Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Response to Steve Ray on the Pseudographic Papyrus of Turin


As you may recall, we recently identified a spurious quotation from Athanasius that a number of apologists for Rome had been using, including Mr. Steve Ray. Sadly, rather than correct his error and be honest with his readers, Mr. Ray has chosen to pretend the problem doesn't exist, directing his readers, once again, to the video musings of Mr. William Albrecht.

Specifically, in response to the demonstration that Mr. Ray bolsters his case with spurious quotations, Mr. Ray stated:
You may want to watch this video put up by William Albrecht. He addresses one instance in which an opponent wrongly says Catholics wrongly use the Fathers. Funny thing Fundamentalists accusing us of misusing the Fathers! Thanks William!
(link and emphasis on "us" in Ray's original post - that link is to William Albrecht's video)(source)

Notice how Mr. Ray plays the same "hide who the critic is" game that Mr. Madrid plays. On this point, I have to give Mr. Albrecht a little bit of credit. Unlike Mr. Ray and Mr. Madrid, Mr. Albrecht is not afraid to identify his critics and to direct the reader to the criticism in question.

Clearly, Mr. Ray is endorsing and promoting Mr. Albrecht's video. Did Mr. Ray watch it himself? It's hard to say. After all, Mr. Ray's very next blog entry is "We arrived in Greece." Perhaps he is just busy on his pilgrimage profiteering and did not have time to watch Mr. Albrecht's video or consider its content. Perhaps he got second-hand information. Who knows?! Either way he shows a lack of interest in the integrity of his own presentations, which relied upon the spurious source attributed to Athanasius.

So, let's examine Mr. Albrecht's video response. The link has already been provided above. It's about ten minutes long. I think the following pretty much addresses all of Mr. Albrecht's attempted arguments.

Albrecht Preface - "Blunders" Claim

Mr. Albrecht prefaces his video with a claim that various "blunders" were made. As we'll see below, he nowhere substantiates this claim. At best, he disputes some of the facts presented. I'd encourage Mr. Albrecht, who I have already praised for his courage, to consider making more reasonable claims, since he looks bad when he claims that there are "blunders" but then cannot actually substantiate blunders.

Albrecht Argument 1 - Many Lists Omit Works Discovered in the 20th Century

Albrecht's first argument is not to point out any blunder, but simply to try to weaken the fact (which he doesn't dispute) that the work in question is not to be found in any standard list of Athanasian works. He tries to weaken this fact by pointing out that older lists wouldn't have more recently discovered works.

Even leaving aside that this is just an attempt to weaken my position rather than any attempt to substantiate the authenticity of the work, there are a couple of problems with this argument.

First, the argument assumes that this work only came to light in the 20th century. Mr. Albrecht asserts that many lists don't include 20th century findings. Mr. Albrecht, however, is unaware of when this work came to light. This work was already known to scholars in the 19th century and was even published in the late 19th century. Mr. Albrecht seems to think that the publication of the work in Le Muséon was the first time the work had come to light. In fact, however, the work is one of a number of works that were earlier published. The article in Le Muséon was largely of interest because it included a French-language translation of the work.

Second, even if the article in Le Muséon were the first time the work had come to light, the Le Muséon article was over 50 years ago. By now, if the scholarly consensus were that this work were authentic, there would have been time to have the document included within the standard corpus of Athanasian works. But, of course, Mr. Albrecht is unable to identify any such corpus that identifies this homily as authentic.

Albrecht Argument 2 - Speculation Regarding Manuscript's Origin

Mr. Albrecht speculates about the origin of the manuscript, arguing that it may have come from some particular monastery. If Mr. Albrecht had spent more time doing his homework, though, he would have discovered that the reference to "of Turin" in the title of the homily ("Homily of the Papyrus of Turin") is a reference to the Egyptian Museum of Turin/Torino, Italy (link to museum's website). This is a museum in Northern Italy near the foothills of the Alps. Where they were before that, I leave to Mr. Albrecht to see if he can track down.

