearls; fine linen, purple, silk and scarlet cloth; every sort of citron wood, and articles of every kind made of ivory, costly wood, bronze, iron and marble; 13 cargoes of cinnamon and spice, of incense, myrrh and frankincense, of wine and olive oil, of fine flour and wheat; cattle and sheep; horses and carriages; and human beings sold as slaves.

The Greek translated as “human beings sold as slaves” (σωμάτων καὶ ψυχὰς ἀνθρώπων) in the Greek reads “bodies and souls” — since these bodies and souls are being sold as cargoes to Babylon, the text is clearly referring to the slave trade (which is why current translations translate it as such). The phrase “bodies and souls”, as Vaser shows, refers to a single item, not two separate items, and was a common idiom at the time for a human being — bodies and souls are a reference to the material and immaterial components of a person (my body, the physical part of me, and my soul, my non-physical part). Revelation is emphasizing the final item on the list with a double-expression, which signifies that Babylon is not only selling bodies but the souls of people (Craig Koester, Roman Slave Trade, pp. 771-2). Vaser notes that the only time that this phrase refers to the slave trade in Greek literature elsewhere is in the context of a criticism of it. Vaser writes;

Consider the only passage in the LCL where the notion of selling the ‘souls of persons’ is entertained. In the biography by Philostratus, Apollonius recounts his ‘noblest’ deed as the captain of a merchant vessel. While docked in port, Apollonius was approached by Phoenician pirates who offered him 10,000 drachmas if he would enable them to take the ship. They promised they would spare his life and the life of any of his friends. Apollonius agreed and even made the pirates swear in a temple to keep their end of the bargain. That night, however, he secretly set sail and escaped to sea. At this point, Apollonius’ interlocutor objects: ‘Why, Apollonius, do you consider those to be acts of justice?’ Apollonius replies: ‘Yes, and of humanity too, for I think it a combination of many virtues not to sell human souls [μὴἀποδόσθαι ψυχὰς ἀνθρώπων], not to barter away merchants’ property and to show yourself above money when you are a sailor’ (Philostratus, Vit. Apoll. 3.21.1–24.3; trans. Jones, LCL). These words, which have been overlooked in the discussion of Rev 18.13, demonstrate that even in ancient times an author could expect his audience to recognise the act of selling ψυχαὶἀνθρώπων as an obvious evil. (pp. 402-404)

Vaser points out that scholars have shown that Babylon in Revelation represents an antithetical and counterbalance to New Jerusalem in Revelation. He notes Gordon Campbell, another scholar that has listed twenty-three antitheticals in Revelation between Babylon and New Jerusalem in almost all of its structures, but Vaser notes that there’s just one more antithetical that Campbell left out — the treatment between slaves in Babylon and New Jerusalem. “In Babylon, slaves are sold alongside sheep and horses (Rev. 18:13); in the New Jerusalem, slaves reign as kings and friends of God” (pp. 405-6).

Vaser takes important note of the critique of Babylon’s extensive luxuries and commerce in Revelation 17-18, such as its abundance of gold and silver, pearls, linen, silk, metals, spices, and food. He notes this in context of the writings of Philo of Alexandria in the mid 1st century AD, a Jewish philosopher, and his description of the Essenes living at Qumran — while describing their rejection of all luxuries of society in favor of a moral natural subsistence and way of life, he mentions that slavery is also rejected as one of the luxuries components. The following is Philo of Alexandria’s description of Essene society in his writing Every Good Man is Free;

They do not hoard gold and silver or acquire great slices of land because they desire the revenues therefrom, but provide what is needed for the necessary requirements of life … They judge frugality with contentment to be, as indeed it is, an abundance of wealth. As for darts, javelins, daggers, or the helmet, breastplate or shield, you could not find a single manufacturer of them, nor, in general, any person making weapons or engines or plying any industry concerned with war, nor, indeed, any of the peaceful kind, which easily lapse into vice, for they have not the vaguest idea of commerce either wholesale or retail or marine, but pack the inducements to covetousness off in disgrace. Not a single slave is to be found among them, but all are free, exchanging services with each other, and they denounce the owners of slaves, not merely for their injustice in outraging the law of equality, but also for their impiety in annulling the statute of Nature, who mother-like has born and reared all men alike, and created them genuine brothers, not in mere name, but in very reality, though this kinship has been put to confusion by the triumph of malignant covetousness, which has wrought estrangement instead of affinity and enmity instead of friendship. (quoted in Vaser, pg. 406)

On pg. 407, Vaser does an excellent job at further highlighting the relationship between luxury and covetousness to slavery in the ancient world, such as, for example, the mythic prehistoric Golden Age described in Greek literature at a time where no commerce or luxury yet existed, but all possessions were held in common and all men were held as equals without slaves or masters, similar to the idealistic state of New Jerusalem where people will no longer be sold as slaves to other humans, and all humans will be treated with eternal dignity solely belonging to God.

Overall, I found the paper very interesting and convincing as well. Vaser provides a note before beginning his analysis about his biases — he’s a Protestant that would be pleased to see a critique of slavery in the Bible — and rather from detracting from his credibility, I find this is intellectually honest and allows anyone reading the paper to see and evaluate his evidence on its own merits. Definitely a recommended read, and provides an interesting addition to the scholarship and understanding of the biblical conception of slavery.

BibViz Bible Contradictions Debunked

So there’s a website called bibviz.com, a popular website among atheists that gets displayed by people such as Sam Harris in some of their talks that provides an interactive display of some 492 biblical contradictions (and a few scientific and moral crimes on the side). Of course, I’ve viewed this resource and it seems to be a joke among theist circles due to the high frequency of mistakes it makes. I’ve been increasingly looking at this website and I think I can provide the most accurate summary to date on the problems in the methodology of bibviz. The only proposition I’m setting forth here is that it makes so many errors so that the mere citation of this resource must be invalid in any serious conversation on the Bible itself. Here’s the summary I’ve produced of why this resource is indefensible. I expect to update this page in the future.

1. Bibviz verses all display the KJV Bible translation from the year 1611. Assuming that the people who created bibviz aren’t KJV onlyists, it’s strange to display the verses of the KJV instead of another translation of the Bible that isn’t hundreds of years old, based on faulty manuscripts and an inferior knowledge of the Greek and Hebrew languages (the KJV was translated before Koine Greek, the dialect of the NT was even discovered in the late 19th century — scholars used to think the New Testament was written in “Holy Ghost Greek”). See here for an article by Daniel B. Wallace, one of the leading textual critics of the Bible, on the problems with the KJV translation. The reason why bibviz doesn’t display alternative translations is because this would compromise a number of its contradictions, like whether God repents (contradiction 363). The verses that say God does repent are translated very differently in more modern, scholarly translations — the original Hebrew word translated as repent is נָחַם, which has a variety of meanings, such as being pitied, sorrowed, consoling oneself, having compassion, feeling sorry, or repenting. Better translations like the NIV and NRSV don’t translate the text to say God repented at all, calling into question the existence of this contradiction. The same is with the contradiction on God creating evil (154), better translations simply use more accurate translations like God creates, not evil, but ‘destruction’. Unless you’re a KJV onlyist, relax.

2. The list is mostly the product of the bibviz authors defunct understanding of the biblical text. The vast majority of these contradictions are sheerly misrepresentations of what the text says, ignorance of context, ignorance of a whole slew of scenarios where the two verses can be correct at the same time (since a contradiction is merely when two things cannot be true at the same time). One obvious is example is the contradiction on how many sons Absalom had (9), one verse saying three, the other having Absalom decrying the fact that he will die with no sons to carry his name. And yet, it could easily be the case that Absalom’s children simply all died, a flat obvious possibility in an age of extremely high child mortality, disease, violence, etc. A second example, which simply makes no sense, is this one on whether or not Haman is an Agagite (17). One verse says yes. The other verse says absolutely nothing about Haman or Agagites and simply says the Amalekites were ordered to be killed. What this has to do with Haman or the Agagites (an unknown group never mentioned outside of their association with Haman in Esther 3:1) is anyones guess. It even bungles up on killing, claiming that God commands against generically killing in the Bible, when in fact the commandment is about murder. In an academic article, scholar Don Garlington writes “Originally and literally, the sixth commandment forbade the unlawful taking of human life, as confirmed by the Hebrew and Greek of these parent texts, לא תרצח and οὐ ϕονεύσεις, both of which denote homicide rather than the generic taking of life” (“”You Fool!” Matthew 5: 22.” Bulletin for Biblical Research (2010): 63).

3. Literal vs. non-literal texts are another big chunk. One supposed contradiction is whether or not man (221) was created before or after animals based on Genesis 1 and 2. But scholars have known for a long time now that Genesis 1-11, the primeval history is (despite how uncomfortable it might make you feel) an allegorical, archetypal account that portrays Israel’s understandings of God, man and sin, and this is true regardless of anyones personal feelings on whether or not they’re literal, Christian or otherwise. Hence, this supposed contradiction, and all others that require any material from Genesis 1-11 (which make up a number of them) are irrelevant. To this, we can add virtually any contradiction adduced from the books of Job and Revelation, the two other metaphorical biblical books (in fact, Revelation is so bluntly the most metaphorical text in the entire Bible yet bibviz is enough of a dolt to think the mention of dragons in Revelation is literal). Indeed, the author simply seems to be flat unaware that these aren’t literal texts. To this, we can add all allegorical verses outside of Genesis 1-11, Job and Revelation also counted as contradictory.

4. Playing off of the previous point a little, I just want to mention how many people have already shattered so many of the supposed contradictions of bibviz. One great example is contradictingbiblecontradictions.com. If anyone gives you a link to bibviz, just post a link to this website in response. I don’t agree with all the refutations it makes, but it literally contains a rebuttal to all 492 supposed contradictions and for the majority of them, they get taken down. Amusingly enough, many of the contradictions on the bibviz website are actually taken down in their own comment sections (make sure to give the comments a check on any of the bibviz contradictions to see if someone has already refuted it there).

