Origen of Alexandria Teaser

I have finished transcribing Origen’s first homily on Ps. 76 (77 Heb).  The end proved to be enormously interesting: he discusses, albeit elliptically, the nature and duration of God’s punishment.  I’m working now on translating the relevant portion, and I’ll post it here when it’s ready.  In the meantime, I’ll post a translation of the portion of the Psalm that Origen comments on, and let you “ponder and meditate” what Origen will do with it.  Note that the corresponding section in our English bibles (Ps. 77:5-9) will read a bit different because Origen was working from the Greek translation of the OT, the Septuagint.  The Greek itself could be understood in many ways, but I offer here a translation that I think coheres with Origen’s exegesis.  Enjoy!


“I have pondered over the ancient days,
and I have kept remembrance and meditated upon the eternal years.
In the night, I groaned deeply in my heart,
and I probed my spirit.
Surely the Lord will not reject forever,
and continue not to set forth goodwill?
Surely, in the end, he will not cut off his mercy
from generation to generation? 
Surely God will not forget to show compassion,
and withhold, within his wrath, his mercies?” (Ps. 76:6-10 LXX).  


[6] διελογισάμην ἡμέρας ἀρχαίας
καὶ ἔτη αἰώνια ἐμνήσθην καὶ ἐμελέτησα·
[7] νυκτὸς μετὰ τῆς καρδίας μου ἠδολέσχουν,
καὶ ἐσκάλαυον* τὸ πνεῦμά μου.
[8] μὴ εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας ἀπώσεται κύριος
καὶ οὐ προσθήσει τοῦ εὐδοκῆσαι ἔτι;
[9] ἢ εἰς τέλος τὸ ἔλεος αὐτοῦ ἀποκόψει
ἀπὸ γενεᾶς εἰς γενεάν;
[10] ἢ ἐπιλήσεται τοῦ οἰκτιρῆσαι ὁ θεὸς
ἢ συνέξει ἐν τῇ ὀργῇ αὐτοῦ τοὺς οἰκτιρμοὺς αὐτοῦ; (Ps. 76:6-10 LXX).

*Rahlfs reads ἔσκαλλεν

ἐν αὐτῷ,

Origen coins a word

As I  transcribe Origen’s first homily on Ps. 76, I continue to find interesting bits.  For instance, in the section I transcribed today, Origen coins a new word to describe the gladness that the presence of the Lord brings.  Just prior, he has been discussing the line Ps. 76:4 (77:3 by Hebrew numbering), “I remembered God and was gladdened.” (The verse reads differently in the Hebrew apparently, at least judging from our English translations).  He discusses presence and absence, and how memory is required only for those absent: you can, after all, see someone who is present before you.  This creates a small difficulty: if remembering God gladdens the heart, what does God’s presence do?  Origen responds by creating a new word:

If the remembrance of God gladdens the heart, what does his presence do to the one who perceives it?  Shall I create a word for it? It supergladdens the heart.  

As is my custom, here’s the Greek:

εἰ γὰρ ἡ μνήμη τοῦ θεοῦ εὐφραίνει, ἡ παρουσία
αὐτοῦ τῷ αἰσθανομένῳ αὐτῆς, τί
ποιήσει; παραπλάσω ὄνομα αὐτῷ
καγώ; ὑπερευφραίνει. (Codex Monachensis Graecus 314 f. 178v lines 2-5).  

Looking through the TLG, ὑπερφραίνω in the active is extremely rare.  It occurs in Libanius (4th century AD) once in the optative, possibly once in Philodemus (1st century BC), and once in the third person imperative in Severian of Gabala (late 4th century) in his fragments on Corinthians.  Thus, Origen’s claim to be coining a new word does seem quite plausible, as we have only one hit in the TLG before him, and from a text is quite fragmentary.  Certainly the word wasn’t common.

ἐν αὐτῷ,


I continue to plug away on a variety of fronts.  Juggling school, work, and church is not always easy, but such is life.  This post is mainly a collection of scattered thoughts and impressions about different things I’ve been working on.

Gregory of Nazianzus. On the Theophany.  I recently finished reading Gregory’s 38th oration, On the Theophany, and enjoyed it immensely.  Gregory’s Greek is not always easy (in fact it seldom is), but it’s immensely rewarding to work through.  His vision of God’s grandeur and beauty is breathtaking, and I look forward to reading more!  If I had time, I’d probably translate some more of the oration, just because I enjoyed it so much, but time pushes me onto other things.

Basil of Caesarea. On the Six Days of Creation.  Instead of reading more Gregory, I decided to read some from St. Basil, as I’ve not yet read anything by the great bishop of Caesarea.  Since I’ve also been thinking about Genesis recently, it seemed like a natural place to turn.  From what I’ve seen so far (admittedly not much), Basil’s Greek seems a bit easier on the whole than Gregory’s, but quite well done nonetheless.  

