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Protevangelium of St. James


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#41 Brian Patrick Mitchell

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Posted 26 February 2010 - 09:49 PM

The Truth is not confined to any text—even those of the canon itself. This is doubly the case when we come to the witness of the Mother of God, of whom the Church has always been reticent to write too much in dogmatic terms, given the great and personal mystery of her person.


Father, this is where you really do seem to be struggling, on one hand to avoid scandalizing the faithful and on the other hand to allow that being faithful doesn't mean we have to swear that everything in the PJ actually happened just the way the PJ says. You say that the Church "always been reticent to write too much in dogmatic terms" about the Theotokos because of “the great and personal mystery of her person,” but our Lord is a much greater personal mystery, and yet all our dogma concerns Him. It is much more believable that the Church has not dogmatized much about the Theotokos because there is not much about the Theotokos that is essential to the Gospel. What is essential about the Theotokos is in the Gospel — all four of them. It is essential that we believe in the annunciation, the conception of Christ by the Holy Spirit, the virgin birth, the divinity of the Christ child, and the blessedness of the Virgin. Without these, the Gospel itself becomes incoherent. It is not essential that the Virgin's parents were named Joachim and Anna. We have no reason to question the names Joachim and Anna, but if their names were John and Jane, it would make no difference to our salvation. And so the Church has not dogmatized on the matter, though some of the faithful seem to have here.

But let us be clear about what is at issue here. No one has gainsaid the Church's liturgical use of the PJ, only our understanding of that use. Some have insisted here (1) that everything we say about the Theotokos in church must be understood in the most literal sense, (2) that nothing may be understood as metaphor or hyperbole, (3) that every detail of our worship of Mary is just as important as every detail of our worship of Christ, (4) that every word of every liturgy that has come down to us must be accepted without question and understood only in a certain way, and (5) that anyone who does not accept that certain way is anathema — yet the Church itself has never issued such an anathema. It has, as you say, anathematized those who deny the virginity of the Theotokos, but it has never anathematized those who deny that the Theotokos was raised in the temple from the ages of 3 to 12.

It is this claim — that the Theotokos was raised in the temple — that is the main reason the PJ is considered apocryphal, probably also the main reason the PJ was not sanctioned by the Church as apostolic, maybe also the reason it was condemned by Pope Gelasius. The claim is incredible. The temple had no living quarters, and the Jews had no tradition of temple virgins. It is even more incredible that the Jews would have allowed a young girl into the Holy of Holies, which only the high priest could enter, and only once a year (Heb 9:7). Not even the PJ makes that claim, but our liturgy of the Entry does. It's a nice image, and the angels would have rejoiced to see it. It’s a beautiful way of making the analogy between the temple and the Virgin, the new Holy of Holies. But everything we know about the people in Jerusalem at that time tells us it could not have happened. For it to have actually happened, the Jews of that time would have had to have been more pious, more faithful, more open to God than at any other time in their history. Yet just a generation later they were so wicked that they crucified Christ.

There is another way to understand the words of our worship. We need not insist on the absolute historicity of every song sung about the Virgin in church. When we do insist on it, we make an idol of our tradition and worship our way of worship instead of Truth, we turn the Gospel of Christ into an ideology that defies facts and logic and tolerates no dissent, and we lay "heavy burdens and grievous to be borne" on simple hearts seeking truth who read this thread and go away thinking that the Orthodox care more for the traditions of men than for the truth in their tradition.

In Christ, Dn. Patrick

Edited by Brian Patrick Mitchell, 26 February 2010 - 10:08 PM.


#42 M.C. Steenberg

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Posted 27 February 2010 - 12:37 AM

Dear Deacon Patrick,

Thank you for your reply. However, there are some serious problems and inconsistencies in what you are saying. I regret that I am about to walk out the door, and cannot respond at length for the moment (I shall try to do so soon); but to put it briefly, it simply isn't the case that 'What is essential about the Theotokos is in the Gospel — all four of them.' As I mentioned earlier, there are certain aspects to the Church's teaching on the Mother of God (for example, the fact that she remained ever virgin and all-pure, even after giving birth to Christ and until the end of her life) which are not explicit in the Gospels (hence the Protestant temptation to deny them), yet which the Church views as so central and critical to the faith that they have their own anthema in the service of the triumph of Orthodoxy - i.e., that those who deny them are decried as anathema.

