Archive for the ‘Pseudographic’ Category

Veneration of Images Debate with William Albrecht

December 3, 2010

On December 2, 2010, William Albrecht and I debated the topic: “Is the Veneration of Images Sinful?” I took the affirmative position and Mr. Albrecht took the negative position. Below I’ve provided the Youtube version and mp3 of the debate, as well as some very important notes.

(link to mp3 for the debate)

I relied heavily on the Old Testament prohibitions on the veneration of images, as well as on the New Testament confirmation of the Old Testament moral law. One of Albrecht’s main attempts to distinguish his practice from idolatry was his claim: “Ancient Christianity knew how to differentiate between idolatry and true religious veneration.”

But when challenged to produce such evidence, there was no evidence of any of the church fathers actually talking about religious veneration of images. Instead, they simply made the distinction between having images and venerating them.

Moreover, Mr. Albrecht was able to document some instances of ancient churches having images, and of people worshiping nearby images (Albrecht characterized it as people having no problem “worshiping with images around them”), but never any instances of ancient Christians actually venerating the images. The same was brought up with respect to the Jews. Some allegedly permitted the carving of a stone column, as long there was no worship of them – so again, no Jewish permission to venerate images.

There was one exception – one patristic quotation on which Mr. Albrecht tried to support his claim that the early church venerated icons, specifically there was a quotation allegedly taken from a letter of Basil the Great.

He mentioned it and relied on it (beginning at around 3:30 of part 6 below), but when asked to identify it, he seemed to have trouble giving me any kind of helpful citation.

The most popular edition of the fathers, the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers has the letter in the second series, volume 8 (NPNF2, Volume 8) at page 316. The page presents the full text of the letter (Letter 360 – the title given is “Of the Holy Trinity, the Incarnation, the invocation of Saints, and their Images.”)

The editors, at that same page, provide a note about this letter:

This letter is almost undoubtedly spurious, but it has a certain interest, from the fact of its having been quoted at the so-called 7th Council (2d of Nicæa) in 787. Maran (Vit. Bas. xxxix.) is of opinion that it is proved by internal evidence to be the work of some Greek writer at the time of the Iconoclastic controversy. The vocabulary and style are unlike that of Basil.

The editors go on to provide several examples:

  • at “I adore and worship one God, the Three,” the editor comments “Neuter sc. πρόσωπα, not ὑποστάσεις, as we should expect in Basil.”
  • at “I confess to the œconomy of the Son in the flesh,” the editor comments “ἔνσαρκον οἰκονομίαν, an expression I do not recall in Basil’s genuine writings.”
  • at “was Mother of God,” the editor comments “Θεοτόκον, the watchword of the Nestorian controversy, which was after Basil’s time.”

And the letter is only a paragraph or two long, so it’s not as though these indicia are spread out over a large amount of writing.

Elsewhere in the volume there are similar comments about this letter:

Even Letter CCCLX., which bears obvious marks of spuriousness, and of proceeding from a later age …

NPNF2, Vol. 8 St. Basil: Letters and Selected Works, p.lxxiii

N.B. The letters numbered CCXII.-CCCLXVI. are included by the Ben. Ed. In a “Classis Tertia,” having no note of time. Some are doubtful, and some plainly spurious. Of these I include such as seem most important.

NPNF2, Vol. 8 St. Basil: Letters and Selected Works, p. 316

The letter can also be found in other patristic series. The Fathers of the Church series, in the introduction to volume 1 of Basil’s letters, explains the situation:

The chronology of the letters and their order and arrangement into three classes according to the Benedictine editors have been retained. In the arrangement the first class includes all the letters adjudged by them to have been written before St. Basil’s episcopate, in the years from 357 until 370, Letters numbered 1 to 46; the second, those written during his episcopate, from 370 until 378, Letters 47 to 291; and the third, letters of uncertain date, doubtful letters, and those clearly spurious, numbered Letters 292 to 365. Three more, Letter 366, included by Mai and also by Migne in their editions, and Letters 367 and 368, lately discovered by Mercati, have been added in the translation.

Another edition of Basil’s letters provides this note:

This letter is clearly spurious. It has been attributed to the Greek Iconoclasts. The vocabulary, particularly that employed in the Trinitarian controversy, and the style are not Basil’s. Furthermore, it is missing in all the MSS. of St. Basil’s letters.

Basil: Letters, Volume IV, Letters 249-368. Address to Young Men on Greek Literature. (Loeb Classical Library No. 270), p.329 (Roy J. Deferrari and M. R. P. McGuire, translators)

It’s the problem one runs into when one researches from unreliable secondary sources (such as this one). The second source puts it this way:

St. Basil the Great died 24 years earlier than Epiphanius, in 379. Schaff cites this Father:

“….I receive also the holy apostles and prophets and martyrs. Their likenesses I revere and kiss with homage, for they are handed down from the holy apostles, and are not forbidden, but on the contrary painted in all our churches.” (Basil, Epist 205, Comp his Oratio in Barlaam, Opp 1, 515 cited in Schaff, ibid, page 567; and similar expressions in Gregory Naz, Orat 19).

