Papers presented at the Eighteenth International Conference on Patristic Studies held in Oxford 2019: Volume 8: Origen [1 ed.] 904294756X, 9789042947566, 9789042947573

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Papers presented at the Eighteenth International Conference on Patristic Studies held in Oxford 2019: Volume 8: Origen [1 ed.]
 904294756X, 9789042947566, 9789042947573

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Papers presented at the Eighteenth International Conference on Patristic Studies held in Oxford 2019 Edited by MARKUS VINZENT Volume 8:





STUDIA PATRISTICA Editor: Markus VINZENT, King’s College London, UK and Max Weber Centre, University of Erfurt, Germany

Board of Directors (2019): Carol HARRISON, Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Oxford, UK Mark EDWARDS, Professor of Early Christian Studies, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Oxford, UK Neil MCLYNN, University Lecturer in Later Roman History, Faculty of Classics, University of Oxford, UK Philip BOOTH, A.G. Leventis Associate Professor in Eastern Christianity, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Oxford, UK Sophie LUNN-ROCKLIFFE, Lecturer in Patristics, Faculty of Divinity, University of Cambridge, UK Morwenna LUDLOW, Professor, Theology and Religion, University of Exeter, UK Ioannis PAPADOGIANNAKIS, Senior Lecturer in Patristics, Department of Theology and Religious Studies, King’s College London, UK Markus VINZENT, Professor of the History of Theology, Department of Theology and Religious Studies, King’s College London, UK Josef LÖSSL, Professor of Historical Theology and Intellectual History, School of History, Archaeology and Religion, Cardiff University, UK Lewis AYRES, Professor of Catholic and Historical Theology, Department of Theology and Religion, Durham University, UK John BEHR, Regius Chair in Humanity, The School of Divinity, History, Philosophy & Art History, University of Aberdeen, UK Anthony DUPONT, Research Professor in Christian Antiquity, Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies, KU Leuven, Belgium Patricia CINER (as president of AIEP), Professor, Universidad de San Juan-Universidad Católica de Cuyo, Argentina Clayton JEFFORD (as president of NAPS), Professor of Scripture, Seminary and School of Theology, Saint Meinrad, IN, USA


Papers presented at the Eighteenth International Conference on Patristic Studies held in Oxford 2019 Edited by MARKUS VINZENT Volume 8:




© Peeters Publishers — Louvain — Belgium 2021 All rights reserved, including the right to translate or to reproduce this book or parts thereof in any form. D/2021/0602/145 ISBN: 978-90-429-4756-6 eISBN: 978-90-429-4757-3 A catalogue record for this book is available from the Library of Congress. Printed in Belgium by Peeters, Leuven

Table of Contents Constantin-Ionuț MIHAI The Pagan Gregory and Origen: Polemics and Apologetics in the School of Caesarea ..............................................................................


Augustine M. REISENAUER Polymorphism and Protomorphism of the Word of God in Origen’s Contra Celsum .....................................................................................


Harry LINES The Self-Sufficiency of Scripture for Figurative Exegesis in Origen’s Contra Celsum .....................................................................................


J. José ALVIAR Origen vs Origen: His Spiritual and Literal Interpretations of Biblical Journeys ...............................................................................................


Agnès ALIAU-MILHAUD How to Build Exegesis with the Particle καί: Some Examples by Origen ..................................................................................................


Róbert SOMOS Theologia naturalis and theologia revelata in Origen’s First Homily on Psalm 77 .........................................................................................


Tommaso INTERI Origen and Eusebius Interpreting Psalm 77 .......................................


Elizabeth Ann DIVELY LAURO Origen’s Relational Trinity: A Clarification from his Fourth Homily on Isaiah ..............................................................................................


Ryan HAECKER Triadic Circles: On the Trinity as the Structure of the System in Origen’s On First Principles ...............................................................


Miriam DECOCK Origen’s Mediation of the Logos in his Exegesis of the Old Testament Psalms and Prophets ........................................................................... 101 John C. SOLHEID Purity of Heart in Origen’s Psalm Homilies....................................... 111


Table of Contents

Daniel J. TOLAN Origen’s Refutation of the Divine Ideas in Περὶ Ἀρχῶν II 3.6 as the Emergence of ‘Neoplatonism’ ............................................................ 125 Jonathan H. YOUNG “Between Human and Animal Souls”: The Resurrection of the Rational Soul and Origen’s Transformation of Metensomatosis ....... 137 Shaily Shashikant PATEL Magic and Morality: Origen of Alexandria and the Construction of Christian ‘Miracle’ .............................................................................. 151


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see DAL Dictionnaire d’archéologie chrétienne et de liturgie, ed. F. Cabrol, H. Leclercq, Paris. Dictionnaire de la Bible, Paris. Dictionnaire de la Bible, Supplément, Paris. Dictionary of Christian Biography, Literature, Sects, and Doctrines, ed. W. Smith and H. Wace, 4 vols, London. Dictionnaire d’histoire et de géographie ecclésiastique, ed. A. Baudrillart, Paris. Didaskalia, Lisbon. Dumbarton Oaks Papers, Cambridge, Mass., subsequently Washington, D.C. Dumbarton Oaks Studies, Cambridge, Mass., subsequently Washington, D.C. Downside Review, Stratton on the Fosse, Bath. H.J. Denzinger and A. Schönmetzer, ed., Enchiridion Symbolorum, Barcelona/Freiburg i.B./Rome. Dictionnaire de Spiritualité, ed. M. Viller, S.J., and others, Paris. Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. A. Vacant, E. Mangenot, and E. Amann, Paris. Études augustiniennes, Paris. Enciclopedia Cattolica, Rome. Eastern Churches Quarterly, Ramsgate. Estudios eclesiasticos, Madrid. Encyclopedia of the Early Church, ed. A. Di Berardino, Cambridge. Evangelisch-Katholischer Kommentar zum Neuen Testament, Neukirchen. Enchiridion Fontium Historiae Ecclesiasticae Antiquae, ed. Ueding-Kirch, 6th ed., Barcelona. Échos d’Orient, Paris. Études Byzantines, Paris. Ephemerides Theologicae Lovanienses, Louvain. Exegetisches Wörterbuch zum NT, ed. H.R. Balz et al., Stuttgart. The Expository Times, Edinburgh. The Fathers of the Church, New York. Fragmente der griechischen Historiker, Berlin. Forschungen zur Kirchen- und Dogmengeschichte, Göttingen. Forschungen zur Religion und Literatur des Alten und Neuen Testaments, Göttingen. Festschrift. Freiburger theologische Studien, Freiburg i.B. Frankfurter theologische Studien, Frankfurt a.M. Freiburger Zeitschrift für Theologie und Philosophie, Freiburg/Switzerland. Die griechischen christlichen Schriftsteller, Leipzig/Berlin. Geschichtsschreiber der deutschen Vorzeit, Stuttgart. Grande Lessico del Nuovo Testamento, Genoa. Gregorii Nysseni Opera, Leiden. Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies, Cambridge, Mass.



Geschichte in Wissenschaft und Unterricht, Offenburg. Handbuch zum Neuen Testament. Tübingen. Harvard Dissertations in Religion, Missoula. Historisches Jahrbuch der Görresgesellschaft, successively Munich, Cologne and Munich/Freiburg i.B. Handbuch der Kirchengeschichte, Tübingen. Handbuch zum Neuen Testament, Tübingen. Handbuch der Orientalistik, Leiden. Harvard Studies in Classical Philology, Cambridge, Mass. Harvard Theological Review, Cambridge, Mass. Harvard Theological Studies, Cambridge, Mass. Historische Zeitschrift, Munich/Berlin. The International Critical Commentary of the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, Edinburgh. Inscriptiones Latinae Christianae Veteres, ed. E. Diehl, Berlin. Inscriptiones Latinae Selectae, ed. H. Dessau, Berlin. Jahrbuch für Antike und Christentum, Münster. Journal of Biblical Literature, Philadelphia, Pa., then various places. Jahrbuch des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts, Berlin. Journal of Early Christian Studies, Baltimore. The Journal of Ecclesiastical History, London. Journal of Jewish Studies, London. Jahrbuch für Liturgik und Hymnologie, Kassel. Jahrbücher für protestantische Theologie, Leipzig/Freiburg i.B. Jewish Quarterly Review, Philadelphia. Journal of Roman Studies, London. Journal for the Study of Judaism in the Persian, Hellenistic and Roman Period, Leiden. Journal of the Society of Oriental Research, Chicago. Journal of Theological Studies, Oxford. Kommentar zu den apostolischen Vätern, Göttingen. Kerk en Theologie, ’s Gravenhage. Kirchliches Jahrbuch für die evangelische Kirche in Deutschland, Gütersloh. The Loeb Classical Library, London/Cambridge, Mass. A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, ed. P. Schaff and H. Wace, Buffalo/New York. Library of Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church, Oxford. H.G. Liddell and R. Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, new (9th) edn H.S. Jones, Oxford. Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, Freiburg i.B. Septuagint. Moyen-Âge, Brussels. Monumenta Asiae Minoris Antiqua, London. J.D. Mansi, Sacrorum conciliorum nova et amplissima collectio, Florence, 1759-1798. Reprint and continuation: Paris/Leipzig, 1901-1927. Münsterische Beiträge zur Theologie, Münster.




Miscelanea Comillas, Comillas/Santander. Monumenta germaniae historica. Hanover/Berlin. Mediaevalia Lovaniensia, Louvain. See PG. Mélanges de science religieuse, Lille. Münchener theologische Zeitschrift, Munich. Le Muséon, Louvain. Nestle-Aland, Novum Testamentum Graece, 28th edition, Stuttgart. Nachrichten der Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen. Nag Hammadi (and Manichaean) Studies, Leiden. New International Version. New King James Version. Novum Testamentum, Leiden. See LNPF. New Revised Standard Version. Nouvelle Revue Théologique, Tournai/Louvain/Paris. Neutestamentliche Abhandlungen, Münster. Novum Testamentum Supplements, Leiden. New Testament Studies, Cambridge/Washington. New Testament Tools, Studies and Documents, Leiden/Boston. Orbis biblicus et orientalis, Freiburg, Switz., then Louvain. Orientalia Christiana Analecta, Rome. Orientalia Christiana Periodica, Rome. Oxford Early Christian Studies, Oxford. Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta, Louvain. Orientalia Lovaniensia Periodica, Louvain. Orientalia. Commentarii editi a Pontificio Instituto Biblico, Rome. Oriens Christianus, Leipzig, then Wiesbaden. L’Orient Syrien, Paris. Migne, Patrologia, series graeca. A Patristic Greek Lexicon, ed. G.L. Lampe, Oxford. Migne, Patrologia, series latina. The Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire, ed. A.H.M. Jones et al., Cambridge. Migne, Patrologia, series latina. Supplementum ed. A. Hamman. Patrologia Orientalis, Paris. Paulys Realenzyklopädie der classischen Alterthumswissenschaft, Stuttgart. Patrologia Syriaca, Paris. Papyrologische Texte und Abhandlungen, Bonn. Princeton Theological Review, Princeton. Patristische Texte und Studien, Berlin. Paulys Realencyclopädie der classischen Altertumswissenschaft, ed. G. Wissowa, Stuttgart. Questions liturgiques et paroissiales, Louvain. Questions liturgiques, Louvain. Rivista di Archeologia Cristiana, Rome. Reallexikon für Antike und Christentum, Stuttgart.

XII RAM RAug RBen RB(ibl) RE


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The Pagan Gregory and Origen: Polemics and Apologetics in the School of Caesarea Constantin-Ionuț MIHAI, Alexandru Ioan Cuza University, Iași, Romania

ABSTRACT According to his own testimony, the author of the Oratio Panegyrica in Origenem – traditionally identified with Gregory Thaumaturgus – was born to a wealthy pagan family and received an education in rhetoric, Latin language, and Roman law. Around 233 AD, he joined Origen’s school in Caesarea, where he spent five to eight years studying Greek philosophy and Christian theology. In this article, I pursue two aims. The first one is to examine what the young Gregory knew of Christianity when he joined Origen’s school. I will argue that he shared some of the prejudices of his pagan contemporaries concerning the Christian faith and, in his discussions with Origen, made frequent appeal to arguments commonly used in pagan polemics against Christianity. Like other pagan intellectuals of his time, Gregory-the-student criticized the simple style of the Christian scriptures and rejected them as hardly credible or even despicable. The second aim is to emphasize the apologetic tendencies of the school of Caesarea. To reach this aim, I will show how Origen’s activity did not have only didactic, but also apologetic purposes. There is evidence that Origen had to face and respond to criticism against Christianity raised by the young Gregory and, probably, by other pagan intellectuals of his time. A thorough analysis of certain passages from the Oratio, where Gregory mentions the apologetic arguments and strategies Origen made use of, speaks in favor of this idea. Taking this into account, the Oratio itself can be read as a piece of third-century apologetic literature.