Plato. Protagoras.  I’m taking a class on Socrates this semester, and for my term paper I’ll be writing on the Protagoras.  It’s a fun dialog, and fun to read.  Watching Plato’s Socrates interact with one of the great intellectuals of the previous generation is quite fun.

Origen. On the 76th Psalm Homily 1.  I’ve picked up the Origen stuff again, after a long hiatus.  I’ve resumed transcribing his long first homily on psalm 76, and a few interesting bits have come up.  Origen attacks heretics at several points for neglecting the practical life (πραξεῖς or ἤθη), and instead proceeding directly to speculation on the nature of God.  He’s also brought in his knowledge of Hebrew, mentioning that Zechariah’s name means “remembrance of God.”  I don’t know Hebrew, but from what I can tell that’s pretty close even if it’s not precisely accurate.

I’ve also notice an interesting stylistic tic: he likes to mention several different possible interpretation for a given line of the psalm, and so he’ll say, “and I know another interpretation” or “I have a second interpretation.”  When I put these Greek phrases into the TLG (οἶδα καὶ ἄλλην διήγησιν and ἔχω δὲ καὶ δευτέραν διήγησιν), in first case, the only results are from Origen’s Commentary on Matthew.  The second doesn’t match exactly, but searching for “δευτέραν διήγησιν” brings up matches primarily in 3 authors: Galen, Celsus, and Origen, all working in the late second century or early third (there are a few matches from much later authors).  Stylistic evidence like this aren’t the only grounds on which one judges authorship, but features like this do argue strongly in favor of Origenic authenticity.  

Eusebius of Caesarea. Fragments on Luke.  I contacted Roger Pearse a few months ago and asked if there were any untranslated Greek texts that he was wanting to get into English.  He has graciously commissioned a translation of the fragments on Luke that appear in the PG under Eusebius’ name.  I’ve been working on these slowly, but with some consistency.  They seem to mostly be authentically Eusebian to me.  The author is fond of long, winding, pleonastic sentences, which makes the translator’s job difficult!  He knows Greek philosophy, and this is seen in the exegesis, though it doesn’t dominate.  His exegetical eye is sometimes quite keen: he rightly picks up (what I think is) the jew/gentile distinction in Mt 21:28-31.  Other times, the exegesis is more straightforward: he remarks that the miracles that the apostles performed were important witnesses to the authenticity of their message.  Other times he seems more foreign, like when he creates an elaborate hierarchy of Christians on the basis of the beatitudes.  All in all, useful material I think.  

ἐν αὐτῷ,

Origen: Ex Tempore Homilies Revisited

Several months ago, when the newly rediscovered Origen codex first came to light, I suggested that some of the homilies were impromptu lectures, possibly delivered in a school context rather than a church context.  That was mostly a guess based on the content of the homilies;  at that point I had not examined Eusebius very closely, or the work of Gregory Thaumatourgos (I still need to look at Epiphanius).  I still have plenty of primary source material to examine, but I’d like to revisit that suggestion now that I know a bit more.  I may just have made a lucky guess!

Steven Huller noted in a comment on that original post the Eusebius records that Origen only allowed tachygraphers to record his homilies near the end of his life (when he was past 60).  Here’s the passage in question:

Τότε δῆτα, οἷα καὶ εἰκὸς ἦν, πληθυούσης τῆς πίστεως πεπαρρησιασμένου τε τοῦ καθ’ ἡμᾶς παρὰ πᾶσιν λόγου, ὑπὲρ τὰ ἑξήκοντά φασιν ἔτη τὸν Ὠριγένην γενόμενον, ἅτε δὴ μεγίστην ἤδη συλλεξάμενον ἐκ τῆς μακρᾶς παρασκευῆς ἕξιν, τὰς ἐπὶ τοῦ κοινοῦ λεγομένας αὐτῶι διαλέξεις ταχυγράφοις μεταλαβεῖν ἐπιτρέψαι, οὐ πρότερόν ποτε τοῦτο γενέσθαι συγκεχωρηκότα.  ἐν τούτωι καὶ τὰ πρὸς τὸν ἐπιγεγραμμένον καθ’ ἡμῶν Κέλσου τοῦ Ἐπικουρείου Ἀληθῆ λόγον ὀκτὼ τὸν ἀριθμὸν συγγράμματα συντάττει καὶ τοὺς εἰς τὸ κατὰ Ματθαῖον εὐαγγέλιον εἴκοσι πέντε τόμους τούς τε εἰς τοὺς δώδεκα προφήτας, ἀφ’ ὧν μόνους εὕρομεν πέντε καὶ εἴκοσι. (Hist. Eccl. 6.36)

My translation, with a little help from Williamson:

“Then at that time, while the faith was growing and our message had been boldly proclaimed in the presence of all, it was fitting for Origen, who was past 60 years of age and had gained great learning due to broad study, to allow tachygraphers to record his lectures spoken in public, which he had not consented to prior.  During this same time he wrote 8 books against the work True Doctrine of Celsus the Epicurean, along with 25 books on the Gospel of Matthew and 25 on the minor prophets, from which we have only 25.”

