Friday, April 10, 2009

A Discourse on "The Discourse on the Holy Theotokos" *

* Fully Translated Title: “The Discourse Spoken by Saint apa Athanasius, Patriarch of Alexandria, upon the Return from His Second Exile, on the Holy Theotokos, the Virgin Mary, Who Gave God Flesh; and on Elizabeth the Mother of John–and He Refutes and Rebukes Arius– on Those Who Practice the Abomination of the Gentiles, That Is to Say Magic, and on Manasseh, King of Judah, and on Drunkenness and Illicit Fornication.”

~The title of the work appearing in an article written by Louis Theophile Lefort entitled “The Homily of Saint Athanasius from the Papyri of Turin,” Le Muséon 71:209-233 (1958) attributed to Saint Athanasius the Great, Patriarch of Alexandria (as translated by Paul R. Hoffer from the French provided by Monsieur L. Th. Lefort).

Prelude: Confessions

Above all other things set a watch upon thy mouth , and over what thou hearest harden thy heart. For a word is a bird: once it is released none can recapture it!”

~ Ahiqar the Aramaean, chancellor to King Sennarcherib, from a papyrus of the fifth century before Christ.


I had a great deal of difficulty in writing this small work in response to the charges that Turretinfan (hereinafter oft referred to as Mr. Fan) made against Catholic apologists, Steven Ray and William Albrecht in an article he wrote on AOMin.org and on his own blog, “Thoughts of Francis Turretinfan.” In order to properly respond to the points raised in his articles, I had to expend a great deal of time and effort gathering research materials found in various libraries across the State of Ohio; corresponding with a genuine Athanasian scholar who was kind enough to provide some guidance and an opinion; translating or getting translated articles written in French, Italian, Spanish, German, Latin and Greek; and, then reading them all through at least once before I sat down to compose this paper.

Yet to be truthful, I had more difficulty actually writing this piece. You see, I had trouble wording my rebuttal. It wasn’t that Mr. Fan’s arguments were hard to rebut; they were not. However, the overall paucity of actual information Mr. Fan presented in support of his arguments combined with objectively poor argumentation rendered it almost impossible for me not to respond in an uncharitable manner. I was horribly tempted to lower myself to Mr. Fan’s level and use the same sort of argumentation he used against Messrs. Ray & Albrecht suggesting that Mr. Fan (with the blessings of his co-religionists at AOMin) had either engaged in deliberate and malicious dishonesty or misfeasance in regards to the research effort behind the articles he wrote to smear the reputations of Messrs. Ray and Albrecht specifically and Catholic theologians and apologists in general. In fact, as certain witnesses can attest if asked, the first draft of this paper was going down that path.

However, one evening before bed, I was reading the First Epistle of Saint Peter and I came across a passage reminding me how we Christians are to treat our brothers in Christ, separated brethren included. Thus, I will not render evil for evil or abuse for abuse (1 Pt. 3:9). I have chosen not to respond in the manner Mr. Fan used against Mr. Ray even though I have no illusions that Mr. Fan or his cohorts will cease using such argumentation. Irenic discourse is generally not Mr. Fan’s modus operandi. Nevertheless, I will not ascribe possible motivations as to why Mr. Fan failed to present the reader with all of the facts. Hopefully, I have successfully redacted Turretinfan-like ad hominem argumentation from this paper to allow the facts to present themselves.

That being said, I do not intend to shy away from presenting my own case critiquing and refuting Mr. Fan arguments with respect to his claims in regards to The Discourse on the Holy Theotokos (the name I gave to the piece). I intend to do so in two parts. The first part will review the arguments Mr. Fan makes and the evidence he presented in support of the premise he advances that a Pseudo-Athanasius as opposed to the real Athanasius composed The Discourse on the Holy Theotokos and the quote that apparently Mr. Fan finds so disagreeable. The second part, which will be published on my website shortly after Easter (after I do my final fact checking), will endeavor to rebut Mr. Fan’s contention that a Catholic apologist can not use the writings of the Early Church Fathers (in this instance Athanasius) to make a compelling case in support of what the Catholic Church teaches today. In the second part we will actually examine the contents of The Discourse on the Theotokos to see if one can in good faith say that Saint Athanasius wrote the work and compare what it says about Mary with Athanasiana that are generally considered to be vera.

Now before I go any further, I need to make the following proffer. Throughout the articles that will follow, I will be quoting from a number of sources written in French or another language. In an effort to make things a bit more lucid for the reader, I have even made the attempt to translate my French quotes into English. But I offer this warning: I am not a French scholar. Aside from a couple of romantic poems to my wife, I have not written in French in over 25 years. Aside from one or two occasions, I have not carried on an intelligent conversation of more than 5 minutes in French in 23 years. The extent of my expertise in reading and writing the French language amounts to four years of high school, and my freshman and sophomore years of college (I got my B.A. 28 years ago and my J.D. 25 years ago). Since that time the extent of exercising of my French skills have amounted to reading several works by Alexandre Dumas, père et fils, a couple of plays by Molière and Sartre, and most recently some works of St. Francis de Sales and Saint John Vianney in French. I also own three Spiderman and one Fantastic Four comic books in French.

Oh yes, most importantly~I have watched every Pink Panther movie that both Peter Sellers and Steve Martin have made.

Please note: I will plead the fifth if anyone were to ask me how often I had to use my LaRousse French-English dictionary to look up any French words I did not know or remember and to ascertain verb tenses.

However, now having given advance notice of my linguistic shortcomings, there should be no need to write a blog posting about how Hoffer erred in mistranslating a French word into English, or gave a verb the wrong tense, or that my translation was too literal or was not word-for-word, or worst of all, I failed to properly distinguish an accent ague from an accent grave. To overcome my deficiencies, I have provided the French along with my translations so any critics may satisfy themselves with the correctness of my translation or try their hand at it if they think that they could do better.

Some final notes- while I do pretend to have a small measure of fluency in the English and French languages, I boast no fluency in Spanish, Latin, Italian, German, Greek or Coptic/Sahidic whatsoever. Further, I do not pretend to be a scholar of Athanasiana. About the only thing I have in common with St. Athanasius is membership in the Church Christ founded, the one, holy, apostolic Catholic Church.

One further note~whatever understanding I have gained in this project and about Athanasius is due to the help of many. I would like thank Dr. David Brakke of Indiana University (Go Hoosiers!), Mr. William Albrecht, Mr. & Mrs. David Waltz, my son Christian Hoffer, and the Marian Library at the University of Dayton, the Cleveland Public Library for allowing me access to its White Collection of Rare Books, and the A.T. Wehrle Memorial Library at the Pontifical College Josephinum. Anything good in this paper is a result of their assistance, any errors found within I take full and sole ownership.

Without further ado, here is Part I of my paper on Saint Athanasius and The Discourse on the Holy Theotokos.

PART ONE OF: A Discourse on the “Discourse Spoken by Saint Apa Athanasius, Patriarch of Alexandria, upon the Return from His Second Exile, on the Holy Theotokos, the Virgin Mary, Who Gave God Flesh; and on Elizabeth the Mother of John–and He Refutes and Rebukes Arius– on Those Who Practice the Abomination of the Gentiles, That Is to Say Magic, and on Manasseh, King of Judah, and on Drunkenness and Illicit Fornication.” (CPG 2187)

I. Opening Statement

It is has been said that the goal of any true research project, whether it be great or humble, is to start with a question and end with an answer. Over on the AOMin blog site as well as his own blog, Turretinfan, a modern-day Thirsil, has written a series of articles questioning whether a certain quote used by many of today’s Catholic apologists as support for the Catholic doctrine of Mary’s sinlessness was actually written by Saint Athanasius, Patriarch of Alexandria in the 4th century AD. The pseudonymous Calvinist apologist began his attack as follows:
It's very popular among Rome's apologists today, to make claims that famous church fathers, those that "Protestants" would have heard of, held to the same views as Rome teaches today. Unfortunately for Catholicism, history is not her friend. So, while occasionally a church father or two will provide some seemingly helpful material for the apologist for Catholicism, these sorts of things often aren't really good enough to provide a compelling case from the best known fathers.

So some of these apologists turn to spurious works: pseudographic writings that are attributed to some father but were not actually written by him. This can happen two ways: (1) unintentionally or (2) deliberately.

~from Misquoting Athanasius (Friday, February 27, 2009)

In this instance, Mr. Fan claims that the following quote pertaining to the Blessed Virgin Mary is taken from a spurious, pseudographic writing wrongfully attributed to St. Athanasius of Alexandria:
“O noble Virgin, truly you are greater than any other greatness. For who is your equal in greatness, O dwelling place of God the Word? To whom among all creatures shall I compare you, O Virgin? You are greater than them all O [Ark of the] Covenant, clothed with purity instead of gold! You are the ark in which is found the golden vessel containing the true manna, that is, the flesh in which divinity resides.”

