Skip to comments.The oldest known Marian prayer is from Egypt
Posted on 04/29/2017 8:02:13 AM PDT by NYer
As we pray for the success of Pope Francis’ trip to Egypt this weekend, a perfect prayer to use is the oldest known Marian prayer, which in fact, traces back to the pope’s host country.
The oldest known Marian prayer is found on an ancient Egyptian papyrus dating from around the year 250. Today known in the Church as the Sub tuum praesidium, the prayer is believed to have been part of the Coptic Vespers liturgy during the Christmas season.
The original prayer was written in Greek and according to Roseanne Sullivan, “The prayer is addressed to Our Lady using the Greek word Θεοτόκος, which is an adjectival form of Θεοφόρος (Theotokos, or God-bearer) and is more properly translated as ‘she whose offspring is God.'” This helps to prove that the early Christians were already familiar with the word “Theotokos” well before the Third Ecumenical Council at Ephesus ratified its usage.
Below can be found the original Greek text from the papyrus, along with an English translation as listed on the New Liturgical Movement website:
|On the papyrus, we can read:
|And an English translation could be:
we take refuge,
Mother of God! Our
prayers, do not despise
but from the danger
More commonly the prayer is translated:
Beneath your compassion,
We take refuge, O Mother of God:
do not despise our petitions in time of trouble:
but rescue us from dangers,
only pure, only blessed one.
Several centuries later a Latin prayer was developed and is more widely known in the Roman Catholic Church:
Sub tuum praesidium
Sancta Dei Genetrix.
Nostras deprecationes ne despicias
in necessitatibus nostris,
sed a periculis cunctis
libera nos semper,
Virgo gloriosa et benedicta
We fly to Thy protection,
O Holy Mother of God;
Do not despise our petitions
in our necessities,
but deliver us always
from all dangers,
O Glorious and Blessed Virgin. Amen.
The prayer is currently part of the Byzantine, Roman and Ambrosian rites in the Catholic Church and is used specifically as a Marian antiphon after the conclusion of Compline outside of Lent (in the older form of the Roman breviary). It is also a common prayer that has stood the test of time and is a favorite of many Christians, and is the root of the popular devotional prayer, the Memorare.
The prayer also predates the Council of Ephesus 431, upholding the doctrine of Mary “Theotokos” God bearer or mother of God.
The article should have noted that there is no method by which to date this papyrus with exactness and certitude. Scholars’ estimates as to its age vary significantly.
No fair using facts here. Don’t point out Egypt was also into paganism either. OR the thought that Mary was never never referred to as “Mother of God” and that the Disciples would have dismissed that as blasphemy. Just don’t do it or you will be labeled a troublemaker.
Nice! I like the transliteration and translation of the papyrus fragment.
I think Kosloski errs when he say theotokos is an adjectival form of ... its not clear, theophoreo? Tokos comes from tikto and has to do with parturition. the Phoreo family of words .. which lingers through the Latin ferro and comes to us in words like transFER and reFERence... means to carry.
My own guess is that the confusion arises because in northern tongues “bear” (as a verb) means both to carry and to give birth ... and, I suppose, a “bairn” is a “born one”. So if WE say “God-bearer” there’s an equivocation that does not exist in Greek or Latin. We could mean God-carrier or God-birther.
Strictly speaking Deipara or Theotokos mean God birther.
Deigenetrix is more general, including both pregnancy and parturition.
In any case, the recognition of the hypostatic union and its early appearance in liturgy and devotion is wonderful to me.
So is this coffee!
Since the OP made this an Open Discussion Thread, I will add a comment also:
1. 200-300 is about when many of the pagan customs were incorporated into Catholicism.
2. No Jewish or Christian prayer is ever recorded in Scripture that addresses anyone but God.
3. No record of an Apostle or church leader before 100 AD ever praying to Mary or a departed saint.
4. No command to pray to a departed saint exists in Scripture.
5. No teaching in Scripture that a departed saint can hear a prayer from earth.
6. No evidence in Christian writings or secular writings or art can demonstrate any believer did this before 100 AD.
Good advice. I typically steer as clear of these threads as possible. There’s just no upside to getting involved unless you fully agree, as a rule.
In this case my curiosity trumped pragmatism. I’ve studied Greek, and while not a scholar, I did wondter how the papyrus was (purportedly) dated with such exactness.
Ten minutes’ research revealed that the leading papyrus scholars by no means agree on the age of this specimen. The usual dating method is to examine the style of the lettering, and use that to date the sample to within ~100 years.