Regardless of the location from which the museum obtained the manuscripts, speculation regarding the manuscript's origin can hardly be viewed as an argument in favor of its authenticity.

Albrecht Argument 3 - Athanasius Knew and Used Coptic

Mr. Albrecht seemingly misunderstood my comment regarding the evidence for the authenticity of the homily. I had pointed out that the only evidence for the homily is a single Coptic manuscript. Mr. Albrecht went on at some length to point out that Athanasius knew and used the Coptic language. Mr. Albrecht, however, is missing the point. The point is that although Athanasius is a very renowned church father, this homily supposedly went unnoticed by the entire Greek-speaking church, not to mention the Coptic church. Of course, whether Athanasius spoke or used Coptic is really not relevant to the issue of whether a particular Coptic manuscript is a genuine writing of Athanasius.

On the other hand, I am very curious what makes Mr. Albrecht think that whoever wrote this particular homily, wrote it originally in Coptic, rather than in Greek. Given the rest of the inaccuracies in Mr. Albrecht's response, I think it is reasonable to presume he lacks any information on that subject.

Furthermore, as the Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913 explains:
Post Nicene Fathers. --The homilies, sermons, etc., of the Greek Fathers from the Council of Nicaea to that of Chalcedon were well represented in the Coptic literature, as we may judge from what has come down to us in the various dialects. In Bohairic we have over forty complete homilies or sermons of St John Chrysostom, several of St. Cyril of Alexandria, St. Gregory Nazianzen, Theophilus of Alexandria, and St Ephraem the Syrian, while in Sahidic we find a few complete writings and a very large number of fragments, some quite considerable, of the homiletical works of the same Fathers and of many others, like St. Athanasius, St. Basil, Proclus of Cyzicus, Theodotus of Ancyra, Epiphanius of Cyprus, Amphilochius of Iconium, Severianus of Gabala, Cyril of Jerusalem, Eusebius of Caesarea, and the pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite. Liberius of Rome and St. Ephraem are also represented by several fragments of sermons. We need not say that these writings are not infrequently spurious, and that they can in no case be held up as models of translation.
(emphasis added)

Albrecht Argument 4 - Luigi Gambero Bias Issue

It seems even more certain that Mr. Albrecht misunderstood the issue of Mr. Gambero's bias. Mr. Gambero is a Marianist priest. That is to say, he belongs to the "Society of Mary," a religious order devoted to Mary. This, of course, explains his great interest in the topic of Mary, but it does naturally lead him to tend to be interested in identifying quotations from church fathers that praise this woman to whom he and his religious order are devoted. It's just his natural bias to accept spurious and/or questionable writing as though they were authentic if they praise Mary, just as it would be the nature of his bias to criticize (as questionable or spurious) authentic works that somehow cast aspersion on Mary.

None of this is supposed to prove that Mr. Gambero is lying or doing anything mischievous. As I noted in my original post, I am still hoping to obtain a copy of the relevant pages of the original Italian edition of the book. Perhaps in that book Mr. Gambero correctly identified the work as as pseudo-graphic, and perhaps his translator or English editor simply accidentally removed the relevant qualifier.

Likewise, Mr. Gambero could simply have assumed that the work was authentic without looking into the matter. We simply don't know why he cited it. Nevertheless, his bias is against critical investigation of his sources, and in favor of his acceptance of questionable and spurious sources as authentic, whether or not that bias actually came into play.

Albrecht Argument 5 - Other Things Athanasius Said or Didn't Say

Mr. Albrecht goes off on a tangent when he tries to bring up other things that Athanasius allegedly said, such as things relating to the concept of the perpetual virginity of Mary. Perhaps Mr. Albrecht is confused about my contention.

