Thursday, March 05, 2009

Response to Paul Hoffer's Comments

Someone [Mr. James Swan] directed me to the comment box of an entry of David Waltz's blog where Mr. Hoffer has been providing some information and some misinformation (source). I'll respond to Mr. Hoffer's comments more or less line by line:

Hoffer: "One of the problems with Mr. Fan's (would he be considered a Pseudo-Turrettini since he posts anonymously?) attack is that he hasn't reviewed the actual text in question."

I answer: Mr. Hoffer has a problem with assuming things and passing them off as facts. This is an example. I had reviewed the actual text in question between the time I first raised this issue in 2008 and the time I posted the more definitive post in 2009. It is Mr. Hoffer who has not reviewed the actual text in question, nor did he even bother to ask me whether I had reviewed the actual text, before he posted his misinformation.

Hoffer: "He is merely googling what he thinks are references to it without verifying it."

I answer: This is also not true, for essentially the reasons indicated above. The fact that Mr. Hoffer starts by posting his assumptions as though they were fact seriously undermines his criticism.

Hoffer: "For example in one of the posts that Rev. Temple mentions, Mr. Fan cited to works by both Virginia Burrus and David Frankfurter as claiming that a pseudo-St. Athanasius wrote the quote. If he had gotten Burrus' work, he would have found that she is merely an editor of a book that contains a portion of previously mentioned work by Frankfurter. So there are not two citations, but merely one and Mr. Frankfurter does not state why he believes that it was written by a pseudo-Athanasius."

It is reasonable to point out that Burrus is the editor of the work, not an independent author. I have provided an update to the original 2009 post to clarify this, as well as to identify several other editors besides Burrus who have edited Frankfurter's works with the citation as pseudo-Athanasius.

[I omit a list of authentic writings that Mr. Hoffer provides.]

Mr. Hoffer: "Now without comparing each and every one of these citations (some of which have not been translated in English that I have found yet) against the particular work, how does he know that the particular text in question is actually spurious?"

This is where it is handy to resort to scholars who deal with the works of Athanasius. Having to compare each spurious or dubious work against all the other known works can be a momentual task, particularly with some of the more prolific authors like Origen or Augustine. In this case, that has been done.

Mr. Hoffer: "Now there is one thing that Mr. Fan is correct about-the work in question is not correctly labeled. Lefort's "L'homelie de St. Athanase des papyrus de Turin" does not translate from the French into English as Saint Athanasius' "The Homily of the Papyrus of Turin." It actually translates as "The Discourse of Saint Athanasius" from (or found in) the Turin papyri (plural), the Turin reference is a reference to the great museum in Turin that has substantial holdings of Eygptian papyri spanning over 3000 years. The problem with the translation is that French does not have a plural for papyrus. One has to look at the word "des" (de + les) to see that the reference is to a plural of the word."

Leaving aside the fact that "homily" would be a favored translation over "discourse" simply because of its cognate relationship, Mr. Hoffer is right that the "des" does imply a plurality of papyrus documents. Thus, Mr. Gambero's translation of the phrase (or his English editor/translator's translation) could have more accurately used the more awkward "papyri" in place of "papyrus."

Mr. Hoffer wrote: "I hope to have my hands on LeFort's work from Le Museon amd translations of the authentic works this weekend to do the due diligence that Mr. Fan should have done before writing his piece."

As noted above, Mr. Hoffer's criticism is misplaced because he himself didn't bother to investigate his own claims before making them. As noted above, I had brought this spurious (or, at best, dubious) quotation to Mr. Hoffer's attention in 2008 when he himself tried to use it. He indicated at that time that he was going to investigate the matter. Now, over half a year later, he is finally getting around to it, only after a more definitive post has been provided.

Mr. Hoffer wrote: "I will let you know what I come up with here and on my own blog."

This was Mr. Hoffer's comment on March 3, 2009, if the blogging software's date stamp is accurate. Scrolling down through that comment box, we find, later that day another post (source):

Hoffer: "BTW, I have already gotten ahold of one of the Pseudo-Athanasius' citations and determined that it does not refer to the same work as the so-called "The Homily of the Papyrus of Turin." I anticipate being able to clear some of this up or if nothing else shed some light on the matter somewhat soon."

This is probably because a Latin name for the work is the name that scholars typically use in such lists. That name is "Homilia adversus Arium, de s. genetrice dei Maria" ("Homily against Arius, of the holy mother of god Mary").

There was also an additional comment speculating on how the document came to be in Coptic and arguing that the obscurity of the text doesn't invalidate its truthfulness or authenticity. These are essentially tangents. As Mr. Hoffer went on to admit in yet another comment, "Language that a manuscript is written in is a factor that scholars weigh in determining the work's authenticity, but it is not sine qua non of the process."

Throughout the day of March 3, Mr. Hoffer posted a couple more posts, indicating (for example) that he had found out that one of the pseudo-Athanasian works is not the same as this homily, and that Lefort translated at least one work of Athanasius from the Coptic that is thought to be authentic (of course, it is not this particular work, so that's not a real issue).

When, late in the day judging by the time stamps, Mr. Hoffer discovered that I had actually read the article, he wrote: "To all, I see that Mr. Fan has posted another article on his website and it appears that he has obtained a copy of the 1958 edition of the Le Museon where the quote is taken from. Good for him! I am very glad that he has taken the time to review the magazine. It's unfortunate that he did not take the time to do that prior to writing his earlier piece. From what he is saying, it appears that the article does not claim that the text is either authentic or spurious. I hope to see for myself and will report my findings." (source)

Again, one wonders why Mr. Hoffer just assumes things and treats them as fact. Contrary to his negative assumption, I did do that "prior to writing [my] earlier piece" (though not, of course, prior to my very first comments on the subject in 2008, where I first raise the issue).

After that, I have seen nothing either in that comment box or Mr. Hoffer's blog. Of course, perhaps Mr. Hoffer is still tracking down the article from Le Muséon, or trying to verify that the work "Homilia adversus Arium, de s. genetrice dei Maria" is the same dubious/spurious work as the Homily of the Papyrus of Turin.

I would think that Mr. Hoffer would reach no significantly different conclusion than I did once he has researched the evidence more fully. I hope, as he proceeds, that he will consider beginning from the more reasonable assumption that I check things first, before making claims about them.


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