Albrecht also alleged (see part 10 of the debate, around 6 minutes into that part) that Gregory of Nyssa quoted from this, or said something similar to this. The reason is (we presume) reliance on a secondary source like the one above (coupled with a conflation between Gregory Nazianzen and Gregory of Nyssa), because there is nothing like that in either Gregory’s authentic writings (that I could find). You’ll notice that Albrecht mentions an “Oration Barlaam” which is what the secondary source says should be compared to the actual work.

What made matters much worse, in my opinion, was that around 8 minutes into my second cross-examination of Mr. Albrecht (part 10 below), he indicated that no one had contested the validity of this work, he claimed it was cited by Schaff (which it was, the tertiary source I quoted from above is quoting from the secondary source of Schaff), Bickham (his source regarding Dura Europos), and “numerous Protestant authors,” and he continued by stating: “I didn’t find one – one author – contesting its validity – so I imagine its valid.”

And then in his conclusion (part 11 below), Albrecht made the Basil quotation his leading argument – presumably because during the cross-examination period, Mr. Albrecht had acknowledged that he was not aware of any other patristic writings speaking about the veneration of images. He alleged that my opposition to the quotation was because it was so damaging to my position. And then after some other discussion he came back to it again and claimed that it had to be “pushed aside” because of its weight.

But it arguably got still worse, because Albrecht – in his conclusion – went on to complain about the authenticity of certain canons of the Council of Elvira (which I did not bring up) and of other allegedly spurious patristic writings (which I did not bring up), even while admitting that I did not bring them up. It would seem appropriate that perhaps Mr. Albrecht should check the authenticity of his own patristic works before questioning the authenticity of those that support but weren’t even cited by other side.

Finally, Albrecht brought Basil back up again in his concluding remarks.

Albrecht also made an allegation about the Vienna Genesis manuscript, which is a very luxurious high-end manuscript copy of Genesis. He claimed it was dated from the 300’s by “Hans” and that Metzger puts it in the “400’s” (in his first cross-examination of me) fourth century, but Metzger puts it in the fifth or sixth centuries (see here) and Hans Gerstinger had dated it to the late fifth or early sixth century as well (see discussion here) but subsequent evidence suggested to him that it could be dated no earlier than the sixth century (as reported here). He’s the only “Hans” that Metzger references (see the page linked above) – though “Hans” is a very common name, and so it possible that there is some guy named “Hans” out there who dates it earlier.

I don’t believe that Mr. Albrecht was intentionally relying on wrong dates and pseudographic evidence, but without such evidence, there is really no ancient support for the distinction he is trying to make. There is no evidence that he provided for the fathers of the first five centuries venerating images. He tried to paint Calvin as ignorant of early church history for suggesting such a thing, but with all due respect I think that while some additional archaeology has come to light, John Calvin was more familiar with the authentic writings of the fathers than Mr. Albrecht is (although Calvin also was fallible and capable of making mistakes – and we have even more manuscripts now than Calvin did).

Parts of the Debate

  1. Affirmative Constructive Part 1 (TurretinFan)
  2. Affirmative Constructive Part 2 (TurretinFan)
  3. Negative Constructive Part 1 (Albrecht)
  4. Negative Constructive Part 2 (Albrecht)
  5. First Negative Cross-Examination of Affirmative – Part 1 (Albrecht cross-examining TurretinFan)
  6. First Negative Cross-Examination of Affirmative – Part 2 (Albrecht cross-examining TurretinFan)
  7. First Affirmative Cross Examination of Affirmative – Part 1 (TurretinFan cross-examining Albrecht)
  8. First Affirmative Cross Examination of Affirmative – Part 2 (TurretinFan cross-examining Albrecht)
  9. Second Negative Cross-Examination of Affirmative (Albrecht cross-examining TurretinFan)
  10. Second Affirmative Cross-Examination of Negative (TurretinFan cross-examining Albrecht)
  11. Negative Conclusion (Albrecht)
  12. Affirmative Conclusion (TurretinFan)


Mr. Albrecht has provided a comment by email, which I reproduce below:

” I want to thank Turretinfan for the notes he has sent me and I have surely looked deeper into this subejct. Whereas I am unwilling to grant that the quotation on Basil is definitively spurious, I am willing to say that we can dismiss it wholly if need be. I believe that through a thorough examination of Basil’s works(that are not contested) we can clearly see he believed in proper religious honor being passed on to the person whose image is being venerated. I also want to apologize for not being more careful in regards to my comments on the Vienna Genesis. It would seem that in my constant fumbling of notes, I should have been clear that the Vienna Genesis is dated to the 400s and it is the COTTON Genesis dated to the 300s. The names are quite similar and it’s quite easy to confuse the two! I hope this helps clear up certain things and I wish everyone that reads this blog a HAPPY HOLIDAY season!”

I reply:

1) I don’t know why one wouldn’t grant what scholarship universally affirms.

2) The issue about the honor given to an image reaching the prototype is the way that John of Damascus quoted Basil (and Aquinas interestingly quotes not Basil himself but John of Damascus quoting Basil). But what John of Damascus does is to rip Basil out of context. In context, Basil is speaking about veneration of the Son (Christ) who is the image of the Father being veneration passed on to the Father (view the original quotation from Basil in context here and also see here for a similar discussion).

3) As discussed in the post, the best date for the Vienna Genesis is the 6th century, i.e. the 500’s – although it may possibly date to the late 400’s according to some scholars.

