Origen on the Ages to Come Pt. 3

Introduction

This is the last in a three part series.  See parts 1 and 2, and the intro.  

This segment concludes Origen’s homily on Ps. 76.  This is certainly not the only place we see Origen discussing the destiny of the human race, but it does offer a nice view into his theological method.  First, as you can see from the many scriptural citations, Origen’s theology is deeply rooted in the biblical text.  In these two paragraphs, he cites not only copiously from Psalm before him, but also draws from the prophets (Jonah), another Psalm, and two places in the New Testament.  This may strike some as odd: I certainly wouldn’t think while reading this psalm that it had anything to do with eternal punishment.  In our English translations, it seems much more natural to read it as simply a lament about this life: will the Lord continue to look away from his people?  Origen has good reasons, in this case at least, for going beyond this age and considering others.  Vs. 6 reads “I have pondered the ancient days, and I have remembered the eternal years.”  The Greek Septuagint thus invites him to speculate on these “eternal years,” and furthermore to consider the following verses on God’s punishment as pertaining to the ages to come rather than only to this life.  It’s important to remember that Origen knew is scripture extremely well.  His theological and philosophical opinions will often look strange, but seeing the scriptural underpinning makes his views much more understandable.

Another key feature that we can see here is Origen’s approach to revelation and prayer.  The psalmist had a profound revelation in prayer, as did Paul and John.  Origen thus encourages us to “probe our spirit in the night” and “meditate on the ancient days” like the psalmist did.  Not every revelation, however, can be shared.  Just as Paul and John did not share the contents of their visions, so we should not make definitive statements on areas in which the scriptures are not clear.  The proper course of action is instead a Socratic one: the “sage” must pose questions.  Some truths are hidden for “those who fear God.”  In doing so, Origen attempts to strike an exegetical and pastoral balance.  He understands that declaring a blanket universalism would have negative effects in the moral lives of his students/parishioners. He also is well aware of the biblical passages that discuss punishment, and that to be punished by God is a truly fearful thing.  On the other hand, he sees glimpses in scripture that suggest God’s punishment may be restorative rather than retributive, and he finds that compelling.  In all things, though, he urges humility and prayer, which strikes me as sage advice even after all these years.  

English

Rather, let us say, “Surely the Lord will not reject forever, nor refuse always to show his favor?”  However, if God’s judgments are hidden from us, we should not simply assert that God will change his mind about our punishment.  Instead, let us do as the Ninevites did and say, “Let us pray and fast.  Who knows if the Lord will change his mind and turn away from his wrath?” (Jonah 3:9).   Or, let us say, “Surely he will not cut off his mercy for ever, from generation to generation?” This is what I pondered, and this is what my spirit probed to find: will God, after giving us over to punishments, cut off his mercy from us, so that we’ll never be able to flee again to his mercy? will he cut off his mercy “from generation to generation” and forsake us?  will God forget to show mercy? after leaving us to such a fate, one of pain and toil, will he proceed to forget us, and never again show mercy? 

“And I have said, ‘now I have begun.'” (Ps. 76:11 LXX)  After I have pondered all these things, I have said, “now I am beginning to understand.”  His understanding, though, is private.  Although he had gained understanding, he decided not to share it.  Instead, though he had beheld the mystery, he concealed it, instead posing question.  In doing this, he did as Paul and John did.  Though Paul had heard “words unspeakable” (2 Cor. 12:4) and John had heard the “seven thunders” (Rev. 10:3-4), neither wrote down what they had heard.  Therefore, it was better for him to hide the mystery, and for all who have received such revelation to say, “how great the magnitude of your goodness, Lord,  which you have hidden for those who fear you” (Ps. 31:19/30:20 LXX), in Christ Jesus, to whom be glory and power forever and ever, amen.

An impromptu homily.

Greek

¶ ἀλλ᾽ ἡμεῖς λέγωμεν,
μὴ εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας ἀπώσεται κύριος,
καὶ οὐ προσθήσει τοῦ εὐδοκῆσαι ἔτι
; πλὴν

εἰ καὶ οὐκ ἀπέφηνε τὰ κρίματα τοῦ θεοῦ,
ἀλλ᾽ ἡμᾶς ὅπερ ἐποίησαν οἱ νινευῖται,
οὐκ εἶπαν μετανοήσει ὁ θεὸς, ἀλλὰ προσευχώμεθα
καὶ νηστεύωμεν. τίς οἶδεν
εἰ μετανοήσει κύριος, καὶ ἀποστρέψει τὸν
θυμὸν αὐτοῦ
, ἢ τὸ ἔλεος αὐτοῦ ἀποκόψει
εἰς τέλος, ἀπὸ γενεᾶς εἰς γενεάν;
καὶ τοῦτο διελογιζόμην καὶ ἔσκαλλε
τὸ πνεῦμά μου
. ἆρα ὁ θεὸς παραδιδοὺς

ἡμᾶς ταῖς κολάσεσι, τὸ ἔλεος
ἀποκόψει ἀφ᾽ἡμῶν, ὡς μηδέποτε
αὐτὸν παλινδρομῆσαι ἐπὶ τὸ ἐλεῆσαι
ἡμᾶς, ἀλλὰ ἀπὸ γενεᾶς εἰς γενεὰν
ἀποκόψας τὸ ἔλεος, καταλέιψει
ἠμᾶς, ἢ ἐπιλήσεται τοῦ οἰκτειρῆσαι
ὁ θεός; οἷον καταλιπὼν τοῖς πόνοις
καὶ ταῖς ἀλγηδόσι, μέλλει ἡμᾶς
ἐπιλανθάνεσθαι, καὶ μηδέποτε οἰκτείρειν;
καὶ εἶπα νῦν ἠρξάμην. ὅτε
ταύτα πάντα ἐλογισάμην, εἶπα,

νῦν ἄρχομαι νοεῖν. ἐνόησε
καθ᾽αὑτόν. νοήσας δὲ, οὐκ ἔκρινεν
εἰπεῖν ὃ ἐνοήσεν. ἀλλ᾽ὥσπερ παῦλος
ἤκουσεν ἄρρητα ῥήματα, καὶ ἰωάννης
ἤκουσε τῶν ἑπτὰ βροτῶν, καὶ οὔτε
παῦλος ἔγραψε τὰ ἄρρητα ῥήματα,
οὕτε ἰωάννης τοὺς λόγους τῶν ἑπτὰ
βροτῶν, οὕτως καὶ οὗτος κλαύσας
καὶ ἐπαπορήσας, εἶδε τὸ μυστήριον, ἐπειδήπερ
κρεῖττον ἦν κρύπτειν αὐτὸ, καὶ
λέγειν πάντα τὸν νοήσαντα τοιαῦτα,
ὡς πολὺ τὸ πλῆθος τῆς χρηστότητος
σου κύριε, ἧς ἔκρυψας τοῖς φοβουμένοις
σε
. ἐν χριστῷ ἰησοῦ ᾧ ἡ δόξα καὶ τὸ κράτος

εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων ἁμήν.
ὁμιλία σχεδιασθεῖσα. #END

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Origen on the Ages to Come Pt. 2

Introduction

Part 1 is here. As promised, here is the second installment of the end of Origen’s first homily on Ps. 77 (76 LXX). In these two paragraphs, Origen discusses God’s rejection. Based on the psalm, he doesn’t think rejection will last forever, but he also urges his audience to consider the terror of separation from God. To be separated from God even for a single hour is dreadful, as whenever someone is rejected they are handed over to Satan and his angels.

