More historical references from the homilies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,

A Contemporary Reference in Origen’s Homilies on the Psalms

I stumbled upon an oblique historical reference in one of the homilies today.  I was reading the Sources Chrétiennes edition of Rufinus’ translation of Origen.  While Origen was discussing the fleeting nature of “fleshly glory,” he used this example:

“Audi quid etiam Isaias de omni gloria carnali pronuntiet: Omnis – inquit – caro fenum et omnis gloria eius ut flos feni.  Vis etiam per  singula videre quomodo flos feni sit carnis gloria? Vide quis imperavit ante hos triginta annos, quomodo imperium eius effloruit: continuo autem sicut flos feni emarcuit, tunc deinde alius post ipsum, deinde alius atque alius, qui deinde duces qui principes et omnis eorum gloria, honor non solum tamquam flos emarcuit, verum etiam tamquam pulvis aridus et a vento dispersus ne vestigium quidem sui reliquit.”

“For hear what Isaiah announced concerning all carnal glory, “All flesh,” he says, “is wheat, and all its glory is as a flower of wheat.”  Do you want also to see by each how the glory of flesh is a flower of wheat? Look at who has ruled over us these prior 30 years, how his reign blossoms.  Immediately, though, as if a flower of wheat, it withers and dies, and then another reigns after him, and then another and another, and then those who are leaders and those who are princes, and all their glory.  Their honor does not only whither like a flower, but it truly, like dry dust dispersed by the wind, leaves no mark.”  (Homily I on Ps. 36, 2) (pg. 62)

The rulers here are the Roman emperors of course.  Origen spells out a period of 30 years, within which emperors appear, blossom, and die, leaving no trace.  This certainly isn’t as precise as one might hope, but the editors leave the following note (my translation from the French):

“Without doubt, this is an allusion to the thirty years which followed the flourishing reign of Septimus Severus.  The emperors succeeded one another rapidly: Caracal, Macrinus, Elagabalus, Alexander Severus, Maximinus Thrax, and his son, then various competitors, then Gordian III, and Philip the Arab.  This text allows us to place these homilies at the end of Origen’s life.” (p 64n1)

Septimus Severus’ reign ended in 211, so 30 years later would put us at 241.  That means that at least this homily was delivered between 241 and 254/255 (when Origen died).  That would place them squarely in the Caesarean period.

I found the corresponding Greek text in the recently discovered codex.  It mentions the same period of thirty years, but diverges a bit after that. 

ἄκουε τοῦ Ησαΐου διδάσκοντος σε καταφρονεῖν τῆς δόξης τῆς κοσμικῆς, καὶ πάντων τῶν κατὰ σάρκα ἡδέων, φησί γάρ, πᾶσα σάρξ, ὡς χόρτος, καὶ πᾶσα δόξα αὐτῆς, ὡς ἄνθος χόρτου. ἴδε τὴν δόξαν τῆς σαρκός, ἐβασίλευσαν πρὸ ἡμῶν πρὸ ἐτῶν τριάκοντα. ἐδοξάσθησαν, οἱονεὶ ἄνθος ἡ δόξα αὐτῶν, ἀλλ’ἐσβέσθη, ἐμαράνθη. ἄλλοί τινες ἐπλούτησαν, ἐν ἀξιώμασι γεγένηνται. περιεπάτουν πεφυσιωμένοι ἐπὶ τῇ προαγωγῇ τῶν προαγόντων αὐτούς. παρῆλθεν ἐκεῖνα, ὅτι ὡσεὶ χόρτος ταχὺ ἀποξηρανθήσονται. πᾶσα γὰρ σάρξ, χόρτος. καὶ πᾶσα δόξα αὐτῆς, ὡς ἄνθος χόρτου. ἐξηράνθη ὁ χόρτος καὶ καὶ τὸ ἄνθος ἐξέπεσεν. (folio 35, starting at line 8)

Listen to Isaiah, as he teaches you to despise wordly glory, all the pleasures of the flesh, for his says, “All flesh, is as wheat, and all its glory, is like a flower of wheat.”  Looks at the glory of the flesh: they have ruled over us for these thirty years.  They have been glorified: their glory is like a flower; but this glory was dried up and withered.  Some others were wealthy, and came upon honors.  The walked as ones puffed up because of the honor of the things which promoted them. These things passed away, and so as a flower of wheat they will wither way, for “all flesh is wheat, and all of its glory is as a flower of wheat.”  The wheat is dried up and the flower has fallen. 

The divergences here between the Greek and the Latin are interesting, and deserve more attention.  I’ll look at those more in a future post.  For now, I’ll leave this small historical reference to ponder.

ἐν αὐτῷ,