Now one can easily see why this passage would upset a serious neo-antidicomarianite like Mr. Fan because if the quote was to be determined to be genuine, it would directly refute the carefully crafted assertion propounded by 19th and 20th century Calvinists that the Catholic Church’s arguments in favor of the sinlessness of the Virgin Mary was a medieval invention, an excrescence on the true faith of the early Church. It also tends to refute Mr. Fan’s premise that Catholic apologists can not make a compelling case from the writings of Saint Athanasius or other Early Church Fathers that the early Catholic Church adhered to any doctrines that present-day Catholics believe.

In support of his argument against Catholic apologists, Mr. Fan states:

So, now we find apologists for Rome citing a spurious, pseudographic work entitled "Homily of the Papyrus of Turin." This work is not part of any standard corpus of Athanasian writings, and no scholar who deals with Athanasius has (to my knowledge) ever identified it as authentic. It is not found in any Greek manuscripts but apparently comes down to us in a single Coptic manuscript. The manuscript does have the name "Athanasius" at the top, but this is not a sufficient reason to consider it an authentic work, as anyone familiar with ancient manuscripts would be aware.

Ibid.

As we see, Mr. Fan makes several basic arguments that the work in question is a “spurious, pseudographic work”:
1. It is not part of any standard corpus of Athanasian writings.

2. No scholar who deals with Athanasius has ever identified it as authentic.

3. It is not found in any Greek MSS, but in a single Coptic manuscript.
In defense of Catholic apologists everywhere, I have taken upon myself the task of replying to each of Mr. Fan’s claims in support of his argument and to demonstrate that Mr. Fan fails to make the case, at least with the evidence he adduced thus far, that the work in question is a spurious, pseudographic work written by a Pseudo-Athanasius as opposed to the real saint. At the end of the day, even if the reader does not believe that I succeed in rebutting Mr. Fan’s charges, it is my fervent hope the reader takes away from this small work a better appreciation for the hard work that real literary and patristic scholars and philologists do, whose main business it is to add to the body of knowledge concerning a writer and his work, to dispel mistakes that are sometimes found in the pages of the historical record, and to place the writer in the context of history. Better yet, I hope the reader will come away with a better understanding of the difference between research and scholarship, or as Richard Altick in his book, The Art of Literary Research quoting H.L. Mencken wrote, “Learning without wisdom is a load of books on an ass’s back.”

II. Law of the Case

Ubi Dubium, Ibi Libertas.”

Where there is doubt, there is freedom.” ~A maxim of Law

Before I attempt to address Mr. Fan’s claims, I need to set down some general parameters concerning how one goes about determining the authenticity of authorship of a literary work. The first question to be asked is why even discuss who wrote a particular work or not? The answer may be found in Richard Altick’s The Art of Literary Research (1963) starting on page 64:
“As human beings we an ineradicable and perfectly valid desire to know what fellow-man created the work of art we admire. Even more important is the fact, once more, that seldom is an artistic work an isolated entity which can be explained and judged solely in term of itself. It is, on the contrary, one among several or many productions of the same creative intelligence, and sound criticism requires our placing it among other works which preceded or followed it and using to the full the insights they afford both into it and into the mind that produced them all.

Knowledge of authorship, then, far from diverting the critic from his proper business, lights him on his way. The research that substantiates, or corrects, this knowledge has three chief objects: to identify the author of anonymous or pseudonymous works (or works attributed to the wrong writer); to decide which parts of a work written by two or more authors belong to whom; and to remove from the received list of a writer’s works whatever pieces are not his, thereby purifying his canon (the roster of his authentic writings).”

Scholars, whether they be literary, biblical, patristic or Marian scholars, all use similar criteria and techniques in studying whether a work (or portions of a work) belong to a particular author. Based on what I have read in my researches for this paper, it would appear that scholars use the following criteria to assist them in their analysis:
1. What are the textual witnesses to the work; that is what copies or variants of the writing exist in the same or other languages.

2. Ancient testimony or to be more precise whether the work is commented upon or quoted by other ancient contemporary or later sources.

3. Evidence of an original, if an original is not preserved.

4. Ancient title; that is whether the work actually was referred to by name elsewhere by the writer.

5. The nature or type of the work.

6. Internal evidence contained in the text itself, for the author’s milieu, including geographic setting and date.

7. Comparison of the content of the work against other accepted genuine works of that writer.

8. Other archaeological or historical evidence

An excellent example of an Athanasian scholar utilizing these criteria to determine the authenticity of several writings attributed to Athanasius can be found in Dr. David Brakke’s “The Authenticity of the Ascetic Athanasiana.” Orientalia 63, 1994, pp. 17-56. See also, Pseudo-Athanasius and Brakke, David. Pseudo-Athanasius on virginity. Lovanii [Louvain]: Peeters, 2002 where Dr. Brakke uses these criteria to demonstrate why that work was labeled as a spurious writing; and, Brakke, David. Athanasius and the Politics of Asceticism. Oxford: Claredon Press (1995).

Utilizing the above criteria, most scholars who study ancient manuscripts sort them into one of four categories: scriptor incertus, spuria, dubia, and vera or authentica. Vera and authentica are interchangeable terms used to denote works whose authorship are generally not disputed or whose authenticity or genuineness have been settled among scholars. Dubia is the category in which works fall whose attribution to a particular author is questioned, unsettled or undetermined. Spuria, on the other hand, are writings that have been proven to be written by someone other than the real author. “Pseudograph” and “pseudographic writing” are merely synonyms for the phrase “spurious writing” using Greek terms as opposed to Latin. A work that is considered scriptor incertus or just incertus merely means that there is insufficient information to attribute any authorship to a particular work.

Now on his blog, Mr. Fan blurs the line between dubia and spuria by downplaying the difference between these two terms and there are significant differences between the two. In order for a work to truly be a spurious writing, actual evidence of its falsity must be presented in light of the criteria listed above and accepted as such by scholars.

Dubious writings, on the other hand, include a larger variety of works. As I mentioned earlier, works whose authorship are disputed or questioned between scholars are categorized as dubious writings. Dubia also include works that are presumed spurious by scholars for one reason or another until sufficient research has been done to either prove or disprove authorship. Works believed to be or have been presumed authentic in antiquity, but have more recently been doubted, are listed among the dubia. One famous example of this occurring is the NT Letter to the Hebrews. While no Christian doubts that the work is authentic and divinely inspired, attribution to Saint Paul as the human author is much disputed these days. Most Christians up to recent times considered St. Paul to be its author (I still do); however, many present-day scholars, Protestant and Catholic, doubt that St. Paul wrote it. Disputes over authorship of the Epistle to the Hebrews is not a singular event. As a part of my research efforts to write this paper, I read a recently published article by a scholar who was attempting to show that the fourth Gospel was not written by St. John the Evangelist. The gist of the article was that Gospel of John was too “Catholic” to be genuine. Finally, dubia is used to classify works that give indications that they appear to be genuine, but there lacks sufficient evidential support going to the enough of the above-listed criteria for scholars to determine to a reasonable certainty that they are genuine.

Dubia present special problems for patristic scholars. Turretinfan’s jibes aside, if dubious works are not to be considered along with works considered to be authentic, there is a possibility one could get an incomplete view of that writer’s views or beliefs. On the other hand, a decision to include them creates the risk of giving an incorrect view of that writer. Fortunately, as we will show in the second part of this paper, we do not have this problem as the accepted authentic writings of Saint Athanasius clearly demonstrate his advocacy for many of the Marian doctrines present-day Catholics believe. As we shall see, the work from which the quote Mr. Fan finds so much fault with is merely corroborative of what St. Athanasius wrote about the Blessed Mother in his other writings.

Turretinfan’s efforts to conflate dubia with spuria and to minimize their differences is not a trend supported by scholarly consensus. Moreover, it is a cheat because such operates to relieve Mr. Fan of his obligation to adduce qualitative evidence in support of his claim that the work in question belongs to Pseudo-Athanasius as opposed to the real Athanasius. I would ask the reader to bear this in mind when we next review Mr. Fan’s evidence he offers to try to prove his case.

Chapter III: Something Mr. Fan and I Can Agree on.

Before I address Mr. Fan’s arguments, I wish to note that Mr. Fan does Catholics a real service in highlighting an important point. The title of the work in question is not now, nor was it ever, “The Homily of the Papyrus of Turin.” But to be fair to us “apologists of Rome,” – and I have gone back and read many of the Catholic apologists who have cited to the work and I could be mistaken as I do not represent that I have read every single person who has cited to the work – I am not so sure that Catholic apologists actually claim that Athanasius, real or imagined, entitled the work as such. Rather, they give the citation “The Homily of the Papyrus of Turin” merely to show the source of where they got the quote.

That said, the title “The Homily of the Papyrus of Turin” is actually an inaccurately rendered English translation of the title of an article containing a French translation of the work written by the famed French scholar Louis Theophile Lefort. The title of Lefort’s article is simply titled, “L’Homelie de S. Athanase des Papyrus de Turin,” Le Muséon 71:209-239 (1958) which translates into English as “The Homily [or Discourse] of Saint Athanasius of the Papyri of Turin.” I use the plural papyri as opposed to papyrus because the contraction “des” (de + les) indicates that the word “papyrus” is in the plural. The error is one that is easily made. Someone who does not speak or write French would not know that the French language, unlike the English language, does not have a plural for papyrus much like the English language does not have a plural for moose, deer, sheep, or offspring (a stumbling block for Protestants when they are arguing that Jesus had brothers and sisters).

