The quotes presented in this discussion are often passed around uncritically by skeptics, with
many proving to be spurious once the sources are examined. Other quotes have been attributed
to the wrong individuals or have been misrepresented from their original context. In this section,
we will attempt to get to the source of these statements.
The Outline for this discussion is as follows:
2) Pope Leo X
4) Saint Augustine
5) Justin Martyr
7) Quotes Regarding Women
8) Flat-Earth/Geocentric Endorsements
9) Miscellaneous & Spurious
ALLEGED QUOTE: "There are many things that are true which it is not useful for the vulgar crowd to know and certain things which although
they are false it is expedient for the people to believe otherwise." City of God
Though this quote is found in Saint Augustine's City of God, this quote does not come from Augustine. Augustine is refuting the belief of the
pagan, Varro, who believed the common people should not be exposed to the mythical origins of their beliefs. The actual quote is found within
the following text:
"[Varro admits] he does not in his own judgment believe those things which he relates that the Roman state has instituted... He finds himself
bound to accept the traditional names and surnames of the gods, and the histories connected with them, and that his purpose in investigating
and publishing these details is to incline the people to worship the gods... This most acute man sufficiently indicates that he does not publish all
things, because they would not only have been contemptible to himself, but would have seemed despicable even to the rabble... He himself
[Varro], in another passage, had openly said, in speaking of religious rites, that many things are true which it is not only not useful for
the common people to know, but that it is expedient that the people should think otherwise, even though falsely, and therefore the
Greeks have shut up the religious ceremonies and mysteries in silence, and within walls. City of God Book IV, Chapter 31.
CONCLUSION: The entire chapter basically consists of Augustine expressing his disgust with Varro's tactics of deception. Augustine discusses
Varro's disbelief of his own religion and his unwillingness to reveal his findings to the commoners.
ALLEGED QUOTE: "It is lawful, then, to him that discusses, disputes and preaches of things eternal, or to him that narrates of things temporal
pertaining to religion or piety, to conceal at fitting times whatever seems fit to be concealed." Against Lying Chapter 17
This statement actually is found in Augustine's work, however, the quote is taken out of context. Augustine is basically discussing the
predicament of those who lie for the sake of religion, although he is not endorsing the act. The full context of the quote shows Augustine
examining different types of lies (example: white versus bold faced lies) before he expresses his opinion that lying is not acceptable. When
the above quote is passed around, skeptics fail to point out Augustine is discussing the actions of others before offering his conclusion:
"Wherefore, from the doctrine of religion, and from those utterances universally, which to are uttered on behalf of the doctrine of religion, in
the teaching and learning of the same, all lies must be utterly kept aloof. Nor can any causes whatever be found, one should think, why to lie
should be told in matters of this kind, when in this doctrine it is not right to tell to purpose lie for the very of bringing to person to it the more
easily. For, ounces break or slightly diminish the authority of truth, and all things will remain doubtful: which unless they be believed true,
cannot be held as certain. It is lawful then either to him that discourses, disputes, and preaches of things eternal, or to him that narrates or
speaks of things temporal pertaining to edification of religion and piety, to conceal at fitting times whatever seems fit to be concealed: but to
tell to lie is never lawful, therefore neither to conceal by telling to lie." On Lying Chapter 17
CONCLUSION: Augustine is not condoning the act of lying but is examining the reasons behind those who do. Furthermore, he states even
white lies have the ability to "diminish the authority of truth." In regards to concealment, Augustine implies personal issues may be kept
private. If someone asks the victim of a crime if such an event occurred, they have every right to tell the inquirer it's none of their businesses.
But in matters of religion, lying is never acceptable.
ALLEGED QUOTE: "I was already bishop of Hippo when I went into Ethiopia with some servants of Christ to preach the Gospel. In this country
we saw many men and women without heads and who had two great eyes in their breasts. In countries farther south, we saw people who had
but one eye in their foreheads." Sermon 37
Augustine's 37th Sermon may be read here. This statement appears nowhere within this sermon or in any of his works.
If we have learned anything at all from this discussion, it would be to always ask for precise sources when presented with such allegations.
Regardless of whether or not the content is favorable to one's position, the main thing to remember is we are dealing with human beings who
are prone to error. Even the most virtuous among us can make a real humdinger of a mistake. Our responsibility is to see if one's teaching
lines up with the Word of God. If one claiming to be of Christ teaches sexism, racism, or any other "ism" that does not line up with the Word of
God, then that individual is the one in error and we are told to reject them and their message- not to reject God.