4) The Cotton Genesis is also 5th or 6th century according to Metzger (see this link to Metzger’s Manuscripts of the Greek Bible: an introduction to Greek palaeography, p. 45). Metzger even states that the Vienna Genesis is slightly later in date than the Cotton Genesis, which reaffirms the 6th century date I identified above.

5) You’ll also notice on that same page of Metzger that Metzger confirms that the earliest New Testament Manuscript with minatures date from the 6th century. This confirms the point I made during the debate that the illumination of manuscripts became progressively more elaborate into the later periods of church history. It also tends to undermine Mr. Albrecht’s seeming attempts to make this practice of adorning Biblical manuscripts a more ancient or perhaps apostolic tradition.

– TurretinFan


Ergun Caner Parody

May 6, 2010

There is a “Dr. Ergun Caner” parody page on Youtube. It pokes some fun at the real Dr. Ergun Caner. Obviously, what Dr. Caner is doing in embellishing his autobiography is not funny. Nevertheless, this parody is at least drawing attention to the apparent attempted cover-up by Liberty University and Dr. Ergun Caner. Please keep in mind that the page is parody, not something serious. Also, for the Liberty University folks, before you try to take down this site, remember that parody is protected speech.

Thoughts on Pseudonymity

June 8, 2009

Richard at Philosophy, et cetera has some interesting thoughts on respecting pseudonymity (link). I think most folks on the net agree with his primary conclusion with a small minority of vengeful folks falling into his proposed alternative.


Luther: Justification is a Stand-or-Fall Article of the Christian Faith

March 31, 2009

David Waltz has sparked my interest afresh in the quotation allegedly from Luther that Justification is a doctrine upon which the church stands or falls (link to Waltz’s article). I agree that the expression may not be Luther but is easily derivable from Luther’s teachings.

Waltz has traced it back to Valentin E. Löscher in 1718, but — with some help from Eberhard Jüngel (link) — I have traced it back a bit further to my own favorite Theologian, Francis Turretin, who stated, in his Institutes of Elenctic Theology at Tomus II, Locus 16, Question 1, Section 1:

“Luthero dicitur Articulas stantis et cadentis Ecclesiœ

You can see for yourself:

Text not available

The image above is from the 1819 printing of Turretin’s work, but (of course) Turretin’s first edition is much older. The second volume of Turretin’s work was published in 1682, which would beat out Löscher. Turretin (at least in the editions I can find) doesn’t provide any citation, and it is not clear to me whether Turretin had intended to quote or paraphrase Luther.

I don’t have access, at the moment, to a first edition of Turretin’s Institutes to verify that the quotation appeared in the original edition. Both Waltz and Jüngel (linked above) provide some interesting bases for the pseudo-quotation or paraphrase. Jüngel notes that previous attempts to definitively track down the quotations origin have proved fruitless.

On the other hand, the Smalcald Articles do suggest that Luther viewed the issue as being a stand-or-fall principle, and so do many other of Luther’s writings. The Smalcald Articles provide a good basis for the quotation as a paraphrase when they state:

5] Of this article nothing can be yielded or surrendered [nor can anything be granted or permitted contrary to the same], even though heaven and earth, and whatever will not abide, should sink to ruin. For there is none other name under heaven, given among men whereby we must be saved, says Peter, Acts 4:12. And with His stripes we are healed, Is. 53:5. And upon this article all things depend which we teach and practice in opposition to the Pope, the devil, and the [whole] world. Therefore, we must be sure concerning this doctrine, and not doubt; for otherwise all is lost, and the Pope and devil and all things gain the victory and suit over us.



P.S. Luthero dicitur means “It was said by Luther.”
P.P.S. See p. 633 of Volume 2 of Turretin’s Institutes in the Giger-Dennison edition, if you wish to see how Giger-Dennison handled this.

Athanasius Misquotation Index Page

March 5, 2009

This page is designed to serve as an index for the discussion of the quotation of the so-called “Homily of the Papyrus of Turin” by various Romanist apologists. At first it will be a bit skeletal, but I hope to fill it out over time, depending on the level of response generated. I would be pleasantly surprised if it turned out to be a chronicle of those from the Roman side of the Tiber pleasantly acknowledging their error – but so far the experience has been just the opposite.

2008 Article Questioning the Authenticity of the Work
2009 Article Asserting that the Work is not Properly Considered Authentic
– Mr. Albrecht’s Attempted Defense of the Quotation (link) and Mr. Ray’s Support of Mr. Albrecht (link)
Response to Steve Ray/William Albrecht
– An attempted rebuttal by William (link)
Second Response to William Albrecht
– Mr. Hoffer Chimes in (link) – my response is below.
Response to Paul Hoffer
– More of the Same from Willaim (link) Answered in the Third Response, below.
Third Response to William Albrecht
– Yet More of the Same from William (link) All Albrecht’s points relevant to the Athanasius question are already answered above.


Response to Paul Hoffer’s Comments

March 5, 2009

Someone [Mr. James Swan] directed me to the comment box of an entry of David Waltz’s blog where Mr. Hoffer has been providing some information and some misinformation (source). I’ll respond to Mr. Hoffer’s comments more or less line by line:

Hoffer: “One of the problems with Mr. Fan’s (would he be considered a Pseudo-Turrettini since he posts anonymously?) attack is that he hasn’t reviewed the actual text in question.”

