Did Origen deny the idea that “there was a time when the Son was not”?

I came across an interesting claim on twitter here:

Origen anticipating & contradicting the Arian heresy 10yrs before Arius was born and 80yrs before Nicaea is Fire. “He who was a son according to the flesh came from the seed of David…According to the Spirit, however, he existed first & there was never a time when he was not.” …

It’s from Origen’s commentary on Romans 1, ch.5.

Pamphilus in his Apology (ch. 50) also quotes it in the Greek from Origen’s commentary on Hebrews. (tweet link)

It would be very interesting indeed if Origen explicitly rebutted one of the main claims of Arius a century later, that “there was a time when the Son was not.”  But did he?

There is an online copy of the Commentary on Romans, in preview here (Fathers of the Church 103, p.69, tr. Thomas P. Scheck), so let’s look at it.

5. Concerning his Son.83 He who was a son according to the flesh came indeed from the seed of David. Undoubtedly, he became that which previously was not, according to the flesh. According to the Spirit, however, he existed first, and there was never a time when he was not.84 It should be noted that [M849] he did not say, “who has been predestined Son of God…

83. Rom 1.3.
84. This formulation also occurs in Fr. in Heb 1.8 (= von Balthasar, Origen: Spirit and Fire, p. 77). The Greek formula is attributed to Origen by Pamphilus, Apology 1.3. Arius, whose teaching was condemned by the Council of Nicaea, 325, became infamous for his slogan, ἦν ποτε ὄτε οὐκ ἦν, “There was a time when he was not,” referring to the time before the Son was created. Origen’s expression clearly anticipates the Nicene and Athanasian definitions. Cf. Bigg, Christian Platonists, p. 167, “There is no shadow of a doubt that for Origen the Son is co-eternal and co-equal with the Father.” Cf. 10.8.5; 1.1.2; 1.2.9; 4.4.1.
85. Rom 1.4.

This is indeed what the text says.  The problem is that this portion of Origen’s Commentary on Romans does not exist in the original Greek, written before 250 AD.  It has reached us in Rufinus’ Latin translation, written around 400.  Rufinus was accused of attempting to rehabilitate Origen by mistranslation.  It is entirely possible that Rufinus introduced this phrasing, therefore (although I believe that these days the accusations against Rufinus are generally discounted).

How can we tell?

Well, let’s look at some of the other references.

There appears to be an error in the footnote here: Pamphilus, Apology 1.3 does not refer to these matters.  See below for this work.  But there is a problem here anyway – Pamphilus’ Apology for Origen has not reached us in Greek, but in a Latin translation by … Rufinus!  We’re back to square one.

Onward.

In Hans Urs von Balthasar, Origen: Spirit and Fire. A thematic anthology of his writings, tr. R.J.Daly, 1984, we find this passage, attributed to Origen and supposedly from his lost commentaries on Hebrews:

123. If he is the invisible “image of the invisible God” (Coll: 15), I would like to venture the further affirmation that, as the likeness of the Father, there never was a time when he was not (cf. In 1:1-3). For when did God, who according to John is called “light” (1 In 1 :5), not have the “radiance of his own glory” (cf. Heb 1 :3), so that someone could dare to set the beginning of a Son who previously did not exist? When could the WORD whom “the Father knows” (cf. Mt 11:27; In 10:15), and who is the expression of the ineffable, unnamable and unutterable essence of the Father, not have existed? For they who dare to say that there was a time when the Son was not, should consider that they will also have to say that there was a time when there was no Wisdom, a time when there was no Life. But it is not right nor, because of our weakness, without danger to take it upon ourselves to separate God from his only-begotten Son, the WORD, who is with him eternally, the Wisdom in whom he takes delight (cf. Prov 8:30). For in this way God is not even considered to be eternally happy. 1

Daly adds, “1. This fragment probably comes, not from the lost commentary on Hebrews, but from the original Greek of PA 4, 1, 1. -R.J.D.”  (Pa = peri archon, On First Principles).

In the appendix, the source for section 123 is given as “Hebr. frag 1, 8 – Cramer VII, 361-362”.

