Friday, May 19, 2017

A Catalog of Epiphanius's Blunders, Misrepresentations and Outright Lies

We've all heard - or felt - that Epiphanius was a bad reference source.  It's a charge that's been floating in scholarly literature for some time.  But no one until now I think has actually assembled all (or at least most) of the major knocks against Epiphanius's reputation in the literature.  Here they are:
  1. wrote at the level of a fifth grader (Jerome, "his style is poor, like that of one who is unfamiliar with Attic elegance" Photius, "tortuous and sometimes barely comprehensible" Cambridge History of Early Christian Literature, "elevated Koine" Holl)
  2. had the comprehension of a fifth grader ("This trait - viz. his low quality Greek - is no surprise because Epiphanius was an enemy of all classical education. He reckoned the Greek philosophical schools among the heresies and was suspicious of any Hellenistic learning"  Quasten “In fact, Epiphanius seems to be a complete stranger to classical paideia and is, in this regard, a unique exception among the grand authors of this age.” Nautin)
  3. was intimate with the worst sorts of people (Theophilus of Alexandria)
  4. supported Theophilus in his slander against John bishop of Jerusalem (Farrar)
  5. supported Theophilus in his campaign against John Chrysostom, and the four "Tall Brothers" and then admitted he knew nothing of their teachings (Chadwick
  6. probably lied about seeing Palladius in Jerusalem in a letter to Jerome (Butler)
  7. lacked critical care in citing scripture (Osburn)
  8. "one is tempted to characterize [the Panarion] as a compendium of largely inaccurate information" (Louth)
  9. part of the inaccuracies of the Panarion might be explained by Epiphanius's habit of rambling dictation to a scribe.  "These sentences may be of the "run-on" variety as when, at Panarion 30,18,3, Epiphanius tries to tell us everything he knows about Ebionite marriage customs in one breath. Such cases suggest that Epiphanius frequently dictated his work rather than writing it. If so, it is easy to understand why short, exclamatory interjections sometimes interrupt the course of an Epiphanian sentence. At times one observes other phenomena best explained by Epiphanius' habit of dictation. So at Panarion 39,8,7, where Epiphanius finds himself going on too long about Near Eastern geography, he backtracks with a rapid genitive absolute, and starts over. The whole of Panarion 29,3,9, which we have rendered with two English sentences, is one long genitive absolute on the lips of the hurrying Epiphanius." (Williams)
  10. "seems to have been a man whose ideas of geography, history, and chronology were confused to an extraordinary degree. The one quotation which Daille has made in proof of his ignorance of geography is sufficient to show how much we may rely on his statements. We extract it here. 'The Pheison,' he says, 'is called Ganges among the Indians and Ethiopians. The Greeks call it Indus. For it encircles the whole of Evilat, both little and greats even the parts of the Elymeans and passes through Great Ethiopia turns to the south, and within Gades flows into the Great Ocean'." (Donaldson)
  11. "of his historical confusions we shall have many instances and nothing more need be said here  than simply that the preference which some critics have shown for Epiphanius, Theodoret, and the later writers, is totally unwarranted. Most of these writers were monks who lived away from the world of realities, who could scarcely distinguish between facts and their own fancies, and who were probably very indifferent whether Hadrian lived ten or a hundred years before Marcus Antoninus. The causes why their statements have been preferred are mainly two. They have sometimes made assertions in harmony with the conjectures of the critics, and they have been looked on as sainted men whose every opinion and affirmation must have been true, or, at the very least, close to the truth." (Donaldson)
  12. makes wild "assertions about such widespread use of the self-designation 'gnostic.' For one thing, if Epiphanius were correct, that would render the complete absence of the self-designation from a diverse collection such as the Nag Hammadi library even harder to understand! It is more likely that Epiphanius has simply expanded by inference the reports of the self-designation given by earlier heresiologists such as Irenaeus. Therefore, though Epiphanius claims a more widespread usage of the self-designation, his testimony is ambiguous and contradictory, and of questionable reliability." (Williams)
  13. likely falsely claimed to have met Sethian gnostics "'I think I may have met with this sect in Egypt too—I do not precisely recall the country in which I met them. And I found out some things about it by inquiry in an actual encounter, but have learned other things from treatises' (Panarion 39,1,2). Epiphanius is in this case vague and the reader is left with the impression that it is uncertain whether he has met the Sethians at all" (Gilhus)
  14. consistently "misunderstood, garbled, and even intentionally misrepresented ... mythic themes that these sectarians understood in ascetic terms ... as doctrines condoning licentiousness” (Michael Williams)
  15. lied about participating in an orgiastic gnostic Christian service (Ehrman)
