Saturday, August 23, 2008

Epiphanius and Josephology

Carrie was kind enough to forward over the writings of Epiphanius on the Antidicomarians. In this writing Epiphanius strongly defends Mary's perpetual virginity. Below are some of my reflections on the document thus far.

The document states:

7.1 For I have heard from someone that certain persons are venturing to say that [Mary] had marital relations after the Savior's birth. And I am not surprised. The ignorance of persons who do not know the sacred scriptures well and have not consulted histories, always turn them to one thing after another, and distracts anyone who wants to track down something about the truth out of his own head.

Well so far, these words could be from a host on Catholic Answers: See- if you knew the Scriptures like we Catholics do, you would see that Mary is a perpetual virgin. Let's see the first proofs offered by Epiphanius, master of sacred Scripture:

(2) To begin with, when it fell to the Virgin's lot to be entrusted to Joseph she was not entrusted to him for marriage, since he was a widower. (3)He was called her husband because of the Law, but it plainly follows from the Jewish tradition that the Virgin was not entrusted to him for matrimony. (4) It was for the preservation of her virginity in witness to the things to come- [a witness] that Christ's incarnation was nothing spurious but was truly attested, as without a man's seed truly brought about by the Holy Spirit.

7.5 For how could such an old man who had lost his first wife so many years before, take a virgin for a wife? Joseph was the brother of Cleopas but the son of Jacob surnamed Panther; both of these brothers were the sons of the man surnamed Panther. Joseph took his first wife from the tribe of Judah and she bore him six children in all, four boys and two girls, as the Gospels according to Mark and John have made clear [Mark 6:3; John 19:25].


Obviously, the majority of argumentation is not from the Scriptures at all, but rather from the Protoevangelium of James, an apocryphal source. Interestingly though, Epiphanius arrives at the "brothers of Jesus" being step-brothers. He doesn't argue for cousins, as most of the current pop-apologists do. The Catholic Encyclopedia describes many of these unreliable tales about Joseph, and it appears to me their main thrust was to defend the perpetual virginity of Mary:

It will not be without interest to recall here, unreliable though they are, the lengthy stories concerning St. Joseph's marriage contained in the apocryphal writings. When forty years of age, Joseph married a woman called Melcha or Escha by some, Salome by others; they lived forty-nine years together and had six children, two daughters and four sons, the youngest of whom was James (the Less, "the Lord's brother"). A year after his wife's death, as the priests announced through Judea that they wished to find in the tribe of Juda a respectable man to espouse Mary, then twelve to fourteen years of age. Joseph, who was at the time ninety years old, went up to Jerusalem among the candidates; a miracle manifested the choice God had made of Joseph, and two years later the Annunciation took place. These dreams, as St. Jerome styles them, from which many a Christian artist has drawn his inspiration (see, for instance, Raphael's "Espousals of the Virgin"), are void of authority; they nevertheless acquired in the course of ages some popularity; in them some ecclesiastical writers sought the answer to the well-known difficulty arising from the mention in the Gospel of "the Lord's brothers"; from them also popular credulity has, contrary to all probability, as well as to the tradition witnessed by old works of art, retained the belief that St. Joseph was an old man at the time of marriage with the Mother of God.

16 comments:

Mike Burgess said...

A) You've asserted but not shown that Epiphanius was referring to the Protoevangelium instead of oral traditions or some other record. Do you have a specific citation that shows him indicating his source?

B) You said "He doesn't argue for cousins, as most of the current pop-apologists do," and then go on to quote the CE quoting St. Jerome being a bit dismissive. I think it's wise to point out that St. Jerome was the one who "originated" the idea that "brothers" refers to "couins," so he seems to be the motivating force behind "current pop" apologetics in this instance. I note with interest your (yet again) selective approval/disapproval of an ECF in regard to one single issue: St. Jerome held to the "BVM's" BV.

C) Your compatriots on the preceding Epiphanius thread seemed to make much of Mary having sexual relations with Joseph, as if this were required and perfectly fine and that her consecrated virginity is somehow an abomination and absurd. I would like to ask them if they think it would have been alright for Jesus to have been married and engage in intercourse. He was God, of course, but He was truly and perfectly a man. What's the consensus among Rhology, Carrie, DTKing, et alia? What are the rationales?

James Swan said...