But Cramer is a collection of materials from the Greek catenas in Paris.  Unfortunately the attributions of passages in the catenas are often wrong.  So this is not really evidence either!

None of this is very satisfactory, but I thought we might look at the French edition of the Commentary on Romans, as these often have good footnotes.  In the Sources Chrétiennes edition, SC 532, p.178-179, our passage is book 1, chapter 7, and it does indeed have an interesting footnote.

1. Qui filius secundum carnem quidem ex semine factus est David. Factus est autem sine dubio id quod prius non erat secundum carnem. Secundum spiritum vero erat prius et non erat quando non erat [1]. Observandum est enim quia non dixit: …

[1] Non erat quando non erat : Ce passage est cité et commenté par Pamphile dons son Apologie pour Origène, 52 (SC 464, p. 110) : « Il ‘fut fait’ ce qu’il n était pas précédemment, car il est evident que, selon la chair, il n’était pas antérieurement; selon l’esprit, en revanche, il était précédemment et il n’y avait pas de moment où il n’était pas. » Cetre formulation se trouve déjà dans le PArch I, 29 et IV 4, 1. C’est la première expression d’une formule qui sera utilisée lors de la controverse arienne, pour réfuter l’allégation que le Fils n’est pas consubstantiel au Père.

The SC confirms that we only have the Latin of Rufinus.  But it gives us a better reference for the Apology for Origen, section 52 of the SC edition (SC464).  In fact in section 51 Pamphilus tells us that what follows is from the Commentary on Romans.

Let’s take it from the FOC translation, also by Thomas P. Scheck:

46. PAMPHILUS. We have brought forth this single testimony concerning the deity of the Son of God from those books that his accusers especially rebuke. But doubtless in his other books as well he understands things in the same sense, nor does he contradict himself.

47. Concerning the fact that the Father is not prior to the Son, but the Son is co-eternal with the Father, he says the following in the first book of his Commentary on Genesis:

48. ORIGEN [12].156 For God did not begin to be the Father later, as though he were not the Father previously, as if he were impeded for certain reasons by which mortal men are usually impeded, so that they cannot immediately also be fathers from the time when they exist. For if God is always perfect, he does not lack the power by which he is a Father, and if it is good that he is the Father of such a Son, why does it matter or why would he deprive himself of this good and not become the Father immediately, if one can say it this way, from when he is able to be the Father? The same thing should likewise be said about the Holy Spirit.

49. PAMPHILUS. There is another testimony on the same subject in his Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews:

50. ORIGEN [13]. How else should one understand the “eternal light” except as referring to God the Father? But he, inasmuch as he is the light, never existed at a time when his radiance was not present with him—for a light without its radiance could never be conceived, which, if it is true, then there never was a time when the Son did not exist. But he was not unborn, as we have said of the eternal light. Otherwise, we would appear to be implying two principles of light. But, as the radiance of the unborn light, he was born of that light, having that same light as origin and source; yet there was not [a time] when he did not exist.

51. PAMPHILUS. There is another testimony on the same subject in the Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans:

52. ORIGEN [14]. “Which he promised,” he says, “through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures concerning his Son, who was made according to the flesh from the seed of David”: that which previously did not exist “was made”; for it is clear that, according to the flesh, he did not previously exist; but according to the Spirit he existed previously, and there was never [a time] when he did not exist.

53. PAMPHILUS. The same thing is found in the first book of Peri archon, that the generation of the Son of God transcends any commencement: …

It’s easy to see from this why this view is attributed to Origen.  We do have the Greek of the Peri Archon, although I’m not going to look at it now.  But it’s saying, more loosely, the same thing in Pamphilus as the other sections.

But, as I remarked earlier, this is all Rufinus.  We do not have the Greek of Pamphilus’ book.

Update on my book, Origen’s Homilies on Ezekiel

Long term readers may remember that, back in 2014, my company published a rather splendid item in book form, Mischa Hooker’s marvellous translation of Origen’s Homilies on Ezekiel, including the catena fragments, with facing Greek text; some 700+ pages of it.  This was the second volume in the Ancient Texts in Translation series, from Chieftain Publishing.  The hardback was very splendid; and the paperback is a solid item too.

