And yet more on the Origen ms. from Alex Poulos

Alex has posted a tutorial on Greek paleography:

I spent the morning writing up a short Greek paleography tutorial.  It’s targeted at people who have at least an intermediate knowledge of Greek, but haven’t done much paleography themselves (ie, they haven’t read from manuscripts). 

Because of the clarity of hand, I think the recently discovered Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Codex graeca 314 (the Origen manuscript) is an excellent introduction to “reading a manuscript for oneself.”  Plus it will allow one to take part in excitement of the new discovery. 

It remains to be seen how useful the page will be, but I do hope it’ll be useful for those who haven’t yet worked with Greek manuscripts. 

So, for those who would like to read this exciting ms, but haven’t read from a ms in a while, take a look and let me know what you think.  You can find it in the title-bar, or here

Good man!  What do people think?

Alex also asks what kind of writing these sermons are.

I think I’ve found evidence that suggests that these were, more or less, impromptu or extemporaneous lectures.  

Translation of part of one of the new Origen homilies

Via Alin Suciu I learn that Alex Poulos has transcribed and translated part of one of the newly discovered homilies on the Psalms by Origen:

As promised, this post will contain a short transcription and translation of Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Codex graeca 314, the codex which scholars recently have rediscovered and believe contains a large number of homilies of Origen of Alexandria.  …

I picked a rather arbitrary spot to transcribe and translate. I decided to start with the 3rd homily on Psalm 76 (LXX). This begins on folio 193v (page 393 in my PDF). In this excerpt, Origen is commenting on the nature of the “waters which see God,” which comes from Psalm 77:16 (Hebrew numbering). The NETS translates it thus, “The waters saw you, O God, the waters saw you and writhed; the very depths were convulsed. The waters saw you, O God, the waters saw you and writhed; the very depths were convulsed.”

Our author proceeds to explain the nature of these waters, and their relationship with the three heavens. The comments are speculative and “cosmic” in nature, which comport nicely with Origen’s reputation.

His translation follows, and here is an excerpt of what Origen says:

How must I labor so that I may ascend into the first heaven? What must happen so that I may be considered worthy of the second? I must be like Paul, if I should go to the third.

And if I should become as Paul, I will still not have yet seen the following heaven, these waters which praise God, according to the prophet, beyond the heavens.

Well done, Alex!  This is exactly what we want to see.  Come on, everyone: the BSB has put the images online, so let’s see a bit of crowd-sourcing.  If you can read it, why not transcribe a bit?  If you can read and translate, why not do so?

Alin Suciu has continued to gather news on the discovery here.   He writes

UPDATE 3: The blog Paleografia Greca announced yesterday the schedule for the seminar “Paleografia greca oggi” (“Greek Paleography Today”), which will take place at Padua University on June 25. Marina Molin Pradel shall present a paper titled “Novità origeniane dalla Staatsbibliothek di Monaco,” in which she will be talking about her identification of Origen’s homilies on the Psalms.

If you know Italian and can be there, I would imagine that this was an essential meeting to attend.

Which of Origen’s homilies on the Psalms were previously known, and more on Jerome

The new find of Origen’s homilies on the Psalms raised the question of what already existed.  Alin Suciu listed the homilies found, as I mentioned yesterday.

Previously we had only extracts from catenas, plus a Latin translation of 9 homilies on the Psalms: 5 on Psalm 36, 2 on Ps. 37, 2 on Ps. 38.  These were translated by Rufinus.[1]

In addition, a collection of 74 homilies on the psalms exists, attributed to Jerome.  V. Peri claimed that these were in fact translations of Origen’s homilies, but this seems probably mistaken.[2]

Yesterday I posted a translation of Jerome’s letter 33, which gave a list of Origen’s works.  I learn today from the Westminster handbook to Origen[3] that a complete English translation of this letter was published in 1989, by H. Crouzel.[4]

It seems that letter 33 was long known only in an incomplete form.  Crouzel (p.37) says:

Those who copied the letters of Jerome did not bother to transcribe more than the opening lines of this list, but shortly before the middle of the last century it was rediscovered by Sir Thomas Phillips in a manuscript at Arras; since then it has appeared in the editions of Jerome’s Letters.