5. The last criticism I’ll point out is that some of these contradictions actually come from texts that aren’t in the Bible at all, only the Apocrypha, such as how Antiochus died (33) based on verses from 1 and 2 Maccabees, which I certainly wouldn’t recognize in the canon. Maybe a Catholic would, since the Catholic canon has an additional six apocryphal books, though this quickly becomes irrelevant for someone whose, say, a Protestant, Evangelical or just plain non-denominational (who now make up 1 in 6 Americans) like myself where books like these aren’t part of the canon of the Bible at all.

Did Christians Build a DEATH CAMP at Scythopolis?

So I was having a conversation the other day about religion and peace throughout history, and the dude essentially brought my eyes to a laundry list of supposed heinous crimes of Christianity after the Constantine converted to the religion, a list which I was able to find on the sprawling chaos that is jesusneverexisted.com. The laundry list, which you can read here, was almost immediately high on my suspicions given the fact that the website promoting it is a paragon of historical incompetence. After some more research, I found that the list from the jesusneverexisted website actually comes from a book titled Demolish Them by Vlasis Rassias. This book is so obscure that I can’t even find it on Amazon, Google Books or even its publisher. It appears to have been self-published in the Greek language in 1994. Anyways, since some of the claims are so wrong and it’s good to have available refutations of these kinds of claims, I’ve decided to write this post about some of the incredible falsehoods promulgated by the article.

The first crime it lists is, apparently, Christians denouncing pagan worship. The author then quickly reveals his approval for the internet myth that the Council of Nicaea of AD 325 established the divinity of Christ (it didn’t, what came out of this council was a creed, 20 canons and a letter to the Church of Alexandria, all of which you can read here). This, however, is where the stakes elevate. Very soon, Rassias claims the following;

359 In Skythopolis, Syria, the Christians organise the first death camps for the torture and executions of the arrested non-Christians from all around the empire. [bold not mine]

That’s right, during the reign of Constantius II (r. AD 337-361), Christians established a death camp for anyone who wasn’t a Christian (presumably Rassias wants us thinking of the communist gulags and Nazi concentration camps at this point). This, of course, is pure fiction. I tracked down the source for the events at Scythopolis in AD 359 and the account is described by Ammianus Marcellinus, a 4th century soldier and historian in his Res Gestae, 19.12.1-20 (Book 19, Chapter 12, Sections 1-20). The account is too long to quote in its entirety (you can read it here), but thankfully, the first two sections are enough to rule out the preposterous claim that a death camp was established here for non-Chrsitians. In fact, it was a tribunal established by the Roman secretary Paulus on the direction of Constantius II to try people for treason against the emperor. Ammianus writes;

Yet in the midst of these anxieties, as if it were prescribed by some ancient custom, in place of civil wars the trumpets sounded for alleged cases of high treason; and to investigate and punish these there was sent that notorious state-secretary Paulus, often called Tartareus. He was skilled in the. work of bloodshed, and just as a trainer of gladiators seeks profit and emolument from the traffic in funerals and festivals, so did he from the rack or the executioner. [2] Therefore, as his determination to do harm was fixed and obstinate, he did not refrain from secret fraud, devising fatal charges against innocent persons, provided only he might continue his pernicious traffic. (Res Gestae 19.12.1-2)

Paulus was actually given the epithet “the chain” in his time for his renowned brutality and history of fabricating evidence in order to convict innocent persons. Not only isn’t this a non-Christian death camp, but at one point a pagan philosopher was brought in to Scythopolis and tortured on accusations of making sacrifice to the deities in order to grant him eventual imperial power (that is, the authority of the emperor), but Paulus was eventually convinced that this wasn’t his motivation for sacrificing and so let him go.

Also Demetrius, surnamed Cythras, a philosopher of advanced years, it is true, but hardy of body and mind, being charged with offering sacrifice several times, could not deny it; he declared, however, that he had done so from early youth for the purpose of propitiating the deity, not of trying to reach a higher station by his investigations; for he did not know of anyone who had such aspirations. Therefore, after being long kept upon the rack, supported by his firm confidence he fearlessly made the same plea without variation; whereupon he was allowed to go without further harm to his native city of Alexandria. (Res Gestae, 19.12.12)

Thus, it’s self-evident that not being a Christian doesn’t earn the death penalty here. So the article is wrong. There’s a big problem with refuting the crazy laundry list of Christian atrocities that I haven’t mentioned yet, as well. It simply offers no sources for where the information is coming from. It’s possible this is because the scarcest analysis of the sources, such as what we’ve seen above, would refute the myths about Christian history that it makes claim of. For example, it claims that in 335, the emperor Constantine (r. AD 306-337 AD) ordered the crucifixion of all people who claimed to be able to do magic or tell the future (this was common among pagans back then), however the 5th century historian Sozomen (in his Ecclesiastical History I, 8.13) as well as possibly the 4th century historian Aurelius Victor (De Caesaribus, 41.4) both say that Constantine banned the practice of crucifixion. It is true that it was recorded by Ammianus that even small and harmless practices of magic were punished with death under Constantius II, but historians discount his account on this as highly unreliable since, of course, he was a pagan himself who seriously hated Constantius II and was trying to evoke the sense of a reign of terror during Constantius II’s reign. Matthew Dickie, Emeritus Professor of Classics at the University of Illinois in Chicago in an analysis of how magic and soothsaying was treated during the reigns of Constantine, Constantius II and Valens concluded that the emperors cared little for harmless acts of magic and were more concerned with pagans trying to use magic to harm others and learn of the future (which, by the way, was used to try to get prophecies for the death of the emperor) on pp. 242-247 in his book Magic and Magicians in the Greco-Roman World (2003, you can access this section of the book here).

The list claims that on the same year of 335, Sopatrus, a pagan philosopher was “martyred”. Eunapius, a 4th century author in his Lives of the Sophists provides a a lengthy account of Sopatrus and how he met his death. Apparently, the city of Constantinople, due to its size, required enormous sums of grain in order to be sustained from the surrounding lands of Rome, including Egypt, Asia, Phoenicia and Syria. However, the city itself, so Eunapius says, is not well fitted for the arrival of ships to transport these grains unless a strong wind blows south. At one point, as Constantinople lacked these winds and it was becoming increasingly difficult for grain to arrive at Constantinople, and since the supply of food began declining to the city, Eunapius says that Constantine was no longer able to satisfy his people. Several men, envious of Sopatrus — since he was a philosopher Constantine greatly enjoyed — took this opportunity to claim that Sopatrus was using his magic to scatter the winds and reach imperial power for himself. Constantine, convinced, had Sopatrus executed. This sounds much less like pagan martyrdom (if Constantine had disliked paganism so much, it’s difficult to understand why he had Sopatrus as one of his favorite philosophers to begin with) and more to do with an insecure emperors doubts. Roman emperors, throughout their history, have a tediously lengthy record of killing anyone they suspect with defection in any form (for example, Claudius [r. AD 41-54] killed 35 senators during his reign). Once again, it’s very difficult to evaluate any of the crackpot claims on that website simply because of the fact that it offers zero sources for anything it’s saying. That, on its own, is enough to discount the list.

Pagan Prophecy and Law

Yesterday, as I was going through an online course on the history of ancient Greece, one of the assigned readings was Plutarch’s Life of Solon (in the wider section on law and lawgivers in the Archaic Age, that roughly stretched from 800-500 BC). While I was reading this, something struck me. In pagan law and courts, it apparently seemed true that prophecy and omens could be validly used in legal contexts (judge someone guilty or innocent, to decide whether or not a war should be waged or who should control what property, etc). In the Life of Solon, we’re told of a war that was being waged between the Athens and Megara (Athens being located in Attica in the east of the Greek mainland, and Megara to its west in Megaris).

The war was over control over Salamis, an island in the Saronic Gulf (the body of water between Attica, Megaris, Corinthia and Argolis). According to one account, Solon found that all the women of Athens were at some place called Colias, and so sent a fake deserter to Salamis, where the Megarians were, and convinced them to come with him to capture Athens’ women. Convinced, they joined him, and when Solon saw the incoming vessels, he ordered the women to leave and made the younger men pretend to be locals with concealed daggers. Once they Megarians got on the land, they were massacred by the Athenian men and the Athenians were victorious and took possession of Salamis. According to the other account, the victory occurred because Solon received an oracle from Delphi that ordered him to gain the favor of the dead heroes buried in Salamis by making sacrifices to them, and set sail by night to the island with five hundred soldiers. The Megarians, only with rumors about the activity of Athenians to go off of, sent a dispatch envoy to investigate, which Solon captured. Solon piled his men into this Megarian ship and sent it back to Salamis, where his soldiers jumped out and managed to capture the city (and Plutarch seems to favor this account). Either way, Plutarch records that Solon’s actions allowed the Athenians to take the city. Next, we’re told that the local Megarians were angry under Athenian hegemony, and continued their conflict. This dragged on until finally, the Megarians and Athenians had to ask for the advice of the Lacedaemonian (kingdom of Sparta) judges to decide who got the city. So started a debate between the Athenians and the Megarians. Here’s how Plutarch narrates it;

Notwithstanding all this, the Megarians persisted in their opposition, and both sides inflicted and suffered many injuries in the war, so that finally they made the Lacedaemonians arbiters and judges of the strife. Accordingly, most writers say that the fame of Homer favoured the contention of Solon; for after himself inserting a verse into the Catalogue of Ships, he read the passage at the trial thus:—

“Ajax from Salamis brought twelve ships,

And bringing, stationed them near the Athenian hosts.”

2 The Athenians themselves, however, think this an idle tale, and say that Solon proved to the judges that Philaeus and Eurysaces, the sons of Ajax, became citizens of Athens, made over their island to them, and took up their residence in Attica, one at Brauron, and the other at Melité; and they have a township named after Philaeus, namely Philaïdae, to which Peisistratus belonged. 3 They say, too, that Solon, wishing to refute the claims of the Megarians still further, made the point that the dead on the island of Salamis were not buried after the Megarian, but after the Athenian fashion. For the Megarians bury their dead facing the east, but the Athenians facing the west. However, Hereas the Megarian denies this, and says that the Megarians also turn the faces of their dead to the west. And what is still more important than this, he says that the Athenians use one tomb for each body, whereas the Megarians (like the early inhabitants of Salamis) place three or four bodies in one tomb. 4 However, they say that Solon was further supported by sundry Pythian oracles, in which the god spoke of Salamis as Ionian. This case was decided by five Spartans, Critolaïdas, Amompharetus, Hypsechidas, Anaxilas, and Cleomenes.

