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!


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

  1. Great news! perhaps the most interesting part will be examining the accuracy of the Latin translation. My guess – in critical sections, not very accurate

  2. Apparently Rufinus translated nine homilies on the Psalms (five on Psalm 36, two on Psalm 37, and two on Psalm 38)

  3. Behold who ruled thirty years ago, how his rule flourished, but suddenly “like the flower of the grass” he withered away; then another after and another, who next became rulers and princes and “all their glory” and honor withered away, not only “as the flower,” but also as dry dust and was scattered by the wind. Not even a vestige remained of it.

    This is perhaps our most important historical reference for Origen from the Church Father himself. It appears in his Homily on the 36th Psalm. He refers to a ruler whose rule flourished 30 years ago and then withered “like the flower of the grass”, to be followed “by another,” all of whom had their glory that also withered and was scattered like dust, so that no vestige remains of it (HomPs 36 1.2). Nautin has suggested that the man to whom Origen refers who ruled 30 years ago was Septimius Severus. Origen refers to four rulers in this paragraph, all of whom had their moments of glory, he says, and then faded. I think he is referring to the four Severan rulers: Septimius, Caracalla, Elagabalus, and Alexander, skipping over the usurper Macrinus who ruled only one year after he had murdered Caracalla. Septimius Severus died in February 211. The latest date for Origen’s sermon, then, if he was using Septimius’ death as his point of reference, would be 241.

    It would be wonderful to see if Greek manuscript can give us some additional information!

  4. Bravo to this library for publishing. Regarding the comment “how many [libraries] would have tried to hide it, to “control” …” How many *scholars* would? I’m finding that institutions are starting to ignore the vanity of these scholars by going ahead and releasing things to the *community of scholars* rather than the privileged few who happen to be connected or in control. And bravo for this trend, for it truly energizes the broader community of scholars who have interest in the material. Soon I hope we’ll get back to scholarship that rests on true discovery and hard work, rather than privileged access and unverifiable assertion.

  5. I agree. The vanity of scholars who sit on discoveries is an appalling, yet endemic thing. James M. Robinson had to fight to get the Nag Hammadi texts out there. The Dead Sea Scrolls are another example. One could go on.

  6. I don’t know Greek, but does Origen make any references to Apocrypha and/or Pseudopigrapha in any of those discovered homilies? (or any quotations from books like James/2 Peter, which seem rare to find quotations).

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