Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Peddling Imitation Patristics - Ray's At it Again

I have almost started to feel sorry for Mr. Ray. He keeps peddling the same snake oil, and it is hard to say whether this is simply because he lacks the acumen or patience to deal honestly with the Early Church Fathers or whether it is because he is simply the sort of person who makes a living profiting from pilgrims, like a parasite that thrives on the gullible.

I was disappointed, but not surprised, to see that he has yet again posted a blog entry on one of his favorite bottles of oil (it's snake oil, though he presents it as holy oil): Mary, the Ark of the New Covenant. He again links to a paper he wrote a while back in which both of his patristic quotations are inaccurately attributed: that is to say, those attributed to Athanasius (which are from a spurious, or -at best- dubious work) and those attributed to Gregory Thaumaturgus (which are from a notoriously spurious work). He also links to a paper in which he provides a significant number of quotations from the fathers that he believes support his sect's (Roman Catholicism's) view of Mary (link to Ray). This blog post (as itself a paper) deals specifically with the latter of Ray's two linked papers.

Having already shown that the two leading quotations from Mr. Ray's defense of his sect's view on Mary being the "Ark of the New Covenant," let's examine briefly the remaining quotations he adduces. They could be variously counted, but they most naturally break down into 31 quotations.

Mr. Ray claims "The early Christians taught the same thing that the Catholic Church teaches today about Mary, especially about her being the Ark of the New Covenant." (Mary, Ark of the Covenant, p. 7) In support of his contention, Mr. Ray provides quotations aimed at providing a "comprehensive collection of patristic quotations" on the subject.

Of these quotations, 5 (or 6, depending on how you consider the 31st of the 31 quotations) are from spurious or (at best) dubious writings, and 6 (or 7, depending on how you consider that 31st quotation) are from sources that are presented as though they were anonymous. Thus, 12 of the 31 cannot be definitively linked with any of the fathers.

But it is far worse than just a matter of such a large fraction of the quotations being unassignable to any of the fathers of the church. The quotations don't really confirm Mr. Ray's claim that "The early Christians taught the same thing that the Catholic Church teaches today about Mary, especially about her being the Ark of the New Covenant."

First of all, even if all 31 were legitimate, and even all 31 were teaching that Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant, there are some rather unusual omissions from a "comprehensive list." Where are these teachings in Augustine? Where are they in Origen? Where are they in Tertullian? Where are they in any of the Apostolic fathers? Instead, Mr. Ray's earliest quotations come from the late 2nd century and some come from no earlier (even according to the attribution he provides) than the 9th century.

Second, not a single one of the quotations uses the expression "ark of the new covenant." Even the "Catechism of the Catholic Church" (referenced in an opening paragraph by Mr. Ray) simply says "Mary, in whom the Lord himself has just made his dwelling, is the daughter of Zion in person, the ark of the covenant, the place where the glory of the Lord dwells. She is 'the dwelling of God . . . with men.'" (CCC 2676)

Third, many of the quotations provided by Mr. Ray do not refer to Mary as an ark at all. The are at least three of the quotations (numbers 2, 21, and 26 by my numbering) where an ark is mentioned, but it is doubtful that Mary is the intended comparison. More significantly, there are ten quotations where Mary is clearly not described as an ark (7-8, 10-11, 16, 18-19, 22, and 28-29).

Fourth, the term "ark" doesn't always refer to the ark of the covenant. It can be a generic reference to any box or box-like item, including (famously) Noah's ark. In the third quotation, Mary is called an "ark truly royal" but is described as having a "pilot and merchant," which would make it more like Noah's Ark, although it is specifically distinguished from that ark, as well as from the ark of the covenant, in the quotation provided. There are at least seven additional quotations where the quotation leaves it unclear whether the ark in mind is the ark of the covenant or some other ark (numbers 4, 8, 13, 23, 27, and 30-31 by my count).