In the letter, excerpta seems to be rendered as scholia by Crouzel, “learned notes of commentary”.

McGuckin adds:

A useful list of Origen’s homilies with a digest of their contents was made by B. F. Westcott for DCB 4: 104-18 (London, 1887) 

  1. [1] J. A. McGuckin, The Westminster handbook to Origen.  Preview here.
  2. [2] McGuckin: “Recently V. Peri (“Omelie origeniane sui Psalmi”. Studi e Testi 289. Vatican City, 1980; idem CCL 78) has restored to Origen a total of seventy-four homilies on the Psalms formerly attributed to Jerome, who was, it now appears, only their translator.” L. Perrone, “FOUR GOSPELS, FOUR COUNCILS” – ONE LORD JESUS CHRIST The Patristic Developments of Christology within the Church of Palestine.  p.378 (pdf p.22): “For this analysis we have emblematic evidence in the “mixed” text represented by the Homilies on the Psalms, circulating under the name of Jerome but for some scholars to a large extent merely translated and adapted by him from a corresponding work of Origen.(47)

    47. Tractatus sive homiliae in Psalmos, ed. G. Morin, CCL 78, Turnhout 1958. For the scholarly discussion on the authorship see lately Origene – Gerolamo. 74 omelie sul libro dei salmi, intr., trad. e note di G. Coppa, Milano 1993, 13-32. Their overall dependence on Origen was especially asserted by V. Peri, Omelie origeniane sui Salmi. Contributo all’identificazione del testo latino, Città del Vaticano 1980. His thesis has been rejected by P. Jay, “Les Tractatus in Psalmos”, in Jérôme entre l’Occident et l’Orient. Actes du colloque de Chantilly publiés par Y.-M. Duval, Paris 1988, 367-380, for whom the clear origenian inspiration of the homilies should not be an obstacle for considering them a work of Jerome, as is shown by their many actual connections.”

  3. [3] J. A. McGuckin, The Westminster handbook to Origen.  Preview here.
  4. [4] Origen: the Life and Thought of the First Great Theologian by Henri Crouzel and A. S. Worrall (Sep 1989), p. 37-39.  Snippet view here.

Jerome’s Letter 33, listing the works of Origen

In my last post about the new find of homilies of Origen on the Psalms, I quoted a letter by Lorenzo Perrone.  He states that Dr Marina Molin Pradel “noticed that the list of the other homilies corresponded to a large extent to that presented by Jerome in his Letter 33 to Paula, the most important group being the series of nine homilies on Psalm 77.”

No complete translation of this letter from ca. 384 AD seems to be online.  I have therefore taken the partial 19th century Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers translation, and added to it the detailed list of the works of Origen from the Latin.[1]  The conditions under which I am working are far from ideal; errata would be gratefully accepted.

It makes interesting reading.  Not merely does it give a list of the works of Origen, which, however, must be incomplete since it doesn’t mention Contra Celsum or the Dialogue with Heracleides.  It gives a list of the Latin works of Varro also.


1. Antiquity marvels at Marcus Terentius Varro, because of the countless books which he wrote for Latin readers; and Greek writers are extravagant in their praise of their man of brass, because he has written more works than one of us could so much as copy. But since Latin ears would find a list of Greek writings tiresome, I shall confine myself to the Latin Varro. I shall try to show that we of today are sleeping the sleep of Epimenides, and devoting to the amassing of riches the energy which our predecessors gave to sound, if secular, learning.