A red flag should immediately be raised in the mind of the discerning reader due to the fact these statements are rarely accompanied by an
original source when critics of Christianity use them to slander our faith. These quotes are typically attributed to early church fathers or
leaders but rarely specify the actual origin of the statement. Though we will prove many of these quotes to be erroneous, for argument's sake
I would like to mention even if these quotes were accurate, they would still be the work of fallible humans. Even devout Christians may
sometimes hold personal opinions that differ from the teachings of the Bible. However, this does not show the Bible to be in error, but the
individuals and their biased views.
In this section we will seek out the origins of such statements by examining the actual works of the individuals in question. Upon doing so, we
will come to find that many statements are either completely false or distorted from their original context.
Contributors: Special thanks to Wilco of the Netherlands for his submission of several new quotes! (Added April 11, 2006).
ALLEGED QUOTE: "How well we know what a profitable superstition this fable of Christ has been for us!" or "What profit has not that fable of
Christ brought us!"
Though rarely accompanied by a source, this quote is always attributed to Pope Leo X. When a source is offered, it is sometimes cited as being
found in the 14th edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, Volume 19, Page 217.
Not only do these pages not mention the quote, it is not even the volume that contains the Pope Leo X article! His article is found in Volume 13
on pages 926-928. Though I read the encyclopedia article, this quote appears nowhere within the text. Even though the encyclopedia admits to
Leo leaving the papacy virtually bankrupt upon his death, this quote is never attributed to him.
So where did this quote originate? Skeptics claim Leo said this to a member of his entourage who later attributed the quote to him. However,
the quote has now been attributed to the 16th century satirist and playwright, John Bale. John Bale joined the Protestant movement after
becoming disenchanted with the corruption of the Catholic church. He wrote many parodies in which he openly expressed his disdain of papal
abuse. One of his satirical works known as The Pageant of the Popes is the actual source of the quote in question (paraphrased in modern
English for the reader's convenience):
"For on a time when a cardinal Bembus did move a question out of the Gospel, the Pope gave him a very contemptuous answer saying: All
ages can testify enough how profitable that fable of Christ hath been to us and our company." (Pageant of the Popes Page 179)
Even the Catholic Encyclopedia explains this quote does not come from Leo: "His piety cannot truly be described as deep or spiritual, but that
does not justify the continued repetition of his alleged remark: 'How much we and our family have profited by the legend of Christ, is
sufficiently evident to all ages.' John Bale, the apostate English Carmelite, the first to give currency to these words in the time of Queen
Elizabeth, was not even a contemporary of Leo." Catholic Encyclopedia
CONCLUSION: This quote is from a fictional 16th century work written as a parody. Presenting this as a legitimate quote would be as absurd as
attributing a line from a Shakespearian play to the real life character whom an actor depicted.
ALLEGED QUOTE: "It will sometimes be necessary to use falsehood for the benefit of those who need such a mode of treatment." or "That it is
necessary sometimes to use falsehood as a medicine for those who need such an approach." The Preparation of the Gospel
The work in question may be found here as the title to the 31st chapter. However, these words are not apart of Eusebius' original works- they
were added later most likely by a medieval translator. Literary works of antiquity, such as The Preparation of the Gospel, were not divided into
chapters or paragraphs. In fact, they also no had spacing in between words or even punctuation. It appears whoever divided Eusebius' works
into chapters read the text and assigned chapter titles according to the material's content. The actual text of the "chapter" in question is as
"[PLATO] 'But even if the case were not such as our argument has now proved it to be, if a lawgiver, who is to be of ever so little use, could
have ventured to tell any falsehood at all to the young for their good, is there any falsehood that he could have told more beneficial than this,
and better able to make them all do everything that is just, not by compulsion but willingly? [Cleinias] 'Truth, O Stranger, is a noble and an
enduring thing; it seems, however, not easy to persuade men of it.' [Plato] Now you may find in the Hebrew Scriptures also thousands of such
passages concerning God as though He were jealous, or sleeping, or angry, or subject to any other human passions, which passages are
adopted for the benefit of those who need this mode of instruction."
In the above passage, Eusebius is criticizing and citing Plato's dialogue with Cleinias from Plato's work the Laws. Eusebius is neither
commanding nor condoning the spread of falsehood.
CONCLUSION: The chapter title in question was not written by Eusebius. It is most likely a late interpolation by a medieval translator for the
convenience of reference. The actual text of the chapter was a citation from Plato's works and Eusebius was actually rebuking of those who
distort facts in order to gain followers or make a point.
ALLEGED QUOTE: "I have repeated whatever may rebound to the glory, and suppressed all that could tend to the disgrace of religion."
