St. Basil’s “Animal Prayers” are a “Hoax” (Part Seven)

St. Basil’s “Animal Prayers” are a “Hoax” (Part Seven).

Icon of St. Basil

Image source: http://www.newliturgicalmovement.org/2010/08/st-basil-great-on-ad-orientem.html

To read the earlier portions of this work see Part One (here), Part Two (here), Part Three (here), Part Four (here), Part Five (here), and Part Six (here).

N.B. The following text in this blog-post St. Basil’s “Animal Prayers” are a “Hoax” Part Seven is Copyright © 2012 Philip Johnson.

PREFACE TO PART SEVEN

This series of seven posts has looked at the claim that two prayers for animals were composed by St. Basil the Great. The claim has been made in many books that advocate a generous spirit and good ethical consideration of animals. The Internet is chock-a-block full of websites and blogs reproducing the prayers and attributing them to St. Basil.

The truth is that neither prayer originates with St. Basil or from the liturgies of the Eastern Orthodox Churches. As I pointed out in Part Six, one prayer was actually published in 1910 and was written by the liberal Baptist theologian Walter Rauschenbusch. The other prayer surfaced during World War One as part of a wider litany in services held on the battle fronts of Europe.

How could academics — Christian and non-Christian alike — and (not overlooking mass-market authors too) be so easily swept up in making claims about these two prayers coming from St. Basil when the evidence contradicts the claims?

I would like to wrap up this series with some reflections and lessons that we can all take to heart. I would also acknowledge here that some of my findings parallel the 2010 forum discussion among some Eastern Orthodox believers on checking the sources of the St. Basil prayers (click here).

Tessa (1999-present). Photo Copyright © 2012 Philip Johnson.

NICE PRAYERS BUT LETS NOT DISHONOUR ST. BASIL

I am not calling for a boycott on using either prayer. What I have pointed out is that the reputation of the positive ethical case for animals is marred when a literary house of cards is used to advance the cause. Further to this, we dishonour the memory of St. Basil, and we inadvertently bear-false witness about him when we misattribute the prayers to his authorship. The mundane truth is that both prayers were composed during the second decade of the twentieth-century.

NUMBER ONE LESSON: CHECK THE SOURCES

As I have stated in previous posts, too many authors have been engaged in a circular process of cross-quoting each other for the texts of the prayers and failed to check if the prayers are in any primary sources.  This rather dubious and very lazy habit reflects poor information-retrieval work. It is a problem abounding in mass-market publications, academic books and journals, and has also gone unchecked by examiners of doctoral dissertations.The net effect is that a literary house of cards has been erected because nobody has bothered to check the claims about the authenticity of both prayers by reading the known works of St. Basil and checking the various versions of the Liturgy of St Basil.

[Left: Title page from a “forgotten” author on animals and the afterlife: Peter Buchan, Scriptural & Philosophical Arguments; or, Cogent Proofs from Reason and Revelation that Brutes have Souls and that their Souls are Immortal, London, 1824].

PRAYERS AS A COUNTER-CRITICISM

Some Christians have argued that these prayers of St. Basil demonstrate that the early church had a very generous and kind ethic toward animals. This constitutes part of a counter-criticism that Christians have occasionally used in reply to the negative criticisms that have come in the late 1960s from the late medieval professor Lynn Townsend White, and in the 1970s from the utilitarian ethicist Peter Singer .

Others who have echoed to varying degrees some of these criticisms of Christianity include animal rights lawyers such as Steven J. Bartlett and Steven Wise, the English journalist Antony Brown, and past-president of RSPCA Australia Dr Hugh Wirth.

Peter Singer stands at the harsh end of the spectrum in his criticisms of the Bible:

Here is a myth to make human beings feel their supremacy and their power. Man alone is made in the image of God. Man alone is given dominion over all the animals and told to subdue the earth. (Peter Singer, “Prologue: Ethics and the New Animal Liberation Movement” In Defence of Animals ed. Peter Singer Oxford: Blackwell, 1985, pp 2-3.)

At the softer end of the spectrum the journalist Antony Brown poses the rhetorical question, “For had not God, in the Book of Genesis, ordained that man should have mastery of all creation?” (Antony Brown, Who Cares for Animals? 150 Years of the RSPCA London: William Heinemann, 1974, p 4.)

Hugh Wirth mimics Brown’s point, “the Old Testament Book of Genesis proclaims that humans have dominion over all creation.” (Hugh J. Wirth, “Foreword” in For All Creatures: A History of RSPCA Victoria, Barbara Pertzel, Burwood, Vic: RSCPA Victoria, 2006, p v.) I note parenthetically that parts of Wirth’s foreword shows an unacknowledged yet very strong verbal dependence on Brown’s book.

IDEOLOGICAL BIAS

In broad brushstrokes, Christianity has been typecast as playing the role in history of an ideological Darth Vader toward the earth and animals. A further brief hint of this is embedded beneath the surface of the remarks of Canadian academic Jodey Castricano (“The Question of the Animal: Why Now?” Topia 21 Spring 2009: 186):

Twenty centuries of excluding from the ethical domain members of species other than our own has served to reify speciesism and to naturalize the disconnect between merely acknowledging our obligations “in theory” and being really willing to redress animal cruelty as a whole, by action or by law.

Although Castricano does not name the Church, it is the influence of Christianity over the past twenty centuries that is implied. In her generalisation one cannot help but see a stigma applied as if it is a foregone conclusion as a fact. Why just twenty centuries? Was the ancient Near Eastern and Mediterranean world more ethical and considerate toward animals before the birth of Christianity? What is the evidence that the annals of church history shows no ethical or even spiritual regard for animals?

In light of Castricano’s cultural context, it is interesting to draw to recollection just in Canada’s history the publication of Rev. John Moffatt, The French Exhibition of Horrors: A Sermon on the Sin of Torturing Animals, Toronto Canada, 1879. Moffatt’s work is one small signal that ethical and spiritual considerations about the treatment of animals was something that some clergy took seriously before the twentieth century

Do we need to be reminded once again that the principal supporters of the earliest anti-cruelty to animal laws were Christian political figures such as Thomas Fowell Buxton, William Wilberforce and Richard Martin? That the founder of England’s SPCA (later RSPCA) was the Anglican clergyman Rev. Arthur Broome?

Why is it that when Sir William Foster Stawell (1815-1889) is described as the first president of the Victorian Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (For All Creatures: A History of RSPCA Victoria page 8), that there is no mention whatsoever of him being an active member of the Anglican Church and a participant in Synod work? Is it because some current writers may have imbibed on the mistaken view that religion is private and has no connection to a social ethic and then read that back into history?

Christian teaching, based on the Book of Genesis chapter one concerning both human dominion and humans created in God’s image, is often identified as the ideological engine that has shaped and/or justified destructive human attitudes. In effect, it is alleged that the Bible in its passages about human dominion, stands in the background as the ideological root for our rapacious consumption of the earth’s natural resources. It is also the same source that has justified the exploitation and cruel subjugation of animals across the centuries. I will not sift through that argument here.

As Dorothy Sayers once remarked in another context, “any stigma will do to beat a dogma.” (Dorothy Sayers, Creed or Chaos? and other Essays in Popular Theology, London: Religious Book Club, 1947, p 21).

It seems to me that much of the contemporary theological discussion about ecological and animal ethics has been expressed in partial reaction to, or is implicitly shaped by, the negative criticisms of White, Singer and others. There is definitely a valid place for replying to those criticisms particularly when a straw-man portrait of Christianity has been erected as a piece of propaganda.

However I find it is quite curious that some contemporary Christians have tended to develop a theology-on-the-run or in reaction to critics. A theology and ethic about the earth and about animals ought to start with primary consideration of Scripture, then the tradition and history of the church, before engaging with the socio-ethical contexts of our era. I will not pursue that problem in this present post but will reserve it for future discussion.

The prayers of St. Basil serve as a strong reminder for all writers in the genre of animal ethics and theology that when it comes to documenting quotes and presenting a powerful case: always check your sources!

RESOURCES ON ST. BASIL

Mario Baghos, “St Basil’s Eschatological Vision: Aspects of the Recapitulation of History And The ‘Eighth Day’,” Phronema 25 (2010): 85-103.

George S. Bebis, “Introduction to the Liturgical Theology of St. Basil the Great,” Greek Orthodox Theological Review 42, 3-4 (1997): 273-285.

Doru Castache, “Christian Worldview: Understandings From St Basil the Great,” Phronema 25 (2010): 21-56.

Peter Karavites, “Saint Basil and Byzantine Hymnology,” Greek Orthodox Theological Review  37, 3-4 (1992): 203-214.

Annemarie C. Mayer, “Ecclesial Communion: The Letters of St Basil the Great Revisited,” International Journal for the Study of the Christian Church 5, 3 (October 2005): 226-241.

Leonel L. Mitchell, “The Alexandrian Anaphora of St. Basil of Caesarea: Ancient Source of ‘A Common Eucharistic Prayer’,” Anglican Theological Review 58 (1976): 194-206.

Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, second series, Volume 8, St Basil: Letters and Select Works, ed. Philip Schaff & Henry Wace (reprint. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1978).