This is a puzzling passage for scholars.  What exactly are these public lectures?  Some argue that Eusebius is referring to debates like the Dialogue with Heraclides.  The majority opinion (at least Crouzel and Nautin, two very important of the recent Origen scholars) believe that Eusebius is referring to homilies spoken in the Church.  Since Nautin dates almost all of the homilies before 245, and he simply dismisses the account as a fiction.

But instead of dismissing the account, I’d suggest that we understand a different type of public lecture.  διαλέξις was a commonly used to describe philosophical lectures, and that is what I think we have here.  Origen was in charge of a philosophical school in Caesarea, and regularly gave lectures to his students.  Eusebius mentions this only obliquely in 6.30, but we get a vivid picture from Gregory Thaumaturgus’s Panegyric of Origen.

Within this passage, Eusebius mentions that the “our λόγος had been emboldened among all” and notes that these were spoken ἐπὶ τοῦ κοινοῦ, which might mean “before the church,” but could also mean “before the public.”  Finally, he mentions Origen’s Contra Celsum, which would explicitly confirm Origen’s abiding interest in Greek philosophy.  

We know that Origen gave many philosophical lectures in his school.  Likewise, Eusebius tells us that people came from all over to hear Origen lecture while he was in Caesarea (Hist. Eccl. 6.30).  Gregory also tells us that in addition to standard Greek philosophy, Origen lectured on biblical exegesis. (Orat. Paneg. 15).  

So why would Origen allow tachygraphers to record his homilies in the Church before his school lectures?  I think it’s mostly a matter of audience and subject matter.  School lectures would deal with topics on a much more sophisticated level, and involve much more philosophical speculation.  Origen would also have to be ready to answer questions from the audience, as there was plenty of interaction between students and teacher in a philosophical school.  Church homilies, on the other hand, would be targeted at a less sophisticated audience: thus he allowed tachygraphers to record these homilies earlier.  The subject matter was also lest controversial. 

Do we have any evidence for this in his writings? I think the new codex offers evidence for both types of discourse.  Homilies like the ones on Psalm 36 were probably spoken in the Church.  They deal with largely moral matters: Rufinus in his translator’s preface says that the explication in them is entirely moral (expositio tota moralis est.)  But others were probably spoken in the school.  The four on Psalm 76 are explicitly labelled in the heading as “Ex tempore Homilies on the 76th Psalm.” [εἰς τὸν οστ´ (sc. ψαλμὸν) ἐσχεδιασμέναι ὁμιλίαι].  (folio 170v.)  Here’s the snippet from the codex:


I haven’t done an exhaustive check, but I haven’t seen any other homilies in the codex that are explicitly labeled as “impromptu.”  Likewise, I have only read through one of the four homilies, but it strikes me as a very good candidate for a school lecture.  Homily 3 on Psalm 76 begins with a question, “Of what sort are these waters that see God?”  Origen dives into a discussion on many speculative question: does the sky and earth have a soul?  Do rivers and seas have souls? How do angelic administrators work? (See here for my text and translation).

Thus, I’d suggest that Eusebius is referring to school lectures rather than church homilies in this passage.  I haven’t come across this solution in the secondary literature, but if you’ve seen this suggestion do let me know.  Furthermore, I think the new material gives us a chance to compare both types: school lecture and church homily.  I certainly look forward to hearing Perrone’s thoughts once the critical edition is published.

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,


An overview of Origen’s Homiletic Output

In my free time, which is unfortunately sparse, I’ve been slowly reading through Henri Crouzel’s monograph, Origène (1984).The book is a rich source of discussion on the Alexandrian master: the second chapter contains an overview of his work, and that which survives.

One thing which struck me was just how important the recently discovered codex of homilies on the psalms may be.  Crouzel’s paragraph sums up the then status quaestionis nicely (pg. 71, my translation):

Nearly 300 homelies, as we have said, remain, 279 to be precise.  Of these, only 21 are conserved in Greek: 20 on Jeremiah, of which 12 also exist in a Latin translation of Jerome, and the celebrated homily on 1 Samuel 28, where Saul visits the Necromancer of Endor.  From Rufinus, we have 16 homilies on Genesis, 13 on Exodus, 16 on Leviticus, 28 on Numbers, 9 on Judges, 5 on Psalm 36, 2 on Psalm 37, 2 on Psalm 38, and 1 on the birth of Samuel, which may come from Rufinus, but that is uncertain.  From Jerome, we have 2 homilies on the Song of Songs, 9 on Isaiah, 14 on Jeremiah, of which 12 exist in Greek, 14 on Ezekiel, and 39 on the Gospel of Luke.  V. Peri has recently restored 74 homilies on the Psalms attributed by Dom Morin to Jerome who is here only the translator/adapter.”  