  16. "consistently amplified the sexualized nature of heretical group, viz. developing the bare reference to the Nicolaitans in Revelations and Irenaeus into an intimate connection with the 'libertine Gnostics,' affirming the Nicolaitans were not only the founders of this “Gnostic” heresy, but that both groups basically constituted what was one and the same sect (Rasimus)
  17. invented supposed sexual 'ingathering' rites for the Simonians grafting this idea onto the original report of Irenaeus" (Gero
  18. invented "promiscuous rituals these Gnostics supposedly practiced: they gathered semen and menstrual blood, and consummated these as the Eucharist (Pan. 26.4.5–8); they practiced ritual sex where 730 acts of intercourse makes one “Christ”(26.9.6–9); and, in order to support these practices, they related a story of Christ producing a woman out of his side (cf. Eve's extraction from Adam's side in Gen 2:21–22) and having intercourse with her in order to demonstrate the way of salvation (Pan. 26.8.1–3). (Rasimus)
  19. invented "the Ophite Eucharist scene [that] largely contributed to the still prevailing picture of the Ophites as worshippers of snakes" viz. "Ophites, who extol the serpent and think he is Christ, and have an actual snake, the familiar reptile, in a sort of basket” (Rasimus)
  20. "in his desire to prove that Simon is the parent of all subsequent heresy, is here mixing together the opinions of different Gnostic sects with a result inconsistent even in his own eyes" (Legge)
  21. invented lurid details to add to Irenaeus's account of the Cainites (Ehrman)
  22. pretended "to know something concerning the affluence of the [Carpocratians]: The images they honored were made of gold and silver (ibid., 27.6.9); also the initiated wallowed in debauchery and sensuous pleasure. But how does he know this? In 27.6.9 he appears merely to have expanded Irenaeus's tradition; 27.4.1 (cf. already Irenaeus, 1.25.3) is an anti-heretical commonplace. (Lampe)
  23. made Basilides and Saturnilus belong to the same school. (Roberts and Donaldson)
  24. claimed Encratites travel with disreputable women (Pan. 47.3.1)
  25. made up an early Christian heretical text the Greater Questions of Mary and various 'citations' of this work (Ehrman)
  26. before a large audience of monks claimed to have read "6000 books of Origen" a figure disputed by supporters and detractors alike (Rufinus, Jerome)
  27. often brought forward the epitome of 'low quality' reporting viz. "There are people called Origenists, but this kind of Origenist is not to be found everywhere. I think, though, that the sect we are now discussing next after these. They are named Origenists, but I am not sure after whom. I do not know whether they from the Origen who is called Adamantius the Author, or from some other Origen. Still, I have learned of this name ..." (Panarion 43)  Glad you got that off your chest!
  28. lied about having in his possession the gospel of the Ebionites (Credner "in denying that Epiphanius knew the Ebionite Gospel by personal inspection ... the Ebionites called their document εὐαγγέλιον καθ' Ἑβραίους; or τὸ Ἑβραΐκόν, appellations which could not with propriety proceed from them, by way of title or superscription; that Epiphanius adduces the beginning of the Gospel in somewhat different times in two places, as though he did not know the words ; and that the same father quotes passages so loosely, as to indicate his ignorance of them as written")
  29. lied about having in his possession the canon of Marcion (Eichhorn, implicit also in the observation of Blunt regarding his catalog that "after saying with Tertullian that Marcion only received ten of St. Paul's Epistles, he enumerates them all as received by him" in other words he was compiling and transcribing things related to the subject of Marcion's canon rather than actual having the canon in front of him and carrying out the study)
  30. was "mistaken in supposing that there were two distinct epistles [in the Marcionite canon] one to the Ephesians, and one to the Laodiceans." (Pope)
  31. invented the story about Marcion's father being a bishop (May)
  32. invented the story about a decisive showdown between Marcion and the Roman clergy (HarnackMay)
  33. invented a claim that Marcion allowed for repeated baptisms "thus I have heard from many" (von Harnack)
  34. invented the story of Marcion being excommunicated for raping a virgin (Lardner)
  35. invented stories about 'Ebion' the fictitious founder of the Ebionites (PagetLuomanen)
  36. lied about having in his possession the gospel of the Ebionites (Norton)
  37. claimed "that the Hebrew 'Matthew' is our Matthew, but he obviously has not seen it (Pan. Haer. 29.2.4)." (Rist)
  38. claimed that the Pseudo-Clementines were Ebionite but no real evidence to support this identification (Hannah)
  39. claimed that Cerinthus and Carpocrates used the Gospel of Matthew from a misunderstanding of "a passage in Irenaeus, who writes that the Ebionites have the same ideas as Cerinthus and Carpocrates and continues with the remark: 'They use only the Gospel of Matthew'. (Adv Haer 1.26.2)  Epiphanius supposed that Irenaeus was in this passage still speaking about the Ebionites, Cerinthus and Carpocrates" (Klijn)