2. Varro’s writings include:

45 books of antiquities, 4 concerning the life of the Roman people, 15 on Images, 76 “Logistorikwn”, 15 on the Latin Language, 9 of disciplines, 5 on Latin speech, 5 of Plautine questions, 3 of Annals, 3 on the origin of the Latin language, 3 of poetry, 3 on the origins of the stage, 3 on the actions of the stage, 3 on the acts on the stage, 3 on descriptions, 3 on the propriety of writers, 3 on libraries, 3 on readings, 3 on the similarity of words, 3 on embassies, 3 of “suasiones”, 3 on Pompey, 10 “singulares”, 3 on persons, 15 on the civil law, an epitome in 9 books from the 42 books of antiquities, an epitome in 4 books from the 15 books on Images, an epitome in 9 books from the 15 books on the Latin language, 9 books on the principles of numbers, 3 books on rustic matters, 1 book on preventative health, 3 books on his own life, 3 books on the form of philosophy, 3 books on urban matters, 150 books of Menippean satires, 10 books of poetry, 22 books of orations, 6 books of pseudo-tragedies, 4 books of satires and many others, which it would be wearisome to enumerate. I have barely listed half of the index, and it is overwhelming to the readers.

3. But by contrast our age has learned men, and they know in which waters fish were born, and on what shore an oyster grew. We have no doubts concerning the flavour of thrushes, Paxamus and Apicius are ever in our hands, our eyes on our possessions, our senses on the plates, and, if one of the philosophers or Christians, who are the true philosophers, with worn cloak and grubby tunic fails to pay attention to the reading, he is thrown out with a jeer as if mad.

4. But why, you ask me, have I thus mentioned Varro and the man of brass? Simply to bring to your notice our Christian man of brass, or, rather, man of adamant — Origen, I mean— whose zeal for the study of Scripture has fairly earned for him this latter name. Would you learn what monuments of his genius he has left us? The following list exhibits them. His writings comprise:

13 books on Genesis, 2 books of mystical homilies, excerpta[2] Exodus, excerpta on Leviticus, 10 books of “Stromata”, 36 books on Isaiah, likewise excerpta on Isaiah, 1 book on Hosea concerning Ephraim, commentary on Hosea, 2 books on Joel, 6 books on Amos, 1 book on Jonah, 3 books on Micaiah, 2 books on Nahum, 3 books on Habakuk, 2 books on Wisdom, 1 book on Haggai, 2 books on the beginning of Zechariah, 2 books on Malachi, 28 books on Ezekiel, excerpta on the Psalms from the start to [Psalm] 15, again 1 book on Psalm 1, 1 book on Psalm 2, 1 book on Psalm 3, 1 book on Psalm 4, 1 book on Psalm 5, 1 book on Psalm 6, 1 book on Psalm 7, 1 book on Psalm 8, 1 book on Psalm 9, 1 book on Psalm 10, 1 book on Psalm 11, 1 book on Psalm 12, 1 book on Psalm 13, 1 book on Psalm 14, 1 book on Psalm 15, 1 book on Psalm 16, 1 book on Psalm 20, 1 book on Psalm 24, 1 book on Psalm 29, 1 book on Psalm 38, 1 book on Psalm 40, 2 books on Psalm 43, 3 books on Psalm 44, 1 book on Psalm 45, 1 book on Psalm 46, 2 books on Psalm 50, 1 book on Psalm 51, 1 book on Psalm 52, 1 book on Psalm 53, 1 book on Psalm 57, 1 book on Psalm 58, 1 book on Psalm 59, 1 book on Psalm 62, 1 book on Psalm 63, 1 book on Psalm 64, 1 book on Psalm 65, 1 book on Psalm 68, 1 book on Psalm 70, 1 book on Psalm 71, 1 book on the beginning of Psalm 70 part 2 (?), 2 books on Psalm 103. 3 books on Proverbs, excerpta on Ecclesiastes. 10 books on the Song of Songs, and 2 other books (tomos), which he wrote on this in his youth, 5 books (tomos) on the Lamentations of Jeremiah, likewise 4 books “Monobibia, Periarchon”, 2 books on the resurrection and two other dialogues on the resurrection, 1 book on various questions on Proverbs, dialogue against Candidus the Valentinian, a book on martyrdom.