One of the main proofs for Solon’s contention of the city (which he ended up winning, and so increased his fame and power) was “sundry Pythian oracles”, i.e. a bunch of oracles that came from the Delphi sanctuary. There are a few legends associated with the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, which made it one of the most important sites in the entire world of the ancient Greeks. The legend says that Zeus, wanting to find out where the center of the earth was (i.e. the earth goddess Gaia, and so Delphi remained a cult center for Gaia), sent two eagles to fly from the western and eastern extremities. When they united, they were over the site of Delphi, and so Zeus there placed the omphalos, an artifact which represented the location as the center/navel of the world. Later on, there’s a she-serpent named Python which has a sanctuary at Delphi and gives out prophecies. Apollo (son of Zeus by Leto, twin with Artemis, associated with healing, plague, archery, music and a ton of other things) also came to Delphi, wanting to establish his own sanctuary, but Python didn’t let him. So he killed Python and took over her sanctuary. Thus, Apollo is the patron god of Delphi, and the Temple of Apollo is there in his honor. Anyways, the Delphic Oracle, probably established in the late 8th century BC soon become one of the preeminent locations in the world of the Greeks, where people from all across would come to receive prophecies and oracles. The Life of Solon itself, though a short text, mentions Delphi on numerous occasions. The priestess of the Delphic Oracle was known as the Pythia (after Python). Even the Bible mentions this at one point.

Acts 16:16: Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling.

The phrase “spirit by which she predicted the future”, in the original Greek literally means “Pythian spirit”. Thus, the girl here being used by her owners as a fortune teller is supposed to be possessed by a Pythian spirit. Therefore, we’ve seen above that the ‘oracles’ Solon received were seriously taken in a legal context. There are many other examples of this, such as the fact that the Spartan kings would always make sacrifices and consult prophecies before engaging in a war (in fact, the Spartan kings were sacrificing so many animals to turn the prophecies favorable that they had to start taking one pig from every farmer’s litter to supply the kings ability to seek counsel with the gods). Not to mention, disobeying the Pythian oracles was illegal. Anyways, it’s evident that entire legal decisions were made based off of the testimony of prophecies that this and that Greek would receive (much of which were contradictory and so people had to be appointed to take care off that, as well) which would not only make the process of law less efficient but also subject to clear error as the Greek gods did not exist to issue these omens. Among Romans, just one example of this happening during the late Roman Republic is mentioned in Henrik Mouritsen’s monograph titled Plebs and Politics in the Late Roman Republic (2004) where we learn that “[w]hile a magistrate was observing the skies for omens no political proceedings could take place” (pg. 69); a process called obnuntiatio. Furthermore, Mouritsen continues to explain here how this was even occasionally used as a tool by the Roman Senate to blocking legislation they didn’t like! So, yesterday, as I was considering this information, I realized that Christianity must have made the system of law much more efficient by divesting any validity from the process of omens, since Christians never took seriously such a concept to begin with. Now, since I’m not a scholar, I clearly don’t know the specifics of later Christian jurisprudence, though the evidence I’ve outlined so far seems to suggest that the advance of Christianity in this ancient civilization certainly was a benefit for the practice of law. Another achievement for the glory of our history, it seems!

The Fall of Rome and Birth of the Middle Ages

In an earlier post, I provided a nice summary of the events that brought about the end of the Western Roman Empire, beginning by noting the first catastrophe to hit the empire in the reign of Marcus Aurelius when the Plague of Galen was imported into the empires frontiers, and ravaged Rome’s populations, to AD 476 when the barbarian officer Odoacer conquered the Italian peninsula and thus effectively ended the civilization of the Western Roman Empire. Western Europe would not be (mostly) united again until the reign of Charlemagne, the first Holy Roman Emperor who was crowned as such after decades of expansion of the Frankish Empire by Pope Leo III in 800, something that produced much angst in the Byzantine Empire ruled by the empress Irene, which remained a powerful polity and considered itself the true ruler of the Romans, and despite Charlemagne’s efforts, would not recognize him as the Imperator Romanorum, Emperor of the Romans. But before Charlemagne arose, and brought about the Carolingian Renaissance with his reforms and policies, the state of Western Europe had become very dire after the western empire had fallen centuries earlier. Here, I hope to provide a summary of the situation caused by the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in Western Europe.

The Western Roman Empire, like its eastern counterpart and the earlier united Roman Empire, was divided into various provinces, each under the authority of a Roman governor, administration, laws and perhaps a professional standing army. The tax collectors would require citizens to contribute to the empire, which in turn was mostly used in the Roman days to fund the army, which was by far the largest expense that the government had to deal with. Roman presence brought about a great deal of consistency and unity between the entire empire, where commercial trade was made possible by a vast territory connected between a network of roads unparalleled anywhere else in the contemporary ancient world. With the collapse of the empire, all this ended. In his monograph The Fall of Rome and the End of Civilization (Oxford, 2005), renowned historian Bryan-Ward Perkins explains various dimensions of Roman life and society that mets its end with the fall of the empire. Perkins writes;

It is currently deeply unfashionable to state that anything like a ‘crisis’ or a ‘decline’ occurred at the end of the Roman empire, let alone that a ‘civilization’ collapsed and a ‘dark age’ ensued. The new orthodoxy is that the Roman world, in both East and West, was slowly, and essentially painlessly, ‘transformed’ into a medieval form. However, there is an insuperable problem with this new view: it does not fit the mass of archaeological evidence now available, which shows a startling decline in western standards of living during the fifth to seventh centuries. This was a change that affected everyone, from peasants to kings, even the bodies of saints resting in their churches. It was no mere transformation—it was decline on a scale that can reasonably be described as ‘the end of a civilization’. (pg. 87)

In the period of the empire, commercial production and trade had advanced to an enormous scale and linked the entire empire. Not only were there enormous amounts of product being produced and shipped at huge scales, but archaeology has revealed that their quality was also relatively advanced as well. Perkins continues describing the picture at hand;

However, painstaking work by archaeologists has slowly transformed this picture, through the excavation of hundreds of sites, and the systematic documentation and study of the artefacts found on them. This research has revealed a sophisticated world, in which a north-Italian peasant of the Roman period might eat off tableware from the area near Naples, store liquids in an amphora from North Africa, and sleep under a tiled roof. Almost all archaeologists, and most historians, now believe that the Roman economy was characterized, not only by an impressive luxury market, but also by a very substantial middle and lower market for high-quality functional products. (pp. 87-88)

In other words, products were being produced all over the empire by artisans specialized in certain fields and forms of manufacturing, and they were subsequently able to hold large numbers of customers (not only the rich, but also the households of the poor) in markets in entirely different cities, lands, and provinces. Thus, the household products of a Roman may not have been produced in the local village or city, but might come from an array of different locations each shipped to the local marketplace. However, without the complex networks established and maintained by the unity of empire, this would all soon change. As civil wars wrecked armies and consumed taxes, and numerous disparate barbarian tribes invaded, pillaged and slowly conquered Roman lands, the Roman administration slowly disappeared. A good example is provided by the province of Noricum. Perkins explains again the slow dissolution of the Roman administration in this province from the writings of Saint Severinus of Noricum, which allow us to attain a picture of just what happened;

By the time Severinus arrived, Noricum had already experienced nearly fifty years of insecurity and warfare, including a short-lived revolt against imperial rule by the Noricans themselves. It would seem that during these decades Roman administration, and any control over the province from the imperial court in Italy, had already disappeared. There is no mention in the Life of a Roman governor of Noricum, nor of an imperial military commander, and the neighbouring provinces, of Raetia and Pannonia, seem already to have fallen almost completely into Germanic hands. Eugippius indeed describes the Roman defences of the Danube as a thing of the past: ‘Throughout the time that the Roman empire existed, the soldiery of many towns was maintained at public expense for the defence of the frontier. When this practice fell into abeyance, both these troops and the frontier disappeared.’ He goes on to tell a wonderfully evocative story of how the last vestige of imperial military power in the region finally came to an end. Apparently, despite the general collapse of the Roman defensive system, one imperial garrison, that of the city of Batavis, was still in existence in Severinus’ time. But the only way the soldiers could receive their pay was by sending some of their number south and over the Alps into Italy to collect it. On the very last occasion that this was done, the emissaries ‘were killed during the journey by barbarians’; their bodies were later found washed up on the banks of the river. No more imperial pay ever reached Batavis. (pp. 18-19)

The economic situation, before the collapse, was quite good. One way archaeologists have discovered the prosperity of Roman lands during this period is from archaeological remains of … garbage. At Mount Testaccio (Pottery Mountain), a full ‘mountain’ remains from a dumpster of oil amphorae (types of jars) that accumulated over the 2nd and 3rd centuries in the small Roman province of Baetica located south-western Spain. It’s estimated that over 50 million jars remain in this trash pit, that represent over 6 billion litres of oil that were imported into the city where the trash pit was found. An enormous site like this reveals the massive commercial expanse of the Roman world, and there are many other enormous pits of pottery garbage throughout the empire from the period before the fall of the empire that accumulatively help us further understand this complex. Here’s a picture of (a bit of) Mount Testaccio.

None of it was to last, though. Perkins paints the bleak picture that followed.

In the post-Roman West, almost all this material sophistication disappeared. Specialized production and all but the most local distribution became rare, unless for luxury goods; and the impressive range and quantity of high-quality functional goods, which had characterized the Roman period, vanished, or, at the very least, were drastically reduced. The middle and lower markets, which under the Romans had absorbed huge quantities of basic, but good-quality, items, seem to have almost entirely disappeared. (pg. 104)

Anything too complex to produce disappeared from the market, and empire wide transport of goods vanquished. There did not remain a diversity of products anymore, let alone anything high quality, but all your items were crude once more and you certainly had less. You would use locally produced pottery, rather than fancier imported pottery, because no one was able to ship such fine pottery anymore as the commercial networks collapsed, hegemony reigned in with the Germanic invaders who carved out the empire and continued warring with each other ruthlessly and endlessly (and it wouldn’t be any better when Justinian in the 6th century, Byzantine Emperor, sent his generals to regain lost land and crushed both the Vandal kingdom of North Africa, and annihilated the Ostrogothic kingdom in Italy, deeply depopulating the Italian peninsula). Your roof of your house was now thatched and no longer tiled, your houses produced from earth. Skills like the potters wheel and constructing from mortar stone and brick, unless you were a member of the wealthiest in the lands, vanished and became inaccessible.

