Origen on Punishment – A Different Take

I my recent series on Origen and eternal punishment (v. here), I translated a portion of a lecture [1] in which Origen speculates about the end of time and the nature of punishment.  Some scholars take Origen’s “universalism” as a given, but the situation is more complicated than that.  In the homily on Ps. 76, Origen suggests pretty clearly that punishment is not eternal, and lasts only for a time.  He’s a bit elliptical, but it’s not difficult to fill in the gaps.  In other places, however, Origen states the familiar eternal punishment doctrine without comment.  Once such example comes in his third homily on Ps. 36, which I translate below.  He is commenting on Ps 36:19 (LXX), “They [sc. the righteous] will not be put to shame in an evil time, and in the days of famine they will be full.” In a future post, I’ll examine the Greek adjective αἰώνιος, and explore whether the two views can be reconciled.  

The righteous will inherit the promises forever in those days , and they “will not be be put to shame in an evil time.” ‘An evil time’ is what he calls the time of judgment,  due to the great number of sinners.  Because of the great number being punished, it is only the righteous who “will not be put to shame in an evil time,” that is, when the resurrection occurs and all shall rise, some to life, and some to eternal shame and rebuke.   

γὰρ ἐν ἐκεῖναις ταῖς ἡμέραις
εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα οἱ δίκαιοι τὰς ἐπαγγελίας,
καὶ οὐκ αἰσχυνθήσονται ἐν καιρῷ πονηρῷ,
καιρὸν δὲ πονηρὸν, τὸν τῆς κρίσεως ὀνομασε
διὰ τὸ πλῆθος τῶν ἁμαρτανόντων.
διὰ τοὺς πολλοὺς τῶν κολαζομένων,
μόνοι οὖν οἱ δίκαιοι, οὐκ αἰσχυνθήσονται
ἐν καιρῷ πονηρῷ
, ὅταν ἡ ἀναστασις
γίνηται, καὶ ἀνίστανται, οἱ μὲν, εἰς ζωὴν,
οἱ δὲ, εἰς ὀνειδισμὸν καὶ αἰσχύνην αἰώνιον. (Cod Mon Graec. f. 62v).


[1] I say lecture (instead of homily) because I am not sure that it was spoken in a church.  The greek word ὁμιλία, whence comes our word homily, originally just meant informal talk or lecture (rather than a highly polished rhetorical speech).  Homily became associated with Christian sermons because they tended to be the former, not the latter.  

ἐν αὐτῷ,

Maximus the Confessor’s Comments on “The Diversity of Gifts” located

Although it required an embarrassingly long search, I finally found the passage to which Basil the Lesser refers in his commentary on Gregory’s 41st oration.  The reason for my aporia was that most of Maximus’s Ambigua is not in the TLG, which is where I was looking for it!  The Ambigua is a massive, sprawling work devoted to ambiguous passages in Gregory of Nazianzus.  It’s divided into two parts, the Ambigua to Thomas is in the TLG, but this only includes 5 “difficulties.”  The rest of the work, the Ambigua to John is much larger (well over 100 if the text I found is accurate), but is not in the TLG.  Of course after discovering this the hard way, and finding the text elsewhere, I discovered that the apparatus of the Sources Chrétiennes pointed me to the Patrologia Graeca vol. 91. I’ve learned a lesson though: don’t over rely on the TLG!  It’s a remarkable tool, but far from complete, especially for Patristic texts.

The text from Maximus can be found here, in section 173.  The discussion is only two hearty paragraphs, so I hope to post a translation and comments soon.  

ἐν αὐτῷ,


Semester in Review

As I have now had the time to sufficiently “decompress” from the fall semester, a little reflection is in order.  This was my first semester as a graduate student at Catholic in the Greek and Latin department.  It was a busy, and often stressful, semester, but (Deo Gloria!) I did well.  I’m pleased with how the semester went, even if I could have done better (in Syriac especially).  

I took four classes: a Greek course in which we read Homer, Latin Prose Composition, a Late Antique History Seminar, and Intro to Syriac.  Reading Homer was difficult early in the semester.  I had not read much Greek poetry before that, and I’ve still not read much Odyssey and Iliad in translation.  The difficulty, as many will tell you, is the vocabulary.  However, by the middle of the semester, I was reading along without too much difficulty.  For my term paper, I wrote on the use of Homer by Gregory of Nazianzus in a few of his dogmatic poems.  This was a lot of fun to write, and if possible I’ll adapt some of my paper into blog posts.  