English

“Surely the Lord will not reject forever?”

As I probed my spirit about these matters, I reasoned carefully and said, “Let God reject someone for a year, and hand him over to trials. Let this last for two years. Let this be the case for their entire life. How many years is this? Fifty or sixty. Let him forsake someone for this entire age. Will God forsake them forever? “Surely the Lord will not reject forever?” is said, for he doesn’t wish to forsake us, even for a single age. There are, though, those whom he will reject in another age besides this one. The Savior mentions these, saying that when people sin against the Holy Spirit, “it will not be forgiven them, neither in this age, nor the one to come.” Consider someone who sinned at the time of Adam, who will be punished from that time until the end of the age for their sin. Think about the span of this punishment, and if you can, think of another like it, equal in time to this age or not (I don’t know, after all, the sizes of the different ages). Look at someone being punished for that entire age, consider the great magnitude of punishment, but do not despise it. Rather, remember the prophet’s words, that the Lord will not reject for ever.

On those rejected by God.

Remember too that to be rejected by the Lord for a single hour is a terrible punishment, because when God rejects me, the Devil receives me. When someone is rejected, he is handed over to the devil, which is what happened when Paul rejected the sexually immoral man in Corinth. Why did he bar him from the church? He handed him over to Satan so that the man’s flesh would be destroyed and his spirit saved. Should God reject any one of us, we would fall right into the hands of Satan and his angels. It is a horrible thing to be subjected to Satan, and if someone is made subject to him, it is God’s punishment, for the person deserves this subjection.

Greek

¶ μὴ εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας
ἀπώσεται κύριος; ταῦτα σκάλλων τὸ πνεῦμα,
διελογισάμην καὶ ἔλεγον, ἔστω ἀπωθεῖται
τινὰ ὁ θεὸς ἐπὶ ἐνιαυτὸν, καὶ ἐγκαταλείπει
αὐτὸν εἰς θλίψεις. ἔστω δὲ ἐπὶ
δύο ἔτη τινὰ καταλείπεσθαι. ἔστω,
ἐπὶ ὅλον τὸν χρόνον τῆς ἐνταῦθα ζωῆς.
πόσα ἐστὶ τὰ ἔτη; πεντήκοντα ἔτη
καὶ ἐξήκοντα. ἔστω τινὰ καταλείπεσθαι
ὅλον τὸν αἰῶνα τοῦτον. ἆρα καὶ
ἐφ᾽ ὅλους τοὺς αἰῶνας ἐγκαταλείψει ὁ
θεὸς; μὴ, εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας ἀπώσηται κύριος·
ἵνα μὴ ἀπώσηται ἡμᾶς μηδὲ εἰς ἕνα
αἰῶνα. εἰσὶ γάρ τινες οὓς ἀπωθεῖται
καὶ ἐπὶ αἰῶνα ἕτερον, παρὰ τοῦτον
αἰῶνα, περὶ ὧν ὁ σωτὴρ λέγει, ὅταν
ἁμάρτωσιν εἰς τὸ ἅγιον πνεῦμα, ὅτι οὐ μὴ
ἀφεθῇ αὐτῷ, οὔτε ἐν τούτῳ τῷ αἰῶνι οὔτε
ἐν τῷ μέλλοντι. φέρε
γὰρ τινὰ ἔχειν ἁμάρτημα ἐπὶ τῶν χρόνων
τοῦ ἀδὰμ, καὶ κολάζεσθαι ἔκτοτε
μέχρι τῆς συντελείας ἐπὶ τῷ ἁμαρτήματι.

ὅρα τὸ μέγεθος πηλίκον ἐστὶ τῆς κολάσεως.
καὶ εἰ δύνασαι καὶ ἄλλον συνάψαι.
ἤτοι ἰσόχρονον τούτῳ τῷ αἰῶνι,
ἢ οὐκ ἰσόχρονον. οὐ γὰρ οἶδα τὰ
μεγέθη τῶν αἰώνων. ἴδε τινά μοι κολαζόμενον
κἀκεῖνον τὸν αἰῶνα, καὶ ὅρα τὸ
μέγεθος τῆς κολάσεως, καὶ μὴ καταφρόνει,
καὶ νόει τὰ ἐνταῦθα εἰρημένα
ὑπὸ τοῦ φροφήτου ὅτι οὐκ εἰς
τοὺς αἰῶνας ἀπώσεται κύριος. ¶ τῶν
ἀπωσωμῶν τοῦ θεοῦ. ἀλλ᾽ ὅρα ὅτι καὶ μίαν
ὥραν ἀπωσθῆναι τοῦ θεοῦ, ζημία ἐστὶ
μεγάλη. ὅταν γὰρ ἀπώσηταί με ὁ θεὸς,
διάβολός με λαμβάνει, ὡς ἀπωσθέντα,
καὶ αὐτῷ παραδοθέντα, οἷον ἀπώσατο
παῦλος τὸν πεπορνευκότα ἐν κορίνθῳ.
διὰ τοῦτο ἀπώσατο αὐτὸν ἀπὸ
τῆς ἐκκλησίας, παρέδωκεν αὐτὸν
τῷ σατανᾷ εἰς ὄλεθρον τῆς σαρκὸς
ἵνα τὸ πνεῦμα σωθῇ. καὶ ἕκαστον ἡμῶν
ἂν ἀπώσηται ὁ θεὸς, οὐδεὶς ἄλλος παραλαμβάνει,
ἢ ὁ σατανᾶς καὶ οἱ ἄγγελοι
αὐτοῦ. φοβερὸν τὸ ὑπ᾽ ἐκεῖνον γενέσθαι,
καὶ εἴ τις γίνεται ὑπ᾽ ἐκεῖνον, κρίματι

#182r
θεοῦ ὡς ἄξιος τοῦ ὑπ᾽ ἐκεῖνον γενέσθαι
παραδέδοται. #END

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Origen on the Ages to Come Pt. 1

Psalm

“I have pondered over the ancient days,
and I have kept remembrance and meditated upon the eternal years.
In the night, I groaned deeply in my heart,
and I probed my spirit.
Surely the Lord will not reject forever,
and continue not to set forth goodwill?
Surely, in the end, he will not cut off his mercy
from generation to generation?
Surely God will not forget to show compassion,
and withhold, within his wrath, his mercies?” (Ps. 76:6-10 LXX).

English 
The Psalmist says, “I have pondered the ancient days,” but then as he ponders the ancient days, he ascends to what is beyond them: the eternal years. Moreover (if I may say so) years that share in temporality are themselves temporary, since the things we see are only temporary. There are, however, other years that are eternal: those before the world, perhaps, and those after the world. The law has measures concerning these years, because it has a shadow of the good things to come: it teaches about what must be done in the seventh year and in the fiftieth. After all, when someone has comprehended the spiritual nature of the law, they will understand that these ordinances refer to eternal years. Thus, this righteous one ascends from pondering the ancient days to the eternal years. These eternal years are comprised of eternal days, which are written about in Deuteronomy, “remember the days of eternity. Understand the years of the generation of generations.” (Dt. 32:7) Hearing this, we pray to ascend from these earthly days, and months, and years, to ascend to the days of eternity, to the eternal years, and, if I dare say so, since the new-moon feast is spiritual, to ascend also to the eternal months, in which the passage of our lives is not demarcated by the sun, for there the “Lord will be an eternal light for you, and God will be your glory” (Is 60:19).  