This quote is usually cited as being found in Eusebius' The Preparation of the Gospel Book 12, Chapter 31 (See: here). However, this is the
location of the quote we just examined above so we know the quote is not found there. This quote has now been traced back to Edward
Gibbon, an 18th century historian, in his work The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. The following is found in this work, on
"The gravest of the ecclesiastical historians, Eusebius himself, indirectly confesses that he has related whatever might redound to the glory,
and that he has suppressed all that could tend to the disgrace, of religion."
CONCLUSION: This statement was never made by Eusebius nor does is appear anywhere within his works. For more on this topic, here is an
article which traces this quote's origin in depth.
ALLEGED QUOTE: "Eusebius claims he was an eyewitness to the martyrs who were unmolested by attacking wild beasts. He says the beasts
'were stopped short as if by some divine power, and then retreated to the starting point.'"
Though Eusebius records the deaths of many Christian martyrs, I cannot find this statement in any of his works. The quote is said to come
from his Ecclesiastical History Book VIII, Chapter VIII. However, the passage in question (See: here) is as follows:
Such was the conflict of those Egyptians who contended nobly for religion in Tyre. But we must admire those also who suffered martyrdom in
their native land, where thousands of men, women, and children, despising the present life for the sake of the teaching of our Saviour,
endured various deaths. Some of them, after scrapings and rackings and severest scourgings, and numberless other kinds of tortures, terrible
even to hear of, were committed to the flames. Some were drowned in the sea, some offered their heads bravely to those who cut them off,
some died under their tortures, and others perished with hunger. And yet others were crucified, some according to the method commonly
employed for malefactors. Others yet more cruelly, being nailed to the cross with their heads downward, and being kept alive until they
perished on the cross with hunger.
Conclusion: This "eye witness" account of Eusebius simply does not seem to exist.
ALLEGED QUOTE: Though Justin's words are never quoted directly (because the quote does not exist) he is said to have denounced the devil
for having sent Mithras, a god very similar to Jesus who also preceded Him.
Some of the quotes I have found on various skeptical sites include:
- "Justin Martyr denounces the devil for having sent a God so similar to Jesus—yet preceding him."
- "Later Christians were terribly perturbed by these similarities to Pagan religions- these coincidences so disturbed Justin Martyr that he
accused the devil of sending an imitator of Christ in advance."
Justin's First Apology may be found here. When we look into Chapter 66 (LXVI) We are given Justin's actual words:
"Which the wicked devils have imitated in the mysteries of Mithras, commanding the same thing to be done. For, that bread and a cup of water
are placed with certain incantations in the mystic rites of one who is being initiated, you either know or can learn."
This chapter involves the symbolism of the Christian Eucharist. Nowhere does Justin claim Christianity adopted pagan rites- in fact he points
out the fact Mithraism imitates the Christian bread-wine communion with a bread-water ceremony. The discerning reader will also notice
earlier in the chapter (not quoted by skeptics, of course) Justin describes the symbolism behind the rituals. Justin states the Christian Eucharist
is taken only by those who are already followers but the ritual performed by followers of Mithraism is for initiation purposes. Their
communal meal did not hold the spiritual significance of the Christian Eucharist:
"And this food is called among us the Eucharist, of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which
we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as
Christ has enjoined." Chapter 66
As to the accusation that Justin admits such things preceded Christianity, this is easily refuted when we read an earlier chapter in his apology
where he points out the imitations came after Jesus:
But the evil spirits were not satisfied with saying, before Christ's appearance, that those who were said to be sons of Jupiter were born of
him, but after He had appeared. Chapter LVI
ALLEGED QUOTE: Having heard it proclaimed through the prophets that the Christ was to come and that the ungodly among men were to be
punished by fire, the wicked spirits put forward many to be called Sons of God under the impression that they would be able to produce in men
the idea that the things that were said with regard to Christ were merely marvellous tales, like the things that were said by the poets. Justin
Martyr First Apology, Chapter 54 (LIV)
Similar to the quote above, this passage never claims what the critics claim it does- that Christianity borrowed from pagan beliefs. As we state
in the beginning of this page, the Messianic prophecies precede most of the pagan religions in question. Concepts such as a virgin birth, a
resurrection, and the atonement of sin do not originate in first century A.D. from the imaginations of Christians. Such things were foretold up
to 1,400 years before the birth of Christ. Justin attests to this fact when he points out the existence of the Messianic prophecies prior to the
pagan beliefs in question.