Latin Prose Composition was a terrific course, though quite difficult.  We used the venerable textbook by Bradley and Arnold (something with which my fellow classicists can no doubt identify).  As I’ve never had a formal course in Latin Grammar before (I was mostly self-taught before arriving at Catholic), I learned quite a bit.  We regularly translated English into Latin, which was beneficial and challenging.  In addition to now having declensions and conjugations drilled into my head, I have a much better grasp of syntax.  Soon I’ll get to apply all this to reading Cicero, which will be lots of fun!

The Late Antiquity seminar was quite useful.  The literature is so vast that it was more an introduction to the resources than anything else, but I read some useful books, both primary and secondary.  For my term paper, I wrote on Origen and Greek philosophy in the third century.  The paper was historical in its focus: I argued that “philosopher” is the most appropriate title for Origen, and that to understand the man one must understand how Greek philosophy operated during his life.  The paper was more of a survey than anything else, but I may expand some of the ideas into further papers (Deo temporeque volentibus!).  

Intro to Syriac was, at the end of the semester, my most difficult class.  I did well early on, when I had more time, and when the material was a bit easier.  But by the time we got to all the weak verbs in the final weeks of the semester I had a hard time keeping up.  This was my first semitic language, so much was new to me.  I’m thankful the formal grammar instruction is over: now we’ll move on to reading texts, which is the fun part!

The semester had several other milestones.  I finally completed the Ancient Citations Index for volume 2 of the Cambridge Companion to Ancient Mediterranean Religions. Prof. William Adler, one of my undergraduate professors, edited this volume, and it contains two articles by Catholic faculty (Fr. Sidney Griffiths and Prof. William Klingshirn).  It’s due out next year.  

I also presented my first academic paper at the annual meeting of the Byzantine Studies Association of North America.  The paper dealt with digital stemmatology and the Palaea Historica, a text on which I worked with Prof. Adler at NC State.  I enjoyed seeing Boston: the city is a lovely place.  My paper was well received, and I was able to hear interesting talks from others.  

I thankful for how well the semester went, and most especially because my wife and I are no longer in a long-distance relationship.  She finished her bachelor’s degree this fall at NC State University, graduating summa cum laude and valedictorian with a degree in Computer Engineering!  I am extremely proud, and enormously thankful to have her as my wife.  As smart as she is, she is even more loving and loyal.  She will now be joining me in DC and starting her job in January.  

Τῷ δὲ δυναμένῳ ὑπὲρ πάντα ποιῆσαι ὑπερεκπερισσοῦ ὧν αἰτούμεθα ἢ νοοῦμεν κατὰ τὴν δύναμιν τὴν ἐνεργουμένην ἐν ἡμῖν,  αὐτῷ ἡ δόξα ἐν τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ καὶ ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ εἰς πάσας τὰς γενεὰς τοῦ αἰῶνος τῶν αἰώνων, ἀμήν. (Eph. 3:20)

ἐν αὐτῷ,


One abstract accepted, another submitted

Yesterday, I received news that my abstract had been accepted for the “Preaching After Easter” conference which will take place in March, 2013 in Leuven.  The title of the abstract is “For those who love learning,” Gregory of Nazianzus on the Miracle of Pentecost.  It will essentially be a more detailed write-up of the passage I’ve examined here and here from Gregory’s Or. 41 on Pentecost.  I’d like to publicly thank Charles Sullivan, through whom I became interested in the passage, and whose dialogue has been extremely helpful in sorting out the intricacies of Gregory’s argument and its later reception.  I’m particularly curious about the philosophical background he may be pulling in, and also the way he weaves different scriptural passages together.  I think it’ll be fun to do a paper that’s not, strictly speaking, “digital humanities.”  

But back in the “digital” domain, I’ve submitted an abstract for the meeting of the North American Patristics Society next May.  The paper will essentially be an digital authorship analysis of as much as I can transcribe from the recently discovered Origen codex. I hope to show that stylometric analyses support an attribution of the homilies codex to Origen, and I’d also like to examine the stylometric differences within the codex.  Hopefully it’ll be accepted!  I’ve yet to attend a NAPS conference, but I’ve heard good things.