Therefore, “I have remembered and meditated on the eternal years. In the night, I would search deeply with my heart, and would probe my spirit.” Take note of this passage, so that if sleep ever forsakes you, and you are lying awake, you do not waste that time of wakefulness on unnecessary things. Rather, during the time you are awake, while sleep as forsaken you, set your thoughts on service to God. This man, having set his mind to such things, said, “in the night I would search deeply with my heart, and would probe my spirit.” His spirit and heart replied, “Surely the Lord will not reject forever, nor hold back his mercies within his wrath?” This is what he said, ‘I meditated in the night, and in private I would search deeply with my heart, and would probe my spirit.’ Since our spirit was given to us to be a better helper than our souls, if someone wishes to find what they seek, they shouldn’t probe their soul, nor probe their body, but probe instead their spirit.  Just as someone who wishes to find something in the ground will probe the ground to find what they imagine to be in the ground, so too you must probe the spirit to find the fruits of the spirit, if you are seeking spiritual things.  “I was probing my spirit” because you, [my spirit], “search all things.” That is, [as you search] the deep things of God, you are probing your spirit. Furthermore, I’d say that you’re probing the Spirit of God, for it is possible to come to the Spirit and search him.  

Commentary

First, I’ll say that I’ve tried to produce a translation in the proper register.  The proper register for this homily is classroom lecture, or church sermon, and so I’ve tried to use appropriately colloquial English (that’s why you see singular ‘they’, which may grate the ears of some).  I’ve taken liberties at several points to add clarifying phrases, so you are getting my interpretation of what Origen says here (as always happens when reading a translation).  I’ve tried to be a faithful translator, but there will always be problems somewhere!  If you notice something off, do let me know.  

This discussion precedes Origen’s discussion on punishment, but you can see how the text demands that he will discuss it.  He follows the text quite closely, and what I find interesting is his attention to method.  This comes out in several ways.  First, as he is wont to due, Origen brings in relevant scriptures from other places (Deuteronomy and Isaiah).  He does indulge in some speculative philosophy on the nature of the “eternal days,” and he acknowledges this by saying ‘If I dare say so.’  But this is deeply rooted in the text, something many people who haven’t read much Origen forget.  He was known later as the most infamous of all allegorists, but his attention to detail is remarkable and note worthy.

Beyond exegetical method, Origen gives much attention to the nature and method of revelation.  The psalmist is an example of devotion for us to follow.  Our sleeplessness should cause us to pursue God in prayer, and it is only in the context of prayer that one experiences what Paul calls “things unspeakable” (2 Cor 12:4).  This “mystical ascent” cannot always be expressed in direct terms, and when it is shared, it’s often done in symbolically or apophatically. Thus, Paul (2 Cor 12) and John (Revelation) are models for how to understand this passage.  We must remember this mystical “reluctance” when reading Origen’s statements on the ages to come.  Hopefully I’ll have more up soon!  

Greek

Note this is a provisional transcription.  I’ve taken the liberty of italicizing scriptural quotations, and I’ve tried to divide the sentences logically.  In punctuating, I’ve considered the manuscript’s punctuation, but also tried to make it comprehensible for a modern reader.  One of the reasons I’ve left it in this form is so you can check my work against the manuscript.  If something looks off, then please take a look at the ms and let me know in the comments.  You can find direction on my Origen page for how to access it.

#180v
διελογισάμην
οὖν φησι, ἡμέρας ἀρχαίας. εἶτα
διαλογισάμενος ἡμέρας ἀρχαίας,
ἔτι ἀναβαίνει ἐπὶ τὰ ἀνωτέρω τῶν ἀρχαίων
ἡμερῶν, τὰ ἔτη τὰ αἰώνια.
ἀλλ᾽εἰ δεῖ οὕτως εἰπεῖν, ἐπεὶ τὰ βλεπόμενα
πρόσκαιρά ἐστι, καὶ τὰ ἐν τοῖς
προσκαίροις ἔτη, πρόσκαιρά ἐστιν.
ἔστι δὲ ἄλλα ἔτη αἰώνια, τὰ πρὸ τοῦ
κόσμου τάχα, καὶ τὰ μετὰ τὸν κόσμον,
περὶ ὧν ἐτῶν, περιέχει ὁ σκιὰν ἔχων
τῶν μελλόντων ἀγαθῶν νόμος, διδάσκει
περὶ ἑβδόμου ἔτους ὃ δεὶ ποιεῖν, περὶ
πεντηκοστοῦ ἔτους. ὁ γὰρ νοήσας τὸν
νόμον καθὸ πνευματικός ἐστιν, ἀνάγει
ταῦτα ἐπὶ τὰ αἰώνια ἔτη. ὁ οὖν δίκαιος
ἀναβαίνει ἀπὸ τοῦ διαλογίσασθαι

#181r
ἡμέρας ἀρχαίας, ἐπὶ τὰ ἔτη τὰ αἰώνια.
τάδε αἰώνια ἔτη συνέστηκεν, ἐξ ἡμερῶν
αἱωνίων, περὶ ὧν γέγραπται ἐν
δευτερονομίῳ, τοῦτον τὸν τρόπον, μνήσθητε
ἡμέρας αἰῶνος. σύνετε ἔτη γενεᾶς
γενεῶν
. καὶ εὐχόμεθά γε ἀναβῆναι
ἀπὸ τούτων τῶν ἡμερῶν, καὶ τούτων
τῶν μηνῶν, καὶ τούτων τῶν ἐτῶν, ἐπὶ
τὰς τοῦ αἰῶνος ἡμέρας, καὶ ἐπὶ τὰ ἔτη
τὰ αἰώνια, καὶ εἰ δεῖ τολμήσαντα εἰπεῖν,
διὰ τὸ καὶ νουμηνίας εἶναι πνευματικὰς,
καὶ ἐπὶ τοὺς μῆνας τοὺς αἱωνίους,
ἐν οἷς πολιτεύομεθα χαρακτηριζόμενοι,
οὐχ ὑπὸ τούτου τοῦ ἡλίου
ἔσται γάρ σοι κύριος φῶς αἰώνιον, καὶ ὁ θεὸς
δόξα σου.
 ¶ ἔτη οὖν αἰώνια ἐμνήσθην καὶ
ἐμελέτησα, νυκτὸς μετὰ τῆς καρδίας
μου ἠδολέσχουν. καὶ ἐσκάλαυον τὸ πνεῦμα
μου.
μάνθανε καὶ ἀπὸ τοῦ ῥητοῦ, ἐάν
ποτέ σε καὶ ὕπνος καταλίπῃ καὶ
διαγρυπνῇς, μὴ παραπολλύειν τὸν
χρόνον τῆς ἀγρυπνίας εἰς τὸ μὴ δέον·
ἀλλὰ παρ᾽ ὃν καιρὸν ἐγρήγορας, τοῦ ὕπνου σε
καταλιπόντος, διαλογισμοὺς