Fifth, at least some of the folks who call her an ark (or even "the ark") find her symbolized in lots and lots of things, with this being just one of the many things they compare her to. For example, Proclus (the first quoted father in the series) also compares Mary to Eve, to Noah's Ark, to Jacob's Ladder, to Gideon's fleece, to the "swift cloud" of Isaiah 19, to the sealed book of Isaiah 29, to the burning bush, and so on. With such numerous comparisons, the fact that occasionally the ark is mentioned by fathers who loved to draw parallels is hardly significant.

Sixth, the main point of the comparison in at least some instances seems to be simply to highlight the true claim that the womb of Mary served as a sort of box in which the second person of the Trinity lived, in a unique way, for ninth months. Mary's womb is no longer used in that way, and consequently the CCC's position that Mary "is" the ark is incorrect in the sense that - even if the Ark had been a type of Mary - Mary is no longer serving in that role, since Jesus has been born. Consequently, it would be improper to say that Mary "is" the ark.

Seventh, a number of the quotations express theology inconsistent either with Catholicism or with the modern defenses of Catholicism. For example, in the first quotation, Proclus states that " ... Mary is venerated (adored) ... " but modern Catholicism claims that Mary is given hyper-dulia (of course, what she is given looks to us to be virtually indistinguishable from the veneration/adoration given by them to Jesus, but we're accused of misrepresenting Rome when we bring that up). Likewise, in the twenty-fifth item on the list Ephrem calls Mary "best mediatress between God and man," whereas the current view of Catholicism general acknowledges Christ as at least one of the mediators between God and man, although there is a strong movement to define Mary as a "co-medatrix." Additionally, one would hope that Ephram's comment (in number 23), "in thee I have a secure salvation. Save me out of the pure mercy, O Lady," would be dismissed as excessive (since salvation should be properly ascribed to God and God's mercy. Likewise (in number 24) Ephrem calls Mary the "most holy consoler and directress of all" which would seem to tread on the Holy Spirit's unique role as comforter as well as God's role as the one who gives the decree of Providence, by which all is directed.

One would hope as well that pious Roman Catholic would balk at the description of Mary as "salvation of my soul" (in number 31) or the suggestion that she was an "unwedded" bride (same one). Certainly, if those do not cross the line, the idea of give her "our offering" or crying to her "Alleluia" (also in number 31) should make someone wake up and say, "Ok, now THAT is worshiping Mary."

Eighth, the quotations aren't even uniformly selected from among the fathers, Ephrem provides 5 of the quotations cited, although not all of those have to do with the Ark, specifically. The breakdown of the quotations is:

1. Anonymous 7 (Counting the 31st as Anonymous)
2. Ephrem 5
3. "Ambrose" 2 (both spurious, or -at best- dubious)
4. "Athanasius" 2 (both spurious, or -at best- dubious)
5. "Gregory Thaumaturgus" 2 (both notoriously spurious)
6. Dionysius 2
7. Hesychius 2
8. Theodotus of Ancrya 2
9. Chrysippus 1
10. Hippolytus 1
11. Jerome 1
12. Cyril 1
13. Methodius 1
14. Venantius Fortunatus 1
15. Proclus 1
16. Zeno 1
(17. Romanos the Melodist - if we count the attribution mentioned in Mr. Ray's parenthetical remarks on the 31st item)

Ninth, the quotations don't always accurately represent the father to whom they are assigned. For example, Hippolytus viewed the Ark as a type of Christ himself, but Mr. Ray quotes Hippolytus as though to suggest that Hippolytus viewed the Ark as Mary.

So, what's left of the quotations - of those things that actually talk about the Ark of the Covenant and whose authorship appears to be authentic? A small handful is all Mr. Ray has. Even among those, there is some interdependence. For example, Chrysippus (number 3) apparently relied on Hesychius (numbers 14-15).