Also, the French word “homélie” does not necessarily translate as “homily” either. “Discourse” may be more appropriate because it is not clear from a reading of the text that St. Athanasius actually recited it during Mass, which would be where a homily or sermon is given. In fact, Lefort uses the word “discours” in his translation suggesting some uncertainty over the nature of the work.

It is also not accurate to call the work by its Latin designation, Homilia aduersus Arium, de s. genetrice dei Maria. The Latin title is actually of very recent origin. As best I can tell, this title was the name given to it by Father Marek Starowieyski in an article he wrote in Latin defending the authenticity of the work entitled, “Maria nova eva in traditione Alexandrina et Antiochena (saeculo V),” Marianum XXXIV (1972), pp. 329-385. Thus far, I have not found anyone prior to Starowieyski’s article in Marianum ever referring to the work by a similar Latin title attributed to it. For certain, neither Saint Athanasius, the genuine article nor the pseudonymous version, would have called the work by this abbreviated Latin name as Latin was not the lingua franca of the 4th and 5th century Alexandrian Church. For certain, Saint Athanasius knew the Latin language, but he would not have given a sermon or homily to the faithful in Alexandria using Latin.

So what is the title of the actual work in question? Without further ado, here is the title of the work as Lefort translated it:

“Discours prononcé par le saint apa Athanase archevêque d'Alexandrie, lors de son retour du second exil,sur la vierge sainte theotokos Marie, celle qui engendra Dieu, et (sur) Élisabeth mère de Jean, --il réfute et rabroue Arius-- et sur ceux qui pratiquent l'abomination des Gentils, c'est-à-dire l'incantation, et sur Manassé roi de Juda, et sur l'ivresse et la porneia.”

Le Muséon 71:209.

My English translation:
“Discourse Spoken by Saint Apa Athanasius, Patriarch of Alexandria, upon the Return from His Second Exile, on the Holy Theotokos, the Virgin Mary, Who Gave God Flesh; and on Elizabeth the Mother of John–and He Refutes and Rebukes Arius– and on Those Who Practice the Abomination of the Gentiles, That Is to Say, Magic, and on Manasseh, King of Judah, and on Drunkenness and Illicit Fornication.”

I would also note that this is not the first time that the title of the work in question has been translated along these lines. In an article written by Alexis Mallon in Revue de l’Orient chrétien entitled “Documents de Source Copte Sur la Vierge” p 182-196, 250-258 (1905), one finds the following translation of the title of the work in French:
“Sermon prononcé par saint Athanase, archevêque d’Alexandrie, au retour de son second exil, au sujet de la Vierge sainte, Marie, la Mère de Dieu et Élizabeth la mère de Jean, pour réfuter et confondre Arius et ceux qui sont de l’abomination des gentils.”

Ibid at 195.

My translation:

“Sermon given by Saint Athanasius, archbishop of Alexandria, on the return from his second exile on the subject of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God and Elizabeth the mother of John in order to refute and confound Arius and those who do the abomination of the gentiles.”

Given the lengthiness of the full title of the work, I shall hereinafter refer to the work as “The Discourse on the Theotokos.” It should be noted that the title of the work is what the copyist named it, not what Saint Athanasius named it. It is merely a gloss added to the work. The actual name of the work, if it ever had one, is lost to history.

Now that we have that out of the way, we can now look at Mr. Fan’s arguments.

Chapter IV: Turretinfan’s First Argument

Many are we, yet our words be few.
Make answer thou, point against point. And say
First this one thing: thy mother didst thou slay?


~From the Trial of Orestes found in the Eumenides

As previously noted, Mr. Fan makes three arguments in support of his contention that The Discourse on the Theotokos is a spurious, pseudographic work not written by St. Athanasius at all. As an overview of his presentation, I would note that for the most part he does not provide any analysis of the quote using the criteria that genuine Athanasian scholars use to analyze the authenticity of a writing. Nevertheless, I will attempt to meet Mr. Fan on his field and answer each of his points anyway.

The first claim that Mr. Fan makes is:
“This work is not part of any standard corpus of Athanasian writings[.]”

There are several problems with this statement. First, it is not one of the criteria that genuine Athanasian scholars use to determine authenticity or spuriousness of a work. In other words, it is wholly irrelevant whether The Discourse on the Theotokos is included in various 19th or 20th century corpora. One will find, if they study such things, that the authors of such compendia of the works of the Early Church Fathers mainly focus on works they feel are the most important or significant in some way and such corpora often include works considered to be dubia and even spuria.

A second objection, and a more practical one at that, Mr. Fan does not identify nor does he define what he considers to be a “standard corpus of Athanasian writings.” How does one, pray tell, discern what constitutes a “standard corpus” of Athanasian writings? What objective criteria does one use to determine the standard-ness of a corpus of Athanasiana? Do scholars even agree on the existence of any standard corpora of Athanasian works? If so, does one group of scholars refer to a corpus of Athanasiana that is different than another group of scholars?

I would suggest that Mr. Fan needs to define “standard” because depending on one’s definition of “standard corpus,” one could argue that it is inaccurate. In the first place, the work does appear with a number of other works by the Early Church Fathers in the papyri that were found together and are kept at the Turin’s Museum of Egyptology. Thus, the work obviously was treated as a part of someone’s corpus or corpora of Alexandrian fathers at some point in history or it wouldn’t have been written in the first place. Further, the work (or at least portions of it) does appear in at least one standard corpus used by Marian scholars entitled Corpus Marianum Patristicum (hereinafter referred to as CMP) containing the writings of the Early Church Fathers on the Blessed Virgin Mary. See, Campos, Sergio Alvarez, Corpus Marianum Patristicum. Burgos, Spain: Ediciones Aldecoa, S.A., 1970. Portions of The Discourse on the Theotokos are designated from # 546-564 and may be found on pp. 59-67. It is also may be found in a corpus of Coptic works written by Gabriele Giamberardini entitled Il Culto Mariano in Egitto. Jerusalem: Franciscan Printing Press, 1974. The work may be found on pp. 149-157. This work is a standard reference tool for those who engage in Coptic studies.

By the way, both of these scholars list the work, at least the portions they quote from, as authentic. The reader might be interested to learn that in Mary and the Fathers of the Church: The Blessed Virgin Mary in Patristic Thought. (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1999), Father Gambero cites to the above-listed corpora in his book as source materials. Turretinfan, who severely criticizes Father Gambero for failing to give his reasons why he thinks Athanasius wrote The Discourse on the Theotkos (labeled as the Homily of the Papyrus of Turin in the book) apparently either didn’t read the materials set forth in the bibliography or the index or chose not to disclose to the reader for reasons known only to himself that he had checked or read the material before he made his attacks on Father Gambero’s integrity and his scholarship.

At this point, I wanted to offer my own speculation as to why this work may not have been included in the many corpora of Saint Athanasius’ works that one finds in the public library and it is this: a possible reason that the work does not appear in the corpora that we apologists generally use is that most corpora of the writings of the Early Church Fathers were prepared prior to when this work was translated. Ven. John Henry Cardinal Newman’s translation of various works attributed to Saint Athanasius were published between 1842 and 1890. The Nicene-Post Nicene Fathers series put together by Schaff and Wace, which relies heavily on Newman’s work, published the selected works by Saint Athanasius, Volume. 4, in 1891. See, Schaff, Philip, and Henry Wace. A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series. New York: The Christian Literature Company; [etc., etc.], 1890. The papyri that the work is found on were not published by Francesco Rossi until 1892 nor assembled as a complete work until 1905 when Dr. Oskar Von Lemm first published his study of the work. See, Rossi, Francesco , I papiri copti del Museo egizio di Torino. Turin (1892) , t. II, fasc. 1, p. 5-54. Von Lemm, Oskar. “ Zu einer Rede de Athanasius” Kleine koptische Studien, t. XLIII (1905), p.89-139 and 237-239, republished [Nachdruck: Leipzig, 1972].

By now, it is clear that the problem with Mr. Fan’s statement is the his use of the word “any” as I have provided the reader with two examples of corpora that do contain The Discourse on the Theotokos. What may constitute a standard corpus to a pseudonymous Calvinist e-pologist on the internet may not be a standard corpus for a genuine scholar. Further, what may be a “standard” corpus for patristics scholars may not be the same as that for Marian scholars. Undefined terms leads to ambiguity, ambiguity leads to misunderstanding, misunderstanding leads to a failure in proving one’s point. Without such definition, Mr. Fan’s view of what constitutes a “standard corpus” is rather subjective and myopic and merely reduces down to his personal pseudonymous opinion as opposed to a fact upon which one can base an argument. The result is that Mr. Fan’s argument here is not factual, but premised solely on the limitation of what he chooses to use as his reference material.

Chapter V: The Dangers of Using Expert Opinion Non-expertly.