λαμβάνειν θεοσεβείας. ὁ ποίους λαβῶν
οὗτος ἔλεγε, νυκτὸς μετὰ τῆς καρδίας
μου ἠδολέσχουν, καὶ ἐσκάλαυον τὸ
πνεῦμα μου
. καὶ εἶπον, μὴ, εἰς τοὺ αἰῶνας
ἀπώσεται κύριος, ἢ συνέξει ἐν τῇ ὀργῇ
αὐτοῦ τοὺς οἰκτιρμοὺς αὐτοῦ
; ταῦτά φησι
νυκτὸς διελογισάμην, καὶ κατ᾽ ἐμαυτὸν
ἠδολέσχουν, μετὰ τῆς καρδίας μου, καὶ
ἐσκάλαυον τὸ πνεῦμα μου. ἐπεὶ γὰρ τὸ πνεῦμα
δίδοται ὑπὸ θεοῦ εἰς βοήθειαν, ὡς
κρεῖττον τυχάνον τῆς ψυχῆς ἡμῶν, ὁ
βουλόμενος εὑρεῖν ὃ ζητεῖ, μὴ σκαλευέτω
τὴν ψυχὴν, μηδὲ σκαλαύετω τὸ σῶμα.
ἀλλὰ σκαλευέτω τὸ πνεῦμα. καὶ ὥσπερ
ὁ βουλόμενος τί εὑρεῖν ἐν γῇ, σκάλει
τὴν γῆν ἵνα εὕρῃ ὃ φαντάζεται εἶναι
ἐν τῇ γῇ, τὸν αὐτὸν τρόπον, ἐι πνευματικὰ
ζητεῖς, σκάλλε τὸ πνεῦμα, εὑρίσκειν τοὺς
καρποὺς τοῦ πνεύματος. ἔσκαλλον τὸ πνεῦμα
μου, ὅτε καὶ σὺ πάντα ἐρευνᾷς. καὶ
τὰ βάθη τοῦ θεοῦ
, σκάλλεις τὸ πνεῦμα σου.
ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω, ὅτι καὶ τὸ πνεῦμα τοῦ θεοῦ.
δυνατὸν γάρ ἐστι καὶ ἐπ᾽αὐτὸ φθάσαι

#182r
ἐρευνῆσαι αὐτό.
#END 

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Origen of Alexandria Teaser

I have finished transcribing Origen’s first homily on Ps. 76 (77 Heb).  The end proved to be enormously interesting: he discusses, albeit elliptically, the nature and duration of God’s punishment.  I’m working now on translating the relevant portion, and I’ll post it here when it’s ready.  In the meantime, I’ll post a translation of the portion of the Psalm that Origen comments on, and let you “ponder and meditate” what Origen will do with it.  Note that the corresponding section in our English bibles (Ps. 77:5-9) will read a bit different because Origen was working from the Greek translation of the OT, the Septuagint.  The Greek itself could be understood in many ways, but I offer here a translation that I think coheres with Origen’s exegesis.  Enjoy!

English

“I have pondered over the ancient days,
and I have kept remembrance and meditated upon the eternal years.
In the night, I groaned deeply in my heart,
and I probed my spirit.
Surely the Lord will not reject forever,
and continue not to set forth goodwill?
Surely, in the end, he will not cut off his mercy
from generation to generation? 
Surely God will not forget to show compassion,
and withhold, within his wrath, his mercies?” (Ps. 76:6-10 LXX).  

Greek

[6] διελογισάμην ἡμέρας ἀρχαίας
καὶ ἔτη αἰώνια ἐμνήσθην καὶ ἐμελέτησα·
[7] νυκτὸς μετὰ τῆς καρδίας μου ἠδολέσχουν,
καὶ ἐσκάλαυον* τὸ πνεῦμά μου.
[8] μὴ εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας ἀπώσεται κύριος
καὶ οὐ προσθήσει τοῦ εὐδοκῆσαι ἔτι;
[9] ἢ εἰς τέλος τὸ ἔλεος αὐτοῦ ἀποκόψει
ἀπὸ γενεᾶς εἰς γενεάν;
[10] ἢ ἐπιλήσεται τοῦ οἰκτιρῆσαι ὁ θεὸς
ἢ συνέξει ἐν τῇ ὀργῇ αὐτοῦ τοὺς οἰκτιρμοὺς αὐτοῦ; (Ps. 76:6-10 LXX).

*Rahlfs reads ἔσκαλλεν

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Origen coins a word

As I  transcribe Origen’s first homily on Ps. 76, I continue to find interesting bits.  For instance, in the section I transcribed today, Origen coins a new word to describe the gladness that the presence of the Lord brings.  Just prior, he has been discussing the line Ps. 76:4 (77:3 by Hebrew numbering), “I remembered God and was gladdened.” (The verse reads differently in the Hebrew apparently, at least judging from our English translations).  He discusses presence and absence, and how memory is required only for those absent: you can, after all, see someone who is present before you.  This creates a small difficulty: if remembering God gladdens the heart, what does God’s presence do?  Origen responds by creating a new word:

If the remembrance of God gladdens the heart, what does his presence do to the one who perceives it?  Shall I create a word for it? It supergladdens the heart.  

As is my custom, here’s the Greek:

εἰ γὰρ ἡ μνήμη τοῦ θεοῦ εὐφραίνει, ἡ παρουσία
αὐτοῦ τῷ αἰσθανομένῳ αὐτῆς, τί
ποιήσει; παραπλάσω ὄνομα αὐτῷ
καγώ; ὑπερευφραίνει. (Codex Monachensis Graecus 314 f. 178v lines 2-5).  

Looking through the TLG, ὑπερφραίνω in the active is extremely rare.  It occurs in Libanius (4th century AD) once in the optative, possibly once in Philodemus (1st century BC), and once in the third person imperative in Severian of Gabala (late 4th century) in his fragments on Corinthians.  Thus, Origen’s claim to be coining a new word does seem quite plausible, as we have only one hit in the TLG before him, and from a text is quite fragmentary.  Certainly the word wasn’t common.

ἐν αὐτῷ,
ΜΑΘΠ 

Varia

I continue to plug away on a variety of fronts.  Juggling school, work, and church is not always easy, but such is life.  This post is mainly a collection of scattered thoughts and impressions about different things I’ve been working on.

Gregory of Nazianzus. On the Theophany.  I recently finished reading Gregory’s 38th oration, On the Theophany, and enjoyed it immensely.  Gregory’s Greek is not always easy (in fact it seldom is), but it’s immensely rewarding to work through.  His vision of God’s grandeur and beauty is breathtaking, and I look forward to reading more!  If I had time, I’d probably translate some more of the oration, just because I enjoyed it so much, but time pushes me onto other things.

Basil of Caesarea. On the Six Days of Creation.  Instead of reading more Gregory, I decided to read some from St. Basil, as I’ve not yet read anything by the great bishop of Caesarea.  Since I’ve also been thinking about Genesis recently, it seemed like a natural place to turn.  From what I’ve seen so far (admittedly not much), Basil’s Greek seems a bit easier on the whole than Gregory’s, but quite well done nonetheless.  

Plato. Protagoras.  I’m taking a class on Socrates this semester, and for my term paper I’ll be writing on the Protagoras.  It’s a fun dialog, and fun to read.  Watching Plato’s Socrates interact with one of the great intellectuals of the previous generation is quite fun.

Origen. On the 76th Psalm Homily 1.  I’ve picked up the Origen stuff again, after a long hiatus.  I’ve resumed transcribing his long first homily on psalm 76, and a few interesting bits have come up.  Origen attacks heretics at several points for neglecting the practical life (πραξεῖς or ἤθη), and instead proceeding directly to speculation on the nature of God.  He’s also brought in his knowledge of Hebrew, mentioning that Zechariah’s name means “remembrance of God.”  I don’t know Hebrew, but from what I can tell that’s pretty close even if it’s not precisely accurate.

