Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sulpicius Severus, Life of St. Martin 18

Well, time for another installment of the St. Martin story. Here we find Martin dealing with rumours of war, demoniacs and lepers.


Meanwhile, a rumour about a barbarian disturbance and attack suddenly disturbed the city, Martin ordered a certain demon-possessed man to be shown to him. He ordered the man to confess whether he was truly the messenger (of this news). (2) Then, the man confessed there were ten demons in him, who spread this rumour among the people so that Martin, at least, would flee from the town and that nothing was less in the minds of the barbarians than an attack. In this way, when this unclean spirit confessed in the middle of the church, the city was freed from the present fear and disturbance.

(3) In Paris, while he was entering the gate of that city with a great crowd accompanying him, Martin, to the horror of all, kissed and blessed a leper who had a miserable face and immediately cleansed him from all evil. (4) On the next day, the leper came to the church with shining skin and gave thanks for the health he had received. Nor must we pass by the story that fibres drawn from his clothing and coverings often brought strength to the ill. (5) Bound on the fingers or laid on the neck, they often put the illness to flight from the sick.


This is a bit of a grab bag of miracle stories, but with some interesting elements.

In the first, we find a demoniac whose demons were not interested in a direct confrontation with Martin (we've had plenty stories which suggest that Martin (as helped by Jesus) was more than a match for them). It is interesting that they use a false rumour of a barbarian incursion to try to drive Martin off. It is interesting, first, because it suggests a degree of anxiety about barbarian incursions. We can't really be sure about the date for this incident, but presumably we're talking about the 370s-380s. Gaul, in this period, was relatively peaceful, but there were occasional difficulties. Presumably, this rumour played on these fears.

An interesting element to this is that the source of the rumour is discovered by Martin to have spiritual motivations. Was this Martin's way of discrediting the rumour? Perhaps. Was there a genuine spiritual encounter here? I'm not sure we'll know that. Still, it makes some tantalizing questions, as well as emphasizing Martin's prophetic powers.

In the second incident, we find a rather more straight-foward cleansing of a leper. Since Jesus' own ministry, this kind of cleansing is something a mainstay in the Church's arsenal of miracles. The example of Jesus in his many leper healings is clearly paramount here and the return of the leper to thank God in Martin's prescence is meant to evoke that.

It is interesting also that Martin's very clothing has miraculous powers. This, of course, recalls Jesus and the woman who touched the hem of Jesus' clothing and was cured of chronic bleeding (Matthew, 9,20-22; Mark 5,25; Luke, 8, 43-48). Of course, strictly speaking, it isn't Jesus' clothing that has the power, so much as Jesus' power radiating out from the clothing. A closer paralel might be comment in acts in which handkerchiefs and aprons touched by St. Paul was cured the sick in Ephesus (Acts, 19,12). Here Sulpicius is doing one better because it is no longer necessary to have the whole garment, just the tiniest fragment.


Saturday, February 16, 2008

Two Years at hyperekperissou

On Tuesday last, hyperekperissou reached its two year mark. So, to honour that anniversary and because this blog (not to mention my own life) has changed substantially over the last couple of years, I thought a reprised introduction is in order. The first introduction is here.

Who am I?

Well, let's start with the family. I was born in Toronto, Ontario, but spent most of my childhood/youth in London, Ontario. I went to a fairly academic high school, got into university and enjoyed it so much that I spent 15 years in one university or the other. Four completed degrees later (I did start a PhD., but didn't finish), I found my vocation as a a high school teacher of Latin and Classical Studies (of all things!). If you'd told me even ten years ago that that would be what I would do with my life, I would have laughed in your face. But here we are.

I'm married to Elin and we have a 14 month old son, Ian. My wife and I met while living at Wycliffe College, University of Toronto. I was working on my PhD in Classics. My wife was working on an MA in Theology. We married in 2001.

My interests include, of course, patristics, Classics, Latin and Greek linguistics, Byzantine history, cooking, movies and spending time with my family. Yes, I'm a geek. I'm proud and not tired (sorry, Arlo Guthrie reference).

Why hyperekperissou?