The world is not run by thought, nor by imagination, but by opinion” ~Jennifer Drew


The next argument Mr. Fan makes is his weakest:
“[N]o scholar who deals with Athanasius has (to my knowledge) ever identified it as authentic.”

In attacking Mr. Ray’s view that the quote from The Discourse on the Theotokos is authentic, Mr. Fan attacks the source that Mr. Ray cites: Fr. Luigi Gambero and his book, Mary and the Fathers of the Church: The Blessed Virgin Mary in Patristic Thought. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1999. Here are Mr. Fan’s words:

Who are the guilty parties? Well, we see Steve Ray both at his own site as well as at the Catholic Answers site and This Rock magazine, Dave Armstrong, John Salza at CAI, and if one searches the Internet one will find quite a number of lesser luminaries in the field of Roman apologetics providing the same quotations.

Why are they doing this? I would like to assume that they just don't know better. As noted above, Mr. Ray's use of this spurious, pseudographic work was published in the popular This Rock magazine in 2005, which would have given it a wide distribution. It is possible that many folks that are using this quotation simply got it from Mr. Ray, mistakenly believing that Mr. Ray carefully checks his sources.

But where did Mr. Ray get it? Mr. Ray doesn't read Coptic (as far as I know) - so how did he get an English translation of the text to present? I think the answer to that question lies in [Fr.] Luigi Gambero's book, "Mary and the Fathers of the Church," first published in English in 1999. At pages 106 and 107, [Fr.] Gambero provides two quotations from this source. [Fr.] Gambero himself cites to the earlier work of Louis-Théophile Lefort, in Le Muséon 71 (1958).

Scholarly citations aside from Mr. Gambero TYPICALLY CORRECTLY identify the work as Pseudo-Athanasius (see, for example, Virginia Burrus' citation at p. 258 of Late Ancient Christianity or David Frankfurter's citation at p. 35 of Pilgrimage and Holy Space in Late Antique Egypt or at least identify the work simply as "attributed to" Athanasius or other indicators of the dubious (at best) nature of the claim that Athanasius was the work's author. [Emphasis Mine]

What about Mr. Gambero? He provides no argument at all in favor of authenticity of the quotation. Since Mr. Gambero did not write the book in English, but instead the work was translated from the Italian original, perhaps the translator left out some indication that Mr. Gambero had originally provided. Unfortunately, where I am now, a copy of the Italian original (published in 1991 and now out of print and largely unavailable for sale in a used condition) is not within my reach. If any of my readers has a copy and would care to let me know what citation is provided by Gambero in the original, I'd be much obliged

Assuming that the translator has done a proper job, however, we are left weighing the weight of the scholarly consensus against authenticity with an unexplained citation by Mr. Gambero to the work as though it were authentic. Furthermore, Mr. Gambero (while certainly a scholar within his field) is not entirely without bias. One web bio described him this way:


Fr. Luigi Gambero, S.M., a Marianist priest, studied philosophy and theology at the University of Fribourg and the Lateran University in Rome. He specialized in Mariology at the Pontifical Faculty of the Marianum in Rome. He presently teaches patristics at the Marianum and at the University of Dayton.

Once again, Mr. Fan makes an argument against the authenticity of The Discourse on the Theotokos premised on a criterion that patristic scholars do not use to determine the authorship of a particular writing. It gets worse. As shown above, Mr. Fan rails against Father Gambero’s work because Father Gambero failed to provide an explanation why he cited The Discourse on the Theotokos as if Athanasius actually wrote the work. However, does Mr. Fan offer his readers any better?

Before we attempt to answer that question by examining Mr. Fan’s citations to Athanasian scholars who “typically, correctly” cite the work as if it were written by a Pseudo-Athanasius and the compelling argumentation Mr. Fan believes these witnesses provide in support of his contention, I would note that if Mr. Fan had actually read Mary and the Fathers of the Church: The Blessed Virgin in Patristic Thought and then checked the sources listed in the “Select Bibliography” portion of the book at pages 411 and 412 as well as some of the works cited to in the book, he would have found that Fr. Gambero lists a number of works that do state that The Discourse on the Theotokos was written by Saint Athanasius. The ones that I have determined thus far are:

1. Sergio Alvarez Campos titled, Corpus Marianum Patristicum. Burgos, Spain: Ediciones Aldecoa, S.A., 1970 at pg. 55.

2. O'Carroll, Michael. Theotokos: A Theological Encyclopedia of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Collegeville, MN: Michael Glazier Books, 1982, at pp. 49-51, 61-62.

3. Giamberardini, Gabriele. Il culto mariano in Egitto. Jerusalem: Franciscan Printing Press, 1974, pp. 149-157.


Moreover, if Mr. Fan had taken the time to read either Fr. O’Carroll’s work (of which he was aware by virtue of statements made to him by Mr. Matthew Bellisario in a comment posting back in mid-2008) or the Corpus Patristicum Graecorum which he cites to as an authority in an update to his original article, he would have found a reference to Fr. Marek Starowieyski’s work in Latin defending the authenticity of The Discourse on the Theotokos entitled, “Maria nova eva in traditione Alexandrina et Antiochena (saeculo V),” Marianum XXXIV (1972), pp. 329-385. Specific reference to the Discourse appears on pages 339-349.

In short order, by using the information in Fr. Gambero’s book, I was able to find at least four references which discusses the authenticity of The Discourse on the Theotokos and give their reasons why the work is an authentic work of Saint Athanasius. Of course I acknowledge it is one thing to find a helpful reference, it is quite another to obtain it, translate it (if it is not in English), then read it and do further research to understand the concepts being discussed in same and due to this writer’s lack of scholarly acumen, it has taken over a month to write this paper.

I will first reference the citation that is in English for the non-Latin literate of us. In Michael O’Carroll’s Theotokos: A Theological Encyclopedia of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a book which can be found in most metropolitan public libraries in the US, one will find under the entry “Ark of the Covenant”:

“In the Coptic sermon attributed to Athanasius which if not authentic is probably of the fourth century, Our Lady is addressed thus: “O Ark of the new covenant, clad on all sides with purity in place of gold; the one in whom is found the folden case with its true manna, that is the flesh in which the God-Head. (Fn. 6)” (Emphasis Added)

Fn. 6 Coptic sermon. Ed. L. Lefort, in Mus. 71 (1958), 216.

Under the entry “Athanasius of Alexandria, St., Doctor of the Church. ( c. 295-373)”:

“The essential contribution of Athanasius to the development of Christology gives importance to his theology of Mary. This is found principally in the treatise on the Incarnation and the writings on virginity, all objects of much critical research, and in the Letter to Epictetus which raises no critical problem. The rich Marian texts, the Coptic sermons do.” ... If the Coptic sermons were authentic we should have in Athanasius as great a figure in Marian theology as he was in Christology. ... But the question mark remains on authenticity.”

Fn. 1 Works ... Coptic sermons: F. Rossi, I Papiri copti del museo di Torino, vol. 2, fasc. 1,2; L. Th. Lefort, “Athanasiana Coptica,” in Museon 69 (1956), 233-241; ibid., ed. with French tr., “De sancta Virgine Dei Matre et de Elizabeth Joannis matre,” in Museon 71 (1958), 5-50; 209-239. On authenticity of latter: for, see M. Starowieyski, in MM, 34 (1972). 339-349; against, see R. Caro, La Homiletica, II, 554-567. (Emphasis Added)
Thus, Fr. O’Carroll informs the reader of a source that favors authenticity of the work while fairly provides a citation to a work that questions it.

Lest one doubts the credentials of these gentlemen as deserving the title “scholar,” I offer the following facts discerned from using a popular internet search engine. Now mind you, I am using Turretinfan’s criteria here to gauge the authenticity of The Discourse on the Theotokos as opposed to the criteria real Athanasian scholars use to determine authenticity of the work, but there is no doubt that these gentlemen are scholars who “deal with” Saint Athanasius.

Father Michael O'Carroll C.S.Sp., (1911-2004) was a teacher, journalist and author who wrote widely on many theological and ecumenical subject as well as doctrinal encyclopedias on Mariology, the Holy Trinity and the Eucharist and other doctrines which summarize patristical writings on the subjects contained therein. He was an internationally known Mariologist and was a member of the Pontifical Marian Academy, the French Society for Marian Studies, and an Associate of the Bollandistes. In 1995, he was awarded an honorary doctorate for his service to theology by the Pontifical University of Maynooth.

Sergio Alvarez Campos O.F.M. (1924-1994) was an ecclesiastic and a doctor of classical philosophy at the University of Santiago de Compostela in Chile. His Corpus Marianum Patristicum is still used as one of the principal reference resources for scholars researching the writings of the Early Church Fathers pertaining to Mary. Additionally, from what I could discern, it would appear that Campos was also considered an authority on the life and writings of Saint Isodore of Seville.