I’ve also notice an interesting stylistic tic: he likes to mention several different possible interpretation for a given line of the psalm, and so he’ll say, “and I know another interpretation” or “I have a second interpretation.”  When I put these Greek phrases into the TLG (οἶδα καὶ ἄλλην διήγησιν and ἔχω δὲ καὶ δευτέραν διήγησιν), in first case, the only results are from Origen’s Commentary on Matthew.  The second doesn’t match exactly, but searching for “δευτέραν διήγησιν” brings up matches primarily in 3 authors: Galen, Celsus, and Origen, all working in the late second century or early third (there are a few matches from much later authors).  Stylistic evidence like this aren’t the only grounds on which one judges authorship, but features like this do argue strongly in favor of Origenic authenticity.  

Eusebius of Caesarea. Fragments on Luke.  I contacted Roger Pearse a few months ago and asked if there were any untranslated Greek texts that he was wanting to get into English.  He has graciously commissioned a translation of the fragments on Luke that appear in the PG under Eusebius’ name.  I’ve been working on these slowly, but with some consistency.  They seem to mostly be authentically Eusebian to me.  The author is fond of long, winding, pleonastic sentences, which makes the translator’s job difficult!  He knows Greek philosophy, and this is seen in the exegesis, though it doesn’t dominate.  His exegetical eye is sometimes quite keen: he rightly picks up (what I think is) the jew/gentile distinction in Mt 21:28-31.  Other times, the exegesis is more straightforward: he remarks that the miracles that the apostles performed were important witnesses to the authenticity of their message.  Other times he seems more foreign, like when he creates an elaborate hierarchy of Christians on the basis of the beatitudes.  All in all, useful material I think.  

ἐν αὐτῷ,
ΜΑΘΠ 

A Great Ocean of Being: Gregory Nazianzus on Divinity and Theosis

Intro

Having spent a good deal of time focused myopically on Or. 41:15-16, I decided that I should broaden my knowledge of Gregory of Nazianzus and read from some other orations.  His Greek is difficult in most places, so I proceed slowly, but I stumble often upon passages which are utterly captivating.  Since I already had the Sources Chrétiennes text on hand from my work on Or. 41, I decided to start reading Or. 38 (On the Theophany, or Nativity of Jesus), and have quickly come upon a passage I’d like to share: the first part of 38.7 (PG 36.317).  Gregory himself must have liked the passage, because he used it again in Or. 45, word for word.  In it, Gregory contemplates the nature of divinity itself, and then our own process of theosis, by which we are transformed into gods ourselves, “partaking in the divine nature” as 2 Peter 1:4 puts it.

Naturally, I managed to pick a passage that is full of text critical problems, mostly of ο/ω confusion.  They don’t affect major points of interpretation, but I do note in the Greek text where I’ve opted for a different reading from the SC text.  My translation is quite free, but do look at the Greek if possible: it’s quite lovely I promise!

English

God has always been, is now, and will be forever.  “Is” is the best term, however, for “has been” and “will be” are our own divisions of time, which are due to our mortal nature.  But the One who eternally Is, used this name when he revealed himself to Moses on the mountain. He comprises within himself existence itself, an existence that neither begins nor ends, a great, boundless ocean of being, which effortlessly surpasses any notion of time or natural law.  He is perceived dimly through the mind alone, and even this, though sufficient, is extremely dim.  This perception originates not from the divine being itself, but from those who surround it.  The image in the mind is formed with another’s aid into one coherent perception of reality, which then flees before complete apprehension, skirting off before the idea is fully grasped.  Thus, like a lightning-bolt, which illumines the night sky for but a fleeting moment, so this image surrounds our reasoning faculties with purifying light, but then disappears once more into darkness, leaving our minds completely cleansed. 

It seems to me that, insofar as we can perceive this image, it draws us to itself, for we can neither hope nor strive for something that is entirely beyond perception; but to the extent that the image is utterly beyond us, it invokes our wonder, and as we wonder, our desire increases, and the more we yearn for it, the more we are purified, and this purification makes us glimmer with divinity [1].   With a bit of boldness, I’d even suggest that it is at this stage, once we have been suitably transformed, that God unites himself fully with us, his gods [2], and is known fully to us, and perhaps known to the degree that he now knows us, who “know him even as we are known” (1 Cor 13:12).

[1] Grk. καθαῖρον δὲ θεοειδεῖς ἐργάζηται.  We have here a play on words, which evokes both Homer and the Gospels.  θεοειδής is a fairly common term in Homer, and means in the passive sense “godlike in appearance” or “shining like a god.”  Purification, though, reminds us of the beatitude “blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Mt. 5:8), and Gregory no doubt has this in mind too.  Adjectives of this formation in Greek are ambiguous, and can be used in the active or passive sense.  Gregory thus combines the classical and the Christian to describe another New Testament idea, that as we become like God as we behold him (cf. 1 Jn 3:2).  

[2] Cf. Ps. 82:1-6. (81:1-6 LXX).

Greek

θεὸς ἦν μὲν ἀεὶ καὶ ἔστι καὶ ἔσται · μᾶλλον δὲ « ἔστιν » ἀεί. τὸ γὰρ « ἦν » καὶ « ἔσται », τοῦ καθ᾽ἡμᾶς χρόνου τμήματα καὶ τῆς ῥευστῆς φύσεως · ὁ δὲ ὢν ἀεὶ καὶ τοῦτο αὐτὸς ἑαυτὸν ὀνομάζει, τῷ Μωϋσεῖ χρηματίζων ἐπὶ τοῦ ὄρους. ὅλον γὰρ ἐν ἑαυτῷ συλλαβὼν ἔχει τὸ εἶναι, μήτε ἀρξάμενον μήτε παυσόμενον, οἷόν τι πέλαγος οὐσίας ἄπειρον καὶ ἀόριστον, πᾶσαν ὑπερεκπίπτον[1] ἔννοιαν καὶ χρόνου καὶ φύσεως.[2] νῷ μόνῳ σκιαγραφούμενος, καὶ τοῦτο λίαν ἀμυδρῶς καὶ μετρίως, οὐκ ἐκ τῶν κατ᾽ αὐτόν, ἀλλ᾽ ἐκ τῶν περὶ αὐτόν, ἄλλης ἐξ ἄλλου φαντασίας συλλεγομένης εἰς ἕν τι τῆς ἀληθείας ἴνδαλμα, πρὶν κρατηθῆναι φεῦγον καὶ πρὶν νοηθῆναι διαδιδράσκον, τοσαῦτα περιλάμπον[3] ἡμῶν τὸ ἡγεμονικόν, καὶ ταῦτα κεκαθαρμένoν, ὅσα καὶ ὄψιν ἀστραπῆς τάχος οὐχ ἱσταμένης.

