My new book has just been published with De Gruyter. The title is “Christianity, Book-Burning and Censorship in Late Antiqity: Studies in Text Transmission”. It has recently been endorsed by Forbes Magazine:
As Dirk Rohmann has written in his new book, Christianity, Book-Burning and Censorship in Late Antiquity, early Christians often spoke of books as a kind of body that demons could inhabit. What better way to kill these demons than to burn them? (Sarah E. Bond, Forbes Magazine, 26/09/2016)
Here is a short summary:
It is estimated that only a small fraction, less than 1 per cent, of ancient literature has survived to the present day. The role of Christian authorities in the active suppression and destruction of books in Late Antiquity has received surprisingly little sustained consideration by academics. In an approach that presents evidence for the role played by Christian institutions, writers and saints, this book analyses a broad range of literary and legal sources, some of which have hitherto been little studied. Paying special attention to the problem of which genres and book types were likely to be targeted, I argue that in addition to heretical, magical, astrological and anti-Christian books, other less obviously subversive categories of literature were also vulnerable to destruction, censorship or suppression through prohibition of the copying of manuscripts. These include texts from materialistic philosophical traditions, texts which were to become the basis for modern philosophy and science. This book examines how Christian authorities, theologians and ideologues suppressed ancient texts and associated ideas at a time of fundamental transformation in the late classical world.
It took me quite a while to write this book, and I hope it sheds new light on an important question that to my mind has so far been understudied. I would like to quote a major passage that I find key to approaching the subject:
To Christian authors of Late Antiquity, the philosophers were wrong, for example, when they posited evolution, originating from the clash of atoms, instead of creation out of nothing. These Christian authors attributed many opinions of ancient philosophers to a demonic, devilish counter-world. For example, they considered natural forces, recognised by certain philosophers, as demonic because natural forces explained the movement of material objects without God. The atoms too were demonic as being independent entities, uncreated matter, impartible, moving automatically and by cohesion in varied order composing the objects of the material world, without divine providence. Other questions of doctrinal importance included predictions on the movement of the stars, the singularity, duration, size and shape of the universe and whether it was a miracle of creation or something that can be explained mathematically; whether human beings were informed about the material world through the various senses (for example, through optics and acoustics) or through the ideas of the soul. The various opinions of the philosophers could cause heretical thinking and had done so in the case of many heretics. Christian authors condemned much of the material which became the basis for modern philosophy and science as magical and heretical because it conflicted with the world-view, or universe-view, that they were promoting. (p. 22)
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