On the New Testament: 25 books on Matthew, 32 books on John, 1 book of excerpta on various parts of John, 15 books on Luke, 15 books on the letter of the apostle Paul to the Romans, 25 books on the letter to the Galatians, 3 books on the letter to the Ephesians, 1 book on the letter to the Philippians, 2 books on the letter to the Colossians, 3 books on the 1st letter to the Thessalonians, 1 book on the 2nd letter to the Thessalonians, 1 book on the letter to Titus, 1 book on the letter to Philemon.
Again homilies on the Old Testament: 17 homilies on Genesis, 8 homilies on Exodus, 11 homilies on Leviticus, 28 homilies on Numbers, 13 homilies on Deuteronomy, 26 homilies on Joshua son of Nun, 9 homilies on the book of Judges, 8 homilies on the passover [=Easter?], 4 homilies on the 1st book of Kings, 22 homilies on Job, 7 homilies on Parables, 8 homilies on Ecclesiastes, 2 homilies on the Song of Songs, 32 homilies on Isaiah, 14 homilies on Jeremiah, 12 homilies on Ezekiel.

On the Psalms: 1 homily on Psalm 3, 1 homily on Psalm 4, 1 homily on Psalm 8, 1 homily on Psalm 12, 3 homilies on Psalm 15, 1 homily on Psalm 16, 1 homily on Psalm 18, 1 homily on Psalm 22, 1 homily on Psalm 23, 1 homily on Psalm 24, 1 homily on Psalm 25, 1 homily on Psalm 26, 1 homily on Psalm 27, 5 homilies on Psalm 36, 2 homilies on Psalm 37, 2 homilies on Psalm 38, 2 homilies on Psalm 39, 1 homily on Psalm 49, 1 homily on Psalm 51, 2 homilies on Psalm 52, 1 homily on Psalm 54, 7 homilies on Psalm 67, 2 homilies on Psalm 71, 3 homilies on Psalm 72, 3 homilies on Psalm 73, 1 homily on Psalm 74, 1 homily on Psalm 75, 3 homilies on Psalm 76, 9 homilies on Psalm 77, 4 homilies on Psalm 79, 2 homilies on Psalm 80, 1 homily on Psalm 81, 3 homilies on Psalm 82, 1 homily on Psalm 83, 2 homilies on Psalm 84, 1 homily on Psalm 85, 1 homily on Psalm 87, 1 homily on Psalm 108, 1 homily on Psalm 110, 3 homilies on Psalm 118, 1 homily on Psalm 120, 2 homilies on Psalm 121, 2 homilies on Psalm 122, 2 homilies on Psalm 123, 2 homilies on Psalm 124, 1 homily on Psalm 125, 1 homily on Psalm 127, 1 homily on Psalm 128, 1 homily on Psalm 129, 1 homily on Psalm 131, 2 homilies on Psalm 132, 2 homilies on Psalm 133, 2 homilies on Psalm 134, 4 homilies on Psalm 135, 2 homilies on Psalm 137, 4 homilies on Psalm 138, 2 homilies on Psalm 139, 3 homilies on Psalm 144, 1 homily on Psalm 145, 1 homily on Psalm 146, 1 homily on Psalm 147, 1 homily on Psalm 148, excerpta on the whole psalter.

Homilies on the New Testament: 25 homilies on the gospel “kata Matqaion”, 39 homilies on the gospel “kata Loukan”, 17 homilies on the Acts of the Apostles, 11 homilies on the 2nd letter to the Corinthians, 2 homilies on the letter to the Thessalonians, 7 homilies on the letter to the Galatians, 1 homily on the letter to Titus, 18 homilies on the letter to the Hebrews.

1 homily on peace, an exhortation to Pionia, [a homily] on fasting, 2 homilies on monogramy and trigamy, 2 homilies on Tarsus, by Origen, Firmianus and Gregory, likewise 2 books of excerpta of letters by Origen and by others to him — the letter of Hesiphodorus on the case of Origen in 2 books — 9 books of his letters to various people, 2 books of other letters, likewise a letter in 2 books as an apologia for his works.