Father Marek Starowieyski has a doctorate in Byzantine Mariology. He is a tenured professor of patrology at the Pontifical Theological Faculty of Warsaw and a professor in the Institute of Classical Philosophy at the University of Warsaw. He also teaches at the Pontifical Patristics Institute Augustinianum in Rome. He is considered a biblical scholar by both Catholic and Protestants scholars in Europe as well as an historian whose expertise spans the first four centuries of the Church. He has written dozens of books and articles during a career that spans 50 years. One of these works is, “Le titre Θεοτόκος avant le concile d’Ephèse,” Studia Patristica 19 (Berlin: Academie Verlag 1987), 236-242 [My Translation: “The title Theotokos before the Council of Ephesus”] as well as many dozens of books and articles, some of which are listed here. He even edited a couple of books (since Mr. Fan finds such to be an indication of mastery of the subject matter) such as “The Development of the Interior Life in Certain Early Monastic Writings in Egypt," The Spirituality of Ancient Monasticism. Acts of the International Colloquium Cracow-Tyniec, 16-19.11.1994 (ed. Marek Starowieyski; Cracovia: Wydawnictwo Benedyktynów, 1995).

Father Gabriele Giamberardini (1917-1978) contributed much to the fields of Christology, Mariology, Eschatology, Liturgical Studies , Ecclesiology pertaining to the early Egyptian Christianity during his lifetime. Professor, author and archaeologist, Father Giamberardini devoted his life to Coptic studies. His Il Culto Mariano in Egitto referenced above is still a standard reference book for Coptic Christian studies. One of his most well known studies pertains to the Sub Tuum prayer to Mary, the oldest known prayer to Mary found to date. See, e.g. ‘Il “Sub tuum praesidium” e il titolo “Theotokos” nella tradizione egiziana’, Marianum 31 (1969), pp. 324-62. He wrote approximately a hundred books pertaining to Coptic and Eastern Christianity, some of which are set forth in the link here. After obtaining a degree in Theology, he specialized in Eastern Christianity studies. He served as the Prefect of Studies at the Franciscan Mission in Egypt and was the Director of the Center for Oriental Christianity in Cairo. He later taught at the Pontifical Faculty Marianum and the Pontifical Atheneum Antonianum where he also served as the Dean of Theology. He also served as a liaison with the Synod of Coptic Bishops during Second Vatican Council.

We shall see these scholars again in the second part of my paper. Suffice it to say, Mr. Fan’s argument that there are no scholars who “deal” with Athanasius identify the work to be authentic is patently incorrect.

Against Father Gambero’s apparent lack of scholarship, Mr. Fan offers what he considers to be examples of “the weight of scholarly consensus against authenticity.” We list them as follows:

1. Dr. Virginia Burrus' Late Ancient Christianity: A People’s History of Christianity Vol. 2: Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2005, pg. 258.

2. Dr. David Frankfurter's Pilgrimage and Holy Space in Late Antique Egypt. Religions in the Graeco-Roman world, v. 134. Leiden: Brill, 1998, pg. 35.

3. Father Angelo Gila’s article, "Testi E Simboli Biblici Riletti Dai Padri in Chiave Mariana." Theotokos VIII (2000) 601-631 found here.

4. Maurice Geerhard’s Clavis Patrum Graecorum. Corpus Christianorum. Turnhout: Brepols, 1974

5. Several other indices such as the defunct Biblindex: Index of Biblical Quotations and Allusions in Early Christian Literature and René-Michel Roberge’s Index des éditions de textes patristiques.

Unfortunately, if one were to sit down and objectively read the books and articles that Mr. Fan cited to, one would come away greatly disappointed. Why? Nowhere in any of the books or articles that Mr. Fan cites to as examples of the “weight of scholarly consensus” against the work do the writers provide any argument at all as to why The Discourse on the Theotokos is a spurious, pseudographic work and not an authentic discourse written by Saint Athanasius. True, in some of the references listed above (1-3), that author does refer to the work as being written by a Pseudo-Athanasius, but alas, no reasons are given why they do. In short, Mr. Fan is guilty of the very thing he animadverts against Messrs. Ray, Armstrong and Salza for doing-citing sources that do not give the reasons for their opinion! For all his talk about the weight of scholarly consensus, Mr. Fan’s scholarship is no more compelling than that of his opponents!

Now, it is certainly fair for Mr. Fan to question the basis as to why Fr. Gambero believes that the work in question is authentic, but by the same token, it is also fair to ask Turretinfan to point out in the works he cited where his references state why they believe Athanasius’ The Discourse on the Theotokos to be spurious as well. In truth, given his disparagement of the scholarship of Father Gambero, it is incumbent of him to do so lest someone less charitable than myself label him as a hypocrite.

Now before someone accuses me of exaggeration or misstatement, we will take each of Mr. Fan’s citations and examine what they do say.

In his book, Pilgrimage and Holy Space in Late Antique Egypt on page 34-35, Dr. David Frankfurter of the University of New Hampshire writes:
In the same way an anonymous Coptic homily from about the same period [5thcentury] lambasts those who visit “demons ... deluding people as healing cults.” The same people, the homily proceeds to describe ... pour all over themselves water with incantations (spoken over it), and they break their clay pots claiming it repels the evil eye. Some tie amulets on their children, hand-crafted by men–those (men) who provide a place for the dwelling of demons–well others anoint themselves with oil that is evil and incantations and such things that they tie on their head and necks. (fn 82)
Footnote 82 states:

Ps-Athanasius, Homily on Virgin , ed. L.-Th. Lefort, “L’homélie de S. Athanase des papyrus de Turin,” Le muséon 71(1958): 35-36 (ms. pp. 92.95).
Reading this, one must wonder why Mr. Fan chose to cite to Dr. Frankfurter’s work. There is no condemnation of the Discourse as a counterfeit work at all. Nowhere does one see in this reference anything that suggests why Dr, Frankfurter believes the work to be a “pseudographic, spurious work.” In fact, Dr. Frankfurter cites to the Discourse as evidentiary support for his argument that Alexandrian Christians during the time of SS. Athanasius and Shenoute practiced ritual magic, a custom left over from their Egyptian ancestors. Furthermore, there is nothing in the referenced passage that remotely shows that he believes that the portion of the work containing the quote itself about Mary is historically inaccurate, or not consistent with Athanasius’ beliefs pertaining to Mary.

So citing Dr. Frankfurter as an authority for the proposition that work is a spurious, pseudographic work is not as compelling as Mr. Fan would he reader believe. While it does appear that Dr. Frankfurter does not think Athanasius wrote the work by virtue of stating that the author was “Ps-Athanasius,” Dr. Frankfurter is also relying on the authenticity of the work’s contents to support his theories concerning the beliefs and practices of some 4th and 5th century Alexandrian Christians. More importantly, Mr. Fan’s use of Dr. Frankfurter as an authority on Athanasius is further misplaced because his citation gives no insight as to what St. Athanasius did believe concerning Mary, the Mother of God, or how Athanasius’ views are inconsistent or contradictory with those expressed in the quote that offends Mr. Fan so. In fact, given the use of the work by Dr. Frankfurter in his book, one could arguably claim that Dr. Frankfurter believes that the work is a historically accurate depiction of 4th and 5th century Alexandrian Christianity and that they did equate Mary with the “Ark of the Covenant” thereby affirming that they believed Mary remained sinless all through her life, the very point Mr. Fan opposes.

Mr. Fan’s next citation is even less compelling. His citation to Dr. Virginia Burrus’s Late Ancient Christianity: A People’s History of Christianity Vol. 2 in support of his contention that The Discourse on the Theotokos is a spurious, pseudographical work is misleading at best. Looking up the citation, one will find that Dr. Burrus merely was the editor of the book and on page 258 of that work, one finds that the reference to Pseudo-Athanasius is actually contained in material written by Dr. David Frankfurter and on the same subject concerning the ritual magic practices I just touched upon above. Did Mr. Fan actually take the time to read Dr. Burrus’ book before he enlisted it as evidence for his case? If he had read the work, one must wonder why he failed to notice that Dr. Burrus, the editor of the book, was merely republishing portions of Dr. Frankfurter’s work or if he had, why he did not immediately disclose that to his readers.

It seems somewhat disingenuous to me why Turretinfan, on one hand, would take the time of accusing Mr. Ray and others of selling “snake oil” when it would appear that he is engaging in the very same practices that he declaims in others. Are we to likewise remonstrate his seemingly lack of scholarship in the same unchristian manner as he did others? Is it fair for him to issue a reproof against Catholic apologists for exercising a certain level of scholarship, when his scholarship on this matter fails to rise above that of which he complains?

After I pointed out Turretinfan’s faux pas concerning his citation to Dr. Burrus in a comment to the thoughtful post written by Mr. David Waltz on his blog, Articuli Fidei, Mr. Fan responded by glossing over his mis-quoting of Dr. Burrus as evidentiary support and then took the time to criticize me for making assumptions on my part pertaining to the quality of his research~never mind that my assumptions were fairly accurate. Such in my mind hardly constitutes compelling argumentation against the authenticity of the work. Evasion detracts from one’s argument, it does not enhance it.