Slowly, the provinces continued degenerating. In fact, complexity in most provinces literally devolved back not only into those of the Iron Age in these places, but even less than that. Whereas in Roman-era sites, coinage was widespread throughout the empire in gold, silver and copper, and is still found in abundance as more sites are excavated, coins almost entirely disappear from sites thereafter the empires fall. An extensive quotation from Perkins is necessary;

It may initially be hard to believe, but post-Roman Britain in fact sank to a level of economic complexity well below that of the pre-Roman Iron Age. Southern Britain, in the years before the Roman conquest of AD 43, was importing quantities of Gaulish wine and Gaulish pottery; it had its own native pottery industries with regional distribution of their wares; it even had native silver coinages, which may well have been used to facilitate exchange, as well as for purposes of prestige and gift-giving. The settlement pattern of later iron-age Britain also reflects emerging economic complexity, with substantial coastal settlements, like Hengistbury in modern Hampshire, which were at least partly dependent on trade. None of these features can be found reliably in fifth- and sixth century post-Roman Britain. (pg. 118)

In the western Mediterranean, the economic regression was by no means as total as it was in Britain. As we have seen, some trade, some trading towns, some coinage, and some local and regional industries persisted throughout the post-Roman centuries. But it must be remembered that in the Mediterranean world the level of economic complexity and sophistication reached in the Roman period was very considerably higher than anything ever attained in Britain. The fall in economic complexity may in fact have been as remarkable as that in Britain; but, since in the Mediterranean it started from a much higher point, it also bottomed out at a higher level. If, as we have done for Britain, we compare pre-Roman and post-Roman Mediterranean economies, in some areas at least a very similar picture can be found to that sketched out above—of a regression, taking the economy way below levels of complexity reached in the preRoman period. In southern and central Italy, for example, both the Greek colonies and the Etruscan territories have provided much more evidence of trade and sophisticated native industries than can be found in post Roman Italy. The pre-Roman past, in the temples of Agrigento and Paestum, the tombs of Cerveteri and Tarquinia, and a mass of imported and native pottery and jewellery, has left enough material remains to serve as a major tourist attraction. The same cannot be said of the immediately post-Roman centuries. (pg. 120)

The only provinces that didn’t descend into hell after Rome fell were those in the Aegean (i.e. around the Aegean Sea, which is located between Greece and Turkey), the Levant (Lebanon, Israel, Cyprus, Jordan, etc) and Egypt. The Aegean collapsed itself around AD 700 (for a variety of factors, mostly including invasions by the Avars, Persians and Arabs) whereas the Levant and Egypt remained stable in their entire history, mostly due to the fact that they were quickly enveloped by the Arabs in the beginning of their conquests and thus didn’t have to suffer further. Indeed, the Arab lands would be quite prosperous for a while themselves.

The population, it’s clear, also greatly declined after the fall of the Western Roman Empire as the first few centuries progressed. The number of rural settlements declined vastly in the post-Roman period, as Perkins shows from diagrams in pp. 140-141 in the book that place points on the areas where rural settlements did exist before the fall, and after the fall. Indeed, the decline is so severe that it’s frankly astonishing. The amount of new construction dramatically fell, and the buildings that were constructed during this period, such as churches, were far more diminished in size in the post-Roman period than in the Roman period. Though St. Peter’s Basilica was built in Rome in the Roman period, no structure like it would ever be constructed in the ensuing centuries (and the Hagia Sophia doesn’t count since, of course, it was constructed in the eastern Byzantine Empire, not in the collapsed western territory). Literacy, which had been not terribly widespread in the Roman period severely plummeted.

On the other hand, the evidence for the very widespread use of literacy, and, in particular, for its trivial use, which is such a striking feature of Roman times, is far less apparent in the centuries that followed the fall of the empire. The numerous stamps, seals, and painted or scratched inscriptions that had characterized the commercial and military life of the Roman world seem to disappear almost completely. The need to label and stamp large quantities of commercial goods appears to have evaporated, presumably because production and distribution were now much simpler and less extensive than they had been before… Most interesting of all is the almost complete disappearance of casual graffiti, of the kind so widely found in the Roman period. (pg. 165)

It was no longer necessary to write as the technologies of the Roman world declined, any social pressure to do so had disappeared. Only the clergy tried to maintain writing, in order to read their scriptures and works of prominent church authors and church fathers, as well as to continue copying them down (indeed, it is due to the clergy and the monasteries why virtually any of the ancient Greek and Roman writings, philosophies and plays were preserved) — indeed, very soon, the clergy made up the vast majority of those remaining who were capable of writing, as archaeological analysis has also shown. It’s not hard to see why the economy, and therefore products of the economy (such as literacy) fell so dramatically. If products could be produced, and then exported and sold in the empire-wide market, then farmers who live in specific local conditions adept at producing certain foods could exploit such lands and then sell their products throughout the empire. However, once the empire fell, and kingdoms and communities became local, you could not ship out your specialized products throughout the empire, and therefore could neither receive them either. If you had a surplus of a certain product of yours, such as oil per se, you could export your oil to the rest of the economy and make more money. Yet without an international trading network, any surplus you have can’t be sold off in markets elsewhere, and in turn you could not purchase such products produced elsewhere. If a product could not be cultivated locally, you were unlikely to be able to acquire it at all. Secondly, without these surpluses that allowed you to accumulate profits and wealth, you were unable to, in turn, invest in more widespread networks to expand your business and technological capability of your business. Yet without these surpluses in profit, you were no longer able to spend in expanding your business at all, and therefore the size of large businesses themselves would have collapsed without a market outside of your local village and/or kingdom. Perkins writes;

Secondly, specialization and the ability to turn crops into cash allowed farmers to invest in improvements, that in turn increased productivity yet further. For instance, the Syrian cultivators of the limestone hills built a large number of solid olive presses around their villages, the remains of which are still standing there today, which allowed them to extract their oil efficiently and locally. At the same time, their counterparts on the plains were able to extend and intensify their arable cultivation by building complex irrigation and water-management systems, involving dams, underground channels, and reservoirs, as well as conventional irrigation ditches. Through capital investment, farmers were able to get much more out of their land. However, in the conditions of later times, without flourishing international and regional markets, specialization and investment became much more difficult, and the inhabitants of areas like the limestone hills were forced to return to a more mixed, and hence less productive, agriculture. When this happened, the population had to fall. It is indeed thought that parts of the Levant did not regain the levels and density of population that they sustained in late Roman and early Arab times until well into the nineteenth, or even the twentieth century. (pp. 144-145)

These are many of the essential reasons why skills and expansive businesses began to fall without the empire-wide trading network, leading to a severe decline in wealth, literacy, products such as pottery, coinage, etc, etc, etc. These were the products of the fall of western Roman civilization, and it would take centuries for the complexity to be rebuilt — some aspects of the Roman economy would not be attained once more until the late modern era. This was the birth of the Middle Ages in AD 476, and everything I have described here were the characteristics of western Europe in the early centuries of this period. As the centuries ensued, the Middle Ages would be where civilization was reborn and, up until its time, the greatest and bloodiest period of human history.

AD/BC Era, another Christian contribution in the Middle Ages

The Middle Ages were not a ‘dark ages’, as I’ve explained a few times now. Indeed, while the direct centuries after the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in 476 AD caused severe declines in literacy, population, commercial trade and skills, etc, this was reversed in the centuries thereafter and by the end of the Middle Ages, the world was a new and much more advanced place as it once had been during the period of classical antiquity (from Homer to the end of Greco-Roman culture in the West after the empire collapsed). And the foundations for the Late Middle Ages were established in the Early Middle Ages, between 500-1000 AD. All this is documented in James Hannam’s God’s Philosophers: How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations of Modern Science (2009), a very important monograph. Many of these advancements were a direct product of Christianity, indeed, Christianity is one of the primary reasons why the foundations for the modern world were laid in this period. Here, I’ll explore just one topic of this contribution; the eras of our calendars. That is, the eras described by the terms AD/BC, which we use to date the years of virtually every event. No doubt, much celebration occurred close to half a year ago when AD 2018 begun.

In 525, Dionysius Exiguus, a Scythian monk used his learning to replace the former A.D. scheme, a Latin phrase which meant ‘anno Diocletiani’, in the year of Diocletian, which currently dated systems from the year that Diocletian became emperor which took place in AD 284. This dating scheme had gained some prominence in the churches in the 4th and 5th centuries. Another dating scheme used was to simply refer to when certain events took place based on who was consul at the time (the highest rank in the Roman political world until the Roman Empire was established in 27 BC, when the highest rank then became the emperor himself). So, if an event took place in a year when Pompey the Great was the consul in Rome, we may refer to the event, a century afterward, as taking place “in the consulship of Pompey”. Dionysius Exiguus thus replaced this with ‘anno Domini’, in the year of the Lord (not ‘after death’ or ‘after Christ’), referring to the year in which Jesus was born.

Then, during the 8th century, the Venerable Bede would be the next in succession to advance the calendar. Bede was going to go on to become one of the greatest men in the history of Christian thought, and in Dante’s Paradiso (which follows his Inferno and Purgatorio in his poem of the Divine Comedy, now one of the classics of Western thought) where Dante portrayed himself meeting the heroes of Christianity and Christian thought, placing the Bede alongside others such as Thomas Aquinas and Solomon. Bede was an English monk, and by adopting the eras that Dionysius Exiguus used, the modern calendar entered into the mainstream of scholarship. Furthermore, Bede also added in the B.C. system, before Christ. Until this time, calendars (such as that of Diocletian) contained no such mechanism to dating events before the epoch of the first year, and therefore, this advancement of Bede was very important. AD 1 comes right after 1 BC, meaning there is no year 0 – this is because, although the number 0 had been ‘invented’ by Indian mathematical scholar Brahmagupta in the early 7th century, it would not reach the mainstream of Europe until the 13th century, when it was transmitted there by the works of Fibonacci, perhaps the greatest mathematician of the entire medieval period.

