Whether the Letter of Pinnes for proving Arsenius to be alive was not feigned by Athanasius at the same time with the story of the dead man’s hand.
In all the times of the controversy about the Council of Tyre I cannot find that Athanasius or his friends pretended that Arsenius had been seen alive by any living witnesses. The Councils of Alexandria, Rome, & Sardica knew nothing of any such witnesses. But afterwards, when Athanasius was condemned by all the world & so saw that the letter of Arsenius would not any longer support the beleif that Arsenius was alive, he put about a story amongst his credulous followers as if Arsenius himself in person had been found alive, first in Egypt with one Pinnes & then at Tyre, & tells the story of his first finding thus:
Now that Arsenius was hidden [by the Meletians] that they might make his murder more probable, his friends who were with him testified. For in seeking him we found one of them who wrote to John (another actor in the same false accusation) the following Letter.
“To the beloved Brother John, Pinnes — a Presbyter of the house of Ptemengyris, which is in the Nome [ancient Egyptian administrative district] of Anteopolis — wishes health. I would have you know that Athanasius sent his Deacon into Thebais to search all places for Arsenius. Pecysius the presbyter & Sylvanus the brother of Helias & Tapenacerameus & Paul the Monk of Hypseles being first found, confessed that Arsenius was with us. But when we had learnt that, we caused him to be put into a ship & carried down with Helias the Monk into the lower parts [of Egypt.]
“And soon after the Deacon with some others coming upon us went into our house & found him not, by reason that we had sent him, as was said, into the lower parts: But me & Helias the Monk who had conveyed him away they carried away with them to Alexandria & brought us before the governour & I could not deny but confessed that he lived & was not killed. The same thing also was confessed by the Monk who had carried him away. Wherefore, o Father I make known to you these things that you may not accuse Athanasius. For they said that he was alive & hidden with us & it was made known to all Egypt & cannot any longer be concealed. I, Paphnutius a Monk of the same house who have written this Epistle, salute you much. Farewell.”
Now the truth of this Epistle I suspect for these reasons. First because Athanasius & his Friends knew nothing of this evidence in the Councils of Alexandria, Rome, & Sardica. So many living witnesses that Arsenius was alive & the proof thereof by some of those witnesses before the governour of Egypt, would have made a much greater noise in the Council of Tyre & afterwards than the single Letter of Arsenius: & yet Athanasius & his friends at that time insisted only upon the evidence of this Letter representing that Arsenius himself had showed, by his letter, that he was alive & intended no other evidence of his being alive, & complaining that the Council of Tyre had banished Athanasius notwithstanding that letter. This was all that Athanasius & his friends had then to allege, as we have showed out of the letter of the Council of Alexandria. [See the letter quoted in this section.]
And secondly I suspect the letter of Pinnes because it represents things contrary to what Athanasius & his friends did in the Letter of the Council of Alexandria. For here we are told that Arsenius at first lay hid in upper Egypt till the Deacon of Athanasius, upon search, discovered him & that he then retired into the lower Egypt & soon after, as Athanasius adds, wrote his famous Letter.
But in the Letter of the Council of Alexandria we are told that the accusers of Athanasius were not ashamed to affirm him the murderer of one who was in a remote place divided from the Egyptians “by journeys both by sea & land, living in a region at that time unknown to all men,” & being hidden by them & translated as far as could be into another world until he made himself known by his letter.
And lastly, the stories of finding Arsenius first in Egypt & then at Tyre are of a kind, & were told by the same man at the same time, & therefore must stand or fall together.