ἐμοὶ δοκεῖν, ἵνα τῷ ληπτῷ μὲν ἕλκῃ πρὸς ἑαυτό — τὸ γὰρ τελέως ἄληπτον, ἀνέλπιστον καὶ ἀνεπιχείρητον — τῷ δὲ ἀλήπτῳ θαυμάζηται, θαυμαζόμενον δὲ ποθῆται πλέον, ποθούμενον δὲ καθαίρῃ, καθαῖρον δὲ θεοειδεῖς ἐργάζηται, τοιούτοις δὲ γενομένοις, ὡς οἰκείοις, ἤδη προσομιλῇ — τολμᾷ τι νεανικὸν ὁ λόγος — θεὸς θεοῖς ἑνούμενός τε καὶ γνωριζόμενος, καὶ τοσοῦτον ἴσως ὅσον ἤδη γινώσκει τοῦς γινωσκομένους.  


[1] SC reads ὑπερεκπίπτων.

[2] SC reads ‘,’ instead of ‘.’  This does result in an asyndeton, which is undesirable, but given the almost “hymnic” character of the prose here, I think it may be permitted.  

[3] SC reads περιλάμπων. Update: I’m not sure why, but I marked a difference from the SC text here even though there wasn’t one. Thanks to Gregoris in the comments for catching this. He left some very useful feedback on my textual decisions (arguing in favor of Moreschini’s text), so take a look if you’re interested in technical details.

[4] SC reads κεκαθαρμένων.  

I’ve transcribed this text directly from the SC text, which no doubt means I’ve made some typos.  If you notice something that looks off, let me know in the comments.

ἐν αὐῷ,
ΜΑΘΠ

Punctuation and Particles in Gregory’s Or. 41.15-16

Intro

Belgium has finally come and gone!  Last week, I presented a paper at the conference, “Preaching After Easter” which was hosted by KU Leuven.  My paper was concerned with the passage on which I’ve written here quite a bit: Gregory of Nazianzus’s Oration 41.15-16.  By my own reckoning, my presentation went okay.  My paper was quite technical, and I spoke too quickly (especially for non-native English speakers), but I was able to get some useful feedback from the audience.  One objection was raised to my repunctuation of Or. 41.16.  In this post, I try to explain my reasoning for my repunctuation, and address the questions that were raised (which help me improve the paper).  The first part of the post will be rather accessible: that part of the argument doesn’t need to refer the Greek directly.  I save the nitty, gritty details for the second part.  

Gregory’s Argument 

First, why repunctuate in the first place?  As I’ve pondered this passage for many months, I’ve tried to puzzle out the progression of Gregory’s argument.  As I’ve puzzled, I’ve determined that the passage needs to be repunctuated in three places to clarify Gregory’s reasoning and the structure of his argument.  This post deals only with the final repunctuation, the other two I set aside for now.  To show why the older punctuation is unsatisfactory, I offer an English translation, with the phrase in question bolded.

Yet this present, miraculous division of tongues is even more worthy of praise, because though it flows from one Spirit out to many people, it brings them once more into harmony, and because it is the type of gift that requires another gift to interpret this better [division of tongues], since all [gifts] have something praiseworthy. One may even call good that division about which David says, “Drown, O Lord, and scatter their tongues.”

The problem here comes from the reasoning of the passage.  In the present punctuation scheme, how does “since all have something of worth” support the preceding argument?  Gregory states that “the present division of tongues” (i.e. at Pentecost) is more worthy of praise than the division at Babel, and applauds the division of tongues at Pentecost because it brings harmony.  Furthermore, he states, this division is the type of gift that requires another, which follows nicely from the prior statement about harmony.  But would, “since all have something of praise” fit into this?  The fact that all spiritual gifts have something praiseworthy is not relevant to Gregory’s argument, as he’s trying to demonstrate that Pentecost is superior to Babel.

Because of this difficulty of reasoning, I decided that we need to make “since all have something of worth” a proleptic causal clause, rather than a retrospective one.  In plainer terms, the clause is part of the following sentence, and provides logical support for what follows it, rather than what comes before it.  This results in a much clearer argument, as you can see below:

Yet this present, miraculous division of tongues is even more worthy of praise, because though it flows from one Spirit out to many people, it brings them once more into harmony, and because it is the type of gift that requires another gift to interpret this better [division of tongues]. Since all [divisions of tongues] have something praiseworthy, one may even call good that division about which David says, “Drown, O Lord, and scatter their tongues.”

The words in brackets have changed because we have to supply a different word in Greek after repunctuating the sentence (διαιρέσεις instead of διαφοραί).  The logic here is much clearer.  Gregory is making what some might consider an audacious claim: even David’s prayer to “scatter their tongues” is a worthy of praise.  Since this claim needs support, he offers it by saying, “Since all divisions of tongues have something praiseworthy…”  The bolded clause thus fits nicely into Gregory’s argument concerning “divisions of tongues.”  

Nitty Gritty Details

Here’s the passage in Greek (with a bit extra added to catch the initial μέν), with my repunctuation:

Πλὴν ἐπαινετὴ μὲν καὶ ἡ παλαιὰ διαίρεσις τῶν φωνῶν, ἡνίκα τὸν πύργον ᾠκοδόμουν οἱ κακῶς καὶ ἀθέως ὁμοφωνοῦντες, (ὥσπερ καὶ τῶν νῦν τολμῶσί τινες)· τῇ γὰρ τῆς φωνῆς διαστάσει συνδιαλυθὲν τὸ ὀμόγνωμον, τὴν ἐγχείρησιν ἔλυσεν· ἀξιεπαινετωτέρα δὲ ἡ νῦν θαυματουργουμένη· ἀπὸ γὰρ ἑνὸς Πνεύματος εἰς πολλοὺς χεθεῖσα, εἰς μίαν ἁρμονίαν πάλιν συνάγεται· καὶ ἔστι διαφορὰ χαρισμάτων, ἄλλου δεομένη χαρίσματος πρὸς διάκρισιν τῆς βελτίονος. ἐπειδὴ πᾶσαι τὸ ἐπαινετὸν ἔχουσι, καλὴ δ᾽ἂν κἀκείνη λέγοιτο περὶ ἧς Δαβὶδ λέγει· « καταπόντισον, Κύριε, καὶ καταδίελε τὰς γλώσσας αὐτῶν ».

Without repunctuating, we would read, “… τῆς βελτίονος· ἐπειδὴ πᾶσαι τὸ ἐπαινετὸν ἔχουσι. καλὴ δ᾽ἂν κἀκείνη λέγοιτο περὶ ἧς Δαβὶδ λέγει …”

So, is this repunctuation valid?  I think so, though it is possible to raise some objections.  First, I should mention that I’m not the first to read the passage this way.  At least two 10th century Greek manuscripts do: British Library Add Mss 14771 and 18231 both do too. Fortunately these manuscripts are online, and I can show pictures!

BL Add MS 14771 f. 94v, col. 1:

NewImage

I note first the punctuation mark at the end of the third line.  A dot at the top of the line, in this scheme, indicates a full stop (the equivalent of our period).  At the beginning of the fourth line, we have an enlarged epsilon, indicating the start of a new paragraph.  Finally, following χουσι in the sixth line, we have a punctuation mark in the middle of the line.  It appears to veer a bit high (in practice, it’s hard to distinguish between medial dots and those at the top of the line), but notice that the iota does go higher.  All of this shows that the phrase ἐπειδή πᾶσαι τὸ ἐπαινετὸν ἔχουσι is proleptic, and should be joined with what follows, as I’ve suggested.

The same can be seen in BL Add MS 18231, though this manuscript is a bit harder to read:

Add Ms 18231

I note here that ἐπειδὴ πᾶσαι begins near the end of the fifth line, and just before it we have a mark at the top of the line, indicating a full stop.  Then, following ἔχουσι in the middle of the sixth line, we have a mark on the baseline, which indicates a shorter pause, roughly equivalent to our comma.  Again, this offers external support for my repunctuation.

