Sunday, March 08, 2009

Misquoting Gregory the Wonderworker

In a previous series (link to series index), we documented Steve Ray (and others) misquoting Athanasius (i.e. citing a spurious, or (at best) dubious, work as though it were authentic). Mr. Ray's inaccurate citations, though, are not limited to Athanasius. Mr. Ray also misquotes Gregory Thaumaturgus (Thaumaturgus means Wonderworker).

In particular, Mr. Ray quotes from a spurious Gregory Thaumaturgus work as though it were a genuine work. As recently as September 2008, Mr. Ray was promoting a word document that he put together a while back, in which he provides a list of alleged patristic quotations regarding "Mary, the Ark of the New Covenant." (source - note how the quotation he provides in the blog entry is that spurious Athanasius quotation that we already debunked - direct link to Ray's document).

This work has been known to be spurious for over a hundred years. The major translations of the church fathers, such as Schaff's compilation, include it in the "Dubious and Spurious" works section, and Schaff provides the following commentary on this work:
This very homily has been cited to prove the antiquity of the festival of the Annunciation, observed, in the West, March 25. But even Pellicia objects that this is a spurious work. The feast of the Nativity was introduced into the East by Chrysostom after the records at Rome had been inspected, and the time of the taxing at Bethlehem had been found. See his Sermon (a.d. 386), beautifully translated by Dr. Jarvis in his Introduction, etc., p. 541. Compare Tertullian, vol. iii. p. 164, and Justin, vol. i. p. 174, this series. Now, as the selection of the 25th of March is clearly based on this, we may say no more of that day. Possibly some Sunday was associated with the Annunciation. The four Sundays preceding Christmas are all observed by the Nestorians in commemoration of the Annunciation.
(emphasis added)

The "Pellicia" referenced is Alexius Aurelius Pelliccia/Pellicia (spelling was more fluid in those days), an 18th century patristics scholar. It was the scholarly consensus of that day that this is spurious writing, and nothing has changed to make us think that this work is authentic.

So, is Mr. Ray alone in quoting this way? No, it appears that this spurious citation has been used by many folks who appear to have picked it up from Mr. Ray. For example, I saw it used by Mr. Jay Dyer (link), who probably simply did not realize that his source of quotations was not trustworthy (and I assume he will correct this, once it has been brought to his attention, as he did in the past). A number of other people have likewise picked up the quotation, several giving attribution to Mr. Ray.

But where did Mr. Ray get it? Was it original research on Mr. Ray's part? No, of course not. Mr. Ray himself took it from a secondary source, Livius' quote-book, "The Blessed Virgin in the Fathers of the First Six Centuries" (link to relevant page). I know this because Mr. Ray cites his source, and states at the beginning of his document, "Most of these quotations were found in a book long out of print: The Blessed Virgin in the Fathers of the First Six Centuries written by Thomas Livius and published by Burns and Oakes in 1893."

Now, it is commendable that Mr. Ray identified his source, and it is understandable that Mr. Ray (not knowing the original languages or the Fathers' own writings) would rely on secondary sources. Nevertheless, Mr. Ray is promoted by organizations such as "Catholic Answers" as an apologist and as someone to be trusted. Thus, I hope Mr. Ray will take a cue from Mr. Dyer and fix his citations when it is brought to his attention that his source is spurious so that no more people will be misled.

Hopefully he will not again link his readers to some video that purports to defend(!) the mis-citation. Perhaps he will have the courage, in this instance, to admit that he simply cited to the work based on his misplaced trust in Livius, just as previously he cited to the spurious work attributed to Athanasius based on his misplaced trust in Gambero.

But, of course, it is not that simple. Mr. Ray should be aware that Livius himself, at page 2 of the author's preface, notes that he (Livius) will be citing in some instance from dubious and/or spurious works:
Another difficulty in the works of the early Fathers is that many of them are held to be spurious and unauthentic, whilst the genuineness of others is disputed. I leave the discussion in all cases to the judgment of learned critics. My general rule has been to make my quotations from writings the authenticity of which is commonly acknowledged. Sometimes, however, I have cited works of doubtful genuineness, or which, at any rate, were not written as we now have them by the Fathers to whom they are attributed, but whose date, as assigned to them by critics, falls within the first six centuries, to which period I confine myself. When I quote from a doubtful or unauthentic work, or depart exceptionally from this general rule, I note the fact.

Furthermore, Livius did (at page 47 - source) admit that "These homilies are of doubtful genuineness." (referring to the four homilies on the annunciation, of which the one Mr. Ray is citing is the first. Livius also tried to remind the reader of this lack of authenticity through the use of the fairly obscure indicator "Int. Opp." (presumably short for inter opera - among the works) that Mr. Ray copied when Mr. Ray copied the citation, but whose significance Mr. Ray does not appear to have appreciated, and certainly the average reader would not reasonably be expected to recognize that "Int. Opp." is a reference to the fact that Gregory the Wonderworker is not the real author of the quotation.

I realize this might have been hard for someone like Mr. Ray, untrained in patristics and unfamiliar with the church fathers, to figure out. I also understand that Mr. Ray is not a scholar, and I'm not trying (necessarily) to ask him to stop his pilgrimage profiteering to become familiar with the church fathers. I'm just exhorting him to be at least as honest as the "Women Priests" group who accurately cited Pseudo-Gregory as Pseudo-Gregory (link).

Surely Mr. Ray should be ashamed to be less accurate in his citations than one of the more liberal groups within his own sect. Will he fix his citation now that this has been brought to light? We will have to wait and see.

I had previously brought this issue to light in a blog entry on my own blog in May 2008 (link), and Mr. Ray continues to this day to cite the work as he does. And this cite appears to be his second favorite citation to make to the church fathers on the subject - it appears right after the Pseudo-Athanasius quotation in his paper on "Mary, the Ark of the New Covenant," (link to Word document version of paper).

I guess we can only hope that someone who knows Mr. Ray will persuade him to improve his scholarship at least to match the liberal segments of his sect. But - it could be worse! Mr. Danny Garland, Jr. misattributes this quotation to Jerome(!) (source), although his footnote does lead one back to the same place in Livius (where Jerome is the father cited immediately previously) as Mr. Ray has erroneously cited it.



steve said...

Catholic prooftexting is like Rathergate: fake but accurate!

Chuck said...

I would be more than shocked/surprised to view a retraction from Ray. Judging from his previous lack of integrity (he simply refused to retract his misuse of the World Christian Encyclopedia [# of Protestant Denoms] even when the actual pages were pasted into a rebuttal of his misuse)he will just ignore this fact.