Hard sell:  The book is available still on Amazon.com in hardback ($80) and paperback ($45); and Amazon.co.uk in hardback (£50) and paperback (£30).  Amazon don’t keep a lot of stock, naturally, but you can order any of these as all are in print.  Lead time is probably about a week when out of stock.  Please get your university library to buy it!

The idea behind creating paper books was always to sell enough copies to justify commissioning more academic translations, ideally to university libraries.  Once sales dried up, the book would be released onto the web in the public domain.  This was (and is still) always the intention.

It’s interesting to find that the book is turning out to be something of a slow burner.  Initial sales were not impressive.  Originally no English translation existed of these homilies.  But during the project, the excellent Thomas P. Scheck released one in the well-known Ancient Christian Writers series; and this naturally stole our thunder somewhat.  However he only included a translation of the 14 homilies from Latin, without the original language or the fragments.  Dr Hooker did take account of the Scheck version, which appeared when ours was almost complete.

But I find that the book has continued to sell!  In fact I was surprised to find that it made enough money last year, after three years, to justify keeping it in print for another year.  This was unexpected.

Today I learn that a new review of it has appeared, by Peter W. Martens, in the Society for Biblical Literature’s journal, the Review of Biblical Literature, and published 3rd Jan. 2018.  The review is accessible to SBL members here.

In fact this is the third review that has appeared (to my knowledge), the others being by:

  • Angela R. Christman, in: Journal of Theological Studies 68 (2017), 351-3 (see abstract).
  • L. Vianès, in: Revue de philologie, de littérature et d’histoire anciennes 88 (2014), 180-2.

I must confess to being encouraged by these.  With luck they will result in further sales.  The more copies that sell, the more I might feel inclined to do it again.  I do not believe that the Origen volume will ever recover the investment of money and time that I put into it (to say nothing of others); but if it comes anywhere near doing so, then that is all money to put into further projects.

But I still intend to release the results online.  I nearly did so this Christmas.  Maybe at the end of the year.

Origen, Commentary on Matthew, book 16 now online and in English

A kind message informs me that David Gohl’s translation of the remaining books of Origen’s Commentary on Matthew (which I discussed here) has now reached book 16.  He has translated this, and uploaded it for comment to Academia.edu here.

Excellent news!  Grab your copy while it’s hot!

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.

Origen: a very early copyist of Matthew made a mistake…

Alex Poulos has posted what may be the most interesting blog post that I have seen for a very long time: Textual criticism and biblical authority in Origen’s Homily on Ps. 77.  It’s the text and translation of the first section of Origen’s first homily on psalm 77, with comments.  And by golly it’s interesting!

Origen:

We regularly say that the psalms with the prefix “of understanding” use this superscription to direct the listener to investigate carefully what has been said, as they need interpretation and explication, since every psalm with this prefix has dark sayings, riddles, and parables. This is indeed the case here, for we have the superscription, “of understanding, by Asaph” and immediately it says in the psalm, “I shall open my mouth in parables, I shall speak riddles as from the beginning.” (Ps. 77:2).

One must know that Matthew mentions this saying– writing about how the Savior spoke in parables, he said, “so that the passage may be fulfilled ‘I shall open my mouth in parables; I shall speak in riddles as of from the beginning’ or rather, ‘ <I shall declare things hidden> since the establishing of the world’. (1) Though Matthew paraphrased with those sorts of words what was said in this way here, there occurred a scribal error in the copies of the gospel, for it says, “so that what was said through the prophet Isaiah may be fulfilled, ‘I will open my mouth in parables’”.

It’s likely that one of the very first scribes found the text, “so that what was said through the prophet Asaph,” and supposed that it was an error because he did not realize that Asaph was a prophet. This caused him rashly to write “Isaiah” instead of “Asaph” because of his unfamiliarity with the prophet’s name.

