Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Mathetes to Diognetus Chapter 2 Part 1

Mathetes begins the second chapter of his Epistle to Diognetus challenging the pagan about “the substance and the form of those whom ye declare and deem to be gods”:
Is not one of them a stone similar to that on which we tread? Is not a second brass, in no way superior to those vessels which are constructed for our ordinary use? Is not a third wood, and that already rotten? Is not a fourth silver, which needs a man to watch it, lest it be stolen? Is not a fifth iron, consumed by rust? Is not a sixth earthenware, in no degree more valuable than that which is formed for the humblest purposes? Are not all these of corruptible matter? Are they not fabricated by means of iron and fire? Did not the sculptor fashion one of them, the brazier a second, the silversmith a third, and the potter a fourth? Was not every one of them, before they were formed by the arts of these [workmen] into the shape of these [gods], each in its own way subject to change?
The most salient theological point is this last charge: if something is subject to change it has a beginning and an end. Should we place our hopes in things that end, we will literally be hoping in death and nothing. Christians believe that they are literally partaking of the God who has no beginning (and thus no end) for the purposes of receiving and sharing in God’s eternity. This is why early apologists harp on this point. Idol worship ultimately worships decay, disease and death since the are all indicators of change which is a fundamental characteristic of the nature of an idol.

These accusations take on an even harsher tone when placed into an FRPG where such things as golems exist. In other words, the fabricators of these idols would be magic-users capable of making facsimiles of gods who then can move and even speak under the command of those who either made or commissioned them.

This paints a picture of a power structure within the empire where the paganism isn’t a faith, but rather a ruse used by those in power to keep the masses in check through awe and fear. It also indicates that not only does Mathetes know of these machinations, but that those within the circles of power are also aware. Thus, the Christian/Church analogue is even more of an existential threat to the power structure of the empire.

To pick up on yesterday's post, it seems that the easiest solution to a pagan priestly class is that of magic-user, where arcane magic is a closely guarded secret of the upper classes. The Wizard’s Guild could be akin to the eunuchs of the Forbidden City in imperial China. In order for the hoi polloi to access to the secrets and powers of arcane magic, one must renounce family and the ability to reproduce. Outside of possibly the upper echelons of the aristocracy, this would mean female magic-users would be virtually nonexistent (and why female clerics may be far more prevalent within the Christianity/Church analogue than one might normally expect).

The other implication here is that stone, brass, wood, iron, clay, silver and gold (which is mentioned later in the chapter) golems not only exist, but are commonplace in temples. This would necessitate the creation of new golem types (like silver and gold) and classes of golems that would be vulnerable to certain types of attacks or magic (so that they could be reasonably dealt with by lower-level adventurers without doling out magic weapons). One possibility is to classify lesser golems as subject to a Cleric’s Turn Undead ability under the assumption that necromancy and dead body parts play a larger role in the cheaper/lower quality types of golems.

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