Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Epiphanius of Salamis - Evidence of the Bodily Assumption in the Panarion

 Panarion, Anacephalaeosis VII, Chapter 78, Against Antidicomarians (p. 635):

23,8 And there have been many such things to mislead the deluded, though the saints are not responsible for anyone’s stumbling; the human mind finds no rest, but is perverted to evils. (9) The holy virgin may have died and been buried—her falling asleep was with honor, her death in purity, her crown in virginity. Or she may have been put to death—as the scripture says, “And a sword shall pierce through her soul” 96—her fame is among the martyrs and her holy body, by which light rose on the world, [rests] amid blessings. Or she may have remained alive, for God is not incapable of doing whatever he wills. No one knows her end.

The greatest relevance of the passage above is that there was not a reliable tradition as to how Mary left the Earth during the time of Epiphanius of Salamis, known to him.

Moreover, when discussing the translation of Enoch and Elijah in Anacephalaeosis IV, at 64,1 and 64,2 (p. 197), in responding to the followers of Origen, Epiphanius does not mention Mary.  Likewise, when mentioning the resurrection to glory, Epiphanius only mentions Christ at 65,1.  

However, defenders of the Bodily Assumption sometimes reference to the chapter following Epiphanius' famous "No one knows her end":

Panarion, Anacephalaeosis VII, Chapter 79, Against Collyridians (p. 641):
5,1 For what this sect has to say is complete nonsense and, as it were, an old wives’ tale. Which scripture has spoken of it? Which prophet per-mitted the worship of a man, let alone a woman? (2) The vessel is choice but a woman, and by nature no different [from others]. Like the bodies of the saints, however, she has been held in honor for her character and understanding. And if I should say anything more in her praise, [she is] like Elijah, who was virgin from his mother’s womb, always remained so, and was taken up and has not seen death. She is like John who leaned on the Lord’s breast, “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”(FN12) She is like St. Thecla; and Mary is still more honored than she, because of the providence vouchsafed her. (3) But Elijah is not to be worshiped, even though he is alive. And John is not to be worshiped, even though by his own prayer—or rather, by receiving the grace from God—he made an awesome thing of his falling asleep.(FN13) But neither is Thecla worshiped, nor any of the saints.
For the age-old error of forgetting the living God and worshiping his creatures will not get the better of me. (4) They served and worshiped the creature more than the creator,” and “were made fools.”(FN14) If it is not his will that angels be worshiped, how much more the woman born of Ann,(FN15) who was given to Ann by Joachim(FN16) and granted to her father and mother by promise, after prayer and all diligence? She was surely not born other than normally, but of a man’s seed and a woman’s womb like everyone else. (5) For even though the story and traditions of Mary say that her father Joachim was told in the wilderness, “Your wife has conceived,”(FN17) it was not because this had come about without conjugal intercourse or a man’s seed. The angel who was sent to him predicted the coming event, so that there would be no doubt. The thing had truly happened, had already been decreed by God, and had been promised to the righteous. 
FN12 John 13:23.
FN13 Cf. Act. John 108-115. 
FN14 Rom 1:24; 22. 
FN15 Cf. Protoevangelium of James 4:1-3. 
FN16 Cf. Protoevangelium of James 4:1-3. 
FN17 Cf. Protoevangelium of James 4:2.

Naturally, there is an urgent rush to assume that the comparison to Elijah is a comparison to his translation.  Moreover, continuing to John the Assumptionists think they have hope.  That hope, however, should be crushed by Thecla, who is one of the most famous female martyrs.

As noted by the editor of the English translation, the account of John praying at the end of his life comes from the apocryphal Acts of John.  Some advocates of the Bodily Assumption like to point out that some versions of the Acts of John actually have John not simply dying, but getting translated (see the discussion at this link).  There is no evidence that Epiphanius had such an ending in mind.

Instead, as I pointed out during the debate, Epiphanius was arguing that Mary was virgin like Epiphanius thought Elijah was, and as was John according to the prayer in Acts of John 113 (113 "O thou who hast kept me until this hour for thyself and untouched by union with a woman:"), and as Thecla was reputed to have been.  We see this confirmed from the fact that the next section after what I quoted above begins: "6,1 And everywhere we see the scriptures saying < the same >. Isaiah predicted the things that would be realized in the Son of God and said, “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a son and shall call his name Immanuel.”[FN18 Isa 7:14]"

Our Roman Catholic friends would do well to hear Epiphanius words of caution in the immediately preceding section (Panarion, Anacephalaeosis VII, Chapter 79, Against Collyridians, pp. 640-41):
4,6 Yes, of course Mary’s body was holy, but she was not God. Yes, the Virgin was indeed a virgin and honored as such, but she was not given us to worship; she worships Him who, though born of her flesh, has come from heaven, from the bosom of his Father. (7) And the Gospel therefore protects us by telling us so on the occasion when the Lord himself said, “Woman, what is between me and thee? Mine hour is not yet come.”[FN11 John 2:4.] < For > to make sure that no one would suppose, because of the words, “What is between me and thee?” that the holy Virgin is anything more [than a woman], he called her “Woman” as if by prophecy, because of the schisms and sects that were to appear on earth. Otherwise some might stumble into the nonsense of the sect from excessive awe of the saint.
If Epiphanius were alive today, surely he would view the "hyper-dulia" offered to Mary to be excessive awe.  Mary was just a woman, she should not be the object of religious veneration.

Nevertheless, both the context prior and the context post are about Mary's virginity, not her supposed assumption.  The end of Mary, no one knows, as Epiphanius explicitly affirmed.