Saint Basil Letters, Volume 1, translated by Sister Agnes Clare Way in The Fathers of the Church: A New Translation, Volume 13, ed. Roy Joseph Defferrari (Washington DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1951).

Liturgy of St Basil:

Thomas Brett, A Collection of the Principal Liturgies: used in the Christian Church in the Celebration of the Holy Eucharist (London: Rivington, 1838).

John Brownlie, Hymns of the Early Church, translated from Greek and Latin Sources (London: Morgan & Scott, 1913).

John Brownlie, Hymns of the Holy Eastern Church: Translated from the Service Books (Paisley: Alexander Gardner, 1902).

John Brownlie, Hymns of the Russian Church (London: Oxford University Press, 1920).

The Coptic Liturgy According to St Basil (Copt Net Archives).

The Coptic Liturgy of St Basil, 4th ed. (Arncliffe: Coptic Orthodox Sunday School NSW, 1998). [Via TheAlphaOrg]

Marcos Daoud, Liturgy of the Ethiopian Church, revised by H. E. Blatta Marsie Hazen (1959. reprinted Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Kingston, Jamaica, 1991). [Via ethiopianorthodox.org]

The Divine Liturgy of our Father Among the Saints Basil the Great: Ruthenian Recension A Study Text [Slavonic text translated into English. Draft edition, 2011].

Divine Liturgy of St Basil the Great [Greek version translated Saint Luke Orthodox Church]

Divine Liturgy of St Basil English with parts in Slavonic

George Mastrantonis, Introduction to the Divine Liturgy [Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America).

The Prayers of the Liturgy of St Basil (anastasis.org.uk)

Fr. Abraam D. Sleman ed. St Basil Liturgy: Reference Book (CopticChurch.net)

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St. Basil’s “Animal Prayers” are a “Hoax” (Part Six)

St. Basil’s “Animal Prayers” are a “Hoax” (Part Six).

Icon of St. Basil

Image source:  http://saints.sqpn.com/saint-basil-the-great/

To read the earlier portions of this work see Part One (here), Part Two (here), Part Three (here), Part Four (here), and Part Five (here).

N.B. The following text in this blog-post St. Basil’s “Animal Prayers” are a “Hoax” Part Six is Copyright © 2012 Philip Johnson.

PREFACE TO PART SIX

In the preceding five parts of this blog-post I have been examining claims made by both academic and mass-market writers concerning two prayers attributed to St. Basil. The previous posts go into deliberate detail on a case-by-case basis to demonstrate that:

  • The general claim has been that both prayers are from the fourth-century monk and bishop St. Basil, and that the prayers appear in either his collected writings or are in The Liturgy of St. Basil. The prayers however are not found in the Liturgy or in the collected writings of St. Basil.
  • Too many authors have been engaged in a circular process of cross-quoting each other for the texts of the prayers and failed to check if the prayers are in any primary sources. The net effect is that a literary house of cards has been erected because the known works of St. Basil do not contain either prayer.
  • The texts of the two prayers have been published in several books, magazine articles and blogs but the actual texts contain significant verbal variations. It is difficult to ascertain “which version” is the original. In effect, the more the prayers are transcribed the more prone they are to being edited and changed without any primary source manuscripts to justify such verbal alterations.
  • Both prayers contain ideas and vocabulary that are anomalous for writings from the fourth century AD, and instead contain enough verbal clues to indicate they are of modern-day origin.
  • The top-heavy pile of quotations of both prayers ends up as another example of how easy it is for a literary “hoax”, or modern-day apocryphal writing, to circulate and be accepted as genuine at face-value.

It is now time to identify the sources for these prayers, and to point out that they emerged not from the fourth century but during the second decade of the twentieth century.

Nelson and toy. Photo Copyright © 2012 Philip Johnson.

As there are two prayers with different origins, I will discuss them separately. The conclusions reached here are tentative and may be open to revision in light of any further relevant evidence. However, there is enough data to hand to confirm that the prayers are not from the fourth century Church.

FIRST PRAYER: “OUR BROTHERS THE ANIMALS”:

The Claims of Charles Niven & C.W. Hume

So far as I have been able to determine, the claim that the Liturgy of St. Basil contains the prayer “Our Brothers the Animals” began to circulate in the early 1960s.

Charles D. Niven (1897-1968) wrote a very popular chronicle History of the Humane Movement (New York: Transatlantic Arts, 1967). Niven was a physicist and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, and was involved in organising the Eastern Ontario SPCA. His epitaph on his grave states “I know that my redeemer liveth.” His father, also named Charles Niven (1845-1923), served as Professor of Natural Philosophy at the University of Aberdeen.

Niven wrote (page 27):

Living round about the time of St. Chrysostom or slightly earlier was St. Basil, the great Bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia (326-80). The Reverend C. G. Early, Andrha Pradesh, India, found this prayer in the Liturgy of St. Basil: ‘The Earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof. O God, enlarge within us the sense of fellowship with all living things, our brothers the animals to whom thou hast given the earth as their home in common with us. We remember with shame that in the past we have exercised the high dominion of man with ruthless cruelty, so that the voice of the earth, which should have gone up to Thee in song, has been a groan of travail. May we realise that they live, not for us alone, but for themselves and for Thee, and that they love the sweetness of life.’

Niven’s source is: UFAW Theological Bulletin, No. 2 (1962), p. 3.

Arwen. Photo Copyright © 2012 Philip Johnson.

Niven brought to his book the commendable energy generated out of his background knowledge in science, his Christian faith, and his practical activism in the SPCA. His book, which was one of several popular chronicles about the history of human attitudes toward animals produced in the 1960s, had a wide reading audience as it circulated on both sides of the Atlantic.

Niven’s remarks point us in the direction of where the original claim about the prayer and the Liturgy of St. Basil comes from. Niven prefaces the quotation by saying, “The Reverend C. G. Early, Andrha Pradesh, India, found this prayer in the Liturgy of St. Basil”. Niven drew this information from an article by C. W. Hume published in 1962.

Penelope, Nelson and new-found friend. Photo Copyright © 2012 Philip Johnson.

Charles Westley Hume also known as Major C. W. Hume was an important figure in British twentieth century thought about animal welfare. He was also a professing Christian in the Anglican Church, and wrote works on animals and Christian thought (The Status of Animals in the Christian Religion [1956], Man and Beast [1962]), and also argued in other books the case for the humane use of animals in scientific experiments.  Richard Haynes remarks about Hume’s influence that (page 7):

“Major C. W. Hume should be credited  as the father of the animal welfare movement. He was instrumental in founding the University of London Animal Welfare Society (ULAWS) in 1926, which subsequently became the Universities Federation of Animal Welfare (UFAW).”

Richard P. Haynes, Animal Welfare: Competing Conceptions and Their Ethical Implications (Springer, Dordrecht, Heidelberg, London, New York: Springer Science and Business Media B. V. 2010).

It is an article by Hume that appears to be the initial publication to claim that “Our Brothers the Animals” is found in the Liturgy of St. Basil. I have, so far, not been able to obtain access to Hume’s article to check it first-hand (UFAW Theological Bulletin, No. 2 (1962), p. 3). However, the article in question is cited by at least four authors: Charles D. Niven (as just noted above), Rod Preece, Richard Ryder, Helena Röcklinsberg (the latter three have been discussed in previous posts).

Of these four authors it is only Niven who provides readers with the clue as to who first called attention to the prayer and the Liturgy of St. Basil. The key figure, whom Hume undoubtedly relied on, is Reverend C. G. Early. I surmise that either a well-meaning friend passed on Early’s claim to Hume or that Hume had contact with Early. Either way (if my reading of Niven’s passage is right), Hume seems to have accepted the claim at face-value.

At the present time, I have not been able to locate any original writing by Rev Early. What I can report is that Rev. Early served as a Methodist missionary-pastor in Andrha Pradesh state in India during the mid-twentieth century. How he came to claim that the prayer is found in the Liturgy remains a mystery. Though it is quite likely that it came to him as a printed excerpt that was disconnected from the original source which is Walter Rauschenbusch.

Penelope (1992-2007). Photo Copyright © 2012 Philip Johnson.

WALTER RAUSCHENBUSCH’S PRAYER “FOR THIS WORLD” 1910

Walter Rauschenbusch (1861-1918) was born in Rochester, New York the son of a German Lutheran missionary who joined the Baptists. During the mid-1880s Rauschenbusch served as the pastor of a German-Baptist congregation in an impoverished part of New York city. He also became a lecturer at Rochester Theological Seminary. Rauschenbusch is best remembered for being a pivotal figure in the liberal theological movement called the “Social Gospel”. Via his daughter Winifred, Rauschenbusch is the maternal grandfather of the philosopher Richard Rorty.

One thing that has become “forgotten” about Rauschenbusch is that he composed a book of his own prayers, Prayers of the Social Awakening (Boston & Chicago: Pilgrim Press, 1910) [now available to read via the Internet Archive, click here].

Rauschenbusch stated in the book’s preface that he had composed many of the prayers as pieces in the American Magazine. The clamour for them led him to gather the prayers together as a book. He closed his preface with these remarks, which in hindsight may have helped in letting the cat out of the bag for others to republish, decontextualise, and attribute to someone else (page 13):

Permission is gladly given to reprint single prayers in newspapers, church programs, and similar publications, provided no change is made in the wording except by omission or abbreviation. I should be glad if proper acknowledgement were made in every case so that the attention of others may be called to this little book and its usefulness increased.

