Origen on Matthew 27:25 from the Commentariorum in Matthaeum Series

Only books 10-17 of Origen’s Commentary in Matthew survive in Greek.  But as I wrote yesterday, a Latin translation from antiquity renders a large chunk, from books 12, chapter 9 to almost the end of Matthew’s gospel.  Unfortunately there are no signposts in the text as to Origen’s book division: only a division into sections, more or less equivalent to the verses of the gospel text.

In section 124,[1] on Matthew 27:22-26, there is, naturally, a reference to Matthew 27:25.  Let’s see what Origen says here.

124. Pilate said to them, “So what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ? They all said, “Let him be crucified”, etc.

Wishing to impress on them the shame of so great an evil, Pilate said to them, “What shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ”, but not only that but wishing to get the measure of their impiety.  But they, neither blushing at this because Pilate was acknowledging that Jesus was the Christ, nor keeping within the limit of impiety, all said, “Let him be crucified“. And they even petitioned for Barabbas to be set free, while on the contrary they desired that Christ go to the cross, namely that Barabbas should actually be absolved, for they did not petition that he be crucified, but set free by the power of Pilate, so that they might do with him as they wished.  The impiety so far was great, because they petitioned for a murderer and abandoned a just man.  But now they multiplied the measure of their impiety, not only seeking life for a murderer, but also death for a just man, and the nastiest death of the cross.  Thus far he [Pilate] was going along with them, because he wanted to confuse them, so that, confused, they might come to choose the just man (although not in a judgement from their hearts), he said to them, “What wrong has he done?”  They had nothing with which to respond to this, so they shouted more loudly, lying down but increasing their rage, animosity and blasphemy and said, “Let him be crucified!

But Pilate, seeing that nothing was being gained, made use of the Jewish custom, wishing to appease them concerning the innocence of Christ not only with words, but also by their own action, if they wished, or if they did not wish to condemn, and, acting not according to any Roman custom; for he took water in the sight of all and, washing his hands, said: “I am innocent of the blood of this <just man>; you see to it.  And indeed he washed, but they not only did not wish to cleanse themselves of the blood of Christ, but also to take it on themselves, saying, “His blood be upon us, and on our children,” on account of which they are found guilty not only of the blood of the prophets, but, filling up the measure of their fathers, they are found guilty also of the blood of Christ, and hear God saying to them, “When you lift up your hands towards me, I will turn my eyes away from you; for your hands are full of blood.” (Is. 1:15)  Therefore the blood of Jesus was not only blamed upon them, who were alive then, but also on every generation of the Jews following after, until the end of the world.[2]  For this reason their house is now derelict and deserted by them.  But Pilate, forgetting his good words, with which he had begun to defend the innocence of Christ, falling into evil not only handed over Jesus but also handed him over to be flogged, so that they might crucify him.

I did transcribe the Latin text from the GCS edition, so that I could use Google Translate and QuickLatin on it.  Let’s have that also:

124. Dicit illis Pilatus: quid ergo faciam Iesum qui dicitur Christus? Dicunt omnes: crucifigatur, et cetera (27, 22—26).

Volens eis pudorem tantae iniquitatis incutere Pilatus dicit eis: quid ergo faciam Iesum qui dicitur Christus, non solum autem sed et mensuram colligere volens impietatis eorum, illi autem, nec hoc erubescentes quod Pilatus Iesum Christum esse confitebatur nec modum impietatis servantes, dixerunt omnes: crucifigatur. Et si quidem Barabbam petissent dimittere, non autem econtra et Christum postulassent ad crucem, utputa Barabbam quidem petissent absolvi, hunc autem non petissent crucifigi sed in potestate dimisissent Pilati, ut faceret de eo quod vellet, adhuc magnae esset impietatis, quod relicto iusto homicidam petissent.  Nunc autem multiplicaverunt impietatis suae mensuram, non solum homicidam postulantes ad vitam, sed etiam iustum ad mortem et ad mortem turpissimam crucis, adhuc autem permanens in eo ipso, quod confundere eos volebat, ut vel confusi ad electionem iusti venirent (etsi non ex iudicio cordis), dicit eis: quid enim mali fecit?  Contra hoc nihil habentes quod responderent, amplius clamaverunt non deponentes sed augentes iram, animositatem, blasphemiam et dixerunt: crucifigatur.

Pilatus autem, videns quod nihil proficeret, Iudaico usus est more, volens eos de Christi innocentia non solum verbis, sed etiam ipso facto placare si voluerint, si autem noluerint condemnare, faciens non secundum aliquam consuetudinem Romanorum; accepit enim aquam in conspectu omnium, et lavans manus suas dixit: innocens ego sum a sanguine <iusti> huius; vos videritis. Et ipse quidem se lavit, illi autem non solum se mundare noluerunt a sanguine Christi, sed etiam super se susceperunt dicentes: sanguis eius super nos, et super filios nostros, propter hoc rei facti sunt non solum in sanguine prophetarum, sed inplentes mensuram patrum suorum facti sunt rei etiam in sanguine Christi, ut audiant deum sibi dicentem: «cum expanderitis manus vestras ad me, avertam oculos meos a vobis; manus enim vestrae sanguine plenae sunt«.  Propterea sanguis Iesu non solum super eos factus est, qui tunc fuerunt, verum etiam super omnes generationes Iudaeorum post sequentes usque ad consummationem. Propterea usque nunc domus eorum derelicta est eis deserta. Pilatus autem oblitus verborum suorum bonorum, quibus coeperat defendere innocentiam Christi, declinans ad malum non solum tradidit Iesum, sed etiam flagellis caesum tradidit, ut crucifigerent eum.

It is interesting how favourable Origen is to Pilate!  He actually makes up a story about what Pilate must have thought and intended.

I also notice a lot of repetition in here, as if this material was delivered orally.  Of course we know that Origen “wrote” by dictation, but even so, the points are repeated so much that it sounds a bit like a stenographic record.

  1. [1]GCS 38 p.258-60.
  2. [2]Given slightly less literally by Raymond E. Brown in The Death of the Messiah (1994), vol. 1, p.384, as “Therefore the blood of Jesus came not only upon those who existed at that time but also upon all generations of Jews who would follow afterwards until the endtime.”

6 thoughts on “Origen on Matthew 27:25 from the Commentariorum in Matthaeum Series

  1. How can I obtain a full text of the Commentariorum in English or French translation?

  2. Would you be interested in applying to translate it for Catholic University of America’s Fathers of the Church series?

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