5 May 2017

Uncreated Light?

In the Matthaean account of the Lord's Baptism there is a delicious varia lectio in a couple of manuscripts of the Vetus Latina. After S John Baptist permits the Lord to be baptised, these mss add: and when he was baptised, a great light shone around from the water, so that all who had come there were fearful.

This reminds me of Pseudo-Hippolytus (PG 10, 862), "The one who with faith goes down into this washing of rebirth ... returns from Baptism brilliant as the Sun, shining rays of righteousness". (S Justin Martyr (Trypho 88:3) talks of the Fire entering the Jordan when the Lord was baptised.) After all, we all know that the baptised are Illuminati; and perhaps that word is not intended in the merely subjective sense of having his understanding enlightened. I draw your attention also to the passage of S Gregory Nazianzenus which the Liturgia Horarum offers for the Patristic Lection on the Feast of the Lord's Baptism.

As Old Testament students, we recall the Pillar of Fire passing through the waters of the Red Sea. And as liturgists, we remember standing by the font at the Easter Vigil and plunging the candle into the waters of Regeneration. Our typological mathematic is that 1+1+1=a whole lot more than 3.

I think we need often to remind ourselves of the importance of Typology in our theologising - a typology which embraces Old Testament, New Testament, and Liturgy.

And don't forget the question of what Scripture is. We all know the old arguments about "What is the Canon of Scripture?", at their fiercest when the 'Reformers', with their horrible legalism, wished to erect Scripture as a forensic engine for discerning true doctrine, and therefore needed to know what is Scripture*. But an awareness of the fluidity of the texts of the Scriptures has grown in the last century: the more early NT papyri we discover, the more we find a strange phenomenon. You might expect that, as we press earlier and earlier, backwards towards an 'authorial text', we might find that variants in the text get fewer. But we find the opposite is true (something similar could be said of the textual critcism of Homer). So scholars increasingly, and rightly, wonder if the concept of a stable monomorphic authorial text is in fact anything but a mirage in the desert. And when we turn to the Old Testament, mss from Qumran and elsewhere reveal to us the precarious status of the claim that the Masoretic text is in some sense normative for Christians.

So ... we know, for example, that the pericope de adultera is not part of the 'original text' of S John; manuscript evidence is here supported by stylometric and lexicographical evidence. "But that doesn't make it any less canonical" ... we say. But when we get down to details, things get murkier. If we are to select those readings in the Hebrew, Aranaic, and Greek texts which are supported by an authoritative Vulgate ... then Vulgate or neoVulgate? If Vulgate, then Sixtine or Clementine? There are differences. What about the Vetus Latina? What about the psalter reading "The Lord has reigned from the tree"? ... which left its mark, not least upon a hymn of Venantius Fortunatus.

Moi, I'm terribly liberal. I think that even that jolly little interpolation into Matthew with which I began this post is Part Of The Great Rich Wholeness Of Scripture. Like some Englit chappies, I believe that Reception is Part of the Text. I am set free to take this view by the fact that I am not, like the Prods and the Liberals, bogged down by some grim need to discern some sort of entrenched minimum which some magisterium (Calvin's or the CDF's) enforces and guarantees. I bob along in a warm, welcoming, and enriching sea called Tradition.

Which, of course, is the direct opposite of what the idiot who is now the Jesuit General does, with his curious, untraditional, and heterodox observations to the effect that we do not really know what Jesus said, and accordingly are at liberty to disregard his every word if this will suit the novel Bergoglianist agenda. ANATHEMA SIT!!


Josh Hood said...

There are interesting references to fire at Baptism in the Syriac tradition. The font of Baptism is sometimes referred to as a "furnace" (in addition to a womb). St. Ephrem has a hymn Christ as Light in Mary and the Jordan that plays on this imagery. The famous Rabbula Gospel has a miniature of Christ being baptized with a tall flame at the river's side: http://digitalcommons.acu.edu/ferguson_photos/2997/

E sapelion said...

Aplolgies Father if this is a red herring, but among the probable ipsissima verba of the Lord we have the sixth word from the cross Τετέλεσται . Do you know whether it is true as reported a couple of years ago, that there was no known literary example of this particular verb form until someone pointed out that it is commonly written on bills where we would overstamp them PAID.