Origen’s Commentary on Matthew – what exists in English?

The remains of Origen’s 25-book Commentary on Matthew appear in four volumes in the GCS series.  These are:

  • GCS 40 – “Origenes Werke X, Commentarius in Matthaeum I” – this contains the Greek text of books of books 10-17.  (I found a PDF on ScribD and uploaded it to Archive.org here; a DJVU file exists in Poland also)
  • GCS 38 – “Origenes Werke XI, Commentarius in Matthaeum II” – this contains the Latin Commentariorum series, a bunch of homilies all translated in some way from the commentary, covering much of the lost books. (DJVU here)
  • GCS 41.1 and .2 – “Origenes Werke XII, Commentarius in Matthaeum III” – this contains quotations in other early Christians works, plus fragments from catenas. (DJVU of part 1 here).

A text can also be found in Migne’s Patrologia Graeca 13, reprinted from the 18th century edition of Delarue.

Finally we need to consider the edition of Lommatzsch (1831), which was used as the basis for the ANF English translation[1].

There is a complete German translation, in three large and expensive volumes, by H. J. Vogt: Origenes: Der Kommentar zum Evangelium nach Mattäus. Eingeleitet, übersetzt und mit Anmerkungen versehen. Hiersemann, Stuttgart 1983–1993; Erster Teil: Buch X – XIII (= Bibliothek der griechischen Literatur. 18, Abt. Patristik). 1983, ISBN 3-7772-8307-X; Zweiter Teil: Buch XIV – XVII (= Bibliothek der griechischen Literatur. 30, Abt. Patristik). 1990, ISBN 3-7772-9011-4; Dritter Teil: Die Commentariorum Series (= Bibliothek der griechischen Literatur. 38, Abt. Patristik). 1993, ISBN 3-7772-9325-3.

A French translation of books 10-11 was published by Girod in the 1970s in the Sources Chretiennes series, but no more volumes appeared.

The English translation that floats around the internet is that of the Ante-Nicene Fathers series, reprinted and repackaged in heaven-alone-knows how many forms.  In this 1885 American edition, it is found in volume 9, online in PDF here (sometimes it is treated as volume 10).  I shall refer to the page numbers in this printed edition.

The translation was made by a certain John Patrick DD (p.409), minister of Greenside, Edinburgh (title page), and contains the following materials:

  • Extract from book 1 (p.411) – this is in fact quoted in, and so based on, Eusebius Church History book 6, chapter 25.  HTML here.
  • Extract from book 2 (p.412) – this is from the Philocalia of Origen, chapter 6.  HTML here.
  • Books 10-14 (pp.413-512) – these are from the Greek text.  HTML book 10 starts here.

The translator’s brief introduction makes plain that he knew of books 15-17, but ignored them.  Each book is around 50 pages of the GCS, and about 50 columns of Migne, so they are quite substantial.

The translator also ignored some extracts in Latin.  A second extract from book 1 is preserved in Pamphilus’ Apology for Origen, chapter 5, which exists only in a Latin version; but this is not translated by the ANF.  A chunk of book 7 is likewise preserved in Pamphilus, chapter 10.

Interestingly a portion of book 15 was translated in November 2007 by a certain Yoel Natan, using machine-translation, on this page.

Clearly there is a need for an English translation of the remaining material.  It seems a bit lengthy for me, but I have done no precise calculations.  It would be very nice to have it, though!

UPDATE (13/3/17): It seems that Justin Gohl has translated book 15, and has a version up at Academia.edu for comment!  Marvellous news!

UPDATE (21/11/17): And Dr Gohl has now translated and uploaded book 16 as well!

UPDATE (20/01/20): A new English translation has appeared: Ronald E. Heine, The Commentary of Origen on the Gospel of St Matthew, Oxford Early Christian Texts (2018), ISBN: 9780199669073.  Available here at Amazon.com, and Amazon.co.uk.  The OUP page states that: “The first translation into English of the entirety of the Greek and Latin remains of the Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, including most of the fragments.”

  1. [1]So the PDF, p.294.

16 thoughts on “Origen’s Commentary on Matthew – what exists in English?