The fate of the AD/BC calendar was sealed when the court of Charlemagne adopted it, looking back at the treatises of Bede in the contemporary speculations about time itself. Charlemagne was the first Holy Roman Emperor, an empire he established in AD 800 that lasted all the way until 1806 (when Napolean brought it to its knees). Charlemagne is known as the ‘father of Europe’, probably being to Europe what Augustus was to Rome. This is not the time for an biography of Charlemagne, though it is safe to say that Charlemagne helped establish this calendar, and by the 15th century, it had been widely adopted by Europe.

Indeed, the advancement of this little Christian idea would be further developed throughout the medieval period, as scholars would continue to provide corrections and calculations to make it more accurate. In his monograph The Middle Ages (2015, Harvard), Johannes Fried writes;

Chronologers of the Early Modern era such as J. J. Scaliger regarded these medieval calculators with disdain, and even went so far as to accuse the calendar makers of 1582 of half-heartedness. However, they misconstrued the absolute necessity of the first steps in this subject, and as a result disregarded earlier authors such as Wilhelm von Hirsau, Rainer von Paderborn, or Robert Grosseteste, who in the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth centuries respectively subjected the traditional calendar to close scrutiny, and through their experiments and calculations corrected it, for the most part accurately. Yet because their innovations were not immediately adopted, the modern period—in its ignorance and complacency—discriminated against those scholars and their entire era. (pg. 58)

In 1988, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) adopted this means of era as the international standard (though it does leave room for the newer CE/BCE system, which is basically based on Dionysius’s calculations of when Christ was born (which was actually a bit off) but just states it without any reference to Christianity).

Thus, we can see the development of a small Christian idea, replacing the calendar based off an emperor who hated Christianity and attempted to crush its followers until finally giving up, once he realized that Christianity was growing too rapidly in his empire to be stamped out. A more venerable figure was placed at the heart of the calendar, Jesus Christ himself, and the medieval Christian scholars like Bede would progress it further. This is another contribution we owe to the Middle Ages, one which has Christian roots like so many other things we seamlessly enjoy today. In 1582, shortly after the Middle Ages ended, Pope Gregory XIII would introduce the Gregorian calendar, the worlds most widely used calendrical system today that refined and replaced the Julian calendar, which goes back to Julius Caesar. Thank Christianity.

Christian Fall, the End of History

As I explained in my previous post, a new chapter marked history when Constantine converted to Christianity, formally banned persecution against Christians within the Roman Empire, which had broken out time and time again in earlier decades and centuries. This was a result of Constantine himself converting to the religion, and establishing the city of Constantinople — a city that would serve as the center of Christendom and capital of the Byzantine Empire for the next millennium until its capture by the Ottoman Turks in 1453. However, this was not before the Roman Empire itself would split into the eastern and western halves, something that occurred at the end of the reign of Theodosius I (379-395 AD). What was left was the Western Roman Empire and the Eastern (Byzantine) Empire. While the Eastern half of the empire would go on for another thousand years, this would not be before the Western Roman Empire had itself fallen, which would mark the transition of history into the Middle Ages in 476 AD after being captured by the barbarian officer Odoacer who would thus become its king.

Here, I’m going to try to look at and summarize the main factors and events that went into the fall of the Western Roman Empire, focusing mainly on the barbarian invasions, and thus clarify one of the most pivotal moments for the future of the history of Christianity. I will just add that the term ‘barbarian’ was invented by the Greeks much earlier on, in order to originally describe any of those inferior peoples that were not Greek themselves. The Romans used the term to describe a much different, and much more specific peoples.

The empire did not suddenly fall, of course. The fall of the empire was centuries in the making, the first cracks opening up during the reign of Marcus Aurelius (161 – 180) when the empire was struck by the Plague of Galen (also known as the Antonine Plague) that may have claimed a fourth or even a third of the inhabitants of the empire, akin to the Black Plague that would become one of the markers of the European Middle Ages during the 14th century. The Third Century Crisis began in 235, and until 284, the empire would be rife with enormous civil wars, inflation and over 60 emperors, each slaying one another in the struggle for power, at least three being slain at the hands of the Persians to the east. Then, in 249, the empire was struck once more by the Plague of Cyprian that lasted from 249-262 (which the pagans blamed the Christians on, and so started the first empire-wide persecution of Christianity).

After the empire was stabilized and strengthened under Diocletian and Constantine, it would not be long before civil war would become constant once more, albeit at a much smaller rate. However, this time, things would be much different, as the barbarians would begin their migrations and invasions into Roman territory. This would all culminate in 476, where the empire was finally conquered by the barbarians. The barbarians were numerous disparate tribes and groups north of the empire, beyond the Danube and Rhine living on the steppes in nomadic lifestyles as they constantly traveled in order to survive. Almost all the barbarian enemies were Germanic, though the Romans would have to also deal with the Huns as the decades went by. These groups were made up of many smaller peoples, such as the Goths (who would split into the Visigoths [west Goths] and Ostrogoths [east Goths] soon enough), the Vandals, Angles, Saxons, Franks, Alans, Alemanni, etc, with each of these peoples being made up of various tribes that may have warred with each other and allied with each other at different times. They desired to enter and live in the Roman Empire, knowing of the riches that lay south of them, and many of them would successfully migrate their, though others had more nefarious motives, sometimes which would become manifest after already having migrated. Many times, different tribes were allied with the Romans themselves, and as the professional army of the Western Roman Empire began to vanish, the Romans would often hire different barbarian tribes to battle against others. However, it would end up the case that the barbarians would slowly conquer, and carve out the Western Empire among them. Here’s an image of the Western Empire before and after the barbarians helped themselves to the Roman lands.

Now that’s a catastrophe if I’ve ever seen one. Adrian Goldsworthy, in his fantastic book How Rome Fell: Death of a Superpower (2009, Yale University Press) summed up the situation like this;

By the end of the fifth century the territory once controlled by the Western Empire was now split into a number of separate kingdoms. The Visigoths controlled much of Gaul and almost all of the Iberian Peninsula. Only in the north-west did the rump of the Suevic kingdom survive. Similarly, the Vascones – from whom the modern Basques claim descent – were effectively independent in their lands along the north-east coast. The Visigoths, however, were not the sole power in Gaul. There was a substantial Frankish kingdom in the north, and smaller Burgundian and Alamannic states in the east. In the far north some areas had been settled by Saxons. Brittany was controlled by a combination of its old provincial population and the descendants of the refugees who had fled there from Britain. Across the Channel, Britain was divided into many separate groupings, and the east was now overwhelmingly dominated by rulers who were Saxon or from other north Germanic tribes. The Vandals remained in control of North Africa, although to the south they were under pressure from the Moors. Finally, Italy itself was in the hands of King Theodoric and the Ostrogoths. (pg. 370)

At first, the barbarians would only enter the Roman Empire upon admission from the Romans to settle them because, as I mentioned earlier, they originally wanted to migrate in order to inherit the riches of the Roman lands which they could not dream of in their own lands. It was the case, too, however, that many barbarians would want to enter the Roman Empire in order to escape and run away from other expanding tribes. Thus, the first time the barbarians ever forcefully entered into the (eastern) empire was in 376, a group of Goths seeking asylum from the expanding territories of the ruthless Huns. In his now  famous monograph titled The Fall of Rome and the End of Civilization (2005, Oxford University Press), Bryan-Ward Perkins writes;

The first people to enter the empire in force were Goths, who in 376 crossed the Danube, fleeing from the nomadic Huns who had recently appeared on the Eurasian steppes. (pg. 1)

They had first made their way to the border on the Danube, and requested permission to settle in the empire. Now, the initial entry would not be forceful, as they were a massive force and the emperor Valens (364-378) found it more secure to settle them in then to keep them out (lest they invade). So, they entered, but things quickly devolved for their situation. They had almost no food, and the Romans were said to have forced them to sell a child per dog they received. The Goths could not take it, and revolted. Thus commenced the Gothic War of 376-382.

This would be a horrible time for the Romans. The Romans had, by this time, already been weakened by over a century of civil war, plague, wars with the Parthian Empire and some battles with the barbarians themselves. Indeed, by this time, they were not powerful enough to command a decisive victory against the barbarians, and so through a period of 6 years were routing their supplies and doing some guerrilla warfare, eventually forcing the Goths to surrender (on rather generous terms). However, the Romans, at one point, did attempt a decisive victory. In 378, the emperor Valens at Hadrianopolis, deciding not to wait for reinforcements to arrive, launched a massive head-on attack against the barbarians. The battle was, against the perceived odds, an utter massacre. The Roman army was utterly destroyed, perhaps losing a war that wasn’t as disastrous since Cannae centuries earlier where Hannibal was said to have slain around 50,000 Romans in a single day, the barbarians even killing the emperor Valens. This disaster was only the beginning of the end, however. Perkins continues;

Certainly any theory that the East was always much stronger than the West is demolished by the fact that it was the eastern field army that was defeated and massacred at Hadrianopolis in 378. This defeat provoked a profound and immediate eastern crisis: the Balkans were devastated; Constantinople itself was threatened (though saved by the presence of some Arab troops); and Gothic soldiers within the Roman army were slaughtered as a precautionary measure. The loss with all its equipment of perhaps two-thirds of the eastern field army took years of expenditure and effort to repair. Indeed, until the Goths under Alaric entered Italy in 401, it was the eastern emperors, not the western, who occasionally needed military help from the other half of the empire (in 377, 378, 381, 395, and 397). In dealing with the Goths, after their entry into the empire in 376, the eastern emperors alternated between a policy of alliance and one of aggression; but their ambitions after 380 seem to have been limited to containing the Gothic menace, with little hope of destroying it or driving it right out of imperial territory. (pp. 58-9)

In 401, the Western Roman Empire would be invaded by the barbarians for the first time, under the Visigothic king Alaric. Alaric would be defeated twice in 402, at the Battle of Pollentia (by Stilicho, one of the last great Roman generals and himself half-barbarian) and Battle of Verona, but was not killed in these engagements and would return once more to cause something unprecedented in almost a thousand years of Roman history. In 408, the emperor of the Western Roman Empire Honorius (393-423, by this time the eastern and western empires had split would be led by different emperors) executed Stilicho and ordered the executions of tens of thousands of Goths, causing many to defect and join the forces of Alaric, swelling the numbers of his army. That same year in 408, Alaric would once again invade Rome, changing history in the process. Until this time, a famous phrase in the empire was ‘Roma Invicta, or ‘Unconquered Rome.’ By 410, Alaric marched his armies into the gates of the great city and sacked it over a period of three days. “The city which had taken the whole world had itself been taken”, was how Jerome summed it up. Coincidentally, Alaric would later die that year. In 455, a few decades later, Rome was sacked once again, this time though, much more systematically by the Vandals over a 2 week period.

