Devreesse on the extracts of Origen on Ezekiel in the catenas

I’ve continued to work away at the monster article on the catenas by R. Devreesse, Chaines éxégetiques grecques, Supplément to Dictionnaire de la Bible, vol. 1 (Paris: Letouzey, published 1928).   The print-out that I got using the default settings in Adobe was very hard to read, very grainy and faint.  Fortunately I found a way to set the printer to denser printing, and this improved this.  So this morning I made a pile of print-outs, stapled them together in four sections, took my pen and … went off to lunch.  They went very well while waiting for a steak to appear!

The material concerned with Origen on Ezechiel is quite brief and begins on col. 1154.  Here it is in English, omitting chunks of Greek quoted where it would be a pain to transcribe them.  It is rather full of unfamiliar names.  Who, for instance, is Faulhaber? (<cough> A quick google search reveals that I have asked this question before, and that his book is online!).  Moving quickly on:

V.  EZEKIEL. — Faulhaber has placed the work by Pradus-Villalpandus, In Ezechielem explanationes et apparatus urbis ac templi Hierosolymitani commentario et imaginibus illustratus, 3 vols, Rome, 1596-1604, in its true context.  These volumes may have some importance for biblical topography, but they have nothing to do with the literature on the catenas.  There are again many manuscripts of Roman catenas derived from the ms. Chisianus which we must examine.

This is a reference to various catena manuscripts in Rome, in the Vatican etc, which he has already referred to for other Old Testament catenas.

The catalogue of Karo and Lietzmann adds to these on the one hand ms. Coislin 17 (13th century), Ambrosianus E. 46 sup. (10th c.)  and on the other the two Laurentianus V, 9 (11th c.) and XI, 4 (11th c.).

The catenist, probably John Drungarius, prefixed his collection with a preface in which he declared that he had searched in vain for commentaries of the fathers on Ezekiel; he could only discover passages of the prophet referred to or explained by them, randomly, in one or another of their works.  Lacking works by the holy Fathers, he searched elsewhere for materials for his collection; the “heretics” Theodoret, Polychronius and Origen furnished him with scholia.    But he also came across an earlier catena which it seems contained anonymous extracts.  These he included preceded by the lemma  Ἄλλος.  Faulhaber, p. 141-2.  The sources for John’s catena — which we will call this, for convenience — are thus the following:  some anonymous scholia, based on a primitive catena and prefixed with the lemma Allos, some interpretations detached from context on odd passages of the prophet, and some fragments taken from authors of limited orthodoxy.  All this material has been treated with some freedom.  What is the Allos material?  Faulhaber has remarked that these extracts look very strongly like extracts from Polychronius.  These fragments must have come from some primitive catena, itself derived from a commentary by Polychronius.

I’m sure all of us are wondering who Polychronius is.  I certainly don’t remember the name!  A quick Google search reveals that he was bishop of Apamea in the early 5th century and the brother of Theodore of Mopsuestia.  No doubt his “heresy” consisted of following the Antiochene approach to the various controversies of the period, nearly all political in inspiration.  Quite a bit of his exegetical work has survived, including nearly all his work on Ezechiel.

But back to Devreesse:

Let us note, in passing, that in Ambrosianus E. 46 sup (10th c.), we find the commentary of Theodoret surrounded by scholia.

AUTHORS CITED.  — Origen. — We are told in the Church History of Eusebius (V, 32:1-2) that Origen began at Caesarea and completed at Athens a commentary (tomoi) on Ezechiel.  The work comprised 25 books.  Of this commentary there remains only a section from the 20th book, preserved in the Philocalia (Patrologia Graeca vol. 13, cols. 663-666; ed. Robinson, p. 60).

I ought to add here that the Philocalia is a compilation of extracts from Origen, which was made in the 4th century by the great Cappadocian Fathers Basil of Caesarea and Gregory of Nyssa.  It survives, and I long ago scanned the English translation and placed it online here.

The commentary was not the only exegesis that Origen undertook on Ezekiel.  A translation by St. Jerome has handed us fourteen sermons (PG vol. 14, cols. 665-768; also edited by Baehrens, Griechische Christlicher Schriftsteller, 1925, p. 318-454).  There is no question, both in Eusebius and Jerome, that Origen also left scholia or excerpta on Ezekiel.  The fragments given in the catenas (233 in the ms. Ottobonianus 452, according to Faulhaber, p. 153) are taken from the homilies.  An edition of them by De la Rue can be found in the PG 13, cols. 695-787.  The Ottobonianus 452 was exploited by Cardinal Mai to furnish four further extracts (Novum Patr. Bibl. vol. 7, 2, praef., p. v [1], reprinted as PG 17, col. 288).  The manuscripts Vatican 1153 and Ottoboni 452 permitted Cardinal Pitra to pursue this collecting further, and to discover some next texts (Analecta sacra vol. 3, p. 541-550; the first extract had already been edited by De la Rue, the last and next-to-last by Mai).  The edition of Baehrens gives the fragments taken from the Ottoboni 452, Vatican 1153, and Laurentian V, 9 manuscripts, but we know that the homilies, which were the object of this publication, were attached to specific passages of the prophecy and did not go further than Ezechiel 44:2.  The remainder of the scholia are perhaps all that survives of lost homilies and commentaries.  The study of these fragments must therefore begin by establishing from the best manuscript witnesses a complete list, and then determining their relationship to the texts preserved in the direct tradition.

Devreesse then goes on to talk about the fragments of Hippolytus, but we need not follow him.

What does all this tell us?  Much and little.  It is reasonably certain that we have most of the catena fragments on Ezechiel by Origen.  It is equally certain that we don’t know that much about them, and that some of them are bogus.

I think it is time to clarify who the modern editors of Origen have been.  Schaff as always gives us something, but here is a little more:

Charles de La Rue (d. 1739) was the Benedictine editor of the complete works of Origen, reprinted by Migne in PG 11-17 after 1850.  He was one of the Maurist fathers, whose fabulous erudition was only brought to an end by the French Revolution, when their headquarters at St. Germain-des-Près were stormed by the mob.  Most of their books went to the National Library; a certain number were acquired by a Russian agent, Petrus Dubrovsky, and shipped out and sold to the Tsar, and are in St. Petersburg.  Dubrovsky himself was denounced to the Committee of Public Safety and had to flee, leaving some of his manuscripts to be scattered over Paris.

C. H. E. Lommatzsch also seems to have reprinted De la Rue, in 25 small volumes: Opera omnia quae graece et latine tantum exstant et ejus nomine circumferuntur … Ediderunt Carolus et Carol. Vincen. De La Rue … denuo recensuit … Carol. Henric. Eduard. Lommatzsch, Berlin: Haud and Spener (1831-1848).

The most  modern text on Origen on Ezekiel is that in the Berlin Griechische Christlicher Schriftsteller  series by Baehrens, which was reprinted by Borrett in the Sources Chretiennes edition.   Fortunately Baehrens is out of copyright, so there is no barrier to using his text.

I wonder what Baehrens thought of De la Rue’s work?

Leave a Reply