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 

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.  

ἐν αὐτῷ,
ΜΑΘΠ 

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 

Introduction

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.

English

“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.

Greek

¶ 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

#182r
θεοῦ ὡς ἄξιος τοῦ ὑπ᾽ ἐκεῖνον γενέσθαι
παραδέδοται. #END

ἐν αὐτῷ,
ΜΑΘΠ

Psalm

“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).

English 
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.  

Commentary

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!  

Greek

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.

#180v
διελογισάμην
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

#181r
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
καταλιπόντος, διαλογισμοὺς

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

#182r
ἐρευνῆσαι αὐτό.
#END 

ἐν αὐτῷ,
ΜΑΘΠ 

I have finished transcribing Origen’s first homily on Ps. 76 (77 Heb).  The end proved to be enormously interesting: he discusses, albeit elliptically, the nature and duration of God’s punishment.  I’m working now on translating the relevant portion, and I’ll post it here when it’s ready.  In the meantime, I’ll post a translation of the portion of the Psalm that Origen comments on, and let you “ponder and meditate” what Origen will do with it.  Note that the corresponding section in our English bibles (Ps. 77:5-9) will read a bit different because Origen was working from the Greek translation of the OT, the Septuagint.  The Greek itself could be understood in many ways, but I offer here a translation that I think coheres with Origen’s exegesis.  Enjoy!

English

“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).  

Greek

[6] διελογισάμην ἡμέρας ἀρχαίας
καὶ ἔτη αἰώνια ἐμνήσθην καὶ ἐμελέτησα·
[7] νυκτὸς μετὰ τῆς καρδίας μου ἠδολέσχουν,
καὶ ἐσκάλαυον* τὸ πνεῦμά μου.
[8] μὴ εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας ἀπώσεται κύριος
καὶ οὐ προσθήσει τοῦ εὐδοκῆσαι ἔτι;
[9] ἢ εἰς τέλος τὸ ἔλεος αὐτοῦ ἀποκόψει
ἀπὸ γενεᾶς εἰς γενεάν;
[10] ἢ ἐπιλήσεται τοῦ οἰκτιρῆσαι ὁ θεὸς
ἢ συνέξει ἐν τῇ ὀργῇ αὐτοῦ τοὺς οἰκτιρμοὺς αὐτοῦ; (Ps. 76:6-10 LXX).

*Rahlfs reads ἔσκαλλεν

ἐν αὐτῷ,
ΜΑΘΠ