Turning now to provide notes, where they may be valuable, with respect to each of the 31 quotations:

1. Proclus

As mentioned above, Proclus' point in identifying Mary with an Ark is simply to highlight Jesus' own divinity. Thus, Nicholas Constans explains, "The identification of the Theotokos with the ark of the covenant underlines her role as 'God-bearer,' so that the divine promise to "dwell in the midst of the daughters of Sion" (Zeph. 3:15) is fulfilled in her conception of Christ. (Proclus of Constantinople and the cult of the Virgin in late antiquity, Nicholas Constas, p. 272)

2. Ephrem

In this one, Mr. Ray follows Livius' bracketed indications that the "rib" and "ark" mentioned refer to Mary, although it is better (in context) to refer the "rib" to Eve (not Mary) and to refer the Ark to the actual ark.
With the weapon of the deceiver the First-born clad Himself, that with the weapon that killed, He might restore to life again! With the tree wherewith he slew us, He delivered us. With the wine which maddened us, with it we were made chaste! With the rib that was drawn out of Adam, the wicked one drew out the heart of Adam. There rose from the Rib a hidden power, which cut off Satan as Dagon: for in that Ark a book was hidden that cried and proclaimed concerning the Conqueror! There was then a mystery revealed, in that Dagon was brought low in his own place of refuge! The accomplishment came after the type, in that the wicked one was brought low in the place in which he trusted! Blessed be He Who came and in Him were accomplished the mysteries of the left hand, and the right hand. Fulfilled was the mystery that was in the Lamb, and fulfilled was the type that was in Dagon. Blessed is He Who by the True Lamb redeemed us, and destroyed our destroyer as He did Dagon!

3. Chrysippus

As noted above, the "ark truly royal" and "ark most precious" is described as having a pilot and merchant, which means it is more like Noah's ark than like the ark of the covenant.

4. Hippolytus

Even in the quotation provided (from the second half of the quotation), one can see that Hippolytus is referring to Jesus himself as the Ark. Recall as well what Hippolytus said (taken from Roberts and Donaldson's Ante-Nicean Fathers):
From the Commentary by the holy bishop and martyr Hippolytus on The Lord is my Shepherd
And, moreover, the ark made of imperishable wood was the Saviour Himself. For by this was signified the imperishable and incorruptible tabernacle (of the Lord) Himself, which gendered no corruption of sin. For the sinner, indeed, makes this confession: "My wounds stank and were corrupt because of my foolishness." But the Lord was without sin, made of imperishable wood, as regards His humanity; that is, of the virgin and the Holy Ghost inwardly, and outwardly of the word of God, like an ark overlaid with purest gold.

Moreover, the quotation itself from Hippolytus has been butchered, as one can see from looking at the second half of the quotation provided by Mr. Ray. Consider (from the same patristic collection) the quotation in a better translation:
At that time, then, the Saviour appeared and showed His own body to the world, (born) of the Virgin, who was the "ark overlaid with pure gold," with the Word within and the Holy Spirit without; so that the truth is demonstrated and the "ark" made manifest. From the birth of Christ, then, we must reckon the 500 years that remain to make up the 6000, and thus the end shall be. And that the Saviour appeared in the world, bearing the imperishable ark, His own body, at a time which was the fifth and half, John declares: "Now it was the sixth hour," he says intimating by that, one-half of the day.
Incidentally, we could add Hippolytus' view that the end of the world would be around the year 500, to be a further doctrine that clearly couldn't be held by Mr. Ray. But the main point here is that the referent as to who the ark is can be seen to be ambiguous at first (leading to the imagination that it was the virgin mother of our Lord), but is clarified in the same paragraph as well as by reference to other of Hippolytus' works.

5. Ambrose

This quotation is from "Sermo XLII" (Semon 42) from among Ambrose's works. Livius indicates that this is not authentic Ambrose with the "Int. Opp." designator that we saw him using previously regarding Pseudo-Gregory. With respect to the attribution of this work, Migne (PL 17(2):709) states: "Cur hunc sermonem nominatim cuipiam Patri potius quam alteri assignemus, nihil occurrit; ne vero Ambrosianum esse putemus, nihil non reclamat." (Why we assign this sermon by the name of this particular father rather than other, nothing comes to mind; we believe this not to truly be Ambrose's, everything contradicts [such an attribution].) To paraphrase, there's no good reason to think this is Ambrose.