Nelson. Photo Copyright © 2012 Philip Johnson.

So, here is the real text that stands behind “Our Brothers the Animals”, which so many people have come to believe was written by St. Basil the Great in the fourth century. It is by Walter Rauschenbusch, published in Prayers of the Social Awakening, and the prayer is called “For this World”. It is reproduced below in its entirety (comprising three paragraphs on pages 47-48):

” O God , we thank thee for this universe, our great home; for its vastness and its riches, and for the manifoldness of the life which teems upon it and of which we are part. We praise thee for the arching sky and the blessed winds, for the driving clouds and the constellations on high. We praise thee for the salt sea and the running water, for the everlasting hills, for the trees, for the grass under our feet. We thank thee for our senses by which we can see the splendor of the morning, and hear the jubilant songs of love, and smell the breath of springtime. Grant us, we pray thee, a heart wide open to all this joy and beauty, and save our souls from being so steeped in care or so darkened by passion that we pass heedless and unseeing when even the thornbush by the wayside is aflame with the glory of God.

Enlarge within us the sense of fellowship with all the living things, our little brothers, to whom thou hast given the earth as their home in common with us. We remember with shame that in the past we have exercised the high dominion of man with ruthless cruelty, so that the voice of the Earth, which should have gone up to thee in song, has been a groan of travail. May we realize that they live, not for us alone, but for themselves and for thee, and that they love the sweetness of life even as we, and serve thee in their place better than we in ours.

When our use of this world is over and we make room for others, may we not leave anything ravished by our greed or spoiled by our ignorance, but may we hand on our common heritage fairer and sweeter through our use of it, undiminished in fertility and joy, that so our bodies may return in peace to the great mother who nourished them and our spirits may round the circle of a perfect life in thee.”

It is the second paragraph of Rauschenbusch’s prayer that has been uplifted, decontextualized, and refashioned into the variant versions of the prayer called “Our Brothers the Animals”. The Emperor’s New Clothes of literary claims about this prayer has now been exposed as being a twentieth century prayer. It is high time then that the credit for the prayer be given to its original author Walter Rauschenbusch. Activists, ethicists, philosophers and theologians alike must call to a halt the juggernaut of claims that the prayer is from St. Basil.

Scamp the papillion aged 9 months.Photo Copyright © 2012 Philip Johnson.

SECOND PRAYER: “THEIR GUILELESS LIVES”

The text of the prayer “Their Guileless Lives” has also been attributed to St. Basil, with some authors claiming that it comes from the Liturgy of St. Basil. In Part Four I quoted lay Catholic theologian Deborah Jones’ The School of Compassion (Gracewing 2009) where she claimed that this prayer is found in Orthodox liturgy (page 61):

His Liturgy still in use today in the Orthodox Tradition, contains another prayer which speaks of God having saved both man and beast, ‘We pray thee, O Lord, for the humble beasts … and for the wild animals, whom thou hast made, strong and beautiful; we supplicate for them thy great tenderness of heart, for thou hast promised to save both man and beast …’

I also noted that there are at least five differently worded versions:

And for these also, O Lord, the humble beasts, who with us bear the burden and heat of the day, we entreat Thy great kindness of heart, for Thou hast promised to save both man and beast, and great is thy loving-kindness, O Master.

For those, O Lord, the humble beasts, that bear with us the burden and heat of day, and offer their guileless lives for the well-being of mankind; and for the wild creatures, whom Thou hast made wise, strong, and beautiful, we supplicate for them Thy great tenderness of heart, for Thou hast promised to save both man and beast, and great is Thy loving kindness, O Master, Saviour of the world.

We pray thee, O Lord, for the humble beasts who bear with us the burden and heat of the day, giving their lives for the well-being of their countries; and for the wild creatures, whom thou hast made wise, strong and beautiful; We supplicate for them thy great tenderness of heart, for thou hast promised to save both man and beast, and great is thy loving-kindness, O Master, thou Saviour of the world.

For those, O Lord, the humble beasts, that bear with us the burden and heat of the day, and offer their guileless lives for the well-being of humankind; and for the wild creatures whom Thou hast made wise, strong, and beautiful we supplicate for them Thy great tenderness of heart for Thou hast promised to save both man and beast and great is Thy loving kindness, O Master, Saviour of the world.

For those, O Lord, the humble beasts, that bear with us the burden and heat of the day, and offer their guileless lives for the well-being of humankind; and for the wild creatures, whom Thou hast made wise, strong, and beautiful, we supplicate for them Thy great tenderness of heart, for Thou hast promised to save both man and beast, and great is Thy loving kindness, O Master, Saviour of the world.

One of the striking differences is that one prayer says they offer their lives “for their countries”, another “for the well-being of humankind”, and another for “mankind”.

The prayer which uses the words “for their countries” provides a strong textual hint that points to a modern-day source rather than to St. Basil.

Arwen on the beach. Photo Copyright © 2012 Philip Johnson.

World War One & The Animal Litany

This prayer about “their guileless lives” takes us back to World War One. The “original” English-language source appears to be in Guy Vernon Smith, The Bishop of London’s Visit to the Front (London: Longmans and Green, 1915). The book profiles how Bishop Arthur Foley Winnington Ingram visited the western front in Easter week in 1915. The Bishop did not write the book but wrote a preface for it.

Guy Vernon Smith, the book’s author who accompanied him on his tour, explains that the Bishop devised a service that was tailored to the circumstances of the war rather than using a typical Anglican liturgy for military-based church services (page 12):

The Bishop felt that the special character of his Mission would be emphasised if a different form of service were used to that which is customary at church parades, and he selected from among the many beautiful prayers which are suitable for use in time of war a Litany adapted from the Russian Liturgy. These prayers were very much appreciated by the soldiers, not only for their own sake, but because they seemed to serve as a link to bind us more closely to our Allies in the East.

In an appendix to the book Smith reproduces in full (pages 91-94) a pamphlet entitled “Good Friday and Easter Day: Thoughts and Prayers for Soldiers at the Front by the Bishop of London”. A further heading is supplied: “From the Liturgy of the Russian Church. Adapted by H.M.M.H”.

The litany consists of 16 invocatory prayers that the bishop or priest or Anglican military chaplain would say followed by congregational responses. The litany in context calls for God to be on the side of the King, Navy and Army (i.e. Britain), and also to show mercy to the Russians, French and Belgians in their campaigns. It is the twelfth invocation which reads (page 93):

And for those also O Lord the humble beasts, who bear with us the burden and heat of the day, and whose guileless lives are offered for the well-being of their countries, we supplicate Thy great tenderness of heart, for Thou Lord, shalt save both man and beast, and great is Thy loving-kindness, O Master, Saviour of the world.

Lord have mercy.

Notice that the prayers in the litany are “adapted” from what is vaguely called the Russian Liturgy. It not stated that the prayers come from the Liturgy of St. Basil as used in the Russian Orthodox Church.

Arwen wading in the water. Photo Copyright © 2012 Philip Johnson.

Smith also explains how the Bishop’s prayers were distributed as booklets to the troops (page 13):

The largest package of all contained the “souvenirs”, although we never thought of them by that name at first. The Bishop had written earlier in the year some short prayers and meditations for use by soldiers at the front during Holy Week and Easter.  When it was decided that he should go out in person he felt it to be very suitable that he should give them to the men. Some friends very kindly gave the Bishop ten thousand copies, and we could easily have disposed of more than twice as many, so popular were the little booklets and so eagerly were they sought for by the men who attended the services. There was always a demand for them … these booklets were immediately christened “The Bishop’s Souvenirs”.

Smith goes on to say that many soldiers posted the booklets home to their families. The circulation of those booklets in England and in other nations (Canada, Australia, New Zealand etc) may very well have given added impetus for the animal invocation being uplifted and recirculated out of context in later years.

ALAN LETHBRIDGE THE NEW RUSSIA

In 1915 Alan Lethbridge had his book published, The New Russia: From the White Sea to the Siberian Steppe (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1915). Lethbridge describes how he arrived at Tcherdin and says (page 155):

In the immediate foreground lay the river and a wide green plain with countless cattle and a shrine, emblem perhaps of the Russian belief that these dumb creatures are not forgotten by their Creator. For of all Christian nations the Russians are alone in their conviction, that the Almighty cares, not only for men and women, but also for the birds and beasts of the field. In their Litany they evidence it. What could be more pathetic or show a deeper tenderness than the following words: “And for those, also, O Lord, the humble beasts who bear with us the burden and heat of the day and offer their guileless lives for the well-being of their country, we supplicate Thy great tenderness of heart, for Thou, Lord, shalt save both man and beast, and great is Thy loving-kindness, O Master, Saviour of the world.”

Lethbridge supplies a footnote: “Vide English translation of Russian Litany, issued by the O. A. B. G., Bristol.” Lethbridge’s footnote source tallies with that in Guy Vernon Smith’s book.