I answer: Mr. Hoffer has a problem with assuming things and passing them off as facts. This is an example. I had reviewed the actual text in question between the time I first raised this issue in 2008 and the time I posted the more definitive post in 2009. It is Mr. Hoffer who has not reviewed the actual text in question, nor did he even bother to ask me whether I had reviewed the actual text, before he posted his misinformation.

Hoffer: “He is merely googling what he thinks are references to it without verifying it.”

I answer: This is also not true, for essentially the reasons indicated above. The fact that Mr. Hoffer starts by posting his assumptions as though they were fact seriously undermines his criticism.

Hoffer: “For example in one of the posts that Rev. Temple mentions, Mr. Fan cited to works by both Virginia Burrus and David Frankfurter as claiming that a pseudo-St. Athanasius wrote the quote. If he had gotten Burrus’ work, he would have found that she is merely an editor of a book that contains a portion of previously mentioned work by Frankfurter. So there are not two citations, but merely one and Mr. Frankfurter does not state why he believes that it was written by a pseudo-Athanasius.”

It is reasonable to point out that Burrus is the editor of the work, not an independent author. I have provided an update to the original 2009 post to clarify this, as well as to identify several other editors besides Burrus who have edited Frankfurter’s works with the citation as pseudo-Athanasius.

[I omit a list of authentic writings that Mr. Hoffer provides.]

Mr. Hoffer: “Now without comparing each and every one of these citations (some of which have not been translated in English that I have found yet) against the particular work, how does he know that the particular text in question is actually spurious?”

This is where it is handy to resort to scholars who deal with the works of Athanasius. Having to compare each spurious or dubious work against all the other known works can be a momentual task, particularly with some of the more prolific authors like Origen or Augustine. In this case, that has been done.

Mr. Hoffer: “Now there is one thing that Mr. Fan is correct about-the work in question is not correctly labeled. Lefort’s “L’homelie de St. Athanase des papyrus de Turin” does not translate from the French into English as Saint Athanasius’ “The Homily of the Papyrus of Turin.” It actually translates as “The Discourse of Saint Athanasius” from (or found in) the Turin papyri (plural), the Turin reference is a reference to the great museum in Turin that has substantial holdings of Eygptian papyri spanning over 3000 years. The problem with the translation is that French does not have a plural for papyrus. One has to look at the word “des” (de + les) to see that the reference is to a plural of the word.”

Leaving aside the fact that “homily” would be a favored translation over “discourse” simply because of its cognate relationship, Mr. Hoffer is right that the “des” does imply a plurality of papyrus documents. Thus, Mr. Gambero’s translation of the phrase (or his English editor/translator’s translation) could have more accurately used the more awkward “papyri” in place of “papyrus.”

Mr. Hoffer wrote: “I hope to have my hands on LeFort’s work from Le Museon amd translations of the authentic works this weekend to do the due diligence that Mr. Fan should have done before writing his piece.”

As noted above, Mr. Hoffer’s criticism is misplaced because he himself didn’t bother to investigate his own claims before making them. As noted above, I had brought this spurious (or, at best, dubious) quotation to Mr. Hoffer’s attention in 2008 when he himself tried to use it. He indicated at that time that he was going to investigate the matter. Now, over half a year later, he is finally getting around to it, only after a more definitive post has been provided.

Mr. Hoffer wrote: “I will let you know what I come up with here and on my own blog.”

This was Mr. Hoffer’s comment on March 3, 2009, if the blogging software’s date stamp is accurate. Scrolling down through that comment box, we find, later that day another post (source):

Hoffer: “BTW, I have already gotten ahold of one of the Pseudo-Athanasius’ citations and determined that it does not refer to the same work as the so-called “The Homily of the Papyrus of Turin.” I anticipate being able to clear some of this up or if nothing else shed some light on the matter somewhat soon.”

This is probably because a Latin name for the work is the name that scholars typically use in such lists. That name is “Homilia adversus Arium, de s. genetrice dei Maria” (“Homily against Arius, of the holy mother of god Mary”).

There was also an additional comment speculating on how the document came to be in Coptic and arguing that the obscurity of the text doesn’t invalidate its truthfulness or authenticity. These are essentially tangents. As Mr. Hoffer went on to admit in yet another comment, “Language that a manuscript is written in is a factor that scholars weigh in determining the work’s authenticity, but it is not sine qua non of the process.”

Throughout the day of March 3, Mr. Hoffer posted a couple more posts, indicating (for example) that he had found out that one of the pseudo-Athanasian works is not the same as this homily, and that Lefort translated at least one work of Athanasius from the Coptic that is thought to be authentic (of course, it is not this particular work, so that’s not a real issue).

When, late in the day judging by the time stamps, Mr. Hoffer discovered that I had actually read the article, he wrote: “To all, I see that Mr. Fan has posted another article on his website and it appears that he has obtained a copy of the 1958 edition of the Le Museon where the quote is taken from. Good for him! I am very glad that he has taken the time to review the magazine. It’s unfortunate that he did not take the time to do that prior to writing his earlier piece. From what he is saying, it appears that the article does not claim that the text is either authentic or spurious. I hope to see for myself and will report my findings.” (source)

Again, one wonders why Mr. Hoffer just assumes things and treats them as fact. Contrary to his negative assumption, I did do that “prior to writing [my] earlier piece” (though not, of course, prior to my very first comments on the subject in 2008, where I first raise the issue).