Both the manuscript tradition and the early Christian historiography assign the Oratio Panegyrica in Origenem to Gregory Thaumaturgus, a student of Origen in Caesarea of Palestine and future bishop of Neocaesarea in Pontus. The Oratio was delivered around 238 AD, when the young Gregory left Origen’s school to return to his native land.1 The text is of great importance for the study of early Christianity as it contains not only the most extensive description 1 Acknowledgment: This article was funded by the Romanian Ministry of Research and Innovation within Program 1 – Development of the National RD System, Subprogram 1.2 – Institutional Performance – RDI excellence funding projects, Contract no. 34PFE/19.10.2018. See Eusebius, HE VI 30; Jerome, Vir. ill. 65. Pierre Nautin, Origène: sa vie et son œuvre, Christianisme antique 1 (Paris, 1977), contested the ascription of the Oratio to Gregory Thaumaturgus, but his arguments have found little support among scholars. For an accurate and helpful

Studia Patristica CXI, 1-9. © Peeters Publishers, 2021.



of Origen’s teaching activity, but also substantial information about Gregory’s youth. In an interesting and valuable autobiographical account, Gregory says that he was born to a wealthy family and was brought up as a pagan, following the ‘misguided customs’ of his native land (πάτρια ἔθη τὰ πεπλανημένα, § 48).2 According to his testimony, before traveling to Caesarea and entering Origen’s school, he received an education in grammar, rhetoric, Latin language, and Roman law (§§ 56-60). Gregory also mentions that at the age of fourteen he lost his father, a man who lived in fear of the old gods (δεισιδαίμονος, § 48). Of particular interest is Gregory’s report that the death of his father started him ‘on the road to knowing the truth’ (ἀρχὴ τῆς τοῦ ἀληθοῦς ἐπιγνώσεως ἦν, § 49), for, he says, ‘at that point for the first time I was turned over to the saving and true Word’ (ἐπὶ τὸν σωτήριον καὶ ἀληθῆ μετετέθην λόγον, § 50). From that point on, he adds, ‘this holy Word immediately began to dwell with me’ (ἐξ ἐκείνου πως ἐπιδημεῖν μέν μοι ὁ ἱερὸς ὅδε λόγος ἤρξατο εὐθύς, ibid.), even if all this happened ‘more under a sort of compulsion’ than of his own accord (κατηναγκασμένος μᾶλλον ἤπερ ἑκών, ibid.). Upon closer examination, Gregory’s account of his first encounter with the ‘holy Logos’ is elusive and ambiguous. The author does not tell us how he encountered the Logos, or what exactly this ‘encounter’ amounted to. Moreover, in the same autobiographical section, Gregory mentions that his soul did not yet belong to the divine and pure Word (§ 53), and later in the Oratio he even says that it was Origen who first prepared him to accept the words of truth (παρεσκευάσατο εἰς παραδοχὴν τῶν τῆς ἀληθείας λόγων, § 98). The ambiguity of Gregory’s account can also be blamed on the polysemy of the Greek term λόγος, which, at least in some of the passages under discussion here, may refer to human reason. As he notes, the encounter with the ‘holy Logos’ happened ‘at the very point when the reason common to all comes to maturity’ (οἷα δὴ ἄρτι πληρουμένου τοῦ κοινοῦ πάντων ἀνθρώπων λόγου, § 50), so that ‘both the human and the divine reason began in me at the same time (ὁμοῦ ὅ τε ἀνθρώπινος καὶ ὁ θεῖος ἄρξηται ἐν ἐμοὶ λόγος), the latter coming to my aid by that power which I cannot describe but which is proper to it, the former receiving its aid’ (§ 53). As Gregory concludes, all this happened so that the holy Word would not be transmitted in vain ‘to a soul not yet reasonable, but to one which had become reasonable already’ (§§ 52-3). Gregory’s description of his youthful attainment of the logos, human and divine, has been the subject of much debate in the scholarly literature. It is still overview of this issue, see Francesco Celia, ‘Gregory of Neocaesarea: A Re-examination of the Biographical Issue’, Adamantius 22 (2016), 171-93. 2 All references to Gregory’s text follow Henri Crouzel’s edition, Grégoire le Thaumaturge: Remerciement à Origène suivi de la Lettre d’Origène à Grégoire, SC 148 (Paris, 1969), while the translated passages are taken from Michael Slusser, St. Gregory Thaumaturgus: Life and Works, FC 98 (Washington, 1998).

The Pagan Gregory and Origen


a matter of controversy whether the young Gregory was already committed to the Christian faith when he first met Origen, or whether he was a pagan without any real interest in the Christian religion and theology. As early as 1928, Aimé Puech claimed, unfortunately without any supporting evidence, that Gregory’s mother was a Christian, and maintained that the author converted to Christianity soon after his father’s death.3 As expected, Puech’s opinion has found little support among scholars. In his 1968 article, ‘Das Anliegen der Schule des Origenes zu Cäsarea’, Adolf Knauber argued that the young Gregory belonged to the educated pagan elite of the Roman Empire, and was unbaptized when he entered, as well as when he left, Origen’s school.4 Knauber’s view has been partially criticized by Crouzel, who maintained that ‘Gregory’s first contact with Christianity occurred at the age of fourteen’, though he thought it possible that Gregory might not have been baptized when he travelled to Caesarea.5 A more radical view has been expressed by Laurent Pernot, who claimed that ‘l’homme Grégoire s’était converti au christianisme à l’âge de quatorze ans’,6 while Eugenio Marotta preferred to speak of an ‘interior conversion’ of the young Gregory.7 More cautiously, Michael Slusser has argued that the paragraphs 49-53 of the Oratio ‘could refer either to the attainment of full use of reason or to some connection with Christianity’,8 and a similar point has been made, more recently, by David Satran, who thinks that in the passages under discussion ‘the reception of logos is to be understood as a sign of intellectual maturity, the biological attainment of the process of reason, or as a deeper indication of an internal conversion or an actual entry into the Christian faith through baptism’.9 To conclude, in his recent monograph dedicated to Gregory’s life and works, Franceso Celia argues that in paragraphs 49-53 ‘Gregory is reinterpreting his past on the basis of his later conversion, which was at the 3 Aimé Puech, Histoire de la littérature grecque chrétienne, depuis les origines jusqu’à la fin du IVe siècle, vol. 2 (Paris, 1928), 490. 4 Adolf Knauber, ‘Das Anliegen der Schule des Origenes zu Cäsarea’, MThZ 19 (1968), 182-203. A similar point has been made by Clementina Mazzucco, ‘La componente autobiografica nel Discorso di ringraziamento attribuito a Gregorio il Taumaturgo’, in Benedetto Clausi and Vincenza Milano (eds), Il giusto che fiorisce come palma. Gregorio il Taumaturgo fra storia e agiografia, Studia Ephemeridis Augustinianum 104 (Roma, 2007), 101-38, 124. 5 Henri Crouzel, Origen: The Life and Thought of the First Great Theologian, translated by S.S. Worrall (San Francisco, 1989), 25. See also Stephen Mitchell, ‘The Life and Lives of Gregory Thaumaturgus’, in Jan Willem Drijvers and John W. Watt (eds), Portraits of Spiritual Authority: Religious Power in Early Christianity, Byzantium and the Christian Orient (Leiden, Boston, Köln, 1999), 99-138, 101. 6 Laurent Pernot, La rhétorique de l’éloge dans le monde gréco-romain, vol. 2 (Paris, 1993), 789. 7 Eugenio Marotta, Gregorio il Taumaturgo: Discorso a Origene. Una pagina di pedagogia cristiana, Collana di Testi Patristici 40 (Roma, 1983), 59, n. 32: ‘La conversione di Gregorio fu interiore’. 8 M. Slusser, St. Gregory Thaumaturgus: Life and Works (1998), 99, n. 20. 9 David Satran, In the Image of Origen: Eros, Virtue, and Constraint in the Early Christian Academy, Transformation of the Classical Heritage 58 (Oakland, 2018), 182, n. 4.



same time philosophical and religious, in the light of Origen’s teachings’. 10 According to Celia, ‘Gregory’s words show that he went through the catechumenate at a later stage, but not that he was baptized at the age of fourteen’.11 As the above discussion already suggests, the long-standing question regarding Gregory’s conversion to Christianity is far from being settled. Broadly speaking, scholars divide into two main groups: those who presume an early conversion of Gregory to Christianity (when he was about fourteen), and those who argue that the conversion took place much later, when Gregory joined Origen’s school. In what follows, I do not purport to offer any definite answer to this question, but simply to readdress it in the light of the information provided by the author himself in his address to Origen. Despite its great importance and significance for reconstructing the portrait of the young Gregory, the autobiographical account found in the Oratio has not yet received its due attention. Several passages describing Gregory’s approach to the Christian faith have been largely neglected or only occasionally discussed in the scholarly literature so far. Taking some further steps in this direction, I will try to show how a more thorough reading of the Oratio can illuminate Gregory’s attitude towards Christians and the Christian religion at the time when he first met Origen. Such an approach not only provides a deeper insight into Gregory’s mind and personality, but also sheds new light on some particular aspects of Origen’s school in Caesarea. As I will argue below, Origen’s teaching activity had not only didactic, but also apologetic aims. Although I do not totally reject the possibility that Gregory might have had some knowledge of Christianity before his encounter with Origen, I think that the description provided in paragraphs 49-53 of the Oratio, which I referred to above, can hardly be taken as a testimony of an early conversion to Christianity, as Puech, Pernot, and other scholars have thought. As we have seen, Gregory’s account is rather ambiguous and elusive, providing no concrete information on how he encountered the ‘holy’ and ‘divine’ Logos. There is little evidence to support the claim that Gregory was already a Christian when he joined Origen’s school. On the contrary, there is much evidence that, like many other pagan intellectuals of his time, he manifested an attitude of contempt and 10 Francesco Celia, Preaching the Gospel to the Hellenes: The Life and Works of Gregory the Wonderworker, PhD Thesis (Vrije Universiteit, 2017), 35. The thesis was recently published with the same title by Peeters, Late Antique History and Religion 20 (Leuven, 2019). 11 Ibid. A similar point has been made by Marco Rizzi, Gregorio il Taumaturgo (?), Encomio di Origene, Letture Cristiane del Primo Millennio 33 (Milano, 2002), 129, n. 21. Rizzi, ibid. 81-5, deems the ascription of the Oratio to Gregory Thaumaturgus a still open question and argues that, due to its literary and rhetorical specificities, the text is not entirely reliable for extracting biographical elements concerning Gregory’s youth. Commenting on the same autobiographical sections found in the Oratio, Winrich Löhr, ‘Christianity as Philosophy: Problems and Perspectives of an Ancient Intellectual Project’, VC 64 (2010), 160-88, 162, notes that Gregory was ‘a young man still uncertain of his future (…), not much different from other young men of the educated elite who had the time and the money to add the study of philosophy to their education in rhetoric’.

The Pagan Gregory and Origen


ridicule towards the Christian religion and its doctrines, as we shall see in what follows. A couple of passages in the Oratio can help us grasp more clearly what the young Gregory thought of Christianity at the time when he traveled to Caesarea. According to his testimony, he was captivated by the philosophical opinions which were attractive and impressive at first sight (ἔνδοξα αὐτόθεν καὶ σεμνοειδῆ), and which had entered his ears as true (ὡς ἀληθῆ), under the guise of elegant words (ὑπὸ εὐσχήμοσι ταῖς φωναῖς, § 103). Conversely, he was quite disappointed by the simple style of the Jewish and Christian writings and rejected them as hardly credible or even despicable. As he notes, since the Christian doctrines were not expressed in a language that made them appear attractive, they seemed ‘against reason and most unbelievable’ (παράδοξα καὶ πάντων ἀπιστότατα, § 104). Writing with hindsight, he admits that they were ‘sound and trustworthy’, with nothing boastful in them, but, at the time he encountered Origen, he rejected these doctrines as false (ὡς ψευδῆ) and undeservedly despised them’ (ὑβρισθέντα ἀναξίως, § 104). The passages just quoted provide a portrait of Gregory-the-student as opponent and critic of Christianity. There is evidence in the Oratio that Gregory’s experience in the school of Caesarea included a period of resistance to, and criticism against, Origen’s teaching. As he recounts, he often contradicted (ἀντιλεγόντων πολλάκις, 102) what his teacher said, even if it was true, doubting and mocking the Christian scriptures for their plain and simple language. It is important to note here that Gregory’s attitude is in many respects similar to that of other pagan intellectuals of his time. Some decades earlier, Celsus thought of the Jewish and Christian scriptures as being ‘utterly crude and illiterate’ (ἁπλούστατα καὶ ἰδιωτικά),12 and argued that the doctrines taught by Jewish and Christian writers have been better expressed among the Greeks.13 It was only through Origen’s teaching that Gregory (and, probably, other students in the school of Caesarea) came to a proper understanding of the Christian scriptures. According to Gregory’s account, Origen showed his students how ridiculously easily they had been misled and how rashly they appealed to illegitimate arguments (§ 103). He helped them understand that most of the philosophical doctrines, while attractive and impressive at first sight, were, in fact, unsound and unworthy of credence (σαθρὰ καὶ οὐκ ἀξιόπιστα), ‘poor counterfeits of the truth’ (§ 103). It was Origen who proved these doctrines to be rotten and deceptive, stressing instead the value and reliability of the Christian ones. 12 Origen, CC IV 87; Marcel Borret (ed.), Origène: Contre Celse, 5 vol. (Paris, 1967-1976). See ibid. III 68: ‘the doctrines which Celsus calls vulgar (ἰδιωτικοὶ λόγοι)’; III 73: ‘After this, he again pours abuse on the man who teaches Christian doctrine and asserts of him that he expounds ludicrous opinions (καταγέλαστα)’. Translations are taken from Henry Chadwick, Origen: Contra Celsum (London, New York, 1980). 13 Ibid. VI 1. To Celsus, the divine scriptures are nothing more than ‘utter trash’ (λῆρος, CC VI 50).