There are also some rather substantial issues with what I view as a selectivity of influence and liturgical focus in your posts. Were there but one or two hymns that mentioned a teaching, you might be quite right to stress that not every facet of every hymn is literal. But, in for example the matter of the name of the Mother of God's parents which you called to mind, these are incorporated countless times into the petitions of litanies and of the saints in worship. Liturgically, there is no question or hesitation on this point; and the statement that 'if their names were John and Jane, it would make no difference to our salvation' is a type of argument that ultimately results in Protestant reductionism. The faith is not about what is simply 'essential', all else being surfeit and optional additions. It is about the full testimony and heritage of the truth.

This becomes far more pronounced, however, when we consider the festal cycle of the liturgical year and the feasts of both the Mother of God and Christ. Here there is simply no way to extract the teachings on the person of the Mother of God from the testimony borne of Christ's incarnation and the whole accounting of salvation - and again, these are events which do not simply come from the Gospel accounts.

INXC, Dcn Matthew

#43 Hieromonk Ambrose

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Posted 27 February 2010 - 10:12 AM

I thought that the term deuterocanonical was a Roman Catholic one.

I'm quite surprised to find it being used here. Am I right in thinking, then, that we are supposed to see several levels to the collection of books that make up the canon? I didn't expect this.


The Deuterocanonical books are the books of the Bible which Protestants would usually term Apocrypha. They include 17 books of the Greek Septuagint (some are not entire books but sections of books) and include books written in the intertestamental period between Malachi and Matthew.

To this day the Orthodox Church is uncertain as to whether these books should be included or excluded from the canon of the Bible.

Saint Philaret of Moscow, in his Long Catechism, says they are excluded.
http://www.pravoslav...of_Philaret.htm

St. Cyril of Jerusalem, St. Athanasius the Great, and St. John Damascene exclude them.

To this day Russians may hold one or the other opinion on their ex/inclusion and I have been told that it is the same for the Greeks.

Given that we are now 2 millennia down the track I doubt if the Church will (bother to) resolve this question before the Parousia.

(Personally? I count them as canonical books of the Old Testament.)

#44 Olga

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Posted 27 February 2010 - 03:18 PM

The matter being discussed here, however, is the place of the Protoevangelion of James in the Orthodox Church, not the canonicity or otherwise of the deuterocanonical books of the Old Testament. I am surprised to hear that the presence or otherwise in the scripture canon of the deuterocanonicals of the OT is still subject to debate, however it would be difficult to justify the exclusion of the Wisdom of Solomon, Daniel, and other books which are indeed read from in vigils and other services.

Even if the OT deuterocanonicals are "optional" (something I, too, disagree with), where does this leave the Protoevangelion? Can a document which underpins the hymnody of entire liturgical services, not to mention an abundance of Theotokia, as well as providing much of the imagery of icons of several feasts of the Mother of God, be regarded as dispensable, simply because it is not part of the canon of scripture? I await Fr Dcn Patrick's clarification of his assertion that "All parts of the Church's liturgical and iconographic deposit are not of equal value".

#45 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 27 February 2010 - 03:32 PM

our worship of Mary


We don't . . .

#46 Fr. Michael L.

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Posted 27 February 2010 - 03:41 PM

We don't . . .


Depends on what one means by worship.....

http://www.merriam-w...tionary/worship

Main Entry: 1wor·ship
Pronunciation: \ˈwər-shəp also ˈwȯr-\
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English worshipe worthiness, respect, reverence paid to a divine being, from Old English weorthscipe worthiness, respect, from weorth worthy, worth + -scipe -ship
Date: before 12th century
1 chiefly British : a person of importance —used as a title for various officials (as magistrates and some mayors)
2 : reverence offered a divine being or supernatural power; also : an act of expressing such reverence
3 : a form of religious practice with its creed and ritual
4 : extravagant respect or admiration for or devotion to an object of esteem <worship of the dollar>



#47 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 27 February 2010 - 05:26 PM

What is meant is a differentiation between "worship" and "veneration" or showing great respect.In "Olde English", "Your Worship" was a sign of great respect but it has rather fallen out of usage in the current vernacular. The word "worship" has taken on a specific meaning in modern usage to the point that it is useful to make a distinction when sharing with the heterodox who do not share our appreciation of the depth of history. Note that a couple of those definitions have a rather negative connotation and that is what we are trying to avoid.

