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 (Quasten "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")
  3. was intimate with the worst sorts of people (Theophilus of Alexandria)
  4. probably lied about seeing Palladius in Jerusalem in a letter to Jerome (Butler)
  5. lacked critical care in citing scripture (Osburn)
  6. "one is tempted to characterize [the Panarion] as a compendium of largely inaccurate information" (Louth)
  7. lied about participating in an orgiastic Christian service (Ehrman)
  8. "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)
  9. invented supposed sexual 'ingathering' rites for the Simonians grafting this idea onto the original report of Irenaeus" (Gero
  10. 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)
  11. 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)
  12. "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)
  13. invented lurid details to add to Irenaeus's account of the Cainites (Ehrman)
  14. made up an early Christian heretical text the Greater Questions of Mary and various 'citations' of this work (Ehrman)
  15. 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)
  16. invented the story about Marcion's father being a bishop (May)
  17. invented the story about a decisive showdown between Marcion and the Roman clergy (HarnackMay)
  18. invented the story of Marcion being excommunicated for raping a virgin (Lardner)
  19. invented stories about 'Ebion' the fictitious founder of the Ebionites (Paget)
  20. lied about having in his possession the gospel of the Ebionites (Norton)
  21. grafts a historical/geographical connection between the Ebionites and Pella that was not originally present in the source material he borrowed from Eusebius (Luomanen)
  22. his portrait of Arius was 'unscrupulous fiction' (Stanley)
  23. wrote "fictitious biography of Mani (Williams)  
  24. "refers to a sect of Cerdonians, but such a sect probably never existed" (Deferrar)
  25. lied about the existence of a Christian sect called the Phibionites
  26. lied about the existence of a Christian sect called the Stratiotics (King)
  27. lied about the existence of a Christian sect called the Socratites (King)
  28. lied about the existence of a Christian sect called the Adamians (Lardner)
  29. lied about the existence of a Christian sect called the Nazarenes (Luomanen)
  30. lied about the existence of a Christian sect called the Kollyridians (Roeber)
  31. "invented a sect which called itself the 'Melchizedekians' and he attributed to this group some heterodox opinions about the patriarch" (Bickerman)
  32. "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)
  33. invented the name 'Alogoi' (Carrington, Lundhaug)
  34. invented the name 'Antidicomarians' (Lundhaug)
  35. misrepresented discovering a Samaritan sect of the Essenes (Isser)
  36. invented the name "Ossaeans" (Saebo, Case)
  37. misidentified the Samaritan heretic Dositheus as a Jew (Isser)
  38. develops new historical information about 'Ebion' the wholly fictitious founder of the Ebionites (Luomanen)
  39. probably lied about the existence of a Jewish Christian sect called the Nazoraei (Conybeare)
  40. probably lied about a Hebrew manuscript of Acts 
  41. made up the name Iessaioi, attributes it to Philo and thus linking the names 'Jesus' and the Essenes (Pritz, Case)
  42. misrepresented the contents and historical details surrounding the Creed of Seleucia (Williams)
  43. most unreliable of the three sources for reconstructing Marcion's canon (Clabeaux)
  44. unreliable information about the population of contemporary Palestine (Taylor)
  45. 'unusable' information about the founding of Aelia Capitolina (Gray)
  46. assigns John being banished to Patmos to the reign of Claudius (Robinson)
  47. assigns the Montanist female prophet to the first century (Marjanen)
  48. haphazardly transferred information about the Ebionites to Cerinthus (Skarsaune, Anchor Bible)
  49. haphazardly transferred information about the Gnostics to the Nicolatians (Rasimus)
"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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