After that, I have seen nothing either in that comment box or Mr. Hoffer’s blog. Of course, perhaps Mr. Hoffer is still tracking down the article from Le Muséon, or trying to verify that the work “Homilia adversus Arium, de s. genetrice dei Maria” is the same dubious/spurious work as the Homily of the Papyrus of Turin.

I would think that Mr. Hoffer would reach no significantly different conclusion than I did once he has researched the evidence more fully. I hope, as he proceeds, that he will consider beginning from the more reasonable assumption that I check things first, before making claims about them.


Still Misquoting Athanasius as Steve Ray’s Assistant Fails Again

March 4, 2009

This debacle began with my original article (link), continued with a first response from Ray/Albrecht (link), and now I am sad to see that rather than correct his quotation of a spurious work attributed to Athanasius, the man who Steve Ray has set forth to defend Mr. Ray’s miscitation of a spurious source (Mr. William Albrecht) has continued his campaign of misinformation and insult (link to video). Mr. Albrecht spends the first two minutes of his video complaining about “poor scholarship” by Alpha and Omega Ministries and complaining about it “getting to the point that it is almost tiresome dealing with arguments that are so weak.”

However tired or confused poor Mr. Albrecht must be, that is no excuse for his shoddy misrepresentation of the facts. Mr. Albrecht claims that “TurretinFan has made himself the King of Athanasius’ quotes [sic], and he claims that this piece of work, that is attributed to Saint Athanasius, he claims [sic] is spurious not because any scholar or group of scholars claim it is, but because he is the Lord over Athansius’ writings.”

This kind of dishonesty is shameful: Mr. Albrecht should be ashamed of himself, and Mr. Ray should be ashamed of promoting this level of discourse. From the beginning I have appealed to scholars in the field rather than to any credentials of my own. I have named scholars and appealed to a broader scholarly consensus. However tired Mr. Albrecht may be, there is no excuse for his attempts to distort the facts.

And this isn’t the only time I noticed Mr. Albrecht bending the truth:

  • When cornered on the issue of the fact that the manuscript wasn’t discovered in the 20th century, he claims he never hinted anything to the contrary.
  • Rather than just admit that he didn’t research the origin of the manuscript, he claims that there is no definitive knowledge on the subject.
  • Mr. Albrecht tries to suggest that we are arguing that there is an “infallible canon” of Athanasius’ works that “all agree on.”
  • Despite trying to argue that the manuscript is not in any standard corpus of Athanasius’ writings, Mr. Albrecht tries to pull the “ask your opponent to prove a negative” ploy that we see so often in Sola Scriptura debates with advocates of Catholicism. He asks me to prove that the document went unnnoticed by the Coptic church through the centuries. This sort of absurd request just demonstrates Mr. Albrecht’s unwillingness to defend his own position with real evidence.
  • Although Mr. Albrecht previously claimed Le Muséon says the work is authentic, Mr. Albrecht now tries to claim that I “admit” that Le Muséon doesn’t take a position on the authenticity of the work.

But – since the scholars I already named aren’t enough for Mr. Albrecht, I’ll add one more, Mr. Angelo Gila. Mr. Gila is not only a doctor of theology, whose doctoral thesis was a study of the Marian writings of Severus of Gabala, but Mr. Gila is also a Servite friar – a friar in the order of the Servants of Mary – as well as a resident of the Turin area of Northern Italy. In a scholarly article published in the “Theotokos” (one of Mr. Albrecht’s favorite words) journal, (Theotokos VIII (2000) 601-631), at page 613, Mr. Gila correctly identifies this work as Pseudo-Athanasius.

But, of course, Mr. Albrecht who apparently has no scholarly credentials and who has misrepresented the facts without spending the time to thoroughly research the issue, concludes differently. And he complains of “poor scholarship”?

Or perhaps Mr. Albrecht will try to make silly claims like the idea that Friar Dr. Gilo just tries to “erase” this work because it is inconvenient for him, or flood the friar’s work with insults. As usual, Mr. Albrecht’s bluster is no match for the facts.


Response to Steve Ray on the Pseudographic Papyrus of Turin

March 3, 2009


As you may recall, we recently identified a spurious quotation from Athanasius that a number of apologists for Rome had been using, including Mr. Steve Ray. Sadly, rather than correct his error and be honest with his readers, Mr. Ray has chosen to pretend the problem doesn’t exist, directing his readers, once again, to the video musings of Mr. William Albrecht.

Specifically, in response to the demonstration that Mr. Ray bolsters his case with spurious quotations, Mr. Ray stated:

You may want to watch this video put up by William Albrecht. He addresses one instance in which an opponent wrongly says Catholics wrongly use the Fathers. Funny thing Fundamentalists accusing us of misusing the Fathers! Thanks William!

