God is there on the peaks and in the pits, right at home and far abroad. He is everywhere, but most intimately found within the frame, the temple, he knit me into as a dwelling for his image.
One of our new staff members at church recently came across mention of the word εὐαφής in a book that he’s reading. The author noted that Cyril of Alexandria used the word, and cited this passage in Cyril’s Interpretatio in psalmos. He then asked me if I knew of a translation. To the best of my knowledge, the Interpretatio in psalmos remains untranslated, though I’d love to be corrected! However, the passage was short, so I’ve decided to translate it and post it here. I’ve indulged in one small emendation to the text, which I wasn’t able to make sense of otherwise (marked in the Greek). [Update: A gracious commenter has supplied a better suggestion that involved only a repunctuation of the text. I’ve incorporated his suggestions into the text and translation.]
“The sacrifice for God is a contrite spirit” (Ps. 51:17)
The power of spiritual worship does not come simply through the mind alone, but continually take on in one way or another as a fellow runner in the race the fragrance of good works, which comes by a willingness to obey, if indeed we should attain it. For we say that obedience is the fruit of a pleasing and pliant heart, of a heart that has nothing rough within it. The sort of heart that the obdurate Jews had was hard and difficult to lead. Take as proof that one of the holy prophets took on on their role and said, “Why have you mislead us off your path, Lord? Have you hardened our hearts so that they do not fear you?” (Is. 63:17) Hard hearts are utterly unable to receive the word of God. We should expect, then, that a contrite spirit would be most fitting as a sacrifice for God and as an offering of spiritual fragrance. By contrite spirit, of course, we mean a soul that delights in and yields to the divine scriptures.
Θυσία τῷ Θεῷ πνεῦμα συντετριμμένον.
Τῆς πνευματικῆς λατρείας ἡ δύναμις οὐ διὰ ψιλῆς καὶ μόνης διανοίας ἔρχεται, συνδρομὴν δὲ ἀεί πως δέχεσθαι φιλεῖ καὶ τὴν ἐξ ἔργων ἀγαθῶν εὐοσμίαν, ἣν δὴ κατορθοῦντες,1 τὴν δι’ ὑπακοῆς καὶ εὐπειθείας. Τὴν δέ γε ὑπακοὴν καρπὸν εἶναί φαμεν τρυφερᾶς καὶ εὐαφοῦς καρδίας καὶ οὐδὲν ἐχούσης τὸ ἀπηνές· ὁποία τις ἦν ἡ τῶν ἀτέγκτων Ἰουδαίων σκληρὰ καὶ δυσάγωγος. Καὶ γοῦν τὸ αὐτῶν πρόσωπον ἀναλαβὼν ἔφη τις τῶν ἁγίων προφητῶν· «Τί ἐπλάνησας ἡμᾶς, Κύριε, τῆς ὁδοῦ σου; ἐσκλήρυνας ἡμῶν τὰς καρδίας τοῦ μὴ φοβεῖσθαί σε;» Σκληραῖς δὲ καρδίαις ἀπαράδεκτος παντελῶς ὁ τοῦ Θεοῦ λόγος. Οὐκοῦν εἴη ἂν καὶ μάλα εἰκότως εἰς θυσίαν τῷ Θεῷ καὶ εἰς ἀφιέρωσιν πνευματικῆς εὐοσμίας πνεῦμα συντετριμμένον, τουτέστι ψυχὴ τρυφερὰ καὶ τοῖς θείοις εἴκουσα λόγοις.
1) hic interpunxi sequens suggestum commentatoris Grigoris (v. infra)
Since I’ve been reading the Psalms and the Iliad back to back, I’ve decided to write a bit of hexameter based on the Psalms. These are scarcely great works of art, but do they allow me to practice the meter.
Here’s my first offering, based on Ps. 36:31 (LXX).
