Saturday, December 10, 2011

"he had to wince under a promise of success given by that ignorant praise which misses every valid quality."

George Eliot, Middlemarch, book 5, chap. 45 (Penguin edition ed. W. J. Harvey (1965), p. 490).

"If any assert that he has now put off his holy flesh, and that his Godhead is stripped of the body, and deny that he is now with his body and will come again with it, let him not see the glory of his coming."

Εἴ τις ἀποτεθεῖσθαι νῦν τὴν ἁγίαν σάρκα λέγοι, καὶ γυμνὴν εἶναι τὴν θεότητα τοῦ σώματος, ἀλλὰ μὴ μετὰ τοῦ προσλήμματος καὶ εἶναι, καὶ ἥξειν, μὴ ἴδοι τὴν δόξαν τῆς παρουσίας αὐτοῦ.

     Gregory of Nazianzus, Ep. 101 to Celdonius against Apollinaris, trans. Charles Gordon Browne and James Edward Swallow (Christology of the later fathers, ed. Edward Rochie Hardy in collaboration with Cyril C. Richardson, Library of Christian classics 3 (Philadelphia:  The Westminster Press, 1954), 218 (215-224)).  Greek from PG 37, col. 181A (to be checked against SC 208).

"the more simple a thing, the more relations attend it"

"it is not against the notion of anything's simplicity that there be many relations between it and others; indeed the more simple a thing, the more relations attend it.  For the more simple a thing is the less limited is its power and thus its causality can extend to more.  That it why it is said in the Book of Causes that the more a power is unifed, the more infinite it is than any multiplied power. . . .
     "Therefore, it follows on the supreme simplicity of God that infinite relations exist between creatures and him, insofar as he produces creatures different from himself, but in some way like unto him."

     St. Thomas Aquinas, De potentia 7.8.Resp., trans. Ralph McInerny (Thomas Aquinas: selected writings, ed. & trans. Ralph McInerny (New York, NY: Penguin Books, 1998), 328).

Monday, December 5, 2011

St. Spyridon (or Spiridon), the pagan philosopher, and the brick or tile or potsherd

     I am interested in tracking this to source.  Unfortunately, it remains very much a work in progress, a work I am likely to get to only in spurts, as time permits:

     In what follows, I reproduce Paul van den Ven, La légende de S. Spyridon, évêque de Trimithonte, Bibliothèque du Muséon 33 (Louvain:  Publications Universitaires and the Institut Orientaliste, 1953).  I have skimmed clear through the Greek of chap. 6 of the Life by Theodore twice, as reproduced on pp. 27-34 of the critical edition by Ven (above), looking for a reference to the use of the brick/tile/potsherd, but without any success so far (though my Greek is admittedly primitive).  Can someone help?  The first reference to Spyridon in chap. 6 occurs at p. 28 l. 15, though Spyridon does not begin addressing the philosopher until p. 30 l. 7.  The line, "In this wise became the philosopher a Christian and, having been overcome by the old man, rejoiced," occurs at p. 31 l. 16-p. 32 l. 2, after which point the scene seems to shift, sidelining (?) Spyridon until p. 34 l. 8., i.e. the penultimate sentence of the chapter.
  1. Life in iambic verse upon which Theodore of Paphos relied (Ven, Lives III-IV = Part III, pp. 115* ff.; Textes, pp. 129 ff.):  does not cover events at the Council of Nicaea.
  2. Hist. eccl. of Rufinus, as translated back into Greek by Gelasius of Cesarea (= Hist. eccl. X.3-5, as ed. Mommsen (pp. 961-965), but Glas, below, offers this as well):  conversion of the pagan philosopher effected by an unnamed rough and illiterate bishop-shepherd, not Spyridon (though Spyridon plays a role in this account of the Council of Nicaea).  [I've skimmed the Latin without seeing a reference to the brick/tile/potsherd.  But I could well have missed that.]
  3. Life of Theodore of Paphos (Ven, Life I = Part II, pp. 55* ff.; Textes, pp. 1 ff.):  attributes the conversion of the pagan philosopher to Spyridon.  Yet Theodore was so scrupulous with his sources, that this is probably a later interpolation (Ven, pp. 76*-78*).  (Earlier Ven had argued that it was the work of Theodore himself, free-wheeling a bit on the basis of Rufinus-Gelasius, but he came to think this highly unlikely (pp. 75-76*).)
  4. Chronicle of George the Monk (Chronique de Georges le Moine, ed. de Boor, p. 505, 17-508; and A. Glas, Die Kirchengeschichte des Gelasios von Kaisareia (1914), pp. 36-44):  "one of these passages contains precisely the piece about which we speak, translated from Rufinus in terms very similar to those of the work of Theodore, [but] with attribution to Spyridon of the conversion of the philosopher," so the question is whence this identification with Spyridon derives.  Heseler derives it from Theodore, but "It is easier to say this than to prove it" (indeed, "That George the Monk knew [that it was] Spyridon thanks to a source other than the work of Theodore is indubitable").  [So does the identification antedate Theodore?]  Does it derive somehow from Rufinus-Gelasius?  No, not from any reconstruction of the latter known to us.  Apprarently the Hist. eccl. by Theodore the Lector is one potential intermediary, but this whole section (Ven, pp. 79*-80*) ends unsatisfactorily.
Additional titles of some relevance:
  • Saint Spyridon of Tremithus:  Life; Miracles after his repose; Liturgical service and Akathist hymn in his honor.  Liberty, TN:  St. John of Kronstadt Press, 1997.  Life from pp. 330-350 of vol. 4 of [The lives of the saints in the Russian language, as set forth in the Menology of St. Dimitri of Rostov] (Moscow:  Synodal Press, 1903), by Isaac E. Lambertsen in 1981; Miracles from pp. 338-369 of vol. 12 and pp. 205-207 of vol. 8 of the 5th edition of [The great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church] (Athens:  Archimandrite Matthew Lagges, Pub., 1974), by Leonides J. Papadopoulos and Georgia Lizardos in 1984; Liturgical service by Isaac E. Lambertsen in 1983 "and subsequently incorporated into vol. 4 of The Menaion of the Orthodox Church (Liberty, TN:  St. John of Kronstadt Press, 1996); and Akathist hymn by Isaac E. Lambertsen in 1988.  For references to the brick/tile/potsherd (tile here), see pp. 34 (a note of some kind positioned not in the Life (!), but in the Miracles after his repose), 53 (Kontakion III of the Akathist hymn), 54 (Ikos III of the Akathist hymn), 62 (Prayer I to the Holy Hierarch Spyridon, Wonderworker of Tremithus, in the Akathist hymn), and maybe elsewhere (though I didn't see any elsewhere, just skimming).  Note though that this title refers to no sources behind the Russian Life (from the Menology of St. Dimitri of Rostov) and the (contemporary) liturgy.
  • Novum Auctarium Bibliothecae Hagiographicae Graecae.  Ed. François Halkin, S.J.  Subsidia Hagiographica 65.  Brussels, Société des Bollandistes, 1984.  See pp. 192 ff.
  • Bibliotheca hagiographica Graeca.  3rd ed.  Ed. François Halkin, S.J.  Subsidia hagiographica 8a.  3 vols.  Brussels:  Société des Bollandistes, 1957.  See nos. 1647 ff. (pp. 246 ff.).
  • Garitte, Gérard.  "L'édition des Vies de saint Spyridon par M. van den Ven."  Revue d'histoire écclesiastique 50 (1955):  125-140.
  • Bibliotheca hagiographica Graeca.  2nd ed.  2 vols.  Bruxelles:  Société des Bollandistes, 1909.  Additional titles in modern Greek listed here.
  • Usener, H.  "Beiträge zur Geschichte der Legendliteratur."  Jahrbücher für protestantische Theologie 13 (1887):  219-232 (219-259).

    Seripando on the theory of the duplex iustitia

    "'Has the justified, who has performed good works in a state of grace and with the help of actual graceboth of which stem from the merits of Christand who has thus preserved both inherent justice, so completely met the claims of divine justice that when he appears before the judgment-seat of Christ he obtains eternal life on account of his own merits?  Or is he in need, in addition to his own inherent justice, of the mercy and justice of Christ, that is, of the merits of His Passion, in order to supplement what is wanting to his own personal justice?  and this in such wise that this justice is imparted to him in the measure of his faith and charity?'"