After people started to examine his references and finding them wanting, Mr. Fan decided to add several more to pad his argument:

03/04/09 Update

As noted in my more recent post in response to William Albrecht's attempted defense of the spurious (or - at best - dubious) work, since the scholars I already named in the article above weren't enough for Mr. Albrecht, I've added one more, Mr. Angelo Gila. Mr. Gila is not only a doctor of theology, whose doctoral thesis was a study of the Marian writings of Severus of Gabala, but Mr. Gila is also a Servite friar - a friar in the order of the Servants of Mary - as well as a resident of the Turin area of Northern Italy (the very area where they papyrus manuscript fragments are housed). In a scholarly article published in the "Theotokos" journal, (Theotokos VIII (2000) 601-631), at page 613, Mr. Gila CORRECTLY identifies this work as Pseudo-Athanasius. [Emphasis Mine]
Here, note how Mr. Fan has backed off from his initial position in all this. Mr. Fan no longer insists that The Discourse on the Theotokos is a spurious, pseudographic work. He now visibly acknowledges the possibility that the work might be considered to be a dubium while downplaying the differences between the two. In rhetoric, this tactic is called “lowering expectations.” In legal circles, this tactic is called CYA (I will leave it to the reader to guess what the acronym means). In those circles where “snake oil” is peddled, the manoeuver is called “puffery.” Regardless, it is a tacit admission by Turretinfan that he could not factually support his original contentions against Mr. Ray and other Catholic apologists with the material he had uncovered in his researches concerning the work.

Mr. Fan even engages in a bit of fallacious logic here. He argues to his own authority by passing judgment whether scholars are “CORRECTLY” citing to Pseudo-Athanasius without establishing that he is any sort of authority at all. Mr. Fan has not deigned to disclose his scholarly credentials to the reader. We do not know if he went to college, where he went to college, what degrees he has, whether he has been published in a peer reviewed journal, etc. Perhaps he has in other postings on his blog, but if he is going to argue to his own authority here, he should have provided his credentials in this instance to show that he had scholarly competence to opine himself. If he is going to rely on his own authority, he should disclose something more than it takes one pseudonymous writer, such as himself, to recognize another, in this case a Pseudo-Athanasius.

Of course, Mr. Fan could be an Athanasian scholar incognito or a scholar of any sort, but then if he were, we should expect that he produce something a bit more scholarly than an attack piece against a Catholic apologist who makes no claims of being a scholar. In short, I would suggest that if Turretinfan is going to continue to attack the integrity and scholarship of Catholic apologists, he should demonstrate that he has the scholarly bona fides to do so. But I am digressing ... .

Let us now examine what Fr. Gila actually wrote to see if it supports Mr. Fan’s contention. Here is in toto what Fr. Gila has to say about The Discourse on the Theotokos:

Uno scrittore anonimo, lo Pseudo-Atanasio, in un’omelia pervenutaci in versione trascritta su un papiro conservato nel museo egizio di Torino, scrive:

“Adamo, fin dal principio, ti lodò nella Genesi chiamandoti la madre di tutti I viventi (Gen 3,20).”

Gila, Angelo. “Testi E Simboli Biblici Riletti Dai Padri in Chiave Mariana.” Theotokos VIII.(2000), p. 613.


My translation (based in part on Google Translate and Yahoo’s Babelfish for the part that does not appear in The Discourse on the Theotokos as aside from a few menu items I know no Italian whatsoever):

An anonymous writer, the Pseudo-Athanasius, in a work that comes to us
transcribed on a papyrus conserved in the Egyptian Museum of Turin, writes:

“Adam, since the beginning, praised you [Mary] in Genesis, calling you the mother of all the living (Gen 3,20).” [My gloss]

Gila, Angelo. “Texts and Symbols of the Bible Used by the Fathers in Key Mariana.” Theotokos VIII. (2000), p. 613.

This passage is found in The Discourse on the Theotokos as translated by Lefort in “L’Homelie de S. Athanase des Papyrus de Turin,” Le Muséon 71 at pg. 218 which states:

Adam dès le commencement te béatifie dans le Genèse en t’appelant la mère de tous les vivants (Gen. 3,20).


To begin with, the very title of Fr. Gila’s article negates Turretinfan’s effort to enlist him as support. By virtue of the positive citation here, Fr. Gila ranks Pseudo-Athanasius among the Early Church Fathers! This perhaps accounts for why Mr. Fan failed to provide his readers with the title of Fr. Gila’s work when he was citing it.

If this were not bad enough for Mr. Fan’s argument, if he had actually read the article, he would have known that Father Gila’s article actually refutes the underlying foundational argument Mr. Fan sought to prove with his attack on Mr. Ray, et al., that Catholics can not make a compelling case from the Early Church Fathers that they held to the same distinctive doctrines taught by today’s Catholic Church. Aside from the use of the name Pseudo-Athanasius in it, Fr. Gila’s article does in fact use the writings from patristic sources to provide a compelling case for overtly Catholic doctrines about Our Blessed Mother, thereby effectively debunking Mr. Fan’s assertions in this regard.

Here is the summary of Father Gila’s work found in English at the end of his paper:

As widely known, the Fathers of the Church were keen and attentive observers of the Word of God. They were also theologically and deeply convinced of the unique role of the Virgin Mary in the history of salvation and of her importance to intensify God’s salvation plan in Christ.

Since the Old and New Testament have been produced by the same Author and represent two aspects of one single plan oriented towards Christ, the Fathers reinterpreted - in a christologic-marian strain - many of the prophetic texts, messianic psalms, characters and figures of the Old Testament and a myriad of symbols and privileged signs of the divine mysteries.

The resulting “dossier” is really broad and impressive.

Four guidelines have been taken into account in this study, for explanatory reasons and mainly to avoid possible repetitions: prophecies, symbols, the Psalter as “prophetic book” the feminine faces of the Old Testament.

The most archaic paragraphs of each section are presented, i.e. the most original and significant texts in the development of the Marian theology, according to the
Fathers.

Ibid. at p. 631.


The nail in the coffin for Turretinfan’s use of this citation is the fact that there is nothing in Fr. Gila’s article why he believes or opines that Pseudo-Athanasius wrote The Discourse on the Theotokos as opposed to the real Athanasius. Aside from one instance of using the appellation “Pseudo-Atanasio,” there is nothing in the article that in any ways help Turretinfan or adds to his premise that Catholics can not make a compelling case for supporting doctrines they believe in from their own Early Church Fathers.

So why cite to it? Was not the reason that Mr. Fan gave as one of his excuses to denigrate the scholarship and reputation of Steve Ray, was that his source (Luigi Gambero) failed to state the reasons why he favored authenticity of The Discourse on the Theotokos in his book? Was Mr. Fan so desperate for a citation seemingly supportive of his position that he used an article that actually refutes his overall premise? At this point, one should wonder why Mr. Fan decided to attack Mr. Ray in the first place if he could not find references that were of any better quality that Mr. Ray’s single citation.

This leads into the next problem. The journal Theotokos is found in very few libraries in the United States of America thereby making it hard for one to find the work to read it for themselves. Mr. Fan does not disclose how he found the citation. Without this link, most readers would be hard pressed to find the article at all and read it so they could see for themselves that his citation actually offers very little, if any, support for his arguments. Moreover, by not providing the reader with the actual title of Father Gila’s work, it makes it even more difficult for the reader to check the source. However, as I have provided the link for the reader to use, the reader can decide himself the efficacy of Mr. Fan citing to a reference that does not make a compelling case for his arguments.

As a last gasp effort to shore up this argument, Mr. Fan offers his readers the following:
Another kind reader has observed that it might be helpful to provide the work's number in the Clavis Patrum Graecorum. This work has been indexed and is included in the Clavis Patrum Graecorum, Volume 2, from Athanasius to Chrysostom (published 1974). At that time, the work was identified as Homilia adversus Arium, de s. genetrice dei Maria and was assigned the index number 2187, which is in the range of the "dubious" works for those works attributed to Athanasius.

Probably it's worth providing an example of the entries that this work gets in a couple of lists. The Université Laval (of Quebec) provides the following entries (under the direction of René-Michel Roberge), respectively in "by the author" and "by the editor" lists of patristic works:

ATHANASE ?, "Homilia aduersus Arium, de s. genetrice dei Maria" (coptice)Lefort, L.-Th. * ATHANASE ?, "Homilia aduersus Arium, de s. genetrice dei Maria" (coptice) * (introduction, apparat critique, traduction française,repagination du papyrus, commentaire et notes) *22124 1P197 1958 PRSY (link to author index - pdf)

Lefort, L.-Th. * ATHANASE ?, "Homilia aduersus Arium, de s. genetrice dei Maria" (coptice) * (introduction, apparat critique, traduction française, repagination du papyrus, commentaire et notes) *22124 1P197 1958 PRSY (link to editor index - pdf)

Likewise, the Biblindex provides the entry corresponding to the Center for Patristics Analysis and Documentation (CADP) collection as follows (source):

ATHANASIVS ALEXANDRINVS ? Homliia aduersus Arium, de s. genetrice dei Maria 93470 CPG 2187

Turretinfan adds:
In both of the lists above, the "?" is the designator that the work is a dubious work, rather than being within list of authentic works (which would omit the "?"). The lists could have gone further and indicated the work as explicitly pseudographic by using the indicator "pse" - a straw that only someone desperate to continuing citing the work would grasp at.

