Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Clement VI Semon Verified (?)

Clement VI's Sermon is Sermon 6 in Mollat's list of the oratorical works of Clement VI.  This one is a bit more interesting, because Mollat seemingly mentions Alva, and notes some interesting problems associated with dating this particular sermon.  The idea that the sermon is not authentic, however, does ont seem to be on Mollat's mind:

L'ŒUVRE ORATOIRE DE CLÉMENT VI, G. Mollat in Archives d'histoire doctrinale et littéraire du Moyen Age, Vol. 3 (1928), pp. 239-274 (36 pages), Published By: Librairie Philosophique J. Vrin

And I think that closes the loop for how many popes it takes to deny the immaculate conception.

Monday, January 24, 2022

Innocent III Denies the Immaculate Conception (with more complete citation/sources)

William Albrecht, relying on a secondary source, alleged that the sermons of Innocent III that were quoted in "How Many Popes does it Take to Deny the Immaculate Conception?" (link) were inauthentic.  His quotation stated:

"John Baptist Posa [t] say those sermons of Innocent III were plucked from apocryphal libraries. Fr. Peter of Alva, and Theophilus Raynaudus say that the sermons were by John Lotharius, a Canon regular."

Oddly enough Lothario dei Conti was Innocent III's name before he became pope.  

The sections of the relevant sermons are found among the authentic writings of Innocent III, in the Migne Latin Patrology,  second series, Tome CCXVII.

The Sermon on the Purification of the Virgin is Sermon XII (of the Sermones De Tempore series), and the relevant material is at col. 506-07:

But forthwith [upon the Angel’s words, ‘The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee’] the Holy Ghost came upon her. He had before come into her, when, in her mother’s womb, He cleansed her soul from original sin; but now too He came upon her to cleanse her flesh from the ‘fomes’ of sin, that she might be altogether without spot or wrinkle. That tyrant then of the flesh, the sickness of nature, the ‘fomes’ of sin, as I think, He altogether extinguished, that henceforth any motion from the law of sin should not be able to arise in her members.

Sermon on the Assumption, Sermon 2 (aka Second Discourse on the Assumption) is Sermon XXVIII (of the Sermones de Sanctis series) at column 581.  Note the Editor's note that excuses Innocent III's views on the grounds that the doctrine had not yet been defined.

Eve was produced without sin, but she brought forth in sin; Mary was produced in sin, but she brought forth without sin.

The Sermon On the Feast of John the Baptist, is Sermon XVI (of the Sermones de Festis series) and the material is at column 531.

Of John the Angel does not speak of the conception but of the birth. But of Jesus he predicts alike the Birth and the Conception. For to Zechariah the father it is predicted, ‘Thy wife shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John,’ but to Mary the mother it is predicted, ‘Behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb and bear a Son, and shalt call His Name Jesus.’ For John was conceived in fault, but Christ Alone was conceived without fault. But each was born in grace, and therefore the Nativity of each is celebrated, but the Conception of Christ Alone is celebrated.

And you will see from the column range that these are all within the range of the authentic sermons, not in the "Dubiorum" group.

So, I cannot help but think that Mr. Albrecht has made a serious error in relying on the less than reliable pen of Mr. Peter D'Alva (or Peter of Alva), one of the major proponents of the immaculate conception in the 1600s.  Migne's patrology was published, unless I am mistaken, in the 1800s, although sometimes building on the work of preceding centuries.  Nevertheless, between someone with an obvious axe to grind and the Migne patrology, it seems clear who is more reliable.

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Pilgrim Theology and the New Heavens and New Earth

Sometimes it's valuable to remember the Old Testament context to New Testament statements.  

The author of Hebrews uses the expression "strangers and pilgrims on the earth" in the following text:

Hebrews 11:13

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.

There is a temptation to see this as meaning that the earth is just temporary place before we go off to a different place forever.  The only other (or possibly the same, though I don't know anyone who thinks this) New Testament author who uses this phrase is Peter.  He write:

1 Peter 2:11-12

Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.