ἐν αὐτῷ,


The Homeric Line Damned by Christ: Critical Apparatus Humor

As I was reading book 24 of the Iliad today, I came up line 232:

{χρυσοῦ δὲ στήσας ἔφερεν δέκα πάντα τάλαντα,}

Meaning, “and standing, [Priam] bore all ten talents of gold.”

Since the line was in brackets, I looked down at the apparatus to see why the line was of questionable authenticity.  I was quite surprised to find this in the critical apparatus:

(= Τ 247) damn. Christ

Yikes!  This means that Christ has condemned this line, presumably because it is similar to book 19 line 247.  Not being familiar with the German philologist Wilhelm von Christ, it looked to me like Jesus had dabbled in Greek philology!

ἐν αὐτῷ,


Thoughts from the Byzantine Studies Conference

I am now en route back to Maryland, having attended my first Byzantine Studies Conference.  My stay was tiring, but delightful, even more so because of the generous hospitality I enjoyed from friends of my in-laws! Like most conferences of this breadth, you listen to a great variety of papers.  Some were good, some less so; some topics I knew well, and others not so well.  At any rate, there were plenty of interesting papers and people with whom and from whom to learn!

My own paper was received well.  As far as I can tell, it was the only Digital Humanities-esque paper, which surprised me.  I’ve discovered that being a computer guy in a room full of humanists elicits lots of discussion!  From what I can tell, humanists are interested in digital approaches, but they lack access to people with the skills to create or use them.  The paper I presented was about stemmatology: creating a family tree of manuscripts for a textual tradition.  It wasn’t anything new (this particular method, parsimony has been around quite a while in digital stemmatology), but the techniques I described were unfamiliar to many in the room.  I hope that digital humanists of all stripes will continue to attend traditional conferences, in addition to the Digital Humanities conferences.  We don’t need our disciplines to fragment any more than they are currently!

I ran into to several people I had met at Oxford this summer, and that was a treat.  It’s always nice to see familiar faces, and develop relationships further.  I also met many new people, one of the great benefits of conferences.  Scholarship is both communal and solitary.  Since most scholars tend towards solitude (I know I do!), it’s wonderful to gather with like-minded people and discuss the topics you love.  

Regarding the presentations, I noticed a dichotomy in Byzantine Studies between “texts” people and “art/materials” people.  I fit squarely in the “texts” group, but the “art/materials” people had some great presentations.  I was impressed by their ability to hold my attention, even though I have very little interest in Archaeology and Art History.  I guess it’s always helpful to have lovely art in one’s presentation!

One of my favorite paper was given by Fr. Maximos (Constas).  It offered his reflections on editing and translating Maximus the Confessor’s Ambigua, easily one of the most influential theological works in the history of the Eastern Church.  His edition is due out along with his translation soon from the Harvard University Press, as part of the new Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library.  His discription of the state of the text before his edition was appalling:  the edition printed in Migne’s Patrologia Graeca relied on a single late manuscript that was full of errors.  In addition, Migne added lots of his own errors to the text in the process of editing it.  Several of these errors have severely puzzled scholars, and made Maximus’ arguments impossible to follow.  Maximus is already difficult, and we had a poor edition making it even worse!  This deeply reaffirmed my own hope to edit patristic texts.  How many other Greek authors are laboring in such poor editions! Editing a text is difficult, laborious work: but it is also very rewarding. It generates something useful for the scholarly (and wider) community, and nothing engages one so deeply into a text as editing and translating it. It’s not for everyone, but we certainly need more editors!  Hopefully my own skills will progress quickly, and I’ll be able contribute an edition!

ἐν αὐτῷ,




Using de Aldama’s Repertorium Pseudochrysotomicum

A number of weeks ago, I posted about some material on the Psalms attributed to John Chrysostom, which I had found in some codices at Oxford. Alin Suciu posted some helpful comments on the post, which included references to a volume which he has recently posted online: de Aldama’s invaluable Repertorium pseudochrysostomicum. See his post here for a description and download.

Time slipped away, and I didn’t follow up the links to Aldama. But now that he’s posted it, I decided to take a look and see what he had to say about one of the homilies I found: a homily on Ps. 41. The homily starts off:

Ὑμεῖς μὲν ἡμᾶς ἐθαυμάσατε
πρώην· ὅτε τὸν περὶ τοῦ μελχισεδὲκ ἐκινήσαμεν λόγον.
ἐπὶ τῶ μήκει τῶν εἰρημένων.
ἐγὼ δὲ ὑμᾶς ἐθαύμαζον,

Thus, I flipped down toward the bottom, and found the discussion under entry 520. He says this:

Etsi ad commentarium Chrysostomi in Psalterium non pertineat (cf. Baur, in Chrysostomica 235), habetur tamen ut genuina, non obstante attributione quam Antiocho Ptolemaidensi fecit Thomas Bruno : cf. PG 64, 1417-1418.

