Evagrius, On Prayer 17–19


Go, sell your possessions, and give them to the poor. Then take up your cross and deny yourself so that you can carry out your prayer without distraction.


If you want to carry out your prayer in a laudable way, deny yourself hour by hour, and bear philosophically all manner of terrible things for the sake of prayer.


Whenever you withstand hardship philosophically, you will find the fruit of this at the time of prayer.

Evagrius On Prayer 12-13


Whenever a temptation comes your way or a dispute incites you to release your anger in revenge or shout some unfitting word, recall your prayer and the clarity of discernment you have during it. At once, the uncontrolled emotion within you will cease.


Whatever you do to avenge yourself against a brother who has treated you wrongly will become a hurdle to you in the time of prayer.

Evagrius, On Prayer 8–11


While weeping for their sins many people forget the point of tears and get lost in their madness.


Stand with diligence, persist in prayer with resolution, and continually turn away the attacks of cares and worrying thoughts. These vex and throng about you to sap away your resolution.


When demons see you desiring truly to carry out your prayer, they suggest thoughts of various tasks that seem necessary and soon stir up your memory about them, thereby moving the mind to seek after them. When it doesn’t find them, it gets upset and loses heart. When it then stands for prayer, they remind it of memories and these objects of seeking, so that the mind goes slack for this knowledge and loses the prayer that is truly fruitful.


Strive to have your mind stand deaf and speechless at the time of prayer, and you will be able to pray.

Evagrius, On Prayer 6–7


Use tears to correct every request, as the Lord takes great delight in receiving a prayer born of tears.


Even if you pour out streams of tears in your prayer, you should never become conceited, as though you were superior to others. After all, your prayer has simply received additional support so that through tears you can more freely confess your sins and find reconciliation with God. Therefore, do not turn into a compulsion what should be a fortress against compulsion. Otherwise you’ll anger further the One who has bestowed on you this gift.

Evagrius, On Prayer 4–5


If in trying to approach an earthly burning bush Moses is prevented from coming close until he “removes his sandals from his feet,” how could you, who wish to see and converse with the One who is beyond all perception and concept, not remove every compulsive thought?


Persist first in prayer to receive tears, so that through this grief you can tame the wildness that resides in your soul and so that by “testifying against yourself of your lawlessness to the Lord” you obtain from him release.

Evagrius, On Prayer 1–3

The world hardly needs another English translation of this lovely little work of the fourth century monastic theologian Evagrius, but its maxims are so lovely and useful for meditation that I’ve decided to render it, at least in part, into English for my own edification. I may eventually use the translation in an iOS app devoted to centering prayer, though one never knows to what extent one’s schemes will materialize. I’ve used Paul Gehin’s excellent new edition as my base text.1 In the translation I aim to make it practical for prayer, rather than aiming for perfect formal precision. Here are the first few “chapters”:


If you wish to prepare a “fragrant offering,” you should combine in equal measure diaphanous frankincense, cassia, the aroma onyx, and myrrh, just as the law requires— these are the four virtues. For when these are perfected and present in equal measure, your mind will not be betrayed to the enemy.


A soul purified through the fullness of the virtues makes the rule of the mind in the body and soul secure, thereby making it receptive to the state it seeks.


Prayer is the mind’s conversation with God. If the mind is going to be able to direct itself without distraction towards its Lord and converse with him directly, what state it must receive!

  1. (Evagrius. Chapitres sur la prière. Sources chrétiennes 589. Paris: Les Éditions du Cerf, 2017)

Origen on Soul-Kidneys (Pt. 5)

The fifth and final part of a series I originally published in 2017.


The post brings to an end this series on Soul-Kidneys. Origen here goes into a bit more detail on the analogy between the “soul kidneys” and “body kidneys.” He thinks that that sperm comes together in the kidneys (perhaps adopting a Hippocratic notion, see Boylan (1986) 56 for relevant citations from the Hippocratic treatise Peri Gones1). Only after is sperm expelled. So in the “soul kidneys” there is “spiritual seed” that corresponds to ideas and concepts in potential. Origen ends by exhorting his audience to follow the example of Jesus and Paul.