Just years prior to Alaric’s sack, the empire had effectively lost control of the province of Britain, first occupied by Julius Caesar and conquered by the emperor Claudius (41-54) when Constantine III, ruler over the province at the time, attempted to usurp the throne of the empire from Honorius with its support in 407. It had never been easy to maintain rule over Britain, but the usurpation of Constantine who crossed back with his army into Europe effectively ended any such reign (Constantine III himself would be killed years later by Constantius III, who would briefly be emperor in 420 before dying of natural causes). And a year before Constantine III, barbarians groups of Vandals, Sueves and Alans crossed into Gaul, and would slowly conquer it. In 429, the Vandals crossed into North Africa, the largest tax revenue base that the Western Roman Empire controlled, and had conquered the capital Carthage by 439. In the 430’s, the Hunnic Empire would be great enough and so large that it itself threatened the empire under its famous leader, Attila the Hun.

At first, Attila bullied the Eastern Roman Empire, forcing it to pay enormous annual sums of gold (which Attila likely required to pay his own generals so they would be at check, it was not only common for emperors to be killed by those in their midst looking to usurp power). To get a scale at how big Attila’s empire was at the time, behold:

Attila had plundered the Balkans in the 430’s (basically, the modern countries that make up south-eastern Europe, that big chunk of land to the east of Italy that connects to Turkey). His success in raiding the Eastern Roman Empire lead him to invade the west, and he went far enough until 451 (as can be seen in the map above) until he was finally stopped at the Battle of Cataulanian Plains, a great alliance between the Romans and countless different barbarian peoples, which ended the expansion of his empire. He raided Italy in the next two years, but eventually died drunken in 453. His empire fractured and dissolved away as competing men vied to take power. One of Rome’s fiercest enemies had fallen, but by then it was too late. Roman control continued to slowly fade away, until Odoacer finally delivered the final blow in 476 when he conquered Italy and became king. Odoacer himself would be killed by the Ostrogoths under Theoderic the Great in 493. And so was the fall of the Western Roman Empire.

By this time, most of the barbarian tribes had converted to Christianity, mostly in the heretical form of Arian Christianity (it would not be until centuries later until they converted into a more orthodox sort (for example, the Visigoths who controlled most of the Iberian Peninsula [essentially modern Spain and Portugal], with their capital at Toulouse, and then Toledo as they retreated from the Franks in the early 6th century, had been Arian Christians since they entered the empire in 376, but would not abandon Arianism until 587, over 200 years later)). Some barbarians, such as the Ostrogoths who controlled Italy, actually favored the concept of the Roman identity so much that they referred to themselves as Romans, and the other tribes as the real barbarians (even their fellow Visigoths). Western Europe would not become much more united until Charlemagne centuries later, sometimes known as the ‘Father of Europe’ who would unite the Western Empire for the first time since classical times. However, that’s a story for another day, and for now, the Byzantine Empire would live on and a new era was being made way for. This was the medieval period, not a ‘dark ages’ (a term given up by historians) where the history of the world would continue until the modern period. I don’t claim to have fully explained all the factors in Rome’s fall — for a fuller explanation, I’d recommend reading the two aforementioned books; How Rome Fell by Adrian Goldsworthy and The Fall of Rome and the End of Civilization by Bryan-Ward Perkins.

Christian Emperor, A New History

The first Roman emperor to have ever interacted with the Christians, a group born under imperial Roman rule in Israel, was Nero. According to Tacitus, who records this interaction in his Annals 15.44, Nero blamed the burning of the city of Rome (which he was likely responsible for) on the Christians and thus persecuted them, likely killing several hundreds (which would have devastated the early community in Rome, since no more than a few thousand could have possibly existed at the time). Some later traditions linked the martyrdoms of Peter and Paul to this persecution (though we do not know precisely when they died) and the Book of Revelation, likely written towards the end of the 1st century also makes associations of the beast with the past reign of the emperor Nero, likely alluding to past persecutions. In a recent 2017 paper titled Tacitus and the Persecution of the Christians: An Invention of Tradition?, Bremmers and van der Lans write;

In Revelation, which is commonly dated to somewhere around 100 but without a general consensus about either the author or the place of composition, there is a reference to a second beast associated with the number six-hundred sixty-six. Tons of ink has been spilled about this number, but the majority of interpreters have accepted that the number is “(among many other things) the sum of the numerical equivalents for the Hebrew letters which spell the words ‘Neron Caesar'”. Furthermore, one of the beast’s heads is said to have received a seemingly fatal wound of which it had been healed. This is probably a reference to the myth of Nero rediturus, which would place Revelation among Jewish apocalyptic scenarios of Nero’s return as eschatological opponent. (pg. 311)

Nero’s persecution in Rome was only the beginning. Christians would also be persecuted under the reign of Trajan (as signified by Pliny’s letter to Trajan and his response back), Hadrian (noted by his letter to Servianus), and then under Marcus Aurelius, the philosopher-emperor, the greatest persecution against the Christians yet broke out murdering tens of thousands in cold blood. Some of the greatest ancient Christians met their deaths under these circumstances, including Clement of Rome, Polycarp, Justin Martyr (receiving his last name due to the end he met), Ignatius of Antioch and others. Under the reign of Septimius Severus, the last great emperor before the Third Century Crisis of the empire until the reign of Diocletian (who was also a great persecutor of Christians), Severus decided Christianity undermined Roman patriotism and determined to crush it as well, and it is during his reign that the tragic story of Perpetua is documented.

Under the emperor Decius who ruled from 249-251, the first truly empire-wide persecution erupted as Christianity continued to grow exponentially, destroying many more for their faith. Not every emperor hated Christianity, though. One notable exception was the reign of Aurelian under which the empire was reunited (270-275) who not only tolerated Christianity but apparently even resolved a dispute in a church in the empire that had written to him for his aid.

Everything changed, of course, with Constantine I, son of Constantius I of the tetrarchy established by Diocletian, and a pivotal man in the history of the Roman Empire (or perhaps, history in general) in almost every aspect. In the Battle of Milvian Bridge in 312 against one of the other emperors at the time, Maxentius (by this time, it had been common for there to be multiple emperors), Constantine claimed that a cross appeared over the sun before he entered the battle, and was told that by this sign, he would conquer.

Tiridates was not the only important political figure to embrace Christianity in this period, for in the early fourth century Constantine, one of the most influential figures in Rome, also converted. The decisive moment came during a tempestuous civil war when Constantine took on his rival Maxentius at Milvian Bridge in central Italy in 312 AD. Shortly before the battle, the former supposedly gazed into the sky and saw ‘a cross-shaped light’ above the sun, together with Greek words declaring ‘by this sign, you will conquer’. The full meaning of this became clear to him after he had a dream in which an apparition of Jesus Christ explained to him that the sign of the cross would help him defeat all his rivals. This, at any rate, was how some liked to describe what had happened. (Peter Frankopan, The Silk Roads: A History of the New World, 2015. Pg. 41.

He defeated Maxentius, and became a Christian — the first emperor to do so (however, if Constantine had not done this, scholars generally recognized it would have happened eventually given the rapid growth speed of Christianity at the time, growing so fast that Diocletian gave up on his hopes of stamping Christianity out and simply asked the Christians to pray for the good of the empire). From here, the history of the empire took a turn.

Christian communities certainly benefited greatly under his rule. Not only was their religion granted formal acceptance by the state, but Constantine was generous in funding the construction of grand church buildings. Some of the first of these were in Rome.” (Adrian Goldsworthy, How Rome Fell: Death of a Superpower, 2009. Pg. 185)

Constantine further consolidated his power as sole emperor after defeating Licinius in 324. Constantine also converted the city of Byzantium into another centre of the empire, and renamed it Constantinople after himself — which started a new history on its own. Constantine built Constantinople as an overwhelmingly Christian city, erecting churches everywhere with little sign of the pagan cult.

“Christian claims that there was no trace of pagan cults in the city were exaggerated. There was a large nude statue of Constantine as the sun god on top of what is now known as the Burnt Column, and there were a few temples, mostly on existing foundations. Yet it is fair to say that it was an overtly and overwhelmingly Christian city.” (Goldsworthy, pg. 186)

In 313 AD, a year after defeating Maxentius, Constantine and Licinius signed the Edict of Milan, which established freedom of religion and tolerance of Christianity in the empire and ordered the return of confiscated property to the Christians. Persecution, which had peaked earlier during Diocletian’s reign, had virtually come to an end in the empire for the time. Frankopan continues to explain;

Christian accounts leave little doubt about the limitless enthusiasm with which the Emperor personally oversaw the enforcement of Christianity at the expense of all other religions. We learn from one author, for example, that the new city of Constantinople was not ‘polluted by altars, Grecian temples or pagan sacrifices’, but enriched by ‘splendid houses of prayer in which God promised to bless the efforts of the Emperor’. Another writer states that famous centres for cults were shut down by the Emperor, while oracles and divination, staple features of Roman theology, were banned. The customary sacrifice made before official business could take place was likewise outlawed, while pagan statues were pulled down and legislated against. There was little room for equivocation in the story told by authors with vested interests to show Constantine as single-minded promoter of his new beliefs.