  40. haphazardly transferred information about the Ebionites to Cerinthus (RistSkarsauneAnchor Bible)
  41. claimed "that Ebion came from the Nazoraeans [and this] must be questioned" (Finley)
  42. grafts a historical/geographical connection between the Ebionites and Pella that was not originally present in the source material he borrowed from Eusebius (Luomanen)
  43. invented a theory of the influence of Elxai on the Ebionites based on a transfer of ps.- Clementine ideas to Elxai and the Elkesaites. They mention particularly the obligation of marriage (see Pan 19,1,7), the repudiation of prophets (Pan 53,1,7), the rejection of meat dishes and sacrifices (Pan 1 9, 3, 5-6 and 53, 1 , 4), the veneration of water (Pan 53,1,7), and, finally, the speculations on frequent manifestations of Christ (Pan 53,1,8).  According to Klijn and Reinink, all these features were wrongly ascribed to Elxai and his adherents
  44. supposed that the Elchasites were so-called from a man named Elxai rather than the name of a book of revelation with this title (Salmon)
  45. invented a relationship between the Sampseans and the book 'Elxai' perhaps because of a shared name of adherents associated with both traditions (Luttikhuizen)
  46. changed Irenaeus' report (about the Valentinians) and attributed this material to to Ptolemy himself (Hill "It may be that, having realized that he had already reproduced the Ptolemaean material in 1.8 in a section on Valentinus - perhaps he only realized it when he got to the end of 1. 8. 5, Epiphanius presented the views Irenaeus attributed to followers of Ptolemy as those of Ptolemy himself").
  47. his portrait of Arius was 'unscrupulous fiction' (Stanley)
  48. wrote "fictitious biography of Mani (Williams)  
  49. says that "Cerdo follows these (the Ophites, Kainites, Sethiani), and Heracleon." Tischendorf: "Epiphanius has certainly made a mistake, as in such things not unfrequently happens to him, when he makes Cerdo, who, however, is to be placed about 140, follow Heracleon." 
  50. "refers to a sect of Cerdonians, but such a sect probably never existed" (Deferrar)
  51. "seems to multiply the sects of Palestine-Transjordan. He describes the Essenes as Samaritans, locates the Ossenes (Ossaeans) all through the Jordan Valley, and mentions Hemerobaptists (people who cleanse daily through immersion in water) as a separate sect. It is likely that Essene and Ossene both derive from asyîn; their initial vowel representations merely reflect dialect and transliteration variance. As previously noted, daily cleansing is characteristic of the Essenes. Thus, Epiphanius' three sects all seem to be representative of the Essenes, as known from the works of Josephus and Philo." (Jandora)
  52. invented the name "Ossaeans" (SaeboCasePetrement)
  53. misrepresented discovering a Samaritan sect of the Essenes (Isser)
  54. misidentified the Dositheans as a Jewish sect and Dositheus as a Jew (Isser)
  55. lied about the existence of a Christian sect called the Phibionites
  56. lied about the existence of a Christian sect called the Stratiotics (King)
  57. lied about the existence of a Christian sect called the Socratites (King)
  58. lied about the existence of a Christian sect called the Adamians (Lardner)
  59. lied about the existence of a Christian sect called the Nazarenes (Luomanen)
  60. lied about the existence of a Christian sect called the Kollyridians (Roeber)
  61. lied about the existence of a Christian sect called the Satanians (van Luijk
  62. might have made up the existence of a Christian sect called the Archontics (Reeves "Some scholars have questioned the actual existence of a separate sect of so- called "Archontics," since it is only Epiphanius, along with those writers dependent upon his work, that record this name")
  63. "invented a sect which called itself the 'Melchizedekians' and he attributed to this group some heterodox opinions about the patriarch" (Bickerman)
  64. "the Herodians and the 'scribes' mentioned by Epiphanius undoubtedly never existed as sects. Both are mentioned in the New Testament (Mt. 22:16; Mk. 3:6), and this is where the author has come across them." (SimonBickerman)
  65. "may well have been ignorant or inaccurate about the ascetics he describes as 'Messalian'" (Caner)
  66. invented the name 'Antidicomarians' (Lundhaug)
  67. invented the name 'Alogoi' (Carrington, Lundhaug)
  68. had no 'Alogi' at all, and that he simply put together past criticisms of the Johannine Gospel and Apocalypse, possibly based on the suspicion that there must have been, behind all these (Celsus, Gaius, Origen, Porphyry, Philosabbatius) disparate criticisms, some single, heretical source" (Hill, Brent)
  69. manipulated Hippolytus original chronological data in a clumsy way in order to make the Roman Church Father's 'anti-Alogoi' arguments fit Epiphanius's own beliefs and practices (HarrisGwynn, Hill)
  70. reports that the Sebuaeans "celebrated the Feast of Unleavened Bread at the new moon after the new year - in fall; likewise, Pentecost they moved to the fall; and the Feast of Tabernacles they observed at the time of the Jewish Passover. Since it is of the wheat harvest (the Feast of Unleavened Bread) would be celebrated in fall and the fall festival of the fruit harvest (the Feast of Tabernacles) in spring, Epiphanius must have been mistaken." (Pummer)