English Translation

(From hom 2 in Ps. 15 section 5)

[5] You will grasp things like this if you can hear and judge spiritual things by spiritual means. This is what the passage means that says, “and when the nations that have no law do by nature the things of the law, though they have no law, they are a law for themselves, as they demonstrate that the work of the law is written in their hearts, and their conscience bears witness with it.” Perhaps these sorts of letters are also written in their heart. But pay attention to when it is written— when I am a young child it it not written in my heart, but when I begin to be able to receive the law of God in my heart, then this law is written, not with ink, but by the Spirit of the living God, with the seeds that were already present in the so-called kidneys. For the names of body parts are taken by analogy to their bodily function as referring to the faculties of the soul. In a similar way, the eyes of the soul, which are said to be enlightened by the command of God, are called by the same name as the eyes of the body, since they function analogously to the eyes of the body. The eyes of the body see bodies and colors, and the eyes of the soul see the intelligibles.2

So then, if the heart of the soul is called by the same name as the heart of the body, which receives the governing faculty, notice for me that the same analogy applies to the heart that applies to the eyes and ears of the soul. And so, if you hear that the kidneys of the soul are searched by God, understand “soul” in a manner analogous to the eyes and ears and heart. Just as the bodily heart possesses the governing faculty (this is why it is said, “you shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart”), so what happens in the kidneys of the soul is analogous to what happens in the kidneys of the body. The sperm comes together in the kidneys and the male has them near the kidneys. By this, he becomes potent and fertile. In the same way, the fertile soul has the potentialities of spiritual seeds3 in its kidneys. For the soul, having “seed” by its kidneys, sows this seed if it is worthy of holy blessing and doesn’t do deserving of the curse that says, “there shall be no one among you who is infertile or sterile.”

So then, when you hear the Savior as a human say, “I will bless the Lord who instructed me; even in the night my kidneys taught me,” You should say the same. You should also say, “I would behold the Lord before me continually.” After all, the Lord dwells within you continually, if you wish it. Imitate him like Paul and you will find that the Lord is in you continuously. For you also will say, “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.”

“I would behold…” that is, I have eyes that see that the Lord is before me continually. When is the Lord before me? When his Word is before me, and when I fulfill the law of God that says, “you shall place these words on your hands and they shall remain fixed before your eyes.” This is how “I would behold my Lord,” that is, the Word. Who is so blessed that he serves no one but the Word and says, “I would behold the Lord before me continually, because he was at my right hand, that I may not be shaken.”?4 If you dishonor the Word of God, the Word is at your left hand. If you dishonor him, this is how it is.5 But if you honor the Word of God, the Word of God is at your right hand. Because Judas dishonored God’s Word and cast him out with his left hand, he received the curse that says, “Let the devil stand at his right hand.”

Greek Text

[5]Τοιαῦτά τινα νοήσεις, ἐὰν δυνηθῇς ἀκούειν καὶ συγκρίνειν πνευματικὰ πνευματικοῖς. Οὕτω δὲ ἔχει ἡ λέξις· ὅταν δὲ ἔθνη τὰ μὴ νόμον ἔχοντα φύσει τὰ τοῦ νόμου ποιῶσιν, οὗτοι νόμον μὴ ἔχοντες ἑαυτοῖς εἰσιν νόμος· οἵτινες ἐνδείκνυνται τὸ ἔργον <τοῦ νόμου> γραπτὸν ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις αὐτῶν, συμμαρτυρούσης αὐτῶν τῆς συνειδήσεως. Καὶ τάχα γράφεται τοιαῦτα ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ γράμματα. Πότε δὲ γράφεται, ἄκουε· ὅτε εἰμὶ νήπιος, οὐ γράφεταί μοι ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ, ἀλλὰ ὅτε ἄρχομαι δύνασθαι ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ λαμβάνειν νόμον θεοῦ, καὶ γράφεται οὗτος οὐ μέλανι ἀλλὰ πνεύματι θεοῦ ζῶντος, σπερμάτων προϋποκειμένων ἐν τοῖς καλουμένοις νεφροῖς. Σωματικὰ γὰρ ὀνόματα ἐπὶ τῶν δυνάμεων τῆς ψυχῆς παραλαμβάνεται κατὰ ἀναλογίαν τῶν σωματικῶν πραγμάτων. Οἷον ὀφθαλμοὶ λέγονται ψυχῆς φωτιζόμενοι εἶναι ὑπὸ τῆς ἐντολῆς τοῦ θεοῦ ὁμωνύμως τοῖς ὀφθαλμοῖς τοῦ σώματος, ἐπεὶ ἀνάλογον τῷ ἔργῳ τῶν ὀφθαλμῶν τοῦ σώματος ποιοῦσιν οἱ ὀφθαλμοὶ τῆς ψυχῆς· οἱ ὀφθαλμοὶ τοῦ σώματος βλέπουσι σώματα καὶ χρώματα καὶ οἱ ὀφθαλμοὶ τῆς ψυχῆς βλέπουσι τὰ νοητά. Οὕτως καὶ ὦτα λέγεται ψυχῆς ὁμωνύμως τοῖς ὠσὶ τοῦ σώματος.