And then he continues, with some very excellent thoughts about the scriptures, and how the devil attacks them, and uses them to attack us.  On this, Alex Poulos comments:

There’s quite a bit that’s fascinating in this passage. Origen has a problem: his copies of Matthew attribute this passage to Isaiah, when it clearly comes from the psalms. His solution is text critical: he posits an emendation to change the name from Isaiah to Asaph. He even goes a step further and speculates on the reason for the change: a scribe didn’t realize who Asaph was, and substituted the name of a prophet he did know.

The situation in the mss is quite different. All of the early minuscules simply say “the prophet” without specifying a name, with one notable exception: Sinaiticus. It seems likely, however, that “Isaiah the prophet” was the reading in all of Origen’s manuscripts, as he has to resort to emendation. Not only that, he supposes that it was one of the very first scribes that made the mistake (τὶς τῶν ἀρχῆθεν γραφόντων). Perhaps the “Isaiah” reading was widespread in Caesarea in the 3rd century. Someone who knows more about the textual history of Matthew can no doubt elucidate this better than I. For what it’s worth, it seems to me that the error arose because of the formulaic nature of the clause. Matthew cites Isaiah again and again; it would be quite easy for a scribe to insert the name by accident where it doesn’t belong. As one who’s memorized portions of Matthew, I can say that keeping straight the various subtle changes from one “fulfillment formula” to the next is not easy.

But I won’t steal Alex’s thunder – read it all.  It’s excellent stuff.  I’ve saved a copy locally, and I doubt that I will be the only one.

This is the first fruits of Marina Molin Pradel’s marvellous 2012 discovery of a bunch of previously unknown homilies by Origen in Munich (Ms. Monacensis Graecus 314) and the excellent decision by Lorenzo Perone to publish quickly in 2015.  Who can doubt that the words above are indeed the voice of Origen?

I think we must be grateful to Alex Poulos for sharing this – it is truly excellent stuff.

Origen, Homily 26 on Joshua and Matthew 27:25

Another of the last remaining references to Matthew 27:25 is found in the Homilies on Joshua by Origen, extant in a Latin translation-cum-paraphrase by Rufinus.  It is found in homily 26, and as this is short, I thought that I would post it here.  The translation is from the Fathers of the Church vol. 105,[1] and “Jesus” is of course the Greek version of the Hebrew name Joshua.  As usual, I omit the footnotes.

    *    *    *    *

HOMILY 26

Concerning why the rock swords were buried, and concerning the altar that the two and a half tribes that are across the Jordan erected [Jos.22]

It was said above that the sons of Israel gave a lot to Jesus on Mount Ephraim and that, when he had accepted the lot, “Jesus built a city there and dwelt in it.” But now Scripture repeats the same things again so that it may add this, that “in that city that he had built and in which he dwelt, Jesus concealed the rock swords,” that is, the knives made from stone, “with which he circumcised the sons of Israel in the wilderness.” Whence we also must repeat the exposition and explain what was added so that, God granting, the entire meaning of the Scripture may be completed.

And indeed we said above that even our Lord Jesus Christ asks us for a place he may build and in which he may live, and that we ought to become so clean of heart, and so sincere of mind, so holy in body and spirit, that he may both deign to ac-cept this place in our soul and to build it and dwell in it. And who do you think among all the people are so acceptable to God that they are worthy to be chosen for this? Or perhaps no individuals can be capable of this, but can the whole people and all the Church together barely be capable of receiving the Lord Jesus in themselves so that he may dwell in them?

Let us see, therefore, what is this place in which Jesus is bound to dwell. “In Mount Ephraim,” it says, that is, in the fruit bearing mountain. Who do you think among us are fruit bearing mountains, in whom Jesus may dwell? Surely those in whom exist “the fruit of the spirit: joy, peace, patience, love,” and the rest. Those, therefore, are the fruit bearing mountains who produce the fruit of the spirit and who are always lofty in mind and expectation. And although few are able to be like this, nevertheless, even if they are few, the Lord Jesus, who is the “true light” dwelling in them, will send forth the beams of his light also upon all the rest, those whom he has not yet, in this first round, judged worthy of his habitation.