I’ve been reading over Basil the Great’s homily on the first Psalm, and rather enjoying it. The beginning is an introduction to the Psalms as a genre. Basil praises the Psalms as they combine the best of other genres in the Old Testament. They foretell events to come, like the prophets, recall events in the past, like the histories, and give rules to live by, like the law. The “old wounds of the soul are healed, and the newer ones are quickly set to rights.” One of Basil’s favorite features of the psalms is their musicality. The doctrine mixed with the “honey of melody” is delightful for the soul, where straight doctrine would not be so palatable.
My own experience with the psalms has been different. Frankly, I find it a rather puzzling book. I usually prefer either the narrative of the gospels or the logic of the epistles. I realize, though, that I’ve completely missed the “honey of melody.” In the west, most traditions typically don’t sing the psalms (unless they get appropriated for hymns or songs, which does happen rather often). Here I’m jealous of Eastern Christians, who, as I understand, still sing (or chant) the psalms in their liturgies. I do think I’d have an easier time memorizing the psalms and appreciating them if I sang them.
Basil also shows his pastoral ability in the homily. The Septuagint uses the gendered ἀνήρ (man, as opposed to woman) in the first psalm, rather than the more gender-neutral ἄνθρωπος (man/person, as opposed to God/gods). I found his response rather interesting. It does not cohere precisely with modern sensibilities (man is described as “the one more given to leadership”), but it’s not precisely complementarian either. I found it rather touching:
“Why does the prophet single out the man for blessing? Has he cut off women from this blessing? God forbid! Man and woman share a common virtue (ἀρετή). Since their creation was of the same honor, so too do they receive the same reward. Listen to Genesis, ‘And God made mankind (ἄνθρωπον), in the image of God he created it, male and female he created them.’ Those who share a nature, also share labor, and those who have the same labor receive the same reward. Why then, does he mention man, but keep silent about woman? Because he thought it was sufficient, in light of their shared nature, to refer to the whole by mentioning only the half more given to authority (ἡγεμονικώτερος).”
Διὰ τί, φησὶν, ὁ προφήτης τὸν ἄνδρα μόνον ἐκλεξάμενος μακαρίζει; ἆρα μὴ τοῦ μακαρισμοῦ τὰς γυναῖκας ἀπέκλεισε; Μὴ γένοιτο! Μία γὰρ ἀρετὴ ἀνδρὸς καὶ γυναικὸς, ἐπειδὴ καὶ ἡ κτίσις ἀμφοτέροις ὁμότιμος, ὥστε καὶ ὁ μισθὸς ὁ αὐ- τὸς ἀμφοτέροις. Ἄκουε τῆς Γενέσεως· Ἐποίησε, (217.) φησὶ, ὁ Θεὸς τὸν ἄνθρωπον· κατ’ εἰκόνα Θεοῦ ἐποίησεν αὐτόν· ἄρσεν καὶ θῆλυ ἐποίησεν αὐτούς. Ὧν δὲ ἡ φύσις μία, τούτων καὶ ἐνέργειαι αἱ αὐταί· ὧν δὲ τὸ ἔργον ἴσον, τούτων καὶ ὁ μισθὸς ὁ αὐτός. Διὰ τί οὖν, ἀνδρὸς μνησθεὶς, τὴν γυναῖκα (5) ἀπεσιώπησεν; Ὅτι ἀρκεῖν ἡγήσατο, μιᾶς οὔσης τῆς φύσεως, ἐκ τοῦ ἡγεμονικωτέρου τὸ ὅλον ἐνδείξασθαι. (PG 29.217).
Basil’s Greek, at least here, is not overly taxing. Fortunately, though, these homilies are available in English. CUA Press published the translation in 1963 as part of the Fathers of the Church series. Sister Agnes Clare Way translated the homilies on the Psalms and the better known Hexameron. The translation seems to have made it onto Archive.org, which seems a bit strange to me (as the book is not yet in the public domain), but Ι᾽d certainly commend the homilies, in Greek or English, to the interested reader.
Part 1 is here. As promised, here is the second installment of the end of Origen’s first homily on Ps. 77 (76 LXX). In these two paragraphs, Origen discusses God’s rejection. Based on the psalm, he doesn’t think rejection will last forever, but he also urges his audience to consider the terror of separation from God. To be separated from God even for a single hour is dreadful, as whenever someone is rejected they are handed over to Satan and his angels.
