666 Christian Crimes

400 - 499


Early 5th century

[St.] John Chrysostom "delivered eight 'Sermons Against the Jews' at Antioch," partially based upon the Gospels of Matthew and John. This was the beginning of a distinctively Christian anti-Semitism, which included branding Jews as Christ-killers. Chrysostom's influence plus pagan smears and rumors put at risk Jewish communities in all Christian cities. [Johnson, 1987, 165]


Pope St. Anastasius condemned the writings of Origen, the Church's first great theologian, even though he was not familiar with them. Anastasius was also the father of his successor, Pope St. Innocent I. [McBrien, 65]


Emperor Honorius had published the Edict of Unity, "which ordered the dissolution of the Donatist [Christian] Church." [Bokenkotter, 79; Valantasis, 270]


A law aimed specifically at Donatists and Manichaeans criminalized their beliefs. Punishment was confiscation of all their property. They were barred from inheritance. Convicted heretics were also barred from buying, selling, or making a contract. [Valantasis, 270]


It became illegal for Jews to "burn the symbolic 'gallows of Haman' during their Purim festivals. Some Christians had mistaken it for a cross." [Engh, 94]


A law stated that any images used by pagans should be torn down and destroyed. Pagan temples were to be opened to the public for public purposes. [Valantasis, 272]


A law was passed requiring the burning of all books possessed by heretics. Failure to hand over a heretical book was made a capital crime. [Freeman, 2009, 143]


Astrologers were to be deported if they refused to burn their books. [Valantasis, 273]


Emperor Honorius decreed that heretics and pagan worshipers were to be punished by "exile and blood." [Ellerbe, 28]

Repression of pagans by secular authorities was "unavoidable" and "not necessarily a case of persecution for religious opinions." [Catholic Encyclopedia, "Donatists"]

After talks had failed, [St.] Augustine of Hippo (in Africa), reversed his long-standing position and sanctioned the use of force against the Donatists. He promulgated the principle Cognite intrare, 'Compel them to enter.' The church would use this doctrine time and again to justify intolerance and violent repression of dissent, heresy, and other religions. [Ellerbe, 37-38]

Augustine based his Cognite intrare principle on Luke 14:23: "The master then ordered the servant, 'Go out to the highways and hedgerows and make people come in that my home may be filled.'" This verse was part of a parable about a man who wanted to give a great dinner and his invited guests made excuses not to come. Somehow it became an excuse to force people to convert to Christianity and to punish them if they refused.

The doctrine of a "holy war" or "just war" was developed by Augustine. He said that a defensive war is always just and that an offensive war is just when waged against "a state that refuses to make reparations for wrongs committed or fails to return seized property." [Williams, 2002, 29]


[St]. Cyril, Theophilus' nephew and "an impetuous, self-promoting radical who believed in backing up the power of the Word with the power of the mob," succeeded Theophilus as patriarch of Alexandria. He was not elected to the position. His supporters won it for him after three days of street fighting with the supporters of Archdeacon Timothy, who was backed by the church hierarchy and the military.

He increased the stresses between the various groups of the city, sometimes using his "shock troops," the parabolani. He also got the fanatical black-robed monks of the Nitrian desert to enforce his will. Many monks were misfits, criminals, and fugitives, who vandalized pagan temples and rioted in the streets. Cyril even got them to attack Orestes, the Roman prefect of Egypt. They so terrorized the city that the emperor asked him to limit their number to 500.

Cyril closed the churches of the peaceful Novatian sect and took their property. In response to a provoked Jewish attack on Christians, he authorized the looting of Jewish sites and expelled all Jews from the city. He was also at least partially responsible for the murder of Hypatia, a famous pagan scholar, at the hands of a Christian mob. [Freeman, 2005, 268; Johnson, 1976, 94]


Parabolan monks, incited by lies about Hypatia spread by [St.] Cyril, and led by Peter the lector, killed her inside a Christian church. Hypatia had been a popular public lecturer in philosophy and mathematics, and a close advisor of Orestes, the Roman governor of Alexandria. "Cyril resented her influence with the city prefect and others. No one was punished for the crime." The Catholic Encyclopedia absolves Bishop Cyril of all blame for this event.

Pagan idols and altars were ordered destroyed. All pagan property was claimed by the imperial authorities. Bishops were allowed to disrupt pagan rites, with force if necessary. Pagans were excluded from positions in government. [Pollard and Reid, 272-278; Haught, 1990, 53; Engh, 92]


The bishop of Mahon in Minorca burned Jews in their synagogue for refusing to meet with him on the Sabbath. [Letter of Severus by the bishop of Mahon; cited by Freeman, 2005, 266.]


[St.] Augustine bribed the bishop of Rome to side with him against Pelagius. [Ellerbe, 35]


At the urging of [St.] Augustine and other African bishops, Pope [St.] Innocent I excommunicated Pelagius, who denied the doctrines of original sin and that it was impossible to do good works without God's grace. [Catholic Encyclopedia, "Palagianism"]


Emperor Honorius banished Pelagians from all Italian cities. [Catholic Encyclopedia, "Palagianism"]


The Roman Catholic Church "embraced the doctrine of hereditary transmission of original sin." [Ellerbe, 35]


After the death of Pope St. Zosimus, one church faction elected Eulalius pope, while a different faction elected Boniface. The emperor called a synod at Ravenna to choose, but the attendees were unable to make a decision. Next, a council at Spoleto was convened on June 13, 419, to settle the issue. The emperor insisted that both contenders leave Rome in the meantime. Boniface left, but Eulalius stayed. The emperor than banished Eulalius and declared Boniface Bishop of Rome (pope). [McBrien, 68-69]


