Below, translated excerpts from the first volume of Karlheinz
Deschner’s Kriminalgeschichte des Christentums
(“Criminal History of Christianity”)
The ‘beasts with human body’ in the third century (Tertullian, Hippolytus, Cyprian)
Toward the beginning of the third century, Tertullian, the son of a non-commissioned officer and lawyer who occasionally exercised in Rome (where he drained the cup of pleasure, as he himself confessed) writes his ‘requisitions against heretics’, although not much later, and during the final two decades of his life, he himself would become a ‘heretic’, a Montanist and eloquent leader of a party of his own, that of the Tertullianists.
In his Praescriptio, however, that clever and mocking Tunisian, who dominated all the facets of rhetoric, ‘proves’ that Catholic doctrine is the original and therefore the true doctrine, in the face of the innovations of heresy, and that the ‘heretic’, therefore, is not a Christian and his beliefs are errors that cannot aspire to any dignity, any authority, any ethical validity.
(Later on, that born polemicist would whip up Catholics with his wit and sharp tongue, despite having been the creator of the institutionalized notion of the Church, as well as of the whole doctrinal apparatus of sin and forgiveness; baptism and penitence, Christology, and the dogma of the Trinity: that is, the very notion of the Trinity was his work.)
When Tertullian still belonged to the Church—to the point he would be later called the founder of Catholicism—he was in favour of avoiding the controversy with ‘heretics’ saying that ‘nothing is taken from it but stomach or head upset’. He even denies them the writing, since he says that they ‘throw holy things to dogs and pearls, even if they are false, to pigs’. He calls them ‘wrong spirits’, ‘falsifiers of truth’, ‘insatiable wolves’. For Tertullian ‘only the fight is worth; it is necessary to crush the enemy’ (Kötting).
Around the same time Hippolytus, the first anti-bishop of Rome, related in his Refutatio up to 32 heresies, 20 of them Gnostic. It is, among all the heresiologists of the pre-Constantine period, the one who left most news about the Gnostics, and he knew nothing of them! Moreover, these ‘heretics’ served only as a screen for the attack on his true enemy, Callixtus, the bishop of Rome, and the ‘heresy’ of the ‘Callixtusians’.
According to Hippolytus who, speaking of himself, claims he wants to avoid even the appearances of ‘slander’, many of the heretics are nothing more than ‘liars full of chimeras’, ‘daring ignorant’, ‘specialists in spells and incantations, formulas of seduction’. Noecians are ‘the focus of all misfortunes’, the Encratites ‘some incorrigible conceited’, the Montanists ‘let themselves be deceived by women’, and their ‘many foolish books’ are ‘indigestible and worthless’.
The Docetists propose a ‘confused and ignorant heresy’, and even Marcion, so selfless and personally unblemished, is nothing more than ‘a plagiarist’, a ‘debater’, ‘madder’ than the others and ‘more shameless’; as far as his school, it is ‘full of incongruities and dog life’, a ‘heretical impiety’. ‘Marcion or one of his dogs’, wrote the holy anti-bishop (and patron saint of the cavalry) Hippolytus, finally stating that he had broken ‘the labyrinth of heresy, and not with violence’ but ‘with the force of truth’.
By the middle of the third century, among those who fought relentlessly against the defenders of other beliefs, there also flourished the holy bishop Cyprian, the author of the saying: ‘The father of the Jews is the devil’, which would have so much fortune among the Nazis. He was an arrogant, typical representative of his guild, who pretended that ‘before the bishop one must stand as, before, the figures of the pagan gods’.
Like the Jews and the pagans, Christian opponents of Cyprian are for him creatures of the devil, who ‘testify every day with an angry voice their mad frenzy’. And just as any Catholic writer ‘breathes holy innocence’, in the manifestations of ‘traitors to the faith and adversaries of the Catholic Church’, of ‘the shameless supporters of heretical degeneration’, there is nothing but ‘bark of slander and false testimony’.
Cyprian insists and repeats himself, for example in his 69th epistle, in which every ‘heretic’ is ‘enemy of the peace of our Lord’, that ‘heretics and renegades do not enjoy the presence of the Holy Spirit’, who are ‘prisoners of the punishments to which they are credited for joining in the insurrection against their superiors and bishops’; that ‘all without remission shall be punished’, that ‘there is no hope for them’, that ‘all will be thrown into perdition’ and that ‘all those demons will perish’. To the ‘heretics’, the saint argues with abundant evidence taken from the Old Testament, ‘neither food nor drink is owed to the earth’, nor, what to say, ‘the salvific water of baptism and divine grace’. From the New Testament he deduces that ‘one must depart from the heretic as the contumacious sinner, who condemns himself’.
Bishop Cyprian does not tolerate contact of any kind with the separated Christians. ‘Separation encompasses all spheres of life’ (Girardet). For Cyprian, who occasionally dedicates himself to establishing ‘true lists of heretics’ (Kirchner), the Catholic Church is everything and the rest, in the end, is nothing… For him they are only enemies: alieni, profani, schismatici, adversarii, blasphemantes, inimici, hostes, rebelles, all of which is summed up in one word: antichristi.
That tone ends up being the one usually used in interfaith relations. While the Church itself is praised as ‘heavenly paradise’, the doctrines of adversaries are always ‘absurd, confusion’, ‘infamous lie’, ‘magic’, ‘disease’, ‘madness’, ‘mud’ ‘plague’, ‘bleating’, ‘bestial howls’ and ‘barking’; ‘delusions and scams of old women’, ‘the greatest impiety’. As for separated Christians, they are always ‘conceited’, ‘blind, persuaded to be worth more than others’, ‘atheists’, ‘crazy’, ‘false prophets’, ‘Satan’s firstborn’, ‘demon spokesmen’, ‘beasts with human form’, ‘poisonous dragons’ against which we must proceed, sometimes even with exorcisms.
Against the heretics the charge of corruption of customs is also repeated; they are… like the males chasing many goats, or like stallions whinnying when they sniff the mare, or like grunting pigs. According to the Catholic Irenaeus, the Gnostic Marcus seduced his parishioners with ‘filters and magic potions’ to ‘tarnish their bodies’. Tertullian, after becoming a Montanist, proves that Catholics indulged in drunkenness and sexual orgies during the celebration of the holy supper; Cyril says Montanists climbers were child-eating ogres.
From Christians to Christians!
And yet Augustine had said: ‘Do not think that heresies are the work of four fainthearted; only strong spirits originate heterodox schools’. St. Augustine devoted his whole life to persecute them, and then with the help of the secular arm.