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.  

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ΜΑΘΠ 

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Introduction

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.  

English

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.

Greek

¶ 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

ἐν αὐτῷ,
ΜΑΘΠ 

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,
ΜΑΘΠ

[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.

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.

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ΜΑΘΠ

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.

image

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ΜΑΘΠ

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! 

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ΜΑΘΠ

Here, Origen discusses rivers and clouds.  Rivers are the "streams of living waters" which flow from the believer (see John 7:38).  The Greek word ποταμός can be translated as either stream or river.  The clouds, continuing from the previous passage, represent the apostles and prophets:  they had these streams within them, which "gladdened the city of God." Origen also states that thunder is the voice of the angels who administer the clouds.

καὶ ἐπεὶ ποταμοί
τινες ἐκ κοιλίας αὐτῶν ἦσαν
ὕδατος ἐξιόντες εἰς ζωὴν αίώνιον,
ποταμοὺς ἔχοντες ἐλάλουν καὶ
εὔφραινον τὴν πόλιν τοῦ θεοῦ, "τοῦ
γὰρ ποταμοῦ τὰ ὀρμήματα, εὐφραίνουσι
τὴν πόλιν τοῦ θεοῦ." ἐπεὶ οὖν ἔφασκεν
ἐνταῦθα ὁ λόγος, "φωνὴν
ἔδωκαν αἱ νεφέλαι." οὐκ ἦν χαλεπὸν
τροπολογῆσαι. ἀκολούθως
δέ τις ζητήσει τοῖς ἀποδεδομένοις
εἰς τὸ "εἴδοσάν σε ὕδατα καὶ ἐφοβήθησαν."
καὶ τὰ ἑξῆς ἰδεῖν, μὴ
λανθάνειν τί καὶ περὶ τὰς νεφέλας.

τάχα οὖν ὥσπερ εἴσι  δυνάμεις ἐπὶ
θαλασσῶν, ἐπὶ ποταμῶν, ἐπὶ
γῆς, ἐπὶ φυτῶν, ἐπὶ ζῴων γενέσεως,
οὕτως εἰσὶ  δυνάμεις  καὶ ἐπὶ τῶν
νεφελῶν, ὡς τετάχθαι τινὰς καὶ
ἐπὶ τῶν βροντῶν, ἐπὶ τῶν ἀστραπῶν,
ἐπὶ τῶν ὑετῶν, καὶ τοῦ θεοῦ προστάσσοντος
καὶ ἐντελλομένου γίνεσθαι
ὑετοὺς ἐπὶ τήνδε τὴν πόλιν, καὶ
μὴ γενέσθαι ἐφ᾽ἑτέραν πόλιν, κατὰ
τὸ εἰρημένον ἐν τῷ προφήτῃ, ἢ
καὶ τὸ ῥητὸν, "καὶ βρέξω ἐπὶ πόλιν
μίαν. ἐπὶ δὲ πόλιν μίαν οὐ βρέξω"  (Am. 4:7)
"φωνὴν οὖν ἔδωκαν αἱ νεφέλαι." αἱ βρονταὶ,
οὐδὲν ἄλλο εἰσὶν, ἢ νεφελῶν φωναί,
ὡς τετήρηται ἐν τοῖς χειμῶσιν,
οὐδέποτε οὖν αἰθρίου ὄντος τοῦ
ἀέρος, ἤκουσέ τις βροντῆς, οὐδὲ
ἐώρακεν ἀστραπήν. "φωνὴν ἔδωκαν
αἱ νεφέλαι" οἰκονομούντων τῶν
πεπιστευμένων ταῦτα ἀγγέλων τὴν διάκρισιν.

And since streams of living water were proceeding from their hearts to eternal life (Jn. 7:37),  they would speak, as they had these streams, and would bring cheer to the city of God, "for the sudden force of the river, it makes glad the city of God."  And so the passage says here, "the clouds gave a voice."  It was not difficult to allegorize this. Following this, one will seek an account of the passage, "the waters saw you and were afraid," in order to see what follows, so that nothing may remain hidden about the clouds.

Perhaps then, just as there are powers over the seas, over the rivers, over the earth, and over the types of animals, so are there powers over the clouds. Thus, some would have places over the thunder, some over the lightning, and some over the rains.  So, by the order and command of God, rain comes upon this one city, but not upon another one, as it is said in the prophet, or at least at the literal level, "And I send rain on one city, but I will not send rain on another." (Am. 4:7) Thus, "the clouds give a voice."  Thunder, then, is nothing other than the voices of the clouds.  Because the voice is observed during storms, one has never heard thunder while the weather is clear, nor has one seen lightning.  "The clouds gave a voice."  This voice is the judgment of the administering angels who have been entrusted with these matters.

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