A MEDIA FOLK-STORY 

Scamp performing. Photo Copyright © 2012 Philip Johnson

The war-time litany devised by the Bishop of London was soon to be decontextualised and subjected to myth-making by various periodicals and newspapers.Edward E. Slossen, “A Number of Things: An Occasional Page” wrote a regular column in the periodical The Independent, Vol. 88 (October-December) December 11, 1916, p 472:

St. Francis of Assisi must still live in Russia, for surely from him comes that prayer for the horses in the war liturgy:

‘And for those also, O Lord, the humble beasts, who bear with us the burden and the heat of the day, and offer their guileless lives for the well-being of their countries we supplicate Thy great tenderness of heart. For Thou hast promised to save both man and beast and great is Thy loving kindness. Lord have mercy!’

The Humane Advocate Vol. 12 August 1917, p 173: (published by The Illinois Humane Society)

A Prayerful Plea

A plea for the animals which serve us in war—the horses which are sacrificed in such great numbers—the following is a petition taken from an old Russian Litany specially composed for war time:

Prayer

‘And for those also, O Lord, the humble beasts, who with us bear the burden and heat of the day and give their guileless lives for the well-being of their countries, we supplicate Thy great tenderness of heart, for Thou hast promised to save both man and beast, and great is Thy loving kindness, O Master, Saviour of the World. Amen.’

St. Andrew’s Cross Vol. 32 (1917): 214:

A Russian Prayer for Horses

From the Church News of Pittsburgh, we reprint this fine prayer for horses translated from the Russian:

“For these also, O Lord, the humble beasts, who bear with us the burden and the heat of the day, and offer their guileless lives for the well-being of their countries we supplicate Thy great tenderness of heart.

Notice that the material found in Smith’s and Lethbridge’s respective books undergoes a shift in the periodicals. There is firstly the curious association of St. Francis with Russia in the minds of the writers in the periodicals. When the periodicals were published  the Russian Orthodox Church was the official church of Tsarist Russia (until being toppled by the 1917 Revolution). St Francis of course is a Roman Catholic saint. Presumably, for the journalists and other writers in the periodicals the Russian Orthodox Church was a “terra incognito” — an unknown land. For St. Francis to be a great influence in Tsarist Russia was probably presupposed without any reflection whatsoever.

St Francis of Assisi & St. Basil the Great Romantically Reimagined

Why did the authors think the prayer must originate with St. Francis? It is worth noting that St. Francis of Assisi had largely been forgotten (even among the Franciscans) until a late nineteenth century renaissance began. The renaissance of St. Francis owes an enormous (although not exclusive) debt to the work of the French Huguenot pastor (i.e. a Protestant) Charles Paul Marie Sabatier (1858-1928).

Sabatier’s book Life of St. Francis of Assisi (first published in French in 1893), reinterpreted and reimagined the saint’s life in a romantic nostalgic way that suited the late nineteenth century mindset. Thus St. Francis’ experience of the stigmata and some of his miracles disappear off the surface or become relegated to the context of the “fantastic” (hence not able to be believed as something that happened). Sabatier offered a message about having a compassionate practical theology and repositioned Francis’ sanctity into a palatable form that would suit both Protestants (with St. Francis turned into a quasi-Protestant opposed to Rome) and the modern sceptical mindset about miracles.

Ever since Sabatier wrote, subsequent portraits of St. Francis reinterpret him in all manner of speaking — as a nature-lover (almost unique in the annals of church history, some might say), as a liberal democrat, as a secular saint, as an evangelical Protestant role model, and so on.

[For more discussion about the modern romantic portraits of St. Francis see Eric Sharpe, “The Secularization of Sanctity: the Case and Example of Francis of Assisi” in The World of Religions: Essays on Historical and Contemporary Issues, ed. Garry W. Trompf & Gildas Hamel (Delhi: ISPCK, 2001), pp. 287-308; also Roger D. Sorrell, St. Francis of Assisi and Nature: Tradition and Innovation in Western Christian Attitudes toward the Environment (New York & Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988)].

In a smaller way, the romanticised ascribing of these animal prayers to St. Basil and to the fourth century Eastern Orthodox Church liturgy has some uncanny resemblances to the processes in which St. Francis has been reimagined in modern times. St. Basil did have a theological view of animals but these prayers are not connected to it.

Christians Cowering Before Their Critics

Instead of letting St. Francis be who he is, and St. Basil to be who is, our current anxieties about nature and animals plays a big part in looking hither and yon for examples from earlier times to inspire us. To grant an ancient pedigree to the prayers probably says a lot about how “captive” Christians have become today to the polemical agenda set in the late 1960s by Lynn Townsend White about ecology and then in the 1970s by Peter Singer and Richard Ryder about animal ethics.

The impressions that White and Singer have formed about what they read into the history of Christianity may tell us more about the attitudes of these men than that their words actually explains what Christians said and did in the past. Too much has been conceded by some Christians to their critics who allege the Church is the fountainhead for many negative attitudes toward animals and the natural world.

Likewise, instead of developing an ethic and theology that is robustly conceived and shaped within a rich biblical, historical and theological framework, there are too many Christians with unnecessarily bowed and chastened heads standing in the presence of these critics. The history of Christianity concerning animals (as in other topics also) is complex and not reducible down to an old cowboy film with good guys wearing white hats riding white horses and bad guys wearing black hats riding black horses.

Even with several scholarly writings about animals and history in the Christian era not all of the sources that are found within Christianity have been “recovered” and incorporated into the historian’s narratives. Some of the material casts doubt on the negative stereotype erected in the polemics of some critics.

Besides the ignored evidence, one must also have a dose of honesty about our present agendas versus an investigation of the past. An issue that seems patently obvious to us in today’s times would not necessarily have been the case in past epochs. Like it or not, we cannot interrogate the past with the expectation that people in prior epochs should have thought like us or even that some of them actually did think like us about animals. Our industrialised abuse of animals is a peculiar phenomenon of increasing intensity ever since the mid-eighteenth century bore witness to the start of the Industrial Revolution. Our context culturally and technologically is so vastly different from the circumstances of the Renaissance, the Middle Ages, the early Church, Roman Imperial civilisation and so forth. We cannot compel the past to always answer our questions if the questions were not even posed let alone answered by people who lived in past historical and different cultural settings where, for example, battery-hen farms did not even exist.

The other point about the prayer is that in the periodical the Russian Litany then becomes rebranded as “A Russian Prayer for Horses”. There had been other prayers for horses that emerged in the nineteenth century because of their visibility and the pains that they endured in horse-drawn carriages. The focus on the plight of the horse intensified through the story Black Beauty that was written by the Quaker-born invalided novelist Anna Sewell (1820-1878). So it is perhaps not surprising that the Litany was thought to be about prayers for horses.

Nevertheless, while the Cossack soldiers assuredly rode horses into battle, the First World War also saw many other animals drawn into service: homing-pigeons, dogs, donkeys, pigs, sheep, and cattle. On this latter point see the work of the Presbyterian Historian and Librarian John M. Kistler, Animals in the Military: from Hannibal’s Elephants to the Dolphins of the US Navy (Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2011).

The prayer though is clearly not from St. Basil, and has a distinct context for use which was devised in the midst of the First World War.

I will conclude with one further post (Part Seven) summing up some lessons and reflections.

<end of Part Six; see next post for continuation of this discussion>

St. Basil’s “Animal Prayers” are a “Hoax” (Part Five)

St. Basil’s “Animal Prayers” are a “Hoax” (Part Five).

Icon of St. Basil

Image source:  http://sfantatreimebc.org/pictura/?cat=26

To read the earlier portions of this work see Part One (here), Part Two (here), Part Three (here), and Part Four (here).

N.B. The following text in this blog-post St. Basil’s “Animal Prayers” are a “Hoax” Part Five is Copyright © 2012 Philip Johnson.

PREFACE TO PART FIVE

In the last post I highlighted how Roman Catholic writers have echoed the claims made by Evangelicals (see Part Three) that these prayers for animals — “Their Guileless Lives” and “Our Brothers the Animals” — are supposed to be found in the writings of St. Basil or in the Liturgy of St. Basil. This post will continue the thread by looking at how Eastern Orthodox, Episcopal, and Protestants and other Christian writers have also made similar claims.

As with the previous instalments this is a long post that painstakingly sets out the details for the benefit of serious readers and qualified researchers. The writers identified here are not intended to be the object of scathing criticism.

WHO’S WHO OF WHO SAYS ST. BASIL WROTE THE PRAYERS (Continued)

The Trio: Penelope, Nelson and Arwen. Photo Copyright © 2012 Philip Johnson.

IV. CHRISTIAN AUTHORS (Continued)

A few communicant members of churches in the Eastern Orthodox traditions have also made claims about the St. Basil prayers for animals.

(C). Eastern Orthodox

Frederick Krueger

Frederick W. Krueger is known in the United States of America as an advocate for environmental ethics particularly in his ecumenical role as Executive Director of the National Religious Coalition on Creation Care. He is also Executive Director of the Orthodox Fellowship of the Transfiguration which centres attention on the mission of the Orthodox Church in its ecological proclamation of Christ as reconciler of all things.

He refers in passing to St. Basil in this published essay, “Are Strong Protections of Private Property Rights Necessary for Species Preservation?” Journal of Markets & Morality, Vol 3 (2000): 239-246.

