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 the phrase 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.

So I think that is my first foray into Epiphanius. I’m sure that I’m wrong about something, so critique away :)


John 2012-02-06 09:24:00

Thanks for translating and commenting on the passage! I agree that 'remain' in the sense of 'tarry' is the most plausible interpretation for εμεινε here. Perhaps the aorist is partly influenced by the verbs in the two previous options.

My recollection is that F. Williams, like the Latin translator in the PG, takes εμεινε as 'remain alive'. That's interesting because if Mary has tarried on earth she remains alive, but she might have remained alive without necessarily tarrying on earth, as in some versions of the Assumption story.

For theological reasons some people would probably prefer taking the verb to mean 'remain alive', since Epiphanius can then be read as merely leaving open the question whether Mary died. That's compatible with the official Roman Catholic teaching on the Assumption, whereas Mary still tarrying on earth is not.

Eric Sowell 2012-02-06 12:59:00

That last point strikes me as correct. Translating it as if Mary was taken without dying is saying too much for the language here. Epiphanius just doesn't comment either way. You can't really push his argument to make him deny the idea of an assumption.