Origen’s Commentary on Matthew – what exists in English?

The remains of Origen’s 25-book Commentary on Matthew appear in four volumes in the GCS series.  These are:

  • GCS 40 – “Origenes Werke X, Commentarius in Matthaeum I” – this contains the Greek text of books of books 10-17.  (I found a PDF on ScribD and uploaded it to Archive.org here; a DJVU file exists in Poland also)
  • GCS 38 – “Origenes Werke XI, Commentarius in Matthaeum II” – this contains the Latin Commentariorum series, a bunch of homilies all translated in some way from the commentary, covering much of the lost books. (DJVU here)
  • GCS 41.1 and .2 – “Origenes Werke XII, Commentarius in Matthaeum III” – this contains quotations in other early Christians works, plus fragments from catenas. (DJVU of part 1 here).

A text can also be found in Migne’s Patrologia Graeca 13, reprinted from the 18th century edition of Delarue.

Finally we need to consider the edition of Lommatzsch (1831), which was used as the basis for the ANF English translation[1].

There is a complete German translation, in three large and expensive volumes, by H. J. Vogt: Origenes: Der Kommentar zum Evangelium nach Mattäus. Eingeleitet, übersetzt und mit Anmerkungen versehen. Hiersemann, Stuttgart 1983–1993; Erster Teil: Buch X – XIII (= Bibliothek der griechischen Literatur. 18, Abt. Patristik). 1983, ISBN 3-7772-8307-X; Zweiter Teil: Buch XIV – XVII (= Bibliothek der griechischen Literatur. 30, Abt. Patristik). 1990, ISBN 3-7772-9011-4; Dritter Teil: Die Commentariorum Series (= Bibliothek der griechischen Literatur. 38, Abt. Patristik). 1993, ISBN 3-7772-9325-3.

A French translation of books 10-11 was published by Girod in the 1970s in the Sources Chretiennes series, but no more volumes appeared.

The English translation that floats around the internet is that of the Ante-Nicene Fathers series, reprinted and repackaged in heaven-alone-knows how many forms.  In this 1885 American edition, it is found in volume 9, online in PDF here (sometimes it is treated as volume 10).  I shall refer to the page numbers in this printed edition.

The translation was made by a certain John Patrick DD (p.409), minister of Greenside, Edinburgh (title page), and contains the following materials:

  • Extract from book 1 (p.411) – this is in fact quoted in, and so based on, Eusebius Church History book 6, chapter 25.  HTML here.
  • Extract from book 2 (p.412) – this is from the Philocalia of Origen, chapter 6.  HTML here.
  • Books 10-14 (pp.413-512) – these are from the Greek text.  HTML book 10 starts here.

The translator’s brief introduction makes plain that he knew of books 15-17, but ignored them.  Each book is around 50 pages of the GCS, and about 50 columns of Migne, so they are quite substantial.

The translator also ignored some extracts in Latin.  A second extract from book 1 is preserved in Pamphilus’ Apology for Origen, chapter 5, which exists only in a Latin version; but this is not translated by the ANF.  A chunk of book 7 is likewise preserved in Pamphilus, chapter 10.

Interestingly a portion of book 15 was translated in November 2007 by a certain Yoel Natan, using machine-translation, on this page.

Clearly there is a need for an English translation of the remaining material.  It seems a bit lengthy for me, but I have done no precise calculations.  It would be very nice to have it, though!

UPDATE (13/3/17): It seems that Justin Gohl has translated book 15, and has a version up at Academia.edu for comment!  Marvellous news!

  1. [1]So the PDF, p.294.

Origen on Matthew 27:25 from the Commentariorum in Matthaeum Series

Only books 10-17 of Origen’s Commentary in Matthew survive in Greek.  But as I wrote yesterday, a Latin translation from antiquity renders a large chunk, from books 12, chapter 9 to almost the end of Matthew’s gospel.  Unfortunately there are no signposts in the text as to Origen’s book division: only a division into sections, more or less equivalent to the verses of the gospel text.

In section 124,[1] on Matthew 27:22-26, there is, naturally, a reference to Matthew 27:25.  Let’s see what Origen says here.

124. Pilate said to them, “So what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ? They all said, “Let him be crucified”, etc.