(link and emphasis on “us” in Ray’s original post – that link is to William Albrecht’s video)(source)

Notice how Mr. Ray plays the same “hide who the critic is” game that Mr. Madrid plays. On this point, I have to give Mr. Albrecht a little bit of credit. Unlike Mr. Ray and Mr. Madrid, Mr. Albrecht is not afraid to identify his critics and to direct the reader to the criticism in question.

Clearly, Mr. Ray is endorsing and promoting Mr. Albrecht’s video. Did Mr. Ray watch it himself? It’s hard to say. After all, Mr. Ray’s very next blog entry is “We arrived in Greece.” Perhaps he is just busy on his pilgrimage profiteering and did not have time to watch Mr. Albrecht’s video or consider its content. Perhaps he got second-hand information. Who knows?! Either way he shows a lack of interest in the integrity of his own presentations, which relied upon the spurious source attributed to Athanasius.

So, let’s examine Mr. Albrecht’s video response. The link has already been provided above. It’s about ten minutes long. I think the following pretty much addresses all of Mr. Albrecht’s attempted arguments.

Albrecht Preface – “Blunders” Claim

Mr. Albrecht prefaces his video with a claim that various “blunders” were made. As we’ll see below, he nowhere substantiates this claim. At best, he disputes some of the facts presented. I’d encourage Mr. Albrecht, who I have already praised for his courage, to consider making more reasonable claims, since he looks bad when he claims that there are “blunders” but then cannot actually substantiate blunders.

Albrecht Argument 1 – Many Lists Omit Works Discovered in the 20th Century

Albrecht’s first argument is not to point out any blunder, but simply to try to weaken the fact (which he doesn’t dispute) that the work in question is not to be found in any standard list of Athanasian works. He tries to weaken this fact by pointing out that older lists wouldn’t have more recently discovered works.

Even leaving aside that this is just an attempt to weaken my position rather than any attempt to substantiate the authenticity of the work, there are a couple of problems with this argument.

First, the argument assumes that this work only came to light in the 20th century. Mr. Albrecht asserts that many lists don’t include 20th century findings. Mr. Albrecht, however, is unaware of when this work came to light. This work was already known to scholars in the 19th century and was even published in the late 19th century. Mr. Albrecht seems to think that the publication of the work in Le Muséon was the first time the work had come to light. In fact, however, the work is one of a number of works that were earlier published. The article in Le Muséon was largely of interest because it included a French-language translation of the work.

Second, even if the article in Le Muséon were the first time the work had come to light, the Le Muséon article was over 50 years ago. By now, if the scholarly consensus were that this work were authentic, there would have been time to have the document included within the standard corpus of Athanasian works. But, of course, Mr. Albrecht is unable to identify any such corpus that identifies this homily as authentic.

Albrecht Argument 2 – Speculation Regarding Manuscript’s Origin

Mr. Albrecht speculates about the origin of the manuscript, arguing that it may have come from some particular monastery. If Mr. Albrecht had spent more time doing his homework, though, he would have discovered that the reference to “of Turin” in the title of the homily (“Homily of the Papyrus of Turin”) is a reference to the Egyptian Museum of Turin/Torino, Italy (link to museum’s website). This is a museum in Northern Italy near the foothills of the Alps. Where they were before that, I leave to Mr. Albrecht to see if he can track down.

Regardless of the location from which the museum obtained the manuscripts, speculation regarding the manuscript’s origin can hardly be viewed as an argument in favor of its authenticity.

Albrecht Argument 3 – Athanasius Knew and Used Coptic

Mr. Albrecht seemingly misunderstood my comment regarding the evidence for the authenticity of the homily. I had pointed out that the only evidence for the homily is a single Coptic manuscript. Mr. Albrecht went on at some length to point out that Athanasius knew and used the Coptic language. Mr. Albrecht, however, is missing the point. The point is that although Athanasius is a very renowned church father, this homily supposedly went unnoticed by the entire Greek-speaking church, not to mention the Coptic church. Of course, whether Athanasius spoke or used Coptic is really not relevant to the issue of whether a particular Coptic manuscript is a genuine writing of Athanasius.

On the other hand, I am very curious what makes Mr. Albrecht think that whoever wrote this particular homily, wrote it originally in Coptic, rather than in Greek. Given the rest of the inaccuracies in Mr. Albrecht’s response, I think it is reasonable to presume he lacks any information on that subject.

Furthermore, as the Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913 explains:

Post Nicene Fathers. –The homilies, sermons, etc., of the Greek Fathers from the Council of Nicaea to that of Chalcedon were well represented in the Coptic literature, as we may judge from what has come down to us in the various dialects. In Bohairic we have over forty complete homilies or sermons of St John Chrysostom, several of St. Cyril of Alexandria, St. Gregory Nazianzen, Theophilus of Alexandria, and St Ephraem the Syrian, while in Sahidic we find a few complete writings and a very large number of fragments, some quite considerable, of the homiletical works of the same Fathers and of many others, like St. Athanasius, St. Basil, Proclus of Cyzicus, Theodotus of Ancyra, Epiphanius of Cyprus, Amphilochius of Iconium, Severianus of Gabala, Cyril of Jerusalem, Eusebius of Caesarea, and the pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite. Liberius of Rome and St. Ephraem are also represented by several fragments of sermons. We need not say that these writings are not infrequently spurious, and that they can in no case be held up as models of translation.

