May 23, 2013
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.
May 23, 2013
As I write this, I’m sitting in Reagan National, waiting to board my flight to Chicago. I’ll be attending and presenting at my first NAPS conference (North American Patristics Society). In my paper, I discuss a few techniques for digital stylometry, as well as share the results from some analysis I did on the homilies from the new Origen codex. It won’t be mind-blowing or novel, but I think both Origenists and digital patristicists </insert_better_word_here> will find something interesting. I look forward to hearing papers and meeting new people!
May 10, 2013
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.
May 7, 2013
This is the last in a three part series. See parts 1 and 2, and the intro.
This segment concludes Origen’s homily on Ps. 76. This is certainly not the only place we see Origen discussing the destiny of the human race, but it does offer a nice view into his theological method. First, as you can see from the many scriptural citations, Origen’s theology is deeply rooted in the biblical text. In these two paragraphs, he cites not only copiously from Psalm before him, but also draws from the prophets (Jonah), another Psalm, and two places in the New Testament. This may strike some as odd: I certainly wouldn’t think while reading this psalm that it had anything to do with eternal punishment. In our English translations, it seems much more natural to read it as simply a lament about this life: will the Lord continue to look away from his people? Origen has good reasons, in this case at least, for going beyond this age and considering others. Vs. 6 reads “I have pondered the ancient days, and I have remembered the eternal years.” The Greek Septuagint thus invites him to speculate on these “eternal years,” and furthermore to consider the following verses on God’s punishment as pertaining to the ages to come rather than only to this life. It’s important to remember that Origen knew is scripture extremely well. His theological and philosophical opinions will often look strange, but seeing the scriptural underpinning makes his views much more understandable.
Another key feature that we can see here is Origen’s approach to revelation and prayer. The psalmist had a profound revelation in prayer, as did Paul and John. Origen thus encourages us to “probe our spirit in the night” and “meditate on the ancient days” like the psalmist did. Not every revelation, however, can be shared. Just as Paul and John did not share the contents of their visions, so we should not make definitive statements on areas in which the scriptures are not clear. The proper course of action is instead a Socratic one: the “sage” must pose questions. Some truths are hidden for “those who fear God.” In doing so, Origen attempts to strike an exegetical and pastoral balance. He understands that declaring a blanket universalism would have negative effects in the moral lives of his students/parishioners. He also is well aware of the biblical passages that discuss punishment, and that to be punished by God is a truly fearful thing. On the other hand, he sees glimpses in scripture that suggest God’s punishment may be restorative rather than retributive, and he finds that compelling. In all things, though, he urges humility and prayer, which strikes me as sage advice even after all these years.
Rather, let us say, “Surely the Lord will not reject forever, nor refuse always to show his favor?” However, if God’s judgments are hidden from us, we should not simply assert that God will change his mind about our punishment. Instead, let us do as the Ninevites did and say, “Let us pray and fast. Who knows if the Lord will change his mind and turn away from his wrath?” (Jonah 3:9). Or, let us say, “Surely he will not cut off his mercy for ever, from generation to generation?” This is what I pondered, and this is what my spirit probed to find: will God, after giving us over to punishments, cut off his mercy from us, so that we’ll never be able to flee again to his mercy? will he cut off his mercy “from generation to generation” and forsake us? will God forget to show mercy? after leaving us to such a fate, one of pain and toil, will he proceed to forget us, and never again show mercy?
“And I have said, ‘now I have begun.'” (Ps. 76:11 LXX) After I have pondered all these things, I have said, “now I am beginning to understand.” His understanding, though, is private. Although he had gained understanding, he decided not to share it. Instead, though he had beheld the mystery, he concealed it, instead posing question. In doing this, he did as Paul and John did. Though Paul had heard “words unspeakable” (2 Cor. 12:4) and John had heard the “seven thunders” (Rev. 10:3-4), neither wrote down what they had heard. Therefore, it was better for him to hide the mystery, and for all who have received such revelation to say, “how great the magnitude of your goodness, Lord, which you have hidden for those who fear you” (Ps. 31:19/30:20 LXX), in Christ Jesus, to whom be glory and power forever and ever, amen.
An impromptu homily.
¶ ἀλλ᾽ ἡμεῖς λέγωμεν,
μὴ εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας ἀπώσεται κύριος,
καὶ οὐ προσθήσει τοῦ εὐδοκῆσαι ἔτι; πλὴν
εἰ καὶ οὐκ ἀπέφηνε τὰ κρίματα τοῦ θεοῦ,
ἀλλ᾽ ἡμᾶς ὅπερ ἐποίησαν οἱ νινευῖται,
οὐκ εἶπαν μετανοήσει ὁ θεὸς, ἀλλὰ προσευχώμεθα
καὶ νηστεύωμεν. τίς οἶδεν
εἰ μετανοήσει κύριος, καὶ ἀποστρέψει τὸν
θυμὸν αὐτοῦ, ἢ τὸ ἔλεος αὐτοῦ ἀποκόψει
εἰς τέλος, ἀπὸ γενεᾶς εἰς γενεάν;
καὶ τοῦτο διελογιζόμην καὶ ἔσκαλλε
τὸ πνεῦμά μου. ἆρα ὁ θεὸς παραδιδοὺς
ἡμᾶς ταῖς κολάσεσι, τὸ ἔλεος
ἀποκόψει ἀφ᾽ἡμῶν, ὡς μηδέποτε
αὐτὸν παλινδρομῆσαι ἐπὶ τὸ ἐλεῆσαι
ἡμᾶς, ἀλλὰ ἀπὸ γενεᾶς εἰς γενεὰν
ἀποκόψας τὸ ἔλεος, καταλέιψει
ἠμᾶς, ἢ ἐπιλήσεται τοῦ οἰκτειρῆσαι
ὁ θεός; οἷον καταλιπὼν τοῖς πόνοις
καὶ ταῖς ἀλγηδόσι, μέλλει ἡμᾶς
ἐπιλανθάνεσθαι, καὶ μηδέποτε οἰκτείρειν;
¶ καὶ εἶπα νῦν ἠρξάμην. ὅτε
ταύτα πάντα ἐλογισάμην, εἶπα,
νῦν ἄρχομαι νοεῖν. ἐνόησε
καθ᾽αὑτόν. νοήσας δὲ, οὐκ ἔκρινεν
εἰπεῖν ὃ ἐνοήσεν. ἀλλ᾽ὥσπερ παῦλος
ἤκουσεν ἄρρητα ῥήματα, καὶ ἰωάννης
ἤκουσε τῶν ἑπτὰ βροτῶν, καὶ οὔτε
παῦλος ἔγραψε τὰ ἄρρητα ῥήματα,
οὕτε ἰωάννης τοὺς λόγους τῶν ἑπτὰ
βροτῶν, οὕτως καὶ οὗτος κλαύσας
καὶ ἐπαπορήσας, εἶδε τὸ μυστήριον, ἐπειδήπερ
κρεῖττον ἦν κρύπτειν αὐτὸ, καὶ
λέγειν πάντα τὸν νοήσαντα τοιαῦτα,
ὡς πολὺ τὸ πλῆθος τῆς χρηστότητος
σου κύριε, ἧς ἔκρυψας τοῖς φοβουμένοις
σε. ἐν χριστῷ ἰησοῦ ᾧ ἡ δόξα καὶ τὸ κράτος
εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων ἁμήν.
ὁμιλία σχεδιασθεῖσα. #END
May 3, 2013
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