This Christmas, I read through Gregory of Nazianzus’ 38th Oration, On the Theophany.  It is wondrously beautiful.  Gregory’s theology and language meld into one lovely, harmonious whole.  I hope reading through this oration becomes a Christmas tradition!  I’ve worked up a little poem to share here.  It is a verse rendition of the beginning of the oration.  I’m not a particularly good poet, but hopefully enough of Gregory comes through to make it enjoyable.  Fr. Aidan posted an English translation of the entire oration here, which you may also view at New Advent.

Theophany I

The Christ is born, rejoice! The Christ of Hea’en,
All ye, come meet the Christ and sing to God,
Thou Plenitude of Earth. Yet I must name
the both: let hea’ens and earth be glad
and make much cheer, Uranic Splendor came,
assumed our terran shame, and in flesh lay.
O man, rejoice in fear, in joy rejoice!
In fear for sin, in joy for hope of him:
The Christ-child borne of Virgin womb and shame!
O Eve’n Daughters, those of Adam’s race,
do now take up your virgin pur’ty, O
that ye be little Mary’s, full of Christ within.
Who shan’t praise him, the Chosen One who comes
of the beginning? Who shall not raise his voice
to him in whom our being finds finality? 
 
 

Here is the Greek.  For my fellow hellenists, much of the language in this oration is pretty simple.  It gets difficult and theologically complicated at points, but a good bit is not all that difficult.  My way of saying, this is recommended reading! The Greek text of the oration may be found here.

Χριστὸς γεννᾶται, δοξάσατε· Χριστὸς ἐξ οὐρανῶν, ἀπαντήσατε· Χριστὸς ἐπὶ γῆς, ὑψώθητε. ᾌσατε τῷ Κυρίῳ, πᾶσα ἡ γῆ· καὶ, ἵν ̓ ἀμφότερα συνελὼν εἴπω, Εὐφραινέσθωσαν οἱ οὐρανοὶ, καὶ ἀγαλλιάσθω ἡ γῆ, διὰ τὸν ἐπουράνιον, εἶτα ἐπίγειον. Χριστὸς ἐν σαρκὶ, τρόμῳ καὶ χαρᾷ ἀγαλλιᾶσθε· τρόμῳ, διὰ τὴν ἁμαρτίαν· χαρᾷ, διὰ τὴν ἐλπίδα. Χριστὸς ἐκ Παρθένου· γυναῖκες παρθενεύετε, ἵνα Χριστοῦ γένησθε μητέρες. Τίς οὐ προσκυνεῖ τὸν ἀπ᾽ ἀρχῆς; τίς οὐ δοξάζει τὸν τελευταῖον;

ἐν αὐτῷ,
ΜΑΘΠ 

The semester is over!  To celebrate, I share here a portion of a poem of Gregory’s that I recently translated.  Friends from church held a “Port and Poetry” party: we gathered together and shared poems around a warm fire.  It was a delightful evening!  For our contribution, I read the Greek aloud (iambic trimeter), and my wife read the English.  

The excerpt comes from PG 37.1186, from the Carmina de se ipso.  

English

We waste not our words on outward things,
however they should be; the inward life,
our undivided care, demands our explication.
In mind resides a salvific grace,
a grace, which spurs us on to hea’en,
yet not before the mind hath spake
to tell us, of its one sure desire.
What gain shall ever come from damned-up stream,
or from the sun’s beam, blocked by clouds?
Of such a sort, the sophic mind in silence,
like rose’s grace, concealed by scurr’lous seed.
But when the shattered wind-blown seed shows forth
its bloom, then ye shall see the rose revealed,
adorned on stage for all to love and see.
Had e’er that beauty been borne away,
then Vernal Spring, bereft of grace, would be.
No more we seek to speak, to think, as those
who deem Thrift King in matters of the Word.

Greek

Ἡμῖν δὲ, τοῦ μὲν ἐκτὸς οὐ πολὺς λόγος,
Ὅπως ποθ’ ἕξει· τοῦ δ’ ἔσω λίαν πολύς.
Ἐν νῷ γάρ ἐστιν ἥμιν ἡ σωτηρία,
Πλὴν ἐκλαλουμένῳ τε, καὶ δηλουμένῳ.
Πηγῆς τί κέρδος ἐστὶν ἐμπεφραγμένης;
Τί δ’ ἡλιακῆς ἀκτῖνος, ἣν κρύπτει νέφος;
Τοιοῦτόν ἐστι νοῦς σοφὸς σιγώμενος,
Οἷον ῥόδου τὸ κάλλος, ὃ κάλυξ σκέπει
Οὐκ εὐπρεπές· τὸ τερπνὸν ἐκφαίνει δ’, ὅταν
Αὔραις ῥαγεῖσα τὸν τόκον θεατρίσῃ.
Εἰ δ’ ἦν ἀεὶ τὸ κάλλος ἐσκεπασμένον,
Οὐδ’ ἄν τις ἦρος ἦν χάρις τοῦ τιμίου.
Οὐδὲν πλέον ζητοῦμεν, ὡς οὕτω λαλεῖν,
Ὡς οἳ δοκοῦσιν εὐτελεῖς τὰ τοῦ λόγου.