Interestingly, even both Hebrews and Peter are not written by the same inspired man, both Hebrews and Peter are written to first-century Jewish believers.  These believers can be expected to have in mind the Old Testament use of the stranger/pilgrim motif. 

Where does this concept originate in the Old Testament?  The corresponding Greek word for "pilgrim" is found first in Genesis.   

Genesis 23:4

I am a stranger and a sojourner with you: give me a possession of a buryingplace with you, that I may bury my dead out of my sight.

The idea of pilgrim or sojourner is used a number of times in the Old Testament, particularly regarding Abraham and his descendants from the time when he first came to Canaan until the reentry into Canaan.

My reason for bringing this up is that while Abraham and his family were strangers and pilgrims in Canaan, there is a sense in which they were not on a journey to somewhere entirely different - just to Canaan 430 years later.

In the same way, it makes sense to realize that one picture of the New Heavens and New Earth in Scripture is of something new coming down from heaven after the world-ending fire destroys everything, even the oceans.  Thus, we are strangers and pilgrims here on this planet, but that does not preclude the post-resurrection new heavens and new earth from on this same planet, rebuilt after the fire.  I certainly don't think I would feel comfortable being dogmatic about that, but the idea is fascinating.

Monday, November 01, 2021

Homily of the Papyrus of Turin - Pseudo-Athanasius

In a previous post, I raised a question regarding authenticity of The Homily of the Papyrus of Turin (link to previous post), sometimes attributed to Athanasius.  It's been a while since that post, but I see that some folks (typically in Roman Catholic apologetic circles) are still citing the work because of what it says about Mary. 

In terms of Athanasius scholarship, this homily isn't considered one of the authentic works.  Its current designation in Clavis Patrum Graecorum is 2187, which is within the range for "dubious" works attributed to Athanasius.

"Dormition et assomption de Marie : Histoire des traditions anciennes" (1995), by  Simon Claude Mimouni part of the Beauchesne collection on theological history, summarizes the discussion of the work this way, in footnote 230 on page 416

As to our question, Mimouni explains that the current scholarly view is that: "Il est difficile de considérer l'attribution comme authentique." (It is difficult to consider the attribution to be genuine.)  Robert Caro's suggestion is that the author may be Didymus the Blind (late 4th century).

It may indeed be from the 4th or 5th century (as Caro thinks). The bottom line, however, is that this is not one of the authentic works of Athanasius.  

From the standpoint of historical theology, keep in mind that the veneration of Mary is something that grew over time.  It is not an apostolic tradition, nor does Scripture teach us to venerate Mary in the sense that Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox ask us to do.  We can describe her as being blessed by God in the sense that Scripture says, and we can also affirm her apparent role as one of Luke's eyewitnesses for the Gospel of Luke.  That said, the cult of Mary is entirely inappropriate.

Monday, September 13, 2021

First Parental Lecture in Proverbs

Proverbs 1:10-33 First Parental Lecture


10 My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not.

[The Wicked Proposal]

11 If they say, Come with us, let us lay wait for blood, let us lurk privily for the innocent without cause:

12 Let us swallow them up alive as the grave; and whole, as those that go down into the pit:

13 We shall find all precious substance, we shall fill our houses with spoil:

14 Cast in thy lot among us; let us all have one purse:


15 My son, walk not thou in the way with them; refrain thy foot from their path:

16 For their feet run to evil, and make haste to shed blood.

[Comparison to the Animal World]

17 Surely in vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird.

18 And they lay wait for their own blood; they lurk privily for their own lives.

19 So are the ways of every one that is greedy of gain; which taketh away the life of the owners thereof.

[Personification of Wisdom]

20 Wisdom crieth without; she uttereth her voice in the streets:

21 She crieth in the chief place of concourse, in the openings of the gates: in the city she uttereth her words, saying,

22 How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge?

23 Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you.

24 Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded;

25 But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof:

26 I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh;

27 When your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you.

28 Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me:

29 For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord:

30 They would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof.

31 Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices.