This way, Gregory notes, ‘to those who worked them out and understood exactly what they meant, what previously had been deemed worthless and disreputable were understood to be the truest things of all and simply irresistible’.14 The passages under discussion here are important as they not only allow us to recover Gregory’s initial attitude towards Christianity, but also offer a portrait of Origen as a Christian teacher and apologist. Faced with Gregory’s reluctance and criticism against Christianity, Origen had to defend the Christian scriptures and counter the arguments of his opponent. It is now time to ask whether, or to what extent, the discussion in the Oratio conveys Origen’s own view on the language and style of the Christian doctrines, in relation with Greek philosophical texts. Does the polemical and apologetic situation described in the Oratio reflect Origen’s approach to this topic as documented in his surviving works? If we take a close look, we see that Gregory’s report on Origen’s apologetic arguments and strategies is in line with what we find in Origen’s writings, especially in his apologetic treatise Contra Celsum, written about ten years later than the Oratio. In several passages of his work, Origen deals with the same topic, ‘in reply to the criticism of Celsus and others that the scriptures have a mean style, which appears to be put in the shade by the brilliance of a literary composition’.15 Already in the Preface of his book, Origen announces that he will engage himself in a contest against the impressive philosophical doctrines ‘which are convincing to most people, but which present as truth what is untrue’.16 In a way which reminds us of the situation described in Gregory’s Oratio, Origen condemns the ‘greatness apparent in the theories of the wisdom of the world’ (Praef. 5), and argues that Moses was far superior to the wise poets and philosophers of the Greeks (ibid. I 18). However, it was not only in the Contra Celsum that Origen dealt with this issue, but also in his De principiis, written when he was still in Alexandria,17 as well as in his Homilies on Joshua and Homilies on Ezekiel, which may have been given at a time not too long after Gregory’s farewell speech. In several passages of these homilies, Origen denounces the ‘elegance of words’ and the

14 Joseph W. Trigg, ‘God’s Marvelous Oikonomia: Reflections of Origen’s Understanding of Divine and Human Pedagogy in the Address Ascribed to Gregory Thaumaturgus’, JECS 9 (2001), 27-52, 46, discusses the same passage, but he understands it in a totally different way, as it would describe a method by which Origen tried to help his students develop their own critical sense. According to Trigg, Origen was ‘deliberately concealing his opinions’ and ‘would often present doctrines he considered sound in an offhand way and those he considered specious with seriousness, only revealing his actual opinion after his students had grappled with them’. 15 CC VI, 2 (Chadwick’s translation; see above, n. 12). See also ibid. I 62; III 39; VII 59. 16 Ibid., Praef. 5. 17 De princ. IV 1, 7: ‘the treasure of divine wisdom is hidden in the paltry and inelegant vessels of words’; John Behr (ed. and trans.), Origen: On First Principles, vol. 2, Oxford Early Christian Texts (Oxford, 2017), 479.

The Pagan Gregory and Origen


‘beauty of the discourses of the philosophers’, warning against ‘the splendor of the performance’ which may ‘beguile the hearer and seize him’.18 In light of the discussion above, it can be argued that Gregory’s description of Origen’s apologetic strategies reflects, at least partially, Origen’s own apologetic approach as documented in his surviving works. Forced to respond to the critiques mounted against Christianity by young educated pagans like Gregory, who regarded the Christian doctrines as unbelievable and worthy of contempt, Origen presumably made use of apologetic arguments similar to those attested in his works. It is thus important to note that the Oratio provides not only a description of Origen’s teaching activity in the school of Caesarea, but also an insight into the apologetic arguments and strategies Origen used to defend Christianity against the objections raised by some of his students. Before concluding this short analysis, it would be fruitful to investigate a little further the significance of Gregory’s description of his youthful prejudices against the Christian scriptures and doctrines. What purpose was this autobiographical account intended to serve? Without denying the legitimacy of other possible answers, I think that the apologetic situation described in the Oratio can be better understood if we place it in the context of the anti-Christian polemic of the second and early third century. By discussing the literary value of the Christian scriptures, Gregory intended to respond, at least indirectly, to one of the main objections made against Christians by their pagan opponents. From this perspective, it is not only Origen who appears as a Christian apologist, but also Gregory himself seems to have assumed, at the time he wrote and delivered the Oratio, certain apologetic aims. It seems likely that Gregory directly tackled the issue of the simple style of the Christian scriptures in order to respond to the accusations and mockeries made by some pagan intellectuals of his time. It is thus important to note how the situation described by Gregory connects the Oratio with some apologetic texts from the second and early third century. Apart from Origen’s Contra Celsum, which I referred to above, thematic and 18 HIos VII, 7; Cynthia White (ed.), Origen: Homilies on Joshua, translated by Barbara J. Bruce, FC 105 (Washington, 2002), 82-3: ‘There is much elegance in words and much beauty in the discourses of philosophers and rhetoricians, who are all of the city of Jericho, that is, people of this word. If, therefore, you should find among the philosophers perverse doctrines beautified by the assertions of a splendid discourse, this is the “tongue of gold”. But beware that the splendor of the performance does not beguile you, that the beauty of the golden discourse not seize you. Remember that Jesus commanded all the gold found in Jericho to be anathema’. HEz III, 3; Thomas P. Scheck (ed.), Origen: Homilies 1-14 on Ezekiel, ACW 62 (New York, 2010), 57: ‘Effeminate indeed are the souls and wills of their teachers, who are ever putting together finesounding and melodious speeches. Indeed, let me be perfectly honest: There is nothing manly, nothing strong, nothing worthy of God, in the men who preach according to the pleasures and wishes of their hearers’. For more references, see Adele Monaci Castagno, Origene predicatore e il suo pubblico (Milano, 1987), 76, notes 50 and 51. See also Henri Crouzel, Origène et la philosophie (Aubier, 1962), 125-33.



linguistic parallels can be found, for instance, in Theophilus of Antioch, who, in the last decades of the second century, complained that the pagan Autolycus regarded ‘the word of truth as silly’ (λῆρον ἡγῇ τυγχάνειν τὸν λόγον τῆς ἀληθείας).19 Like Gregory later, Theophilus invited his opponent to see the nonsense of the pagan writings (ἐπιγνῷς δὲ τῶν λοιπῶν συνταξάντων τὴν φλυαρίαν) by confronting them to the Jewish and Christian ones. As the Greek apologist states, ‘what has been said by philosophers, historians, and poets is thought to be trustworthy because of its embellished style, but what they say is proved foolish and pointless by the abundance of their nonsense and the absence of even the slightest measure of the truth in their writings’.20 Much like Theophilus and Origen, Gregory not only argued for the truth of the Christian doctrines, but also denounced the arrogance and the sophistry of the Greek philosophers. By dealing with this topic, Gregory simultaneously tried to reject criticism and promote a positive assessment of the Christian scriptures, using a rhetorical strategy attested in the works of Christian apologetic literature. This can help us understand better the cultural context in which Gregory delivered his speech, as well as the literary background he had in mind when he wrote it. As we have seen, one of Gregory’s aims was to provide a brief but instructive answer to the critiques mounted by his pagan neighbors, and it is not unreasonable to suppose that the Oratio was intended to function as a sort of indirect apology of Christianity.21 I hope that the discussion above has provided some small basis for a new, more accurate, appraisal of what the young Gregory knew and thought of Christianity at the time he traveled to Caesarea. As I have argued, the Oratio gives little evidence that Gregory was already committed to the Christian faith when he joined Origen’s school.22 On the contrary, we found evidence that Gregory 19 Autol. III 1; Robert M. Grant (ed.), Theophilus of Antioch: Ad Autolycum, Oxford Early Christian Texts (Oxford, 1970). 20 Ibid. II 12. For the ordinary language of the Jewish and Christian scriptures, see also Clement of Alexandria, Strom. I 10, 48, 5; Jerome, Ep. 20, 30: Si quando in memet reversus prophetam legere coepissem, sermo horrebat incultus. The same topic is discussed by Lactantius, Inst. V 1, 15-6; Augustine, Conf. III 5, 9; Ps. Justin, Coh. Gr. 35, 1; Tatian, Oratio 29, 2. See also Minucius Felix, Octavius 38, 6: non eloquimur magna sed vivimus. 21 See the points made by M. Rizzi, Gregorio il Taumaturgo (?), Encomio di Origene (2002), 33-5. Id., ‘Il significato politico dell’Oratio panegyrica in Origenem’, in Mario Girardi and Marcello Marin (eds), Origene e l’alessandrinismo cappadoce (III-IV secolo). Atti del V Convegno del Gruppo Italiano di Ricerca su Origene e la Tradizione Alessandrina: Bari, 20-22 settembre 2000, Quaderni di Vetera Christianorum 28 (Bari, 2002), 49-72. 22 This view can also be supported by the information provided by Eusebius, HE VI 30, who reports that the young Gregory (who, at that time, would have been called Theodore) and his brother Athenodore ‘were strongly enamoured of Greek and Roman studies’. Eusebius also mentions that it was Origen who ‘instilled into them a passion for philosophy and urged them to exchange their former love for the study of divine truth’ (Eusebius, The Ecclesiastical History, vol. 2, with an English translation by J.E.L. Oulton, Loeb Classical Library [London, 1942], 81). From Eusebius’ report, it appears, once more, that neither was the young Gregory a Christian

The Pagan Gregory and Origen


shared some of the widely spread prejudices against Christians, regarding with distrust and even contempt their scriptures and doctrines. Closely related to this, it is important to note that Origen’s school in Caesarea had strong apologetic tendencies. As I have tried to argue, Origen’s relationship with students like Gregory did not entail only a didactic, but also a polemical, apologetic and, I would add, protreptic approach.23 The Oratio provides sufficient evidence that Origen had to face and respond to the criticism raised against the Christian religion by the young Gregory and, probably, by other pagan intellectuals of his time. More important, however, is to note that, by emphasizing Origen’s apologetic arguments and strategies, Gregory made manifest the intent to endow his text with certain apologetic purposes. In light of this, the Address itself can be read as a piece of third-century apologetic literature.

convert when he traveled to Caesarea, nor did his encounter with Origen lead him to a sudden conversion to Christianity. His vacillation and desire to slip away when Origen started his teachings (see Oratio § 78) can be another sign of his unacquaintance with, and reluctance against, Christianity. 23 For more on this, see Olga Alieva, ‘Origen’s Protreptics to Philosophy: Testimony of Gregory Thaumaturgus in the Oratio Panegyrica VI’, in Anders-Christian Jacobsen (ed.), Origeniana Undecima: Origen and Origenism in the History of Western Thought (Leuven, 2016), 681-9.

Polymorphism and Protomorphism of the Word of God in Origen’s Contra Celsum Augustine M. REISENAUER, O.P., University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN, USA

ABSTRACT In his Contra Celsum, Origen intends his response to the pagan philosopher Celsus’ criticisms of Christianity to serve the particular benefit of those whose faith in Christ is weak or even nonexistent. In providing an apologetic response for the benefit of such persons, Origen takes their spiritual and intellectual competencies into sincere consideration. Origen thus imitates and participates in the loving consideration that God’s Word displays in sharing his divinity with all of humanity, and in accommodating himself to the diverse spiritual and intellectual capabilities of various human persons. Such loving consideration for everyone, including the least capable, not only by Christ, but also by Christians, lends credibility to Christianity as the true doctrine. Origen appreciates that God’s Word humbles himself, both in his incarnation in Jesus and in his inscription in Scripture, and presents himself in a multiplicity of forms to differently abled humans. This polymorphism of the incarnate and inscribed Word appears on three distinct, but inseparable, levels of his divinity, his humanity, and his textuality. The Word appears in many forms so that each human person can experience, to an appropriate degree, the primary form of the loving God, and gradually be purified, strengthened, and drawn up in love to the ultimate encounter of contemplating God in his most sublime form. This paper explores Origen’s understanding of these two features of the polymorphism and protomorphism of the Word, and their structural relationship in the process of encountering, interpreting, and uniting with God’s Word.

Introductory Overtures In his Contra Celsum (Cels.)1 (ca. 244-249 AD),2 Origen (ca. 185-254 AD), 1 Greek texts cited in this article are from Origenes, Contra Celsum = Gegen Celsus, ed. Michael Fiedrowicz, trans. Claudia Barthold, FC 50/1-5 (Freiburg im Breisgau, 2011-2012), with indications of book and chapter(s) of Cels., followed in parentheses by FC volume, page(s), and line(s). English translations, with some slight adjustments, are from Origen, Contra Celsum, trans. Henry Chadwick (1953; repr., Cambridge, 1980). These Greek texts and English translations are provided in consultation with Origène, Contre Celse, vols. 1-5, ed. Marcel Borret, SC 132, 136, 147, 150, 227 (Paris, 1967-1976). For a survey of recent studies on Cels., see Alain Le Boulluec, ‘Vingt ans de recherches sur le Contre Celse: état des lieux’, in Lorenzo Perrone (ed.), Discorsi di verità: Paganesimo, guidaismo e cristianesimo a confronto nel Contro Celso di Origene, SEAug 61 (Rome, 1998), 9-28. 2 For approximate dates of Cels., see M. Borret, critical introduction to Contre Celse, vol. 1, SC 132 (1967), 15-21; Pierre Nautin, Origène: Sa vie et son œuvre, CAM 1 (Paris, 1977),

Studia Patristica CXI, 11-22. © Peeters Publishers, 2021.



at the request of his patron, Ambrose,3 offers an apologetic defense and theological construction that responds to criticisms of Christianity and accusations against Christ that the pagan philosopher Celsus advances in his True Doctrine (,ἀληθὴς λόγος‘)4 (ca. 177-180 AD).5 Origen intends his work to benefit, not so much the firmly ‘faithful’ (πιστοῖς), who ought to remain undisturbed by Celsus’ arguments, but rather those ‘entirely without experience of faith in Christ’ (τέλεον ἀγεύστοις τῆς εἰς Χριστὸν πίστεως), or those who are ‘weak in “faith”’ (Rom. 14:1) (ἀσθενοῦσιν ἐν „τῇ πίστει“).6 His envisaged beneficiaries, however, cannot simply be identified with the more simple-minded multitude, from whom Origen often distinguishes the more intelligent few. This is because Origen not only addresses his apology throughout to the learned Ambrose, but also hints at a more extensive audience, which includes both simple and sophisticated persons, when he writes:

375-6; H. Chadwick, introduction to Contra Celsum (1980), xiv-xv; M. Fiedrowicz, introduction to Gegen Celsus, FC 50/1 (2011), 9-10; Anders-Christian Jacobsen, Christ – The Teacher of Salvation: A Study on Origen’s Christology and Soteriology, Adamantiana 6 (Münster, 2015), 40-1. 3 See Cels. P.1 (FC 50/1, 182.9-16); et passim. 4 Cels. P.4 (FC 50/1, 188.15-6); et passim. For commentary on Celsus’ True Doctrine, see Horacio E. Lona, Die Wahre Lehre des Kelsos: Übersetzt und erklärt, KfA.E 1 (Freiburg im Breisgau, 2005). 5 For the conjectural identity of Celsus, his eclectic middle Platonism, and the contents and conventional dates of his True Doctrine, see M. Borret, general introduction to Contre Celse, vol. 5, SC 227 (1976), 9-140; H. Chadwick, introduction to Contra Celsum (1980), xvi-xxviii; R. Joseph Hoffmann, introduction to Celsus, On the True Doctrine, trans. R. Joseph Hoffmann (New York, 1987), 29-44; Silke-Petra Bergjan, ‘Celsus the Epicurean? The Interpretation of an Argument in Origen, Contra Celsum’, HThR 94.2 (2001), 179-204; H.E. Lona, Die Wahre Lehre des Kelsos (2005), 20-57; Anders-Christian Jacobsen, ‘Apologetics in Origen’, in Anders-Christian Jacobsen and Jörg Ulrich (eds), Three Greek Apologists = Drei griechische Apologeten: Origen, Eusebius, and Athanasius = Origenes, Eusebius, und Athanasius, ECCA 3 (Frankfurt am Main, 2007), 16-21; M. Fiedrowicz, introduction to Gegen Celsus, FC 50/1 (2011), 13-37. Alternatively, H.-U. Rosenbaum argues for dating it almost two decades earlier, that is, shortly after 160 AD, in ‘Zur Datierung von Celsus’ ΑΛΗΘΗΣ ΛΟΓΟΣ’, VigChr 26.2 (1972), 102-11. Following Rosenbaum, Michael Frede presumes a date of ca. 175 AD in ‘Origen’s Treatise Against Celsus’, in Mark Edwards, Martin Goodman and Simon Price (eds), Apologetics in the Roman Empire: Pagans, Jews, and Christians (New York, 1999), 132. 6 Cels. P.6 (FC 50/1, 190.13-5). See also Cels. P.4 (FC 50/1, 188.1-16); 5.1 (FC 50/4, 870.4872.8). For treatments of the apologetic intentions, audience, and strategies of Cels., see Jean Daniélou, Origen, trans. Walter Mitchell (New York, 1955), 99-127; M. Borret, critical introduction to Contre Celse, vol. 1, SC 132 (1967), 11-2, 38-51; M. Borret, general introduction to Contre Celse, vol. 5, SC 227 (1976), 199-246; H. Chadwick, introduction to Contra Celsum (1980), ix-xiii; M. Frede, ‘Origen’s Treatise’ (1999), 131-55; Lorenzo Perrone, ‘Fra silenzio e parola: Dall’apologia alla testimonianza del cristianesimo nel Contro Celso di Origene’, in L’apologétique chrétienne gréco-latine à l’époque prénicénienne, EnAC 51 (Geneva, 2005), 103-41; A.-C. Jacobsen, ‘Apologetics in Origen’ (2007), 22-36; A.-C. Jacobsen, Christ – The Teacher of Salvation (2015), 53-4.

Polymorphism and Protomorphism of the Word of God in Origen’s Contra Celsum


But as we think that some of those who are more capable of examining these problems may read this book, let us take the risk and give an account of a few of the more profound truths which have a mystical and secret conception7.

Although Origen, elsewhere in Cels., signals to deeper investigations, in his other writings, that are more appropriate for more sophisticated Christians,8 even the sophisticated may be neither entirely immune from experiencing moments of weakness in faith, especially when confronted by such pagans as Celsus, nor entirely uninterested in having a reasoned defense for their hope. The consideration that Origen takes of his audience’s various intellectual and spiritual capacities for true doctrine does not merely display his love for each human.9 It also reflects, imitates, and participates in the consideration of God for all humans.10 For Origen, such loving consideration by Christ and by Christians for everyone, including the least capable, lends credibility to Christianity as the true doctrine. According to the contents of his Christian faith, Origen attributes to the God of Jesus Christ what we might designate as ‘protomorphism’ and ‘polymorphism’. Protomorphism refers to God’s primary and principal form, which remains incomprehensible to rational human creatures on their own; polymorphism refers to God’s kenotic self-revelation to humans in many diverse and appropriately accessible forms. Origen appreciates that, in the incarnation and inscription of the Word of God, the divine consideration for humanity extends not only to all humans communally, but also to each human personally. Coming down in human flesh and human script, the Word adapts and accommodates himself in as many forms as appropriate to the various capabilities of human persons. This polymorphism of the incarnate and inscribed Word appears on each of the three distinct, but inseparable, levels of (1) his divinity, (2) his humanity, and (3) his textuality. Although the precise details of their structural relationships are not entirely clarified by Origen here, this polymorphism of ‘forms’ (μορφαί, εἰδῶν) seems to include or be extended by, but neither exhaust nor be exhausted by, the various noetic ‘aspects’ (ἐπίνοιαι) of the Word.11 All of these formal and aspectual expressions, moreover, are radically 7 Cels. 5.28 (FC 50/4, 924.21-4): ἐπεὶ δὲ νομίζομεν καὶ τῶν ἐξεταστικωτέρων τινὰς ἐντεύξεσθαι τῇδε τῇ γραφῇ, φέρε ὀλίγα τῶν βαθυτέρων παρακινδυνεύοντες ἐκθώμεθα, ἔχοντά τινα μυστικὴν καὶ ἀπόρρητον θεωρίαν. 8 See Cels. 4.37 (FC 50/3, 736.26-8); 4.39 (FC 50/3, 746.15-8); 5.47 (FC 50/4, 966.15-20); 6.26 (FC 50/4, 1058.6-13); 6.49 (FC 50/4, 1108.22-1110.2); 6.51 (FC 50/4, 1112.28-1114.2); 7.11 (FC 50/5, 1200.17-1202.4); 7.31 (FC 50/5, 1240.19-26); 8.65 (FC 50/5, 1450.24-9). 9 See Cels. 3.54 (FC 50/2, 610.22-612.2); 6.1 (FC 50/4, 1004.9-18); 6.10 (FC 50/4, 1024.13-9); 8.52 (FC 50/5, 1422.4-13). 10 See Cels. P.3-4 (FC 50/1, 186.3-188.1); 4.15 (FC 50/3, 686.5-14); 4.28 (FC 50/3, 712.16714.16); 7.41 (FC 50/5, 1264.4-17); 7.46 (FC 50/5, 1278.13-6). 11 For Origen’s treatments of these forms, see Marguerite Harl, Origène et la fonction révélatrice du Verbe incarné, PatSor 2 (Paris, 1958), 228-42; John A. McGuckin, ‘The Changing Forms



grounded in, but not exhaustive of, God’s protomorphic ‘form’ (μορφή). The multiplicities of divine, human, and textual forms come down to humans from the primary and principal form of God, to whom they also lead humans back up. As such, the Word’s polymorphism essentially and functionally depends on his divine protomorphism. For Origen, God expresses his protomorphic loving kindness in and through the various forms of his incarnate and inscribed Word, who makes himself available to each and every human person, whether more simple or more sophisticated, and thus grants them progressive access to the primary and principal form of God. To elucidate this claim, this article explores Origen’s understanding of the polymorphism and protomorphism (1) of the incarnate Word, and (2) of the inscribed Word. 1. Incarnate Word Although Origen admits that the reasons why God the Father sent his Son in human flesh are innumerable, he nevertheless gleans from Scripture12 that one of the most basic reasons for the incarnational economy of Jesus Christ13 is to benefit all of humanity.14 This beneficial intention concentrates on the salvation of God’s rational creation that has fallen in its sin.15 Since salvation unto ‘“eternal life consists in knowing the only” supreme, “true God, and Jesus Christ whom he sent”’ (John 17:3),16 and since human reason, of itself, is insufficient of Jesus’, in Lothar Lies (ed.), Origeniana Quarta (Innsbruck, Vienna, 1987), 215-22; Dragos A. Giulea, ‘Origen’s Christology in Pre-Nicene Setting: The Logos as the Noetic Form of God’, EThL 92.3 (2016), 407-37. For Origen’s treatments of these aspects, see Manlio Simonetti, ‘Note sulla teologia trinitaria di Origene’, VetChr 8 (1971), 273-307, 287-91; Henri Crouzel, ‘Le contenu spirituel des dénominations du Christ selon le livre I du Commentaire sur Jean d’Origène’, in Henri Crouzel and Antonio Quacquarelli (eds), Origeniana Secunda (Rome, 1980), 131-50; Henri Crouzel, Origen, trans. A.S. Worrall (San Francisco, 1989), 188-92; J. Wolinski, ‘Le recours aux ἐπίνοιαι du Christ dans le Commentaire sur Jean d’Origène’, in Gilles Dorival and Alain Le Boulluec (eds), Origeniana Sexta: Origène et la Bible / Origen and the Bible (Leuven, 1995), 46592; Ronald E. Heine, ‘Epinoiai’, in John A. McGuckin (ed.), The Westminster Handbook to Origen (Louisville, 2004), 93-5; Matthew Kuhner, ‘The “Aspects of Christ” (Epinoiai Christou) in Origen’s Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans’, HThR 110 (2017), 195-216. 12 See Cels. 2.71 (FC 50/2, 494.11-5). 13 For Origen’s Christology in Cels., see J. Daniélou, Origen (1955), 257-62; M. Harl, Origène (1958), 305-31; Michel Fédou, La Sagesse et le monde: Essai sur la christologie d’Origène (Paris, 1995); Brian E. Daley, ‘Word, Soul, and Flesh: Origen and Augustine on the Person of Christ’, AugSt 36.2 (2005), 299-326; Michel Fédou, La voie du Christ: Genèses de la christologie dans le contexte religieux de l’Antiquité du IIe siècle au début du IVe siècle (Paris, 2006), 379-407; M. Fiedrowicz, introduction to Gegen Celsus, FC 50/1 (2011), 56-66, 70-3, 97-104. 14 See Cels. 1.61 (FC 50/1, 322.23-30); 2.23 (FC 50/1, 406.10-7); 2.33 (FC 50/2, 422.8-14); 3.17 (FC 50/2, 540.9-12). 15 See Cels. 4.19 (FC 50/3, 692.10-8); 8.11 (FC 50/5, 1342.11-7). 16 Cels. 3.37 (FC 50/2, 576.20-2): „τὴν αἰώνιον αὐτοῖς εἶναι ζωὴν ἐν τῷ γινώσκειν τὸν μόνον“ ἐπὶ πᾶσιν „ἀληθινὸν θεὸν καὶ ὃν ἐκεῖνος ἀπέστειλεν Ἰησοῦν Χριστόν“.

Polymorphism and Protomorphism of the Word of God in Origen’s Contra Celsum


to attain such knowledge, it belongs to the Word, who alone knows the Father, to make God known to humans.17 The descent of God, most especially in his incarnation, does not serve to benefit God, as though God needed to learn something about humans or wanted to show himself off to them, as Celsus mocks. Rather, God’s descent to instruct and show himself in humility, benefits humans, who are thereby delivered from sin, death, and demonic oppression, and made God’s friends through his indwelling Word and Spirit.18 Even simple Christians can grasp, without being confused, that the incarnation effects and expresses the philanthropic interweaving of divinity and humanity, without ontological confusion, in Christ and in those Christians who belong to his corporate body, the Church of God.19 In his virginal conception,20 the immortal Word has ‘assumed both a mortal body and a human soul’ (καὶ σῶμα θνητὸν καὶ ψυχὴν ἀνθρωπίνην ἀναλαβών)21 and has thus united himself to human nature, which integrally consists of ‘body’ (σῶμα), ‘soul’ (ψυχή), and ‘spirit’ (πνεῦμα).22 The integrities of Christ’s two natures keep him from becoming a mythological figure, and enable true human blood, not ichor, as Celsus ridicules, to bleed from his crucified human body, even while his divine nature remains ever unchanged.23 In considering God’s descent, Origen upholds the ‘unchangeable and unalterable nature of God’ (τὸ ἄτρεπτον καὶ ἀναλλοίωτον τοῦ θεοῦ), about whom Scripture says, ‘“You are the same”’ (Ps. 102[101]:28) („Σὺ δὲ ὁ αὐτὸς εἶ“), and who says in Scripture, ‘“I do not change”’ (Mal. 3:6) („Οὐκ ἠλλοίωμαι“).24 The divine descent is neither physical nor spatial, as Celsus imagines, but rather a providential and powerful coming down to humans, among whom God, who ‘“fill[s] heaven and earth”’ (Jer. 23:24) („τὸν οὐρανὸν καὶ τὴν γῆν … πληρῶ“), is always present.25 In fact, the Son of God variously descends in each generation to improve humanity before, in, and after his incarnation, and has involved himself in the establishment of Judaism and Christianity.26 Consistent with these 17 See Cels. 2.71 (FC 50/2, 494.3-11); 6.62 (FC 50/4, 1136.7-16); 6.65 (FC 50/4, 1142.3-23); 7.38 (FC 50/5, 1254.20-5); 7.42 (FC 50/5, 1266.15-21). 18 See Cels. 4.3 (FC 50/3, 664.8-666.2); 4.6 (FC 50/3, 670.18-672.11); 7.17 (FC 50/5, 1212.61214.4). 19 See Cels. 2.9 (FC 50/2, 366.27-372.5); 3.28 (FC 50/2, 560.27-562.8); 6.47-8 (FC 50/4, 1106.6-1108.14); 7.16-7 (FC 50/5, 1210.7-1214.4). 20 See Cels. 1.32-7 (FC 50/1, 258.1-272.3); 6.73 (FC 50/4, 1156.26-1158.8). 21 Cels. 4.15 (FC 50/3, 686.21-2). 22 Cels. 2.51 (FC 50/2, 454.10). 23 See Cels. 1.66 (FC 50/1, 334.17-336.3). On the various deployments of the euhemerist critique of the gods as deified humans by Celsus and Origen in Cels., see Harry Y. Gamble, ‘Euhemerism and Christology in Origen: Contra Celsum III 22-43’, VigChr 33.1 (1979), 12-29. 24 Cels. 1.21 (FC 50/1, 232.13, 15-7); 4.14 (FC 50/3, 684.8-686.4); 6.62 (FC 50/4, 1136.15-6). 25 See Cels. 4.5 (FC 50/3, 668.16-670.17); 4.12 (FC 50/3, 680.20-5); 5.12 (FC 50/4, 892.20894.9); 6.71 (FC 50/4, 1154.11-1156.2). 26 See Cels. 3.14 (FC 50/2, 534.24-536.9); 4.4 (FC 50/3, 668.6-15); 4.7-9 (FC 50/3, 672.19676.1); 6.79 (FC 50/4, 1172.20-4). For Origen’s appreciations of the religious, ethical, and