I’d turn that into English as:

Even if it does not pertain to the commentary of Chrysostom on the Psalter (cf. Baur, in Chrysostomica 235), it is thought to be genuine, not withstanding the attribution to Antiochus Ptolemaidensi which Thomas Bruno made (cf. PG 64, 1417-1418).

As you can see, it’s quite a useful tool! It tells us this homily is generally held to be genuine, that it doesn’t belong to Chrysostom’s larger work on the psalms, and gives some bibliography. Alin, thanks again for making this tool more widely available!

ἐν αὐτῷ,

Interesting evidence for Greek Pronunciation

Like most Greek students, I started off pronouncing Greek in the standard, Erasmian pronunciation. This scheme has been used by westerners studying Greek since the Renaissance, and, with some variations, emulates the proposals put forth by the great humanist Erasmus.

Somewhere along the way, I got interested in a more authentic pronunciation scheme. Since my main interest at that time was the New Testament, I read Randall Buth’s article on “Imperial Koiné” pronunciation with great interest, which can be found here.

Among the changes that had taken place by the NT period was the merging of the οι sound and υ sound. Erasmian pronounces οι like the oi in oil, and υ was originally like the German ü, or the french u in “tu.” But in the koiné, οι and υ and both were pronounced like ü. This has already been well established by inscriptions, but I found evidence in a rather unexpected place: the Syriac alphabet!

Syriac, like many Semitic languages (Hebrew, Arabic, etc.), natively only includes a few vowels in its script proper. However, Syriac scribes did develop of system of vowels whereby vowels were placed over the consonants. Here are two images to illustrate a non vocalized, and then a vocalized word:

Screen Shot 2012 09 11 at 4 59 38 PM.

In the second image, the vowels are written above the letters. This word, in fact, is Syriac word for God, “alaha.”

In the West Syriac tradition, which you see above, the vowels were based on Greek. There are two different vowels in the second picture above, one is a short ‘a’ (the furthest right), and the other two are long ‘a.’ If you tilt them on their side, you can make out how they resemble an alpha. The long ‘a’ appears to resemble a minuscule alpha, while the short ‘a’ resemble a majuscule one.

Syriac has a long and short ‘e’ as well, and you can see them in the following words for ‘this’ (f.) and ‘Christ’:

Screen Shot 2012 09 11 at 5 08 50 PM(hode)

Screen Shot 2012 09 11 at 5 08 58 PM(msheeho)

The short ‘e’, visible in the shorter word above, resembles a majuscule ε if my memory serves, while the long ‘e’ a majuscule η. As always, you just have to rotate them a little bit.

The ‘o’ is a bit different, in that it is actually represented in the script proper, and a small dot is simply placed above the letter to indicate it should be read as a vowel. The ‘u’ though, I found puzzling at first. For example, here’s the word that means ‘Syriac’:
Screen Shot 2012 09 11 at 5 16 09 PM (Suryaya).

The ‘u’ is the right most in the word. Once my teacher wrote a few of the alternate forms on the board, it dawned on me that this was essentially the Greek pair οι. Rather than using something based on the original Greek vowel to make this sound υ (upsilon), they used οι (omicron iota), which by that time had long merged with υ. I suppose that’s not terribly surprising, considering οι is more common than υ in Greek. At any rate, it’s another small bit of evidence to demonstrate Greek pronunciation in the postclassical period.

ἐν αὐτῷ,

Off to Oxford!

Things have been quiet around recently, most of which because I’ve been moving.  My wife and I have moved from Raleigh, NC to the DC area so that I can start graduate school in a few weeks.  Moving is a dreary task, but one made much nicer by our family’s help!

In a few hours, I’ll be boarding a plane to London, en route to Oxford for the 2012 Lincoln College Greek Palaeography Summer School.  I’m quite excited to take part in the school: I know I’ll learn much!  It’ll be my first time in the UK beyond Heathrow, and right on the tails of the Olympics.