32 For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them.

33 But whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Introduction to Proverbs

What's the main point of Proverbs?  It's laid out in the introduction section.  Notice the beauty of the structure of the text

Proverbs 1:2-7

To know wisdom and

To perceive the words of understanding;

To receive the instruction of
        justice, and
            judgment, and

To give subtilty to the simple,
                        to the young man
             knowledge and discretion.

A wise man will hear, and
                    will increase learning; and
a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels:

To understand a proverb, and
                                    the interpretation;
                                            the words of the wise, and
                                                    their dark sayings.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but
                fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Further Defense of James White on Providential Preservation

My previous post (link), defending Dr. James White against the false accusation that he rejects the Reformed doctrine of providential preservation, received a response in a facebook group.  The following provides detailed rebuttals/responses/replies to the comments provided.  I will label Dr. White's critic/accuser as "N" for "Negative," as he expressed a negative opinion about Dr. White.

N: "I would also like to point out that your blog is a prime example of a blog written by someone who doesn't actually understand the position he is attacking."

Mostly, I am just defending Dr. White's position on the high level issue of holding to the Reformed doctrine of providential preservation of the text of Scripture (specifically the New Testament).  I am not defending Dr. White on every detail of his textual critical conclusions, as he and I disagree on some things, and because it goes beyond the scope of the criticism.  Similarly, I am not addressing his views on the Old Testament, which he has not made fully clear to me.  Likewise, it is well known that I disagree with Dr. White on things like church polity and the proper recipients of baptism.  This is not a general defense of Dr. White, just a rebuttal to one specific false accusation.

I do understand the position of many of his critics.  Let's see if my responses below demonstrate my understanding of this particular critic's position and criticism.

N: "I'm not saying that to be rude, but rather to point out that it is unhelpful to try to combat a position without knowing exactly what the position is first."

In principle, I agree.  I have noticed many critics of Dr. White run into this very problem.

N: "This isn't simply a "particular" interpretation, but rather it is the result of going back and actually looking at the whole of what the framers said instead of reading modern evangelical text criticism back into the confession. The modern text critical positions differ from what the framers believed. The underlying beliefs and methodologies are not the same."

Keep in mind that the original (and false) allegation was this: "He's Reformed in many areas...but providential preservation is not one of them."

"Framers" is the kind of terminology we typically hear in the context of Constitutional interpretation, typically from a Conservative perspective.  The Reformed movement didn't exactly have "framers," though it certainly had a number of leading and influential figures, and it also had a number of confessions (which had framers).

It's extremely implausible that our accuser has literally looked at "the whole" of what even the contributors to the Westminster Confession had to say, much less all the major and minor Reformation figures.  Nevertheless, sometimes people do extensive research, in which case we should see evidence of it.

A false dilemma is proposed between this alleged need for extensive research and "reading modern evangelical text criticism back into the confession."  It's one thing to say that authors of the Westminster Confession embraced various forms of textual criticism and another thing to say that the authors of the Westminster Confession anachronistically embraced a specific position on textual criticism that emerged centuries later, or specific tools (such as Coherence-Based Genealogical Method (CGBM)) that were only recently invented.

We need to let historical theologians sit in their place in history.  What we can say is that many of them, including leading first generation figures like Calvin and Beza, as well as second generation figures like (the real) Francis Turretin, embraced textual criticism.

Is Dr. White's view exactly the same as Calvin?  Maybe not.  For example, it seems as though Calvin is sometimes willing to accept a conjectural emendation in the New Testament, whereas Dr. White is not willing to accept the same.  In this sense, Dr. White holds to a higher view of providential preservation than Calvin. Nevertheless, Dr. White's view is still within Confessional bounds on this point, as the Westminster Confession does not address that particular nuance.

Are the "underlying beliefs" the same?  In general, yes. Are the "methodologies" the same?  At a high level, yes.  While CBGM did not exist at the time, CBGM is an example of how to do collation.  Collation was done at the time and it, and its product, was embraced by many of the Reformers.

N: "There was a change from the time of the framers to Warfield."