I quote my original introduction:

This is a sneaky reference to Ephesians 3, 21 and used commonly as a doxology at the end of the Eucharist: "Glory to God whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine..." (Book of Alternative Services=BAS). The bits in italics are the part which express hyperekperissou (hard working word, isn't it?). I wanted it as a title partly because it is an expression of God's abounding grace offered to the world through Jesus Christ, but also because this verse has always had special meaning to my wife and me because we have both seen it in our own lives. In fact, we saw it as so important that we inscribed it on our wedding bands.

I should also add that, embarrassingly, I wrongly transcribed hyperekperissou as my URL and now I'm afraid to change it because it would screw up people's links to this blog. Now that that admission has been made, let's move on.

The Evolution of hyperekperissou

I have to admit that I had no idea what kind of blog I was intending to do when I started. I'm not sure anybody who starts blogging ever really does. If he/she does, that certainly changes very quickly. My blogging experience, however, seemed to be a natural outgrowth of my contributions to various discussion boards on the net, so I thought it made sense to give myself a venue in which to write reflections on faith, theology and the Anglican Church.

What I found was that I was writing an inordinate amount on the Anglican Church morass. Now, don't get me wrong. There is a flourishing Anglican blogsphere with some fine writers on both sides. Yet, despite donning my asbestos underwear, I discovered that I had very little stomach to be a polemicist and as reasoned dialogue seemed (and seems) impossible, I chose not to devote my time and energy to those issues. At least, on this blog.

That was around June, 2006. Around that time, I stumbled across Mike Aquilina's The Way of the Fathers blog and discovered a whole new (and not particularly populated) part of blogsphere- patristiblogging. This fit with my major intellectual interest, patristics, and I felt that it gave me more opportunities to make positive contributions to people's lives. I honestly think that the Fathers should be read more, not as a kind of intellectual fetish, but as a way to understand how we Christians came to make the decisions about such things as the canon, the Trinity, etc., which characterize orthodox Christianity. If this blog offers a glimmer of light on how that process worked, then it has served its purpose.

That is why I've given so much attention to Patristic Carnivals (which started in December 2006) and book reviews. I'm encouraged, incidentally, by the reception of the Patristic Carnival and by the increase of patristic entries out there. I honestly think this is the greatest contribution I've made in the last two years.

Whither hyperekperissou?

So, the only question remaining is where I am I going in the future with the blog. I think the patristics emphasis stays, but here is where I expect to go.

1. Patristics Carnivals will continue, but I think the time has come to build a permanent page for the rules/regulations. This is a priority on the to-do list, but life and family are first priority, so it may be a while.

2. I'm still looking for hosts for the Patristics Carnival. I think it would be good on several fronts to take myself out of always doing the Patristics Carnival. If you are interested in hosting, let me know. I really do intend to start e-mailing people to solicit aid soon, but busyness has prevented me in the last few months.

3. Keeping up the book reviews as much as I can. Given a limited book buying budget, I do have to rely on the University of Toronto library system, so it takes me awhile to get to things. If you think I should be reviewing something, drop me a line!

3. I think I need to get back to reflections which were a feature in the early months. These reflections could be inspired by patristic texts, but need not be. I think a more personal touch would be nice from time to time on this blog (thus this introduction).

4. Any other suggestions?


I would be remiss if I ended this entry without thanking my readers and supporters for their encouragement over the years. Particularly, I want to thank:

My wife for putting up with my weekly blog time and for her suggestions on individual blog entries.

Jim, my first and constant reader, for his encouragement, even when I shifted away from his areas of expertise. Jim and I have been arguing about various things for years, so I'm happy to have transferred our discussions to this venue as well.

Mike and Kevin for their advice in the early days of my shift to patristiblogging.

Tim, Danny and everyone with whom I discuss, debate and dispute. Thanks for keeping our discussions productive and civil.


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Evangelicals and the Early Church

I don't normally cite articles outside the Carnival, but I think this particular article, posted by Don Bryant at From My Heart, Out of My Mind deserves reading for those who are trying to puzzle out the evangelical move to the Fathers. Whether your are an evangelical or a curious Catholic or Eastern Orthodox, this is well worth reading.


Monday, February 11, 2008

Book Review: Bryan M. Litfin, Getting to Know the Church Fathers. An Evangelical Introduction.

In what seems an ongoing series, I decided to hunt down the newest entry in Protestant introductions to the Church Fathers: Bryan Litfin`s Getting to know the Church Fathers from Brazos Press. I was particularly intrigued by this volume because of the reviews I found in blogsphere during the November Patristics Carnival.