6. Cyril

In the quotation provided, the Ark is Christ, and Mary is the temple.

7. Breviarium in Psalterium

In the quotation provided, Mary's body is a tabernacle. No mention of any ark.

8-9. Athanasius

These are from that spurious/dubious work we addressed in the previous series. These are 2 of the 3 quotations that were not taken from Livius' work - the 3rd is item 31, below.

10-11. Dionysius

In the quotations provided, the Ark is not mentioned, Christ is the priest, and Mary is the tabernacle.

12-13. Gregory Thaumaturgus

These are from the other spurious source we previously addressed.

14-15. Hesychius

These quotations don't specify that the ark involved is the ark of the covenant. Instead, the ark seems to be a box that holds the gem/pearl. It appears that perhaps a better (or, at least, another) quotation to provide would be the one used by Benedict XVI in his General Audience on 14 September 2004, where he said:
For example, the analogy Hesychius of Jerusalem, a priest in the first half of the fifth century, was to make between verse 8 and the Incarnation of Jesus is significant. In his Second Homily on the Mother of God, he addresses the Virgin in these words:

"Upon you and upon the One born of you, David does not cease to sing to the zither: "Rise, O Lord, and come to the place of your rest, you and the ark of your sanctification' (cf. Ps 132[131]: 8). What is "the ark of your sanctification?'". Hesychius replies: "The Virgin Mother of God, of course. For if you are the pearl, she is rightly the ark; if you are the sun, the Virgin must necessarily be called the sky; and if you are the uncontaminated flower, then the Virgin will be the plant of incorruption, the paradise of immortality" (Testi mariani del primo millennio, I, Rome, 1988, pp. 532-533).
Clearly, Benedict makes the link to the ark of the covenant, although, again Hesychius actually mentions only that the ark contains the pearl.

16. Zeno

In the quotation provided, Mary is the tabernacle.

17. Methodius

This quotation, from the middle to the late 9th century, is about the best one that Mr. Ray provided, as it does say that the Ark of the Covenant typified Mary, and it says so explicitly, as well as connecting it to the cult of Mary.

18-19. Theoditus of Ancyra

In the quotations provided, Mary is the tabernacle and the temple.

20. Ambrose

This is the same spurious/dubious work as before (item 5, above). Here, at least, there is some warning of the pseudo-graphic character of the work. It is disappointing, however, that this uncertainty is expressed as "The author is uncertain, but there is nothing to show that he is not S. Ambrose." In fact, as noted above, there's no reason to think it is Ambrose.

21. Jerome

In this quotation, the ark is the "spouse of Christ." Mary is Christ's mother, but not particularly his spouse. Furthermore, the person to whom this letter is directed is Eustochium, not Mary. Thus, the second-person references and the vocative references are to Eustochium, not to Mary. When he speaks of the "spouse of Christ" here, Jerome is speaking of Eustochium, a virgin embarking on a monastic life. He's not talking about Mary.

22. Unknown Author

In the quotation provided, Mary is the tabernacle.

23. Ephrem

The "Ark" in question is unclear from the quotation. Also, as noted above, the theology of this quotation is questionable, and one wonders whether Mr. Ray intends to endorse it.

24. Ephrem

The "ark" mentioned may well be the ark of the covenant. It should be noted, however, that this is just one of about a half dozen items to which the Mother of Jesus is compared in this short paragraph quotation. As well, as noted above, there is some questionable theology expressed, that one assumes Mr. Ray would not be so impious as to adopt for himself.

25. Ephrem

In the quotation provided, Mary is the "mercy-seat of the afflicted." The mercy-seat in the Old Testament was actually, in essence, the top portion of the ark of the covenant. So, this is a little different imagery, but it was doubtless thrown in because of the paucity of relevant patristic quotations. As above, there are numerous other comparisons made in the text, and some are questionable in their theology (for example, calling Mary "fountain of grace") and the claim that she's the "best mediatress between God and man" would seem to directly conflict with Jesus' claim to be the only mediator between God and man.