On internal grounds, we can note that Gregory uses a passive, optative verb λέγοιτο, which indicates that he is making a potentially controversial claim (or, at least, that he is pretending to make a controversial claim).  In English, the equivalent occurs when we say something like “one might say…” to distance oneself from the claim.  The fact that Gregory is introducing a controversial claim means that it is quite logical for him to provide support with a causal clause.

As mentioned earlier, there are some potential difficulties with this construal (and they were pointed out during the Q&A after I presented this paper!).  The problem is in the particles, specifically δέ (If there is ever a better case of “the devil is in the details,” please let me know!).  Several of those listening to my paper pointed out the δέ is a connective particle, and thus can’t be used to coordinate with a subordinate clause.  That is, in ἐπειδὴ πᾶσαι τὸ ἐπαινετὸν ἔχουσι, καλὴ δ᾽ἂν κἀκείνη λέγοιτο…, the δέ shouldn’t be allowed to refer back to the clause referred to by ἐπειδή.  

There are, however, two potential responses.  On one hand, we may note that certain “non-connective” uses of δέ do exist.  Denniston, in his magisterial work on the Greek Particles, calls the primary non-connective use “apodotic δέ,” where δέ is used in the main clause following a previous subordinate clause.  Admittedly, he does state, “only in Homer and Herodotus is apodotic δέ really at home.” TLG searches, though, have shown that it seems common enough in later writers.  I’ve yet to find a clear instance in Gregory himself, but we do see it in younger contemporaries like Chrysostom[1] and Gregory of Nyssa[2].

It might be the case, then, that Gregory is using an δέ “apodotically” to refer back to the ἐπειδή clause.  It’s also possible that the δέ refers back to the μέν at the beginning of the section.  It’s common in Greek to have a single μέν followed by several δέ’s.  Intuitively this makes sense to me, but I can’t find an appropriate category in Denniston to classify it.  The “resumptive” seems to be appropriate, but I’m not certain enough to say for sure.  

A similar question might be raised about the καί in κἀκείνη.  This one’s a bit easier: I think we have an emphatic καί here, so that we understand it to mean something like “even.”  Thus, I’ve translated, “one might even call good…”  

Given the examples in other authors, I do think this repunctuation is justified.  The use of δέ which results is not terribly common, but other writers demonstrate it’s possibility.  Certainly, the argument makes much more sense when the ἐπειδή clause is read proleptically, as I’ve suggested.  That several early manuscripts also support the reading gives an even further basis for the reading.  

 

[1]  Ἐπειδὴ δὲ Χριστὸς ὁ Θεὸς ἡμῶν θυσία προσηνέχθη, καὶ τὰ τῆς ἀναστάσεως προεχώρησε, περιῆρε δὲ τὰς προσηγορίας αὐτὰς ὁ φιλάνθρωπος Δεσπότης, καὶ καινὴν καὶ ξένην πολιτείαν εἰς τὸν βίον εἰσήγαγε τὸν ἡμέτερον· ἀντὶ γὰρ θανάτου λοιπὸν κοίμησις καὶ ὕπνος λέγεται ἡ ἐντεῦθεν μετάστασις. From Chrysostom’s Homily In Sanctum Pascha. PG 52.767. 

[2] Ἐπειδὴ γὰρ Χριστὸς ἡ πέτρα παρὰ τοῦ Παύλου νενόηται, πᾶσα δὲ ἀγαθῶν ἐλπὶς ἐν τῷ Χριστῷ εἶναι πιστεύεται, ἐν ᾧ πάντας… From Gregory of Nyssa’s De Vita Mosis. Ch. 2 Section 248.  

Ἐπειδὴ τοίνυν εἰς πατέρα καὶ υἱὸν καὶ πνεῦμα ἅγιον ἡ πίστις ἐστίν, ἀκολουθεῖ δὲ ἀλλήλοις ἡ πίστις ἡ δόξα τὸ βάπτισμα. From Gregory of Nyssa’s Epistulae.  Ep. 24 Section 9.  

St. John Chrysostom On Easter

As the great feast of the Resurrection is here, I thought it would be fitting to translate a bit of a paschal homily this morning.  John Chrysostom is always a good choice for such an endeavor, so I found a paschal homily of his in the TLG, and I translate the beginning of it below.  I must say, I rather like his beginning: it’s quite lovely.  This homily appears in PG 52.765.  There has been some discussion about the authenticity of the homily: some think it’s not from John himself, though the editors of the PG think it’s most likely authentic.  I haven’t done any research to see if it’s been commented on more recently, but it’s lovely Greek nonetheless, even if it doesn’t come from Chrysostom’s pen!

As is my custom, I offer a rather free translation.  I try to capture the spirit of the Greek, and the paschal joy it contains.  That’s not quite possible in translation, of course, but I try nonetheless.

The Greek text is problematic in a few places, but I wasn’t able to find a manuscript online with which to compare.  

Χριστὸς ἀνέστη! 

English Text

Today is the day for all of us to shout David’s words, “who shall speak of the great power of the Lord? Who shall make his praises heard?” (Ps. 106:2/105:2 LXX).  For behold, the feast of salvation, for which we have yearned for so long, has finally come.  The day of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, the foundation of peace, and the grounds for reconciliation! The conquest of war itself, the dissolution of death, and the devil’s defeat! Today men have mingled with angels, and those in the body henceforth bring praises along with the angelic powers.  Today, death’s tyranny is vanquished! Today, the bonds of death are destroyed, the victory of Hell abolished! Today is the day for us to declare the prophet’s words, “Where, O death, is your sting? Where, O hell, is your victory?” (Hos. 13:14).  Today our Lord Christ has crushed the bronze gates of our prison (Ps. 107:16/106:16 LXX), and abolished the role of death itself.  Why do I say ‘role’? Because he changed death’s role on the great cosmic stage[1].  This change shall no longer be called ‘death,’ but rather ‘rest,’ or ‘sleep.’  Before Christ’s coming, and the working-out of the cross, the name of death brought great fear.  For the first man, instead of receiving great honor, was condemned by hearing, “in the day you eat, you shall surely die” (Gen. 2:17).  But the blessed Job foresaw this change and said, “death is rest for man” (Job 3:23 LXX).  The separation of the soul from the body is not only called ‘death,’ but also ‘Hades,’ as the patriarch Jacob says, “You all will take my old age down into Hades with grief” (Gen. 42:38).  Again, the prophet says, “Hades opens wide his mouth,” (Is. 5:14?) and another prophet says, “he delivers me from the lowest depth of Hades” (Ps. 86:13/87:13 LXX).  And so you’ll find many places where death and Hades are put together and made equivalent.  But since Christ our God has been offered as a sacrifice, with resurrection as the result, our Lord, full of loving-kindness, has completely transformed the roles of death and Hades.  He has introduced a new and foreign institution into our life.  Henceforth, instead of death, this change at the end of life shall be called ‘rest,’ and ‘sleep.’  How do we know this? Hear the word of Christ himself, “My friend Lazarus is in a state of sleep, but I am coming to wake him” (Jo. 11:11).  

[1] I have added “on the great cosmic stage” to bring out more clearly John’s theatrical metaphor.  