The starting point with this book, I think, is to consider where it is coming from. It is part of the evangelical resurgence in interest about the Church Fathers. This movement is a source of perplexity among many Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox readers, I recognize, because, except for some notable converts, most of these writers remain evangelical and Protestant, while emphasizing the importance of both the Fathers and catholicity in their theology. This perplexity is understandible, of course, because of the aversion that many Protestants, especially those of the free church persuasion (Baptists, Mennonites, non-denominations evangelicals of all varieties), have to reading anything earlier than the Reformers (and, even then, one has to be careful of the magisterial ones). Never mind, that the early Reformers were as ready to scrape about the Fathers and the early Church as any Roman Catholic. Never mind that Protestantism remains very Augustinian in its theology, even if in a different way that Roman Catholics (this being something which drives Eastern Orthodox writers to despair).

I think the important way to review this Protestant patristic revival is that it is often intended as a way to deal with the shortcomings of the free church tradition. Most notably, the Fathers are frequently employed as a prophelactic against hte Protestant disease: splitting at the drop of a hat. Unfortunately, when the first Reformers split from the Roman Catholic Church, they opened up a new precedent in allowing for the possibility of having to leave a church with which one disagrees. This has lead to a steady fragmentation of Protestantism; a fragmentation which has only accelerated in the last century. What bringing in the Fathers does is to inject a dose of catholic ecclesiology which, it is hoped, may well get people to stick with their churches and work their problems out, rather than splitting off in a huff. As an Anglican catholic, I can only applaud that approach.

Litfin's volume fits into this revival, but in a peculiar place. One of the features of many of the introdutions I've read (D.H. William's Retrieving Tradition or Christopher Hall's Reading Scripture With the Church Fathers (and its companion volume, Learning Theology with the Church Fathers) is that these volumes are intended for educated laymen, pastors and theologians. Litfin's audience, I think, is broader. As my wife suggested (without disrespect, I note), Litfin is trying for more of a "Dummies Guide to the Fathers" approach. This means an accessible and sometimes folksy writing style (which masks good content, I note) and an assumption that the audience doesn't know anything. This makes it a splendid introductory volume for the evangelical layman to the Fathers.

Litfin structures his book on the biographies of ten Fathers (well, nine Fathers, one Mother): Ignatius of Antioch, Justin Martyr, Ireneaeus of Lyons, Tertullian, Perpetua, Origen, Athanasius, John Chrysosthom, Augustine and Cyril of Alexandria. He gives a biography and a discussion of their theology in light of their contribution. He ends each section with a passage from each author and reflections questions. This is, clearly, a book meant to be studied in church book studies and with a Bible close at hand.

Litfin's introduction deals with the perennial issue of why Protestants should want to read the Fathers: the Fathers aren't Biblical, they are Roman Catholics, they represent the fall of Christianity. He also deals with whether they are relevant. All of these, of course, are the perennial issues for Protestants (and, to a lesser degree, Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox), but Litfin deals with them well. He does have a tendency to over-defend the Fathers, especially on the issue of allegory and Constantinianism. But, then, I'm not exactly know for my sympathy to either patristic theme.

Still, this is an excellent introduction to the Fathers and deserves to be taken seriously. If you are looking for a book to introduce the Fathers in an evangelical setting, this one is an excellent choice.


Thursday, February 07, 2008

Announcing Patristics Carnival IX

This month's Carnival will be hosted by Tim Trautman over at God Fearin' Forum.

The guidelines remains the same as Modest Proposal entry back in November, 2006 and my additions in August, 2007.

The last day of submission will be February 29th and the postings will be up later by the week of March 3rd. .

Remember you can offer submissions on the carnival site or the dedicated e-mail (

Feb. 11th Revision: It seems I can't count. This IS Patristics Carnival IX!


Saturday, February 02, 2008

Patristics Carnival VIII- January, 2008

February 11th edit: This is actually Patristics Carnival Eight, so I've corrected the header and a spelling error or two.

Welcome to the eighth incarnation of the Patristic Carnival. It has been rather a busy month, so I hope you enjoy the offerings.

New Attractions:

Two excellent new blogs have emerged in the patristiblogging section of blogsphere. Ora et labora, an Eastern Orthodox newcomer, and Archaic Christianity by Eric Sowell. Welcome aboard!

