Some notes on Origen’s Commentary on Matthew

The Commentary on Matthew written by Origen of Alexandria in 25 books has not come down to us complete.  From SC162[1] I learn that the Greek text of books 10-17 has survived complete.  This appears as GCS 40, which is online here.

Two independent but closely related manuscripts have preserved the text:

  • Monacensis gr. 191, bombycin, 13th c.  This also contains the Commentary on John.
  • Cambridge, Trinity College, 194-B-8-10, paper, 14th c.  Used for the editio princeps in 1668.  Also known as the Holmiensis.
  • Other manuscripts exist.  The Venice, Marcianus, 43, written in 1374, is a copy of the Monacensis, useful for pages that have since disappeared.  Other manuscripts are merely defective copies of the two main manuscripts.

The Migne edition (PG 13) reprints the 1759 edition of De la Rue.  The text has been printed by Klostermann in the GCS 41.1, Origenes Werke X, which is online.

An ANF English translation exists of books 2 and 10-14.  There seems to be  no English translation of books 15-17; only a German one in Origenes: Der Kommentar zum Evangelium nach Mattäus: Teil 2 Buch XIV-XVII (Vogt 1990).

There are also fragments of other books, preserved in the medieval catena-commentaries, which were collected by Lommatzsch.[2]  This, I find, references Matthew 27:25.

In addition, an ancient Latin translation exists, the Vetus interpretatio, known as the Commentariorum in Matthaeum series.  It perhaps dates to the 6th century and the times of Cassiodorus.  This begins at what we can see from the surviving Greek is book 12, chapter 9, and ends only a little before the end of Matthew’s gospel.  Unfortunately it contains no indication of Origen’s division into books.  Rather it is divided in the manuscripts into 145 sections, each beginning by quoting the Gospel text, and then giving a comment.[3]

For the GCS 38 edition of the Commentariorum Series (1933) Klostermann used the following manuscripts:

  • G = Codex Rothomagensis (= Gemmeticensis) 423, 10th century.
  • B = Codex Brugensis 58 (301), 12th c.
  • R = the readings of a lost codex from Reims, given by the edition of De la Rue.
  • L = Codex Londiniensis, British Library Additional 26761, 12th c.  Witness to a younger family of the text.

Comparison of the portion where both survive indicates that the translator is rather independent of his original; so much so, that Harnack and Zahn considered that Origen had written two editions.  Klostermann, the GCS editor[4], preferred to consider them as two witnesses to one text.

The work generally seems to have been neglected by translators.  English readers are very fortunate that the Ante-Nicene Fathers series contains a translation of the Greek books.  I have been unable to locate any translation of the Commentariorum Series.

  1. [1]Edited by Girod, SC 162 was the first volume of the Sources Chrétiennes edition, containing books 10-11; but no further volumes ever appeared
  2. [2]So the GCS preface.
  3. [3]John A. McGuckin, The Westminster Handbook to Origen, p.30: “Of the twenty-five books of the Matthew commentary, eight survive in Greek (books 10-17), which comment on Matthew 13:36-22:33. More of the work survived in an anonymous Latin translation of the late fifth (or early sixth century), which was passed on through the tradition in the form of thirty-five homiletical narratives on Matthew (confusing many readers, since they were not originally homilies of Origen). The Latin version begins at the point of the Greek text that corresponds with Greek book 12,  chapter 9 (relating to Matthew 16:13), but as it develops after that there is no way of  telling where one is in terms of the original Greek volume structure. The Latin version  carries on more or less to the end of Matthew (Matt. 27:66) omitting Matthew 28 altogether. It has been printed from modern times in a twofold way. The first section, which corresponds to the Greek text (covering Matt. 16:13-22:33) is known as the Vetus  Interpretatio. The other section, which has no corresponding Greek original (Matt. 22:24-27:66), is called the Commentariorum Series. It is divided into (and thus referenced as) 145 chapters, apparently based simply upon verse divisions.  Further Reading: Bastit-Kalinowska (1995a, 1995b).”
  4. [4]GCS 38, Origenes Werke XI, p.259. Homily 124.  This is accessible online.

Leave a Reply