5. So, you see, the labors of this one man have surpassed those of all previous writers, Greek and Latin. Who has ever managed to read all that he has written? Yet what reward have his exertions brought him? He stands condemned by his bishop, Demetrius, only the bishops of Palestine, Arabia, Phenicia, and Achaia dissenting. Imperial Rome consents to his condemnation, and even convenes a senate to censure him, not— as the rabid hounds who now pursue him cry— because of the novelty or heterodoxy of his doctrines, but because men could not tolerate the incomparable eloquence and knowledge which, when once he opened his lips, made others seem dumb.

6. I have written the above quickly and incautiously, by the light of a poor lantern. You will see why, if you think of those who today represent Epicurus and Aristippus.

  1. [1] Latin text in CSEL 54, p.252 f, online here, partial NPNF translation here.
  2. [2] ‘excerpta’=notes.

More on the new homilies on the Psalms by Origen

Alin Suciu has unearthed more details about the find, announced yesterday, of a Greek manuscript in the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in Munich (ms. gr. 314) full of homilies on the Psalms by Origen.  The news is even better than we had first thought!

In update 2 to his first post (which also includes an image of the splendid first folio of the manuscript), he details the contents of the manuscript.

The homilies are arranged into two books (tomos). The first book (foll. 1-273 according to a modern foliation) contains Origen’s homilies on the following Psalms:

  • Psalm 15: 2 homilies.
  • Psalm 31: 4 homilies.
  • Psalm 66: 2 homilies (although the modern note in Latin which opens the manuscript mentions 3 homilies on this Psalm).
  • Psalm 73: 3 homilies.
  • Psalm 74: 1 homily.
  • Psalm 75: 1 homily.
  • Psalm 76: 4 homilies.
  • The volume ends with the first 5 homilies on Psalm 77.

The second book starts on the verso of fol. 273. It contains:

  • Psalm 77: homilies 6-9.
  • Psalm 80: 2 homilies
  • Psalm 81: 1 homily.

That’s quite a find.  Unfortunately I am away from my books, so I do not know which homilies are known to us in a Latin version.

Next he posted a guest post from Mark Bilby:

This is a major find. The note in the Clavis Patrum Graecorum (vol 1, pg 149), which assigns the reference # 1426 to this work of Origen’s on the Psalms, only lists the smallest of fragments and catena excerpts previously extant. This may well be the earliest major Christian treatment of the Psalms now extant.

I took a look at the title and summary page to get a better sense of the contents. The title says “Homilies on the Psalter, by an uncertain author, up to Psalm 81 as the end.” …

The commentaries on Ambrose and Augustine on the Psalms have been translated into English and have gained hearings in various scholarly settings. Perhaps this major find will bring about a renewed interest in Origen’s other works on the Psalms (CPG 1425, 1427-1429, 1503.9), as well as the many, many other Greek commentaries still awaiting translation, analysis, and broader circulation.

The list of neglected works for the fourth century alone includes those by Eusebius of Caesarea (CPG 3467), Athanasius (CPG 2140), Evagrius Ponticus (2455), Didymus of Alexandria (CPG 2550-2551), Basil of Caesarea (CPG 2836), Diodore of Tarsus (CPG 3818), Theodore of Mopsuestia (CPG 3833), and Asterius Ignotus (so renamed by Wolfram Kinzig; CPG 2815-2816).

This is all well said.

Then Dr Suciu posted  a letter from Origen scholar Lorenzo Perrone, who authenticated the find:

… Prof. Anna Meschini Pontani, from Padua University, informed me that Dr. Marina Molin Pradel, who is preparing the new catalogue of the Greek manuscripts of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, wished to submit to my attention a discovery she had made on Holy Thursday.

While examining the content of Codex Monacensis Graecus 314 (11th-12th century), an anonymous collection of 29 homilies on the Psalms, she discovered that the manuscript included the Greek text of four of the five homilies of Origen on Psalm 36 (H36Ps I-IV). Moreover, she noticed that the list of the other homilies corresponded to a large extent to that presented by Jerome in his Letter 33 to Paula, the most important group being the series of nine homilies on Psalm 77.

