July 2012

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,


I’ve been busily plugging away at the PDF of the text and translation of the homily.  I’m going back through and re-translating most of what I’ve done, since the first run was pretty rough.  I’ve found several places were i messed up and have naturally corrected them in this version.  Once I’m done, I’ll post it here under either a Creative Commons license or just place it in the public domain.

Here’s a screenshot (click to enlarge).  Pardon the errors, I haven’t proofed much yet.


ἐν αὐτῷ,


I haven’t often mentioned my interest in things digital on this blog, but earlier this year, I was fortunate to attend a workshop in Belgium entitled, “Means and Methods for the Digital Analysis of Ancient and Medieval Texts and Manuscripts.”  I got to hear a variety of interesting papers and debates, all while enjoying terrific hospitality.  One of the happy consequences of this visit was that I met several people working on “digital humanities”[1] type projects.  One of my great interests as a budding text-critic is in digital stemmatology.  The question essentially boils down to: how can we use digital/statistical methods to help us map the history of a text’s transmission.  Ideally, the end result is a stemma, or family tree, detailing the copying history of the extant manuscripts.  This is helpful either for traditional philology (establishing the archetypal text), or for those interested in reception history.  Tara Andrews, whom I was fortunate to meet in Leuven, recently wrote a blog post which captures the history and status quaestionis quite well, here. All of this makes me wish I was in Hamburg this week at the Digital Humanities 2012 conference.  There are a number of interesting abstracts listed here.

As a Computer Science undergraduate turned (soon-to-be) Greek and Latin graduate student, I’m naturally very interested in how computers can help us study ancient texts.  Two areas, in particular, hold my interest right now: digital stemmatology and digital stylometry.

Stemmatology I mentioned earlier: I’m attempting to apply these sorts of methods to the Palaea Historica, a 10th century Byzantine Greek retelling of the Old Testament.  One of my professors at NC State is working on a critical edition, and so I hope to put these stemmatological methods to good use.  Time will tell if I’m successful, but I’ll be presenting a paper in Nov. so I’ll definitely have something to say then!

Digital Stylometry is a more recent interest of mine.  The most common application is authorship attribution: can we somehow quantify style and then use that measure to compare different texts?  Perhaps the most common application is authorship attribution.  If the methods develop well enough, this might, for instance, help us sort out anonymous catenae fragments, or anonymous homilies like the ones in the recently discovered CMB 314 (which we’re pretty sure, at least currently, belong to Origen). 

[1]  I still find this phrase frustratingly vague (I’m interested in a narrower type of research), but I employ it nevertheless.

ἐν αὐτῷ,


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Various notes on content:

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

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

ἐν αὐτῷ,


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,

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,


In this excerpt, Origen discusses thunder and its salutary effects.  As you can see, he is about to address the problem of evil, and important theme for him (especially when in debate with Gnostics). 

I’m also making good headway with creating a PDF.  I plan to rework the translations I’ve posted here (think of them as rough drafts).  I’ve already spotted several errors as I’ve gone back through, but I plan to correct them in the final PDF. 

τάχα δὲ, εἰ καὶ ἄρρητος
ἔστί τις ὠφέλεια  γινομένη ἐν τοῖς
πράγμασιν διὰ τὴν φωνὴν τῆς βροντῆς
τῶν νεφελῶν, αἰσθητὸν μὲν
οὖν ἔστιν ὅτι αἱ βρονταὶ γεννῶσι τινὰ
τοῖς ἄνθρώποις τρόφϊμα, ὥστε ὁσάκις
ἐὰν γίνωνται βρονταὶ, τάδε τινὰ
τὰ φυτὰ γίνεσθαι ἐπὶ τὴν γῆν ἢ
εὑρίσκεσθαι, αἰσθητὸν δὲ καὶ τὸ
πολλοὺς τῶν ἀνθρώπων εἰς εύλάβειαν
τὴν περὶ τοῦ θείου ἔρχεσθαι ἐκ τῆς
φωνῆς τῶν βροντῶν. ἆρα οὖν δαίμονες
οὐκ ἐπιστρέφονται, οὐδε κωλύονται
ποτὲ τῆς ἐνεργείας τῆς
χείρονος, διὰ τὰς ἐπ᾽αλλήλους βροντάς;
τί δὲ οἱ ἀγγέλοι τοῦ διαβόλου,
οὐχὶ κωλύονται ποτὲ ἀπὸ τῶν βροντῶν,
αὐτῆς τῆς φωνῆς τῆς κατὰ
τῶν βροντῶν ἐμποδιζούσης ταῖς
ἐνεργείαις ταῖς πονηραῖς;  οὐ πάντες
ἴσμεν οἱ ἄνθρωποι τὰ γινόμενα, οὐδὲ
τίς ὁ λόγος ἑκάστου τῶν συμβαινόντων,
ἀλλ᾽ἔστιν ἡ σοφία τοῦ θεοῦ, ἀνεξερεύνητος
καὶ ἀνεξιχνίαστος.

Perhaps then, although it is unclear what good comes from the clouds’ voice of thunder, one can perceive that thunder causes something nourishing for men.  Often, when there is thunder, some of these plants on the earth come into being, or are found.  One can also perceive that many men become reverent about the divine after hearing the voice of thunder.  So then, are the demons not turned, nor are they ever hindered from working evil on account of the thunder among them?  Why then are the angels of the devil not hindered by the thunder? Shouldn’t that very voice which comes down from thunder hinder their evil workings?  As humans, we do not understand all that happens, nor what the reason is for each thing that occurs, for there is wisdom from God which is unsearchable and untraceable.

ἐν αὐτῷ,


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