ἐν αὐτῷ,
ΜΑΘΠ 

 


I was rather struck by this line of Ismene in her conversation with her sister, Antigone:
θερμὴν ἐπὶ ψυχροῖσι καρδίαν ἔχεις. (“You have a warm heart for cold deeds”).  

Antigone has just told Ismene to let everyone in the city know that she’s going to disobey Kreon’s order and bury her brother.  Not a bad comeback on Ismene’s part!

ἐν αὐτῷ,
ΜΑΘΠ 

A friend of this blog, Seumas MacDonald, recently wrote a nice post on Jews and Gentiles in Galatians.  The thrust of the post is that in Galatians, “we” refers to Jews, and “you” refers gentile believers.  This leads to a more satisfactory reading of Galatians, and also has important implications: as gentiles, we were not saved from the curse of the law;  rather, we were already under judgment.  Christ redeems us from the judgment we were already in.  

This same distinction, I’d argue, is present in Ephesians.  Tracking exactly who “we” and “you” are in the letter is a bit tricky, and Paul only occasionally specifies.  Sometimes “we” seems to indicate Paul and his fellow apostles; sometimes it may be a general “we”; but the Jew/Gentile distinction is definitely present, and most strongly in chapter 2.

I’ve usually heard Eph 2 preached in a very general way: verses 1-3 describe life before salvation, and 4-10 life after.  This works to an extent, but it’s not where Paul starts.  Paul is not describing the individual, but instead Jews and Gentiles.  The Gentile nations were utterly dead in their sins, enslaved to the demonic “spirit of the air.” Even the Jews had gone astray.  But God, rich in mercy, sends Christ to those far (the Gentiles) and those near (the Jews).  The inclusion of the Gentiles into God’s people is utter grace; we did nothing to deserve, and weren’t seeking God at all.  Instead, while lost in our sin, Christ died for us.

Paul caries this through the rest of chapter 2 and into 3.  2:11-22 is all about God incorporating the gentiles into his covenant people, so that they become fellow citizens and heirs along with Israel.  3:6 expresses this along the lines that ancient peoples used to define themselves.  The gentiles were fellow heirs (that is, as if they had blood descent from the founder of the community), members of one body (members of one πόλις, one body politic), and fellow partakers in the promise of the Spirit through Christ (they share the same rites of worship).  Such a dramatic turn of events was hinted at in the OT, but its full revelation has only now come in Christ and his apostles.  

Salvation by Grace thus becomes not simply an abstraction, or something that happens only to individuals.  In origin it is a salvation-historical term: God’s gracious inclusion of the gentiles while we were utterly lost in sin.  He is indeed able to do “immeasurably more than all we ask or expect.” Thanks be to God!

ἐν αὐτῷ,
ΜΑΘΠ 

 

Blogosphere, pardon me while I get really pedantic for a short bit.  Some of you may be familiar with Phil Wickham: in fact I hope you are!  He’s one of a slew of quite talented worship singers.  My wife and I have both greatly enjoyed his music over the years.  We own most of his CDs, and I’m sure we’ll purchase his next one soon (due out 9/24).  My wife recently told me that the t shirt for his new album had Latin on it, so I asked her to read it to me.  It didn’t seem right, so I asked her to send me a photo of the shirt.  The shirt, which otherwise looks quite nice, reads Surgamus et ascensionem, which doesn’t make much sense in Latin.  The et, in particular, is out of place here.  Though it usually means “and”, in this case, we have to understand it adverbially.  “Let us raise even the ascension” or “Let us elevate even the ascension” is about the best I can come up with; “Let us make even the ascent” might work too.  Dropping the et would give us something like “let us go up to the ascension,” or “let us make the ascent,” which is not bad.  Surgamus ad ascensionem might work even better “let us rise to the ascension,” which has nice resonances with the Psalms of Ascent.  

So then, where did surgamus et ascensionem come from?  I suspect Google Translate was the culprit here. “Let us start the ascension” spits out surgamus et ascensionem.  The original phrase might have been different, but I’d be quite surprised if Google Translate wasn’t responsible for this error latinitatis.  If “let’s start the ascent” is the intended meaning (which seems like a good thing to put on a t shirt!), then I’d render it something like, incipiamus ascensionem, though I’m sure there are other good possibilities.  

Let this then serve as a warning!  Google Translate is liable bungle most any translation, not least something into an ancient language.  If you are seeking something for a fixed medium (tatoo, tee shirt, etc.), then you’d do well to ask someone who has studied the language in question.  My department actually has a process for this: http://greeklatin.cua.edu/opportunities/translationrequests.cfm.  If you’re looking for a short phrase in Latin, there’s plenty of graduate students like me who’d be happy to help.

ἐν αὐτῷ,
ΜΑΘΠ 

Intro

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.  


English


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. 


 

Greek

#190r

ἄκουε

 

#190v

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

 

#191r

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

 

#191v

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

σωτὴρ καὶ κύριος ἡμῶν ἀσυγκρίτως ὑπερέχει

πάντων τούτων.


Theology
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!
 
ἐν αὐτῷ,
ΜΑΘΠ 

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.  

English
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.   

Greek
κληρονομήσουσι
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.  

ἐν αὐτῷ,
ΜΑΘΠ