Greek Text

αʹ. Εὔκαιρον σήμερον ἅπαντας ἡμᾶς ἀναβοῆσαι τὸ παρὰ τοῦ μακαρίου Δαυῒδ εἰρημένον· Τίς λαλήσει τὰς δυναστείας τοῦ Κυρίου, ἀκουστὰς ποιήσει πάσας τὰς αἰνέσεις αὐτοῦ; Ἰδοὺ γὰρ ἡμῖν παραγέγονεν ἡ ποθεινὴ καὶ σωτήριος ἑορτὴ, ἡ ἀναστάσιμος ἡμέρα τοῦ Κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, ἡ τῆς εἰρήνης ὑπόθεσις, ἡ τῆς καταλλαγῆς ἀφορμὴ, ἡ τῶν πολέμων ἀναίρεσις, ἡ τοῦ θανάτου κατάλυσις, ἡ τοῦ διαβόλου ἧττα. Σήμερον ἄνθρωποι τοῖς ἀγγέλοις ἀνεμίγησαν, καὶ οἱ σῶμα περικείμενοι μετὰ τῶν ἀσωμάτων δυνάμεων λοιπὸν τὰς ὑμνῳδίας ἀναφέρουσι. Σήμερον καταλύεται τοῦ διαβόλου ἡ τυραννίς· σήμερον τὰ δεσμὰ τοῦ θανάτου ἐλύθη, τοῦ ᾅδου τὸ νῖκος ἠφάνισται· σήμερον εὔκαιρον πάλιν εἰπεῖν τὴν προφητικὴν ἐκείνην φωνήν· Ποῦ σου, θάνατε, τὸ κέντρον; ποῦ σου, ᾅδη, τὸ νῖκος; Σήμερον τὰς χαλκᾶς πύλας συνέθλασεν ὁ Δεσπότης ἡμῶν Χριστὸς, καὶ αὐτὸ τοῦ θανάτου τὸ πρόσωπον ἠφάνισε. Τί δὲ λέγω τὸ πρόσωπον; Αὐτοῦ τὴν προσηγορίαν μετέβαλεν· οὐκ ἔτι γὰρ θάνατος λέγεται, ἀλλὰ κοίμησις καὶ ὕπνος· πρὸ μὲν γὰρ τῆς Χριστοῦ παρουσίας, καὶ τῆς τοῦ σταυροῦ οἰκονομίας, καὶ αὐτὸ τοῦ θανάτου τὸ ὄνομα φοβερὸν ἐτύγχανε. Καὶ γὰρ ὁ πρῶτος ἄνθρωπος γενόμενος ἀντὶ μεγάλου ἐπιτιμίου τοῦτο κατεδικάζετο ἀκούων· ᾟ δ’ ἂν ἡμέρᾳ φαγῇ, θανάτῳ ἀποθανῇ. Καὶ ὁ μακάριος δὲ Ἰὼβ τούτῳ τῷ ὀνόματι αὐτὸν προσηγόρευσε, λέγων· Θάνατος ἀνδρὶ ἀνάπαυσις. Καὶ ὁ προφήτης Δαυῒδ ἔλεγε· Θάνατος ἁμαρτωλῶν πονηρός. Οὐ μόνον δὲ θάνατος ἐκαλεῖτο ἡ διάλυσις τῆς ψυχῆς ἀπὸ τοῦ σώματος, ἀλλὰ καὶ ᾅδης. Ἄκουε γὰρ τοῦ μὲν πατριάρχου Ἰακὼβ λέγοντος· Κατάξετε τὸ γῆράς μου μετὰ λύπης εἰς ᾅδου· τοῦ δὲ προφήτου πάλιν· Ἔχανεν ὁ ᾅδης τὸ στόμα αὐτοῦ· καὶ πάλιν ἑτέρου προφήτου λέγοντος· Ῥύσεταί με ἐξ ᾅδου κατωτάτου· καὶ πολλαχοῦ εὑρήσεις ἐπὶ τῆς Παλαιᾶς θάνατον καὶ ᾅδην καλουμένην τὴν ἐντεῦθεν μετάστασιν. Ἐπειδὴ δὲ Χριστὸς ὁ Θεὸς ἡμῶν θυσία προσηνέχθη, καὶ τὰ τῆς ἀναστάσεως προεχώρησε, περιῆρε δὲ τὰς προσηγορίας αὐτὰς ὁ φιλάνθρωπος Δεσπότης, καὶ καινὴν καὶ ξένην πολιτείαν εἰς τὸν βίον εἰσήγαγε τὸν ἡμέτερον· ἀντὶ γὰρ θανάτου λοιπὸν κοίμησις καὶ ὕπνος λέγεται ἡ ἐντεῦθεν μετάστασις. Καὶ πόθεν τοῦτο δῆλον; Ἄκουε αὐτοῦ τοῦ Χριστοῦ λέγοντος· Λάζαρος ὁ φίλος ἡμῶν κεκοίμηται, ἀλλὰ πορεύομαι ἐξυπνίσαι αὐτόν.

ἐν αὐτῷ,
ΜΑΘΠ 

Gregory of Nazianzus Oration 41.15-16 Updated Translation

I translated this passage for the first time several months ago (see here).  My thinking on the passage has developed quite a bit since that first translation.  In section 15, I’ve realized that Gregory was working from a different verse (Acts 2:11 instead of Acts 2:6).  This doesn’t affect the translation much, though it does help us understand his own perplexity.  In section 16, re-punctuating the text and reading the ancient commentators helped me immensely.  I think the new translation is much better and much clearer than the previous one, though the reader may compare and see.  I leave the old translation up to make such a comparison easy.  I intend to argue all the technical details in another series of posts.  If you have any suggestions, do leave a comment or send me an e-mail!

English Translation of Oration 41.15-16

15. They were speaking in foreign languages, not their own, and this was a great miracle, that the message was being spoken by those who were not instructed. This was a sign to the unbelievers, not to the believers, as it is written, “‘in different languages and in strange lips I will speak to this people, and thus they will not hear me,’ says the Lord.” But these were hearing. Look here for a bit, and puzzle over how to divide the speech: the reading has an ambiguity, which arises from punctuation. Were they each hearing in their own language, such that we might say that one language flowed forth, but that many were heard? To speak more clearly, as the word traveled through the air, did one language became many? Or, should we place a period after “they were hearing,” and join “as they spoke in their own languages” to what follows, so that it becomes “as they were speaking in languages, the ones of the audience,” or more simply “foreign.” I prefer this arrangement. In the former case, the miracle would belong primarily to the audience, not to the speakers, but in the latter case the miracle would chiefly belong to the speakers. Even as they were being accused of drunkenness, clearly they were working miracles through their voices by the Spirit.

16. Now, the old division of tongues is certainly worthy of honor. When those evil and atheistic schemers were building the tower (as some dare to do even now), their plot was undone by the scattering of their language, and it ruined their attempt. Yet this present, miraculous division of tongues is even more worthy of praise, because it flows from one Spirit out to many people, but brings them once more into one harmony, and because it is the type of gift that requires another gift to interpret this better division. Since all divisions of tongues have something praiseworthy, one may even call good that division about which David says, “Drown, O Lord, and scatter their tongues.” Why? Because “they have loved all the words of destruction, with a deceitful tongue.” He all but names them openly as he declares his charge against those who mangle the godhead. But that is enough on these matters.

ἐν αὐτῷ,
ΜΑΘΠ