descents, ‘because of his great love for humanity, [God] made one special descent in order to convert those whom the divine Scripture mystically calls “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt. 15:24), which had strayed down from the mountains’.27 In his pastoral condescension, ‘God changes for humans the power of the Word, whose nature it is to nourish the human soul, in accordance with the merits of each individual’, so as to become ‘“rational milk without guile”’ (1Pet. 2:2) for infantile persons, an ‘“herb”’ (Rom. 14:2) for weaker persons, and ‘“solid food”’ (Heb. 5:12, 14) for stronger persons.28 Even the soul of ‘“Christ Jesus, who being in the form of God (ἐν μορφῇ θεοῦ), … emptied himself, taking the form of a servant (μορφὴν δούλου)”’ (Phil. 2:5-7) in human flesh.29 In the incarnational economy, Jesus not only reveals himself to humans, but also conceals himself from them, such that he is not entirely known even to those who know him, and is entirely unknown to those who don’t.30 Christ’s concealment is not avoidance of other humans, but rather tactful consideration for them.31 Such discretion of Jesus is considerate of the various capacities of humans, and reflects not only God’s concealment of himself in darkness from those who cannot logically and spiritually bear his radiance yet, but also his proportional revelation of himself in light to those who participate, with varying intensities, in his Logos and Spirit.32 Origen sees that it is not only the Father who is difficult to perceive, but also the Son, and that, since only the pure of heart can perceive God,33 ‘[t]here are some characteristics in the divine nature of the Word’ that pertain to his being sent as a physician to heal the sick and sinners, ‘but others’34 that pertain to his being sent to the healed and pure as a historical connections, continuities, and discontinuities between Judaism and Christianity in Cels., see Paul M. Blowers, ‘Origen, the Rabbis, and the Bible: Toward a Picture of Judaism and Christianity in Third-Century Caesarea’, in Charles Kannengiesser and William L. Petersen (eds), Origen of Alexandria: His World and His Legacy, CJAn 1 (Notre Dame, 1988), 96-116; Peter J. Gorday, ‘Moses and Jesus in Contra Celsum 7.1-25: Ethics, History and Jewish-Christian Eirenics in Origen’s Theology’, in ibid. 313-36; Louis H. Feldman, ‘Origen’s Contra Celsum and Josephus’ Contra Apionem: The Issue of Jewish Origins’, VigChr 44.2 (1990), 105-35. 27 Cels. 4.17 (FC 50/3, 690.6-9): μίαν ἐξαίρετον ἀπὸ πολλῆς φιλανθρωπίας κατάβασιν ὑπὲρ τοῦ ἐπιστρέψαι τά, ὡς ἡ θεία ὠνόμασε μυστικῶς γραφή, „ἀπολωλότα πρόβατα οἴκου Ἰσραήλ“, καὶ καταβάντα ἀπὸ τῶν ὀρῶν. 28 Cels. 4.18 (FC 50/3, 692.1-5): τὴν τοῦ πεφυκότος τρέφειν ἀνθρωπίνην ψυχὴν λόγου δύναμιν ὁ θεὸς τοῖς ἀνθρώποις ἑκάστῳ κατ᾽ἀξίαν μεταβάλλει … „λογικὸν ἄδολον γάλα“ … „λάχανον“ … „στερεὰ τροφή“. 29 Cels. 4.18 (FC 50/3, 692.21-3): „Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ, ὃς ἐν μορφῇ θεοῦ ὑπάρχων … ἑαυτὸν ἐκένωσε μορφὴν δούλου λαβών“. 30 See Cels. 2.67 (FC 50/2, 484.19-26); 2.70 (FC 50/2, 492.13-7); 2.72 (FC 50/2, 494.21-4). 31 See Cels. 4.3 (50/3, 666.5-20). 32 See Cels. 5.10-1 (FC 50/4, 888.17-892.19); 6.17 (FC 50/4, 1040.20-1042.3); 6.66-7 (FC 50/4, 1144.8-1146.28). 33 See Cels. 6.69 (FC 50/4, 1150.5-27); 7.43 (FC 50/5, 1268.12-1270.5). 34 Cels. 3.61 (FC 50/2, 622.14, 17): Ἔστι γὰρ ἐν τῇ τοῦ λόγου θειότητι ἄλλα … ἄλλα δὲ τά.

Polymorphism and Protomorphism of the Word of God in Origen’s Contra Celsum


teacher of divine mysteries.35 Origen’s gesture towards a polymorphism on the level of the Word’s divinity, which communicates his protomorphic ‘“form of God”’ (Phil. 2:6) („μορφῇ θεοῦ“),36 thickens as he writes: Although Jesus was one, he had several aspects (ἐπίνοιαι); and to those who saw him, he did not appear alike to all. That he had many aspects (ἐπίνοιαι) is clear from the saying, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life’ (John 14:6), and ‘I am the bread’ (John 6:35), and ‘I am the door’ (John 10:7, 9), and countless other such sayings.37

Since Origen understands these ‘I am’ Christological titles as referring not to Christ’s humanity, but rather to his divinity,38 he implies that the multiplicity of aspects belongs, in the first place, on the divine level. What prevent these polymorphic aspects and biblical names of God from deteriorating into the polytheistic fractures and fragmentations of the divine that belong to the paganisms of the Greeks, Egyptians, Persians, Indians, and other nations, are their intrinsic coherence and complete integration within the more radical protomorphism of the one God.39 The same consideration for the variety of human capacities is also shown in polymorphism on the level of the Word’s humanity. Whereas the body of Jesus appeared in the beauty and glory of his metamorphic ‘transfiguration’ (μεταμόρφωσις) on the high mountain, not to all of his apostles, but only to the more perceptive Peter, James, and John, it appeared to the less perceptive multitude down below, who were not yet able to ascend, in such a ‘“dishonorable and deserted form”’ (Isa. 53:3) („τὸ εἶδος αὐτοῦ ἄτιμον καὶ ἐκλεῖπον“) that, to them, Christ, who was crucified in the sight of all, ‘“had neither form nor beauty”’ (Isa. 53:2) („οὐκ εἶχεν εἶδος οὐδὲ κάλλος“).40 Likewise, to his disciples, who were healthy enough to ascend the mountain, Jesus, as a teacher, gave the teaching of the beatitudes, but to the unhealthy, who were lower down the mountain and unable to ascend, Jesus, as a physician, gave the healing of their diseases.41 To his more capable disciples inside the house, Jesus privately provided esoteric explanations of the parables, which he had spoken


See Cels. 3.61-4 (FC 50/2, 622.9-628.28); 8.72 (FC 50/5, 1464.23-1466.8). Cels. 4.15 (FC 50/3, 686.5); 4.18 (FC 50/3, 692.21). 37 Cels. 2.64 (FC 50/2, 476.23-7): Ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἷς ὢν πλείονα τῇ ἐπινοίᾳ ἦν, καὶ τοῖς βλέπουσιν οὐχ ὁμοίως πᾶσιν ὁρώμενος. Καὶ ὅτι μὲν τῇ ἐπινοίᾳ πλείονα ἠν, καὶ σαφὲς ἐκ τοῦ „Ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ ὁδὸς καὶ ἡ ἀλήθεια καὶ ἡ ζωὴ“ καὶ τοῦ „Ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ἄρτος“ καὶ τοῦ „Ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ θύρα“ καὶ ἄλλων μυρίων. 38 See Cels. 2.9 (FC 50/2, 368.9-12); 2.25 (FC 50/2, 410.5-10); 7.16 (FC 50/5, 1210.7-1212.5). 39 See Cels. 1.23-5 (FC 50/1, 234.11-242.20); 3.36-7 (FC 50/2, 574.10-578.21); 7.64-5 (FC 50/5, 1310.16-1314.8); 8.3-6 (FC 50/5, 1328.14-1336.2). On the plurality of divine names in Cels., see M. Fiedrowicz, introduction to Gegen Celsus, FC 50/1 (2011), 96-7. 40 See Cels. 1.54 (FC 50/1, 306.8-308.12); 2.64 (FC 50/2, 476.27-478.7); 2.65 (FC 50/2, 480.15-9); 4.16 (FC 50/3, 688.8-20); 6.68 (FC 50/4, 1148.20-6); 6.77 (FC 50/4, 1166.6-1168.1). 41 See Cels. 2.64 (FC 50/2, 478.7-13); 3.21 (FC 50/2, 544.11-6). 36



exoterically, without explanations, to the less capable crowds outside.42 For Origen, these incarnational manifestations are neither merely objective nor merely subjective, but rather both. As Creator, the Word objectively informs the transformable matter of his body, at different times, with qualities of splendor or ugliness, but always does so out of consideration for the various subjective capabilities of his spectators.43 Jesus presents his humanity in many forms, each of which corresponds to one of the three basic, or five nuanced, stages of spiritual development.44 His purpose in this is to draw each and every person, whether more simple or more sophisticated, progressively up ‘the spiritual “high mountain”’ (Matt. 17:1) (τὸ λογικὸν „ὑψηλὸν ὄρος“) to behold ‘the primary form’ (τῆς πρώτης μορφῆς) of his divinity.45 Origen thus explains: He who came down to humans was originally ‘in the form of God’ („ἐν μορφῇ θεοῦ“) and because of his love to humanity ‘emptied himself’ (Phil. 2:6-7) that humans might be able to receive him. … ‘[T]he Word’ remains Word in essence. He suffers nothing of the experience of the body or the soul. But sometimes he ‘comes down’ to the level of him who is unable to look upon the radiance and brilliance of the deity, and ‘becomes’, as it were, ‘flesh’ (John 1:14), and is spoken of in physical terms, until he who has accepted him in this form is gradually lifted up by the Word and can look even upon, so to speak, his principal form (προηγουμένην μορφὴν). There are, as it were, different forms (διάφοροι … μορφαί) of the Word. For the Word appears to each of those who are led to know him in a form corresponding to the state of the individual, whether he is a beginner, or has made a little progress, or is considerably advanced, or has nearly attained to virtue already, or has in fact attained it.46

In light of this purpose, Origen rejects the proposal of Celsus’ Jewish protagonist that Jesus ought to have displayed his divine power by suddenly disappearing from the cross, not because this would have been impossible for God, but because it would not have been advantageous for humans, since Christ’s public and true crucifixion unto death establishes their incorporation into him.47 Neither would the display of divine power by the resurrected Jesus to the man 42

See Cels. 2.64 (FC 50/2, 478.13-8); 3.21 (FC 50/2, 544.4-11). See Cels. 4.57 (FC 50/3, 784.1-30); 6.77 (FC 50/4, 1164.27-1166.6); 7.39 (FC 50/5, 1258.6-1260.5). 44 See Cels. 4.16 (FC 50/3, 688.4-7); 4.18 (FC 50/3, 690.24-692.6). 45 See Cels. 6.68 (FC 50/4, 1148.1-28). 46 Cels. 4.15-6 (FC 50/3, 686.5-7, 23-688.7): Τὸ δὲ καταβεβηκὸς εἰς ἀνθρώπους „ἐν μορφῇ θεοῦ“ ὑπῆρχε καὶ διὰ φιλανθρωπίαν „ἑαυτὸν ἐκένωσεν“, ἵνα χωρηθῆναι ὑπ᾽ἀνθρώπων δυνηθῇ. … „ὁ λόγος“ τῇ οὐσίᾳ μένων λόγος οὐδὲν μὲν πάσχει ὧν πάσχει τὸ σῶμα ἢ ἡ ψυχή „συγκαταβαίνων“ δ᾽ἔσθ᾽ὅτε τῷ μὴ δυναμένῳ αὐτοῦ τὰς μαρμαρυγὰς καὶ τὴν λαμπρότητα τῆς θειότητος βλέπειν οἱονεὶ „σὰρξ γίνεται“, σωματικῶς λαλούμενος, ἕως ὁ τοιοῦτον αὐτὸν παραδεξάμενος κατὰ βραχὺ ὑπὸ τοῦ λόγου μετεωριζόμενος δυνηθῇ αὐτοῦ καὶ τήν, ἵν᾽οὕτως ὀνομάσω, προηγουμένην μορφὴν θεάσασθαι. Εἰσι γὰρ διάφοροι οἱονεὶ τοῦ λόγου μορφαί, καθὼς ἑκάστῳ τῶν εἰς ἐπιστήμην ἀγουμένων φαίνεται ὁ λόγος, ἀνάλογον τῇ ἕξει τοῦ εἰσαγομένου ἢ ἐπ᾽ὀλίγον προκόπτοντος ἤ ἐπὶ πλεῖον ἢ καὶ ἐγγὺς ἤδη γινομένου τῆς ἀρετῆς ἢ καὶ ἐν ἀρετῇ γεγενημένου. 47 See Cels. 2.56 (FC 50/2, 464.21-466.23); 2.68-9 (FC 50/2, 484.27-490.21). 43