(emphasis added)

Albrecht Argument 4 – Luigi Gambero Bias Issue

It seems even more certain that Mr. Albrecht misunderstood the issue of Mr. Gambero’s bias. Mr. Gambero is a Marianist priest. That is to say, he belongs to the “Society of Mary,” a religious order devoted to Mary. This, of course, explains his great interest in the topic of Mary, but it does naturally lead him to tend to be interested in identifying quotations from church fathers that praise this woman to whom he and his religious order are devoted. It’s just his natural bias to accept spurious and/or questionable writing as though they were authentic if they praise Mary, just as it would be the nature of his bias to criticize (as questionable or spurious) authentic works that somehow cast aspersion on Mary.

None of this is supposed to prove that Mr. Gambero is lying or doing anything mischievous. As I noted in my original post, I am still hoping to obtain a copy of the relevant pages of the original Italian edition of the book. Perhaps in that book Mr. Gambero correctly identified the work as as pseudo-graphic, and perhaps his translator or English editor simply accidentally removed the relevant qualifier.

Likewise, Mr. Gambero could simply have assumed that the work was authentic without looking into the matter. We simply don’t know why he cited it. Nevertheless, his bias is against critical investigation of his sources, and in favor of his acceptance of questionable and spurious sources as authentic, whether or not that bias actually came into play.

Albrecht Argument 5 – Other Things Athanasius Said or Didn’t Say

Mr. Albrecht goes off on a tangent when he tries to bring up other things that Athanasius allegedly said, such as things relating to the concept of the perpetual virginity of Mary. Perhaps Mr. Albrecht is confused about my contention.

My contention (and what I have demonstrated) is that apologists for Catholicism cite a spurious work as though it were Athanasius. It is not a claim that Athanasius was one of the Westminster divines or that he was a drinking buddy of Martin Luther’s. My contention is not that he agreed on every point with “Protestants” (an absurd notion given the variety within “Protestantism”) nor even was my point in this case that Athanasius disagreed with even one thing that Rome teaches today.

In other debates I have addressed some issues about what the church fathers actually believed. There are plenty of inconvenient facts of history for those who wish to imagine that what their church teaches is “what was always taught from the beginning.” But that is not this argument. This argument is that Rome’s apologists are using a source that they shouldn’t use, if they wish to be considered honest.

Albrecht Argument 6 – The Title of the Homily of the Papyrus of Turin

This particular homily is called the “Homily of the Papyrus of Turin.” It is not called “In Praise of the Blessed Virgin.” Mr. Albrecht tenaciously insists that he did not err in calling the homily by the latter title. This is just ridiculous. I know exactly where he got that “title” from, but it is not the title of the work. It is just a “tag line” that Mr. Gambero put above the quotation to tell the reader what the quoted section of the homily is about.

Mr. Gambero himself would not make the silly mistake that Mr. Albrecht has made. Mr. Gambero does use that tag line over the section of the homily that Mr. Albrecht read in his previous video. On the other hand, however, Mr. Gambero uses the tag line “Mary Greets Elizabeth” as the tag line for the quotation from the same homily on the immediately preceding page. The same technique can be seen on page 31 of Mr. Gambero’s work and in every “readings” section at the end of each chapter of his book. At page 31, the tag line is “Ignation Profession of Faith” but the work is Ignatius’ Epistle to the Ephesians.

Given Mr. Albrecht’s fascination with Ignatius, one hopes that Mr. Albrecht would have the sense to realize that Ignatius’ Epistle to the Ephesians (whether or not genuine, in whole or in part – and when I say “whether or not” I mean I’m not addressing that issue here) is not called “Ignation Profession of Faith” as a title.

Albrecht Argument 7 – Le Muséon is a Reputable Journal

Le Muséon is a reputable journal, no doubt. It is not our intention to suggest otherwise. It was with great pleasure that I leafed through volume 71 of Le Muséon to read (and read about) this particular homily. That’s not really the issue.

Mr. Albrecht asserts that Le Muséon claims that the work is authentic. This simply isn’t true. I frankly have no idea where Mr. Albrecht got the idea that Le Muséon even took any opinion on the authenticity of the homily.

Le Muséon, after all, is the journal. The fact that an article is published in a journal doesn’t mean that the journal itself endorses the content of the article, or stands behind it. Part of the purpose of journals is to put out information so that it can be reviewed by academic peers of the articles’ authors.

I suppose, in some instances, a journal could explicitly adopt the position of a particular article published therein. In this case, Le Muséon has not taken such an approach. Le Muséon simply published an article by Mr. Louis-Théophile Lefort.

Of course, and it seems probably Mr. Albrecht was unaware of this, Mr. Lefort was the director of Le Muséon from 1921 until his death in 1959. So, it is almost as though Le Muséon were speaking when Mr. Lefort speaks.

Regardless, Mr. Lefort does not himself (in the article) insist on the authenticity of the piece. Indeed, he concurs with the comment in my previous post that the authenticity of the work is not to be established on the basis of the fact that work has Athanasius’ name at the top. This is, of course, due to the fact that there numerous works that are attributed to more famous writers.

I find it highly unlikely that Mr. Albrecht had bothered to look up and read through the article in Le Muséon to see what it said about the supposed authenticity of the work. Had Mr. Albrecht done so, he would (no doubt) have discovered in one of the first lines of the article an indication of the prior publication of the homily in the 19th century.