CONCLUSION: The accusation of Justin Martyr lamenting the existence of similar pagan figures who preceded Christ is utterly false. Skeptics
have twisted his words to fit their purpose in an attempt to prove Christ as being a pagan copycat.
ALLEGED QUOTE: "The devil, whose business is to pervert the truth, mimics the exact circumstances of the Divine Sacraments. He baptises
his believers and promises forgiveness of sins from the Sacred Fount, and thereby initiates them into the religion of Mithras. Thus he
celebrates the oblation of bread and brings in the symbol of the resurrection [the cross]. Let us, therefore, acknowledge the craftiness of the
devil who copies certain things of those that be Divine."
Though I have seen this quote on at least 20 skeptic websites, a source is never provided by those who distribute it. After searching
Tertullian's works manually and electronically for over a week, I was finally able to locate its origin. The quote is found in Tertullian's work The
Prescription Against Heretics:
"By the devil, of course, to whom pertain those wiles which pervert the truth, and who, by the mystic rites of his idols, vies even with the
essential portions of the sacraments of God. He, too, baptizes some-that is, his own believers and faithful followers he promises the putting
away of sins by a layer (of his own). And if my memory still serves me, Mithras there, (in the kingdom of Satan,) sets his marks on the
foreheads of his soldiers, celebrates also the oblation of bread, and introduces an image of a resurrection, and before a sword wreathes a
crown." Chapter 40 (XL)
During my search, I also found a similar passage in regards to the alleged quote mentioned above:
"They cheat themselves with waters which are widowed. For washing is the channel through which they are initiated into some sacred rites of
some notorious Isis or Mithras... We recognise here also the zeal of the devil rivalling the things of God, while we find him, too, practising
baptism in his subjects. What similarity is there? The unclean cleanses! The ruiner sets free! The damned absolves! He will, forsooth, destroy
his own work, by washing away the sins which himself inspires! These (remarks) have been set down by way of testimony against such as
reject the faith. If they put no trust in the things of God, the spurious imitations of which, in the case of God's rival, they do trust in. Are there
not other cases too, in which, without any sacrament, unclean spirits brood on waters, in spurious imitation of that brooding of the Divine Spirit
in the very beginning?" On Baptism Chapter 5
CONCLUSION: Tertullian acknowledges the pagans adopting their own versions of certain Christian rites but he also refers to their rituals as a
spurious imitation and speaks of the devil rivalling the things of God. Tertullian never claims Christianity copied paganism. In fact, he
emphasizes it was the other way around! Furthermore, like Justin Martyr, Tertullian explains the symbolism behind such rites is different
from those of Christianity.
ALLEGED QUOTE: "Women should not be enlightened or educated in any way. They should, in fact, be segregated as they are the cause of
hideous and involuntary erections in holy men." Augustine, Unknown Source
Red Flag: This quote is usually passed around without being credited to any original source. When we are given a source, it is usually
attributed to The Dark Side of Christian History by Helen Ellerbe. However, this is not an original source from an actual work of Augustine. In
order for this quote to be given serious consideration, skeptics need to come up with something other than Source Unknown when copying and
pasting this quote onto their websites.
ALLEGED QUOTE: "Woman is a necessary evil, a natural temptation, a desirable calamity, a domestic peril, a deadly fascination, and a
painted ill." St. John Chrysostom, Unknown Source
Red Flag: Again, this quote is usually passed around without an original source linking it to an actual work of Chrysostom. However, this source
does not come to us from Chrysostom at all- it is from a work called The Malleus Maleficarum, first published in 1486. The work discusses the
method of treatment of those suspected of witchcraft, certainly written by men who used the persecution of the accused to feed their own
misguided notions of sexism.
ALLEGED QUOTE: "Every woman ought to be filled with shame at the thought she is a woman." Clement of Alexandria, Unknown Source
Red Flag: Once again, there is never an original source attributed to this quote. The best we are offered is a source...of a source...of a source
coming from Lea's The History of Sacerdotal Celibacy (page 320) as quoted from Joseph Lewis' The Ten Commandments (page 422). However
neither Clement nor this quote is even mentioned in either work.
ALLEGED QUOTE: "Woman is the gate of the devil, the road to iniquity, the sting of the scorpion, in a word, a dangerous species." Saint
Jerome, Unknown Source
Red Flag: This quote surfaces in the 1893 speech of Susan H. Wixon, Woman: Four Centuries of Progress. Once again, this quote is never
accompanied by an original source from an actual work of Saint Jerome.
