Sunday, July 01, 2007

Cyril and the Victorians

Reading McGuckin's article, "Cyril of Alexandria: Bishop and Pastor," in The Theology of St. Cyril of Alexandria (Weinandy & Keating, eds. New York: 2003), I came across a fascinating footnote. In the main text he says (pp. 207-208):

In sections of my historical study on Cyril, which for me were significant (though peripheral to the fundamental narrative), I tried to point out how Gibbon's Enlightenment agenda of villainizing Cyril (as a demonstration of how Christianity corrupted the Roman Empire), or the Victorian agenda which flayed him morally (as part of the attempt to dislocate Anglo-Catholic Alexandrian Christologies int eh cause of a newly ascendant Kenotic-Humanist Christology) were profoundly anachronistic approaches mounted by scholars with vested interests lying not too far below the page.


To which is appended the footnote (no. 9):

See McGuckin (1994). The irresponsible condemnation of Cyril's moral character is found especially in the romantic nonsense pedalled as history in Charles Kingsley's novel Hypatia. This latter cost Cyril his volume in the Victorian series of patristic translations into English, such as The Nicene and the Post-Nicene Fathers. C. Gore and H. M. Relton exemplify those who, while versed in early Christian doctrine , advocated a Kenotic-Humanist Christology. Cyril then was one of the victims of a sea-change transpiring in the face of Anglican Christology in the generation after the Oxford Movement and in the time of that church's increasing self-alignment with the continental Liberal Protestant agenda.


What rather startled me was the claim that Kingsley's Hypatia is the reason for Cyril's having no significant place in The Nicene and the Post-Nicene Fathers. McGuckin (1994), of course, is McGuckin's book, St. Cyril of Alexandria: The Christological Controversy: Its History, Theology, and Texts, generally considered the best modern study of Cyril and the spark that started a major renewal of interest in him. I don't recall anything about Hypatia in it, but it's literally been years since I've read it. I'll have to go back and see if McGuckin fills out this interesting charge there.

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