Potamius of Lisbon references the heavenly witnesses in writing to Athanasius

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Steven Avery
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Potamius of Lisbon references the heavenly witnesses in writing to Athanasius

Post by Steven Avery »

Potamius of Lisbon, in the mid-4th century, involved in the Arian controversies, repeatedly referenced the heavenly witnesses verse. Potamius was writing of "the three are one", from the writings of John, in the direct context of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. (Recently discovered for our verse analysis, although first published in 1908.)

1 John 5:7 (AV)
For there are three that bear record in heaven,
the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost:
and these three are one.

We have four extant uses from Potamius:

Epistula ad Athanasium 1x
Epistula de substantia Patris et Filii et Spiritus sancti 3x

The English and Latin texts are at:

Pure Bible Forum
Potamius of Lisbon
https://purebibleforum.com/index.php?th ... #post-7287

With lots of background material on the page.

And there was correspondence between Athanasius and Potamius,in both directions. There is a work Disputatio contra Arium which has a strong allusion to the verse, where the speaker is said to be Athanasius.

These four references from Potamius should help eliminate any idea that the verse was not circulating in Bibles during the Arian controversies of the 4th century. Potamius was writing about 360 AD. Earlier emphasis had been placed on Priscillian at 385 AD. It seems like the scholars do not really think in terms of the transmission in the Latin Bibles as a whole. e.g. The evidence is compelling that the verse was used by Cyprian much earlier in his Unity of the Church. And those who over-emphasize Priscillian with the verse in their scholarly papers should be rewriting their sections.

Plus this is yet another Old Latin evidence (one of many), many predating the Vulgate. Cyprian, the six references in De Trinitate, and the Vulgate Prologue of Jerome and the hundreds of bishops at the Council of Carthage of 484 to Hunneric are all part of this robust Latin transmission.

With thanks to the new book The Witness of God is Greater, which brought forth the translations of the sections of the four quotes. And it is rather amazing that this has not been brought into the public heavenly witnesses research and study until 2021. e.g Nothing from Raymond Brown. And Grantley McDonald has only a bibliographic index to the Athanasius letter of Potamius and an en passant reference with no text, Latin or English, but a hand-wave dismissal.

This can also help explain why the verse was dodgy for various doctrinal viewpoints, including the Orthodox, and the writers might prefer to use the manuscripts with only the earthly witnesses.

Jerome described this dynamic of scribes preferring to drop the text in his Prologue to the Canonical Epistles.

Your contributory thoughts welcome!

In a subsequent post I hope to address the difference between invisible (hidden) allegory and explanatory allegory.

Steven Avery
Dutchess County, NY, USA
perseusomega9
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Re: Potamius of Lisbon references the heavenly witnesses in writing to Athanasius

Post by perseusomega9 »

“If an item does not appear in our records, it does not exist.”
-Jocasta Nu, Jedi Archivist, just prior to the Battle of Geonosis and the start of the Clone War.
andrewcriddle
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Re: Potamius of Lisbon references the heavenly witnesses in writing to Athanasius

Post by andrewcriddle »

This may be a trinitarian interpretation of 1 John 5:8
...the Spirit, the water, and the blood—and these three are one.


Andrew Criddle
Steven Avery
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Potamius of Lisbon references the heavenly witnesses in writing to Athana

Post by Steven Avery »

Hi Andrew,

For analysis, lets allow the theory that the Bible texts in 360 AD only had the earthly witnesses. (Classical ad hominem.) Despite many huge difficulties.

Then Potamius would look like a fool writing to Athanasius, or anyone, that John wrote “the three are one” about the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Beyond that, the theory of invisible (hidden) allegorizing is a special pleading theory of no substance. As far as I can tell, the theory was created to hand-wave powerful references to heavenly witnesses usage, like that of Cyprian in Unity of the Church.

The real usage of allegorizing is explanatory, like this:

“In John’s Epistle, water means the Father, spirit means the Word/Son, blood means the Holy Spirit, voila!, the Trinity”

Explanatory allegorizing.

Steven Avery
Dutchess County, NY USA
Steven Avery
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invisible allegorizing becomes the normative faux textual claim - example Cyprian!

Post by Steven Avery »

The theory of invisible allegorizing slipped in quietly in the heavenly witnesses debate.
And I have not seen it used in any other spot in Biblical studies.

The classic is Cyprian, 3rd century, The Unity of the Church (Trinity is not the topic.)

The Lord says, "I and the Father are one"
and again it is written of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,
"And these three are one."

This is a very difficult reference to fit in with modern theories. E.g. if it is acknowledged that Cyprian is speaking of the heavenly witnesses, all the theories of the verse being created in the Arian controversies of the 4th century go out the window. And all the emphasis on Priscillian being the first witness goes kaput. Once those knee-jerk argumentative props are gone, the honest searcher will begin to review the full-orbed evidence for authenticity. Tabula rasa time.

Scrivener was at least honest enough to say that it is "safer and more candid" to acknowledge that Cyprian is giving a reference to the heavenly witnesses. Walter Thiele offered a similar approach, that the verse was in Cyprian's Bible, and that it even came over from the Greek. Franz Pieper truly understood the significance, and his acceptance of the verse used Cyprian as the authenticity fulcrum.

By creating the monstrous fiction of the invisible allegory, the heavenly witnesses contras have stuck to their guns, without a care in the world about how absurd is their claim.

Once the fiction of invisible allegorizing had become normative in the often dull thinking textual criticism world, with lemming repetition, it could be applied in a dozen spots. Grantley McDonald in Raising the Ghost of Arius applied it to 13 evidences at once!

Thus invisible allegorizing is the normal hand-wave for Potamius. (Not emphasizing Andrew, who at least wrote in an equivocal, questioning fashion.)

Steven Avery
Dutchess County, NY USA
andrewcriddle
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Re: Potamius of Lisbon references the heavenly witnesses in writing to Athanasius

Post by andrewcriddle »

On reflection I still don't think that the passage in the Letter to Athanasius is a reference to the three heavenly witnesses passage. However I now think it likely that the passages in On the Substance of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. are allusions to the three heavenly witnesses passage.

One problem is the uncertainty whether on the Substance of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. is a genuine work of Potamius (see e.g. Hanson Search for the Christian Doctrine of God). In any case the work probably dates from the reign of Constantius and may be our earliest witness to the three heavenly witnesses passage.

Andrew Criddle
Last edited by andrewcriddle on Sun Jun 13, 2021 12:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Steven Avery
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Re: Potamius of Lisbon references the heavenly witnesses in writing to Athanasius

Post by Steven Avery »

Thank you Andrew for modifying your position. You tend to be more a thinker, and quite reasonable, unlike the textcrits :). I'll check out your reference. ADDED: p. 357, seeing how the "three are one" sections are similar, I will tend to go with Wilmart. Anyway, you end up around the same time, although it is always nice to have a known name behind a quote. Who else would have written Athanasius in that time and manner?

Due to the huge difficulties of the invisible allegorization and the interpolation theories, and grammar and harmony and style and internal considerations, I consider Tertullian and Cyprian the earliest clear witness. Franz Pieper is very good on the Cyprian usage.
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