Benjamin Breckenridge Warfield is often the boogieman for folks who oppose "modern" textual criticism.  He's notable as the last conservative to be chair of theology at Princeton.  Warfield did not focus on textual criticism, though he certainly did discuss it.

N: "Garnet Howard Milne's book "Has the Bible been kept pure? The Westminster Confession of Faith and the providential preservation of Scripture" deals with this in detail. I highly recommend the read. It helps show the original meaning/intent of those who wrote the confession."

Milne's 2017 "independently published" work may be a good read, but let's see what arguments can be presented here.

N: "It is a documented, historical fact that Warfield was the champion of the modern view of the confession, the view that you hold to."

I really don't love when people try to tell me what view I hold to.  Maybe let me be the one to tell you that.  Just a thought.  

N: "It doesn't seem that you've engaged with the sources that show this since you believe the confessional view is some new understanding being read into the text."

The question is really what the Reformers taught and what the Confession says, not what role Warfield had in the debate.  

N: "Milne shows Warfield's struggle with this in the previously mentioned book, as does Theodore P. Letis in his "Ecclesiastical Text." They both give quote after quote. If I have time, I will look through my books and give you more examples later."

It's not particularly germane.  This isn't about whether Warfield was Reformed on this subject, but about whether Dr. White is Reformed on this subject.

N: "He, and those who follow in his footsteps, are in direct opposition to the clear, plain reading of WCF 1.8."

Again, whether BB Warfield is Reformed is a tangent.

N: "Here's one example of what Warfield believed found in his An Introduction to Textual Criticism of the NT: "And while we cannot despair of restoring to ourselves and to the Church Of God, his book, word-for-word, as he gave it by inspiration to men, there is reason to believe that we may never have all the text of The Bible in the original languages."

Dr. White, by contrast, explicitly affirms that we have all the text of the New Testament in Greek.  So, this criticism does not attach to his position.  

N: "And this is the position that all honest text critics must take, and it is why no text critic believes text criticism will ever lead to a copy of the autographa."

Here we start to see the problem.  N has tried to decide what position other people "must" take and if they deny it, they are not "honest."  N is wrong, though.

N: "You can already see his position is at odds with the confession on this point. Believing the church is in possession of a corrupt text that is in need of restoration is in direct opposition to any natural understanding of the words used in 1.8 of the WCF. There is no reconciliation between these two positions. Something cannot be both pure, in the possession of the Church, and known to the church while simultaneously being corrupt and in need of restoration."

One challenge with this interpretation is that the text of the Westminster Confession does not say, "just now in these last days," but "in all ages." They did not mean that there was always some particular copy that was word-for-word correct.  Moreover, the Reformers soundly insisted that texts of the Scriptures that had been in use in the church for centuries needed work.  They insisted that both the Septuagint and Vulgate needed conformity to the Greek and Hebrew.  They did not claim that one particular printed Greek text was perfect and not in need of any revision.

N: "You are missing something major by overemphasizing the point you say the confession is making while minimizing the very important bit about preservation (which is vital for refuting the papist position)."

I don't agree, and since no argument is provided in support, I'm not sure what else to say.

N: "Then you make some odd claim regarding an "English Ecclesiastical text." This is irrelevant to the issue at hand, having nothing to do with this conversation or the position the Confessional Text advocates hold to. The Ecclesiastical Text(s) we are holding to are the Masoretic Old Testament and the Textus Receptus New Testament. These are not English. They are Hebrew and Greek. Do we prefer the KJV? Yeah. But that's because we believe it to be the best translation of the Ecclesiastical OT and NT."

One of the challenges of saying "the Textus Receptus," is this: which Textus Receptus?  The 1550 Stephanus?  The 1894 Scrivener text?

The bigger challenge is that the Westminster Confession didn't mean "the Textus Receptus" it meant the Greek.

N: "None of us believe the WCF is speaking of the KJV. To suggest such shows you have not actually engaged any scholarly works from the Confessional side. At this point, your blog is beginning to read like someone who doesn't know his opponent's position. I mean that as respectfully as possible. It is frustrating to put time into a response when you haven't even taken the time to understand what you're fighting against."