Herman the "I like words" Pooh

#48 Evan

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Posted 27 February 2010 - 09:46 PM

To any and all who are knowledgable on the subject:

I have heard at least one prominent Orthodox clergyman assert that while the events described Protoevangelium may not actually have happened as a matter of historical fact, the theological point that the author sought to make was that the Theotokos, if not literally (she's probably have been stoned to death), mystically entered the Holy of Holies-- the contemplation of divine realities-- and that we are called to do likewise. Would this be a proper understanding?

In Christ,
Evan

#49 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 27 February 2010 - 10:19 PM

The distinction between 'worship', which is due to God alone, and 'veneration', which we pay to the Mother of God and other saints, is well established in English usage. It is muddying the waters to seek to blur this distinction. (See Metropolitan Kallistos, 'The Orthodox Church', New Edition, p. 257.) This is an elementary but important point in Orthodoxy of which all (especially those in major orders) ought to be aware.

#50 Ryan

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Posted 27 February 2010 - 10:39 PM

On the other hand, the word "worship" is still used in some English-language Orthodox texts as interchangeable with "venerate". For example, in the Jordanville Prayer Book, the troparion of the Sunday of Orthodoxy begins, "We worship Thine immaculate icon..."

#51 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 28 February 2010 - 12:16 AM

On the other hand, the word "worship" is still used in some English-language Orthodox texts as interchangeable with "venerate". For example, in the Jordanville Prayer Book, the troparion of the Sunday of Orthodoxy begins, "We worship Thine immaculate icon..."


The Greek is: Την αχραντον Εικονα σου προσκυνουμεν. The distinction remains clear; that some editions of texts do not reflect the shades of meaning of the Greek 'προσκυvεω' (which can mean to prostrate oneself before - as we do before icons, and also to worship as in the three-fold 'Δευτε προσκυνησωμεν') does not alter that. I would have thought that such understanding was common currency, and it is tedious to have to set it forth.

#52 Fr Michael Monos

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Posted 28 February 2010 - 02:38 AM

The festal celebrations of the Orthodox Church are the commemoration of historical events, not metaphors. Thus, in St. Gregory Palamas' 52nd sermon on her Entry, he says, Ὄθεν καὶ συνιδόντα τότε τὸν ἀρχιερέα τοῦ Θεοῦ, ὡς ἔοικεν ἡ παῖς ἔχει τὴν θεοειδῆ χάριν πάντας, ἔδει καὶ τῶν κρειττόνων ἢ κατὰ πάντας ἀξιῶσαι καὶ τοῖς τῶν ἁγίων ἁγίοις εἰσοικίσαι ταύτην..." This does not at all sound like a metaphor to me -- if it were, how are we to understand his preaching? And St. Gregory is not alone in this -- what of the other great Fathers who speak similarly? Were they simply duped or too primitive to apply the new critical models that allow us, in our supposed superiority, to say they were simply wrong?

#53 Hieromonk Ambrose

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Posted 28 February 2010 - 05:32 AM

We don't . . .


Here is something to knock the socks off everybody ~ the Worship of the Saints!!

Semantics come into it. Speakers of British English can still speak of the worship of the Saints without falling into the error of adoring them.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"Worship"?

Cached by The Wayback Machine at
http://web.archive.o....uk/worship.htm

#54 Hieromonk Ambrose

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Posted 28 February 2010 - 05:47 AM

The matter being discussed here, however, is the place of the Protoevangelion of James in the Orthodox Church, not the canonicity or otherwise of the deuterocanonical books of the Old Testament.[/I]


I must apologise. When I wrote my reply I had read only Page 1 where you are engaged in a discussion of the difference betwen deuterocanonical and apocryphal.