In 325, in the second half of Constantine’s reign, the Christians banned gladiatorial fights, claiming that the bloody spectacles had displeased them. In the same year, Constantine called the Council of Nicaea to take place between church leaders in order to address the increasing rifts in the ever-larger Christian community (though Constantine himself did not participate in the council or any of its decisions). Constantine’s mother, Helena, also a Christian, had by this point built the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem over the location where the local Christians had claimed was the place of the burial of Jesus Himself (and last year it was confirmed that this church dated to this period), and this structure today is now the greatest pilgrimage site in the Christian world. Constantine also built the Old St. Peter’s Basilica, which stood until the 16th century (sadly taken down by Pope Julius II). Throughout his reign, Constantine supported the church financially, built basilicas, and exempted priests from various taxes and made sure many Christians received powerful positions in the Roman bureaucracy.

Constantine raised all his sons as Christians, who all reigned as emperors until Julian became emperor from 361-363, who would be the last pagan emperor to ever reign (and now known as Julian the Apostate for abandoning Christianity, he was greatly succumbed to the Greek philosophies and tales, and died against the Sasanians to the east of the empire in an attempt to conquer them to re-enact the conquests of Alexander the Great). Under the reign of Theodosius I (379-395), Christianity for the first time would be established as the state religion of the empire, taking the spot the pagan cult had once had.

Of course, such a pivotal moment in the history of the world and Christianity in particular, the crazy New Atheist conspiracies shine forth, claiming that Constantine was, despite the endless documentation in texts, inscriptions, etc, not really a Christian after all and it was all made up. The vast ignorance one would require over virtually everything I’ve gone over about Constantine’s reign is required here. Thankfully, I don’t need to engage in the dismantling over this vast conspiracy, because Bart Ehrman has already done it for me in his most recent book, The Triumph of Christianity (2018), which is very articulately reviewed and explained by Tim O’Neill in his (recommended) recent and extensive review of Ehrman’s book.

On Jordan Peterson

Former associate professor at Harvard University, where he was nominated for the prestigious Levenson Teaching Prize, and currently (for about two decades now) professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, where he has been named one of the three life-changing teachers, is Jordan Peterson, the intellectual who grew up in harsh northern Alberta and has now become the most famous public intellectual today in the world since his original rise opposing the Canadian Bill C-16 which, he stated, is the first piece of legislation in Western history that has compelled people to use specific language–specifically, compelling people to use the preferred pronouns of transgender individuals. Just yesterday, Wesley Yang wrote an article titled The Shocking Truth About Jordan Peterson where he wrote that Peterson “by orders of magnitude, the most widely disseminated lecturer in the history of the world”, and interestingly, also that there are endless examples where “Peterson’s careful approaches to various problems have been twisted beyond recognition by various journalistic interlocutors.” So, considering such a controversial figure has appeared center stage in the rising Western intellectual phenomenon that has been termed the ‘intellectual dark web’ in a recent and widely disseminated New York Times article, and since I’ve followed Peterson very closely, why not discuss the man and his relevance?

Peterson, 55, since his rise in 2016 has a YouTube channel with over a million subscribers (almost all videos being hours long lectures and discussions) and a Twitter account with over 600,000 followers. He’s a long-time professor and clinician, and is an important academic in his field of psychology. After receiving his PhD in psychology at McGill University a few decades ago, his Google Scholar page lists that he and his work have been cited over 9,700 times, and his career work on psychology (specifically in its subfield of personality) is highly respected. In a recent journalistic hit piece on Peterson (of which there are many, especially on the ideological magazine Macleans), Zack Beauchamp had to admit the following;

I spoke to eight academic psychologists before writing this piece; the feedback I received on his published work was uniformly positive.

“His work in personality assessment … is very solid and well respected,” says David Watson, a psychology professor at Notre Dame.

Peterson’s most important influences likely include Frederick Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung (‘Jung’ pronounced ‘Yoo-ng’). A fuller and excellent explanation of Peterson’s profound psychological theory is offered here, which will probably only be useful once you’ve become familiar with the man. As I wrote earlier, his initial rise to fame was sparked in 2016 when he opposed Bill C-16, a piece of legislation which promoted compelling speech in order to require people to use transgender pronouns lest they be guilty of discrimination in a court of law.

As Peterson notes, after he had done this, many leftist lawyers came out of the “woodworks” (such as Brenda Cossman) to claim he had misrepresented the bill. In fact, all it does is “to add gender identity and gender expression to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination”, and does not cite speech anywhere. However, as has been noted by a number of lawyers who have supported Peterson’s interpretation, this misses the gist. One such person was Bruce Pardy, a Law Professor at Queen’s University who wrote an article entitled Meet the new ‘human rights’ — where you are forced by law to use ‘reasonable’ pronouns. In it, he points out multiple facts pertaining to this issue. Pardy writes and explains the issue summarily;

Bill C-16, like provincial human rights codes, does not make specific reference to speech. In the Senate, supporters of C-16 fell over each other denying that the legislation would compel language. When Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould testified before the Senate’s Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee, she specifically denied that the bill would force the use of gender-neutral pronouns. There are reasons to doubt her sincerity. First, human rights commissions say otherwise. Along with human rights tribunals, they have primary control over the meaning and application of code provisions, something the justice minister must know. Human rights commissions are not neutral investigative bodies but advocacy agencies with expansive agendas. In comparison, courts and governments play only a minor role in interpreting these statutes.

Second, Senator Donald Plett proposed an amendment to the bill that would have clarified that it was not the bill’s intention to require the use of particular pronouns. The minister flatly rejected it, as did Liberal and most “independent” senators. In fact, like its provincial counterparts, Bill C-16 will give transgendered and non-gendered people the ability to dictate other people’s speech.

Indeed, the human rights commissions in Canada have the authority to interpret the law and, therefore, the law essentially states what they consider it. And indeed, not being compelled to refer to trans people by their pronouns would, according to these commissions, constitute discrimination and therefore violate Bill C-16. Earlier, Pardy quotes the Ontario Human Rights Commission saying that “refusing to refer to a trans person by their chosen name and a personal pronoun that matches their gender identity … will likely be discrimination when it takes place in a social area covered by the Code, including employment, housing and services like education.” Indeed, in a video released by the CUPE BC (Canadian Union of Public Employees, British Columbia), the expert stated “It’s important to use the appropriate pronouns for trans people for a number of reasons. The first reason is that it’s the law. Recent changes to the BC Human Rights Code and the Federal Human Rights Act make discrimination on the basis of gender identity and gender expression forbidden.”

This controversy marked the beginning of the rise of Jordan Peterson. Earlier this year, Peterson had a lecture at Queen’s University with Bruce Pardy and, in my opinion, it was simply astounding.

This was, indeed, only the beginning. Quickly, protests erupted against Peterson. One such protest involved a group of protestors who recorded their engagement with Peterson which was subsequently posted to the internet and then on YouTube with three million views and the title ‘Dr. Jordan Peterson gives up trying to reason with SJWs’.

Since then, many events have marked Jordan Peterson’s rise. In 2017, he began a lecture series on the psychological significance of the biblical stories, now numbering 17 lectures (see the playlist here), which have quickly become the most famous lectures on the biblical stories to ever be produced. If you type ‘God’ into YouTube, the third video that appears is Peterson’s lecture titled Biblical Series I: Introduction to the Idea of God. Whether or not he’s a Christian remains unclear to everyone, for reasons that become clear once you get to understand the guy, which is, impossible without watching much of his content.

Peterson has earned the ire of journalists and ill-informed critics who paint him as the archetype of the evil conservative (though he is a classic liberal) for challenging virtually every orthodoxy of the politically correct leftist culture. He’s become starchly anti-authoritarian by studying Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union for decades, and deeply opposes postmodernism (which effectively says that there is no grand truth narratives in life, that no ideas are above one another) and Marxism (developed by Karl Marx and states that there is a perennial conflict between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat (essentially, those in power and those who aren’t) where those in power are only there as they oppress those below them), and their paradoxical merging into postmodernism neo-Marxism. Peterson writes “It’s not as if I personally think that postmodernism and Marxism are commensurate. It’s obvious to me that the much-vaunted “skepticism toward grand narratives” that is part and parcel of the postmodern viewpoint makes any such alliance logically impossible.” Of course, these ideas encompass much of modern leftist thought, such as cultural relativism which states all cultures are equal (yes, people believe this).

From his talk with academic and fellow psychologist Jonathan Haidt on the perilous state of the university to his lecture titled ‘Identity politics and the Marxist lie of white privilege‘, Peterson’s intellectually compelling and highly dense talks which are full of discussions on psychology, mythology, biology, religion, etc, it wasn’t long before he would be targetted for destruction by those with an ideological axe to grind. A few months ago in January (of 2018), he released his book 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos. We must remember once again that Peterson is a psychologist with decades of clinical experience, and thus his primary work has been to help people, which has consequently lead to the development of his other ideas in a psychological context. This book (one of the best on wellness according to GQ Magazine, though I wouldn’t put much weight on that since, well, this is GQ we’re talking about) sparked the increasing fame of Peterson, and the most significant event in his rise would occur, his interview with Cathy Newman on Channel 4. This interview, half an hour, now has 9.9 million views and where Peterson, to put it straight, destroys Newman (though Peterson himself doesn’t like such descriptive language being used about him and his engagements).

So today, where his book 12 Rules for Life, since January, is still #1 on Amazon (and in the ensuing half year has already sold over a million copies to become an international bestseller), we live in an age where Peterson has become much more visible, and the criticisms against him much more ruthless and ridiculous. Two clear examples of hit pieces written about him, and their absurdity, will be noted. The first one was published a few weeks ago titled Is Jordan Peterson Enabling Jew Hatred? by ‘journalist’ Ari Feldman, where the cover photo for the article was a picture of Peterson besides Hitler. In it, Feldman cited an article on a far-right website calling him the Savior of Western Civilization and citing the comments of the famous Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt who, in a brief conversation between the two where Feldman tried to get comments out of Deborah, had quoted her calling some of his remarks “suspicious.”

