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.

Origen on Soul Kidneys (Pt. 2)

The second part in a series I originally posted in 2017.

Origen continues his discussion on the education of Jesus’ soul. He here explains how the kidneys mentioned in the passage refer not to bodily kidneys, but are an analogy for a part or faculty of the soul. “Soul kidneys” have ideas and concepts in potential or seed form, and these then rise to the “heart of the soul” where they are actualized.

Origen also has us consider at length Christ’s soul, both before and after the incarnation. He seems to think that Christ’s soul was instructed through its union with the divine Logos, and that it has arrived on earth with certain “instructing principles” or something of the sort within it. During the incarnation the “instructing principles” are activated (in Origen’s language, “rise to the heart of the soul”) and guide the human Jesus. This is how he was able to live completely sinlessly.

(I’ve made a few suggestions to the transmitted text, which I discuss below.)

English Translation

(3) This saying i.e. “I will praise the Lord who instructed me” and the saying that follow are spoken in the character of Jesus. We need God’s grace to explain this next one, which says, “Even in the night my kidneys taught me.” It is not easy to explain how Christ’s kidneys taught him. Let us even grant that his kidneys taught him— Why was this “in the night”? For it is not just that his kidneys taught him, but “his kidneys taught him in the night”. I do not know of places outside the scriptures where the kidneys are treated as having something to do with matters of understanding or aptitude like they are in the scriptures.1 For in the scriptures, when God searches the hidden things he searches hearts and kidneys (e.g. Ps. 7:10, 25:2, etc.). Perhaps he searches the kidneys when he searches and scrutinizes those things that are already present like seeds within the soul and have not yet risen up to the heart.

These kidneys then are not bodily ones, but invoked in a manner analogous to the heart. (After all, when the heart is said to be pure and the one who is pure in heart is said the be blessed, we must not perceive what is blessed as something in the body, which we see even in animals.) I am saying therefore that these kidneys, in a manner analogus to “purity of heart”, possess the roots and beginnings of thoughts and that these teach Jesus’ soul. The one who says, “you will not forsake my soul to Hades” came to earth with these roots and beginnings of thoughts. It is as if I were to say analogously about the human soul that in its’ kidneys it has thoughts and the seeds of ideas in potential before they rise to the heart. These are either for worse— for whoever sins has done evil from that point— or they are for better, since the good also seems to have come about somehow from that point in the past.

So then, if you understand what I have entrusted to you about the kidneys, look closely at the soul of Jesus as it descends from heaven. “For no one has ascended to heaven except he who has descended from heaven.” This is not the son of god, not the first born of all creation, but the son of man. After you have looked at that soul, which did not consider equality with God something to exploit, but emptied itself and took on the form of a servant, contemplate also with me this soul.2 Look at how it stores up within itself teachings and concepts, and puts them not in the heart, but in the kidneys so, that they can ascend from the kidneys to the heart. Look for me at how the soul of Jesus comes possessing corrective and instructive principles, not in his bodily kidneys, but in those of his soul. Because these principles came along with that soul, he knew no sin, nor committed sin, nor even spoke sinfully as a man.

Greek Text

(3) Τούτου δέ ἐστι φωνὴ καὶ ἡ ἑξῆς, δεομένη τῆς ἀπὸ τοῦ θεοῦ χάριτος εἰς σαφήνειαν, ἡ λέγουσα· ἔτι δὲ καὶ ἕως νυκτὸς επαίδευσάν με οἱ νεφροί μου. Νεφροὶ Χριστοῦ πῶς παιδεύουσιν αὐτόν, οὐκ εὐχερὲς διηγήσασθαι. Καὶ ἔστω ὅτι οἱ νεφροὶ αὐτοῦ παιδεύουσιν αὐτόν· τί καὶ ἕως νυκτός; Οὐ γὰρ ἁπλῶς παιδεύουσιν αὐτὸν οἱ νεφροὶ αὐτοῦ, ἀλλὰ “ἕως νυκτὸς παιδεύουσιν αὐτὸν οἱ νεφροὶ αὐτοῦ”. Οὐκ οἶδα δὴ τοὺς νεφροὺς παραλαμβανομένους τοῖς ἔξω τοῦ λόγου εἰς τὰ περὶ συνέσεως ἢ ἐντρεχείας πράγματα ὡς ἐν τῇ γραφῇ· ἐν γὰρ τῇ γραφῇ ὁ θεὸς ἐτάζων τὰ κρυπτά, ἐτάζει καρδίας καὶ νεφρούς. Καὶ τάχα τοὺς νεφροὺς ἐτάζει, ὅτε τὰ ἔτι ἐναποκείμενα σπερματικῶς τῇ ψυχῇ καὶ οὐδὲ προαναβεβηκότα ἐπὶ τὴν καρδίαν ἐρευνᾷ καὶ ἐξετάζει.