"... a band of Syrian monks under the fanatic Barsauma conducted a series of pogroms against Jewish Palestine, burning synagogues and entire villages." [Johnson, 1987, 165]


Porphyry, bishop of Gaza, received imperial help to ransack and burn pagan temples in Gaza. [Freeman, 2009, 144]


The building of new Jewish synagogues was banned. [Valantasis, 274]


A law forbade anyone to make an image of Jesus in any medium. [Valantasis, 266]


The prohibitions against any and all heresies (35 were specifically named) was renewed. In addition, the law decreed that "they shall also be deprived of all aid, whether military or civil, of the law courts, the defenders and judges...." [Valantasis, 270]


A law threatened any heretic with death. Judaism was still legal but intermarriage with Christians was a capital crime. [Ellerbe, 29]


Emperor Theodosius II decreed, "... we order that all [pagan] shrines, temples, sanctuaries, if any even now remain intact, should be destroyed by the magistrates' command and that these should be purified by the placing of the venerable Christian religion's sign [the Cross]." [Freeman, 2009, 144]

The death penalty was decreed for permitting or practicing pagan rites. [Engh, 92]


Theodosius II decreed, "We finally sanction by this law ... that no Jew, no Samaritan ... shall enter upon any honors or dignities; to none of them shall the administration of a civil duty be available, nor shall they perform even the duties of a defender of the city ... with an equally reasonable consideration also, We prohibit any synagogue to arise as a new building." [Freeman, 2009, 145]


If a Jew circumcises a Christian his property will be confiscated. [Valantasis, 274]


During Pope [St.] Leo I's reign the Arian Vandal leader Genseric laid waste to most of northern Africa, thereby establishing the Pope's dominion over the African churches. [McCabe, 1939, 100]

Pope [St.] Leo I was "the first to formulate the Church's right to put heretics to death." [McCabe, 1939, 101]


Pope [St.] Leo I ("The Great") brought the Manichaean bishop and his clergy to trial and confronted them with confessions which had been secured by torture. [McCabe, 1939, 88]


The letter [from Pope (St.) Leo I] to the Spanish Bishop Turribius of Astorga is notable as the first explicit Papal approval of the execution of a heretic. [McCabe, 1916, 43]


Theodosius II passed a law which required the burning of heretical books. [Freeman, 2009, 150]


The Second Council at Ephesus, sometimes called "the robber council" or "the gangster synod," was called to decide matters related to the "monophysite" heresy. Monophysites believed that Jesus had one nature; their opponents said he had two natures. Flavian, archbishop of Constantinople, was beaten to death and his rival, Dioscorus, archbishop of Alexandria, bullied his way into control of the council. He used armed guards to force the attending bishops to sign their names to blank pieces of paper. Nestorian (i.e., Monophysite) bishops were condemned and charged with all manner of crimes, whether they had committed them or not. Dioscorus even excommunicated Pope [St.] Leo I, who was definitely not a Monophysite, having written a document (Tome) which explained Jesus' two natures and other Christian beliefs. [Freeman, 2005, 261; Martin, 72; Jenkins, 188, 191-192]


At the request of the clergy, Emperor Marcian outlawed public discussions on the nature of Christ.

[ www.stopthereligiousright.org/theodosius.htm ]


"When, in 457, the emperor Leo I (457-474) asked the Bishop of Melitene, in Armenia, whether he wanted a council to discuss theological issues, the bishop shrewdly replied: 'We uphold the Nicene creed but avoid difficult questions beyond human grasp. Clever theologians soon become heretics.'" [Freeman, 2009, 143]


A law forbade Eutychians and Apollonarians to assemble, promote their religions, or to publish anything against the "holy Chalcedonian Synod." All their writings should be burned. Violators were to be banished forever. [Valantasis, 271]


A law was passed forbidding anyone from publicly discussing religion. [Valantasis, 267]


"Pope Leo I asserted papal primacy, arguing that the pope alone has the responsibility and authority to care for the entire church." [Cline, medieval1]


"... owners of property where [pagan] rites took place were held responsible. Upper-class owners could lose their rank and property, while the lower classes could be tortured and sentenced to hard labor in the mines. .... most of the violence perpetrated against non-Christians ... was not official persecution." Those who destroyed temples and murdered pagans were pious Christians who had been enflamed by their leaders. This kind of violence was illegal but Christians were rarely punished for it, nor was restitution made to the victims.

Christianity gradually absorbed much of the pagan religion: "lighting lamps and candles, singing hymns, parading with sacred objects, dedicating votive offerings, giving gifts at religious holidays, eating and drinking to commemorate dead relatives and friends. Pagan festivals became Christian holidays, and Christian martyrs and saints were often revered at times and places where pagan deities had been worshipped. ... something very basic had changed. Belief—right belief—was now more important than worship or conduct. And everyone was now assured of eternal life, either in bliss or in agony. The world had become an anxious place, where thoughts as well as deeds were driven by the fear of hell." [Engh, 92-93]


Arian Christian Huneric, king of the Vandals, declared Catholic Christians heretics and persecuted them as Catholics had persecuted Arians previously. Catholic churches were closed and their property confiscated. Catholic clergy were executed, exiled, or enslaved. Those who resisted conversion to Arianism were sometimes tortured. [Engh, 103]


Pope St. Gelasius I, in a letter to emperor Anastasius, said that Jesus had spoken of two swords. According to Gelasius the two swords represented the priestly power and the royal power. He then asserted that "religious power always took precedence over the secular so that kings ruled at the pleasure of ... popes." [Jenkins, 240]




© R. Paul Buchman 2011