“Surely the Lord will not reject forever?”
As I probed my spirit about these matters, I reasoned carefully and said, “Let God reject someone for a year, and hand him over to trials. Let this last for two years. Let this be the case for their entire life. How many years is this? Fifty or sixty. Let him forsake someone for this entire age. Will God forsake them forever? “Surely the Lord will not reject forever?” is said, for he doesn’t wish to forsake us, even for a single age. There are, though, those whom he will reject in another age besides this one. The Savior mentions these, saying that when people sin against the Holy Spirit, “it will not be forgiven them, neither in this age, nor the one to come.” Consider someone who sinned at the time of Adam, who will be punished from that time until the end of the age for their sin. Think about the span of this punishment, and if you can, think of another like it, equal in time to this age or not (I don’t know, after all, the sizes of the different ages). Look at someone being punished for that entire age, consider the great magnitude of punishment, but do not despise it. Rather, remember the prophet’s words, that the Lord will not reject for ever.
On those rejected by God.
Remember too that to be rejected by the Lord for a single hour is a terrible punishment, because when God rejects me, the Devil receives me. When someone is rejected, he is handed over to the devil, which is what happened when Paul rejected the sexually immoral man in Corinth. Why did he bar him from the church? He handed him over to Satan so that the man’s flesh would be destroyed and his spirit saved. Should God reject any one of us, we would fall right into the hands of Satan and his angels. It is a horrible thing to be subjected to Satan, and if someone is made subject to him, it is God’s punishment, for the person deserves this subjection.
¶ μὴ εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας
ἀπώσεται κύριος; ταῦτα σκάλλων τὸ πνεῦμα,
διελογισάμην καὶ ἔλεγον, ἔστω ἀπωθεῖται
τινὰ ὁ θεὸς ἐπὶ ἐνιαυτὸν, καὶ ἐγκαταλείπει
αὐτὸν εἰς θλίψεις. ἔστω δὲ ἐπὶ
δύο ἔτη τινὰ καταλείπεσθαι. ἔστω,
ἐπὶ ὅλον τὸν χρόνον τῆς ἐνταῦθα ζωῆς.
πόσα ἐστὶ τὰ ἔτη; πεντήκοντα ἔτη
καὶ ἐξήκοντα. ἔστω τινὰ καταλείπεσθαι
ὅλον τὸν αἰῶνα τοῦτον. ἆρα καὶ
ἐφ᾽ ὅλους τοὺς αἰῶνας ἐγκαταλείψει ὁ
θεὸς; μὴ, εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας ἀπώσηται κύριος·
ἵνα μὴ ἀπώσηται ἡμᾶς μηδὲ εἰς ἕνα
αἰῶνα. εἰσὶ γάρ τινες οὓς ἀπωθεῖται
καὶ ἐπὶ αἰῶνα ἕτερον, παρὰ τοῦτον
αἰῶνα, περὶ ὧν ὁ σωτὴρ λέγει, ὅταν
ἁμάρτωσιν εἰς τὸ ἅγιον πνεῦμα, ὅτι οὐ μὴ
ἀφεθῇ αὐτῷ, οὔτε ἐν τούτῳ τῷ αἰῶνι οὔτε
ἐν τῷ μέλλοντι. φέρε
γὰρ τινὰ ἔχειν ἁμάρτημα ἐπὶ τῶν χρόνων
τοῦ ἀδὰμ, καὶ κολάζεσθαι ἔκτοτε
μέχρι τῆς συντελείας ἐπὶ τῷ ἁμαρτήματι.
ὅρα τὸ μέγεθος πηλίκον ἐστὶ τῆς κολάσεως.
καὶ εἰ δύνασαι καὶ ἄλλον συνάψαι.