         One of the two questions submitted to the theologians by the Council of Trent on 15 October 1546 in response to the "vote" cast by the Augustinian Girolomo Seripando on 8 October (Hubert Jedin, A history of the Council of Trent, trans. Dom Ernest Graf, O.S.B. (London:  Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd, 1961), vol. 2 (The first sessions at Trent, 1545-47), p. 249).  This vote "raised a problem the discussion of which was destined to delay the conclusion of the debate for many weeks" (247):  "a question had cropped up which would have to be thoroughly examined once more.  It was not the case that any serious doubts about the fundamental principles of the Catholic doctrine of justification had arisen in the minds of its members.  They all conceived it as an entitative, supernatural elevation, through sanctifying grace and the meritoriousness of good works performed in a state of grace.  Ultimately the only question was the formulation of an acknowledged element of Christian piety, namely the relation of the justified to Jesus Christ, his Saviour" (248-249; cf. Seripando's stress on the significance of union with Christ on 26-27 November (286-287)).  This distinction between "the fundamental principles of . . . doctrine" and "an acknowledged element of Christian piety" was an important one to some:  "For Stephen [of Sestino] this imputation [of 'the perfect justice of Christ'] is a postulate of practical piety:  'Do not let us talk of transcendental matters, let us not attempt to square the circle, but let us speak in the light of our own experience.'  Personal experience and the experience of the Saints . . . teach us that when the Christian reflects on the dreadful judgment to come, he has recourse to God's mercy and the merits of Jesus Christ.  Another Augustinian Hermit, Gregory of Padua, similarly appealed to the personal experience of Christians.  In theory he rejected the doctrine of the insufficiency of inherent justice but in practice he advocated the imputation of the justice of Christ for, he asks, which of us, when he considers his own life, will presume to assert that he has adequately satisfied every one of God's demands?" (254-255, emphasis mine)  The Servite Mazochi, for his part, distinguished between speaking "'to scholastics as a scholastic'" and speaking as an "ordinary Christian" (255).  Etc.
         Ultimately, though, Seripando's "question of a twofold justice" (248), though never formally condemned (Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, vol. 14, col. 1934), was answered by the Council in the negative.
         Thus, I have yet to put my finger on anything like the "Silentio" I remember David Willis once speaking of.  According to Willis if memory serves, Seripando posed a question similar to the one posed by Gregory of Padua above ("Which of us, when he appears before the judgment-seat of Christ, will presume, etc."), and got from the Council Fathers only a stunned (because dumbfounded) "Silentio" in reply.  Rather, opposition to "la théorie de la double justice" (Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, vol. 14, col. 1933-1934; cf. vol. 8, cols. 2182-2185) seems to have been pretty vigorous from the moment Seripando invoked it.  Indeed, at least three of the Fathers "expressed a willingness o be judged on the basis of their works" (McCue, 52-53).
         But:  I have read only very superficially in this area, and would be more than happy to stand corrected.  (I am particularly interested in confirmation of the tale as I remember Dr. Willis telling it.)

    Further scholarship that I should probably examine (in progress):

    Sunday, December 4, 2011

    "intellectual historians must use [period] dictionaries"

    "After praising Skinner, I must confess here my own early naïvetéit took me a good decade to recognize that, in my own field, many practitioners of intellectual history are just dogmaticians in disguise; perhaps half a decade more to realize that the phrase 'Barthian historiography' is an oxymoron; and several more years beyond that to come to grips with the datum that systematic theologians, taken as a group, do not read historical documents and, when they go so far as to cite historical documents, often evidence a deep aversion to the meaning intended by the original authors."

         Richard A. Muller, "Reflections on persistent Whiggism and its antidotes in the study of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century intellectual history," in Seeing things their way:  intellectual history and the return of religion, ed. Alister Chapman, John Coffey, and Brad S. Gregory (Notre Dame, IN:  University of Notre Dame Press, 2009), 137 (134-153).  "the writings of a Luther, Calvin, Montaigne, or Descartes do not provide the context for the interpretation of the writings of Luther, Calvin, Montaigne, or Descartes" (140).  "intellectual historians must use sixteenth- and seventeenth-century dictionaries" (138).  One of the things Whiggism does is ignore "the 'minor' or 'lesser' thinkers of an era" and examine "only the thought of a major writer to the exclusion of the persons and events that surrounded him" (140).  To stop doing this would be to come to grips with "the lack of originality of sixteenth-century writers [on grace] like Calvin" (142-143).  This Muller calls "the 'great thinker' problem" (139).