Οὗτοι δὴ οἱ νεφροί, οὐχ οἱ σωματικοί, οἱ ἀναλόγως ὀνομαζόμενοι καρδίᾳ (οὐδὲ γὰρ ὅτε καρδία λέγεται καθαρὰ καὶ μακάριος ὁ καθαρὸς τῇ καρδίᾳ, σώματι δεῖ νοῆσαι τὸ μακαριζόμενον, ὃ καὶ ἐν τοῖς ἀλόγοις ζῴοις βλέπομεν), οὗτοι οὖν οἱ νεφροί φημι, οἱ ἀναλόγους τῇ καθαρότητι τῆς καρδίας ἔχοντες τὰς ῥίζας καὶ τὰς ἀρχὰς τῶν νοημάτων, μεθ’ ὧν ἐπιδεδήμηκεν ὁ λέγων οὐκ ἐγκαταλείψεις τὴν ψυχήν μου εἰς τὸν ᾅδην, παιδεύουσι τὴν ψυχὴν τοῦ Ἰησοῦ. Ὡς εἰ ἔλεγον καὶ περὶ ἀνθρωπίνης ψυχῆς τὸ ἀνάλογον, ἐχούσης ἐν τοῖς νεφροῖς τὰ πρὸ τοῦ ἀνατεῖλαι ἐπὶ τὴν καρδίαν νοήματα καὶ διαλογισμῶν σπέρματα, ἔνδον προόντα δυνάμει, εἴτε τὰ χείρονα— ὃς γὰρ ἥμαρτεν, ἐποίησεν τὸ πονηρὸν ἀπὸ τότε—, εἴτε τὰ βελτίονα, ἐπεὶ καὶ τὸ ἀγαθὸν ἔοικεν ἀπὸ τότε γεγονέναι τισίν.

Εἰ οὖν νοεῖς τὰ παρειλημμένα μοι περὶ τῶν νεφρῶν, ὅρα τὴν ψυχὴν τοῦ Ἰησοῦ καταβαίνουσαν ἀπὸ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ· οὐδεὶς γὰρ ἀναβέβηκεν εἰς τὸν οὐρανόν, εἰ μὴ ὁ ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ καταβάς· οὐχ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ, οὐχ ὁ πρωτότοκος πάσης κτίσεως, ἀλλ’ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου. Καὶ ἰδών μοι ἐκείνην τὴν ψυχήν, ἥτις οὐχ ἁρπαγμὸν ἡγήσατο τὸ εἶναι ἴσα θεῷ, ἀλλ’ ἑαυτὴν ἐκένωσεν μορφὴν δούλου λαβοῦσα, νοῶν μοι ταύτην τὴν ψυχήν, ὅρα αὐτὴν ἐναποθησαυρίζουσαν δόγματα καὶ νοήματα, καὶ ἐναποτιθεῖσαν οὐ τῇ καρδίᾳ ἀλλὰ τοῖς νεφροῖς, ἵνα ἀπὸ τῶν νεφρῶν ἀναβῇ ἐπὶ τὴν καρδίαν· ὅρα μοι τὴν ψυχὴν Ἰησοῦ ἐρχομένην, ἐπὶ τῶν οὐ σωματικῶν <ἀλλὰ ψυχικῶν> νεφρῶν ἔχουσαν τὰ παιδεύοντα καὶ τὰ ἐπιστρέφοντα, δι’ ἃ συνεπιδημήσαντα ἐκείνῃ τῇ ψυχῇ οὐκ ἔγνω ἁμαρτίαν καὶ οὐχ ἥμαρτεν καὶ οὐκ ἐλάλησεν ἁμαρτίαν ἄνθρωπος ὤν.