Front Gate: Introductions to the Fathers offers a new entry on the Church Fathers. It is brief, but accurate.

rtjones on the Communal Feast blog puts a plug in for patristics.

The Midway: Articles on the Fathers

Mike Aquilina on The Way of the Fathers blog discusses how the Fathers would view our attitude to the unborn today and posts a translation of Pope Benedict's audience on St. Augustine.

sean on The Higher Ground blog features a discussion about the evolution of the Creeds. I'm not entirely sure where they're going with it, but they're not necessarily fans of the Trinitarian understanding of orthodox Christianity.

Steve on Triablogue discusses the (legendary) Alexandrian (Old Testament) canon, as part of an ongoing discussion on the topic.

Wyman Richardson on the Walking Together blog features summaries of patristic works including the letter of St. Clement to the Corinthians, St. Ignatius' letters to the Philippians, Ephesians, Magnesians, Trailians, the Romans, the Martyrdom of Polycarp, The Rodeo: Patristic catenae and the Letter to Diognetus. Whew, that is a lot of summarizing! These summaries are written from an evangelial (Baptist) point of view and are excellent work!

Eric Sowell on the Archaic Christianity blog reflects St. Ignatius' Letter to the Ephesians in three parts (one, two, three)

New patristiblogger, Felix Culpa, on the Ora et Labora blog has a good start with several patristic posts including a summary of the seven ecumenical councils a very clear and detailed introduction to patristic exegesis, translation tips for the prayer of Ephrem and considers contemplation and balance in light of Sts. Athanasius and Cyril.

Ian on the Ruminations by the Lake blog posts his thesis proposal on Augustine's letter to Sixtus and the monks at Hadramentum.

Benedict Seraphim on the This Is Life!: Revolutions Around the Cruciform Axis blog reflects on St. Gregory Palamas' Dialogue VI. Added Feb. 5: It seems I messed up this reference and mis-attributed this entry to St. Gregory the Great (who, also, I think, had Dialogues.

Derek on the star light blog discusses St. Maximus' treatment of the hardening of the Pharoah's heart in Exodus.
Rob Bradshaw on the blog posts a series of PDF scholarly articles on the
soteriology in Alexandria, Clement Ignatius and Hermas, Victorinus on Revelation, the canon of Scripture, signs and wonders in the early catholic church, St. Augustine and creation, St. Augustine, Origen and allegory, patristic views of Hell, a PhD. thesis on patristic eschatology and a book on Tertullian by Gerald Bray now online.

Weekend Fisher on the Heart, Mind, Soul and Strength blog reflects on the series of books trying to emphasize the pagan origin of Christianity.

Philip Harland on the Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean blog had an excellent two articles on Marcion dealing with ethnographic stereotypes of Marcion and Marcion's concept of God.

Roger Pearse on the Thoughts on Antiquity blog muses over his project of translating Eusebius of Caesarea and the difficulty of knowing when scholarly brands have been applied.

Added Feb 5: Danny Garland from the Irish-Catholic and Dangerous blog had a paper on the Church Fathers' Marian interpretation of the Old Testament. Congrats on the publication, Danny!

Exhibition Place: Biographies of the Fathers

The Friar on the Reason and Revelation blog features an excellent biography of St. Gregory of Nazianzus. and St. Cyril and Athanasius.

The Marketplace: Book Reviews

reformedreader on The Reformed Reader offers a few reflections on St. Cyril's commentary on John.

Ben Arbour on the Believing Jesus blog features a book review of Christopher Hall's Reading Scripture through the Church Fathers (which was a tremendously influential book for me, since it had started me off in the wonderful world of patristics.)

Matthew Burgess on the Confessions of Biblical Junkie blog passes on an announcement from Fortress about a new collection of essays on St. Justin Martyr.

On this blog, I review D.H. William's Evangelicals and Tradition.

The Foreign Exchange Tent: Translations

On this blog, I continue my translation series on Sulpicius Severus' Life of St. Martin 17.

The Apocryphal Aisle: Christian Apocrypha

April DeConick on The Forbidden Gospel blog features a series of responses to Marvin Meyer on the Thirteenth Daimon in the Gospel of Judas (one, two, three, four,, four.two, five, six, seven)

I hope you enjoy these entries! Keep an eye out for Patristics Carnival IX at a to-be-announced location.