Ἐὰν οὖν λέγηται καὶ καρδία ψυχῆς ὁμωνύμως τῇ καρδίᾳ τοῦ σώματος τῇ δεχομένῃ τὸ ἡγεμονικόν, νόει μοι καρδίαν ἀνάλογον ὀφθαλμοῖς ψυχῆς καὶ ὠσὶν αὐτῆς. Οὕτως ἐὰν νεφροὺς ἀκούσῃς τῆς ψυχῆς ἐταζομένους ὑπὸ τοῦ θεοῦ, ἀνάλογον ὀφθαλμοῖς καὶ ὠσὶ καὶ καρδίᾳ ψυχὴν ἄκουε· οὔτε γὰρ σωματικὴν καρδίαν ἐτάζει ὁ θεὸς οὔτε σωματικοὺς νεφρούς. Καὶ ὥσπερ ἡ καρδία <κατὰ> τὸ σῶμα ἔχει τὸ ἡγεμονικόν—διὸ λέγεται τὸ ἀγαπήσεις κύριον τὸν θεόν σου ἐξ ὅλης τῆς καρδίας σου—, οὕτως ἀνάλογον τῷ γινομένῳ ἐν τοῖς νεφροῖς γίνεται ἐν τοῖς νεφροῖς τῆς ψυχῆς· ἐν τοῖς νεφροῖς συνίσταται τὰ σπέρματα καὶ ὁ ἄρρην περὶ τοὺς νεφροὺς ταῦτα ἔχει, καὶ οὕτως γόνιμος γίνεται. Οὕτως ἡ γόνιμος ψυχὴ τὰς δυνάμεις ἔχει τῶν πνευματικῶν σπερμάτων ἐν νεφροῖς ψυχῆς. Σπείρει γὰρ καὶ ψυχὴ περὶ τοὺς νεφροὺς ἔχουσα τὰ σπέρματα, ἐὰν ᾖ ἀξία εὐλογίας ἁγίας καὶ μακαριότητος καὶ μηδὲν ποιῇ ἄξιον τῆς λεγούσης ἀρᾶς· οὐκ ἔσται ἐν ὑμῖν ἄγονος οὐδὲ στεῖρα.

Ἀκούων οὖν τοῦ κατὰ τὸν σωτῆρα ἀνθρώπου λέγοντος· εὐλογήσω τὸν κύριον τὸν συνετίσαντά με, ἔτι δὲ καὶ ἕως νυκτὸς ἐπαίδευσάν με οἱ νεφροί μου, καὶ σὺ ταῦτα λέγε. λέγε δὲ καὶ τὸ προωρώμην τὸν κύριον ἐνώπιόν μου διὰ παντός. Καὶ γάρ σοι ἐνοικεῖ ὁ κύριος, ἐὰν θέλῃς, διὰ παντός. Γενοῦ ὡς Παῦλος ἐκείνου μιμητὴς καὶ εὑρήσεις ὅτι ἐν σοί ἐστιν ἀεὶ ὁ κύριος. Ἐρεῖς γὰρ καὶ σύ· ζῶ δὲ οὐκέτι ἐγώ, ζῇ δὲ ἐν ἐμοὶ Χριστός. Προωρώμην· ἔχω ὀφθαλμοὺς βλέποντας τὸν κύριον ὄντα ἀεὶ ἐνώπιόν μου. Πότε ἐνώπιόν μού ἐστιν ὁ κύριος; Τότε ἐνώπιόν μού ἐστιν ὁ λόγος, ὅτε τηρῶ τὸν νόμον τὸν τοῦ θεοῦ λέγοντα· “ἀφάψεις τοὺς λόγους τούτους ἐπὶ τῶν χειρῶν σου καὶ ἔσονται ἀσάλευτοι πρὸ ὀφθαλμῶν σου”. Οὕτω γε προωρώμην τὸν κύριόν μου, τὸν λόγον. Τίς οὕτω μακάριος, ἵνα μηδενὶ δουλεύῃ ἢ τῷ λόγῳ καὶ λέγῃ· προωρώμην τὸν κύριον ἐνώπιόν μου διὰ παντός, ὅτι ἐκ δεξιῶν μού ἐστιν, ἵνα μὴ σαλευθῶ; Ἐὰν ἀτιμάσῃς τὸν λόγον τοῦ θεοῦ, ὁ λόγος γίνεταί σοι ἐξ ἀριστερῶν· ἐὰν ἀτιμάσῃς, οὕτως ἐστίν. Ἐὰν δὲ τιμήσῃς τὸν λόγον τοῦ θεοῦ, ὁ λόγος τοῦ θεοῦ γίνεταί σοι ἐκ δεξιῶν· ἐπεὶ ἠτίμασε τοῦ θεοῦ τὸν λόγον Ἰούδας καὶ ἔβαλεν αὐτὸν ἐξ ἀριστερῶν, διὰ τοῦτο ἀρὰν λαμβάνει λέγουσαν τὸ στήτω ὁ διάβολος ἐκ δεξιῶν αὐτοῦ.