Unfortunately for Mr. Fan, the above lists do not go further and list the work as a pseudograph matter how much Mr. Fan would wish otherwise. In a moment we will see why the work is listed in these indices as dubium as opposed to a vera or a spuria. Suffice it to say, until more scholarly research is done either to establish a case for the work’s authenticity or to prove definitively that it is not, these lists will continue to label the work as a dubium no matter how desperately Turretinfan wishes it were not so. It is unseemly that Mr. Fan is worried about his opponents grasping at straws when his own hands are full of hay.

There is also the slight matter of Mr. Fan failing to disclose some pertinent facts about the Clavis Patristicum Graecorum, hereinafter referred to as the CPG. The CPG is an index that lists works from different Early Church Fathers. Each father’s works are categorized based on the then- present scholarly consensus of their authenticity. CPG 2187, which is the number assigned to The Discourse on the Theotokos, does place this work among the dubia attributed to Saint Athanasius.

What Mr. Fan fails to disclose to his readership is the fact that the CPG lists under each assignation a list of articles, books and treatises that study the authenticity of the work or provide some significant contribution to understanding it. Hence, when I corresponded to him after he published his initial article on February 27, 2009, I specifically asked him to provide me with the CPG number assigned to the work so I could look it up and find out if there were any works of genuine scholars listed under the designation. After Mr. Fan was gentlemanly enough to provide me that number, I went to the CPG and lo and behold! I found the following:

2187 Homilia aduersus Arium, de s. genetrice dei Maria (coptice)

L. Th. Lefort, L’homélie de S Athanase des Papyrus de Turin, in Muséon 71 (1958), p. 5-50; 209-239.

Cf.: R. Laurentin, in RSPT 52(1958), p.548; –M. Starowieyski. In Marianum 34 (1972), p. 347-349.

De genuinitate dubitat R. Caro, La Homiletica Mariana Griega en el Siglo V, II (Marian Library Studies 4) Dayton (Ohio), 1972, p. 554-567.


Taking the time to read the articles listed under the designation, one would find, in addition to Roberto Caro’s article (actually it is a reworking of an earlier doctoral thesis published in 1968) which sets forth reasons doubting that Athanasius wrote The Discourse on the Theotokos, Marek Starowieyski’s article that does in fact states that the work is an authentic work of Athanasius and sets forth arguments why one can justly believe so. As I have already noted previously, the CPG even uses the title that Starowieyski gave the work. All of this suggests that if Mr. Fan would have actually checked the CPG before writing his piece against Mr. Ray, he would not have made the bold statement that, “[N]o scholar who deals with Athanasius has ever identified it as authentic.”

To sum up my objections to Mr. Fan’s citations to support his argument:

1. The criterion that no scholar who deals with Athanasius has ever opined that Saint Athanasius wrote The Discourse on the Theotokos is not a criterion that real Athanasian scholars would use to determine if Athanasius actually wrote the piece.

2. Moreover, the statement is incorrect. There are some scholars who do deal or have dealt with Athanasius that opined that the work is authentic Athanasiana.

3. Even if the criterion were relevant, none of the witnesses that Mr. Fan called gave the reasons that they believe a Pseudo-Athanasius wrote it, making his witnesses no better than Mr. Ray’s witness Father Gambero, who Mr. Fan criticizes for not doing so.


Chapter VI: Presumption vs. Fact

"Ability hits the mark where presumption overshoots and diffidence falls short."
~Attributed to Ven . John Henry Cardinal Newman.

Having addressed his weakest argument, we will next turn to the strongest argument Mr. Fan makes:
“It is not found in any Greek manuscripts but apparently comes down to us in a single Coptic manuscript.”
Here, Mr. Fan actually touches upon one of the criteria scholars use to test the authenticity of a work but he does nothing with it. It is true, that thus far, a Greek version of The Discourse on the Theotokos apparently has not been found yet. I say “apparently” because there are thousands of MSS that have not yet been translated by scholars or philologists and published. It may very well be mouldering on some shelf or in some container in a museum or research library waiting for the day when someone decides to study it. It may lie rotting in some ancient Byzantine monastery or in some tomb in the desert waiting for someone to discover it like the Didache, which was not discovered in modern times until 1883. It is also possible that any Greek version of the work may have been lost or destroyed.

We see in an 1905 article containing a reference to The Discourse on the Theotokos, we find the following written:
Parmi les nombreux papyrus coptes du Musée de Turin, dont une partie malheureusement vient d'être la proie des flammes, il en est un qui contient une homélie de saint Athanase sur la Sainte Vierge et sainte Elisabeth.

En voici le titre (1) : « Sermon prononcé par saint Athanase, archevêque d'Alexandrie, au retour de son second exil, au sujet de la Vierge sainte, Marie, la Mère de Dieu et Elisabeth la mère de Jean, pour réfuter et confondre Arius et ceux qui sont de l'abomination des gentils » (2).

Le texte est coupé de nombreuses lacunes qui le morcellent; on peut cependant suivre le fil du discours. Marie est d'abord mise en parallèle avec Eve; celle-ci avait introduit la mort de l'âme, la Sainte Vierge par son humilité et sa pureté nous a rendu la vie. « Par elle, la pureté a fleuri dans la nature humaine, elle a fleuri avec la chasteté et la virginité. Oh! quel don céleste a été fait aux hommes par toi, ô Vierge véritable! Venez, maintenant, mes auditeurs, allez dans l'Egypte entière, parcourez cette pieuse ville d'Alexandrie et voyez comment germent partout les fleurs de la pureté! Les uns pour se rendre semblables aux anges dans la pureté et la charité ont voué la chasteté perpétuelle, les autres se font eunuques eux-mêmes pour le royaume des cieux et vivent avec leur femme comme s'ils n'en avaient pas
D'autres encore errent dans les déserts, les montagnes et les vallées, s'enferment dans les cavernes inaccessibles et se condamnent à l'abstinence et au jeûne perpétuel, se privant même de l'eau dont tout animal peut se rassasier et cela pour conserver et embellir leur pureté. 0 Vierge pure dans ton corps et dans ton âme, c'est grâce à toi qu'ils ont obtenu ce don excellent!

Vient ensuite le récit commenté de la Nativité et de la Visitation.

(1) Francesco Rossi, / papiri copti del Museo egiào di Torinu, vol. II, fasc. 1, page 5.

(2) Cette homélie vient d'être l'objet d'une étude très soignée de M. Oscar von Lemm dans ses KleinekoptischeStudien -,XLIII (1905), p. 089-0151 ». Après avoir recherché tous les fragments qui en subsistent en différents endroits, il l'a reconstituée presque en entier.

Mallon, Alexis; Graffin, René; et Nau, François. “Documents de Source Copte Sur la Vierge.” Revue de l'Orient chrétien. Paris: Librairie A. Picard [etc.], (1905), pp. 182-195.
My translation:
Among the many Coptic papyrus of the Museum in Turin, part of which unfortunately has been engulfed in flames, there is one that contains a homily of St. Athanasius to the Blessed Virgin and St. Elizabeth.

Here is the title (1): "sermon by Saint Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, on his return from his second exile, about the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God and John's mother Elizabeth, and to refute and confound Arius and those who do the abomination of the Gentiles "(2).

Although the text is divided and cut up with many gaps, we can follow the thread of discourse. Mary is first made parallel with Eve, who had introduced the death of the soul, while the Holy Virgin through her humility and purity gave us life. "Through her, purity has flourished in human nature, it bloomed with chastity and virginity. Oh! what a heavenly gift was made to men by thee, O true Virgin! Come now, my listeners, go through the whole of Egypt, through this holy city of Alexandria and see how the flowers sprout everywhere of purity! Some like to resemble the angels in purity and charity by being dedicated to perpetual chastity, others are themselves like eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven and live with their wives and do not act as if they were husband and wife. Others wander in deserts, mountains and valleys, lock themselves up in caves and inaccessible places to compel abstinence and perpetual fasting, depriving themselves of water which even an animals needs to satisfy itself in order to conserve and enhance their purity. O Virgin, pure in body and soul, it is through you they obtained this great gift!

The narrative then goes one to comment on the Nativity and the Visitation.

(1) Francesco Rossi, / Papiri copti egiào del Museo di Torinu, vol. II, fasc. 1, page 5.

(2) This sermon has been the subject of a very careful study by Oscar von Lemm in KleinekoptischeStudien - XLIII (1905), p. 089-0151. After searching all the fragments that remain in various places, he has reconstructed it almost in its entirety.

Mallon, Alexis; Graffin, René; Nau, François. “Coptic Source Documents on the Virgin.” Eastern Christianity Review. Paris: A. Picard Library (1905), pp. 182-195.

