Thursday, August 21, 2008

Epiphanius and Mariology

I got caught up in a discusion on the early church father, Epiphanius. It was brought up that Epiphanius charged the Collyridians with worshiping Mary. A Roman Catholic responded, " seem to have failed to consider the ramifications of using St. Epiphanius' refutation of the Collyridians as an argument against the veneration of Mary. There, he explicitly lays out what Marian latria would look like..." Then, the following citation was given:
For certain women decorate a barber's chair or square seat, spread a cloth on it, set out bread and offer it in Mary's name on a certain day of the year, and all partake of the bread;[St. Epiphanius of Salamis, Panarion, Section VII, 1,6]
This is a classic example of reading with Roman Catholic glasses. Epiphanius does not specify a latria / dulia distinction. This is being read in to avoid the obvious. Here's the quote:
Epiphanius of Salamis (310/320-403): "And who but women are the teachers of this? Women are unstable, prone to error, and mean-spirited. As in our earlier chapter on Quintilla, Maximilla and Priscilla, so here the devil has seen fit to disgorge ridiculous teachings from the mouths of women. For certain women decorate a barber’s chair or a square seat, spread a cloth on it, set out bread and offer it in Mary’s name on a certain day of the year, and all partake of the bread; I discussed parts of this right in my letter to Arabia. Now, however, I shall speak plainly of it and, with prayer to God, give the best refutations of it that I can, so as to grub out the roots of this idolatrous sect and with God’s help, be able to cure certain people of this madness." Frank Williams, trans., The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis: Book II and III (Sects 47-80, De Fide) 59. Against Collyridians who make offerings to Mary, 1,6-7 (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1994), p. 621.
Epiphanius also states,
Let no one eat of the error which has arisen on St. Mary’s account. Even though ‘The tree is lovely’ it is not for food; and even though Mary is all fair, and is holy and held in honor, she is not to be worshiped. . . . They must not say, ‘We honor the queen of heaven.’ Frank Williams, trans., The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis: Book II and III (Sects 47-80, De Fide) 79. Against Collyridians, 7,7; 8,2 (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1994), p. 627.
But, there's always a response from Rome's defenders:
"Not sure what your point is supposed to be here. We both agree that offering sacrifice to Mary is idolatry. That is the line which we believe delineates "worship"....The whole of this section is perfectly in line with what we're saying - don't worship Mary. Worshipping her is an abomination."
The point is quite simple. This person is reading a later Romanist theological distinctive back into the words of Epiphanius. Epiphanius did not delineate aspects of Marian worship into latria, dulia, or hyperdulia. He did not delineate what he saw into the category of latria. The paradigm of latria/dulia was assumed by this Roman Catholic, not proven.

The Mariology of Epiphanius is not completely similar to modern day Roman Catholics. He didn't believe in the Assumption as it is currently stated, he says not to call Mary "Queen of Heaven," for him it is not a necessary matter of faith to embrace Mary's Perpetual Virginity, and he holds the least popular view as to the interpretation of the phrase "brothers of Jesus"- holding these are the children of Joseph from a previous marriage. In all these instances, from a current Roman Catholic paradigm, Catholics would disagree with Epiphanius.

Within current Roman Catholicism, lighting a candle to a saint is perfectly acceptable, and not "worship." Why? Because Rome says so. The situation described by Epiphanius is not, according to the Catholic I was dialoging with. Why? because Rome says so. One wonders what Epiphanius would think of lighting candles to Mary. I leave it to Roman Catholics to explain why lighting a candle is not an aspect of worship, while decorating a barber's chair or square seat, spreading a cloth on it, setting out bread and offering it in Mary's name on a certain day of the year, and all partaking of the bread is.

Epiphanius words are from long ago. Roman Catholics claim their faith today is the same as those from long ago. Epiphanius proves it is not. Catholics like to argue that those ECF's closer to the time of Christ and the apostles are somehow more "in the know" on things like Mariology. Obviously, Epiphanius presents quite a problem for a such a view.