  1. Boylan, Michael. 1986. “Galen’s Conception Theory.” Journal of the History of Biology 19 (1): 47–77.
  2. That is, “spiritual” reality that is only perceptible to the mind.
  3. Or even, given the context, “spiritual sperm”. The phrase here most likely refers to the “concepts and seeds of ideas in potential” mentioned earlier.
  4. The transition here is strange and there might be a problem with the text.
  5. If the text is sound, one imagines Origen makes some sort of gesture here to indicate left.

Origen on Soul-Kidneys (Pt. 4)

The fourth part of a series I originally published in 2017.


Origen continues his discussion of human souls by countering the gnostic division of humanity into “earthly” “soulish” and “spiritual.” For the gnostics these divisions seem to be iron clad and determined from birth. Origen responds by arguing that all souls are “soulish” at birth, i.e., morally neutral, and only become earthly or spiritual through subsequent action.

English Translation

(4) “I would behold the Lord before me continually.” It was not that he sometimes was and sometimes was not, but “the Lord is continually before me, because he is at my right hand.” For help was always present in the more honorable and fitting place of the soul, that is, either the Father was present or the Firstborn of All Creation was present in its union to his soul, so that the soul could say, “so that I may not be shaken.” Since if he had not “seen the Lord before him continually, because he was at his right hand” even he would have been shaken. For all within the realm of soul’s nature can be shaken. Some say in their ignorance of the true account of the soul that the soul is a mediating element, and that the body belongs to things below, and the spirit to things above. And they say that some are “soulish” without realizing that, (by an account different from our usual one)1 all people are first born soulish on account of their soul, and after their birth they are soulish because of their soul, as they are soulish before sinful or virtuous action. To speak more boldly, they become earthly because of sin, or they become spiritual because of virtue. As such, the soulish one is not yet earthly (for only in its fall does it become earthly), nor is the soulish one yet spiritual. For he becomes spiritual through virtuous action. Therefore “I would behold the Lord before me continually, because he is at my right hand, that I may not be shaken.” That is why my heart rejoiced, since “my kidneys taught me in the night,” since “I was beholding the Lord before me continually, because he was at my right hand, that I would not be shaken.” That is why “my heart rejoiced,” that is why my “tongue was glad,” that is why my glory was made glad, since if these first things had not been the case, the following would not have been either.

And when you hear Jesus saying these things, listen also to Paul when he bids you in the passage, “become imitators of me as I imitate Christ.” Whom should I imitate? Should I imitate the Firstborn of All Creation, who is Wisdom, Word, and Truth? Or, as I am a man, ought I to imitate the human Jesus and imitate his humanity? I do not deny that it is possible to imitate his divinity. For by ascending I may advance and by the grace of God be able even to imitate the divinity of Christ and even too the God of All. For he says, “be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect” and “be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy” and again, “be perfect before the Lord your God.”

Therefore let us be imitators of Christ, and let us keep in high esteem everything that the humanity of Christ said. After all, he said these things so that we might have an example to imitate, and so that we too may say, “and even in the night my kidneys taught me.” For we also came2 having certain principles of good and have tended like farmers to the seeds of good that we bore. Because of these seeds that we have, they are said to be in the kidneys.

