Archive for the ‘Homily of the Papyrus of Turin’ Category

Athanasius – "Homily of the Papyrus of Turin" – Pseudographic?

May 8, 2008

I’ve noticed that several Roman Catholic apologists have relied on a writing identified by them as “Homily of the Papyrus of Turin” and attributed to Athanasius. I wonder whether this is spuria or genuine. The name of the document is not itself frightfully reassuring. It suggests attribution to Athanasius based on a single copy (probably in Coptic-Sahaddic not Greek) from the 6th century or so. As far as I can tell, it was unknown to the Western church as part of the Athanasian corpus and has become known via the journal Le Muséon in 1958:

Le Muséon année 1958 LXXI 3-4 Revue d’études orientales (A Louvain Chez l’Association Le Muséon, fondé en 1881 par Charles De Harlez 1958, brochée grand in 8 de 190.)

Sommaire: L’homélie de S. Athanase des papyrus de Turin. Un nouveau manuscrit de la Narratio de rebus Armeniae. La vision de S. Sabak en grec. Les questions-réponses du ms. Vat. arabe. Das studium der altgeorgischen sprache in georgien. Les catéchèses de S. Theodore studite. Pseudo-Shenoute ou Christian-Behaviour. Nécrologie de Mgr Joseph Lebon et de Michel tarchnisvili. Bibliographie.

and subsequent citation by popular Roman Catholic apologists (particularly English-speaking apologists), especially because of its discussion of Mary. I’m not sure whether there is any reason to consider it be anything more than the writings of yet another Pseudo-Athanasius.

In fact, David Frankfurter appears to identify it as Pseudo-Athanasius in footnote 82 at page 35 of Pilgrimage and Holy Space in Late Anitique Egypt. (link)

I wonder whether any of the Catholic apologists who have been citing this work (e.g. Steve Ray, Dave Armstrong, Jimmy Akin, and [most recently] Paul Hoffer) have any defense of its authenticity. I’m guessing that each of them got the citation from some secondary source or other (perhaps even tertiary, as Lefort appears to have provided his translation in French), and did not perform any research as to the authenticity of the quotation.

Nevertheless, my guess could be wrong, and I’d be delighted to be mistaken. I don’t mean this article to suggest that I’ve definitively proved the spurious nature of the quotation, but simply given the reader good reason to question its authenticity. If there is another side to the argument, I’d love to hear it.



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