Wishing to impress on them the shame of so great an evil, Pilate said to them, “What shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ”, but not only that but wishing to get the measure of their impiety.  But they, neither blushing at this because Pilate was acknowledging that Jesus was the Christ, nor keeping within the limit of impiety, all said, “Let him be crucified“. And they even petitioned for Barabbas to be set free, while on the contrary they desired that Christ go to the cross, namely that Barabbas should actually be absolved, for they did not petition that he be crucified, but set free by the power of Pilate, so that they might do with him as they wished.  The impiety so far was great, because they petitioned for a murderer and abandoned a just man.  But now they multiplied the measure of their impiety, not only seeking life for a murderer, but also death for a just man, and the nastiest death of the cross.  Thus far he [Pilate] was going along with them, because he wanted to confuse them, so that, confused, they might come to choose the just man (although not in a judgement from their hearts), he said to them, “What wrong has he done?”  They had nothing with which to respond to this, so they shouted more loudly, lying down but increasing their rage, animosity and blasphemy and said, “Let him be crucified!

But Pilate, seeing that nothing was being gained, made use of the Jewish custom, wishing to appease them concerning the innocence of Christ not only with words, but also by their own action, if they wished, or if they did not wish to condemn, and, acting not according to any Roman custom; for he took water in the sight of all and, washing his hands, said: “I am innocent of the blood of this <just man>; you see to it.  And indeed he washed, but they not only did not wish to cleanse themselves of the blood of Christ, but also to take it on themselves, saying, “His blood be upon us, and on our children,” on account of which they are found guilty not only of the blood of the prophets, but, filling up the measure of their fathers, they are found guilty also of the blood of Christ, and hear God saying to them, “When you lift up your hands towards me, I will turn my eyes away from you; for your hands are full of blood.” (Is. 1:15)  Therefore the blood of Jesus was not only blamed upon them, who were alive then, but also on every generation of the Jews following after, until the end of the world.[2]  For this reason their house is now derelict and deserted by them.  But Pilate, forgetting his good words, with which he had begun to defend the innocence of Christ, falling into evil not only handed over Jesus but also handed him over to be flogged, so that they might crucify him.

I did transcribe the Latin text from the GCS edition, so that I could use Google Translate and QuickLatin on it.  Let’s have that also:

124. Dicit illis Pilatus: quid ergo faciam Iesum qui dicitur Christus? Dicunt omnes: crucifigatur, et cetera (27, 22—26).

Volens eis pudorem tantae iniquitatis incutere Pilatus dicit eis: quid ergo faciam Iesum qui dicitur Christus, non solum autem sed et mensuram colligere volens impietatis eorum, illi autem, nec hoc erubescentes quod Pilatus Iesum Christum esse confitebatur nec modum impietatis servantes, dixerunt omnes: crucifigatur. Et si quidem Barabbam petissent dimittere, non autem econtra et Christum postulassent ad crucem, utputa Barabbam quidem petissent absolvi, hunc autem non petissent crucifigi sed in potestate dimisissent Pilati, ut faceret de eo quod vellet, adhuc magnae esset impietatis, quod relicto iusto homicidam petissent.  Nunc autem multiplicaverunt impietatis suae mensuram, non solum homicidam postulantes ad vitam, sed etiam iustum ad mortem et ad mortem turpissimam crucis, adhuc autem permanens in eo ipso, quod confundere eos volebat, ut vel confusi ad electionem iusti venirent (etsi non ex iudicio cordis), dicit eis: quid enim mali fecit?  Contra hoc nihil habentes quod responderent, amplius clamaverunt non deponentes sed augentes iram, animositatem, blasphemiam et dixerunt: crucifigatur.

Pilatus autem, videns quod nihil proficeret, Iudaico usus est more, volens eos de Christi innocentia non solum verbis, sed etiam ipso facto placare si voluerint, si autem noluerint condemnare, faciens non secundum aliquam consuetudinem Romanorum; accepit enim aquam in conspectu omnium, et lavans manus suas dixit: innocens ego sum a sanguine <iusti> huius; vos videritis. Et ipse quidem se lavit, illi autem non solum se mundare noluerunt a sanguine Christi, sed etiam super se susceperunt dicentes: sanguis eius super nos, et super filios nostros, propter hoc rei facti sunt non solum in sanguine prophetarum, sed inplentes mensuram patrum suorum facti sunt rei etiam in sanguine Christi, ut audiant deum sibi dicentem: «cum expanderitis manus vestras ad me, avertam oculos meos a vobis; manus enim vestrae sanguine plenae sunt«.  Propterea sanguis Iesu non solum super eos factus est, qui tunc fuerunt, verum etiam super omnes generationes Iudaeorum post sequentes usque ad consummationem. Propterea usque nunc domus eorum derelicta est eis deserta. Pilatus autem oblitus verborum suorum bonorum, quibus coeperat defendere innocentiam Christi, declinans ad malum non solum tradidit Iesum, sed etiam flagellis caesum tradidit, ut crucifigerent eum.

It is interesting how favourable Origen is to Pilate!  He actually makes up a story about what Pilate must have thought and intended.