Since publishing time, the article has been refuted and refuted and refuted and refuted and … In short, the Forward had to change the photo of Peterson beside Hitler and issue an apology, Deborah Lipstadt published a note on the Forward explaining she knew almost nothing about Peterson’s views and that Feldman failed to note that she had told him this in their discussion, and the alt-right website calling Peterson a ‘savior’ was actually a satirical piece and the same author had elsewhere referred to Peterson as a “Jewish stooge” (Peterson is not Jewish). Another website, alt-right.com itself has had the following comments to say about Peterson;

So we can conclude a few things: that a Jewish television producer put Peterson on the map, that Jewish-dominated mainstream media outlets give him incredible coverage and access, and that his fierce pro-Jewish stance indicates a loyalty to the Jews supporting and promoting him. This makes Peterson essentially a tool of the powerful Jews backing his weak, inconsequential pushback against radical leftism.

Indeed, Richard Spencer, the most famous alt-right figure around has, after initial hopes that Peterson was on their side in the beginning of his rise to fame, concluded that Peterson was not the guy who he thought he was and had “hit a wall”. Peterson himself has said (and bragged about) having had thousands of people email him and tell him that his lectures have stopped them from joining the alt-right, which also throws a lot of water on the endless line of crackpots who genuinely believe that, despite probably being the most significant single figure who has damaged the ranks of the alt-right movement, that Peterson himself must either secretly be one of them, their darling, or be pandering to them or … some other view that has no further credibility to be discussed. One of Peterson’s ’12 rules’ is “Tell the truth (or at least don’t lie)”. Peterson’s detractors would be in a spot of much more significant credibility if they followed this rule.

The second example is even more recent, a hit piece in the New York Times titled ‘Jordan Peterson, Custodian of the Patriarchy’. The biggest thing that emerged from this was that Peterson supported “enforced monogamy”, something that the author, Nellie Bowles, gave to light as a position that Peterson supposedly endorses the view that women should be redistributed to men and marauding incels so that no one is left behind. If that were true, it would be crazy, but indeed, it couldn’t be a more absurd misrepresentation of the facts. Peterson has had to embarrassingly explain a few facts to his detractors, many of whom still have no clue what they’re talking about even in light of these claims (some of whom still haven’t done the effort to find out they exist). Enforced monogamy is … just a societal pressure to keep people from being polygamous. Peterson writes “My motivated critics couldn’t contain their joyful glee this week at discovering my hypothetical support for a Handmaid’s Tale-type patriarchal social structure as (let’s say) hinted at in Nellie Bowles’ New York Times article presenting her take on my ideas.”

Ben Shapiro, in an article on The Daily Wire appropriately titled ‘The New York Times’ Runs A Comprehensive Hit Piece On Jordan Peterson. It’s Dishonest, Malicious Crap. writes;

This is plainly dishonest reportage. First off, Peterson is using well-established anthropological language here: “enforced monogamy” does not mean government-enforced monogamy. “Enforced monogamy” means socially-promoted, culturally-inculcated monogamy, as opposed to genetic monogamy – evolutionarily-dictated monogamy, which does exist in some species (but does not exist in humans). This distinction has been present in anthropological and scientific literature for decades.

So, here’s what Peterson is not arguing: that women should be forced to marry men to cure the insecurity of incels. But that’s what Bowles says he’s saying, and then calls it “absurd.” Because she’s a very objective reporter, don’t you see.

Here’s what Peterson is arguing: socially-enforced monogamy results in more pairings, and fewer situations in which multiple women choose one man, leaving other men without partners. This is statistically unassailable. Removing socially-enforced monogamy results in a hierarchy in which women choose the most desirable men, since many women can now have sex with one man. Peterson argues that this leads to a counterintuitive result as well: desirable men are less likely to settle down with one woman, making women less satisfied with their relationships with men as well.

Many, many outlets have now explained Nellie Bowles’ absurd, slanderous misrepresentations of Peterson on the issue of enforced monogamy. Here’s a fuller video of Peterson’s subsequent comments on this ‘scandal’.

Even more recently, a recent long-time friend of Peterson, Bernard Schiff, has turned on him and written an article in the Toronto Star explaining why he use to be a supporter of Peterson and now thinks he’s dangerous just four days ago. Earlier today, however, the Toronto Star has published a subsequent letter by Irene Taylor, a former associate of Peterson, who has explained some of the absurdity of the article and the kind of man Peterson really is. Just yesterday, though, a full-length scathing, devastating analysis of Schiff’s article appeared on the Toronto Sun, putting to rest any of the supposed credibility it’s had.

Schiff’s comments are similar to those who claim (and thus misrepresent) Peterson’s human-lobster analogies by claiming Peterson uses them as a one-to-one comparison to humans, or even worse, the outright lie that Peterson claims human and lobster brains are the same (i.e. PZ Myers and Vice) rather than Peterson’s mere scientific demonstration that organisms as distantly related and dissimilar to humans as lobsters have dominance hierarchies and, therefore, hierarchies are ingrained in biology and cannot be removed under absurd guise that they’re sociocultural constructs (or worse yet, those who lay hierarchies at the feet of capitalism). In a recent absurd article in the Washington Post titled Jordan Peterson needs to reconsider the lobster, the marine biologist Bailey Steinworth admits that Peterson doesn’t get any of his science wrong, and that every biologist would agree with what Peterson says regarding dominance hierarchies in nature, but oddly proceeds to complain that there are other examples Peterson could have used besides the lobster. Steinworth vindicates Peterson’s argument by admitting his science about the dominance hierarchies of lobsters is right, but complains that he didn’t use her personally favored comparisons.

So, what does Jordan Peterson really believe? You’ll quickly find out that most of the discussion on Peterson are ridiculous accusations and statements made by his critics, and lengthy refutations and addresses of them by those who are more charitable. His profound psychological theory is not discussed nearly as much, which is the primary reason of his fame. In the beginning of this post, we saw an article by Wesley Yang on the shocking truth about Jordan Peterson, a highly, highly recommended article. Yang explains;

So what does Peterson actually believe? He has consistently defended the moral position that the “individual is sovereign over the group,” a unique feature of Anglo-American political theory and practice that holds that citizens hold their rights against the state rather than through it, which is inscribed into our founding documents, and helps to account for the remarkable capacity of societies built around its doctrines to accommodate high levels of diversity while remaining democratic. The underlying sovereignty of individuals forces state power to operate against a hard constraint that limits coercion, and gives individuals the means by which to push back.

So, should we deal with more absurd articles, such as those by the likes of Paul Thagard, an ideological man whose claims to refute Jordan Peterson’s original book, Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief published in 1999 (both published by Routledge, one of the most respected academic publishers and has been highly received by academia) are demolished by his own quotations of the book that he straight out misrepresents while claiming at the same time they establish his representations of Peterson? Of course not.

Maps of Meaning is Peterson’s original monograph where Peterson outlines his philosophy, psychology and theory, which was the basis of his popular psychology classes at the University of Toronto. Peterson has released the entire book for free in PDF as well, thank God for that, and Peterson also releases all his lectures and talks for free as well. He is also one of the four reputed academics to have created the Future Authoring Program, where you spend time just outlining your plans for your future. This program has had measurably proven effects on increasing peoples outcome in life, such as significantly reducing the drop-out rate of students (interestingly, the effects are especially significant with minorities).

Peterson now has profound hours-long talks that receive hundreds of thousands and millions of views with many figures, including Dave Rubin, Joe Rogan, Ben ShapiroSteven Pinker, Camille Paglia, John Anderson, Maajid Nawaz and more (most of whom you likely don’t know but may very well love after seeing his talks with them). He’s received support from countless academics such as Denis RancourtJonathan Stea, and Izzy Kalman besides those I’ve already mentioned. In this same time, he’s had an interview with Vice that Vice absurdly edited to make him look bad, a conversation with a Vox journalist (Vox is responsible for a few hit pieces written about Peterson, one of which has already been referred to earlier) where the Vox journalist doesn’t get very far trying to score a victory on him and an admittedly highly intellectual discussion he’s had with a BBC reporter who, despite also wanting to defeat him, ended up having a very interesting and productive conversation (though Peterson still won, watch and enjoy). He’s talked with Russell Brand (twice) and had a popular discussion on the podcast of the famous YouTuber h3h3Productions (which lead to this second one with them).

So, Jordan Peterson’s book 12 Rules for Life is still #1 on Amazon after six months. In my opinion, his best lectures have been on tour promoting this book, perhaps most astutely his life-changing lecture at HowToAcademy which has received 1.2 million views.

The journalistic storm against Jordan Peterson has seemed to have calmed down recently. Many leftist thinkers have supported him and his rise. Less than two weeks ago, the most recent Munk debate was released on the issue of political correctness. The resolution was “Be it resolved, what you call political correctness, I call progress…” On the pro side was Michelle Goldberg (a New York Times journalist, so the astounding misrepresentation she had of Peterson wasn’t that surprising) and Michael Dyson, and on the con side was Jordan Peterson and Stephen Fry.

The most famous part of the 2-hour long debate, which was released two weeks ago and already has almost 2 million views on YouTube was where Dyson unbelievably called Peterson a “mean, made white man” to which he attracted scathing critique, both during and after the debate. Truly a racist remark, and the firestorm that would have been caused had Peterson called Dyson a “mean, made black man” is self-evident enough. Personally, I thought Peterson and Fry won, but I wasn’t the only one. The audience was polled before the debate, where 36% supported pro (Goldberg, Dyson’s resolution) and 64% supported con (Peterson, Fry). At the end of the debate, support for pro had dropped to 30% and con had risen to 70%, meaning that a sixth of pro’s entire support had evaporated over the course of the debate due to con’s arguments and evidence. Dyson, after the debate, decided to share Twitter posts of people who probably already supported his position before the debate almost self-declaring victory, to which I commented under …

Why is Dyson cherry-picking tweets from like the 6 people who thought he won? Did someone tell him yet that the audience support for his side of the debate dropped from 36% to 30%, and therefore almost a fifth of the people on his side abandoned him?

To which I enjoyed 41 likes and some retweets. So, where is the Peterson phenomenon going? Well, up. Join it while it’s rising. And watch some of his videos on YouTube. You won’t be able to stop.