As we can see from this passage, many of the papyri of Turin were destroyed in a fire. What if a Greek version of the Discourse were destroyed before it ever got translated? What if there other works that did cite to it but now will never be known?

Further, even if there is no Greek MS extant, it does not follow that the work was never written in Greek at all. Roberto Caro, in his paper written in Spanish titled “La Homilética Mariana Griega en el Siglo II,” Marian Library Studies, Dayton 1972, p. 554-567 (1972) notes that the grammatical structure of the Discourse suggests that at least parts the work was originally written in Greek. Ibid at p. 558-559. Mr. Caro, by the way, opines that the work probably was not written by Saint Athanasius, but by a Pseudo-Athanasius who he identifies as possibly Didymus the Blind who taught at the Catechetical School of Alexandria while Saint Athanasius was archbishop of Alexandria or Theophilus of Alexandria, the archbishop who succeeded Athanasius.

The significance that the work does not have a Greek counterpart is that it creates only a presumption that The Discourse on the Theotokos is not a genuine work. Here is the opinion I obtained from Dr. David Brakke, a genuine Athanasian scholar, who heads the Department of Religious Studies and teaches in the Department of History at Indiana University:
“The authenticity of the Turin homily attributed to Athanasius that Lefort published has arisen every so often, and the current scholarly consensus is that this Coptic homily is not by Athanasius, but is a work of the fifth or sixth century. In the case of Coptic works attributed to Athanasius or any Greek Father (without extant Greek originals or evidence for the existence of Greek originals), the burden of proof is on those who want to argue that they are genuine, and in only very few cases have such arguments convinced people. As far as I know, no one has made such a case for this homily. If someone were to attempt to do so, I'm sure that I and other scholars of Athanasius would consider it. In general, however, the trend in Coptic studies is to doubt the authenticity of the numerous homilies that survive only in Coptic and are attributed to authoritative Fathers of the fourth and fifth centuries.”
M’sieur Lefort wrote something similar in his article on The Discourse on the Theotokos:

L’attribution formelle de l’homélie à S. Athanase, telle qu’on la lit dans le lemme, ne suffit naturellement pas à garantir l’authenticité de la pièce; on ne lui accordera guère que la valuer d’une présumption favorable. En l’absence de tout autre témoignage externe, c’est à la critique interne qu’incombe la tâche de relever ce qui exclurait Athanase comme auteur, soit au contriare ce qui favoriserait une telle attribution. Au stade actuel de nos recherches, nous n’avons encore rien trouvé qui impose la première alternative. Nous livrons done cette curieuse pièce au jugement de ceux qui sont plus familiarisés que nous avec les oeuvres d’Athanase, tout en leur faisant observer que les scribes byzantins ne nous ont guère fourni de spécimens grec homélies d’Athanase adressées à son peuple, pour servir de points de comparison.

Le Muséon 71:14
My translation:
The formal attribution of the homily to Saint. Athanasius, as we read in the gloss, of course, does not guarantee the authenticity of the piece; and accordingly we did not give it a presumption in favor of such. In the absence of any other external evidence, it is the internal analysis that must identify what excludes Athanasius as its author or what to the contrary would favor such attribution. At this stage of our studies, we have not yet found anything that requires the first alternative. We deliver this curious piece to be judged by those who are more familiar with the works of Athanasius, while noting that the Byzantine [Eastern] writers have not yet provided us with specimens of any Greek homilies of Athanasius addressed to his people, for use as points of comparison. Le Muséon 71: 14.
Of course, the converse is true as well. In a small study of another Coptic homily attributed to Saint Athanasius, J.B. Bernadin wrote:
There is consequently no a priori reason for supposing that St. Athanasius is not the author, for there is good reason for believing that he knew Coptic, and in addition to this sermon, there are a number of others found only in Coptic attributed to him. Not until these have been edited and compared, not only with each other, but with the Greek homilies as well, will it be possible to have any standard by which to judge their authenticity.

Bernardin, J.B. “A Coptic Sermon Attributed to St. Athanasius,” The Journal of Theological Studies Vol XXXVIII. Oxford at the Claredon Press (1937), pg. 113.
Whether Mr. Fan knows it or not, the presumption that Dr. Brakke refers to is the only arrow he has in his quiver that The Discourse on the Theotokos is not an authentic work of Saint Athanasius. However, as Dr. Brakke, M’sieur Lefort and Mr. Bernardin all note, additional study of works of this sort is required before the authenticity or spuriousness of the work can be established authoritatively. Unfortunately, Mr. Fan’s polemics against Messrs. Ray and Albrecht add very little to such study.

Because there is only a “presumption” that the work is not authentic, every authoritative index or codex that Mr. Fan mentions in his articles lists the work as a dubia and not a spuria. While he can try to dismiss such a fact by claiming that reliance on this distinction is a straw that only a desperate person would grasp at, I would submit that such empty rhetoric is no substitute for hard evidence. If Mr. Fan had wished to turn a presumption into fact, he should have offered the reader with references that actually give reasons as to why the work is not authentic rather than spending his time attacking the character of his opponents particularly when Mr. Ray's source, Father Gambero, cited to works in his book that do provide reasons why one can believe that Saint Athanasius wrote the piece in question. The fact that Turretinfan failed to catch that from his reading of Mary and the Fathers of the Church: The Blessed Virgin Mary in Patristic Thought is certainly not the fault of Mr. Ray, Mr. Albrecht, or Father Gambero.

Even though Mr. Fan's arguments that The Discourse on the Theotokos is a spurious pseduographic work have been vanquished, there is still the small matter of attempting to making a case of our own in favor of authenticity. Although I am no scholar by any stretch of the imagination, in the next part of this paper, I will attempt to at least provide the reader with reasons why one may conclude that the work is genuine using what I have gleaned from my researches thus far.

Until then, God Bless!

Completed on the day of Our Lord’s passion.
Good Friday, 2009.

6 comments:

Martin T. said...

Wonderful. Thank you for the nice Easter gift and a Happy Easter to you.

tap said...

Nice work dude. Wonder how you maintained you composure. I would ripped him apart

Paul Hoffer said...

Hi Martin and tap,

Thank you for the kind words.

I do want to note a couple of things though. As the forward states, I had help and without those folks' help, I would not have been able to write this paper.

Second, both Dave Waltz and Admonan pointed out that some of my sources questioning the authenticity of the work were more positive than what I made them out to be. Mr. Waltz noted that R. Caro merely questions the authenticity of the work but acknowledges that it is very possible that Athanasius did write it. Adomnan pointed out on Dave Armstrong's blog that my translation of what Lefort said was too negative~that Lefort actually indicates that one could presume that Athanasius wrote the work. Also, Fr. Marek Starowieyski does teach philology but philisophy which I corrected.

These things will be added to the paper although the correction is being made now.

tap, as far as my composure goes, I will merely state that we have to keep in mind that Mr Fan, although he is in error on many things, seeks to do us Catholics good. He is concerned about our spiritual well-being not realizing for whatever reason that the Catholic Church is already the best means God has given mankind to safeguard and nourish our souls until we come to meet Him and enjoy being in His Presence in heaven. I have been guilty in the past of losing my composure and attacking the person, rather than the argument. As I noted in the forward, that realization came to me after reading 1 Peter 3:9. Being cognizant of it now, I know that it is more important to try to refute erroneous argumentation so I may not be the cause of hardening his heart to prevent him from seeing the the truth of the Catholic faith. As John Henry Cardinal Newman wrote in one of the many prayers he composed during his life: "May no one be less good for having come within my influence. No one less pure, less true, less kind, less noble for having been a fellow traveler in our journey toward eternal life."

We do have an obligation to confront and correct error when we see it and have the ability to do so, but we should try to do so in a way that does not assume the worst about someone (witness the attacks against Mr. Steve Ray that I sought to repel here and the ones being made against him by Mr. Fan and Professor White for his defending and supporting his friend Patty Bonds). Our argumentation may be strong and forceful, but it should not be mean-spirited.

God bless!

David Waltz said...

Hi Paul,

This is such a great post! I am disappointed that it has not, to date, received the attention it deserves. Just moments ago, I put up a new thread on my blog recommending the material. (BTW, have you considered sending Mr.Fan an email to bring to his attention this thread?)

Grace and peace,

David

tap said...

Well, you are certainly more charitable than i am.

If you don't mind me suggesting, could you put something like: update next to those places where others have suggested a more forceful translation, and put their recommended translation along with their names next to the your own translation.

btw i hope we don't have to wait a month for Part II dude. This piece was so interesting that i've been itching for part 2.

agellius said...

I was thinking just the other day about the tone often used towards Catholics by TF, Rhology, et al. It occurred to me that it may have something to do with their belief that conduct has nothing to do with salvation. Whereas to a Catholic charity is an absolute requirement for salvation, ultimately a Protestant doesn't *need* to be charitable towards others since heaven is already assured.

Therefore maybe to them the highest consideration is not charity, but rather (and here is where their good intentions, as noted by PH, come in) whatever they think will be most effective in bringing us out of our errors. If they think the best approach is not to coddle us but to try to shock us out of our complacency, then that's what they feel they should do.