Problems with Berchman’s translation of the fragments of Porphyry “Against the Christians”

I’ve been looking at Harnack’s edition of the fragments of Porphyry’s work against the Christians, and comparing bits of Berchman’s translation against it.  Berchman did not translate Harnack, but had his own ideas; nevertheless, we can connect the two.

Fragment 21, from Jerome’s prologue to his commentary on Galatians, reads:

Quod nequaquam intelligens Bataneotes et sceleratus ille Porphyrius in I. operis sui adversum nos libro Petrum a Paulo obiecit esse reprehensum, quod non recto pede incederet ad evangelizandum, volens et illi maculam erroris inurere et huic procacitatis et in commune ficti dogmatis accusare mendacium, dum inter se ecclesiarum principes discrepent.

which Berchman renders as:

Porphyry, completely ignorant and criminal, in the first volume of his work against us, says that Peter was reprimanded by Paul, that he did not go out immediately to evangelize. And thus he wanted to brand him with the blemish of error, the lie of impertinence, and of publicly fictitious teaching because between these princes of the church there were difficulties.

Now this didn’t look very good to me, not least because which bit renders “Bataneotes”.  Searching for this word, I discovered that the 19th century Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers translation had included this prologue, and renders this passage thus:

That wretch Porphyry Bataneotes [*] by no means understood this, and, therefore, in the first book of the work which he wrote against us, he raised the objection that Peter was rebuked by Paul for not walking uprightly as an evangelical teacher. His desire was to brand the former with error and the latter with impudence, and to bring against us as a body the charge of erroneous notions and false doctrine, on the ground that the leaders of the Churches are at variance among themselves.

[*] Probably from Batanea, the ancient Bashan, where Porphyry is said to have been born.


8 thoughts on “Problems with Berchman’s translation of the fragments of Porphyry “Against the Christians”

  1. Batanea is said to the location of most of the so-called “Ebionites” and related sects. The idea that Peter and Paul continued to hate one another is a typically Ebionite argument.

  2. Why misinformed? If “Batanean” was synonymous with “Ebionite”, it was a nice rhetorical slam to call him that.

    Heck, you see this today if some Protestant person advances Catholic arguments on some extremely anti-Catholic website; pretty soon, the guy is being a Papist or a Roman.

  3. Might be interesting to note that in Arabic “batini” means “esoterist”. There is an on-going debate aomng the people who follow the “outward” (zahir) of religion and those who seek an esoterical meaning in it (mainly the Shiites, in the case of Islam). Since Porphyry was often accused to be some sort of cryptic Origenist, this would be a very interesting proof that the word batini already existed in 4th c. Arabic as spoken in Palestine.

  4. T.D. Barnes (BICS ’94) mentions it as a parallel to everyone Latin who calls him “the Sicilian”–basically that he’s being associated with an intellectual backwater.

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