Text Critical Issues

The edition and ms carry:

ὅρα μοι τὴν ψυχὴν Ἰησοῦ ἐρχομένην, ἐπὶ τῶν οὐ σωματικῶν νεφρῶν ἔχουσαν τὰ παιδεύοντα καὶ τὰ ἐπιστρέφοντα

This would translate to something like, “Look for me at the soul of Jesus coming with principles not in the bodily kidneys that teach and direct.”

I’d suggest inserting ἀλλὰ ψυχικῶν after σωματικῶν so that we have:

ὅρα μοι τὴν ψυχὴν Ἰησοῦ ἐρχομένην, ἐπὶ τῶν οὐ σωματικῶν <ἀλλὰ ψυχικῶν> νεφρῶν ἔχουσαν τὰ παιδεύοντα καὶ τὰ ἐπιστρέφοντα

The two words in question would have fallen out by homoeoteleuton. The addition better brings out the distinction between the two kinds of kidneys.

  1. In Plato’s Timaeus, the lowest part of the soul, the “desiring” (τὸ ἐπιθυμητικόν) part is placed between the navel and the kidneys, around or in the liver. Yet what Origen describes here does not seem to correspond perfectly to this portion of the soul as described in Platonic philosophy. That faculty is responsible for desires for food and sex, and has little positive role vis-à-vis the higher faculties. Indeed, the job of the rest of the soul (i.e. the “spirited” part and the “rational” part) is to keep it in check.
  2. The language is rather confusing. Origen apparently means by “that soul” (ἐκείνην ψύχην) Jesus’ soul as depicted in Phil 2:6ff. and Eph. 4:10. By “this soul” he means Jesus’ soul as depicted in passage here in Ps. 15. So he is not actually referring to two souls, though that’s certainly the most natural reading of the Greek.

Origen on gods in the scripture


Recently I was asked if Origen had anything to say on “becoming like the angels.” My interlocutor, as I gathered, was tracing the use of such language in early Christian literature.  I was familiar with this type of rhetoric in later authors. Chrysostom in particular makes wide use of angels in his various homilies and treatises. Nothing came to mind for Origen, however.  I did, of course, recommend the TLG and the Brepols Latin database as places to look, but I also searched through the material I’ve transcribed from the new Origen codex.  When I did so, I found an interesting passage in which Origen tackles the verse “τίς θεὸς μέγας ὡς ὁ θεὸς ἡμῶν.” (Ps. 76:14 LXX).  I would have translated this as “what god is great like our God?” but Origen seems to understand it as “what great god is like our God?” I’m not sure if grammar dictates one interpretation versus the other, but I certainly defer to a native speaker when given the chance.  Given the theological difficulties created by the latter reading, I presume it seemed much more likely grammatically.  Origen thus gives us a short digression on the two difficult verses of Ps 81, and then describes how the holy men of old became gods.  According Origen, God made Patriarchs into gods by joining to them his name (i.e. calling himself the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob).  This made it so that they had “participation” (μετοχή) with God’s divinity (θεότης).  


My translation is a bit rough in places, and I welcome suggestions.  Translating θεός in a passage like this can be particularly tricky, since our language is so heavily influenced by monotheism.  The Greek is placed below, as is my custom.  