A. You've asserted but not shown that Epiphanius was referring to the Protoevangelium instead of oral traditions or some other record.

The translation that I'm using includes footnotes linking to sources and Biblical paages.

The Panarion of Epiphanius Books two and three (sects 47- 80) Translated by Frank Williams [New York: E.J. Brill, 1994].

The footnotes for the section I quoted refer to the Protoevanglelium of James, 9:1 and 9:2 See:

http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0847.htm

9. And Joseph, throwing away his axe, went out to meet them; and when they had assembled, they went away to the high priest, taking with them their rods. And he, taking the rods of all of them, entered into the temple, and prayed; and having ended his prayer, he took the rods and came out, and gave them to them: but there was no sign in them, and Joseph took his rod last; and, behold, a dove came out of the rod, and flew upon Joseph's head. And the priest said to Joseph, You have been chosen by lot to take into your keeping the virgin of the Lord. But Joseph refused, saying: I have children, and I am an old man, and she is a young girl. I am afraid lest I become a laughing-stock to the sons of Israel. And the priest said to Joseph: Fear the Lord your God, and remember what the Lord did to Dathan, and Abiram, and Korah; Numbers 16:31-33 how the earth opened, and they were swallowed up on account of their contradiction. And now fear, O Joseph, lest the same things happen in your house. And Joseph was afraid, and took her into his keeping. And Joseph said to Mary: Behold, I have received you from the temple of the Lord; and now I leave you in my house, and go away to build my buildings, and I shall come to you. The Lord will protect you.

Mike Burgess said...

The source you referred to gives no indication that Epiphanius cited or referred to the P of J, only that Williams refers to it, presumably for comparison's sake. You assumed Epiphanius did because of your ingrained sola scriptura mindset.

Nothing on the other two issues?

James Swan said...

The source you referred to gives no indication that Epiphanius cited or referred to the P of J, only that Williams refers to it, presumably for comparison's sake.

Oh boy you got me. I feel so embarrassed. I guess Epiphanius was using some infallible "Tradition" on these points...just like the "Tradition" that "brothers of the Lord" are step brothers and not cousins. Pleae post this infallible "Tradition" when you get a moment.

You assumed Epiphanius did because of your ingrained sola scriptura mindset.

Well, thank you Doctor.

Lvka said...

Not so wild on Epiphanius now, are You? >;)

Mike Burgess said...

Well, that's the problem, James. You're not embarrassed about making such elementary mistakes.

That was a nice resort to ad hominem, though.

What Epiphanius was doing was defending the belief in Mary's perpetual virginity. That is paramount in this discussion. What Jerome was doing was defending her perpetual virginity. My take is that, just like with his initially mistaken view of the OT canon, Jerome was wrong about certain specifics, such as "cousins" instead of "step-brothers," but either are permissible possibilities, because either way the perpetual virginity (which is defined) is intact.

James Swan said...

Well, that's the problem, James. You're not embarrassed about making such elementary mistakes.

Epiphanius probably drew from other apocryphal sources as well- the Protoevangelium of James is probably one of the oldest- known by both Origen and Justin Martyr. That Epiphanius had it mind would probably be readily admitted by say, Tim Staples, who if I recall, recently praised the document on CA live.

So, now its your turn - When Epiphanius states, "The ignorance of persons who do not know the sacred scriptures well and have not consulted histories,"...and then he immediately aunches into non-biblical material about Joseph.

Please explain where the facts about Joseph come from.

Thanks.

Lvka said...

The ignorance of persons who do not know the sacred scriptures well and have not consulted histories

Well, ... there's Your answer, right there ... :-)

James Swan said...

The ignorance of persons who do not know the sacred scriptures well and have not consulted histories

Well, ... there's Your answer, right there


OK, I'll play along. Mike Burgess stated,

"You've asserted but not shown that Epiphanius was referring to the Protoevangelium instead of oral traditions or some other record"

Please, will someone define what is meant here, before I go on to embarrass myself again by quoting apocryphal sources?

I mean, it's SO obvious Epiphanius would have never been so stupid as to consider an apocryphal source to be accurate history by which to quote from.

On the other hand, it's really obvious that I don't know anything about this.

James Swan said...

