Severian of Gabala, “Homily on the Seals”

While surfing this evening I came across a reference to a Discourse on the Seals by our old friend Severian of Gabala, the bishop who preached with a pleasant Syrian burr and was a rival of John Chrysostom’s.  It was in an 1815 book  by Nathaniel Lardner, on p.620 of vol. 2 of his works, On the credibility of the Gospel history, chapter 119 of which is devoted to Severian.

In an oration concerning Seals, Severian expresses himself in this manner:

Let heretics often observe that saying, “In the beginning was the word.” Indeed, the three evangelists, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, when they began their preaching, did not immediately say what became Christ’s dignity, but what was suitable to their hearers’ capacity. Matthew, at the beginning of the gospels, says, “The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” Why does he not say, “the son of God?” Why does he, with such low expressions conceal his dignity?’

Having answered those queries, he also observes the beginnings of the gospels of St. Mark and St. Luke, and adds: 

‘All three, therefore, attended to his dispensation in the flesh; and, by his miracles, gradually instilled his dignity.’

He afterwards compares John to thunder, and says, he is terrible to heretics; whilst the other three evangelists only lightned. He likewise says, until John wrote, the best defence of the right faith, and the best weapons against heretics were wanting.

And, in his discourse on Seals, the beginning of the first epistle of John is expressly cited as John’s: and it may be reasonably supposed, that he likewise received the epistle of James.

From the CPG (vol. 2) I learn that CPG 4209 is De sigillis sermo (BHG 2351; PG 63, 531-544; Savile 5, 689-698).  I always wondered what that was.  It doesn’t sound too long, and might be quite interesting to have translated.  Something like 7 columns of Migne, at $20 each – $140? Hmmm.  I think I will just go and peek at Migne now.

It seems to be in six chapters.  The Latin translation was made for the Migne edition, the old one being too much of a paraphrase.  Severian attacks the extreme Arians in it.


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