ALLEGED QUOTE: "Woman is the daughter of falsehood, a sentinel of hell, the enemy of peace." St. John Damascene, Unknown Source
Red Flag: Like the quote above, this quote also surfaces in Wixon's 1893 speech. Once again, this quote never contains a citation from an
original work of the author in question.
CONCLUSION: Though these quotes have been proven erroneous, it is certainly true women have not always been held in high regard
throughout history. Even in the United States women's rights were limited until the last century or so. There have been those who thought very
little of women just as there were those who held people of different races, social levels, and religions in utter contempt. But these have been
the personal opinions held by fallible human individuals who do not follow the teachings of the Jesus (who commanded men to love their
wives as Christ loved the Church and says the prayers of men who mistreat their wives will be ignored!).
Though there are several quotes by early church fathers endorsing a flat/geocentric earth, I am only going to present quotes that come from
those who use Scripture to back up their opinion (as these are the quotes commonly cited by critics). This is by no means a complete list:
"But as to the fable that there are Antipodes, that is to say, men on the opposite side of the earth, where the sun rises when it sets to us, men
who walk with their feet opposite ours, that is on no ground credible. And, indeed, it is not affirmed that this has been learned by historical
knowledge, but by scientific conjecture, on the ground that the earth is suspended within the concavity of the sky... But they do not remark
that, although it be supposed or scientifically demonstrated that the world is of a round and spherical form... For Scripture...gives no false
information." St. Augustine, The City of God Book 16 Chapter 9
In the first place, then, when arguing with them about the spherical figure, we showed that this figure was not possible, and was indeed quite
inconsistent with the nature of things...as we said before, that the heaven is fixed and does not revolve...Why do you then, when beleaguered
with difficulties, utter absurdities contrary to nature, in opposition to scripture? Cosmas, Christian Topography Book I
"But to want to affirm that the sun really is fixed in the center of the heavens and only revolves around itself without traveling from east to
west, and that the earth is situated in the third sphere and revolves with great speed around the sun, is a very dangerous thing, not only by
irritating all the philosophers and scholastic theologians, but also by injuring our holy faith and rendering the Holy Scriptures false."
Bellarmine, Letter on Galileo's Theories
Random Remark: Is it that hard to look at the sky and see that the sun, moon, and stars are round and to think maybe... just maybe... the
earth is round too? :-)
Instead of dissecting these quotes one at a time as misquotes or out of context interpretations, the short answer would be that these quotes all
originated from fallible humans. These individuals held onto the current consensus of scientific teachings that the earth was flat. The point is,
these quotes come from man- not the Bible.
Because we explore this matter in depth on this page, I won't spend too much time on it here. The heart of our answer can be found in the fact
that the erroneous beliefs of the above individuals were caused by incorrect interpretation of Scripture. Just as some Jews of antiquity
were confused by the dualism of Messianic prophecy, just as some Christians today interpret the Bible as foretelling a rapture while others do
not, just as there are those who believe in a preterist view of prophecy fulfillment and those who don't, the same can be said of those who
believed in a flat/geocentric earth verses those who believed in a spherical earth.
CONCLUSION: It would be unwise to "chunk Jesus into the garbage can" due to the error of humans, for nothing in the Bible contradicts what
we know about science.
ALLEGED QUOTE: "Among those who seek power and gain from religion there will never be wanting an inclination to forge and lie for it."
This statement was allegedly made by Lactantius, a 4th century apologist. However the quote is usually cited as coming from an 18th century
second-hand source: "Quoted by C. Middleton, Misc. Works of Conyers Middleton, D.D., vol. 3, p. 51 (1752)" In other words, this hearsay quote
is never cited from an original work of Lactantius nor could I find it when I looked for it.
ALLEGED QUOTE: "A little jargon is all that is necessary to impose on the people. The less they comprehend, the more they admire."
Gregory of Nazanzius, a 4th century church father and bishop of Caesarea, supposedly made this confession in a letter to Saint Jerome. Yet
once again, this statement is not found in any work of Gregory but is cited from another second-hand 18th century source: "Quoted by C.
Volney, The Ruins, p. 177 (1872)."
ALLEGED QUOTE: "O Lord, I never spoke a true word in my life, I have always affirmed a lie as truth to all men. And no man contradicted
me. Instead, they all gave credit to my works." Visions of Hermas Book II Chapter 3
The interesting thing about this quote is the work in which it is found. No one knows who actually wrote it or when it was written. Some
speculate it was written by Saint Hermas during the 1st century but due to internal evidence, it seems this is a pseudographical work written
after his lifetime (See: here and here). Or as one reader expressed, "This is actually (for all we know) a fictional character, who is confessing