Polymorphism and Protomorphism of the Word of God in Origen’s Contra Celsum


who condemned him, the men who maltreated him, or even the crowds who believed in him, have been consistent with his consideration for their lesser capacities, since his brilliance would have blinded them. Even his disciples, to whom Christ appeared intermittently, could not receive the divine brilliance of his resurrection without periods of relief, much as Abraham and the Old Testament saints received the appearances of God, not always, but at intervals.48 Unlike Celsus, Origen thus appreciates that God’s power is not raw, but considerate and consistent with his wisdom and love for humans. With this appreciation, Origen points detractors and doubters of Christianity to the polymorphic indications of Jesus’ divinity that abide in the Church49 and its Scripture. 2. Inscribed Word The Word intends the benefit of salvation for all humans, not only in his incarnation in Jesus, but also in his inscription in Scripture.50 In Cels., Origen presents to his target audience of those with little or no faith, a rather simple biblical hermeneutics that registers two distinct, but integrated, levels of meaning: (1) the literal level of its surface, and (2) the spiritual level of its depths and heights. Origen sees that the protomorphic form of Scripture consists in its ‘obviously divine character proclaimed in those very books’ (τὴν ἐμφαινομένην θειότητα ἐν τοῖς αὐτοῖς βιβλίοις ἀπαγγελλομένην).51 Scripture itself 48

See Cels. 2.63 (FC 50/2, 474.28-476.22); 2.64-7 (FC 50/2, 478.23-484.26). These include the extensive conversion to, and amelioration in, Christ of various classes, ethnicities, and generations of humanity; their witness in ethos and pathos even unto death; and miracles. See Cels. 1.2 (FC 50/1, 196.8-22); 1.26-7 (FC 50/1, 244.7-248.2); et passim. On the ecclesial and moral evidences for Christianity in Cels., see M. Fiedrowicz, introduction to Gegen Celsus, FC 50/1 (2011), 104-9. 50 For general discussions of Origen’s exegetical theory and practice, including his understandings and treatments of the somatic, psychic, and pneumatic senses of Scripture, see the more approving studies of J. Daniélou, Origen (1955), 131-99; Henri de Lubac, History and Spirit: The Understanding of Scripture according to Origen, trans. Anne E. Nash (San Francisco, 2007); Karen J. Torjesen, Hermeneutical Procedure and Theological Method in Origen’s Exegesis, PTS 28 (Berlin, New York, 1986); John D. Dawson, Christian Figural Reading and the Fashioning of Identity (Berkeley, Los Angeles, 2001); Elizabeth A. Dively Lauro, The Soul and Spirit of Scripture within Origen’s Exegesis (Boston, 2005); Peter W. Martens, Origen and Scripture: The Contours of the Exegetical Life (New York, 2012); A.-C. Jacobsen, Christ – The Teacher of Salvation (2015), 75-80; and the more disapproving study of R.P.C. Hanson, Allegory and Event: A Study of the Sources and Significance of Origen’s Interpretation of Scripture (Louisville, 2002). For specific discussions of his biblical hermeneutics and exegeses in Cels., see Manlio Simonetti, ‘La Sacra Scrittura nel Contro Celso’, in L. Perrone (ed.), Discorsi di verità (1998), 97-114; Hermann J. Vogt, ‘Die Exegese des Origenes in Contra Celsum – Das neue Interesse an der Eschatologie’, in Hermann J. Vogt, Origenes als Exeget, ed. Wilhelm Geerlings (Paderborn, 1999), 143-59; M. Fiedrowicz, introduction to Gegen Celsus, FC 50/1 (2011), 77-89; A.-C. Jacobsen, Christ – The Teacher of Salvation (2015), 96-101. 51 Cels. 1.63 (FC 50/1, 328.12-3). 49



instructs about its divine sense that its divinely inspired human writers and readers are able to detect.52 As Origen observes: [T]here is, as the Scripture calls it, a certain generic divine sense which only the one who is blessed finds on this earth. Thus Solomon says, ‘You shall find a divine sense’ (Prov. 2:5). There are many forms (εἰδῶν) of this sense.53

The polymorphic forms of this divine sense are visible, audible, tastable, smellable, or tangible, but none of these sensibles belongs to the body, since all of them belong to the spirit. These forms enable writers to invest, and readers to perceive, spiritual meanings in the scriptural corpus.54 Origen suggests that spiritual meanings are accessible in the text not only to the sophisticated few, but also to the simple multitude, when he comments that, ‘when our Savior says, “He that has ears to hear” (Matt. 11:15, 13:9; etc.), even the unintelligent person understands that this refers to spiritual ears.’55 This communication of beneficial doctrine, in the same set of texts, to those whose spiritual senses are more refined, and to those less refined, is distinctive to the inscribed Word of God. The economy of Christian revelation does not produce two discrete series of books, one more elementary, another more elite. Rather, the single corpus of Scripture addresses everyone in ways that are appropriate and beneficent to each. Whereas the writings of the pagan poets harm their simpler readers and hearers, and those of the philosophers are not only impotent to instruct them, but also inconsistent with ‘“worship in spirit and truth”’ (John 4:24) („ἐν πνεύματι καὶ ἀληθείᾳ δεῖ προσκυνεῖν“),56 the books of Scripture contain and convey divine power.57 Even with its apparently ‘mean style’ (εὐτελὴς λέξις),58 Scripture communicates power that can instantly transform its more simple, and its more sophisticated, recipients.59 As Origen remarks: 52

On inspiration and prophecy in Cels., see Robert J. Hauck, The More Divine Proof: Prophecy and Inspiration in Celsus and Origen, AAR.AS 69 (Atlanta, 1989), esp. 77-143; Hermann J. Vogt, ‘Die Lehre des Origenes von der Inspiration der Heiligen Schrift: Ein Vergleich zwischen der Grundlagenschrift und der Antwort auf Kelsos’, in H.J. Vogt, Origenes als Exeget (1999), 179-85. 53 Cels. 1.48 (FC 50/1, 292.4-8): οὔσης, ὡς ἡ γραφὴ ὠνόμασε, θείας τινὸς γενικῆς αἰσθήσεως, ἣν μόνος ὁ μακάριος εὑρίσκει ἤδη κατὰ τὸ λεγόμενον καὶ παρὰ τῷ Σολομῶντι· „Ὅτι αἴσθησιν θείαν εὑρήσεις“, καὶ ὄντων εἰδῶν ταύτης τῆς αἰσθήσεως. 54 See Cels. 1.42 (FC 50/1, 278.16-280.4); 1.48 (FC 50/1, 292.8-294.15); 7.4 (FC 50/5, 1184.27-1186.7); 7.7 (FC 50/5, 1192.8-1194.16); 7.34 (FC 50/5, 1246.23-1248.17); 7.39 (FC 50/5, 1258.6-1260.5). 55 Cels. 7.34 (FC 50/5, 1248.7-9): ἐπὰν λέγῃ ὁ σωτὴρ ἡμῶν· „Ὁ ἔχων ὦτα ἀκούειν ἀκουέτω“, καὶ ὁ τυχὼν συνίησι περὶ θειοτέρων ταῦτα λέγεσθαι ὤτων. 56 Cels. 2.71 (FC 50/2, 494.11); 6.70 (FC 50/4, 1154.1); 7.27 (FC 50/5, 1234.3-4). 57 See Cels. 1.2 (FC 50/1, 192.8-22); 1.18 (FC 50/1, 226.7-228.6); 4.48-50 (FC 50/3, 762.22770.15); 5.38 (FC 50/4, 948.31-950.2); 7.46-7 (FC 50/5, 1278.5-1280.9); 7.49 (FC 50/5, 1282.6-21). 58 Cels. 6.2 (FC 50/4, 1004.25, 1006.5); 6.5 (FC 50/4, 1014.10). 59 See Cels. 6.1-5 (FC 50/4, 1004.4-1014.13); 7.59 (FC 50/5, 1300.7-23); 7.60-61 (FC 50/5, 1304.14-1306.8).

Polymorphism and Protomorphism of the Word of God in Origen’s Contra Celsum


[T]he histories [of Scripture] also were written with an eye to a tropological meaning, and were arranged very wisely to be exactly suited both to the multitude of simpleminded believers, and to the few who have the desire, or the capacity, to examine the events with intelligence.60

Since the Word of God intends his various readers to become wise and worthy of God, he speaks in textual forms adapted and accommodated to them.61 To more simple persons, the Word provides the ‘“milk”’ (1Cor. 3:2; Heb. 5:12-3) („γάλα“) of simpler teaching; to more sophisticated, he provides the ‘“meat”’ (1Cor. 3:2) („βρῶμα“) or ‘“solid food”’ (Heb. 5:12, 14) („στερεὰ τροφή“) of profounder teaching.62 As a father coming down to his children, God’s Word inscribes himself with human characters and describes himself with human characteristics, since the Word is proclaimed to humans.63 Out of consideration for what is worthy of his divine nature, and for what is appropriate for his diverse human audience, God speaks not only woes and threats for the healing and moral reformation of the simple-minded multitude, but also obscurities, allegories, and enigmas for the intellectual exercise of the intelligent few.64 This plurality of meanings on the textual level of God’s Word, however, does not compromise the intrinsic coherence of Scripture. For Origen, the entire biblical text has a protomorphic spiritual character that enables every wise Christian reader to advance seamlessly, through careful and prayerful study, from the clear presentation of its exoteric wisdom into the obscure and inexhaustible depths of its esoteric wisdom.65 Scripture itself encourages its readers to ascend from ‘“the letter”’ („γράμμα“) (i.e., a sensible, literal interpretation) that, when unedifying on its own, ‘“kills”’ („ἀποκτέωειν“) to ‘the spirit’ (i.e., an intelligible, spiritual interpretation) that ‘“gives life”’ (2Cor. 3:6) („τὸ δὲ πνεῦμα ζῳοποιεῖν“).66 The Word conceals profound meanings in obscure textual forms out of consideration for those who are not yet worthy and capable of 60 Cels. 4.49 (FC 50/3, 766.6-10): καὶ ταῖς ἱστορίαις ὡς σκοπῷ τροπολογίας γεγραμμέναις καὶ σοφώτατα οἰκονομηθείσαις, ἐστοχασμένως τοῦ τε πλήθους τῶν ἁπλούστερον πιστευόντων καὶ τῶν ὀλίγων μετὰ συνέσεως ἐξετάζειν τὰ πράγματα βουλομένων ἤ καὶ δυναμένων. 61 See Cels. 3.45-9 (FC 50/2, 592.16-602.20); 3.54 (FC 50/2, 610.1-612.2); 3.58-9 (FC 50/2, 616.15-620.15); 3.74 (FC 50/2, 644.19-646.12). 62 See Cels. 3.52-3 (FC 50/2, 608.1-27); 3.60 (FC 50/2, 620.21-5). 63 See Cels. 3.75 (FC 50/2, 648.25-7, 650.7-9); 3.79 (FC 50/2, 654.14-656.2); 4.71 (FC 50/3, 808.11-810.4). 64 See Cels. 2.76 (FC 50/2, 500.18-504.27); 3.45 (FC 50/2, 594.24-7); 4.72 (FC 50/3, 810.5812.24); 5.15-6 (FC 50/4, 898.11-902.14); 7.10 (FC 50/5, 1198.23-1200.4). 65 See Cels. 1.7 (FC 50/1, 202.20-204.11); 1.9 (FC 50/1, 206.20-210.3); 2.4-6 (FC 50/2, 358.3-362.6); 3.37-8 (FC 50/2, 576.19-580.19); 7.18 (FC 50/5, 1214.20-4). For Origen’s theory and practice of prayer in Cels., see Lorenzo Perrone, ‘Prayer in Origen’s Contra Celsum: The Knowledge of God and the Truth of Christianity’, VigChr 55.1 (2001), 1-19. 66 See Cels. 2.1 (FC 50/2, 348.25-8); 6.70 (FC 50/4, 1152.19-25); 7.20 (FC 50/5, 1218.291220.24).



understanding them.67 The Word often records stories of actual events in order to exhibit deeper truths at which the text itself hints.68 Beyond these, there are even more esoteric doctrines, spoken to the prophets or disciples, which are mentioned, but not recorded, in Scripture.69 Like the humanity of the Word, his textuality can neither express nor exhaust God’s fullness, even while it expresses the loving consideration of God who adapts and accommodates his Scripture to all humans in order to shepherd them up to behold the primary form of his divinity.70 Concluding Remarks Origen regards the polymorphism of God’s Word in his incarnation in Jesus and his inscription in Scripture as communicative of the protomorphic divinity of God who, in his loving consideration for the salvation of each and every human, adapts and accommodates himself to the various human capabilities in order to gradually raise all of them up to himself. Origen himself witnesses to God’s incarnational and inscriptional purpose by condescending, in Cels., to express more basic forms of thought than those of his other theological compositions. In whatever form Origen expresses the contents of his faith and understanding to his diverse audiences, he endeavors to keep its substance and spirit protomorphically the same: substantial truth and spiritual love.71 Such verity and charity are reflective of, and conducive towards, the true and loving God, whose kaleidoscopic custom is to bend down to all humans, at whatever depths, in order to lift them up to his most sublime heights. As Origen responds to Celsus, for humans to come to know, and to be saved by, God, ‘the Word of God is sufficient, … [for,] who but the divine Word can save and lead the human soul to the supreme God?’72