ἤτοι ἰσόχρονον τούτῳ τῷ αἰῶνι,
ἢ οὐκ ἰσόχρονον. οὐ γὰρ οἶδα τὰ
μεγέθη τῶν αἰώνων. ἴδε τινά μοι κολαζόμενον
κἀκεῖνον τὸν αἰῶνα, καὶ ὅρα τὸ
μέγεθος τῆς κολάσεως, καὶ μὴ καταφρόνει,
καὶ νόει τὰ ἐνταῦθα εἰρημένα
ὑπὸ τοῦ φροφήτου ὅτι οὐκ εἰς
τοὺς αἰῶνας ἀπώσεται κύριος. ¶ τῶν
ἀπωσωμῶν τοῦ θεοῦ. ἀλλ᾽ ὅρα ὅτι καὶ μίαν
ὥραν ἀπωσθῆναι τοῦ θεοῦ, ζημία ἐστὶ
μεγάλη. ὅταν γὰρ ἀπώσηταί με ὁ θεὸς,
διάβολός με λαμβάνει, ὡς ἀπωσθέντα,
καὶ αὐτῷ παραδοθέντα, οἷον ἀπώσατο
παῦλος τὸν πεπορνευκότα ἐν κορίνθῳ.
διὰ τοῦτο ἀπώσατο αὐτὸν ἀπὸ
τῆς ἐκκλησίας, παρέδωκεν αὐτὸν
τῷ σατανᾷ εἰς ὄλεθρον τῆς σαρκὸς
ἵνα τὸ πνεῦμα σωθῇ. καὶ ἕκαστον ἡμῶν
ἂν ἀπώσηται ὁ θεὸς, οὐδεὶς ἄλλος παραλαμβάνει,
ἢ ὁ σατανᾶς καὶ οἱ ἄγγελοι
αὐτοῦ. φοβερὸν τὸ ὑπ᾽ ἐκεῖνον γενέσθαι,
καὶ εἴ τις γίνεται ὑπ᾽ ἐκεῖνον, κρίματι
θεοῦ ὡς ἄξιος τοῦ ὑπ᾽ ἐκεῖνον γενέσθαι
“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).
The Psalmist says, “I have pondered the ancient days,” but then as he ponders the ancient days, he ascends to what is beyond them: the eternal years. Moreover (if I may say so) years that share in temporality are themselves temporary, since the things we see are only temporary. There are, however, other years that are eternal: those before the world, perhaps, and those after the world. The law has measures concerning these years, because it has a shadow of the good things to come: it teaches about what must be done in the seventh year and in the fiftieth. After all, when someone has comprehended the spiritual nature of the law, they will understand that these ordinances refer to eternal years. Thus, this righteous one ascends from pondering the ancient days to the eternal years. These eternal years are comprised of eternal days, which are written about in Deuteronomy, “remember the days of eternity. Understand the years of the generation of generations.” (Dt. 32:7) Hearing this, we pray to ascend from these earthly days, and months, and years, to ascend to the days of eternity, to the eternal years, and, if I dare say so, since the new-moon feast is spiritual, to ascend also to the eternal months, in which the passage of our lives is not demarcated by the sun, for there the “Lord will be an eternal light for you, and God will be your glory” (Is 60:19).
Therefore, “I have remembered and meditated on the eternal years. In the night, I would search deeply with my heart, and would probe my spirit.” Take note of this passage, so that if sleep ever forsakes you, and you are lying awake, you do not waste that time of wakefulness on unnecessary things. Rather, during the time you are awake, while sleep as forsaken you, set your thoughts on service to God. This man, having set his mind to such things, said, “in the night I would search deeply with my heart, and would probe my spirit.” His spirit and heart replied, “Surely the Lord will not reject forever, nor hold back his mercies within his wrath?” This is what he said, ‘I meditated in the night, and in private I would search deeply with my heart, and would probe my spirit.’ Since our spirit was given to us to be a better helper than our souls, if someone wishes to find what they seek, they shouldn’t probe their soul, nor probe their body, but probe instead their spirit. Just as someone who wishes to find something in the ground will probe the ground to find what they imagine to be in the ground, so too you must probe the spirit to find the fruits of the spirit, if you are seeking spiritual things. “I was probing my spirit” because you, [my spirit], “search all things.” That is, [as you search] the deep things of God, you are probing your spirit. Furthermore, I’d say that you’re probing the Spirit of God, for it is possible to come to the Spirit and search him.
