May 12, 2012

St. Epiphanios of Salamis' Preface to the "Panarion"

Preface to the Panarion

By St. Epiphanios of Salamis

Greetings in the Lord from Epiphanios to his highly esteemed brothers and fellow presbyters, Masters Acacius and Paul!

By drawing up a preface, or set of remarks, as a sort of title, ancient authors would give a glimpse of the whole work following through their riddle. Hence, beloved, since I am the same sort, I am writing you a preface to give the gist of my treatise against sects. Since I shall be telling you the names of the sects and exposing their unlawful deeds like poisons and toxic substances, matching the antidotes with them at the same time - cures for those who are already bitten, and preventatives for those who will have this experience - I am drafting this Preface here for the scholarly, to explain the "Panarion", or chest of remedies for the victims of wild beasts' bites. It is a work in three volumes and contains eighty sects which stand symbolically for wild animals or snakes.

But "one after the eighty" is at once the foundation of the truth, the teaching and the saving treatment of it, and Christ's "holy bride", the Church. The Church has always been, but was revealed in due course by Christ's incarnation, during the period of these sects. I mention it in connection with the preaching of Christ. And again, after all the iniquities of these sects, I give a concise, clear account of it in accordance with the apostles' teaching, to refresh those who have read through all the laborious work on the sects.

Please, all you scholarly readers of the Preface, the Sects that follow it, and the Defense of the Truth, Exposition of the Truth, and Faith of the Holy Catholic Church, I am only human, and am trying my best to defend true religion, with hard work and zeal from God. I beg your pardon if I attempt too much in my desire to make the best defense I can in the all-holy, all-august Name itself. For God allows me this, though I am investigating matters too difficult for me, since my discussion is for truth's sake, and my work is for the sake of piety.

And further, if you should find - it is surely not my way to mock people or make fun of them. But please pardon me if, from anger over the sects and for the reader's protection, I should speak under provocation, or call certain persons "frauds", or "scum" or "pathetic". It is the very necessity for the words of the debate that puts me in such a sweat - to protect the reader and show that their practices, mysteries and teachings are the furthest thing from my mind. Also to prove my independence of them by those words and the intensity of my opposition, and wean some people away from them, precisely by the words that appear too harsh.