See Cels. 6.18 (FC 50/4, 1042.4-8, 15-23). See Cels. 4.44 (FC 50/3, 754.19-23). 69 See Cels. 1.31 (FC 50/1, 256.13-6); 6.6 (FC 50/4, 1014.19-1016.11). 70 Although Origen appears to refrain from explicitly articulating, in Cels., his typical trichotomy of Scripture’s body, soul, and spirit, this articulation would have provided further internal connections between the textuality and the trichotomous humanity of the Word. 71 On unity behind diversity, see A.-C. Jacobsen, Christ – The Teacher of Salvation (2015), 15-6. 72 Cels. 6.68 (FC 50/4, 1148.3, 6-7): ἱκανός ἐστιν ὁ τοῦ θεοῦ λόγος, … Τίς δ᾽ἄλλος σῶσαι καὶ προσαγαγεῖν τῷ ἐπὶ πᾶσι θεῷ δύναται τὴν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ψυχὴν ἢ ὁ θεὸς λόγος; 68

The Self-Sufficiency of Scripture for Figurative Exegesis in Origen’s Contra Celsum Harry LINES, University of Oxford, UK

ABSTRACT Widely considered the foremost proponent of figurative exegesis of Scripture in the early Church, Origen’s opponents both within and without the Church frequently accused him of plagiarising interpretative methods not suitable for the Christian Scriptures. This article outlines how Origen considered the Christian Scriptures to provide its readers with the tools necessary to read Scripture figuratively, focussing on Origen’s arguments to this effect in Contra Celsum, where he is most directly engaged with his non-Christian adversaries. In making this argument, Origen was fundamentally defending the self-sufficiency of Christian philosophy and of the doctrines derived from figurative interpretations of the Bible. Concentrating primarily on the way in which some of its literary forms – parables, proverbs, and enigmas (παραβολαί, παροιμίαι, αἰνίγματα) – serve this pedagogic purpose, this paper demonstrates first how Origen understood these literary features to signpost both the nature of the texts and the need for the texts to be approached in certain ways. My argument then explores the means by which Scripture develops in its readers the necessary attributes to read it figuratively: through the grace of the Holy Spirit active within its pages, though the moral education given through its commandments, and through the rational discernment that it encourages in its readers through its complex and enigmatic sayings.

Figurative Exegesis in Contra Celsum As the first true polemicist against Christianity, Celsus more than any previous antagonist against the novel religion familiarised himself with the Jewish and Christian Scriptures. Consequently, the Christian Scriptures, their authority, and their interpretation take a central place in the polemics of both Celsus and Origen, recorded in the Contra Celsum.1 In his response, Origen frequently takes umbrage with Celsus’ use, or misuse, of Scripture, accusing him of misrepresenting, manipulating, and exaggerating what he finds for his own ends.2 1 See Manlio Simonetti, ‘La Sacra Scrittura Nel Contro Celso’, in L. Perrone (ed.), Discorsi di verità. Paganesimo, giudaismo e cristianesimo a confronto nel “Contro Celso” di Origene (Roma, 1998), 97-114; L.N. Fernando, ‘Origen’s Use of Scripture in Contra Celsum’, in G. Dorival and A. Le Boulluec (eds), Origeniana Sexta (Leuven, 1995), 243-50. 2 L. Fernando, ‘Origen’s Use of Scripture’ (1995), 244-7.

Studia Patristica CXI, 23-36. © Peeters Publishers, 2021.



Beyond simply distorting the words of Christian Scripture, however, Celsus also contends that such words are not legitimate objects of figurative interpretation.3 Indeed, throughout Celsus’ The True Doctrine and Origen’s response, an important underlying feature of the dispute is the disagreement over whose texts constitute genuine loci of divine revelation, and so which could be interpreted figuratively.4 The two share a broad basis of agreement on the issue of figurative exegesis, disagreeing only on which texts were legitimate objects of this process.5 The Christian Scriptures, Celsus claimed, were not appropriate objects of figurative interpretation. In Contra Celsum 4.38 and 4.50, Origen reports Celsus saying ‘the more reasonable Jews and Christians, feeling ashamed of these things, somehow try to allegorise them, but they do not allow for any allegory and have clearly been imagined very simplemindedly’.6 Rather, the Christian Scriptures, specifically the narrative of Genesis 2-3 in this case, are like legends discussed among old women.7 In essence, the stories of Jewish and Christian Scripture lack the minimum of dignity that would allow one to recognise that there exists a figurative meaning under the veil of the letter.8 Consequently, any attempt to interpret the Christian Scriptures figuratively would be an illegitimate usage of the interpretative methods developed by Greek philosophers for their own classical texts. This reflects a broader argument in The True Doctrine that whatever was truly stated in the Jewish and Christian religions was plagiarised from more ancient, more illustrious Near Eastern peoples, including from the classical Greek authors and philosophers.9 Celsus was not alone in accusing the Christians of stealing the figurative interpretative methods which were ill-suited for their texts. Porphyry, for instance, states that Christians, ‘having been eager to find some solution to the immorality of the Jewish Scriptures, instead of renouncing them, turned to interpreta3 In this article, following the example of Ronald Heine, I will use the more neutral term ‘figurative’ rather than ‘allegorical’ when discussing Origen’s non-literal interpretations of texts, since the terms ‘allegorical’ and ‘allegory’ often obscure as much as they illuminate Origen’s hermeneutic method. See The Commentary of Origen on the Gospel of Matthew, trans. Ronald Heine, 2 vol. (Oxford, 2018), I 18. For further discussion on the difficulty of defining ‘allegory’, see also Mark J. Edwards, Origen Against Plato (Aldershot, 2002), 123-6. 4 Blossom Stefaniw has effectively demonstrated how much of the dispute between Christians and their pagan adversaries in this period centred on which texts were permitted objects of figurative interpretation, each side claiming this permission for themselves. See Blossom Stefaniw, Mind, Text, and Commentary: Noetic Exegesis in Origen of Alexandria, Didymus the Blind, and Evagrius Ponticus (Frankfurt am Main, 2010), 73-86. 5 M. Simonetti, ‘La Sacra Scrittura Nel Contro Celso’ (1998), 111-2. 6 Origen, Contra Celsum (C. Cels.) 4.38 (SC 136, 278); 4.50 (SC 136, 314): Origène, Contre Celse, livres I-IV, ed. and trans. Marcel Borret, SC 132, 136, 147, 150 (Paris, 1967-1969). 7 Ibid. 4.39 (SC 136, 282). 8 M. Simonetti, ‘La Sacra Scrittura Nel Contro Celso’ (1998), 99. 9 See ibid. 97-8; L. Fernando, ‘Origen’s Use of Scripture’ (1995), 246-7.

The Self-Sufficiency of Scripture for Figurative Exegesis


tions incompatible and unsuitable for what was written’, holding Old Testament texts to be ‘enigmas (αἰνίγματα) and ascribing divine influence to them as if they were oracles full of hidden mysteries’.10 In fact, Porphyry specifically names Origen as the very source of this mistaken practice, saying that, from his familiarity with various Greek philosophers, ‘having learned the allegorical method of interpretation of the mysteries of the Greeks, he applied it to the Jewish Scriptures’.11 Porphyry was not mistaken in suggesting that Origen was familiar with the figurative method of interpretation used among the Greeks. Eusebius of Caesarea reports on Origen’s training in the Greek sciences and his early career as a teacher of grammar before he ultimately gave up his library of Greek literature and committed himself to the exclusive study and teaching of the Christian Scriptures and its doctrines.12 Origen clearly must have known that the skills and techniques he used to interpret the Christian Scriptures and, crucially, to interpret them figuratively were acquirable outside of the Christian Church, at least to some extent. Nonetheless, in opposition to the claims of pagan polemicists that figurative interpretation cannot be reasonably applied to the Christian Scriptures, Origen was more than happy to make use of the figurative interpretative techniques he learnt from his education in the Greek sciences. Whether such figurative interpretation was a legitimate procedure was a question not without controversy, both within the Church and in extra-mural discussions. Regarding the former, we frequently find in Origen’s homilies and commentaries a man sparring against those within his Church who ‘devote themselves to the bare letter’ of Scripture,13 while the latter controversy is well documented in Contra Celsum 10 Eusebius of Caesarea, Ecclesiastical History (H.E.) 6.19.4 (SC 41, 114): Histoire Ecclésiastique, ed. and trans. Gustave Bardy, SC 41 (Paris, 1955). 11 Ibid. 6.19.8 (SC 41, 114-6). 12 H.E. 6.2.15-6.3.9. This portrayal is buttressed by the attacks of both Porphyry, preserved by Eusebius, and Epiphanius, who both accused Origen of mixing Christian doctrines with his extensive learning in Greek paideia, though they disagree on the question of to which element this intermingling was to the detriment of. See, H.E. 6.19.5-8 (SC 41, 114-6) and Epiphanius of Salamis, Panarion 64.72: Epiphanius II: Panarion haer. 34-64, ed. Karl Holl and Jürgen Dummer, GCS 31 (Berlin, 1980), 523. 13 Origen, Commentary on John (C Jn.) 10.209 (SC 157, 506): Origène, Commentaire sur Saint Jean, livres I-V, trans. and ed. Cécile Blanc, SC 120, 157, 222, 290, 385 (Paris, 1966-1992). Also, see Origène, Homilies on Genesis (H. Gen) 6.1 (SC 7, 182-4): Origène, Homélies sur la Genèse, ed. Louis Doutreleau, SC 7 (Paris, 1976); and Origen, Homilies on Exodus (H. Exod) 5.1 (SC 321, 150-2): Origène, Homélies sur l’Exode, ed. Marcel Borret, SC 321 (Paris, 1985); and Origen, Homilies on Leviticus 1.1: Origen, Homélies sur le Lévitique, ed. Marcel Borret, SC 286 (Paris, 1981), I 68-70. In each of these passages, Origen urges his audience not to be satisfied with the literal meaning of the text. While the primary motivation behind most examples of Origen attacking his adversaries for their literal exegesis is indeed doctrinal more than it is based in procedural issues per se, John Carl Johan Berglund is correct to suggest that one of the categories Origen opposes in his Commentary on John is ‘those who stop at the letter’, for whom ‘literal



and Porphyry’s Adversus Christianos. Nonetheless, Origen clearly believed that such techniques were not only justifiable but essential for the Christian exegete. This usage could in part be legitimised by the appeal to the ultimately divine provenance of any learning or truth found amongst the Greeks, as discussed by Peter Martens.14 However, for such a remarkably biblically grounded thinker as Origen, such a defence on its own would be surprisingly focussed on extrascriptural education. Given Origen gives a great importance to the condescension of Scripture to suit the needs of its readers, it would be surprising to find that Origen believed the skill central to reading Scripture to be primarily one acquired from outside the Church. Rather, it seems that Origen argues not only that the art of figurative interpretation is appropriate for Christian use on account of its divine provenance, but that knowledge and competency in this art is not something that needs to be transferred from outside the Church. It is instead an expertise that can be developed through the process of reading and engaging with the divine Scriptures. This is not to say that such skills cannot be learnt from secular paideia15 – Origen was a teacher of Greek grammar and literature after all! – but simply that they need not be acquired in this way. The Church and its writings themselves are more than adequate in the acquisition of exegetical competence. It is important to distinguish between claims about historical intellectual trends and claims about the beliefs of those within such trends. When I suggest that Origen believed his exegetical method to have its origins in Scripture, I do not intend to make any claim about the actual trends of which Origen was a part. It would be quite unreasonable to suggest that his method was not strongly influenced by the developments in allegorical interpretation among Greek philosophers. Thus, the suggestion that Origen considered his hermeneutics to be scripturally based in no way disputes the fact that Origen inherited many of his interpretations is a general habit and not limited to any particular passage’. John Carl Johan Berglund, ‘Heracleon and the Seven Categories of Exegetical Opponents in Origen’s Commentary on the Gospel of John’, Journal of Ancient Christianity 23 (2019), 228-51, 232-4. 14 See Peter Martens, Origen and Scripture: The Contours of the Exegetical Life (Oxford, 2012), 69-70. On the ultimate divine provenance of all intellection and reason, see Peri Archon (PA) 1.1.2 (SC 252, 100): Traité des Principes, livres I et III, trans. and ed. Henri Crouzel and Manlio Simonetti, SC 252 and 268 (Paris, 1978); and C Jn. 1.243-6 (SC 120, 180-2). 15 Origen suggests on a number of occasions that Christians can and should make use of secular education in the pursuit of a true Christian philosophy. Most famously, Origen exhorts his addressee Gregory to take from Greek philosophy whatever may serve as a propaedeutic for Christianity as the Israelites spoiled the Egyptians for gold and silver when exiting from Egypt. Elsewhere, in his thirteenth Homily on Genesis, Origen responds to those trained in secular paideia who hear his figurative interpretations and believe his methods to have been plagiarised from secular sciences. In response, Origen asserts that his usage is justified because in utilizing this interpretative technique, Origen is infusing figurative exegesis with salvific and rational understanding. Gregory Thaumaturgos, Remerciement à Origène suivi de Lettre d’Origène à Grégoire, trans. and ed. Henri Crouzel, SC 148 (Paris, 1969), 186-95; H. Gen 13.3 (SC 7, 320-2).

The Self-Sufficiency of Scripture for Figurative Exegesis


presuppositions and techniques from the intellectual milieu in which he was raised. In fact, as will be seen in the consideration of his understanding of enigmatic sayings, one of the very means by which Origen seek to base his hermeneutics in Scripture demonstrates his indebtedness to wider intellectual trends of the period.