In this case, the lettering is unique, so that method goes out the window. The most learned scholars then apply a variety of methods for a looser estimation of the date. This article chose the earliest possible of those estimates, and presented it as fact. Actually, it’s but the earliest date in a three-century range.
The oldest known Marian prayer—except for Luke 1:28. And Luke 1:42. Etc.
"When Elizabeth heard Marys greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?"
As for Egypt being "into paganism", Egypt was the center of one of the largest Jewish communities outside Israel, and Mark founded the church of Alexandria there.
And as [Jesus] was praying, the appearance of his countenance was altered, and his raiment became dazzling white. And behold, two men talked with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem.
Also, it really amuses me when a protestant is discounting something that happened AD200-300 because it’s so far removed from the time of the apostles. It’s only another 1250 years or so until the protestant churches arrived.
In a way, the Memorare is similar to it.
2. You seem to be interpreting "prayer" to exclusively mean "worship", which is a common source of misunderstanding between Catholics and Protestants. "Prayer" in general in older English and even current dictionary English means to entreat, to implore, from a root word for "to ask", i.e. to ask a favor. There are plenty of examples of prayers in this sense in both Jewish and Christian Scripture. For example, Paul frequently prays (in this sense) for his readers to pray for him. Examples include Romans 15:30-31, Colossians 4:3-4, and 2 Thessalonians 3:1.
3. See Revelation 5:8 and 8:3. And why are you arbitrarily choosing a 100 AD cutoff date when you're relying on writers from after that period for your manuscripts of Scripture and your information about what was going on before 100 AD? How do you explain the fact that Catholic Marian doctrine is already prevalent in 2nd-century Church Fathers with direct lineage from the Apostles such as Justin Martyr and Irenaeus?
4. No command, but again, there are requests and commands to pray for each other, and the practice of specifically praying to departed saints is referred to in Revelation and is universal throughout the early Church. Moreover, no prohibition to pray to a departed saint exists before the 16th century. This prohibition is one of several novel, un-Biblical, unprecedented doctrines to emerge from the radical wing of the Reformation.
5. In addition to Revelation: "He is not the God the dead, but the living." "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses. . ." And there is no teaching in Scripture that saints can't hear a prayer from earth.
6. See above, for starters.
Yes, the Memorare is more or less an extension of it.
Certainly not a prayer. Moses and Elijah appeared in person.
The Apostles did not pray or speak to Moses and Elijah.
In other words, has nothing to do with praying to departed saints.
2. You seem to be interpreting "prayer" to exclusively mean "worship", which is a common source of misunderstanding between Catholics and Protestants.
...No. I understand the difference. I didn't say anything about worship. Though that happens too.
3. See Revelation 5:8 and 8:3.
...Nothing there says anyone prayed to a saint.
And why are you arbitrarily choosing a 100 AD cutoff date
...Apostles were alive then. If it was Apostle's teaching, they would have taught it. Mind the gaps.
How do you explain the fact that Catholic Marian doctrine is already prevalent in 2nd-century Church Fathers with direct lineage from the Apostles such as Justin Martyr d Irenaeus?
...There is nothing about lineage that equates to truth. As said in my OP, by 200, (and in fact earlier, according to Scripture), heresy was infiltrating the Church. Syncretic Paganism accelerated under Rome.
4. No command, but again, there are requests and commands to pray for each other,
...Never in regards to departed saints or demigods.
and the practice of specifically praying to departed saints is referred to in Revelation
...This passage never says anyone ever prayed to a departed saint. Simply quote it and you will see.
and is universal throughout the early Church.
...It is not, unless you redefine what "early church" means.
Moreover, no prohibition to pray to a departed saint exists before the 16th century.
...This is (seemingly) the last bastion of those who flee truth. It is usually offered because the person has cherished idols they wish to preserve.
5. In addition to Revelation: "He is not the God the dead, but the living."
...Living in another existence does not equal being able to hear or communicate with you.
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses. . ."
...A reference to the whole chapter that tells the story of faith.
And there is no teaching in Scripture that saints can't hear a prayer from earth.
...The last bastion of those who flee truth is to make it up out of whole cloth or no cloth.
6. See above, for starters.
...Ended quickly, since you did not refute the observations in my OP. I do appreciate that you posted a discussion.
This is a serious question. Why do we get overrun with protestants in an obviously Catholic thread? I have yet to even look at a protestant/evangelical thread.
It gets old.
So, back to the question, why is something 200AD too late to matter when protestantism started 12-1300 years later?
When it’s not a Catholic caucus thread, non-Catholics are allowed to post.