Here are some other tidbits (Thanks to David King for his work and transcriptions of the quotes above and below)

Here's Epiphanius on Mary's Assumption- a tradition allegedly dating back to the first century, and if I recall, his comment below is the earliest "tradition" of Mary's death- that is, no one knows!
Epiphanius of Salamis (310/320-403): The holy virgin may have died and been buried---her falling asleep was with honor, her death in purity, her crown in virginity. Or she may have been put to death---as the Scripture says, "And a sword shall pierce her soul" her fame is among the martyrs and her holy body, by which light rose on the world, [rests] amid blessings. Or she may have remained alive, for God is not incapable of doing whatever he wills. No one knows her end. But we must not honor the saints to excess; we must honor their Master.
And for Epiphanius, it is not a necessary matter of faith to embrace Mary's Perpetual Virginity-
Epiphanius of Salamis (310/320-403): Now how could Joseph dare to have relations with the Virgin Mary whose holiness was so great? But even if she had sexual relations---and perish that thought!---what good would it do us to inquire into this? Which is the better choice, to leave the matter to God, or to insist on what is bad? Plainly, scripture has not told us that we may not have eternal life, but will go to judgment, unless we believe that Mary had relations again. Frank Williams, trans., The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis: Book II and III (Sects 47-80, De Fide) 78. Against Antidicomarians, 15,4 (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1994), p. 619.
And one last thing, let's not forget this gem of alleged wisdom from Epiphanius: "Women are unstable, prone to error, and mean-spirited."


Augustinian Successor said...

Excellent presentation of St. Epiphanius' authentic mariology by James!

Rhology said...

Yeah, really good.
I wonder why he said:
But even if she had sexual relations---and perish that thought!

Just what IS his deal with sex? Sheesh.

bkaycee said...


1 Corinthians 7:3
3The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4The wife's body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband's body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. 5Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer.

Ephesians 5:31

Would a marriage without sex be sin?

Rhology said...

Given that my wife is as beautiful as she is, I'm gonna go with yes.

Carrie said...

Just what IS his deal with sex? Sheesh.

Alot of the church fathers from that time period had "uptight" views on sex. That topic is something I have wanted to post on for awhile as I have a few tidbits mined. But I just haven't had the time to pursue it unfortunately.

But the connection between the how these fathers viewed sex and Mary's perpetual virginity is quite interesting.

dtking said...

I wonder part of the marriage bed, according to Hebrews 13:4, is not undefiled?

The "fathers" didn't always know best.


James Bellisario said...

What a joke. Do you really think you are going to convince anyone from these lame arguments to give up the Christian faith for your watered down false gospel? Give me a break. So now you are going to equate lighting a candle to false idol worship? You are really a piece of work. Wanna talk about idolatry? What about all of the "Reformers" packing into an auditorium that they call a church to hear some man speak false doctrine and hail him as pastor, or some other self proclaimed title. Talk about false idol worship.

Just A Berean said...

What is his deal with ""Women are unstable, prone to error, and mean-spirited.""

Maybe he hated his mother-in-law! :)

Rhology said...

Bellisario said:
What about all of the "Reformers" packing into an auditorium that they call a church to hear some man speak false doctrine and hail him as pastor

But of course, the hordes of Romanists who actually do worship the idols of Mary, the shrines, the saints, etc, that's perfectly fine and not representative of RC-ism. But what Bellisario says is representative of Sola Scripturism. Double standard. You should know better - everyone's got bad examples in their group.

Carrie said...

BTW James,

I forgot to mention that this post was very well done. You made nice concise and effective refutations.

EA said...

Bellisario said:"What a joke... Give me a break...You are really a piece of work."

James, I think you should install a poll widget on your blog and have a weekly vote for several categories of posts.

I'd like to nominate Matthew for the Weekly Art Sippo Impersonation Award.

All those in favor?

Alex said...

St. Epiphanius: Women are unstable, prone to error, and mean-spirited.

Turretinfan: Women may not appreciate my saying this, but women need to bear in mind that they are the weaker vessel not just physically. Women are more easily deceived, which is why God has given men the responsibility and duty of caring for them.

Turretinfan said...

AG: And do you prefer my comment or Epi's?

Alex said...

At least with you I can inquire into what you actually mean.

As far as women being intellectually weaker than men,generalizations such as these are hardly correct.

Rhology said...

Yeah Turretinfan, as one of the resident bloggers here, I'm going to have to ask you to refrain from quoting Bible verses in the comboxes.

Is that understood?

Unknown said...

Well written! :-)

jehanbosch said...

I always kind of liked old Epiphanius and have no problem with his ideas on Mary but i am a bit high Churchish Lutheran. There was a famous Anglican bishop who followed Epiphanius' "via media", but his name escapes me right now. I majored on the mother of Jesus in Early Christianity. And was supposed to translate the early medieval "Life of Christ" by ANOTHER Epiphanius but nothing came of it. And for the life of me i can not imagine that Epiphanius of Salamis was ever married but his writings lead to the suspicion he was no virgin himself..

Unknown said...

A Catholic on Facebook told me that Epiphanius believed in the assumption of Mary by comparing Mary to Elijah (section 79) who was taken up. I've read that the first mention of Mary's assumption from a church fatger was from Gregory of Tours (590) and that it was taken from the pseudo gopsel 'Transitus Beatae Mariae'