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 A Chronological Collection of
 Banned Books

100 - 1500 A.D.

The Thalia.  In 321 A.D., Arius, a theologian from Alexandria who taught that God the Father and Jesus the Son had not existed together eternally, was denounced at a Church synod by those who believed that both the Father and the Son were part of a trinity that also included the Holy Spirit.  Arius's position, as he expressed in the Thalia, became increasingly popular and dominated the powerful schools of Alexandria, which produced the most influential theologians of the day. By 325 A.D., the competition between beliefs had become so disruptive to the Church that Emperor Constantine held an assembly of Bishops, now known as the First Council of Nicea, in an effort to resolve the controversy.  That council, which was dominated by trinitarians, condemned Arius and his writings and published the Nicene Creed which includes the doctrine of Homousios or Consubstantiality (the sameness) of Father and Son.  Constantine exiled Arius and other bishops who refused to accept the ruling of the Council and ordered all copies of the Thalia to be burned.

Decretum Gelasianum de libris recipiendis et non recipiendis.  Pope Gelasius is generally credited with being the author of Church's first list "of books to be admitted and not to be admitted" sometime during his reign between 492 and 496 A.D. Some, however, contend that it is possible to trace parts of this list back to Pope Damascus, and others maintain that the list was not circulated until the middle of the 6th century.  Regardless, the Decretum Gelasianum is the Church's first official list of banned heretical and schismatic apocryphal writings.

Sappho's Poetry.  Sappho was an acclaimed Greek poet who lived around 600 B.C.  During her lifetime, her works about love and longing were considered masterpieces. Their content, though, had a definite woman-to-woman element that was later found objectionable by the Church.  Christians began destroying her works in the 5th century A.D., and her poetry was officially banned by Pope Gregory VII in 1073.  The destruction was so thorough that only one complete poem survived for many centuries until a cache of papyri, discovered in the 1800s, that had been used to wrap mummies and stuff sacred animals was found to include her writings.

The Talmud.  The Talmud, a collection of scholarly oral discussions of Jewish law, ethics, customs, and history, had long irritated Christian leaders who found the open  questioning of such matters completely at odds with the Church's more closed and dogmatic epistemology.  In 1225 Nicolas Donin, a Parisian Jew was excommunicated by Yechiel ben Joseph, the preeminent Talmudic scholar of the time, for continuously questioning aspects Talmudic tradition.  In turn, he converted to Christianity, becoming a devoted Franciscan friar, and continued his attacks on the Talmud.  He eventually secured an audience with Pope Gregory IX and presented 35 indictments that he claimed demonstrated the inherent blasphemy of the Talmud.  Gregory, already suspicious of the Talmud, was partially convinced and subsequently ordered King Louis IX of France to oversee a public "disputation" of the charges between Yechiel and Donin.  The pope found Donin's arguments more convincing, and following the event, he ordered all copies the Talmud destroyed.  Between 1242 and 1244, tens of thousands of copies were destroyed, the most spectacular destruction occuring in Paris when 24 wagon-loads of Talmuds were burned at one time. (The Church launched subsequent attacks against the Talmud over the next three hundred years until the European Jewish communities agreed to expunge or alter those sections that the papacy found to be blasphemous.)

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