Mary in Epiphanius' Panarion #78
So I was planning on starting to blog about Theophilus of Antioch, but that will wait. At the end of the week I received a request for comment about a bit of Greek from Epiphanius’ Panarion. Figured I would share about that.
Here is the text, taken from Migne 42, columns 736 and 738:
Ἐν γὰρ Σικίμοις, τουτἐστιν ἐν τῇ νυνὶ Νεαπόλει, θυσίας οἱ ἐπιχώριοι τελοῦσιν εἰς ὄνομα τῆς Κόρης, δῆθεν ἐκ προφάσεως τῆς θυγατρὸς Ἰεφθάε, τῆς ποτε προσενεχθείσης τῷ θεῷ εἰς θυσίας· καὶ τοῖς ἠπατημένοις τοῦτο γέγονεν εἰς βλάβην εἰδωλολατρείας καὶ κενολατρίας. Ἀλλὰ καὶ τὴν θυγατέρα τοῦ Φαραὼ τιμήσασαν τὸν δοῦλον τοῦ θεοῦ Μωϋσέα, ἀνελομένην τε καὶ ἀναθρέψασαν, διὰ τὸ περίφημον τότε τοῦ παιδίου ὑπὲρ τὸ δέον τιμήσαντες Αἰγύπτιοι ἀντὶ θεοῦ, καὶ τοῦτο εἰς κακὴν παράδοσιν τοῖς ἀνοήτοις παρέδωκαν εἰς θρησκείαν. Καὶ προσκυνοῦσι τὴν Θέρμουτιν τὴν θυγατέρα τοῦ Ἀμενὼφ, ἕως τότε Φαραώ, ἐπειδή, ὡς προεῖπον, ἀνέθρεψε τὸν Μωῦσέα. Καὶ πολλὰ τοιαῦτα ὅμοια γέγονεν ἐν κόσμῳ εἰς πλάνην τῶν ἠπατημένων, οὐ τῶν ἁγίων αἰτίων ὄντων τισὶν εἰς πρόσκομμα, τῆς διανοίας τῶν ἀνθρώπων μὴ ἠρεμούσης, ἀλλ᾿ ἐπὶ τὰ πονηρὰ ἐκτρεπομένης.
*ἤτοι γὰρ ἀπέθανεν ἡ ἁγία Παρθένος, καὶ τέθαπται, ἐν τιμῇ αὐτῆς ἡ κοίμησις, καὶ ἐν ἁγνείᾳ ἡ τελευτή, καὶ ἐν παρθενίᾳ ὁ στέφανος· ἤτοι ἀνῃρέθη, καθὼς γέγραπται·Καὶ τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτῆς διελεύσεται ῥομφαία· ἐν μάρτυσιν αὐτῆς τὸ κλέος, καὶ ἐν μακαρισμοῖς τὸ ἅγιον αὐτῆς σῶμα· δι᾿ ἧς φῶς ἀνέτειλε τῷ κόσμῳ· ἤτοι δὲ ἔμεινε. Καὶ γὰρ οὐκ ἀδυνατεῖ τῷ θεῷ πάντα ποιεῖν, ὅσαπερ βούλεται· τὸ τέλος γὰρ αὐτῆς οὐδεὶς ἔγων.* Πέρα τοῦ δέοντος οὐ χρὴ τιμᾷν τοὺς ἁγίους, ἀλλὰ τιμᾷν τὸν αὐτῶν Δεσπότην. Παυσάσθω τοίνυν ἡ πλάνη τῶν πεπλανημένων. Οὔτε γὰρ θεὸς ἡ Μαρία, οὔτε ἀπ᾿ οὐρανοῦ ἔχουσα τὸ σῶμα, ἀλλ᾿ ἐκ συλλήψεως ἀνδρὸς καὶ γυναικός, κατ᾿ ἐπαγγελίαν δέ, ὥσπερ ὁ Ἰσαάκ, οἰκονομηθεῖσα. Καὶ μηδεὶς εἰς ὄνομα ταύτης προσφερέτω· ἑαυτοῦ γὰρ τὴν ψυχὴν ἀπόλλει· μήτε πάλιν ἐμπαροινείτω ἐξυβρίζων τὴν ἁγίαν Παρθένον. Μὴ γὰρ γένοιτο. οὐ συνήφθη σαρκὶ μετὰ τὴν κύησιν, οὐδὲ πρὸ τῆς κυήσεως τοῦ Σωτῆρος.
