Hyginus - forged Decretal ascribed to Isiadore Mercator - heavenly witnesses motive?

Steven Avery

Afawk, the Hyginus Decretals were forged and thus they represent a text of a later time, e.g. 9th century rather than 2nd in the case of Hyginus.

Pope Hyginus


the search for the sources of the Pseudo-Isidore's excerpts (begun by David Blondel, 1628; continued by Hermann Knust, 1832, and Paul Hinschius, 1863; an additional source disclosed by the publication of the Irish collection of canons in 1874)
Nicholas of Cusa (1401–1464), also referred to as Nicholas of Kues and Nicolaus Cusanus
Also noted for the question of Florence and Latinization
"during the fifteenth century, when humanist Latin scholars such as Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa noticed bizarre anachronisms (such as the claim that Clement I had based the preeminence of local churches on the presence of pagan high priests)." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pseudo-Isidore

Magdeburg Centuries - Centuriators of Magdeburg.
(Wiki does not mention that they helped expose Decretals)
"Blondell and the divines of Magdeburg demonstrate that all these were forged in the sixth, seventh, or following centuries."

David Blondel (1591-1655)

Paul Hinschius (1835-1898)

Decretales --- et Capitula Angilramni (1863) - there are 5-10 spots relating to the verse
Paul Hinschius


We plan to build here on the issues involving the Decretals, and the heavenly witnesses debate.
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Steven Avery

What is curious is a new claim from Grantley McDonald (emphasis added). This is a brand new theory, that the purpose of the Decretals was to help the utility of the Heavenly Witnesses.

Also Grantley tries to take the known historical taint on the Decretals and place it over the Vulgate Prologue, which has extremely strong defense of authenticity.

RGA p. 54-56
Yet it also seems that the apparent utility of the comma in fighting heresy and its increasingly frequent occurrence in Latin bibles led some to forge documents to bolster its claim to authenticity. ...the prologue to the Catholic Epistles... ascribed to Jerome ... Another document forged to prove the authenticity of the comma is a decretal ascribed to Pope Hyginus (c. 138-140), which appears in the collection put together at Metz in the mid-ninth century by a group of scholars known as “Isidorus Mercator.” Another of the forged decretals in the collection is the famous Donation of Constantine, exposed by Lorenzo Valla, which also contains an allusion to the comma, with two credal phrases tacked on the end (pater deus, filius deus, et spiritus sanctus deus, et tres in unum sunt in Iesu Christo Iesu [in Christo Iesu D], tres itaque formæ sed una potestas).81 It seems that the relevant passage in the decretal of ps.-Hyginus is based on one of two other pseudonymous writings: ps.-Athanasius’ Against Varimadus, or a letter claiming to have been addressed by Pope John II to bishop Valerius, but in fact cobbled together from materials taken from Against Varimadus.82

The difficulty here is huge. The Latin line heavily supports the heavenly witnesses verse, and there is no known claim that the verse was not authentic.

The idea that the motive, or a major motive, for these Decretals was to bolster the authenticity of the heavenly witnesses is forced and strained. The context seems to be the giving of collaborative support for that difficult forgery claim against the Vulgate Prologue. (Which we discuss on another thread.) By connecting the Vulgate Prologue with the Decretals, it can be pretended that they have similar scholarship of forgery and non-authenticity, without, in fact, going into the history of the Vulgate Prologue claim.

Also difficult is ascribing a ninth-century motive of "apparent utility of the comma in fighting heresy", since the major Arian controveries were centuries past.

This motive claim is not in Biblical Criticism, so perhaps the problematic nature of the claim was recognized. Perhaps, inclusion in an errata sheet for RGA would be appropriate.


RGA p. 146-147
Lucas notes that it occurs in many Latin manuscripts, in the Complutensian edition, and is also defended by the prologue to the Catholic Epistles by “Jerome” and the letter by “pope Hyginus,” clearly unaware that both these documents are forgeries. Lucas followed a similar line in his printed comments (1603) on the official Roman text of the Vulgate as promulgated in the 1590 Editio Sixtina and its revision, the 1592 Editio Clementina, both of which contain the comma.180

180 Lucas Brugensis, 1580, 462; Lucas Brugensis, 1603, 361; Bludau, 1903a, 289-291.


BCEME - p. 82-83
In defence of the authenticity of the comma, Lucas noted that it occurs in many Latin manuscripts, in the Complutensian edition, and is also defended by the prologue to the Catholic Epistles by ‘Jerome’ and the letter by ‘pope Hyginus’. (Lucas was evidently unaware that both documents are forgeries. The latter was a forgery based on pseudo-Athanasius’ Against Varimadus, which first appears in a collection of ninth-century attributed to the fictional ‘Isidorus Mercator’.)50

50 Pseudo-Hyginus, De fide et reliquis causis, included in Isidort Mercatoris collectio decretalium, PL 130:109; Theile 1956-i969, 365.

The grammar is awkward. It is not Against Varimadus that first appears in the ninth century, but the Hyginus writing.

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Steven Avery

BCEME - p. 82
Hessels listed a number of Latin writers who cited the passage, such as pseudo-Hyginus, the author of Against Varimadus, Fulgentius, and

p. 83
The Dominican Sixtus Senensis (1520–1569) quoted the letter attributed to Pope Hyginus as evidence that the comma was an original part of the text of Scripture, both in Greek and in Latin. He concluded triumphantly that this gave the lie to those who denied the originality of the passage, such as the Anabaptists and the followers of Servet.53

53 Senensis 1566, 972; cf. Bludau 1903a, 404–405.

p. 84
Bellarmino pointed out that the comma was also cited by Hyginus, Cyprian, Ithacius, Athanasius, Fulgentius and Eugenius of Carthage.(Unfortunately for Bellarmino, some of these sources provide no clear reference to the comma, some were forged, and others were too late to provide an accurate indication of thegenuineness of the passage.) .... Bellarmino’s reliance on the decretal of pseudo-Hyginus was disingenuous.59

59 Bellarmino 1586, 306–307 (Cap. VI. De Christo. Lib. I. Cap. VI.). Further, see Bludau 1903a, 405; Coogan 1992, 111–113.


It is incorrect and anachronistic to attack Bellarmine for using an evidence that was considered authentic at the time. There were tons of strong evidences that came to the fore later. We do not criticize the defenders for missing those evidences.


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