Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Imaginary Patristic Quotation Regarding Mary?

Sometimes I like to read what "the other side" has to say about issues like the so-called Immaculate conception. I happened to come across the following argument in a book by Cardinal Lambruschini, who nearly became pope but was beaten out by Pius IX:
St. Cyril of Alexandria, who flourished in the fifth century, expresses himself in a manner still more decisive. Here are his words: "All men, except Him who was born of a Virgin, and that same most holy Virgin of whom was born the Man-God, are born in original sin, and we come into this world afflicted with the most grievous blindness, which indeed we inherit from our first parent, the origin of our race." And he gives, moreover, the motive for this exception, since he goes on to say: "Who ever heard of an architect, building a house for himself, and giving possession of it to his greatest enemy?"

Evidently, the anonymous clergyman who translated the corresponding Latin felt it fit to include the Latin provided by Lambruschini:
Omnes homines, excepto illo, qui de Virgine natus est, et sacratissima etiam Virgine, ex qua Deus homo prodiit in mundum, exempta, cum peccato originali nascimur, et gravissima caecitate depressi in mundum venimus, quam quidera caecitatem de radice primi parentis contraximus.

His citation was as follows:
In Evang. Joan. lib. VI, adjecto explanationi Cyrilli per Judocum Clichtoveum Neoportuensem, Docterum Theologum, cap. XV, Oper. S. Cyrilli Alexandrini. Basileae, 1566.

The above, of course, is only the Latin and citation for the main portion of the quotation. The part quoted as explanation has the following Latin:
Quis unquam audivit architectum, qui sibi domum aedificavit, ejus occupationem et possessionem primo sui inimico cessisse.

with the following citation: "In. Conc. Eph. N. VI." (see this link for some interesting discussion regarding the variant issues for this quotation)

Several issues came to mind:

1) The supposed explanation comes from an entirely different and unrelated work.

2) Upon checking the standard collections of Cyril, I noticed two problems. First, Book VI, cited by the cardinal, is a book of a single chapter in all the standard bodies of Cyrillic literature. Second, whether or not one divided that book into multiple chapters, the commentary in question is not to be found in the book. It's just not there.

3) So, how did the cardinal err? He relied on Josse Clichtove, a Romanist theologian who was not the best academic.

In fact, upon further investigation, I discovered that Josse Clichtove, unable to find a copy of Books V to VII of Cyril's works, inserted instead the works of other ancient writers, without informing the reader. Erasmus made fun of him for this in Responsio ad annotationes Lei. It wasn't the only time that Clichtove made such substitutions. See pp. 317-318 of "Contemporaries of Erasmus," by Bietenholz et al.

I don't bring this up simply to make fun of the cardinal's blunder. After all, the Reformed writers of the day also occasionally misquoted a source, particularly when they relied on the work of Romanist scholars in providing the allegedly patristic material.

What is even more interesting is that upon reading the genuine Book VI, I found that Cyril of Alexandria actually said what amounts to the precise opposite, namely that he provided no exclusion whatsoever for Mary:
And yet we could not grant that they [i.e. the parents of the man born blind] were altogether free from sin. For, inasmuch as they were human, it is I suppose in every way likely or rather it of necessity follows that they fell into errors.

Migne's corresponding Latin from PG73:942 is "Atqui non omnino concesserimus eos immunes peccati. Quippe homines cum essent, necesse fuit ut in peccatum inciderent." (If you are interested in the Greek, see the facing portion of Migne at column 941, or volume two of Pusey, p. 187, lines 24-27, 1872 ed.)

In point of fact, the supposed sinlessness of Mary was not the universal consent of the ancient fathers. From everything I have seen, the universal consent of the ancient fathers that addressed the issue was that Jesus was the only human not to sin, and this was because he was no mere man, but God incarnate. Only Jesus' conception was immaculate. He was born of a physically immaculate virgin, but he was made after the likeness of sinful flesh, as the Scriptures teach. Mary had sin, which is why she recognized Christ as her savior.



Anonymous said...

the commentary in question is not to be found in the book. It's just not there.

Welcome to my world! :-(

Anonymous said...

TF: "...."Who ever heard of an architect, building a house for himself, and giving possession of it to his greatest enemy?"...."

Wow, as a matter of fact, that's just what He did do, housing Himself in the building of His enemies!

Now, of course, none would accuse that virgin of being anyone's enemy? Unless of course, you are her architect?

Rom 5:10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.

Rom 11:28 As regards the gospel, they are enemies of God for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers.

Hmmmmmm, now why would God do that?

That Cardinal Lambruschini, so close, yet so far away!

Holy or not, the virgin, she gets to Heaven in the very same way all of us do!