Lack of blogging has also mean a lack of work on Origen.  I’m mainly been typesetting the homily right now, but the content is in fairly good shape for a draft.  You may find the draft here.

ἐν αὐτῷ,


More Chrysostom on Prayer.

I’ve not posted in quite some time, and I can’t really say that this post represents a return to frequent posts.  However, I came across some Chrysostom that was too good not to share.  As is customary, I give my translation and then the Greek.  Enjoy!

Do you see, then, how powerful are both prayer and petition?  They make men into temples of Christ!  Just as gold, precious stones, and marble make the houses of kings, so prayer creates temples of Christ. “That Christ,” he says, “may dwell in your hearts.”  What greater praise of prayer could ever be, than that it creates temples for God?  The one whom the heavens do not contain, this is the one who enters the living soul through prayers.  “‘The heaven is my throne,'” he says, “‘and the earth my footstool.  What type of house will you build for me?’ says the Lord. ‘Or what place of rest for me?'”  But nevertheless Paul builds him a house through his holy prayers.  He says, “I bend my knees before the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, so that the Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.”  Indeed from that, one should know the power of holy prayers, since Paul, the one who ran as though with wings through the entire world, who made his residence in prison, who bore whips and chains, always living in blood and danger, who drove out demons and raised the dead, and who healed sicknesses, he trusted none of these things for the salvation of men, but defended the earth through his prayers, and after the signs and the raising of the dead, he ran again to prayers, just as an athlete returning to the training room right after receiving the crown.


And the Greek:

Ὁρᾷς, ὅσον ἰσχύει προσευχὴ καὶ δέησις; Ναοὺς Χριστοῦ τοὺς ἀνθρώπους ἐργάζεται· καὶ ὥσπερ χρυσὸς, καὶ λίθοι πολυτίμητοι, καὶ μάρμαρα ποιοῦσι τοὺς οἴκους τῶν βασιλέων· οὕτω προσευχὴ ναοὺς τοῦ Χριστοῦ. Κατοικῆσαι, φησὶ, τὸν Χριστὸν ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις ὑμῶν. Τί μεῖζον ἂν γένοιτο προσευχῆς ἐγκώμιον, ἢ ὅτι ναοὺς ἀπεργάζεται Θεοῦ; Ὃν οὐ χωροῦσιν οὐρανοὶ, οὗτος εἰς ψυχὴν εἰσέρχεται ζῶσαν ἐν προσευχαῖς. Ὁ οὐρανός μοι θρόνος, φησὶν, ἡ δὲ γῆ ὑποπόδιον τῶν ποδῶν μου. Ποῖον οἶκον οἰκοδομήσετέ μοι; λέγει Κύριος· ἢ τίς τόπος τῆς καταπαύσεώς μου; Ἀλλ’ ὅμως οἶκον ὁ Παῦλος οἰκοδομεῖ διὰ τῶν ἁγίων εὐχῶν. Κάμπτω, φησὶ, τὰ γόνατά μου πρὸς τὸν Πατέρα τοῦ Κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, ἵνα κατοικήσῃ ὁ Χριστὸς διὰ τῆς πίστεως ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις ὑμῶν. Καὶ μὴν κἀκεῖθεν ἴδοι τις ἂν τὴν δύναμιν τῶν ἁγίων εὐχῶν, ὅτι Παῦλος ὁ διὰ πάσης τῆς οἰκουμένης ὥσπερ ὑπόπτερος τρέχων, καὶ δεσμωτήριον οἰκῶν, καὶ μάστιγας ὑπομένων, καὶ φορῶν ἅλυσιν, καὶ ζῶν ἐν αἵματι καὶ κινδύνοις, καὶ δαίμονας ἐλαύνων, καὶ νεκροὺς ἐγείρων, καὶ παύων ἀῤῥωστήματα, οὐδενὶ τούτων ἐθάῤῥησεν εἰς σωτηρίαν τῶν ἀνθρώπων, ἀλλὰ ταῖς προσευχαῖς ἐτείχισε τὴν γῆν, καὶ μετὰ τὰ σημεῖα καὶ τὴν τῶν νεκρῶν ἀνάστασιν, ἐπὶ τὰς προσευχὰς ἔτρεχεν, ὥσπερ τις ἀθλητὴς ἐπὶ παλαίστραν ἀπὸ στεφάνου.

John Chrysostom, De Precatione (PG 60.783)