On page 241, Krueger remarks that “the best of theology has always perceived the inherent worth of animals.” He then provides excerpted quotations from various Christians to illustrate the point. Among these he includes (p 241):

St. Basil writes, ” O God, enlarge within us the sense of fellowship with all living things, even our brothers, the animals, to whom Thou gavest the earth as their home in common with us. We remember with shame that in the past we have exercised the high dominion of man with ruthless cruelty so that the voice of the earth, which should have gone up to Thee in song, has been a groan of pain. May we realize that they live, not for us alone, but for themselves and for Thee, and that they love the sweetness of life.”

Krueger’s footnote (p 245) for this quotation reads:

Excerpted from The Liturgy of Saint Basil.

Two observations are worth making about Krueger’s quotation and his literary evidence.

The first is that in Krueger’s version of the prayer there are minor textual variations, which are marked above in red font. The most widely published version of the prayer reads “our brothers the animals” whereas Krueger’s version inexplicably adds both a new emphasis and new punctuation: “even our brothers, the animals.”

Again, there is a word subtitution. In Krueger’s version the word “pain” has replaced the word “travail” used in the other versions. As the prayer is published with variant readings, it is legitimate to ponder which is the “true” version. It seems that the more the prayer is published the more it seems to undergo editorial changes in books and blogs.

The other observation is that Krueger refers to the Liturgy but provides no bibliographical reference to a translation or original language version of it.

Arwen, Penelope & Nelson. Photo Copyright © 2012 Philip Johnson.

“Orthodoxy and Animals”

There is a personal webpage called “Orthodoxy and Animals”, where a professing member of an Eastern Orthodox church has assembled some prayers to encourage pet-owners. Both prayers, “Their Guileless Lives” and “Our Brothers the Animals”, are reproduced on the page “Prayer for the Animals”:

Attributed to St. Basil the Great are two beautiful prayers for Animals:The earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof. O God, enlarge within us the sense of fellowship with all living things, our brothers the animals to whom Thou gavest the earth as their home in common with us. We remember with shame that in the past we have exercised the high dominion of man with ruthless cruelty so that the voice of the earth, which should have gone up to Thee in song has been a groan of travail. May we realize that they live not for us alone, but for themselves and for Thee and that they love the sweetness of life even as we, and serve Thee better in their place than we in ours.

For those, O Lord, the humble beasts, that bear with us the burden and heat of day, and offer their guileless lives for the well-being of mankind; and for the wild creatures, whom Thou hast made wise, strong, and beautiful, we supplicate for them Thy great tenderness of heart, for Thou hast promised to save both man and beast, and great is Thy loving kindness, O Master, Saviour of the world.

Notice that “well-being of mankind” is in the above text, which differs from “humankind” and from “their countries” in other versions. The webpage owner does give two references for these quotations:

Bless All Thy Creatures, Lord: Prayers for Animals, edited by Richard Newman, Macmillan Publishing Co. ’88.

Animals and Man: A State of Blessedness, by Joanne Stefanatos D.V.M., ’92, Light and Life Publishing Co.

I have not had access to the book by Joanne Stefanatos although it can be mentioned that she is an American veterinarian who practices holistic or complementary techniques of medicine in her vet clinic. Light & Life Publishing is a supplier of books to the Orthodox Community.

Reflection:

There is a curious point for general reflection for any communicant members of Eastern Orthodox churches who might be tempted to claim that St. Basil’s prayers are found in the Liturgy. As I have noted previously, The Liturgy of St. Basilis used on no more than ten occasions during the liturgical year. If these two prayers are indeed part of the Liturgy then on which holy day of the year are these prayers sung or chanted by the priest or deacon?

If they are not part of the liturgy, then there is a curious and inexplicable “disconnect” between the rich cycle of liturgical experiences that are celebrated in Eastern Orthodox services, and the claim by those who attend Orthodox churches that the prayers are in the liturgy. Put another way, when was the last time that anyone actually heard these prayers chanted in an Eastern Orthodox, or Coptic or Ethiopian church service?

Mitten. Photo Copyright © 2012 Philip Johnson.

(D). OTHER CHRISTIANS

In this section I will briefly draw attention to other Christian writers who quote the prayers.

Episcopalians: Laura Yordy

Laura Yordy is  a lecturer in the Philosophy and Religion department at Bridgewater College, Virginia. She is an Episcopalian and the author of Green Witness: Ecology, Ethics and the Kingdom of God.

Yordy is also a contributor to the book Diversity and Dominion: Dialogues in Ecology, Ethics and Theology, ed. Kyle S. van Houtan and Michael S. Northcott (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2010). In her chapter, “Biodiversity and the Kingdom of God”  (page 180) she reproduces the prayer “Our Brothers the Animals”. Her source for the prayer is Jon Wynne-Tyson, The Extended Circle (see Part Two of this blog for my critical comments on Wynne-Tyson’s documentation).

Arwen in the garden. Photo Copyright © 2012 Philip Johnson.

Georgia Episcopal Church (USA) has produced a small booklet for “animal blessings“, and reproduces this prayer:

A PRAYER OF ST. BASIL

Blessed God, Creator of All:

Enlarge within us the sense of fellowship

with all living things,

our brothers the animals to whom you gave the earth

as their home in common with us.

We remember with shame that in the past

we have exercised the high dominion of humans

with ruthless cruelty,

so that the voice of the earth

which should have gone up to you in song

has been a groan of travail.

May we realize that they live, not for us alone,

but for themselves, and for you,

and that they love the sweetness of life.

We pray through our Savior Jesus Christ

who lifts up and redeems us all. Amen.

The text in red font differs from the other versions I have referred to in Parts One to Four of this blog.

Mummy belly-rub. Photo Copyright © 2012 Philip Johnson.

United Church of Christ Environmental and Energy Task Force

The United Church of Christ has an Environmental and Energy Task Force. In October 2007 the Task Force prepared a brief document “Theological Discussion Points on Environment and Energy“. On page 6 of the document we read:

“O God, enlarge within us the sense of fellowship with all living things, our brothers the animals [and

all creatures] to whom thou gavest the earth as their home in common with us. We remember with

shame that in the past we have exercised the high dominion of humans with ruthless cruelty; so that

the voice of the earth, which should have gone up to Thee in song, has been a groan of travail. May

we realize that all creatures live not for us alone but for themselves and for Thee, and that they love the

sweetness of life.”

Attributed to St. Basil the Great.

No bibliographical source is supplied for this quotation. The use of inclusive language is also evident in this version of the prayer (as marked in red font).

Nelson & Arwen neighbourhood sticky-beaks. Photo Copyright © 2012 Philip Johnson.

Calvinists: Ron Lutjens, Michael Williams and Matthew C. Halteman

Ron Lutjens is a pastor in the Presbyterian Church of America in St. Louis. In the web-zine By Faith (Issue 16. August 2007) Lutjens reproduces the prayer “Our Brothers the Animals”:

O God, enlarge within us the sense of fellowship with all living things, our brothers the animals to whom thou gavest the earth as their home in common with us.

We remember with shame that in the past we have exercised the high dominion of man with ruthless cruelty so that the voice of the earth, which should have gone up to thee in song, has been a groan of travail. May we realize that they live not for us alone but for themselves and for thee, and that they love the sweetness of life.

“Her Majesty Arwen”. Photo Copyright © 2012 Philip Johnson.

Michael Williams is professor of systematic theology at Covenant Theological Seminary. In By Faith (Issue 17, October 2007) Williams also reproduces the same prayer:

O God, enlarge within us the sense of fellowship with all living things, our brothers the animals to whom thou gavest the earth as their home in common with us.

We remember with shame that in the past we have exercised the high dominion of man with ruthless cruelty so that the voice of the earth, which should have gone up to thee in song, has been a groan of travail. May we realize that they live not for us alone but for themselves and for thee, and that they love the sweetness of life.

Matthew Halteman is assistant professor of philosophy at Calvin College, Grand Rapids Michigan. He has prepared a twenty-five page booklet called Compassionate Eating as Care of Creation and this is distributed by the Humane Society of the United States. On page 6 Halteman reproduces “Our Brothers the Animals” but with no source reference supplied.

Nelson & Arwen garden frolic. Photo Copyright © 2012 Philip Johnson.

Alexander Roman

Dr Alexander Roman is a member of the Ukrainian Catholic Church who contributes articles to the website Ukrainian Orthodoxy. In responding to a submitted question in 2010 about ‘are dogs and cats mentioned in the Bible’, Dr Roman includes in his reply the following remarks:

St Basil the Great  wrote a prayer in which he asked God to:  “…enlarge within us the  sense of fellowship with all living things, our brothers the animals to whom  You gave the earth as their home in common with us.  We remember with  shame that in the past we have exercised the high dominion of humans with  ruthless cruelty so that the voice of the earth which should have gone up to  you in song, has been a groan of travail.  May we realize that they live  not for us alone but for themselves and for You, and that they love the  sweetness of life.”

Dr Roman did not list any books or other published sources in his reply. It is of passing interest though that his version of “Our Brothers the Animals” contains a word-substitution so that “the high dominion of man” has been changed to “the high dominion of humans”.

Arwen and rope-toy. Photo Copyright © 2012 Philip Johnson.

