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Peter Bleackley wrote:
[snip]
> 
> When St Polycarp of Smyrna was martyred, he was given a
> chance to save himself by repudiating his fellow
> Christians with the words "away with those atheists".
> Instead, he gestured to the arena crowd and said, "Away 
> with _those_ atheists."

No - the word _atheist_ didn't exist then nor, according to 
'The Martyrdom of Polycarp' (9.2) did he add the words _those_.

We read that the proconsul said to Polycarp:
"ὄμοσον τὴν Καίσαρος τύχην, μετανόησον· εἶπον· αἶρε τοὺς 
ἀθεους."
"Swear by the Emperor's fortune, repent; [and] day 'Away 
with the ungodly ones'."

The passage then goes on to say that Polycarp looked around 
at the crowd, waved a hand towards them as he ground and 
looked to heaven, saying: αἶρε τοὺς ἀθεους ("Away with the 
ungodly ones").

In other words he repeated the exact same words the 
proconsul had told him to say, but he addressed them to God 
in heaven, while his hand made it fairly obvious who he 
considered were the ungodly people. As I've observed before, 
the adjective _atheos_ meant no more and no less then 
'abandoned by the [g|G]od(s)' [passive] or 'neglecting the 
[g|G]od(s)' [active].

He could not, however, bring himself to obey the first part 
of the proconsul's demand; he refused to burn incense and 
swear by the Emperor's 'fortune' (τύχη/ tykhe). He was burnt 
at the stake in the stadium for his refusal to do this.

As far as I've been able to find out, the word _atheist_ 
dates back only to the 18th century (tho obviously coined 
from the ancient word). I discover also there are 'Christian 
atheists' (in the _modern_ sense of the word 'atheist')!

> Anyway, I think this discussion is generating more heat
> than light now.

Methinks you're probably right.

-- 
Ray
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