Perrone’s Lecture on the new Origen material

Many thanks to Alin Suciu for posting a link to a talk given recently by Lorenzo Perrone on the newly discovered Origen manuscript:

“Rediscovering Origen Today: First Impressions on the Newly Discovered Collection of Homilies on the Psalm” ~ Lorenzo Perrone

I listened to the entire lecture, and it’s a pretty interesting talk.  “First Impressions” is certainly a good title.  Perrone gives several reasons why he believes the homilies are authentic, and also makes comments on various items from the manuscript. 

Perrone notes many interesting items.  The manuscript catalog, for instance, mislabeled the contents.  The catalog entry, incorrectly, lists 4 psalms on Psalm 31, instead of Psalm 36. 

Rufinus translates 5 homilies on psalm 36, but the 5th is not present in the manuscript. Perrone notes that no catenae preserve Greek fragments from the 5th homily.  It would appear that this homily dropped out of the tradition early on.

Psalm 77 (LXX)  received much attention from Origen, which Perrone believes was due to heresiological implications.

Rufinus and Jerome both provide external evidence to support Origenic authorship.

The catenae also provide support.  The tacit assumption has been that catenae editors usually pull on commentaries, but here we have the catenae drawing on homilies.  Perrone gives an example from a homily on Ps. 77.

There is also a good parallel between the Hom. In Ps. 77 V and Origen’s treatise “On Prayer.” 

Various notes on content:

  • Discussion of Origen’s youth and heresy around 45m. 
  • Hom. In Ps. 77 mentions a debate with Marcionites. 
  • Origen corrects a variant reading at beginning of Hom. In. Ps. 77.
  • First Homily on 67- he comments on the use of the imperative mood rather than the optative mood.

Those, of course, are just scattered notes.  If you’re interested in the manuscript, or Origen, do yourself a favor and watch the whole lecture! 

ἐν αὐτῷ,


More historical references from the homilies

By flipping through the footnotes of the Source Chrétiennes volume, I found a few other contemporary references.  They are frustratingly scant, but I offer them to you nonetheless.

On page 234 of the SC volume we have the following text in Latin,
"Potest hoc et in tempore persecutionis gentilium de sanctis martyribus et confessoribus aptari.  Considerant enim impii persecutores unumquemque iustorum et quaerunt mortificare eum.  Sed ne securum reddat pacis tempore ista talis expositio, memento quia cotidanum habet iustus persecutorem diabolum et ille est qui considerat iustum."

"This scripture (“You would have no power over me, if it was not given you from on high”) can be applied to the holy martyrs and confessors in the time of the persecution of the nations.  For the impious persecutors carefully examine each righteous one, and seek to kill him.  But so that this speech, in this time of peace, may not render you secure, remember that every day the righteous one has a persecuting devil, and this is the one who always plots against the righteous." (Hom. In Ps. 36 V, 4.11)

Crouzel and Brésard note, "The life of Origen passed between periods of persecution and those of calm.  The text here envisages these two alternatives.  It appears that these homilies were delivered in times of peace, probably under Philip the Arab, the first Christian emperor, before the great persecution of Decius."  (p. 234n2).

They are much more cautious this time.  Philip the Arab was certainly sympathetic to Christians, even if not the "first Christian emperor" as they claim.  Philip reigned from 244 – 249, so they would date them tentatively to this period.  This seems plausible, but there are other plausible schemas too.

Another reference, seemingly at odds with the first, comes later.

"Obmutui et non aperui os meum, quia tu es qui fecisti.  Iam et hoc superius exposuimus, cum tractaremus illum versiculum qui ait: Dum consistit peccator adversum me, obmutui et humiliatus sum et silui a bonis.  Bonum et enim eo tempore com adversum nos vel derogationum conviciorum vel probrorum tela iaciuntur, nos huius versiculi meminisse, qui ait: Obmutui et non aperui os meum, quia tu es qui fecisti." (Hom. In. Ps. 38 II 6.3, pg. 388)

"I was silent and did not open my mouth, for you are the one who has done it.  We explained this earlier, when we examined that verse which said, "Then the sinner stood against me, I was silent and humiliated and refrained from speaking good.  For it is good in this time, when weapons of defamation, or injuries, or slander are thrown against us, to remember this verse which says, "I was silent and did not open my mouth, for you are the one who has done it."

