What is a Pagan? IS it a capitalized offense or is it spelled simply with a little “P”? I often wonder when the definition of a Pagan became more or less severe in the timeline of 2,500 years if we count back to the Buddha. I think Pagan is simply a politicized chopped liver of an insult to nature. In Buddhism to name anything by name is already not Buddhism and on this subject, I tend closer to Buddhism than to so-called Christianity. In terms of what Jesus would say? I thought it was simply “Love is all” Not to preach, here is one helluva take on the “P” word!
Defining Paganism: “Where your treasure is, there is your heart also.”
In the year 375 AD, during Lent, Eusebius Hieronymus Sophronius (c. 347-420), known to us simply as Jerome, had a dream. In the dream an angel asked Jerome what his religion was, and Jerome replied that he was a Christian. But the angel informed Jerome bluntly that because of his excessive love for classical literature he was not a Christian, for “where your treasure is, there is your heart also” (a quote from the Gospel of Matthew). Since Jerome treasured his beloved Cicero, Vergil, Ovid, etc., above the Christian scriptures, his heart was Pagan, not Christian.
Having judged him to be a non-Christian, the angel ordered his minions to begin viciously lashing Jerome with whips. As Jerome begged for mercy and cried out in agony, a crowd of onlookers gathered, and they pleaded on Jerome’s behalf. The crowd negotiated with the angel, proposing that Jerome should be given a second chance, and following that if he “ever again read the works of the Gentiles” then the angel could punish Jerome with “extreme torture” (cruciatus) to his heart’s content, and they would offer no further objections.
Finally the angel relented and called off his henchmen, and Jerome swore an oath saying: “Lord, if ever again I possess worldly books, or if ever again I read such, I have denied You.” (Quotes are from a letter written by Jerome nearly a decade later: source1, source2.)
In Jerome’s account of his dream, quoted in translation above, he uses the Latin adjective Gentilis to refer to the Pagan writings of Cicero, etc. As a matter of fact, there is no record of Jerome ever using the term Paganus. So what exactly did the angel accuse Jerome of being, if not a Pagan? A Gentile, perhaps? No. Amazingly, the angel responded to Jerome’s initial claim to be a Christian with “You lie. You are a Ciceronian, not a Christian”! (“Mentiris. Ciceronianus es, non Christianus.”)