You've asserted but not shown that Epiphanius was referring to the Protoevangelium instead of oral traditions or some other record"

One last thought, Since we should rule out Epiphanius probably used the popular apocryphal literature around during his lifetime, we shouldn't rule out that it was maybe the people from the lost continent of Atlantis informed Epiphanius about the life of Joseph, or maybe even the Romulans. The Romulans have been visiting Earth for many generations, and helped build the pyramids in Egypt, (as did the Atlanteans) so since Epiphanius spent his early years in Egypt, he may have got the material from either of these sources.

Mike Burgess said...

James,
You don't know from the text of the Panarion what "histories" Epiphanius was using but you were quite confident that "Obviously, the majority of argumentation is not from the Scriptures at all, but rather from the Protoevangelium of James, an apocryphal source." You cannot demonstrate that, and now you are backpedaling. You are acting like those other Protestants and Catholics you so often mention who erroneously attribute things to Luther or take him out of context and so forth. That was my point, along with pointing out the folly of trying to force Epiphanius into your "master of sacred Scripture" mold when he A) was not a sola scripturist and B) clearly indicated he was not deriving his position solely from Scripure even though you tried to mock him for claiming to do so.

Furthermore, if you read the Panarion, I would venture to say that you find a deep familiarity with Scripture and other materials which allowed him to refute a variety of heresies (knowledge of some of which we owe solely to his writings) so succinctly and convincingly.

I do wonder, after reading Epiphanius, what agenda you, like those early heretics he was dealing with in the section in question, have in denying the perpetual virginity so vociferously? You've gone to great (and I would say spurious) lengths to do so. Why?

Carrie said...

The Romulans have been visiting Earth for many generations

Are you relying on the infallible Tradition of Star Trek?

Did you mean Raelians?

James Swan said...

Epiphanius probably drew from other apocryphal sources as well- the Protoevangelium of James is probably one of the oldest- known by both Origen and Justin Martyr.

Just a clarification, the sentence should have read, "...the core of which was known by both Origen and Justin Martyr."

Yes, I have been read Epiphanius, and he does use scriptural argumentation. However, in the current document here under discussion, one of his primary arguments is that Joseph would not have had sexual relations with Mary because he was so old. He repeats this argument often, and if I had to do a synopsis of his argumentation, I would probably state this is his main argument, and then he builds around it.

Mike, second request: Please explain where the facts about Joseph come from. If you don't have anything, just say so, and I'll close the comments down on this post.

Thanks

James Swan said...

Are you relying on the infallible Tradition of Star Trek?
Did you mean Raelians?


These are often confused since their planets are so close together.

Mike Burgess said...

James,
Even though I'm not the one who made an assertion about the source(s) that Epiphanius relied on, (and certainly not with a preface of "obviously"), I think the answer is the same as the one to the question "where did Epiphanius get his facts about James being Jesus' 'older brother'?" Epiphanius' reply: "I always heard..." Any reason to distrust it? No. Why not? He knows his sources. You yourself indicated in your correction that Origen and Justin Martyr knew the "core" at least of the P of J. How did they know the core of it? My money's on oral tradition. I want to acknowledge the possibility that Epiphanius, Origen, or Justin Martyr could have had a copy of the P of J, but Epiphanius makes an explicit statement that anyone then could have consulted the Scriptures and the histories, plural. Maybe they were written down, more likely they were oral histories. But that's your answer: the "histories." Do we have them now? Well, we've got what appears to me to be at least four witnesses to their content: the P of J, the Panarion, Origen. (If I'm not mistaken, Origen explicitly states the P of J itself is spurious, but still holds to at least some of the content to defend his explanation of the perpetual virginity of Mary.) I am unaware of Justin Martyr referring to the Protoevangelium of James. Perhaps you have better information you'd share with me. This is an area I'm interested in.

How come I answer your questions but you guys seem to ignore rather a lot of mine? It's your blog, obviously, but c'mon.

Mike Burgess said...

Oh, I'm sorry. I wanted to mention that, while Epiphanius certainly uses Joseph's age as a leg of defense, I would take issue that his main thrust is not that Joseph was too old to engage in relations, but rather that Mary was too pure ("contained the Uncontainable," for example). This is consistent with Irenaeus, Augustine, et alia. I'd really like to ask again why it is you take such pains to deny Mary's perpetual virginity? And would it have been alright for the man Jesus to get married and have sex? Why or why not?