2. Now, therefore, let us see what are the rock swords by which Jesus circumcises the sons of Israel. If you pray for us that our “word may’ be living and effective and sharper than every sword,”8 our Lord Jesus will also bring it to pass for us that the word of God that we speak to you may circumcise every un-cleanness, cut back impurities, separate vices from those who hear, and remove each thing by which the strength of the mind and natural efficiency is covered over. And thus, through the word of God, which here is called a rock sword, you too will be circumcised by Jesus and you will hear, “Today I have taken away from you the reproach of Egypt.”

For what good is it for us to have gone forth from Egypt and yet carry around with us the reproaches of Egypt? What good is it to travel through the wilderness, that is, what does it help us to have renounced this age in baptism but to retain the former filth of our behavior and the impurities of our carnal vices? Thus it is fitting, after the parting of the Red Sea, that is, after the grace of baptism, for the carnal vices of our old habits to be removed from us by means of our Lord Jesus, so that we can be free from the Egyptian reproaches.

Therefore, those rock swords and knives of stone, by which we are circumcised by Jesus a second time, are put in that place that Jesus requests and receives. In that place that he possesses in the soul of the righteous, he also conceals the swords. Often we display a sword called the Word of God, by which word sins are separated and purged from the souls of the hearers.10 There-fore, this power of the divine word is concealed in that place, to whom a discourse of knowledge and a discourse of wisdom is granted, so that at the opportune time that soul, which was filled up with the word of wisdom and the word of knowledge through the gift of the Spirit, may produce those swords in the Church and circumcise a second time those who need a second circumcision.

But because it says “rock swords,” that is, knives made from stone and not fashioned out of iron by the craft of an artisan, it indicates that this discourse of God that is able to cast away impurities from the hearts of the hearers does not come from grammatical or rhetorical art. It is neither beaten by the hammers of teachers nor polished by whetstones of studies, but it descends from that “rock that was cut without hands from the mountain and filled the earth” and distributed spiritual gifts to believers.

After these things Jesus assembles the sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh, who had served as soldiers with him to overcome the foes of the Israelites, and he dismisses them to go to their inheritance with certain gifts given to them, as it is written. Whereby this seems to indicate the mystery that “when the fullness of the nations will come in,” they receive from the Lord Jesus what was promised to them, those who had been taught and instructed by Moses and who by prayers and entreaties brought aid to us who are placed in the contest. They have not yet “attained the promises,” waiting so that our calling might also be fulfilled, as the Apostle says. But now at last with the gifts they receive from Jesus they may attain the perfection that had been deferred for them so that each one may dwell in peace with every war and every battle ceasing.

3. After this it was read to us that the sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh who were across Jordan had built “an immense altar.” But the other sons of Israel, not knowing why this altar had been erected, send Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, with ten men selected from each tribe. Therefore, if by chance they had made this as though departing from God, as if they had become apostates acting against the commandment of God, they would be assaulted by the other sons of Israel; but if not, the other sons might still learn the cause. But they give satisfaction about the altar and say, “We know that the true altar is among you where Jesus dwells. But we made this altar as an imitation of that altar that was erected among you, so that a type and image of the true altar may also be held among us, lest by chance tomorrow,” it says, “it may please you to say that the Jordan is the boundary between us and you and it itself determines this, and therefore you have no share in our altar.” These are the replies they sent.

But let us see what sacrament lies within this deed. The former people of the circumcision are represented in Reuben, who was the firstborn; but also in Gad, who also is the firstborn out of Zelpha; and Manasseh, no less a firstborn. But insofar as I say “firstborn,” I speak chronologically. Therefore, these things are said, not that it might be evident some division and separation is between us and those who were righteous before the coming of Christ, but that they might reveal themselves to still be our brothers even if they existed before the coming of Christ. For although they possessed an altar then before the coming of the Savior, nevertheless, they knew and perceived that it was not that true altar, but that it was a form and figure of what would be the true altar. Those persons knew this because the true victims and those who were able to take away sins were not offered on that altar that the firstborn people possessed, but on this one where Jesus was. Here the heavenly victims, here the true sacrifices are consumed. Therefore, they are made “one flock and one shepherd,” those former righteous ones and those who are now Christians.