I digitized the text myself. Hopefully there are no errors but a number of the diacriticals were
a bit fuzzy (the scan was of pretty poor quality and I didn’t have time to run down to
the DTS library). The bits my friend was interested in between the asterisks, and specifically
ἤτοι δὲ ἔμεινε.
One of the fun bits of this is that was first translated into English in the 90’s, which means no translation on the internet (that I know of). Since I don’t own a copy of the printed translation, I had to do this the hard way.
At first I was a bit confused on why the paragraph preceeding the one about Mary was about the daughter of Pharaoh who adopted Moses but eventually realized some sort of parallel was being drawn. Looking into the paragraph previous to that would probably be more instructive though I have not yet had time to do so. But as it turns out I don’t think it is relevant to the question, so it can be skipped anyway.
My friend provided a rough translation of the text between the asterisks. I here provide my take on the whole last paragraph.
For one option is that the holy virgin died, and was buried, her sleep in honor, her end in chastity and crowned in her virginity. Or perhaps she was killed, just as it is written,and a sword will pierce through her soul, her credit into the martyrs, her body holy in blessedness, through which light entered the world. Or she remained. For is it not possible for all things to be done by God, whatever He wishes? For no one knows her end. We ought not to honor the saints beyond what is necessary, but to honor their master. So then let us end the deception which is leading astray. For neither is Mary God, nor does she have a body from heaven but from the conception of a man and a woman, being raised according to promise, as Isaac. And let no one give offerings in her name, for he will destroy his own soul. And let no one behave insolently toward the holy virgin. May it never be! For neither did she have intercourse after the conception, nor before the conception of the savior.
So, some thoughts.
- ἤτοι δὲ ἔμεινε (
or she remained). He gave three options that he had seen. First was that she had left the world without dying. My friend did not find this convincing and neither did I. That is far too much to interpret out of that simple phrase. The second option was that “she remained alive.”, the third “she still tarries on the earth.” The second does not make much sense to me given Epiphanius’ first option above unless it also means the she was still alive. After all, if “she remained alive” but eventually died of old age, this described the first situation exactly. This leaves only the third interpretation as a possibility, that there was a tradition stating that Mary continued to live, physically, on the earth even until that day. Someone might argue based on the aorist tense of the verb that she could no longer remain but that is taking the tense too far. Though on this interpretation a present makes more sense, the aorist could have been used to highlight the idea that she remained/did not die a couple centuries before. Tense in Greek is a matter of presentation, not reality per se.
- My friend also mentioned the parallel in John 21:22 about John remaining. This is actually a great parallel, and somewhat funny. In terms of meaning, some had mistaken Jesus’ statement that John would remain as a statement that John would never die. The gospel corrects this in verse 23. But it does show that readers could read this kind of statement that way.
- A bit on the quotation from Luke 2:35,
and a sword will pierce through her soul. It strikes me “soul” in Luke is appropriately rendered as such, but perhaps read differently by some so as to give rise to this tradition. For those who don’t know Greek, the word there (ψυχή) can both refer to what we call “soul” but also more broadly to a person’s whole being, or life. Reading it that way, Luke seems to prophecy that she would be killed with a sword.
- ἐμπαροινείτω ἐξυβρίζων - I am not entirely sure how to take this. It is clear that it expresses some inappropriate attitude toward Mary. Given the rejoinder is based on Mary’s continued virginity, I wonder if the trespass in mind is sexual in nature.
- For those less familiar with extra-biblical traditions about Mary, she is called a child of promise like Isaac because apocryphal accounts have her mother (Anne) barren, until her father (Joachim) fasted forty days and nights. As far as I know the earliest account of all this is the Protoevangelion of James, a document I have discussed before. The parallel with Isaac is even mentioned there. Maybe Epiphanius has this document in mind.
So I think that is my first foray into Epiphanius. I’m sure that I’m wrong about something, so critique away :)