  71. probably lied about the existence of a Jewish Christian sect called the Nazoraei (Conybeare)
  72. probably either lied or embellished the story of his encounter with 'Count Joseph' to distinguish orthodoxy i.e. the two officially recognized organized religions of Christianity and Judaism from Jewish Christianity viz. Ebionism (cf. Boyarin "[i]n other words, a Jewish orthodoxy is produced by the Christian legend, in order to help guarantee a Christian orthodoxy, over and against hybrids. The hybrids, however, also produce the no-man's-land, the mestizo territory, that guarantees the purity of the orthodox formations" also Jacobs
  73. associates 'Count Joseph' with "two patriarchs named Hillel and Judah. It would appear that Epiphanius got the got the names of the patriarchs right, but confused their identities in the story; most likely, Joseph was at the deathbed of Judah III (c-320), and involved with the young Hillel II until the early days of his taking office cf. Pan. xxx. 10. 9 ff. (Taylor)
  74. probably lied about a Hebrew manuscripts of the Acts of the Apostles and the gospel of John preserved in the library of 'Count Joseph' 
  75. made up the name Iessaioi, attributes it to Philo and thus linking the names 'Jesus' and the Essenes (Pritz, Case)
  76. had an odd way of 'personalizing' the continued existence of Jewish Christian heretics in his presence and that of his addressees.  For instance he claims that Ebionite settlements could be found in Cyprus, something explicitly denied when Theodoret went about looking on the island a few generations after publication. Similarly the two abbots from Coele-Syria happen to be located in one of the few places the questionable Nazoraeans are said to have maintained a settlement; outside of Epiphanius there are no eyewitnesses to this sect (Smith Wace)
  77. misrepresented the contents and historical details surrounding the Creed of Seleucia (Williams)
  78. most unreliable of the three sources for reconstructing Marcion's canon (Clabeaux)
  79. unreliable information about the population of contemporary Palestine (Taylor)
  80. 'unusable' information about the founding of Aelia Capitolina (Gray)
  81. assigns John being banished to Patmos to the reign of Claudius (Robinson)
  82. assigns the Montanist female prophet to the first century (Marjanen)
  83. "Epiphanius, — the inaccurate and most untrustworthy Epiphanius, — is the only author of the story of Cerinthus being at the Council at Jerusalem" (Elliot)
  84. seems to have confounded St Paul's visit to Jerusalem in company with Titus, Gal. 2/Acts 15 with the later one in company with Trophimus. Acts 21 (Cook)
  85. haphazardly transferred information about the Gnostics to the Nicolatians (Rasimus)
  86. was "mistaken in placing the Encratites after the Tatianites, as if they were a branch of the latter sect, the true relation being just the opposite." (Smith Wace)
  87. seems to have passed himself off to his contemporaries as an expert in Hebrew but his opinions and interpretations are often times quite dubious (Smith Wace)
  88. makes "ten different Hebrew names for God used in the Old Testament. Many of these translations are incorrect" (Jacobs)
  89. introduces the Hebrew word (kanani) in order to suggest an entirely different—and, to be sure bizarre—translation: “The Lord hatched (enosseuse) me. This image, Epiphanius claims, leaves no doubt as to the consubstantiality of the Father and the Son. Also, of course, it makes little sense in its scriptural context. It's not clear what Hebrew verb Epiphanius is thinking of here ... Epiphanius introduced this translation of Prov 8:22 already in Ancoratus 44.1–2 (GCS n.F. 10.1:54), but without any discussion. (Jacobs)
  90. developed a mostly worthless historical chronology based in part on his adding corrections for two different timeline traditions for the period from Adam to the Flood. (Adler)
  91. claimed that "the first two columns [of the Hexapla] contained respectively a Hebrew text in Hebrew letters and a transcription of that text into Greek letters.” Nautin dismisses Epiphanius's testimony, which he maintains is contradicted by that of Eusebius, who was familiar with the copy of the Hexapla in Origen's library 
  92. "reverses [the correct] order and places Symmachus chronologically before Theodotion (misled, as some think, by the order of the versons in the Hexapla) ; but in so doing he falls into a palpable error, placing him in the reign of an imaginary second Commodus, whom he supposes to have reigned subsequently to Severus. The Chronicon Paschale however places his version in the sixth year of the actual Commodus" (Smith, Wace)
  93. mistook or made up a "wholly arbitrary identification [of a pagan veneration of the birth of the Aion from a virgin] with a quite imaginary Roman Saturnalia on December 25." (Rahner
  94. claimed that the local Creed of Jerusalem "which he gives in the Ancoratus was the original Creed drawn up at Nicaea, but his statements are confused and unreliable" (Harford and Stevenson, Cheetham, Orloff)
  95. claimed that the LXX translation did not only comprise the Pentateuch, but all the books of the Old Testament, plus twenty two apocrypha (DuToit).