26. Ephrem

In the quotation provided, Mary is the stone tables of the law.

27. Venantius Fortunatus

An ark is mentioned, but it is not clear what kind of ark the author has in mind, based on the quotation provided. The quotation itself is in a metered rhyme (although Mr. Ray present it in paragraph form), which makes one immediately question how much liberty has been taken in the translation. Unfortunately, only the alleged author is identified, and not the particular work. Thankfully, I was able to track it down. It is the Hymn called "The God Whom Earth and Sea and Sky" The Latin original is:

1) QUEM terra, pontus, aethera
colunt, adorant, praedicant,
trinam regentem machinam
claustrum Mariae baiulat.

2) Cui Luna, Sol, et omnia
deserviunt per tempora,
perfusa caeli gratia,
gestant Puellae viscera.

2a) Mirantur ergo saecula,
quod angelus fert semina,
quod aure virgo concipit
et corde credens parturit.

3) Beata Mater, munere,
cuius supernus Artifex,
mundum pugillo continens,
ventris sub arca clausus est.

4) Beata caeli nuntio,
fecunda Sancto Spiritu,
desideratus Gentibus,
cuius per alvum fusus est.

5) Iesu, Tibi sit gloria,
qui natus es de Virgine,
cum Patre, et almo Spiritu,
in sempiterna saecula. Amen.

The quotation in question is (obviously) of verse 3, but the context does not clarify for us whether the ark of the covenant or some other ark is intended. The second half of the hymn (which is used as a hymn on its own) does not shed any further light, although we do see some of the same themes we have seen in other fathers of the restoration of Eve, etc.).

1) O GLORIOSA domina
excelsa super sidera,
qui te creavit provide,
lactas sacrato ubere.

2) Quod Eva tristis abstulit,
tu reddis almo germine;
intrent ut astra flebiles,
sternis benigna semitam.

3) Tu regis alti ianua
et porta lucis fulgida;
vitam datam per Virginem,
gentes redemptae, plaudite.

4) Patri sit Paraclito
tuoque Nato gloria,
qui veste te mirabili
circumdederunt gratiae. Amen.

28. Ethiopic Hymn

In the quotation provided, Mary is the Holy of Holies (the innermost chamber of the Tabernacle) and the box that contained the manna. The ark is not mentioned.

29. Ethiopic Hymn

In the quotation provided, Mary is Jerusalem, the city of God. The ark is not mentioned.

30. Ethipic Hymn

In the quotation provided, an ark is mentioned, but one cannot determine from the quotation whether the ark of the covenant, or some other ark, is intended.

31. Orthodox Hymn

Some of the theological problems of this hymn are discussed above. The ark mentioned is not specifically stated as being the ark of the covenant, although it is a gilded ark, which would be unlikely to be a comparison to Noah's ark.


Mr. Ray's inability to handle the church fathers has been adequately demonstrated by this paper. Whether we consider him simply a dishonest salesman of snake oil, passing it off as holy oil, or whether we consider him a rube, duped by his church, it is hard to be sure. Whichever is the case, Mr. Ray's paper demonstrates a number of important points that have been set forth above. Most notably, Mr. Ray's paper demonstrates the danger he poses to those within his church that look up to him as some sort of teacher. This guy clearly doesn't know what he is talking about when it comes to the church fathers, and yet people repeatedly rely upon Mr. Ray's teaching, as though it were correct or worthy of trust.

I hope that this paper will at least permit those more interested in the truth to have a starting point from which to help to demonstrate to Mr. Ray's followers that Mr. Ray's teachings regarding the fathers show that he hasn't yet gotten deep into history. The deeper I get in history, the more reasons I find to reject the ahistorical (lacking any legitimate historical support) and contra-Biblical (opposed to the Bible) teachings of the modern-day bishop of Rome.


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