So then, listen to God’s scripture, which says, “all the gods of the nations are demons.” (Ps. 95:5 LXX). Since, however, God is generous with his good works, he has said, “for I have said, ‘you are gods, and sons of the Most High.’” (Ps 81:6) The scripture says this because if someone has received the word of God, he becomes a god. Moreover, the scripture says, “God stands in the assembly of the Gods, in their midst he will judge them.” Now if you are gathered as men, then God is not in the assembly.  But if this assembly is an assembly of gods, then you are reckoned among the gods. God is present in this sort of assembly, by virtue of the word of God being in them, and by their not walking as men do. This then is the meaning of “God stands in the assembly of the gods, and their midst he will judge them.”  


In some ways, one of these gods has a glory which is analogous to the sun.  Another has a glory like the moon, and another like the glory of the stars, for the sun, moon, and stars each have a different glory.  Moreover, each star differs from each other in glory.  The resurrection of the dead will be the same way.  I have dwelt on these passages, “God stands in the assembly of the gods” and “I have said you are gods” so that I may go from there onto “what great god is like our God?” If one must dare to speak such, then Abraham is a great god, Isaac is a great god, and Jacob is a great god.  They were made into gods because God joined his own name ‘God’ with each of their names when he said, “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Having said just once, “I am the god of Abraham, and the god of Isaac, and the god of Jacob,” he granted to Abraham that he should have participation with the divine nature of God.  If you should come to the Savior, and confess him to be a god, since he is a god, as “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” then do not shrink from saying that the many of the righteous are also gods.  If the righteous, who shall become like the angels, are gods, then how much more is this the case for the angels?  I don’t mean the demons, nor do I mean the idols. I am safeguarded by the great worthiness of God’s word.  Rather, our Lord and Savior incomparably surpasses all of these. 







γὰρ τῆς γραφῆς τοῦ θεοῦ λεγούσης, πάντες

 οἱ θεοὶ τῶν ἐθνῶν, δαιμόνια, ἀλλ᾽ ἐπειδήπερ

 ἄφθονός ἐστι τῶν εὐεργεσιῶν

 αὐτοῦ ὁ θεὸς, φησίν, ἐγὼ γὰρ εἶπα

 θεοὶ ἐστὲ καὶ υἱοὶ ὑψίστου πάντες.

 φησὶ γὰρ ἡ γραφὴ, ὅτι εἴ τις ἐδέξατο

 τὸν λόγον τοῦ θεοῦ, θεὸς γίνεται. ἀλλὰ 

 καὶ ὁ θεὸς ἔστη ἐν συναγωγῇ θεῶν, ἐν

 μέσῳ δὲ θεοὺς διακρινεῖ. καὶ εἰ μὲν 

 ἄνθρωποι συνήχθητε, οὐκ ἔστιν ὁ θεὸς ἐν τῇ

 συναγωγῇ. εἰ δὲ αὕτη ἡ συναγωγῆ θεῶν

 ἐστι συναγωγῆ, θεῶν χρηματιζόντων.