First, I’ll say that I’ve tried to produce a translation in the proper register. The proper register for this homily is classroom lecture, or church sermon, and so I’ve tried to use appropriately colloquial English (that’s why you see singular ‘they’, which may grate the ears of some). I’ve taken liberties at several points to add clarifying phrases, so you are getting my interpretation of what Origen says here (as always happens when reading a translation). I’ve tried to be a faithful translator, but there will always be problems somewhere! If you notice something off, do let me know.
This discussion precedes Origen’s discussion on punishment, but you can see how the text demands that he will discuss it. He follows the text quite closely, and what I find interesting is his attention to method. This comes out in several ways. First, as he is wont to due, Origen brings in relevant scriptures from other places (Deuteronomy and Isaiah). He does indulge in some speculative philosophy on the nature of the “eternal days,” and he acknowledges this by saying ‘If I dare say so.’ But this is deeply rooted in the text, something many people who haven’t read much Origen forget. He was known later as the most infamous of all allegorists, but his attention to detail is remarkable and note worthy.
Beyond exegetical method, Origen gives much attention to the nature and method of revelation. The psalmist is an example of devotion for us to follow. Our sleeplessness should cause us to pursue God in prayer, and it is only in the context of prayer that one experiences what Paul calls “things unspeakable” (2 Cor 12:4). This “mystical ascent” cannot always be expressed in direct terms, and when it is shared, it’s often done in symbolically or apophatically. Thus, Paul (2 Cor 12) and John (Revelation) are models for how to understand this passage. We must remember this mystical “reluctance” when reading Origen’s statements on the ages to come. Hopefully I’ll have more up soon!
Note this is a provisional transcription. I’ve taken the liberty of italicizing scriptural quotations, and I’ve tried to divide the sentences logically. In punctuating, I’ve considered the manuscript’s punctuation, but also tried to make it comprehensible for a modern reader. One of the reasons I’ve left it in this form is so you can check my work against the manuscript. If something looks off, then please take a look at the ms and let me know in the comments. You can find direction on my Origen page for how to access it.
οὖν φησι, ἡμέρας ἀρχαίας. εἶτα
διαλογισάμενος ἡμέρας ἀρχαίας,
ἔτι ἀναβαίνει ἐπὶ τὰ ἀνωτέρω τῶν ἀρχαίων
ἡμερῶν, τὰ ἔτη τὰ αἰώνια.
ἀλλ᾽εἰ δεῖ οὕτως εἰπεῖν, ἐπεὶ τὰ βλεπόμενα
πρόσκαιρά ἐστι, καὶ τὰ ἐν τοῖς
προσκαίροις ἔτη, πρόσκαιρά ἐστιν.
ἔστι δὲ ἄλλα ἔτη αἰώνια, τὰ πρὸ τοῦ
κόσμου τάχα, καὶ τὰ μετὰ τὸν κόσμον,
περὶ ὧν ἐτῶν, περιέχει ὁ σκιὰν ἔχων
τῶν μελλόντων ἀγαθῶν νόμος, διδάσκει
περὶ ἑβδόμου ἔτους ὃ δεὶ ποιεῖν, περὶ
πεντηκοστοῦ ἔτους. ὁ γὰρ νοήσας τὸν
νόμον καθὸ πνευματικός ἐστιν, ἀνάγει
ταῦτα ἐπὶ τὰ αἰώνια ἔτη. ὁ οὖν δίκαιος
ἀναβαίνει ἀπὸ τοῦ διαλογίσασθαι
ἡμέρας ἀρχαίας, ἐπὶ τὰ ἔτη τὰ αἰώνια.