Antonia Lee Gorman was a doctoral candidate at Drew University. In her unpublished dissertation “The Blood of Goats and Bulls: An Eco-Spiritual Response to the Sacrifice of Creation” (May 2008) she stated (page 169):

And St. Basil (330? CE – 379? CE) , the bishop of Caesarea and founder of monastic institutions, had the following prayer within his liturgy.

She then reproduces “Our Brothers the Animals” and her bibliographical source is Lewis Regenstein, Replenish the Earth: A History of Organized Religion’s Treatment of Animals and Nature (NY: Crossroad 1991), p 58. Regenstein’s source is Charles D. Niven. Niven is mentioned in Part Four and again in Part Six of my blog-post.

(E). ANIMAL ACTIVIST AUTHORS

I will simply list here other publications that include the “Our Brothers the Animals” prayer and who all fail to supply a direct and unambiguous primary source:

Debra Farrington, All God’s Creatures: The Blessing of Animal Companions (Brewster, Massachusetts: Paraclete Press, 2006), p.6

Lewis Regenstein, Replenish the Earth: A History of Organized Religion’s Treatment of Animals and Nature (NY: Crossroad 1991), p 58.

Michael W. Fox, The Boundless Circle: Caring for Creatures and Creation, (Wheaton: Quest Books, 1996), pp 50-51

Judy Carman, Peace to all Beings: Veggie Soup for the Chicken’s Soul (New York: Lantern, 2003), page 190

Judith Fitzgerald and Michael Oren Fitzgerald,The Sermon of All Creation: Christians on Nature (Bloomington: World Wisdom, 2005), page 76

Linda Seger, Jesus Rode a Donkey: Why Republicans Don’t Have the Corner on Christ (Avon, Mass: Adams Media, 2006), 103.

Others who quote “Their Guileless Lives” include:

Bronislaw Szerszynski, Nature, Technology and the Sacred (Oxford: Blackwell, 2005), pp 96-97 (relies on John Passmore).

Robin Attfield, “Christianity” [pp 96-110] in Dale Jamieson ed. A Companion to Environmental Philosophy (Malden & Oxford: Blackwell, 2003), page 101. Attfield’s source is Passmore’s 1975 essay “The Treatment of Animals” (see Part Two for further comments on Attfield and Passmore).

(F). BLOGGERS & WEBSITES

The Internet is bulging with blogs and websites that quote the St. Basil prayers. Below are listed just a small sample of sites that unfortunately fail to furnish any primary source evidence that the prayers are genuinely by St. Basil:

Sentient Beings

Herman of Alaska

Circle of Compassion

Passion For Justice

Ecoworrier

Earth Ministry

Not One Sparrow

Why Think Differently About Sheep

Web of Creation

Jon M. Sweeney

Gospel centred Musings

Franciscan-Anglican

In The Currach

Cheyenne and friends

Animal Liberation Front

Abbey of the Arts

Vegetarian/Vegan Society of Queensland

Gathering In Light

Cruelty-free Christianity

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Wahsega Valley Farm

Kendra Langdon Juskus, “A Call to Compassion from our Brothers the Animals,” Prism magazine July-Aug 2011 p 19.

The real sources for these two prayers, which are of twentieth-century vintage, will be discussed in Part Six.

<end of Part Five; see next post for continuation of this discussion>

St. Basil’s “Animal Prayers” are a “Hoax” (Part Four)

St. Basil’s “Animal Prayers” are a “Hoax” (Part Four).

Icon of St. Basil.

Image Source:  http://orthodoxwayoflife.blogspot.com.au/2011/02/lament-for-sin-st-basil-great.html

To read the earlier portions of this work see Part One (here), Part Two (here) and Part Three (here).

N.B. The following text in this blog-post St. Basil’s “Animal Prayers” are a “Hoax” Part Four is Copyright © 2012 Philip Johnson.

Tessa (1999-present). Photo Copyright © 2012 Philip Johnson.

PREFACE TO PART FOUR

The subject of this series of posts concerns the claim that two prayers called “Their Guileless Lives” and “Our Brothers the Animals” come from St. Basil the Great, the fourth century Eastern Orthodox church father. In particular, it is often claimed that one or both prayers come from the Liturgy of St. Basil (see English language translations of the Greek Orthodox version here and here and also here; the Slavonic-Russian version here; the Coptic Church Liturgy here; the Ethiopian Church Liturgy here).

In the first post I reproduced both prayers as they appear in Richard Newman’s anthology Bless All Thy Creatures, Lord. I pointed out that after searching through the different versions — Greek, Russian and Coptic versions of the Liturgy of St. Basil that no such prayers exist. I also had a negative result in finding either prayer in St. Basil’s writings.

I demonstrated in Parts Two and Three that many authors both academic and popular have failed to provide an unambiguous and direct citation from any of St. Basil’s works or from the Liturgy bearing his name. Instead a somewhat circular trail of foootnotes exists where authors cross-quote each other. This rather dubious and very lazy habit reflects poor information-retrieval work.

This habit of cross-quoting each other lends itself to the creation of a top-heavy literary house of cards when the original source is not what the writers have come to believe in. It marrs the quality and cogency of publications about animal ethics and theology. In the case of the two prayers I am examining this cross-quoting signals to me that perhaps very few have any idea when and where the prayers were originally composed.

This is another long post that carries forward points made in the previous post. It is a demonstration of the weak evidence presented by various Christian authors in the Roman Catholic tradition.

Mummy sunning herself on the window sill. Photo Copyright © 2012 Philip Johnson.

WHO’S WHO OF WHO SAYS ST. BASIL WROTE THE PRAYERS (Continued)

In the last post I began discussing various Christian authors within the Evangelical tradition. Now in this post the focus turns to Christian authors from the Roman Catholic Church. Once again, as stated in previous posts, I am not attacking any of the authors but underscoring two things: (a) the problem of not checking quotes, and (b) documenting the absence of any primary source evidence that the prayers come from St. Basil.

IV. CHRISTIAN AUTHORS (Continued)

(B). Roman Catholics

Matthew Scully

Matthew Scully is a Roman Catholic lay-believer and is also a prominent behind-the-scenes figure in conservative politics in the United States of America. He served, for a while, as the speechwriter for President George W. Bush, and had a brief association as a speechwriter with the 2008 Republican Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

Scully’s book Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2002), is a very readable work by a Roman Catholic layman who expresses a deep and genuine concern about animal suffering. His book is well-worth reading.

Scully’s ethical stance on vegetarian diet and the treatment of animals puts him at odds with people who might otherwise have affinities with his political values. His ethic runs counter to those who support industrial farming, the allied meat and poultry industries, and the hunting-gun lobbies.

In regards to St. Basil, he states on page 13:

I was amazed to come upon this prayer from Saint Basil, the bishop of Caesarea, circa A.D. 375.

Scully then quotes “Our Brothers the Animals”, although his version lacks the opening line from Psalm 24:1 (as in Newman’s version), and lacks the last thirty-eight words found in Newman’s version.

Scully jots down in his footnote that the prayer is found in volume 8 of The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers. What might go unnoticed by some readers is that Scully does not give any page reference for Basil’s collected writings in The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers. As I pointed out in Part One of this post, neither “Their Guileless Lives” or “Our Brothers the Animals” can be found in The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers.

Nelson barks at neighbour’s flock of homing-pigeons in full flight. Photo Copyright © 2012 Philip Johnson.

Scully’s footnote conveys to me at least two impressions (but I am also being mindful of the point: who can tell if he intended to make these impressions?).

The first impression is that the footnote might have been hurriedly inserted because Scully had mislaid or forgotten where he had originally read the prayer. So we have a documented source made “on the run” as he was out of time in the publishing schedule to find the true source.

The absence of a specific page reference is interesting. It might deflect a reader’s attention to detail so that Scully’s footnote is accepted at face-value. However, when one checks volume 8 in The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers it is very hard to avoid the conclusion that Scully has not read St. Basil’s works that are collected in that volume. One might infer then that Scully does not really know where the prayer comes from.

The second impression, which could equally apply to several other authors previously mentioned, is that this is a bibliographic equivalent of the children’s tale “The Emperor’s New Clothes”. The majority of writers realise that the Emperor is naked (i.e. the prayer is not really from St. Basil) but nobody is willing to openly admit that he is naked (i.e. we know deep down there is no early church source but because we love the prayer and want to maintain a cherished view about early Christians expressing concern for sentient animal life that we don’t want to have to openly admit that the prayer isn’t found in the Liturgy of St. Basil).

Deborah Jones

Deborah Jones is the general secretary of the Catholic Concern for Animals. She holds a doctoral degree in theology for her dissertation on developing a Roman Catholic theology for animals. In 2009 her book that is based on her doctoral work was published as The School of Compassion: A Roman Catholic Theology of Animals (Leominster, Herefordshire: Gracewing, 2009). Her book represents a highly commendable attempt at exploring existing and diverse Roman Catholic attitudes toward animals, as well proposing the development of a substantial Catholic theology of animals. I propose to review her book in a future separate post.

Similarly, her more popular writings in the Catholic periodical The Ark are to be commended. Her role in Catholic Concern for Animals is admirable and inspiring for other Christians. So my criticism below needs to be understood in light of these preliminary comments.