1) I mean this in in the nicest possible way, but works like those by Milne and Letis do not deserve the label, "scholarly." 

2) While the so-called Confessional Text position will often assert that it is not simply adopting the KJV, the reason that those of us who have had to deal with their arguments often highlight the KJV is that there is often a preference for the Scrivener 1894, which is a backtranslation of the KJV in to Koine.  Moreover, we find that some (though perhaps not all) so-called Confessional Text advocates won't acknowledge errors in the KJV where the KJV departs from, for example, the 1550 Stephanus or its main base text, the 1598 Beza. 

N: "You thinking this quote proves your point shows yet again that you don't understand the Confessional position and have not engaged with any material from Confessional Text scholars."

It seems more probable that the opposite is true, given that my post is a defense of Dr. White, not an engagement with one of the many so-called Confessional Text authors.

N (quoting from a "Purely Presbyterian article"): "We do not deny the necessity of textual criticism. We readily acknowledge it. We deny, however, that the the true text of Scripture has been lost with the non-extant autographs written by the hands of the Apostles and Prophets. On the contrary, we affirm, with Turretin, that the infallible, inerrant word of God exists today in the apographs which have been in the possession of the Church in every age."

That, however, is a statement that Dr. White would affirm.

N (I think again quoting from the same source): "This point by Owen is essential to grasp. We believe that the entirety of the Holy Scripture is and was contained in the copies which have been in the possession of the Church throughout the ages. Hence, those copies are sufficient for whatever textual criticism needs to be done. No new discovery of manuscripts needed. We therefore reject the notion that the manuscripts which have been in the possession of the Church in every age are to be corrected by manuscripts that have been hidden under a rock (so to speak) for 1500 years. This would be to deny that God has preserved His word as pure in all ages, and that the Church was left with a corrupted text for many centuries."

Now we are getting at a possible difference, namely whether to use newly discovered manuscripts in the collation.  However, good luck finding any Reformer who rejected, on principle, the use of the most ancient manuscripts, or insisted only that continuously used manuscripts be referenced.  One will struggle in vain to find such.  

N: "From the testimony of Scripture itself it can be shown that God would providentially preserve His word in all ages. It cannot, however, be shown from Scripture that God would leave His Church with text so corrupted that it could not be remedied with the extant manuscripts in the possession of the Church. We reject the idea that God would leave His Church with manuscripts with variants, errors, omissions, or additions that could not be remedied with the copies in her possession in each age, as a borderline atheistic notion."

Again, Dr. White does not say that the variants (etc.) could not be remedied in earlier ages, and can only be remedied now that we have the papyri, despite the fact that the papyri are very helpful and make the task easier.

N: "What you have proven is that you think you understand the Confessional Text position but do not."

There is not just one so-called "Confessional Text" position, and it was not my assertion that I understand that position as well as any of its/their adherents.  My position was that Dr. White is Reformed on the doctrine of providential preservation.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

James White and Providential Preservation

Dr. James White has managed to become something of a lightning rod for advocates of the King James Version and its corresponding back-translation into Koine Greek, the Textus Receptus (as provided by F.H.A. Scrivener in 1894).  There are a wide array of KJV advocates, but one narrow band of the spectrum alleges that it is presenting "the Confessional position."

An example comment I recently encountered: "He's Reformed in many areas...but providential preservation is not one of them."

