More on the Homilies of Origen

Comments on my post asking how to get an English translation of the Homilies of Origen were enthusiastic.  So I think we will conduct a little experiment with this one, and see if we can get somewhere. 

Today I have written to an academic/publishing person I know, and asked if they can find us a translator.  They have the contacts, and I am reasonably optimistic.  I’ve suggested a price of 3-4 p (UK = about 5-7 cents US) per word of Latin — because English and French translations already exist as a guide, reducing the labour — but negotiable (well, you have to be realistic).  I’d specify a condition that the first bit is done as a sample, and nothing is owed unless the sample is satisfactory.

I have also suggested no-one is committed beyond one homily at a time, neither the translator nor ourselves.  That reduces the size of financial risk and commitment down to something trivial.  We can always stop at any point, in other words; homilies we translate are an advance on nothing; those we don’t get to, well, we’re no worse off than now.  Of course I hope to do the lot!

Money comes from me in the first instance.  A couple of commenters stated their willingness to donate — much appreciated.  What I suggest is that we donate for a homily, and get our name on the bottom as “translation made possible by a grant from xxx” (or whatever wording you like).  A condition of the project is that everything becomes public domain. 

That’s all the project mechanics that I can think of; now, where to start?

I suggest the homilies on Genesis, unless anyone has a better idea? 

There are 16 homilies on Genesis.  A French edition in the Sources Chretiennes series exists, critical text and translation.  (And I have a copy!) 

Some numbers: the first homily, on creation, is 52 pages (i.e. 26 pages of Latin), about 8 words a line, 30 lines a page, i.e. 240 words a page, = 6,240 words, or about $400.  That’s a  big price, for a big homily; indeed the biggest of those on Genesis, which don’t otherwise run to more than around 20-30 pages (i.e. 10-15 pages of Latin, or about $200 each).  But I can stand that, as the price of the experiment.

Let’s see whether we can get a translator.


7 thoughts on “More on the Homilies of Origen

  1. Well I suggested the idea and I for one am up for putting $100 towards the project. Roger I think you’re right about the Homily on Genesis. I don’t know what’s in the material but I have something which might encourage people to contribute. Severus of Al’Ashmunein History of the Coptic Patriarchs (B Evetts p 169, 170 available at your other site) makes this intriguing statement about Origen “[s]o when Origen, whom Demetrius had excommunicated, saw that the Church had rejected him, he went to the Jews, and expounded for them part of the Hebrew books, in a new fashion; and he concealed the prophecies which they contain of the Lord Christ, so that when he came to the mention of the thicket in which the ram of Abraham, the Friend of God, was caught by its horns, which the Fathers interpret as a type of the wood of the Cross, Origen even concealed and abandoned this interpretation.” That should whet the appetite of those sitting on the fence I think …

  2. Well I can’t believe that there hasn’t been a rush of people to get the Homilies on Genesis translated. I guess it being Memorial Day here in the US must have something to do with it so I will give one more teaser to demonstrate how important this document is. In my last comment I cited what Severus said about Origen’s oontroversial interpretation of the ram in the sacrifice of Isaac narrative. Here is PART of what Origen says in one of the Homilies on Genesis (cited from Mark Sheridan and Thomas C. Oden’s Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture Genesis Vol II p. 109) “we said above, I think, that Isaac represented Christ. But this ram no less also seems to represent Christ. Now it is worthwhile to know how both are appropriate to Christ, both Isaac, who is not slain, and the ram, which is slain. Christ is “the Word of God,” but “the Word was made flesh.” One aspect of Christ therefore is from above; the other is received from human nature and the womb of the Virgin. Christ suffered, therefore, but in the flesh; and he endured death, but it was the flesh of which this ram is a type as also John said: ‘Behold the Lamb, behold him who takes away the sin of the world.’ But the Word continued ‘in incorruption,’ which is Christ according to the spirit, of which Isaac is the image. For this reason he is victim and priest. For truly according to the spirit he offers the victim to the Father, but according to the flesh he himself is offered on the altar of the cross.” (Homily on Genesis 8.9) I think anyone can see this is an incredibly significant scriptural interpretation not only for those with an interest to understand Origen’s thought but also the study of Patristic writers generally. I can immediately recall Melito of Sardis’ statement about Jesus as the ram. It is very important to put this translation online NOW.

  3. Stephan, I’ve just done a calculation, and to translate the homilies (116 of them, at average of 15 pages each) would cost $23,000! It’s the sort of sum that is too much for us as individuals, but not much to a business.

    So I’ve written again to my contact, and asked her to hold off. This needs more thought. I appreciate your enthusiasm, and I agree with every word of how important these are. But that’s a big sum, and needs a bit more planning.

  4. Dear Roger,
    I think that an online, public domain English version of Origen’s Homilies would be a terrific resource. I would be happy to offer my services towards the realization of this goal. I’m a PhD candidate in Patristics at the University of Edinburgh, and I’m currently working on an annotated translation and study of Gregory of Elvira’s Tractatus de Epithalamio – the oldest extant commentary on the Song of Songs in Latin. Please do feel free to get in touch if you’d like to discuss this further; I’d be happy to provide you with a CV and further background information if you’d like.

    Also, I thought I would bring to your attention that Questia has made available most of the current English translations of Origen’s Homilies (at least those published by CUA – not sure if any in the Paulist series have made it). It is, of course, a subscription fee of about $12 a month for access, so certainly not public domain!

  5. Hi Karl,

    Thanks for your kind offer, which I will bear in mind!

    I’m not sure that I will commission more of the Homilies into English, since I am increasingly getting the feeling that this is a crowded market! But I could hardly abandon the Homilies on Ezechiel part way.

    I wasn’t aware of the Questa stuff, but this just makes the point even more acutely, that I may be wasting my time and money.

    Yet… we really do need these available in the PD. Isn’t it frustrating?

  6. Gday Roger,

    Did this project go anywhere?

    I happen to be looking for a translation of Origen’s Homily on Genesis.


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