  96. mistakenly identified Jesus as living in the age of Alexander Jannaeus (Mead)
  97. supposed that the magi who visited the baby Jesus were fifteen in number (Lange)
  98. appropriated ideas from the Physiologus without attribution (van den Broek)
  99. "Lawlor produces very strong arguments and evidence (pp. 73-94) to show that Epiphanius in writing his Panarion had before him a copy of Hegesippus' Memoirs, and further that those Memoirs contained a great deal of information about the early history of the Churches of Jerusalem, Corinth and Rome." (Lawlor  "It is quite certain, however, that several passages of his Panarion are based on portions of the Memoirs quoted verbatim by Eusebius")
  100. "Epiphanius' Panarion, the greatest anti-heretical work of the early church, is a storehouse of selections from earlier works but does not name its sources. To see if Epiphanius is a trustworthy compiler, chap. 65 is compared with the chief source of its report on Paul of Samosata, the small Pseudo-Athanasius tractate whose short title is Contra Sabellianos, which was probably written in the years 355-360 against Photinus of Sirmium (as a "Samosatian") by Apollonius of Laodicea. This valuable tractate has been ignored by schoars because they wrongly believed it to be plagiarized. Not only was Epiphanius careless in copying material from Contra Sabellianos, but he took statements of Photinus quoted therein and attributed them in his Panarion to Paul of Samosata and his followers. Thus Epiphanius' work is not to be trusted." (Hubner)
  101. the statement "Some Manicheans and Marcionites say that Jesus was not born—hence, 'She shall bear, and they shall say, She hath not borne.' For Mary has not given birth because of a man's seed, and these people104 madly tell the lie that she has given birth because of a man's seed" (Panarion 30.30.3) seems suspiciously vague and unlikely when applied to the Marcionites.
"what Epiphanius says of the Gnostics is not true" Lardner
"not to be relied upon" VolkmarDunn, Zahn, HortonWestminster HandbookStrett, van den Broek, TwomeySternBarnard, Exell, Pearson, Mosheim, Lake
"Epiphanius ought to be the last witness we should trust uncontrolled, especially in his testimonies on heretics and heretical writings. He combines all kinds of notices, rumours, and calumnies into abracadabra often completely incomprehensible." Plooij
"narrow-minded and untrustworthy; prejudice, temper, and an unhappy inability to recognise the responsibilities of authorship, deduct largely from the value of the services which he has rendered to learning" Swete
“no patristic source is filled with more invective and distortion,” Ehrman
"Epiphanius' notorious inaptness in all matters requiring discrimination" Zahn
"Epiphanius' work is 'notoriously slovenly'" Fee
"completely uncritical arbitrariness in the utilization of previously known material" Schmidtke "usually regarded as the most unscrupulous of heresiologists, Epiphanius of Salamis piledrove his antiheretical message into the Panarion" Churton
"superficial, verbose, and often inaccurate" Haar
"want of critical acumen" Milligan
"the polemic that Epiphanius directed against those Christians he considered heretical, [is] recognized within scholarship as largely hyperbole if not outright fiction" Tite
"all the details of Epiphanius' descriptions are not to be taken seriously ; in his exposing polemic he exaggerates a good deal. In places he appears to give full rein to phantasy and to indulge in concupiscence." (Rudolph)

Of course this list will continue to expand as we receive no information.  Feel free to email me any suggests or links I have forgotten or corrections to the list above.

Email with comments or questions.

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