But to prove these things I wish to make mention also of a certain story, so that, if only the Lord deigns to grant, we may be able to discover the spiritual explanation of it. Once the people fell down in the desert and died. Aaron the chief priest came and “stood in the midst of those who died and of those who lived,” so that the devastation of death might not advance even further among the rest And then came the true high priest, my Lord, and he came into the midst between those dying and the living. That is, he came between those Jews who accepted his presence and those who not only did not accept but killed themselves more completely than him, saying, “The blood of that one be upon us and upon our sons!” Whence also “all the righteous blood that has been poured forth upon the earth from the blood of the righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah whom they killed between the sanctuary and the altar will be required from that generation” that said, “His blood be upon us and upon our sons.”

Therefore, these are a part of the dead people because they do not properly perform either the feast of unleavened bread or the feast days. But “their feast days have been turned into sorrow and their songs into lamentations,” they who, even if they wished, could not celebrate the feast days in that place that the Lord God chose. And indeed we ourselves did not say to them, “You will have no part in this altar or in the inheritance of the Lord,” but they themselves of their own accord refute the true altar and the heavenly high priest and have been brought to such a point of unhappiness that they both lost the image and did not accept the truth. Therefore it is said to them, “Behold your house is left to you deserted.”

For the grace of the Holy Spirit has been transferred to the nations; the celebrations have been transferred to us because the high priest has passed over to us, not the imagined, but the true high priest, chosen “according to the order of Melchisedek.” It is necessary that he offer for us true sacrifices, that is, spiritual, where “the temple of God is built from living stones,” which is “the Church of the living God,” and where true Israel exists, in Christ Jesus our Lord, “to whom is the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen!”

  1. [1]Barbara J. Bruce (tr), Origen: Homilies on Joshua, in: Fathers of the Church 105 (2002), p.215-220

Origen’s new homilies on the Psalms – now published!

J.B. Piggin draws my attention to a marvel – a timely scholarly edition!  You may remember how, in 2012, a bunch of unknown homilies on the psalms were found in the Bavarian State Library in Munich?  This itself was a wonderful find: and the Bavarians went further, and put the manuscript online – a process that taught a few eager amateurs that Greek palaeography is hard!

Well today I learn that the text has now been edited!  The new volume of the GCS – Origenes Werke XIII, 2015, edited by Lorenzo Perrone and colleagues, is now apparently available.  The book is 640+ pages!  In the foreword we learn that Dr Perrone felt that the priority was to present the text to the public – and how right he was!

Better yet, Dr P. has uploaded the table of contents and foreword to Academia.edu here.  This means that those of us with little German can use Google Translate to read the foreword.  And, of course, to make a case for our library buying it!!

How utterly impressive to get the thing out there and available, instead of sitting on it for a decade!  I am deeply impressed.  Well done, Dr P.!

I wonder how to get hold of a copy, tho.  Cambridge University Library probably won’t even receive it, on subscription, for a year or two.

The GCS publication page for the item from DeGruyter is here.  The eBook cost is … wait for it … $196!!!!?!?  In fact so is the hardback – not very forgiveable, that.  But even DeGruyter know that we really want eBooks, so both together is a modest (!) $293.

None of us can afford those prices, of course.  What a shame!  It’s a pity that Dr Perrone and his colleagues – who did all the work – couldn’t just make it available for free.  But we’re not at that point yet.

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.”

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.

Origen, Fragments on Proverbs – translation by Travis Fernald now online

Travis Fernald has been doing an MA at Pittsburg Theological Seminary, on Origen’s views on human wisdom as expressed in his Commentary on Proverbs; or rather, on what now remains of it – some 17 columns in the Patrologia Graeca 13.  He wrote to tell me about this, and has very kindly made the translation available to us all online.  Here it is:

As may quickly be seen, it contains some interesting material, such as Origen’s answer to the question “what is a parable”:

Therefore a parable is a story about some event which did not literally happen, but could have happened and which figuratively shows matters through participation in the words of the parable. It did not really happen according to the words “A sower went out…” as we would say historical events do, but nevertheless it could have happened exactly as it is written.

All these little translations have value, and it is great to see people arranging for them to appear online.  Thank you, Mr. Fernald!