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!


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