My contention (and what I have demonstrated) is that apologists for Catholicism cite a spurious work as though it were Athanasius. It is not a claim that Athanasius was one of the Westminster divines or that he was a drinking buddy of Martin Luther's. My contention is not that he agreed on every point with "Protestants" (an absurd notion given the variety within "Protestantism") nor even was my point in this case that Athanasius disagreed with even one thing that Rome teaches today.

In other debates I have addressed some issues about what the church fathers actually believed. There are plenty of inconvenient facts of history for those who wish to imagine that what their church teaches is "what was always taught from the beginning." But that is not this argument. This argument is that Rome's apologists are using a source that they shouldn't use, if they wish to be considered honest.

Albrecht Argument 6 - The Title of the Homily of the Papyrus of Turin

This particular homily is called the "Homily of the Papyrus of Turin." It is not called "In Praise of the Blessed Virgin." Mr. Albrecht tenaciously insists that he did not err in calling the homily by the latter title. This is just ridiculous. I know exactly where he got that "title" from, but it is not the title of the work. It is just a "tag line" that Mr. Gambero put above the quotation to tell the reader what the quoted section of the homily is about.

Mr. Gambero himself would not make the silly mistake that Mr. Albrecht has made. Mr. Gambero does use that tag line over the section of the homily that Mr. Albrecht read in his previous video. On the other hand, however, Mr. Gambero uses the tag line "Mary Greets Elizabeth" as the tag line for the quotation from the same homily on the immediately preceding page. The same technique can be seen on page 31 of Mr. Gambero's work and in every "readings" section at the end of each chapter of his book. At page 31, the tag line is "Ignation Profession of Faith" but the work is Ignatius' Epistle to the Ephesians.

Given Mr. Albrecht's fascination with Ignatius, one hopes that Mr. Albrecht would have the sense to realize that Ignatius' Epistle to the Ephesians (whether or not genuine, in whole or in part - and when I say "whether or not" I mean I'm not addressing that issue here) is not called "Ignation Profession of Faith" as a title.

Albrecht Argument 7 - Le Muséon is a Reputable Journal

Le Muséon is a reputable journal, no doubt. It is not our intention to suggest otherwise. It was with great pleasure that I leafed through volume 71 of Le Muséon to read (and read about) this particular homily. That's not really the issue.

Mr. Albrecht asserts that Le Muséon claims that the work is authentic. This simply isn't true. I frankly have no idea where Mr. Albrecht got the idea that Le Muséon even took any opinion on the authenticity of the homily.

Le Muséon, after all, is the journal. The fact that an article is published in a journal doesn't mean that the journal itself endorses the content of the article, or stands behind it. Part of the purpose of journals is to put out information so that it can be reviewed by academic peers of the articles' authors.

I suppose, in some instances, a journal could explicitly adopt the position of a particular article published therein. In this case, Le Muséon has not taken such an approach. Le Muséon simply published an article by Mr. Louis-Théophile Lefort.

Of course, and it seems probably Mr. Albrecht was unaware of this, Mr. Lefort was the director of Le Muséon from 1921 until his death in 1959. So, it is almost as though Le Muséon were speaking when Mr. Lefort speaks.

Regardless, Mr. Lefort does not himself (in the article) insist on the authenticity of the piece. Indeed, he concurs with the comment in my previous post that the authenticity of the work is not to be established on the basis of the fact that work has Athanasius' name at the top. This is, of course, due to the fact that there numerous works that are attributed to more famous writers.

I find it highly unlikely that Mr. Albrecht had bothered to look up and read through the article in Le Muséon to see what it said about the supposed authenticity of the work. Had Mr. Albrecht done so, he would (no doubt) have discovered in one of the first lines of the article an indication of the prior publication of the homily in the 19th century.

Albrecht Argument 8 - Reasons Given to Doubt

Mr. Albrecht suggests that we have given him no reason at all to doubt the authenticity of the work. In fact, things are just the opposite of what Mr. Albrecht suggests. The weight of the scholarly consensus is that the work is spurious, and Mr. Albrecht has given us no reason to doubt that consensus. Le Muséon itself did not insist that the work was authentic. Why do Rome's apologists? We had hoped that it was by accident, because they simply didn't investigate their sources.