Using Alin Suciu’s list as a guide, the recently discovered codex gives us 29 homilies:

    • Psalm 15: 2
    • Psalm 36: 4 [1]
    • Psalm 66: 2
    • Psalm 73: 3
    • Psalm 74: 1
    • Psalm 75: 1
    • Psalm 76: 4
    • Psalm 77: 9
    • Psalm 80: 2
    • Psalm 81: 1


Even the four homilies that we know are authentic (due to having Rufinus’ translations) are a significant increase in the number of homilies we have in Greek.  If the rest of the codex, or even a large portion of it, turns out to the authentic, then we’ll have more than doubled the number of homilies we have in Greek.  The codex actually contains more homilies than we had in Greek from Origen before it’s discovery (29, compared to the 21 that Crouzel lists).

I did know that this work was important, but I didn’t realize it would augment our knowledge of “Greek” Origen by this much.  Granted, a lot of work needs to be done before all of the homilies can safely be attributed to Origen, but Perrone and others are in favor of authenticity at this point.

From what I’ve read, Peri’s attribution of those 74 homelies of Jerome to Origen has been received with skepticism by many. This codex may give us a chance to test his thesis more thoroughly.

It’s an exciting time to be interested in Patristics!

ἐν αὐτῷ,

[1] Note that Alin’s list follows the catalog description, but that the catalog description mistakenly lists 4 homiles on Ps 31 instead of 4 on Ps 36, which Perrone, as I recall, noted in the lecture I linked to in a prior post.

More from Origen

As part of a project I hope to publish (regarding stylometrics and Origen), I’ve been transcribing more of his homilies on the Psalms. I don’t have the time to translate them, or really even to edit the Greek text properly at the moment, but I figure that even my transcriptions may be useful to someone. I’ve created an Origen page here, where you may find my transcriptions of (currently) two homilies on Psalm 36, in addition to the Greek text and translation of his third homily on Psalm 76.

Transcribing a text is a laborious task, and one bound to introduce errors into one’s copy. I’ve read over most of the transcribed material, but even still I’m sure more errors are present. If you find any, leave a comment or send me an e-mail.

ἐν αὐτῷ,


Origen the Philologist

It’s well known among scholars that Origen of Alexandria was one of the most extraordinary minds of early Christianity. He was a master of traditional Hellenistic learning, and matched that with an astounding knowledge of the scriptures. Naturally, philology, as it was practiced in the Hellenistic world, played a key role for Origen in his interpretive practice. I’m currently transcribing from his first homily on Psalm 36, and was reminded by this excerpt, in which he explains the difference between the Greek words παραζηλόω and ζηλόω:

τίς οὖν ἡ διαφορὰ τοῦ παραζηλοῦν παρὰ τὸ ζηλοῦν; κατανοητέον, οὐ πάνυ τίς ἐστιν ἡ λέξις ἑλληνική. οὐδὲ τέτριπται ἐν τῇ συνηθείᾳ τῶν ἑλλήνων. οὔτε τῶν φιλολόγων· οὔτε τῶν ἰδιωτικώτερον φραξόντων· ἀλλ’ ἔοικε βεβιασμένη γενέσθαι ὑπὼ τῶν ἑρμηνευτῶν· βουλομένων ἑρμηνεῦσαι τῷ ἑβραϊκῷ ῥημῷ καὶ τὴν διαφορὰν παραστῆσαι κατὰ τὸ δυνατὸν ἀνθρωπίνῃ φύσει ζήλου καὶ παραζηλώσεως·

What then is the difference between “παραζηλοῦν” and “ζηλοῦν?” In must be acknowledged that this word (παραζηλόω) is not quite Greek. It is not customary of the Greeks, nor of the philologists, nor of those speaking their own tongues. Rather, it appears to have been forced into being by the translators, who wanted to translate this Hebrew word, and demonstrate for the human kind the difference, insofar as it was possible, between ζήλος (zeal) and παραζήλωσις (emulation, jealousy).

Remarkably, I did a quick check of Origen’s observation against the TLG. Παραζηλόω is indeed an essentially Christian word. I can’t find anything earlier than the Septuagint, and nearly all the occurrences come in Christian writers. It’s quite a testament to his ability that he (and other ancient scholars) could make these kinds of judgments without the benefit of computers!

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,


A Freudian Slip

As I’m proofing the PDF of this homily of Origen’s, I’m finding all sorts of entertaining typos.  One in particular stood out:


Apparently Jesus, just like me, was no fan of Microsoft products!  The only question is whether he was a Linux or a Mac guy…

ἐν αὐτῷ,