I also notice a lot of repetition in here, as if this material was delivered orally.  Of course we know that Origen “wrote” by dictation, but even so, the points are repeated so much that it sounds a bit like a stenographic record.

  1. [1]GCS 38 p.258-60.
  2. [2]Given slightly less literally by Raymond E. Brown in The Death of the Messiah (1994), vol. 1, p.384, as “Therefore the blood of Jesus came not only upon those who existed at that time but also upon all generations of Jews who would follow afterwards until the endtime.”

Some notes on Origen’s Commentary on Matthew

The Commentary on Matthew written by Origen of Alexandria in 25 books has not come down to us complete.  From SC162[1] I learn that the Greek text of books 10-17 has survived complete.  This appears as GCS 40, which is online here.

Two independent but closely related manuscripts have preserved the text:

  • Monacensis gr. 191, bombycin, 13th c.  This also contains the Commentary on John.
  • Cambridge, Trinity College, 194-B-8-10, paper, 14th c.  Used for the editio princeps in 1668.  Also known as the Holmiensis.
  • Other manuscripts exist.  The Venice, Marcianus, 43, written in 1374, is a copy of the Monacensis, useful for pages that have since disappeared.  Other manuscripts are merely defective copies of the two main manuscripts.

The Migne edition (PG 13) reprints the 1759 edition of De la Rue.  The text has been printed by Klostermann in the GCS 41.1, Origenes Werke X, which is online.

An ANF English translation exists of books 2 and 10-14.  There seems to be  no English translation of books 15-17; only a German one in Origenes: Der Kommentar zum Evangelium nach Mattäus: Teil 2 Buch XIV-XVII (Vogt 1990).

There are also fragments of other books, preserved in the medieval catena-commentaries, which were collected by Lommatzsch.[2]  This, I find, references Matthew 27:25.

In addition, an ancient Latin translation exists, the Vetus interpretatio, known as the Commentariorum in Matthaeum series.  It perhaps dates to the 6th century and the times of Cassiodorus.  This begins at what we can see from the surviving Greek is book 12, chapter 9, and ends only a little before the end of Matthew’s gospel.  Unfortunately it contains no indication of Origen’s division into books.  Rather it is divided in the manuscripts into 145 sections, each beginning by quoting the Gospel text, and then giving a comment.[3]

For the GCS 38 edition of the Commentariorum Series (1933) Klostermann used the following manuscripts:

  • G = Codex Rothomagensis (= Gemmeticensis) 423, 10th century.
  • B = Codex Brugensis 58 (301), 12th c.
  • R = the readings of a lost codex from Reims, given by the edition of De la Rue.
  • L = Codex Londiniensis, British Library Additional 26761, 12th c.  Witness to a younger family of the text.

Comparison of the portion where both survive indicates that the translator is rather independent of his original; so much so, that Harnack and Zahn considered that Origen had written two editions.  Klostermann, the GCS editor[4], preferred to consider them as two witnesses to one text.

The work generally seems to have been neglected by translators.  English readers are very fortunate that the Ante-Nicene Fathers series contains a translation of the Greek books.  I have been unable to locate any translation of the Commentariorum Series.

  1. [1]Edited by Girod, SC 162 was the first volume of the Sources Chrétiennes edition, containing books 10-11; but no further volumes ever appeared
  2. [2]So the GCS preface.
  3. [3]John A. McGuckin, The Westminster Handbook to Origen, p.30: “Of the twenty-five books of the Matthew commentary, eight survive in Greek (books 10-17), which comment on Matthew 13:36-22:33. More of the work survived in an anonymous Latin translation of the late fifth (or early sixth century), which was passed on through the tradition in the form of thirty-five homiletical narratives on Matthew (confusing many readers, since they were not originally homilies of Origen). The Latin version begins at the point of the Greek text that corresponds with Greek book 12,  chapter 9 (relating to Matthew 16:13), but as it develops after that there is no way of  telling where one is in terms of the original Greek volume structure. The Latin version  carries on more or less to the end of Matthew (Matt. 27:66) omitting Matthew 28 altogether. It has been printed from modern times in a twofold way. The first section, which corresponds to the Greek text (covering Matt. 16:13-22:33) is known as the Vetus  Interpretatio. The other section, which has no corresponding Greek original (Matt. 22:24-27:66), is called the Commentariorum Series. It is divided into (and thus referenced as) 145 chapters, apparently based simply upon verse divisions.  Further Reading: Bastit-Kalinowska (1995a, 1995b).”
  4. [4]GCS 38, Origenes Werke XI, p.259. Homily 124.  This is accessible online.