τάδε αἰώνια ἔτη συνέστηκεν, ἐξ ἡμερῶν
αἱωνίων, περὶ ὧν γέγραπται ἐν
δευτερονομίῳ, τοῦτον τὸν τρόπον, μνήσθητε
ἡμέρας αἰῶνος. σύνετε ἔτη γενεᾶς
γενεῶν. καὶ εὐχόμεθά γε ἀναβῆναι
ἀπὸ τούτων τῶν ἡμερῶν, καὶ τούτων
τῶν μηνῶν, καὶ τούτων τῶν ἐτῶν, ἐπὶ
τὰς τοῦ αἰῶνος ἡμέρας, καὶ ἐπὶ τὰ ἔτη
τὰ αἰώνια, καὶ εἰ δεῖ τολμήσαντα εἰπεῖν,
διὰ τὸ καὶ νουμηνίας εἶναι πνευματικὰς,
καὶ ἐπὶ τοὺς μῆνας τοὺς αἱωνίους,
ἐν οἷς πολιτεύομεθα χαρακτηριζόμενοι,
οὐχ ὑπὸ τούτου τοῦ ἡλίου
ἔσται γάρ σοι κύριος φῶς αἰώνιον, καὶ ὁ θεὸς
δόξα σου. ¶ ἔτη οὖν αἰώνια ἐμνήσθην καὶ
ἐμελέτησα, νυκτὸς μετὰ τῆς καρδίας
μου ἠδολέσχουν. καὶ ἐσκάλαυον τὸ πνεῦμα
μου. μάνθανε καὶ ἀπὸ τοῦ ῥητοῦ, ἐάν
ποτέ σε καὶ ὕπνος καταλίπῃ καὶ
διαγρυπνῇς, μὴ παραπολλύειν τὸν
χρόνον τῆς ἀγρυπνίας εἰς τὸ μὴ δέον·
ἀλλὰ παρ᾽ ὃν καιρὸν ἐγρήγορας, τοῦ ὕπνου σε
λαμβάνειν θεοσεβείας. ὁ ποίους λαβῶν
οὗτος ἔλεγε, νυκτὸς μετὰ τῆς καρδίας
μου ἠδολέσχουν, καὶ ἐσκάλαυον τὸ
πνεῦμα μου. καὶ εἶπον, μὴ, εἰς τοὺ αἰῶνας
ἀπώσεται κύριος, ἢ συνέξει ἐν τῇ ὀργῇ
αὐτοῦ τοὺς οἰκτιρμοὺς αὐτοῦ; ταῦτά φησι
νυκτὸς διελογισάμην, καὶ κατ᾽ ἐμαυτὸν
ἠδολέσχουν, μετὰ τῆς καρδίας μου, καὶ
ἐσκάλαυον τὸ πνεῦμα μου. ἐπεὶ γὰρ τὸ πνεῦμα
δίδοται ὑπὸ θεοῦ εἰς βοήθειαν, ὡς
κρεῖττον τυχάνον τῆς ψυχῆς ἡμῶν, ὁ
βουλόμενος εὑρεῖν ὃ ζητεῖ, μὴ σκαλευέτω
τὴν ψυχὴν, μηδὲ σκαλαύετω τὸ σῶμα.
ἀλλὰ σκαλευέτω τὸ πνεῦμα. καὶ ὥσπερ
ὁ βουλόμενος τί εὑρεῖν ἐν γῇ, σκάλει
τὴν γῆν ἵνα εὕρῃ ὃ φαντάζεται εἶναι
ἐν τῇ γῇ, τὸν αὐτὸν τρόπον, ἐι πνευματικὰ
ζητεῖς, σκάλλε τὸ πνεῦμα, εὑρίσκειν τοὺς
καρποὺς τοῦ πνεύματος. ἔσκαλλον τὸ πνεῦμα
μου, ὅτε καὶ σὺ πάντα ἐρευνᾷς. καὶ
τὰ βάθη τοῦ θεοῦ, σκάλλεις τὸ πνεῦμα σου.
ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω, ὅτι καὶ τὸ πνεῦμα τοῦ θεοῦ.
δυνατὸν γάρ ἐστι καὶ ἐπ᾽αὐτὸ φθάσαι
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.