  1. Excellent analysis, as usual, Roger. That you have picked up some more fragments is good news. This is one that needs to be put into English, perhaps one volume for the Commentary and another for the homilies. I have never understood why this much quoted book is so overlooked.

  2. Justin Gohl has translated chapter 15 of the commentary on Matthew into English and has a draft up at Academia for comment.

  3. Roger, good news! Tom Scheck informed me today that Ronald E. Heine is doing a translation of Origen’s work on Matthew that survives in the Latin and Greek for Oxford. Heine did masterful translation of Origen’s Commentary on John and putting together the fragments of Origen’s Commentary on Ephesians.

  4. Heine’s 2-volume edition of Origen’s Commentary on Matthew is due sometime between late August and late October 2018:
    https://global.oup.com/academic/product/the-commentary-of-origen-on-the-gospel-of-st-matthew-9780199669073?cc=gb&lang=en&

    Table of Contents

    Volume I
    Abbreviations
    Introduction
    Book 10: (Matthew 13:36-14:15)
    Book 11: (Matthew 14:15-15:39)
    Book 12: (Matthew 16:1-17:9)
    Book 13: (Matthew 17:10-18:18)
    Book 14: (Matthew 18:19-19:11)
    Book 15: (Matthew 19:12-20:16)
    Book 16: (Matthew 20:17-21:22)
    Book 17: (Matthew 21:23-22:33)
    Selected Fragments on Matthew 1:1-13:35 and Matthew 28
    Bibliography of Modern Sources

    Volume II
    Part I: The Vetus Interpretatio (On Matthew 16:13-22:33)
    Book 12: (Matthew 16:13-17:9)
    Book 13: (Matthew 17:10-18:18)
    Book 14: (Matthew 18:19-19:11)
    Book 15: (Matthew 19:12-20:16)
    Book 16: (Matthew 20:17-21:22)
    Book 17: (Matthew 21:23-22:33)
    Part II: The Series Commentariorum (On Matthew 22:34-27:66)
    Series 1-8: (Matthew 22:34-46)
    Series 9-28: (Matthew 23)
    Series 29-62: (Matthew 24)
    Series 63-73: (Matthew 25)
    Series 74-114: (Matthew 26)
    Series 115-145: (Matthew 27)
    Indices

  5. Dear Mr. Pearse, Thanks for your postings, They are most helpful. I am trying to confirm an alleged quote from Origen, and I was hoping you could help me. William Whiston, in Dissertation 5 on Josephus’ Antiquities, claims that Origen wrote in Homily 29 on Matthew: “There were 4830 years from creation to the birth of Christ, and 4900 to the 70th year of his economy.” I have searched high and low to try to confirm this, but to no avail. Any ideas? Is Whiston’s refenence to “Homily 29” the same as the Commentary on Matthew? I cannot figure it out. Any help is appreciated! Henry B. Smith Jr. Associates for Biblical Research, Akron PA

  6. I think I can help here. The quotation is indeed from the Commentary on Matthew 24:15. In Klostermann’s edition it reads:

    “Arbitror autem septuaginta septimanas concisas »super populum et super civitatem sanctam, ut consummetur peccatum«, quattuor milia nongentos esse annos ab Adam usque ad septuaginta annos, qui fuerunt post dispensationem Christi.” (vol. II p. 78; = PG13 1658A).

    Regarding “Homily 29”: in old editions the Commentary was divided into “Homiliae” or “Tractatus”, and this text corresponds to number XXIX. Whiston quotes “Homil. XXIX. in Matth. p. 139.” This refers to the 1571 edition of Erasmus’ Origen in Latin, vol. II. page 139, which uses “Tractatus”:

    https://books.google.com/books?id=OcEpum3VcK0C&pg=PA139

    Merlin’s edition (1512, t. III f. 56r) uses “Homilia”:

    https://books.google.com/books?id=Os-U0flcsuEC&pg=PT126

  7. Dear Diego (and Mr. Pearse), Thanks so very much for your help in confirming this quotation from Origen. I’ve looked off and on for a couple of years, so I am most grateful. Elsewhere, I found that this part of his commentary is preserved only in Latin, not Greek. Many thanks for this tremendous resource! Henry Smith

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