Greek Text

(4) Προωρώμην τὸν κύριον ἐνώπιόν μου διὰ παντός· οὐ ποτὲ μὲν ποτὲ δ’ οὐ, ἀλλὰ διὰ παντὸς ἐνώπιόν μου, ὅτι ἐκ δεξιῶν μού ἐστιν. Ἀεὶ γὰρ ἐν τῷ τιμιωτέρῳ καὶ δεξιῷ τόπῳ τῆς ψυχῆς ἦν παρὸν τὸ βοηθοῦν, παρὼν ὁ πατὴρ ἢ παρὼν ὁ πρωτότοκος πάσης κτίσεως, ἑνούμενος τῇ ψυχῇ, ἵνα εἴπῃ ἡ ψυχὴ τὸ ἵνα μὴ σαλευθῶ. Ὡς εἰ μὴ προεώρα τὸν κύριον ἐνώπιον διὰ παντός, ὅτι ἐκ δεξιῶν ἐστί, κἂν ἐσαλεύθη. Ὅσον γὰρ ἐπὶ τῇ φύσει τῆς ψυχῆς, δύναται σαλευθῆναι. Λέγουσί τινες, μὴ νοήσαντες τὸν ἀληθῆ περὶ ψυχῆς λόγον, ὅτι ἡ μὲν ψυχὴ μέση τίς ἐστιν, τὸ δὲ σῶμα τῶν κάτω ἐστίν, τὸ πνεῦμα τῶν ἄνω. Καὶ λέγουσι τινὰς εἶναι ψυχικοὺς οὐχ ὁρῶντες ὅτι, κατά τινα λόγον ἕτερον παρ’ ὃν πολλάκις εἴπομεν, πάντες ἄνθρωποι πρῶτον γίνονται ψυχικοὶ διὰ τὴν ψυχὴν καὶ μετὰ τὸ γενέσθαι ψυχικοὶ διὰ τὴν ψυχήν, πρὸ ἁμαρτίας καὶ πρὸ κατορθώσεως ὄντες ψυχικοί, ἵνα τολμηρότερον εἴπω, διὰ μὲν τὴν ἁμαρτίαν γίνονται χοϊκοί, διὰ <δε>3 τὴν ἀρετὴν γίνονται πνευματικοί, ὡς εἶναι τὸν ψυχικὸν μήπω χοϊκόν— πεσὼν γὰρ γίνεται χοϊκός—, τὸν ψυχικὸν μήπω πνευματικόν· κατορθώσας γὰρ γίνεται πνευματικός. Προωρώμην οὖν τὸν κύριον ἐνώπιόν μου διὰ παντός, ὅτι ἐκ δεξιῶν μού ἐστιν, ἵνα μὴ σαλευθῶ· διὰ τοῦτο ηὐφράνθη ἡ καρδία μου, ἐπεὶ ἐπαίδευσάν με οἱ νεφροί μου ἕως νυκτός, ἐπεὶ προωρώμην τὸν κύριον ἐνώπιόν μου διὰ παντός, ὅτι ἐκ δεξιῶν μού ἐστι διὰ παντός, ἵνα μὴ σαλευθῶ· διὰ τοῦτο ἡ καρδία μου ηὐφράνθη, διὰ τοῦτο ἠγαλλιάσατο ἡ γλῶσσά μου, διὰ τοῦτο ἠγαλλιάσατο ἡ δόξα μου, ὡς εἰ μὴ τὰ προειρημένα ἦν, οὐκ ἂν τὰ ἐπιφερόμενα ἐγίνετο.