The person is referring to a particular interpretation (or band of interpretations) of the Westminster Confession of Faith, which states, in part (Chapter 1, Section 8):
8. The Old Testament in Hebrew (which was the native language of the people of God of old), and the New Testament in Greek (which at the time of the writing of it was most generally known to the nations), being immediately inspired by God, and by his singular care and providence kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentical; so as in all controversies of religion the Church is finally to appeal unto them. But because these original tongues are not known to all the people of God who have right unto, and interest in the Scriptures, and are commanded, in the fear of God, to read and search them, therefore they are to be translated into the vulgar language of every nation unto which they come, that the Word of God dwelling plentifully in all, they may worship him in an acceptable manner, and, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, may have hope.
The main points of this section are that the final appeal is to the Greek and Hebrew, as distinct from the Latin (or any other translation), but that it is appropriate and necessary to translate the Scriptures into the languages of every nation.  This was a rejection of the Council of Trent, which declared "Moreover, the same sacred and holy Synod,--considering that no small utility may accrue to the Church of God, if it be made known which out of all the Latin editions, now in circulation, of the sacred books, is to be held as authentic,--ordains and declares, that the said old and vulgate edition, which, by the lengthened usage of so many years, has been approved of in the Church, be, in public lectures, disputations, sermons and expositions, held as authentic; and that no one is to dare, or presume to reject it under any pretext whatever."  (Fourth Session, April 1546)

In short, the main point of this section was a rejection of the "ecclesiastical text" of the Vulgate in favor of the Hebrew and Greek.  In a most ironic twist, modern advocates of an English ecclesiastical text have latched onto a portion of the paragraph.  

In particular, they have latched onto the phrase, "by his singular care and providence kept pure in all ages," as though it referred specifically to the KJV (which had only first been printed less than forty years before) or, in an odd anachronism, to Scrivner's TR that was about two centuries yet to come.

What the Confession means is that the Hebrew and Greek copies have not suffered from corruption, such that they can no longer be trusted, and that we consequently must look to the Latin Vulgate or some other source.  The Confession does not get into the specific issue of the Greek manuscripts and their texts.

We know, however, from contemporary Reformed discussions on the subject, that it was known that there were multiple manuscript copies of the New Testament books in Greek and multiple manuscript copies of the Old Testament books in Hebrew, and that these did not always agree with one another perfectly.

For example, under the question, "QUESTION 11: Are the Hebrew version of the Old Testament and the Greek of the New the only authentic ones? Affirmative, against the Roman Catholics." Francis Turretin (the real and original one) addressed the issue raised about textual variants:  "VIII. The variant readings that occur in Scripture do not detract from its authenticity, because they are easily recognized and understood, partly by the context, and partly by collation of the better manuscripts; many are of such nature that, although they differ, yet they agree in meaning."

In short, Turretin acknowledged that there were textual variants, but he suggested using textual criticism (i.e. "partly by context, and partly collation") to resolve these issues.  Turretin wasn't a Westminster Divine, but his position on this is consistent with the understanding the Westminster divines had.

Thus, my friend is mistaken when he claims that "providential preservation" is not one of the areas where Dr. White is Reformed.  On the contrary, there are a number of men who are Reformed in many areas but who, in their effort to bolster an English ecclesiastical text, have accidentally departed from the Confession.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Early Marian Veneration

So, when did Marian veneration begin?

The earliest record we have of something approach Marian veneration is this:

Luke 11:27

And it came to pass, as he spake these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto him, Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked.

Jesus responded:

28 But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.

I don't think this was a turn of phrase especially created for Mary, but presumably rather a general blessing of mothers for having offspring (particularly notable offspring).  Jesus turns it on its head later in Luke:

Luke 23:28-19 But Jesus turning unto them said, Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children. For, behold, the days are coming, in the which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck.

Jesus response of curbing excessive reverence of his mother is similarly illustrated in Matthew 12

Matthew 12:46-50

While he yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him.  Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee.  But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren?  And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren!  For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.

Notice the common theme in both Matthew and Luke of Jesus promoting a different priority.

Was there early veneration of Mary?  Undoubtedly there was.  We know of the sect of the Collyridians, for example, whose worship of Mary was condemned by orthodox Christians of the time.  Epiphanius of Salamis, writing in the late fourth century speaks of them, presumably as contemporaries to him.

Ultimately, though, it is sufficient that the practice lacks New Testament warrant or positive example.  

Sometimes it is alleged that this is because Mary was still living during the time when the New Testament was composed.  This should puzzle anyone who bought the argument that veneration of the dead is the same asking living people to pray for them.  It also presumes we know when Mary died, which we don't.  No one knows when she died.

Friday, July 23, 2021

Early Marian Prayers?