Crouzel and Brésard note, "We saw earlier (ie, the earlier note in this post) that these homilies must have been delivered in times of peace, perhaps under Philip the Arab, the first Christian emperor (Cf. H. Crouzel «Le christianisme de l’empereur Philippe l’Arabe», Gregorianum 56 (1975), p. 545-550).  This allusion to defamations could relate to the time, under the same emperor, in which the millenium festivities of the foundation of Rome were celebrated (247-248), which caused a renewal of patriotism and attachment to the traditional religion, and led to the subversion of the Christian emperor of the four rivals, one of which vanquished and killed him.  The was the emperor Decius, who initiated the first truly empire-wide persecution." (p. 388n3).

Again, this strikes me as plausible, but not certain.  Certainly, defamations and slanders are not mutually exclusive with a time of offical peace towards Christians.  And yet, it would probably be difficult to find a time before Constantine (and perhaps after!) when there weren’t "defamations" of these types. 

So far we have an illusive 30 years reference, and a time of peace.  Unfortunately, these passages don’t appear to have been preserved in the newly discovered manuscript, so we don’t have the Greek to check.

ἐν αὐτῷ,

The Genre of the Origen Homilies

Over at Evangelical Textual Criticism, Dirk Jongkind has an interesting post about a variant in 1 Cor. 4:13 which he found in the newly discovered Origen manuscript (Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Cod. graec. 314).  Near the end, he asks,

However, since these are sermons, do we know how these were published? Did someone take short-hand notes? And were these then later cleaned up and edited? Or did Origen write the sermon first and read it out? This last option is unlikely for a man as brilliant as Origen.

I think I’ve found evidence that suggests that these were, more or less, impromptu or extemporaneous lectures.  In particular, the scribe uses σχέδιον and cognate forms to refer to the homilies.  τὸ σχέδιον, according to LSJ, can mean “extemporaneous, or impromptu speech.”

Here is an example from the section with which I’ve been working on this blog:


The first line contains the end of the previous homily, “καὶ τὸ κράτος εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας ἀμήν.” Then, the second line reads, “σχέδιον β’ ψαλμοῦ οστ’” (The second σχέδιον on the 76th psalm), which closes the previous homily.  On the next line, we see a cognate form: “ὁμιλία γ’    οστ’  ψαλμοῦ        ἐσχεδιασμένη.” (The 3rd homily on the 76th psalm  ἐσχεδιασμένη”

Here we perfect passive participle form of σχεδιάζω, which according to the LSJ  means, “do a thing off-hand, or on the spur-of-the-moment, improvise.” So, we have an improvised speech.

This leads me to believe that we’re dealing with impromptu speeches, which are likely in response to questions.  This particular “homily” could easily have been sparked by, “Of what kind are these waters that see God?”” which is the first sentence of this homily.

This also leads me to believe that “homily” is something of a misnomer.  The Greek word, of course, is ὁμιλία, the word from which we derive “homily.”  However, in English homily always refers to a speech delivered in a liturgical context (ie, a sermon).  The Greek word has a long history, and only came to be applied to sermons in the Christian era.  LSJ lists a number of meanings, but I think “lecture” is likely the most suitable English word (though that does connote a prepared speech, and these appear to be extemporaneous).

Thus, I think the setting for at least some of these “homilies” was the school, rather than the church.  This would be the more appropriate setting for philosophical speculation we see here.  For an article contrasting Origen’s public and private views, see here.  They might also be contrasted in terms of setting: public, more certain theology was for the Church.  Private, more speculative philosophy/theology was for the school.  My guess is that the text we have contains both sorts.  The homilies on Ps. 36-38 that Rufinus translated sound more like moral exhortations than philosophical speculation.  Here, though, we have the latter.


ἐν αὐτῷ,


Update: I was unsure initially, but the ms. reads ἐσχεδιασμένη (sc. ὁμιλία).  I’ve updated the post accordingly.