Ταῦτα δὲ ἐπὰν ἀκούῃς λέγοντος τοῦ Ἰησοῦ, ἄκουε καὶ Παύλου προστάσσοντός σοι τὸ μιμηταί μου γίνεσθε καθὼς κἀγὼ Χριστοῦ. Τίνος μιμητήν με δεῖ γενέσθαι; Ἆρα τοῦ πρωτοτόκου πάσης κτίσεως, τῆς σοφίας, τοῦ λόγου, τῆς ἀληθείας ἢ μιμητὴς προστάσσομαι γενέσθαι, ἄνθρωπος ὤν, τοῦ ἀνθρώπου Ἰησοῦ, ἵνα μιμήσωμαι τὸ ἀνθρώπινον αὐτοῦ; Οὐ λέγω ὅτι ἀμήχανόν ἐστι μιμήσασθαι τὴν θεότητα αὐτοῦ· ἀναβαίνων γὰρ προκόπτω καὶ χάριτι θεοῦ φθάσαι δύναμαι ἐπὶ καὶ τὸ μιμήσασθαι τὴν θεότητα τοῦ Χριστοῦ, εἴ γε πρόκειται μιμήσασθαι τὴν θεότητα τοῦ Χριστοῦ καὶ <τοῦ> θεοῦ τῶν ὅλων· γίνεσθε γάρ, φησί, τέλειοι καθὼς ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν ὁ ἐν οὐρανοῖς τέλειός ἐστι, καὶ ἅγιοι ἔσεσθε, ὅτι ἐγὼ ἅγιός εἰμι, κύριος ὁ θεὸς ὑμῶν· καὶ πάλιν, τέλειοι ἔσεσθε ἔναντι κυρίου τοῦ θεοῦ ὑμῶν.

Μιμηταὶ οὖν τοῦ Χριστοῦ γινόμενοι καὶ ἡμεῖς, ὅσα λέγει τὸ ἀνθρώπινον τοῦ Χριστοῦ φιλοτιμούμεθα εἰπεῖν. Διὰ τοῦτο γὰρ ταῦτα λέγει, ἵν’ ἔχωμεν ὑπογραμμὸν τί μιμησόμεθα καὶ ἡμεῖς εἴπωμεν· εὐλογήσω τὸν κύρι τὸν συνετίσαντά με, ἵνα καὶ ἡμεῖς εἴπωμεν· ἔτι δὲ καὶ ἕως νυκτὸς ἐπαίδευσάν με οἱ νεφροί μου. Ἤλθομεν γὰρ καὶ ἡμεῖς ἔχοντες τινὰς ἐν τοῖς νεφροῖς ἀγαθῶν ἀρχὰς καὶ γεωργήσαντες τὰ τῶν ἀγαθῶν ὧν ἠνέγκαμεν σπέρματα, <καί>4 διὰ ταῦτα ἃ ἔχομεν, ἐν τοῖς νεφροῖς λέγεται.

  1. It seems that in Origen’s normal account he would say that souls are “spiritual” at their creation, that is, morally pure and good. That creation would refer to the souls’ creation at the beginning of time (Origen holds to a form of preexistence of the soul). Here, however, he seems to refer to the soul’s union with body. People are born morally neutral and can, through their free will, act in virtuous or sinful ways.
  2. Given the analogy to Christ, this does seem to imply that human souls preexisted their birth, though it is certainly oblique. For a recent discussion of Origen’s views on the preexistence of the soul, see Peter W. Martens, “Embodiment, Heresy, and the Hellenization of Christianity: The Descent of the Soul in Plato and Origen,” Harvard Theological Review; Cambridge 108, no. 4 (October 2015): 594–620.
  3. It seems to me we need a δέ to answer the μέν above.
  4. It seems we need a conjunction here to link the two finite verbs.

Origen on Soul Kidneys (Pt. 3)

The third part in a series I originally published in 2017.

(From Origen’s Hom. 2 on Ps. 15, section 3)

English Translation

I am not surprised when someone applies the scriptures about the Savior not sinning to the Firstborn of All Creation. And yet the one who marvels over something like this acts astounded that the God who made heaven and the earth did not sin, while not realizing that it is in God’s nature not to sin. Likewise, it is in the nature of the Word of God not to sin, and so the Firstborn of All Creation cannot sin. By contrast, the praise about Jesus not sinning applies to the human being, who committed no sin and in whose mouth no deceit was found (v. 1 Pt 2:22; cf. Is 53:9).

And when you hear that “he made him who knew no sin to be a sin offering for us,” do not understand this as referring to the Firstborn of All Creation. Rather, understand the “one who knew no sin” as the soul of Jesus.

For we all have known sin who say mystically, “in lawlessness I was shapen, and in sin my mother conceived me.” (Ps. 50:7) Therefore, the Father made him who knew no sin to be a sin offering for us and sent him from heaven to earth for our sake. He came possessing in his kidneys principles that taught and reminded him. They did not just teach him, but the phrase begins “in the night my kidneys instructed me.” The night refers to this life. For night is our life here. About this night it is said, “the night is far gone, the day is near … Let us walk uprightly as in the day” (Rom. 13:12–13). Since it is night, this life is darkness. For see how “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this darkness, and against the spirits of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12). Therefore, he says, “and in the night my kidneys taught me,” as if to say, “they were not just teaching and reminding me then about what I ought to do, but my kidneys taught me even after my coming into the night of this age, after coming into this darkness.”