However, when Rome's apologists try to defend their spurious works with irrelevant, inaccurate, or misleading argumentation, one wonders whether they even care about the truth. One hopes that Mr. Albrecht's video post can be chaulked up to youthful zeal rather than a malicious wish to mislead his viewers. Likewise, we can presume that Mr. Ray simply doesn't take his own work's integrity seriously enough to defend his citation of a spurious work, instead directing his readers to a video that we can be sure he did not fully research for accuracy.


The response of Rome's apologists so far has been disappointing. Mr. Albrecht has been the only one brave enough to try to set forth a detailed response, but sadly he has fallen short. Rather than simply admitting his mistake and appropriately correcting it, Mr. Albrecht has dug himself a deeper hole, and Mr. Ray has joined him there by recommending his video.

I continue to exhort the apologists of Rome to engage in a higher level of discourse. Obviously, here, I am specifically picking on Mr. Ray and Mr. Madrid - two men who seem to be unwilling to let the church fathers be the church fathers, trying instead to make them a part of the religion of modern Roman Catholicism.


P.S. As I was bringing this article to a close it came to my attention that Mr. Albrecht had posted a link to his video over at Mr. Madrid's forum (link), where it received a warm reception by those who apparently simply take William's word for it, rather than investigate. The ever-vicious Art Sippo (a medical doctor and lay apologist for Rome) even chimes in calling someone the "son of lies" (I'm not sure if he intended that for me, since he probably didn't even bother to check out who at Alpha and Omega Ministries had written the post) and praising Mr. Albrecht. Of course, Mr. Madrid's forum moderator (Patti) will presumably continue her policy of preventing this response from coming to the attention of the readers of her forum, since it has been her past policy of editing out references both to the Team Apologian Blog and Thoughts of Francis Turretin on the forum.


Paul Hoffer said...

Hello Mr. Fan, I am glad that you have had the chance to view the article in the Le Museon. I will get my chance this weekend. Maybe we'll compare notes.

I had posted some comments on Mr. Waltz's blog about your earlier article. I wanted to note that I had expressed my concerns about the fact that you criticized Catholic apologists for citing to the quote when you hadn't done so yourself. I am happy to see that my concerns were misplaced.

About the title though, I had translated it on Mr. Waltz's blog based on your earlier posting as "'The Discourse of St. Athanasius' from the Turin papyri." Based on the French summary you posted, it became obvious to me that the title of the work was certainly not "The Homily of the Papyrus of Turin." The French word "L'homelie" can mean either "sermon", "homily" or "discourse." "de" means of course "of." "St. Athanase" is the French spelling of "Saint Athanasius." The next part is a little tricky. "des papyrus de Turin" does not translate as "the papyrus of Turin." It actually translates as "of the" or "from the papyri of Turin" or more appropriately as "from the Turin papyri." The French does not have a plural of papyrus like we do. One has to get that from the use of the word "des" which means "de+les" which is the French article pluralized. As I noted there, Turin refers to the great museum there which houses thousands of papyri from Eygpt spanning 3000 years of history from ancient Eygpt into the Christian era. Hence, I translated the title of the work based on what you provided as "The Discourse of Saint Athanasius from the Turin papyri." Since you have the actual work, does my understanding comport with what the article says?

One other query...is there a CPG numeral assigned to the actual MS that the text is taken from? Such a number would spare me a little bit of time since I have already have a numerical CPG list of works considered to be authentic as opposed to incertus, dubia or spuria.

God bless!

Turretinfan said...

Mr. Hoffer,

I have replied privately to your comment, but I thought it good to give you credit here for making the comment. I have responded to part of these comments (as they appeared on Mr. Waltz's blog) and I have addressed the rest through updating the original (2009) article.