For interest, here is the most famous list of Saint Damasus of Rome, "Books to be Received and Not to be Received." He gives the canonical books of the Bible, followed by a quite exhaustive list of apocryphal works excluded from the Bible, among which is the Protoevangelion of Saint James

http://www.tertullia...ecretum_eng.htm

#55 Ryan

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Posted 28 February 2010 - 02:01 PM

The Greek is: Την αχραντον Εικονα σου προσκυνουμεν. The distinction remains clear; that some editions of texts do not reflect the shades of meaning of the Greek 'προσκυvεω' (which can mean to prostrate oneself before - as we do before icons, and also to worship as in the three-fold 'Δευτε προσκυνησωμεν') does not alter that. I would have thought that such understanding was common currency, and it is tedious to have to set it forth.


I think everyone here knows about the distinction in Greek; the question is whether it can be transferred so easily into English. The fact is, the English words "worship" and "venerate" do not neatly correspond with "latreia" and "proskuneo".

#56 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 28 February 2010 - 08:32 PM

I think everyone here knows about the distinction in Greek; the question is whether it can be transferred so easily into English. The fact is, the English words "worship" and "venerate" do not neatly correspond with "latreia" and "proskuneo".


Why not? Metropolitan Kallistos seems to think they correspond, and I can't see why they can't. Incidentally, the Slavonic word that corresponds with 'proskuneo' (in meaning both to worship and to prostrate)is 'poklanyaemsya' but there is no equivalent of 'venerate' (acording to my wife).

#57 M.C. Steenberg

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Posted 28 February 2010 - 11:11 PM

Dear all,

The question on the distinction between 'veneration' and 'worship' is interesting and of value; but it is not really the central focus of this thread - though it is indeed the focus of various threads in the forum that have considered it. Perhaps further discussion on that point can be moved to one of those in order to help keep the present thread on its topic of the Protoevangelion.

On which, members might also be interested to read a few of the thoughts found in the 'Gospel of James' thread from 2008.

INXC, Dcn Matthew

#58 Evan

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Posted 28 February 2010 - 11:59 PM

Father Deacon,

I am still struggling, after making my way through the thread you provided a link to, with how to approach this text. I have heard persuasive arguments made by one prominent Orthodox clergyman and another prominent Orthodox biblical scholar to the effect that the events in the Protevangelion are not historically plausible (indeed, according to the latter individual, so utterly implausible that they justify the dismissal of the text as a historical depiction of anything), not simply in a detail or two but in major aspects. The arguments largely depend upon assertions that nobody familiar with Jewish ritual practices could have made such mistakes as to imagine that the Jews had temple virgins or forced men to undergo the trial of the bitter herbs.

I understand your concerns about picking and choosing, but neither of the individuals I am referring to are "fringe thinkers." Full disclosure: They are Father Thomas Hopko and Presvytera Jeannie Constantineau.

Are they wrong to make such claims? Neither denies the theological value of the work, or its use in the liturgy. They do deny its historical accuracy.

In Christ,
Evan

#59 Grace Singh

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Posted 01 March 2010 - 12:34 AM

Depends on what one means by worship.....


it may be helpful to differentiate between veneration as simply "great respect for a person", and the ways in which veneration manifests itself in prayer and song.

for example, within Christiandom, is veneration also worship if it includes offering up hymns of praise or prayers to that person? and how is the differentiation made, aside from the obvious difference that the Saint is not God, or equated with God?

#60 Father David Moser

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Posted 01 March 2010 - 12:38 AM

I understand your concerns about picking and choosing, but neither of the individuals I am referring to are "fringe thinkers." Full disclosure: They are Father Thomas Hopko and Presvytera Jeannie Constantineau.


I am not familiar with the work of Mrs. Constantineau and therefore cannot comment on it. However, some of the published teachings of Fr Thomas Hopko concerning the Mother of God are problematic and run counter to the traditional teaching of the Church. While that does not invalidate his opinion, it does give me pause in considering that his opinion outweighs the historic opinion of the Church on these matters.

Fr David Moser




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