“I would behold the Lord before me continually, because he is at my right hand, so that I will not be shaken.” What sort of Lord does he mention? Does he mean the Father or the Firstborn of All Creation, who is always present to it to his soul? What do I mean by, “present?” I mean that the Firstborn has been united, so that the human being and the Firstborn of All Creation are no longer two different things. If you take offense at this union, take heed of the apostle’s words that may console you and heal your offense: “The one who is joined to the Lord is no longer two, but one spirit.” (I Cor 6:17) Since “the one who is joined to the Lord is one spirit,” are you not willing to grant that that sinless soul that willingly descended and did not consider equality with God as something to be exploited has become one spirit and been made one with the Firstborn of All Creation? Therefore, “I beheld my Lord before me,” because “my kidneys instructed me in the night.”

Greek Text

Ἐγὼ οὐ θαυμάζω, ἐὰν τὰ γεγραμμένα περὶ τοῦ μὴ ἡμαρτηκέναι τὸν σωτῆρα ἀναφέρῃ τις ἐπὶ τὸν πρωτότοκον πάσης κτίσεως. Ὁ γὰρ ἐπὶ τῷ τοιούτῳ θαυμάζων ὅμοιον ποιεῖ ὡσεὶ θαυμάζων ὅτι ὁ θεὸς ὁ ποιήσας τὸν οὐρανὸν καὶ τὴν γῆν οὐχ ἥμαρτεν, μὴ εἰδὼς ὅτι οὐ πέφυκεν ἁμαρτάνειν ὁ θεός. Οὕτως οὐ πέφυκεν ἁμαρτάνειν ὁ λόγος ὁ τοῦ θεοῦ, οὐ δύναται ἁμαρτάνειν ὁ πρωτότοκος πάσης κτίσεως. Ἀλλὰ ὁ ἔπαινος περὶ τοῦ μὴ ἁμαρτάνειν τὸν Ἰησοῦν ἐπὶ τὸν ἄνθρωπον ἀναφέρεται, ὃς ἁμαρτίαν οὐκ ἐποίησεν οὐδὲ εὑρέθη δόλος ἐν τῷ στόματι αὐτοῦ.

Καὶ ἐὰν λέγηται τὸν μὴ γνόντα ἁμαρτίαν, ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν ἁμαρτίαν ἐποίησεν, μὴ ἄκουε περὶ τοῦ πρωτοτόκου πάσης κτίσεως λεγομένου, ἀλλὰ τὸν μὴ γνόντα ἁμαρτίαν, τὴν Ἰησοῦ ψυχήν.

Πάντες γὰρ ἡμεῖς ἔγνωμεν ἁμαρτίαν, οἵτινες λέγομεν μυστικῶς· ἐν ἀνομίαις συνελήφθην καὶ ἐν ἁμαρτίαις ἐκίσσησέ με ἡ μήτηρ μου, καὶ οὐκ οἶδα ποίαις. Ἐκεῖνον οὖν μὴ γνόντα ἁμαρτίαν, ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν ἁμαρτίαν ἐποίησεν ὁ πατήρ, πέμψας αὐτὸν ἐξ οὐρανῶν εἰς γῆν δι’ ἡμᾶς. Καὶ ἦλθεν ἔχων ἐπὶ τῶν νεφρῶν δὴ τὰ παιδεύοντα αὐτὸν καὶ ὑπομιμνήσκοντα αὐτόν, παιδεύοντα οὐχ ἁπλῶς, ἀλλ’ ὡς πρόκειται κατὰ τὴν γραφὴν τὸ ἕως νυκτὸς ἐπαίδευσάν με οἱ νεφροί μου· νυκτός, ταύτης τῆς κατὰ τὸν βίον. Νὺξ γάρ ἐστιν ἐνταῦθα, περὶ ἧς λέγεται τὸ ἡ νὺξ προέκοψεν, ἡ δὲ ἡμέρα ἤγγικεν· ὡς ἐν ἡμέρᾳ εὐσχημόνως περιπατήσωμεν. Καὶ ἐπεὶ νύξ ἐστι, σκότος ἐστὶν ὁ βίος οὗτος. Ὅρα γὰρ ὅτι οὐκ ἔστιν ἡμῖν ἡ πάλη πρὸς αἷμα καὶ σάρκα ἀλλὰ πρὸς τὰς ἀρχάς, πρὸς τὰς ἐξουσίας, πρὸς τοὺς κοσμοκράτορας τοῦ σκότους τούτου, πρὸς τὰ πνευματικὰ τῆς πονηρίας ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις. Φησὶν οὖν ὅτι καὶ ἕως νυκτὸς ἐπαίδευσάν με οἱ νεφροί μου· οὐ μόνον καὶ <τοτὲ> τὰ δέοντά με ἐπαίδευον καὶ ὑπεμίμνησκον, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἐλθόντα ἐπὶ τὴν νύκτα τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου, ἐπὶ τὸν σκότον, ἐπαίδευσάν με οἱ νεφροί μου·