Albrecht Argument 8 – Reasons Given to Doubt

Mr. Albrecht suggests that we have given him no reason at all to doubt the authenticity of the work. In fact, things are just the opposite of what Mr. Albrecht suggests. The weight of the scholarly consensus is that the work is spurious, and Mr. Albrecht has given us no reason to doubt that consensus. Le Muséon itself did not insist that the work was authentic. Why do Rome’s apologists? We had hoped that it was by accident, because they simply didn’t investigate their sources.

However, when Rome’s apologists try to defend their spurious works with irrelevant, inaccurate, or misleading argumentation, one wonders whether they even care about the truth. One hopes that Mr. Albrecht’s video post can be chaulked up to youthful zeal rather than a malicious wish to mislead his viewers. Likewise, we can presume that Mr. Ray simply doesn’t take his own work’s integrity seriously enough to defend his citation of a spurious work, instead directing his readers to a video that we can be sure he did not fully research for accuracy.


The response of Rome’s apologists so far has been disappointing. Mr. Albrecht has been the only one brave enough to try to set forth a detailed response, but sadly he has fallen short. Rather than simply admitting his mistake and appropriately correcting it, Mr. Albrecht has dug himself a deeper hole, and Mr. Ray has joined him there by recommending his video.

I continue to exhort the apologists of Rome to engage in a higher level of discourse. Obviously, here, I am specifically picking on Mr. Ray and Mr. Madrid – two men who seem to be unwilling to let the church fathers be the church fathers, trying instead to make them a part of the religion of modern Roman Catholicism.


P.S. As I was bringing this article to a close it came to my attention that Mr. Albrecht had posted a link to his video over at Mr. Madrid’s forum (link), where it received a warm reception by those who apparently simply take William’s word for it, rather than investigate. The ever-vicious Art Sippo (a medical doctor and lay apologist for Rome) even chimes in calling someone the “son of lies” (I’m not sure if he intended that for me, since he probably didn’t even bother to check out who at Alpha and Omega Ministries had written the post) and praising Mr. Albrecht. Of course, Mr. Madrid’s forum moderator (Patti) will presumably continue her policy of preventing this response from coming to the attention of the readers of her forum, since it has been her past policy of editing out references both to the Team Apologian Blog and Thoughts of Francis Turretin on the forum.

Pseudonymity and the Calvinists

December 15, 2008

In this particular venue, I publish under a pseudonym. That does not go over well with lots of people. It is particularly amusing, though, for me to hear “Calvinists” complaining about my use of a pseudonym.

Calvin apparently wrote under at least three pseudonyms:

(1) Alcuinus

(2) Charles d’Espeville

(3) Martinus Lucanius

(see here for more detail)


Gregory Thaumaturgus – The First Homily on the Annunciation to the Holy Virgin Mary – Pseudographic?

May 8, 2008

In a previous post we investigated the possibility that a widely used quotation attributed to Athanasius may be spurious. (link) Now, at the request of my debate opponent in the upcoming Sola Scriptura debate, Mr. Bellisario, I have turned my attention to another alleged quotation about Mary. This one is by someone my average reader probably has not heard of, Gregory Thaumaturgus. The quotation is taken from a work titled: “The First Homily on the Annunciation to the Holy Virgin Mary.” Unlike the “Homily of the Papyrus of Turin,” the “First Homily,” has been around for a while.

And it has been identified as spurious for a while. Indeed, it is included in the list of dubious or spurious works in this edition of the Ante-Nicean Fathers (link), and is specifically identified as spurious work (see page 58, footnote 1).

At least the following Catholic encyclopedia explains that the feast of the Annunciation of the Holy Virgin is thought to have emerged in the late 5th century (link), which tends to confirm the fact that a Homily on such an occasion is demonstrably anachronistic. Furthermore, the footnote referenced above notes that indeed the homily was previously set forth to try to prove an earlier date for the origin of the feast day, but that theory has evidently been discarded.

For example, EWTN states: “Both eastern and western churches celebrate it on this day, and have done so at least ever since the fifth century. This festival is mentioned by Pope Gelasius I, in 492. ” (link)

As to the alleged author in general, the “New Advent” Catholic Encyclopedia states, “It is to be noted here that our sources of information as to the life, teaching, and actions of Gregory Thaumaturgus are all more or less open to criticism.” (link) Likewise, Luigi Gambero states: “Tradition incorrectly attributes numerous pseudo-epigraphic Marian homilies to Gregory the Wonderworker.” (link) Gregory the Wonderworker is another name for Gregory Thaumaturgus. (those interested will note that Gambero, at page 106, provides an English-language version of the (pseudo?) Athanasius quotation we discussed previously.

Again, I’m not sure whether any has tried to set forth a positive case for authenticity of this quotation, as truly being the work of Gregory Thaumaturgus. If they have, I’d be interested to see it – and particularly interested to see how the apparently settled date of origin of the feast day (March 25) is overcome.

I don’t see this being used as widely as the Athanasius quotation, but since I was asked I’ve provided. Although Mr. Hoffer used it, I trust he did so with the most sincere believe that it was genuine – and I think he was simply mistaken.


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