Ass and Name
Zola and Zoilus
A few Neos
What's in a Nem?
Pleo III-Two More Pleons
Achron.. and Acroam..
Per IV--Perpotation et al.
Per and Pre--Prevenient
Perpense and Perpend
Epi I--Epiplexis, et al.
The Doric Column
Epi III--Episemon et al.
Finally, Some Light
So, I picked up Lampe's Patristic Greek Lexicon, read the definition and then, immediately felt a little bit like a fool. You have had the experience. You see something that you just don't understand. Then, when the veil is lifted you say to yourself, how could I have been so dense not to have seen it? It is like the feeling I had at the National Senior Spelling Bee (where I placed 2nd) after I misspelled "Mobius." I spelled it Moebius, because I was trying to render the German umlaut into English as I spelled the word. I felt so ashamed of myself. But, back to passalorynchite.
Here is how the entry reads. Passalorynchite (of course, the letters are in Greek), "in explanation of name of sect of Tascodrougians, who prayed with forefinger to nose.....[and then follows a long Greek quotation]." Ok. Then my eye fell on who was being quoted. It was Epiphanius. Immediately I thought, "Ephiphanius. OF COURSE IT IS EPIPHANIUS! Who else could it be but the fourth century heresiologist, the Bishop of Salamis, the one whose Panarion listed 80 prominent "heresies" against which he warned his fellow Christians?" I was tempted to add, like Maxwell Smart, "That's the second time I was fooled by Epiphanius this month."
The Joy of Epiphanius
I would venture to say that if you did an Internet search for the words "joy" and "Epiphanius" in the same sentence, you would come back with a "no results" answer. Yet, even before I translated the Greek I felt overjoyed. Just a word about him. He lived from about 320-400, and so came of age in the post-Nicene world, when Christianity chose to fight out within itself what the full expression of orthodoxy would be. Ephiphanius was a leading character in the anti-Origenist movement (Origen was a learned 3rd century Alexandrian) and in the attempt to enforce a strict Nicene orthodoxy.
When I was in graduate school in the late 1970s, his major work (Panarion means "medicine chest;" that is, his work is a veritable list of cures for the venomous bites of all kinds of heresy), which stretches to 1500 pages in the three-volume edition done in the early part of the 20th century, had never been translated into any modern language. Though Ephiphanius' Greek is often straightforward, some of it is obscure in the extreme, thus discouraging any but the most intrepid from reading him. But, lo and behold, in the late 1980s and mid 1990s a professor from UTEP had done an English translation of the Panarion. It was almost too good to be true. I discovered that one library had the translation in my state, and I quickly ordered it. Here is what I found.
In discussing the 48th heresy, a Phrygian phenomenon called Montanism, Ephiphanius has occasion to mention a group of people called the Tascodrugians (they don't appear in any internet search). The passage at issue runs as follows:
"Their word for 'peg' (the Greek work is passalos--of course, that is the word root, not pas) is 'tascus,' and 'drungus' is their word for 'nostril' or 'snout' (the Greek word is rynkos). And since they put their licking finger, as we call it, on their nostril when they pray, for dejection, if you please, and would-be righteousness, some people have given them the name of Tascodrugians, or 'nose-pickers.'" Ephiphanius, Panarion, 48.14.4.
The editor's note here is helpful. Filastrius of Brescia (d. 397) also wrote a book against heresies shortly after Ephiphanius and appeared to refer to this group as the "Passalorynchitae." To illustrate the state of heresiology in the fourth century, however, he distinguished the passalorynchites from the tascodrugians. Neither he nor Ephiphanius, obviously, had seen a real live passalorynchite. The one other reference to them that I could find is in the 7th century heresiologist Timotheus Constantinopolitanus Presbyter, who referred to the group Epiphanius described as passalorynchites. Of course, he too was fully dependent on the earlier sources for his conclusion.
Making Sense of it All
Epiphanius does not have first-hand data about the group. All he knows is somewhere in Asia Minor, living among a very prominent group, the Montanists, are some people that when they pray they seem to touch the nose with their "licking finger," i.e., their forefinger. Their finger, I suppose is the "peg," (passalos) which touches the "snout" (rygnos). There is another word for nose that is less offensive (mukter) that I will write about on another occasion. No doubt if the group touched the nose when praying, it was a sign of reverence to God, perhaps some kind of sign of consecration of the entire self to God, perhaps trying to imitate an action of Christ when he was pensively deciding what to do on occasion.
But, being a heresiologist, who wanted to find opponents lurking everyplace, Epiphanius transferred the location of the finger on the nose from outside the nose in reverence to inside the nose as if they were picking their noses as they prayed. We see that negative campaigns didn't start with Bush-Kerry. Hm. Maybe the passalorynchites even "flip-flopped," sometimes praying with finger inside and sometimes outside the nose! In any case, they are mentioned only to be dismissed by Epiphanius.
Though I feel good about my historical research and, in the politico-speak of the 21st century, I will "stand by my story," I am confused. How could the online dictionaries get the definition they did, of a monastic group taking an vow of silence in the early Church? Maybe there is a source that I just have not found. But, for now, I will stay with the passalorynchites as Ephiphanius and Filastrius describe them. Not much. But, at least one mystery, which almost no one knew was a mystery, is solved. But until I know where they got their definition, I must live in confusion. Ah, and I thought pelagic was bad!
Copyright © 2004-2010 William R. Long