προωρώμην τὸν κύριον ἐνώπιόν μου διὰ παντός, ὅτι ἐκ δεξιῶν μού ἐστιν, ἵνα μὴ σαλευθῶ. Ἡ ἀνθρωπίνη λέγει ψυχὴ Ἰησοῦ τὸ προωρώμην τὸν κύριον ἐνώπιόν μου. Ποῖον κύριον; ἆρά γε τὸν πατέρα λέγει ἢ τὸν πρωτότοκον πάσης τῆς κτίσεως ἀεὶ αὐτῇ παρόντα; Τί δὲ λέγω “παρόντα”; ἡνωμένον, ἵνα μηκέτι ἄλλος ᾖ ἄνθρωπος καὶ ἄλλος ὁ πρωτότοκος πάσης κτίσεως. Ἐὰν προσκόψῃς περὶ τοῦ ἡνωμένου, ἄκουε παραμυθίαν θεραπεύουσάν σου τὴν προσκοπὴν καὶ παραμυθίαν ἀποστολικήν· ὁ κολλώμενος τῷ κυρίῳ οὐκέτι ἐστὶ δύο, ἀλλὰ ἓν πνεῦμά ἐστιν. Εἶτα ὁ μὲν κολλώμενος τῷ κυρίῳ ἓν πνεῦμά ἐστιν, οὐ θέλεις δὲ τὴν μὴ ἁμαρτάνουσαν ψυχήν, τὴν ἑκουσίως καταβᾶσαν, τὴν μὴ ἁρπαγμὸν ἡγησαμένην τὸ εἶναι ἴσα θεῷ, ἓν πνεῦμα γεγονέναι καὶ ἓν γεγονέναι πρὸς τὸν πρωτότοκον πάσης κτίσεως; Προωρώμην οὖν τὸν κύριόν μου, ἐπεὶ ἐπαίδευσάν με οἱ νεφροί μου ἕως νυκτός.

Text Critical Remarks

The edition and ms carry:

Φησὶν οὖν ὅτι καὶ ἕως νυκτὸς ἐπαίδευσάν με οἱ νεφροί μου· οὐ μόνον καὶ τὰ δέοντά με ἐπαίδευον καὶ ὑπεμίμνησκον, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἐλθόντα ἐπὶ τὴν νύκτα τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου, ἐπὶ τὸν σκότον, ἐπαίδευσάν με οἱ νεφροί μου·

This would translate to something like, “Therefore, he says, ”and in the night my kidneys taught me. They were not just both teaching and reminding me about what I ought to do, but my kidneys taught me even after my coming into the night of this age, after coming into this darkness.”

I would suggest:

Φησὶν οὖν ὅτι καὶ ἕως νυκτὸς ἐπαίδευσάν με οἱ νεφροί μου· <ὡς εἰ ἔλεγεν>, οὐ <τοτὲ> μόνον καὶ τὰ δέοντά με ἐπαίδευον καὶ ὑπεμίμνησκον, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἐλθόντα ἐπὶ τὴν νύκτα τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου, ἐπὶ τὸν σκότον, ἐπαίδευσάν με οἱ νεφροί μου·

ὡς εἰ ἔλεγεν (“as if he said”) provides a nice transition from his citation to the explanation that follows, and is commonly used this way by Origen. The τοτέ (then) brings out better the distinction that Origen is making. Origen stresses that the “kidneys” of Jesus soul didn’t just teach him before his incarnation, but even after his incarnation. The τοτέ makes explicit what otherwise one may only surmise from the change from the imperfect to the aorist.