 τῷ τὸν λόγον τοῦ θεοῦ εἶναι ἐν

 αὐτοῖς καὶ μὴ κατὰ ἄνθρωπον αὐτοὺς περιπατεῖν,

 ἐν τοιαύτῃ ἐστὶν ὁ θεός. καὶ 

 ἐνθάδε ἐστὶν, ὁ θεὸς ἔστη ἐν συναγωγῇ θεῶν,

 ἐν μέσῳ δὲ θεοὺς διακρινεῖ.  πῆ

 τίς μὲν τούτων θεῶν, ἀνάλογον δόξῃ

 ἡλίου, δόξαν ἔχει. τίς δὲ ἀνάλογον δόξης

 σελήνης, δόξαν ἔχει. τίς ἀνάλογον

 δόξης ἀστέρων δόξαν ἔχει. ἄλλη γὰρ

 δόξα ἡλίου, καὶ ἄλλη δόξα σελήνς,

 καὶ ἄλλη δόξα ἀστέρων. ἀστὴρ γὰρ ἀστέρος

 διαφέρει ἐν δόξῇ. οὕτω καὶ ἡ ἀνάστασις



τῶν νεκρῶν. ταῦτα πρὸς τὸ 

παραστῆσαι ὅτι ὁ θεὸς ἔστη ἐν συναγωγῇ

θεῶν, καὶ ἐγὼ εἶπα θεοὶ ἐστὲ, ἵν᾽ ἐκεῖθεν

μεταβῶ εἰς τὸ τίς θεὸς μέγας ὡς

ὁ θεὸς ἡμῶν; μέγας γὰρ θεὸς εἰ δεῖ οὕτως

τολμήσαντα εἰπεῖν, ἁβραάμ, 

μέγας θεὸς ἰσαάκ, μέγας θεὸς ἰακώβ

καὶ διὰ τοῦτο ἐθεοποιήθησαν ἐκεῖνοι,

ἐπειδήπερ συνῆψεν ὁ θεὸς τὸ ἑαυτοῦ

ὄνομα τὸ θεὸς, τῷ ἐκείνων ὀνόματι

λέγων, ἐγὼ θεὸς ἁβραὰμ, καὶ θεὸς ἰσαάκ,

καὶ θεὸς ἰακώβ. ἅπαξ δὲ

εἰπὼν, ἐγὼ θεὸς ἁβραὰμ καὶ θεὸς ἰσαάκ,

καὶ θεὸς ἰακώβ, ἐχαρίσατο καὶ τῷ

ἁβραὰμ, ἐπειδήπερ μετοχὴ αὐτῷ

γίνεται ἀπὸ τῆς θεότητος τοῦ θεοῦ.

κἂν ἐπὶ τὸν σωτῆρα δὲ ἔλθῃς, καὶ θεὸν

τοῦτον ὁμολογήσῃς, ἔστι γὰρ θεὸς, ἐπεὶ

ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ θεὸς ἦν πρὸς 

τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος, μὴ ὄκνει

λέγειν, ὅτι πολλοὶ μὲν δίκαιοι θεοί εἰσιν.

εἰ δὲ οἱ δίκαιοι, οἱ ἐσόμενοι ἰσάγγελοι, πολλῷ

πλέον ἄγγελοι. οὐ λέγω τὰ δαιμόνια,

οὐ λέγω τὰ εἴδωλα. ἀσφαλίζομαι



γὰρ, διὰ τὸ εὐπρεπὲς τοῦ θεοῦ λόγου. ἀλλ᾽ ὁ

σωτὴρ καὶ κύριος ἡμῶν ἀσυγκρίτως ὑπερέχει

πάντων τούτων.

In some ways, the passage is troubling.  Origen tells us that we shouldn’t shrink from calling the righteous saints of old “gods”, since we already acknowledge that the Word is a god.  This seems to break down any distinction in essence between Jesus and the saints.  My theological vocab may be a bit rusty, but I do think there’s a way out of the conundrum.  First, notice that final sentence, “Our Lord and Savior incomparably surpasses all of these [sc. gods].” I think Origen means both the gods of the nations (i.e. demons and idols), as well as the “deified saints.” He reserves a special place for the Word.  Second, I’d suggest that “participation” in divinity is different than sharing divine essence.  2 Pet 1:4 tells us that great promises were given “that you may become fellow partakers of the divine nature.”  This lies behind the Eastern Orthodox notion of theosis, wherein God’s goal in salvation is nothing less than our divinization.  Sharing in the divine nature, however, is different than being divine in and of oneself. Here, Origen is not collapsing the boundary between the Word and the saints.  The saints are not divine by essence (οὐσία), but rather by God’s gracious allowance, they share in his divinity.  This distinction is prominent in the Arian debates, if I recall correctly, and remains a lively source of reflection in Eastern theology.  I’m not a theologian though, so comments are welcome!
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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.  

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Origen page updated with new transcriptions

My page on Origen of Alexandria has been updated with a few more transcriptions from the manuscript (homilies 1 and 2 on Psalm 76).  I’ve already posted some of homily 1 with translation here.  If you read Greek, but don’t read Byzantine handwriting, you might find them helpful (the page also has directions for downloading a PDF of the manuscript).  The transcriptions are simple text files, no notes or translation.  I’ve not done a whole lot of proofreading, so if you spot any errors let me know.  

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