For the purpose of this blog-post I merely wish to refer to what she has written about St. Basil’s prayers (The School of Compassion, p 61):

But he goes far beyond Augustine in his empathetic appreciation of the animal creation — predating St Francis of Assisi in his language of kinship with animals — as is demonstrated in this prayer from the Russian liturgy, ‘for a deeper sense of fellowship with all living things’, the first recorded expression of shame for human cruelty to animals:

The Earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof. O God, enlarge within us the sense of fellowship with all living things, our brothers the animals to whom thou hast given the earth as their home in common with us. We remember with shame that in the past we have exercised the high dominion of man with ruthless cruelty, so that the voice of the earth, which should have gone up to thee in song, has been a groan of travail. May we realize that they live, not for us alone, but for themselves and for thee, and that they have the sweetness of life.

His Liturgy still in use today in the Orthodox Tradition, contains another prayer which speaks of God having saved both man and beast, ‘We pray thee, O Lord, for the humble beasts … and for the wild animals, whom thou hast made, strong and beautiful; we supplicate for them thy great tenderness of heart, for thou hast promised to save both man and beast …’

Jones continues her discussion beyond what I have quoted and refers to yet another prayer which she claims is found in the Liturgy. I will not pursue that particular claim here.

Nelson reclines. Photo Copyright © 2012 Philip Johnson.

Weak Chain-Link in Footnotes

In the above paragraphs Jones has three footnotes (numbered 42-44, p 88) which appear as follows:

St Basil, Liturgy; cited in Charles D. Niven, History of the Humane Movement (New York: Transatlantic Arts, 1967), p. 27.

See Psalm 36:6, ‘Man and beast thou savest, O Lord’ (RSV).

Liturgy, cited in Linzey and Cohn-Sherbok, After Noah (1997), p. 84; also Sorabji, Animal Minds and Human Morals (1993), p. 202.

Arwen (1997-2010) & Mitten (1999-present). Photo Copyright © 2012 Philip Johnson.

Although she states that both prayers come from the Liturgy, as used in the Russian Orthodox Church, she does not give a direct reference to a published translation of the Russian text of the Liturgy. In other words, there is no way that a reader who relies on her footnotes can easily cross-check her quote with the primary source.

In anticipation of Part Six, the literary evidence does not take us back to St. Basil in the fourth century, nor even to the Liturgy that bears his name. “Our Brothers the Animals” does not have the “exotic” origins of coming out of the Russian Liturgy. The prayer has been uplifted out of context and circulated by many writers. It comprises the second paragraph of a three-paragraph prayer published in 1910  and that was actually authored by the liberal Baptist, Walter Rauschenbusch. While “Their Guileless Lives” emerged into print around 1915, and it was merely one litany in a sixteen-part set of litanies used by the Bishop of London Arthur Foley Winnington Ingram for an Easter service held on the Western Front during the First World War. It is this latter prayer which was ascribed to being part of a Russian Litany, and arose at best in the context of World War One.

The basic issue is that her actual quotes for the prayers are derivative being drawn from Niven’s book, and Linzey & Cohn-Sherbok, and with an added allusion to Sorabji. Critical remarks have already been made about Sorabji in Part Two, which need not be repeated here. All that needs to be noted is that when Jones directs attention to Sorabji she does not strengthen but weakens her literary evidence.

Using Niven, Linzey & Cohn-Sherbok

If Jones’ reliance on Sorabji represents a weak chain-link, then is her case improved by using Charles Niven’s History of the Humane Movement (New York: Transatlantic Arts, 1967)? I will be discussing Niven’s book in Part Six. However, it can be noted here that Niven does not provide a direct quote from a translated text of the Liturgy of St. Basil. The version that Niven quotes lacks the last thirty-eight words found in Newman’s version. He specifically takes his quote of the prayer “Our Brothers the Animals” from C. W. Hume who in turn (as will be discussed in Part Six) relies on yet another source. In other words, by the time Niven reproduces the prayer the chain-link is already third-hand. Thus, when Jones reproduces what Niven has quoted, her chain-link to the sources via Niven is at best fourth-hand.

Mitten (1999-present) concentrating on arm-chair. Photo Copyright © 2012 Philip Johnson.

Jones’ other source is the jointly authored theological text After Noah: Animals and the Liberation of Theology by Andrew Linzey [Anglican] and Dan Cohn-Sherbok [Jewish Rabbi] (London: Mowbray, 1997).

Chapter four of After Noah is entitled “The Christian Tradition: Christ and the stories of Christ-like compassion.” Within this chapter Linzey and Cohn-Sherbok discuss stories about Christ and animals in apocryphal writings, and selected stories and acts of various monks and saints. In a section “A sacramental world” the authors discuss a sacramental understanding of God’s creation in relation to the Trinity. That section discusses Teilhard de Chardin, Sebastian Brock, Ephrem the Syrian and St. Basil the Great. In that section St. Basil’s book on the Holy Spirit is quoted and discussed but there is no reference to The Liturgy of St. Basil.

In the final section of chapter four called “The goal of redemption”, Linzey and Cohn-Sherbok discuss the renewal and redemption of creation. After referring to the Pauline hope of the redemption of all things (Romans 8), the authors then direct attention to Psalm 36:6 “Man and beast thou savest, O Lord”. They go on to say that the thought expressed in Psalm 36:6 is one “that provided the inspiration for the famous prayer attributed to St. Basil the Great” (p 84):

We pray thee, O Lord, for the humble beasts who bear with us the burden and heat of the day, giving their lives for the well-being of their countries; and for the wild creatures, whom thou hast made wise, strong and beautiful; We supplicate for them thy great tenderness of heart, for thou hast promised to save both man and beast, and great is thy loving-kindness, O Master, thou Saviour of the world.

The bibliographical reference that Linzey and Cohn-Sherbok supply makes no mention at all of The Liturgy of St. Basil. Instead their reference reads (footnote 106 on page 90 but numbered footnote 105 on p 84):

St Basil the Great, cited in Eric Milner-White and G. W. Briggs (eds) Daily Prayer (London: Oxford University Press, 1946), p. 79 .

The only mention that the authors make of St. Basil’s Liturgy occurs in chapter five and this does not entail quoting either of the two prayers “Their Guileless Lives” and “Our Brothers the Animals”. They write (p 95):

… and the liturgy of St Basil speaks of the limitless majesty of God ‘holy in all your works’.

Their footnote (number 16) for this quote reads:

Eucharist of St. Basil; in Bouyer, op.cit., p. 288.

The full reference for this book that they are using is Louis Bouyer, Eucharist: Theology and Spirituality of the Eucharistic Prayer, ed. and trans. C. U. Quinn (London & Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1968).

Mummy & Mitten lounging around. Photo Copyright © 2012 Philip Johnson.

Jones vs. Linzey & Cohn-Sherbok’s Caution

The passages in chapter four of After Noah when read in context take a different direction from the bibliographical inference drawn by Deborah Jones. In chapter four they do not make any reference to the Liturgy. Instead the prayer they quote comes from the 1946 anthology Daily Prayer. Linzey and Cohn-Sherbok say that the prayer is “attributed to Saint Basil the Great” but they do not claim in the passage that it is definitely a prayer by him.

Contrast this with Jones’ footnote (number 44):

Liturgy, cited in Linzey and Cohn-Sherbok, After Noah (1997), p. 84.

One other textual point for comparison is to note that the version of “Their Guileless Lives” that Linzey and Cohn-Sherbok quote contains an important verbal difference from other versions I have referred to in these posts (including Newman’s version in Part One and the version found in the Linzey & Regan anthology Love the Animals see Part Two). Notice this clause, “giving their lives for the well-being of their countries”.  The allusion to “their countries” should spark off a reflection: is it likely that a fourth century monk and bishop would offer a prayer about animal lives being sacrificed “for the well-being of their countries”? The language is decidedly modern, and as I will show in a subsequent post that is because the prayer comes from World War One and not the fourth century.

Arwen (1997-2010). Photo Copyright © 2012 Philip Johnson.

Lastly, if one reads the periodical The Ark (no 112, Spring 2009) one will find that Jones has reused some of her material on St Basil and adapted it for that popular format. Obviously no documentation in the magazine article is supplied for her quotes from the Liturgy of St Basil.

Messenger of Saint Anthony

The Messenger of Saint Anthony is a popular Roman Catholic periodical that honours the Franciscan St Anthony of Padua (1195-1231). From time to time the magazine features articles about animal issues. The November 2011 edition carried as its cover story “Cruel Beauty: Cosmetic Testing on Animals” (pp 16-19). Within that article the lay Catholic author Ellen Teague remarks (p 19):

On the whole, few in the Church extend its vision of social justice to the total Earth community. This is rather surprising since a tradition of creation-centred theology has been present within the Church over the centuries. For St Francis of Assisi, every creature in the world was a mirror of God’s presence. St Basil prayed that God “enlarge within us the sense of fellowship will all living things.” Hildegarde of Bingen spoke of the entire world being “embraced” by the kiss of the Creator.

While one does not expect bibliographical references in a popular periodical, Ellen Teague’s article is one example of how the St Basil prayers are accepted as genuine at face-value and kept in constant circulation.

Another example is found in Victor Parachin’s article “Paws That Heal”, which appeared in an earlier edition of the Messenger of Saint Anthony. Parachin quotes an “ancient prayer from St. Basil” and reproduces a shorter version of “Our Brothers the Animals”. Again, no reference to the source of the prayer is given.