    Doctrinal fidelity with development: just possible

    "Doctrinal fidelity in the [Zoroastrian] cult of Mithra can thus be demonstrated over a period of at least 2,500 years.
         "Close doctrinal fidelity by the Zoroastrian church can be established in other respects also; and the veneration in which it holds its prophet is shown in many ways.  Yet by the syncretic theory one is asked to believe that profound respect for Zoroaster, and a proven tradition of immense conservatism and loyalty, can both be reconciled with an early, radical betrayal of Zoroaster's own teachings; and that in the case of Mithra, the prophet's disciples, although scrupulously preserving his own words and his moral teachings, so far rejected his doctrines that they put their worship of the god whom he preached, Ahura Mazda, under the protection of a god whom he denied, or even abhorred[, namely, Mithra].  To establish the syncretic theory against such opposing considerations would require very strong evidence indeed; and in fact, as we have seen, there is no real evidence for it at all.  It is reasonable, therefore, to reject it, and to accept instead the testimony of the Zoroastrian church, unchanged and harmonious at all known periods of its history.  From it one can deduce that Zoroaster held to the basic theology of the old Iranian religion, with all its yazatas[, including Mithra], and that his reform consisted largely in reinterpreting its beliefs at a nobler and subtler spiritual level, in the light of an intensely personal apprehension of the supreme God, and of the struggle to be waged between good and evil.
         "The immense help given over the last century and more by comparative philology for the better understanding of the Avesta, and the great advances made, have led perhaps to a touch of hubris in the West, to an assumption that on all points juddīns can interpret the Good Religion better than its own adherents; but this is a sweeping assumption, and the study of other religions suggests that it is unlikely to be true.  Plainly there have been considerable theological developments in the course of the long history of Zoroastrianism; but there is little sign of those radical breaks and changes in doctrine which have been so widely postulated by Western scholars."

         Mary Boyce, "On Mithra's part in Zoroastrianism," Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London 32, no. 1 (1969):  34 (10-34).  Background:  The "particular Iranian doctrine which is generally held in the West to have been rejected by Zoroaster" is "the doctrine that Mithra existed, that he was a great and good god, and that he was to be worshipped.  Most Western scholars have held that Zoroaster denied the existence of Mithra, or was vehemently opposed to his cult, or tacitly ignored it" (14).  But this was due to the above-mentioned "touch of [Western] hubris".  Moreover, "the present Zoroastrian veneration of Mihr, as protector under the Creator Ōhrmazd, is wholly consonant with what is regarded as the oldest allusion to Mithra in the Avesta" (33).
         If Boyce is right, and Zoroaster did not break with "the old Iranian religion" over Mithra (nor has Zoroastrianism ever done), that is nevertheless not the same thing as (for example) the apparently highly dubious claim that the Mithraism of the 1st through 4th/5th-century Greco-Roman West was a form of Zoroastrianism plain and simple!

         Something else worth excerpting: "The Zoroastrian tradition is firm that the Zoroastrian church is one, and that it was founded by Zoroaster, who was a great prophet but a mortal man, living at a particular time in history. All the marvellous legends of his birth and life have not obscured this basic tenet. The day of Zoroaster's death is remembered each year in Iran and India, on Rūz Khoršēd, Māh Dai, and a bāj (i.e. the drōn ceremony) is then solemnized in his honour. This service is celebrated for him as for a righteous man who has died, an ašo ravān; and since no Zoroastrian act of worship may be offered to a human being, however holy, the service is celebrated with the xšnūman of Ardā Fravaš, but with a special intention (nāmčišti) for the soul of Zoroaster. . . . This liturgical fact is of primary importance as evidence for Zoroaster’s human existence. If his own followers have resisted the pious temptation to make their prophet divine, there seems little justification for juddīns to do so” (12).