“The Daily”


Some History Considered

It may be proper here to examine briefly the history which is adduced in support of the claim that paganism was taken away in a. d. 508. In the comments on Daniel 11:31, found in “Thoughts on Daniel,” a quotation is made from the historian Gibbon to prove that “in 508 their [the adherents of the papal party] partisan zeal culminated in a whirlwind of fanaticism and civil war which swept in fire and blood through the streets of the Eastern capital.” The passage reads as follows:- THD 6.1

The statues of the emperor were broken, and his person was concealed in a suburb, till, at the end of three days, he dared to implore the mercy of his subjects. Without his diadem, and in the posture of a suppliant, Anastasius appeared on the throne of the Circus. The Catholics, before his face, rehearsed their genuine Trisagion; they exulted in the offer which he proclaimed by the voice of a herald of abdicating the purple; they listened to the admonition that, since all could not reign, they should previously agree in the choice of a sovereign; and they accepted the blood of two unpopular ministers, whom their master, without hesitation, condemned to the lions. These furious but transient seditions were encouraged by the success of Vitalian, who, with an army of Huns and Bulgarians, for the most part idolaters, declared himself the champion of the Catholic faith. In this pious rebellion he depopulated Thrace, besieged Constantinople, exterminated sixty-five thousand of his fellow Christians, till he obtained the recall of the bishops, the satisfaction of the Pope, and the establishment of the council of Chalcedon, an orthodox treaty, reluctantly signed by the dying Anastasius, and more faithfully performed by the uncle of Justinian. And such was the event of the first of the religious wars which have been waged in the name, and by the disciples, of the God of peace.-“Decline and Fall,” Vol. IV, page 526. THD 6.2

The following extracts from Milman’s “History of Latin Christianity,” standard edition, book three, chapter one, state clearly the nature of this outbreak in Constantinople, and locate very definitely the time of the event referred to in this extract from Gibbon. The dates are given from the margin of Milman’s work:- THD 7.1

a. d. 510. Worse than all, 200 Eastern monks, headed by Severus, were permitted to land in Constantinople; they here found an honorable reception. Other monks of the opposite faction, swarmed from Palestine. The two black-cowled armies watched each other for some months, working in secret on their respective partisans. At length (a. d. 511) they came to a rupture; and in their strife, which he either dared not, or did not care to control, the throne, the liberty, and the life itself of the emperor, were in peril. The Monophysite monks, in the Church of the Archangel, within the palace, broke out after the “Thrice Holy,” with the burden added at Antioch by Peter the Fuller, “who was crucified for us.” The orthodox monks, backed by the rabble of Constantinople, endeavored to expel them from the church. They were not content with hurling curses against each other, sticks and stones began their work. There was a wild fierce fray; the divine presence of the emperor lost its awe; he could not maintain the peace.... The emperor was reduced to the humiliation of receiving the Bishop Macedonius, whom he had prohibited from approaching his presence, as his equal, almost his master. THD 7.2

a. d. 512. The year after the exile of Macedonius, Constantinople, at the instigation of the clergy and monks, broke out again in religious insurrection. The blue and green factions of the Circus-such is the language of the times-gave place to these more maddening conflicts. The hymn of the angels in heaven was the battle-cry on earth, the signal for human bloodshed. Many palaces of the nobles were set on fire; the officers of the crown insulted; pillage, conflagration, violence reigned throughout the city. A peasant who had turned monk was torn from the palace of the favorite Syrian minister of Anastasius, Marinus (he was accused of having introduced the preface burden of the angelic hymn); his head was struck off, carried on a pole, with shouts, “Behold the enemy of the Trinity!” The hoary emperor appeared in the Circus and commanded the heralds to announce to the people that he was prepared to abdicate the empire, if they could agree in the choice of his successors. The piteous spectacle soothed the fury of the people; they entreated Anastasius to resume the diadem; but the blood of two of his ministers was demanded as a sacrifice to appease their vengeance. THD 7.3

It will be seen that these quotations deal with the same subject as does the quotation from Gibbon, made in “Thoughts on Daniel,” and that these events occurred in the years a. d. 510-12. Two things are evident from these quotations: First, that the disturbances referred to by Gibbon, were quarrels between the Monophysite monks and the orthodox monks, two factions in the one church, and not a conflict between the Papacy and paganism. And second, that the particular outbreak referred to in the quotation from Gibbon, as given in “Thoughts on Daniel,” occurred after a. d. 508. THD 8.1

The following extract from Neander’s Church History, Clark’s edition, Vol. IV, page 257, deals with the same general subject and fixes the date of the insurrection of Vitalian, which is referred to in the latter part of the quotation from Gibbon, as given in “Thoughts on Daniel:”- THD 8.2

As the rumor spread that the emperor favored the addition to the church hymn (the Trisagion), and was prepared to remove the patriarch Macedonius, a violent tumult breaks forth. The houses of many grandees were burned; the monk who was supposed to be the author of the addition was seized by the infuriated populace, murdered, and his head was carried about in triumph, stuck upon a pole. Then appeared the emperor at the Circus, before the assembled people, without his crown. He declared himself willing to lay down the government; but all could not reign at once, one must be sovereign. These words had their effect upon the excited multitude. The people besought the emperor to retain the government. The emperor took advantage of this movement; he caused Macedonius to be removed, and Timotheus, a presbyter, who accepted the Henoticon, was appointed his successor. Meanwhile the emperor saw himself under the necessity, for many reasons, of yielding to the fury of the exasperated party of the Chalcedonian council where this predominated. By this exasperation, aid and comfort were given to the insurrection of the military commander Vitalian, which broke out in the year 514; and Anastasius found himself compelled to enter into conditions of peace, to the joy of the adherents of the Chalcedonian council. THD 8.3

From these extracts from Milman and Neander it is plain that the events referred to in the quotation from Gibbon in “Thoughts on Daniel” occurred in the period a. d. 510-14, and it must be clear to all that even though the subject referred to was the taking away of paganism, it would not be historically correct to fix upon the date a. d. 508 as the time when these events occurred. When also the fact is taken into consideration that the history does not deal at all with the overthrow of paganism, but with the settlement of a quarrel between the factions in the church itself, it must be doubly plain that this history can not be used in order to establish the year 508 as the time for the taking away of paganism. THD 9.1

In another of our books we find the following statement:- THD 9.2

The last contest with paganism was in 508, when the French and Britons accepted Christianity; the “daily” spoken of in Daniel had been taken away. THD 9.3

No quotations are made from, or any reference given to, any history as a basis for these statements, and we are, therefore, under the necessity of examining the record for ourselves. If the writer refers to the Franks and their conversion under Clovis, this took place in 496. In 508 Clovis was engaged in his war against the Visigoths. THD 9.4

The history of that period shows that in 508 the Britons were engaged in the defense of their country against the inroads of the Anglo-Saxons and Jutes. This war commenced in 449, and was continued into the sixth century. There is absolutely no foundation in history for the assertion that either the Franks or the Britons accepted Christianity in 508. THD 10.1