I worked hastily in the following weeks to go through the considerable manuscript (371 folios) and check its content. More and more, albeit still provisionally, I have come to the conclusion that we have to do with a lot of lost homilies of Origen. My conviction is supported, among other things, by the exegetical treatment presented by the homilies, the doctrinal elements they preserve, the stylistic features which are typical of the great Alexandrian. In addition, some excerpts of these homilies were already known to us under his name in some catenae fragments edited in PG 17 and the Analecta Sacra of Pitra, especially with regard to Psalm 77.

Only a thorough examination of the texts transmitted by the Codex Monacensis Graecus 314 will permit to extend with reasonable certainty the attribution to Origen of all the remaining homilies or of part of them, besides the Homilies I-IV on Psalm 36.

This is well said.  So what is next?

I have already begun with the transcription of the manuscript and hope to complete it before the end of the summer, in order to make the texts accessible to scholars. Together with my colleagues Chiara Barilli, Antonio Cacciari and Emanuela Prinzivalli I plan to prepare without delay a critical edition of the homilies.

I hope that Dr Perrone puts his transcription online.  A critical edition is important, of course; but comparatively few will be able to make use of it any time soon.

Marina Molin Pradel will present her discovery and offer some samples of the manuscript in the next issue of Adamantius, due to be published before the autumn.

I hope Dr Pradel will not fail to give the human-interest details of how she spotted the text.  We have far too few published accounts of “how lost texts are found”, and such an account might inspire others to use the same approach.

Dr Perrone continues:

Together with the colleagues of the Italian Research Group on Origen and the Alexandrian Tradition we plan a conference in Bologna next February, exactly one year after the one devoted to the prospect of a new edition of Origen’s commentaries on the Psalms, in cooperation with the colleagues of the Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaft.

At the time we were submerged by the snow no less than by the uncomfortable impression of the heavy task still waiting the editors of the catenae fragments. Now, in the middle of renewed quakes, we have been given an unexpected gift that we would like to share with all those who love Origen.

The task of editing catena fragments is a very heavy one.  It would be most interesting to hear about this new proposed edition of Origen on the Psalms!

Greek text found of Origen’s homilies on the Psalms!

J.-B.Piggin draws my attention to a press release today by the Bayerische StaatsBibliothek.  My own very rough translation of parts of it:

While cataloguing the Greek manuscripts in the Johann Jakob Fuller collection of books, a spectacular discovery was recently made in the Bavarian State Library.  The philologist Marina Molin Pradel during the cataloguing process identified a manuscript containing the original text of numerous homilies on the Psalms by Origen of Alexandria (185-253/4 AD), hitherto unknown in Greek.  The importance of this find for scholarship cannot be overestimated.  The very high probability of the attribution to Origen was confirmed by the internationally recognised Origen scholar Lorenzo Perrone, of the University of Bologna.

… [Origen’s] sermons and explanation on the Psalms were previously extant only in fragments and in Latin translation.  The inconspicuous-looking Greek manuscript whose true contents have now been identified dates from the 12th century.  …

The manuscript has already been digitised by the Bavarian State Library and is already available to everyone on the internet:

www.digitale > input “Homiliae in psalmos”

The Bavarian State Library has more than 650 Greek manuscripts and is thus the largest collection in Germany.   It is heavily used by scholars.  The work was done in-house by the Manuscript Development Centre and funded by the German Research Foundation.  The find makes clear the necessity and the value of this detailed and elaborate analysis.  The catalogue of the Greek manuscripts at the Bavarian State Library is celebrating its 20th anniversary.  It will take at least 15 more years until all the Greek manuscripts have been freshly described.

I imagine that all of us must feel real excitement here.  I wish there were more details.  But who could have imagined that such an item might exist in so major an archive?  What else is out there???  What lies hidden by the wretched catalogues of most institutions, where none but the staff can browse casually?

And … well done, CEO Rolf Griebel, to put the thing on the web.  How many libraries would have done that?  How many would have tried to hide it, to “control” it, to create a little monopoly, to force scholars to write pleading letters, to feed their own vanity?  More than we might like to think.  Instead the BSB have simply put it on the web for everyone to see.  I unsay a good many of the hard things that I have said about Germany and the internet, when I see something like this.

Now … go out there, you scholars, and DO something with this!