Jesuit Missionaries: Roland Lesseps and Peter Henriot

Penelope and Nelson on the beach. Photo Copyright © 2012 Philip Johnson.

Roland Lesseps is a Jesuit scientist serving at Kasisi Agricultural Training Centre, Lusaka Zambia. Peter Henriot is Director of the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection, Lusaka Zambia. In 2003 they presented a co-authored paper Church’s Social Teaching and the Ethics of GMOs at a seminar convened by The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace (November 10-11, 2003) on the theme GMOs: Threat or Hope?

In their paper Lesseps and Henriot remark (page 3):

An example of this same appreciation of creatures,  coming from an early Father of the Church, is this surprisingly modern prayer of St. Basil: “O God, enlarge within us a sense of fellowship with all living things, our brothers and sisters the animals, to whom you gave the earth as their home in common with us. We remember with shame that in the past we have exercised high dominion with ruthless cruelty, so that the voice of the earth, which should have gone up to you in song, has been a groan of travail. May we realize that they live not for us alone but for themselves and for you, and that they love the sweetness of life.”

Lesseps and Henriot do not supply any footnote or bibliographical citation as the source for this prayer. However, a few points emerge from their paper. The first is that they seem to harbour some suspicion about the authenticity of the prayer. They express amazement that it is a “surprisingly modern prayer.”

The next point is that the vocabulary has been modernised with words being changed like “thee” and “thou” into “you”. The text has been adjusted for inclusive language. The more widespread version of the prayer says “our brothers the animals”, whereas in this text they are now called “our brothers and sisters”. The clause “we have exercised the high dominion of man with ruthless cruelty” has been altered  so that “of man” drops out and the text becomes “we have exercised high dominion with ruthless cruelty”.

The last comment I wish to make is that given their suspicion that this prayer reads like a “modern prayer,” why did Lessep and Henriot not confer first of all with a Catholic expert in Patristics to check on the prayer’s authenticity before choosing to quote it at this seminar?

The paper by Lessep and Henriot has been published as chapter five in Siphiwe F. Mkhize, Towards Hope and Challenge: Agricultural Biotechnology and The Catholic Social Teachings (Arcadia, South Africa: MaVovo kaKaKa Publishers, 2004). The prayer appears on page 47, and again there is no bibliographical reference supplied.

For more discussion see Part Five.

<end of Part Four; see next post for continuation of this discussion>

St. Basil’s “Animal Prayers” are a “Hoax” (Part One)

St. Basil the Great (c.330-379)

Icon of St. Basil – Image source: http://www.orthodoxsanangelo.com/Iconography.dsp

N.B. The following text in this blog-post  St. Basil’s “Animal Prayers” are a “Hoax”  Part One is Copyright © 2012 Philip Johnson.

For the later posts that continue this discussion see Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part FivePart Six and Part Seven.

PREFACE

Much excitement has been generated over the past fifty years about two “animal prayers” which are attributed to the fourth-century Eastern Orthodox church father St. Basil of Casearea.

St. Basil is a genuine and early example of a theologian who reflected on Scripture and developed a theology of creation. Animals were undeniably of interest to St. Basil as can be seen in his series of nine sermons based on Genesis chapter one known as The Hexaemeron (translated in English in the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, second series, Volume 8, St Basil: Letters and Select Works, ed. Philip Schaff & Henry Wace; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1978).

However, the prayers under discussion here are not in The Hexaemeron or any other writings of St. Basil’s that are collected in the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers.

This is the first post in a series of seven. Each of the posts are detailed and are not for those who want brief material of less than 200 words that can be hurriedly skimmed and be half-digested in no more than three minutes.

The Prayers

For the sake of this blog-post I will use the titles ascribed to these two prayers which are published in Richard Newman’s anthology Bless All Thy Creatures, Lord: Prayers for Animals  (New York: Macmillan/London: Collier Macmillan, 1982, pp 19-20 & 39-40).

Here is the text of “Their Guileless Lives”:

For those, O Lord, the humble beasts, that bear with us the burden and heat of the day, and offer their guileless lives for the well-being of humankind; and for the wild creatures, whom Thou hast made wise, strong, and beautiful, we supplicate for them Thy great tenderness of heart, for Thou hast promised to save both man and beast, and great is Thy loving kindness, O Master, Saviour of the world.

Here is the text of “Our Brothers the Animals”:

The earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof. O God, enlarge within us the sense of fellowship with all living things, our brothers the animals to whom Thou gavest the earth as their home in common with us. We remember with shame that in the past we have exercised the high dominion of man with ruthless cruelty so that the voice of the earth, which should have gone up to Thee in song, has been a groan of travail. May we realize that they live not for us alone, but for themselves and for Thee and that they love the sweetness of life even as we, and serve Thee better in their place than we in ours.

Penny (1966-1975). Photo Copyright © 2012 Philip Johnson

First Glance: The Biblical Allusions

It is often the case with prayers that some content will include direct use of or allusions to biblical passages. “Their Guileless Lives” alludes to Psalm 36:6 “O Lord you preserve both man and beast” (NIV), and to Psalm 69:16, “for thy lovingkindness is good: turn unto me according to thy tender mercies” (KJV).

In a similar vein, “Our Brothers the Animals” begins with Psalm 24:1 “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof” (KJV). A further allusion in the prayer is to Romans 8:22 “For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now” (KJV).

The biblical allusions  in these two prayers are consistent with liturgies and prayers used in both ancient and modern church contexts. However, the biblical allusions do not lend much proof to support the idea that the prayers are from the fourth century church.

Scamp (1976-1981). Photo Copyright © 2012 Philip Johnson.

Second Glance: Modern Jargon

What should raise an eyebrow or two about their apparent lack of “antiquity” is the presence of very modern jargon in these prayers.

In St. Basil’s writings one routinely sees “man” and “mankind” and so it is curious that in “Their Guileless Lives” the inclusive term “humankind” is used which at the very least hints at a translator jazzing up the original text. However, this is difficult to assess on face-value because no translator is named in Newman’s book and there is no Greek or Coptic original text on which to check the translation.

Likewise, in “Our Brothers the Animals”, it is difficult to reconcile some phrases with the known writings of St. Basil. For instance, it is highly unlikely that a fourth century monk would express himself saying,  “enlarge within us the sense of fellowship” and “the high dominion of man with ruthless cruelty”. The latter sounds very much like somebody in the modern world glancing back in time in light of historical trends in the rise of pro-animal causes since 1800.

A modern author with some theological background, and who has a reflective conscience, is a more likely candidate for composing prayers like these.

Penelope (1992-2007). Photo Copyright © 2012 Philip Johnson.

Somebody forgot to ask … did St. Basil really write them?

Let me emphasise that I love these two prayers both of which express some excellent sentiments and have great inspirational value.

However, as I will demonstrate in Parts Two, Three and Four, very few people have ever bothered to ask, “did St. Basil really write them?”

For over three years I have tried to find the original sources. Most blogs and books claim that the prayers are found in either St. Basil’s writings, or that they come from The Liturgy of St. Basil (see the English translations of the Greek Orthodox version, Slavonic-Russian versionCoptic version and Ethiopian version). The trouble is that The Liturgy of St. Basil in its Greek, Slavonic-Russian, Coptic and Ethiopic versions has no prayers remotely resembling them.

After sifting through the corpus of St. Basil’s translated works, it is clear to me that neither of these prayers came from him. About the closest affinity with the above prayers is what is called the “Litany of Land, Water & Weather” that is used on occasions in The Coptic Liturgy of St Basil. In the Litany the Deacon chants:

Pray for the plants, vegetation, crops, vines, and all the fruit-bearing trees in the whole world, the winds of the heavens, the rains and the fullness of rivers with water this year. That Jesus Christ our Lord may bless them and raise them to their measure; grant a cheerful touch to the lands, support the human beings, save the cattle and forgive us our sins. (The Coptic Liturgy of St. Basil, 4th Ed. Translated by Father Tadros Malati and deacon Nabih Fanous. Arncliffe, NSW: Coptic Orthodox Sunday School, 1998, p 32 and p 92.  Available http://www.thealpha.org/index.php?option=com_jdownloads&Itemid=53&view=finish&cid=542&catid=125)

Mummy (1996-2010). Photo Copyright © 2012 Philip Johnson

The “litany” though clearly contains nothing that approximates the two prayers attributed to St. Basil.

SPOILERS

In the next post (Part Two) I will document how many authors (mostly academics) have claimed that these prayers were written by St. Basil. This analysis will carry on in  further posts (Part ThreePart Four and Part Five) that highlights the same problem abounds in several books and blogs written by Christians. 

I will then show  (Part Six) that “Their Guileless Lives” surfaced during World War One owing to the dreadful conditions in which animals assisted in the military conflict of Europe’s “Great War”. I will also show that the original source for “Our Brothers the Animals” comes from a book of prayers composed by the liberal Baptist theologian Walter Rauschenbusch in 1910. (If you want to “cut-to-the-chase” go to Part Six here).

Lastly, there will be a summing up of lessons and reflections (Part Seven).

<end of Part One; see next post for continuation of this discussion>.