 Continuing the series (first response)(second response) of responses to an article about allegedly early veneration of Mary (link to original article), we now examine some alleged early prayers to Mary.  I will quote the post author and then provide my additional comments.

1) Sub Tuum Praesidium

The Sub Tuum Praesidium petitions: “O Mother of God: do not despise our petitions in time of trouble: but rescue us from dangers, only pure, only blessed one.”

I certainly agree that the STP is an example of early Marian devotion.  I don't agree with the idea that this prayer is particularly early.  It uses the term "Theotokos," which was in popular use to describe Mary only after Nicaea.  So, this is presumably a fourth century or later prayer.  It's origin is not known, although it was eventually adopted for use in many otherwise orthodox churches (along with other inappropriate worship).

2) Anaphoras of Coptic/Egyptian Basil

The Anaphoras of Coptic/Egyptian Basil in its oldest Sahidic manuscript has the following within a Litany: “…the holy and glorious Mary, Theotokos (Mother of God), and by her prayers have mercy on us all…” This work is dated by Anglican scholars to be “at least three hundred years older” than the mid-seventh century (Cuming and Jasper 1990, 67) and “the early fourth century” by the most recent scholarly treatment of the subject. (Shoemaker 2016, 231)

As with the STP, this dates to the fourth century at the earliest.  On top of that, it is puzzling why we would resort to a prayer of a church that is not orthodox by Orthodox standards.

3) Gospel of Bartholomew

The Gospel of Bartholomew contains a short prayer in an apocryphal context: “Bartholomew raised his voice and said thus: ‘O womb more spacious than a city, wider than the spreading of the heavens, that contained him whom the seven heavens contain not, but thou without pain didst contain sanctified in thy bosom!’” (4:17 in Vienna Manuscript)

This initially puzzled me, because the Gospel of Bartholomew is the name of a lost apocryphal work.  It is, however, also an alternative name of the Questions of Bartholomew (not lost), from which the quotation comes.  The work is (best scholarly guess) a fifth century Greek work.   By then, of course, Marian veneration was flourishing in many places.

2) Grotto of Jerusalem Graffiti

The Grotto of Jerusalem has a graffiti that has survived the test of time which states, “Under the holy place of M[ary?] I wrote there the [names?], the image I adored of her.” One source states that “the grotto can be interpreted, according to Bagatti, as an indication of an image of Mary.” (Bigham 2004, 101)

This is the most obscure of the group.  Bigham identifies the location as the Grotto of the Annunciation (which is in Nazareth).  It's hard to date wall writing, but the floor is evidently dated to around the 5th or 6th century.  I am not sure if any expert has opined on the date of the wall writing: Bigham doesn't seem to be interested in the precise date.

In short, however, none of these provide evidence of early Marian veneration.

Does Ode of Solomon 19 Evidence Early Christian Veneration of Mary?

In a previous post (link), we demonstrated an error that alleged veneration of Mary in Psalm 45.  The same author (link to post) argued that Ode of Solomon 19 provides an example of early Christian veneration of Mary.  On the other hand, while the Odes of Solomon are certainly "Christian" in some sense, they are not orthodox (nor Orthodox, for that matter).  They seem to have a Gnostic origin, as evidenced in Ode of Solomon 19, by statements about the Father having breasts that give milk and Mary giving birth "as if she were a man."  There are other reasons to identify the writing as Gnostic, as distinct from Christian, but suffice to say that it is a bizarre writing on a Christian theme.

Is it veneration of Mary?  It doesn't explicitly venerate Mary.  Nevertheless, it is a poem (presumably intended to be sung) partly about Mary.  It may have been intended to be used in worship, though presumably not in a Christian church (one is hard pressed to find early liturgies with space for human compositions). 

On the other hand, while the poem mentions Mary, and she's an important figure in it, it is not primarily about her, does not address her, nor otherwise exalts or extols her in any obvious way.  It seems to simply describe her and her actions with respect to Jesus' birth.

In short, if this is one of the supposedly best examples of early Christian veneration of Mary, it falls far short.