Riddles and Enigmas: How Scripture signals its contents Origen’s response to the accusation levelled against Christians that they appropriate Greek interpretative techniques is threefold. The first, more general response, is to emphasise the greater antiquity of the Hebrew Scripture.16 How could Christians have stolen from Plato when their texts precede Plato by several centuries? Just as the accusation was a common one in Christian-pagan disputes, this was also a frequent riposte utilised by both the Christian and Jewish apologetic traditions, upholding the antiquity of Moses and the Jewish religion and their role in the intellectual development of Hellenistic religions and philosophies.17 It serves to underline that Christianity is its own self-sufficient belief system, founded upon its own inspired texts. This is no less true of the interpretative method used within the Church. The second response was to counterattack. It was not Christian texts, he argued, but pagan ones which have ‘not only been imagined very simplemindedly, but are also very impious’.18 It is not the Christian texts but the pagan ones that fail to reach the minimum level of dignity to be worthy of figurative interpretation. Origen, having reproached Celsus for the inconsistency in denying Christian tales that method of interpretation which he indiscriminately admitted for pagan myths, is himself contesting the appropriateness of interpreting his opponent’s texts figuratively.19 Thirdly, Origen resorts to Scripture’s own words to defend the Christian use of figurative interpretation. Origen has a number of arguments in his repertoire that support a scriptural basis for the figurative interpretation of Scripture. For instance, Origen had long made use of Paul’s authoritative example to justify his 16 See, for example, C. Cels. 4.11 (SC 136, 208-10); 4.21 (SC 136, 234); 4.36 (SC 136, 274); 6.13 (SC 147, 210). C. Cels. 4.36 is particularly relevant in this discussion, since Origen’s defence of the greater antiquity of Jewish and Christian Scriptures takes place in here in the context of his defence of the legitimacy of figurative interpretation of such Scriptures against accusations of their vulgarity and crudeness. See L. Fernando, ‘Origen’s Use of Scripture’ (1995), 246-7; M. Simonetti, ‘La Sacra Scrittura Nel Contro Celso’ (1998), 102. 17 See Strom. (SC 30, 98); (SC 30, 109); (SC 278, 40); (SC 446, 114). Les Stromates, livres I-VII, ed. and trans. Marcel Caster et al., SC 30, 38, 463, 278, 279, 446, 428 (Paris, 1951-2001). 18 C. Cels. 4.50 (SC 136, 312). 19 M. Simonetti, ‘La Sacra Scrittura Nel Contro Celso’ (1998), 112.



own hermeneutic method.20 As an example, in the fifth of his Homilies on Exodus, Origen begins his exegesis stating: The Apostle Paul instructed the Church assembled from the Gentiles how one ought to read the books of the Law, which had been received from others and which were previously unknown to them and very foreign… Therefore, for this reason, he gives some examples of interpretation, so we might observe similar things in other places, lest we might believe that we become disciples by imitation of the narrative and the document of the Jews.21

Furthermore, in Peri Archon 4.2.6, making use of the same example of 1Cor. 9:9-10 as he utilises in Contra Celsum 4.49, Origen argues that Paul’s interpretation of Deut. 25:4 demonstrates that Scripture has a psychic meaning.22 Origen made use of this long-standing justification in Contra Celsum. Responding to Celsus’ accusation that intelligent Christians resort to figurative interpretation to cover the shamefulness of the stories contained in their texts, Origen states in Contra Celsum 4.44 that this is not a new development, constructed post hoc to explain away uncomfortable passages. Rather, Origen claims, ‘we have received this from wise men before us,’ by which he means Paul.23 Paul’s figurative interpretation of the story of Sarah and Hagar demonstrates that figurative interpretation is indigenous to the Scriptures. A little further, in Contra Celsum 4.49, Origen argues: ‘Since the founders of the doctrines themselves and the writers interpreted these things figuratively, what else is one to think except that they were written with the principal purpose of being interpreted figuratively?’24 The very form and structure of Scripture also highlights to the reader that it needs to be approached in a figurative manner. Scripture, Origen argues, is full of riddles and enigmas. In fact, Scripture is so full of enigmas that there is no passage that cannot be interpreted figuratively. Again, this was a conviction that Origen had long held and one that is once again expressed in Contra Celsum. While Porphyry later disputed that the Christian Scriptures were enigmatic, Origen is able to buttress his characterisation of Scripture, since Scripture characterises itself in this manner. Enigmas and riddles were understood to hold a special place in the relationship between mankind and the divine in Late Antique thought. So, in Plato’s Apology for Socrates, Socrates puzzles over words of the Delphic oracle. He does not suggest that the gods are lying when they say that ‘no man is wiser than 20 Ronald Heine also demonstrates that Origen not only cited examples of Pauline exegesis to justify his interpretative method, but that there was a nexus of key verses from the Pauline Epistles that formed the core of Origen’s conception of the Christian interpretative task. See Ronald Heine, ‘Gregory of Nyssa’s Apology for Allegory’, Vigiliae Christianae 38 (1984), 360-70. 21 H. Exod 5.1 (SC 321, 148). 22 PA 4.2.6 (SC 268, 318-20). 23 C. Cels. 4.44 (SC 136, 298). 24 Ibid. 4.49 (SC 136, 310).

The Self-Sufficiency of Scripture for Figurative Exegesis


Socrates’, but seeks to find the hidden meaning of what he believes to have been spoken in riddles (αἰνίττεται).25 Whether or not this is grounded in the historical reality of the nature of oracular sayings, it certainly came to maintain a strong hold on the common conception of oracular revelation.26 The σύμβολα of the Pythagoreans provide another important point of comparison, since, although primarily consisting of practical rules, these words of the revered and holy Pythagoras came to be predominantly regarded as αἰνίγματα which needed to be interpreted figuratively in order to understand their hidden wisdom, especially following Androcydes’ On Pythagorean Symbols, probably in the first century BCE.27 The importance given to the riddling and the enigmatic in divine matters was no less present amongst Christian writers in this period. Frances Young highlights what she describes as ‘the paradoxical idea that God’s revelatory Word is indirect’ as a point of commonality between the likes of Origen and Greek philosophical writers of the period.28 As an example, Clement of Alexandria writes: ‘Therefore, all barbarians and Greeks who have spoken of the divine have concealed the first principles of things, and have handed down the truth in enigmas, in symbols, in allegories, in metaphors, and in tropes. Of this sort are the oracles among the Greeks’.29 There were two principle reasons for this concept of indirect revelation. The first is the incommensurability of human language and divine or noetic truths.30 Since human language is necessarily an inadequate vessel for conveying the truths revealed by God or the gods, these things can only be revealed indirectly – the words acting as signs towards the truths, not delivering them wholesale.31 The second reason is that the enigmatic form required that the recipient of 25 Plato, Apology 21B; Euthyphro; Apology; Crito; Phaedo, ed. and trans. Chris Emlyn-Jones and William Preddy (Cambridge, MA, 2017), 121. 26 On the question of whether oracles were in fact delivered in enigmatic or riddling forms, for the argument that they were not, see Frederick Naerebout and Kim Beerden, ‘“Gods Cannot Tell Lies”: Riddling and Ancient Greek Divination’, in Jan Kwapisz, Mikolaj Szymanski and David Petrain (eds), The Muse at Play: Riddles and Wordplay in Greek and Latin Poetry (Berlin, Boston, 2012), 121-47. For the opposing position, see Sarah I. Johnston, Ancient Greek Divination (Oxford, 2008), 51-6; Robert Parker, ‘Greek States and Greek Oracles’, in Richard Buxton (ed.), Oxford Readings in Greek Religion (Oxford, 2000), 76-108. 27 See Walter Burkert, Lore and Science in Ancient Pythagoreanism (Cambridge, MA, 1972), 174-5; Leonid Zhmud, Pythagoras and the Early Pythagoreans (Oxford, 2012), 192-3. 28 Frances Young, ‘Riddles and Puzzles: God’s Indirect Word in Patristic Hermeneutics’, SP 91 (2017), 149-55. 29 Clement of Alexandria, Stromateis (Strom.) (SC 278, n. 60). 30 See C. Cels. 6.3-5 (SC 147, 182-90); Plato, Seventh Epistle 7.341C-D, 182-90: Timaeus; Critias; Cleitophon; Menexenus; Epistles, ed. and trans. Robert Gregg Bury (Cambridge, MA, 2014), 5390. 31 Thus, what Frances Young refers to as the ‘paradoxical idea that God’s revelatory Word is indirect’ is closely connected to what Blossom Stefaniw calls ‘the paradox of written revelation’. F. Young, ‘Riddles and Puzzles’ (2017), 149; B. Stefaniw, Mind, Text, and Commentary (2010), 198.



divine revelation make moral, intellectual, and spiritual progress before understanding the deeper truths of God and creation, ensuring such knowledge would not be profaned by the wicked or ignorant.32 Proverbs 1:6, ‘He will know parables and dark sayings, the words of the wisdom and enigmas’, provided Origen with a key verse with which to provide scriptural authority to his characterisation of the Christian Scriptures as enigmatic and riddling.33 In so doing, Origen was able to position the Christian Scriptures within this wider discourse of indirect revelation, and thus make certain claims about its contents and the ways in which it needed to be approached. Origen makes references to this verse in discussions of wisdom and figurative interpretation in Contra Celsum34 – wisdom and figurative readings of Scripture being closely connected in Origen’s thought.35 So, Origen states in Contra Celsum 3.45: ‘The gospel thus wishes for wise men among its believers, and so, in order to train the intelligence of its listeners, it has spoken things in enigmas, some things in what are called dark sayings, some by parables, and others by problems’.36 And a little earlier, Origen says: ‘And Solomon, when he asked for wisdom, was approved. And you may see the traces of his wisdom in his books, which contain grand thoughts in concise sayings’.37 In both these statements, Origen draws a close connection between wisdom and Scripture’s literary forms. Thus, the literary forms in which Solomon and other inspired writers expressed themselves indicates to the reader that his words contain certain contents that require a certain method of interpretation. Origen makes use of the same verse of Proverbs to make a very similar point in the context of the pedagogic role of the book of Proverbs in the prologue of his Commentary on the Song of Songs. Here, Origen states that Solomon, knowing that ‘there are diverse figures of speech and various types of expressions in the divine words’, such as parables, obscure speech, enigmas, and words of the wise (Prov. 1:6), ‘sets forth the rational science clearly and plainly, and so, in the custom of the ancients, he unfolds great and perfect meanings in short and succinct sentences’.38 The ‘rational science’ contained in Proverbs is Logic, the 32

See C. Cels. 5.29 (SC 147, 88). See Ibid. 3.45 (SC 136, 108); 7.10 (SC 150, 38); PA 4.2.3 (SC 268, 304-6); Origen, Commentary on Romans 1.1.1 (SC 532, 141); 1.6.1 (SC 532, 173): Origène, Commentaire sur l’Épître aux Romains, Livre I – Livre II, ed. and trans. Luc Brésard, SC 532 (Paris, 2009); Origen, Homilies of Jeremiah 20.1 (SC 238, 250): Origène, Homélies sur Jérémie: Homélie XII-Homélie XX, trans. and ed. Pierre Husson and Pierre Nautin, SC 238 (Paris, 2008). 34 Ibid. 3.45 (SC 136, 108); 7.10 (SC 150, 38). 35 See PA 4.2.4 (SC 268, 310-2), where Origen draws an explicit connection between the wisdom spoken among the perfect and the spirit of Scripture. 36 C. Cels. 3.45 (SC 136, 108). 37 Ibid. 3.45 (SC 136, 108). 38 Origen, Commentary on the Song of Songs (C. Cant.), prol. 3 (SC 375, 134-6): Origène, Commentaire sur le Cantique des Cantiques, trans. and ed. Luc Brésard and Henri Crouzel, SC 375 (Paris, 1991). 33

The Self-Sufficiency of Scripture for Figurative Exegesis


grammatical or hermeneutic science which, since it ultimately leads to the interpretation of the wholly spiritual Song of Songs, is undoubtedly figurative in nature.39 Such a science is required because of the enigmatic means of discourse that Solomon correctly understood to be present within Scripture. Frances Young has already drawn comparison between Plutarch’s De E apud Delphos and Origen’s hermeneutics.40 However, I believe this connection can be made even clearer when comparing this text with Origen’s comment in Contra Celsum 3.45 quoted above. In De E apud Delphos, in a discussion on why oracles were presented in riddles and enigmatic forms, Plutarch approvingly recounts the words of his teacher, Ammonius of Athens: ‘“Since,” he said, “investigation is the beginning of philosophy, and wonder and perplexity the beginning of investigation, likewise the multitude of things that concern the god have been concealed in enigmas”’.41 Thus, the presence of αἰνίγματα, confirmed by Prov. 1:6, raises the same question for Origen as for Plutarch as to why God would communicate in this way and the answer given is much the same in both – to incite the minds of Scripture’s readers and to ‘produce in the soul a desire leading towards the truth’ or to ‘to train the intelligence of its listeners’.42 Parables and proverbs therefore function very similarly to the σκάνδαλα referred to elsewhere in Origen’s other work. In Peri Archon 4.2.9, Origen states that such σκάνδαλα, insertions into the narrative or teaching that did not or could not happen, at least not literally, are placed into the text of Scripture in order that some, ‘devoting themselves to the trial of interpreting what is written, they may gain an important conviction concerning the necessity of seeking in them a meaning worthy of God.’43 These σκάνδαλα cannot be divorced from enigmas and riddles, since in the same text Origen characterises the Scriptures as enigmatic.44 Just as in Contra Celsum with regards to enigmas and riddles, in Peri Archon the σκάνδαλα placed in Scripture, being difficult insertions into the text, indicate the need for non-literal exegesis and as spurs to deeper investigation. Thus Scripture’s use of these cryptic literary devices, which Scripture itself authoritatively states are contained within, highlights to the reader that there is wisdom hidden within, wisdom that requires a spiritual or figurative exegesis. Consequently, Origen could upbraid Celsus for his refusal to perceive the need to read certain Scriptures figuratively, since Scripture itself signals this 39 See P. Martens, Origen and Scripture (2012), 79; Christopher King, Origen on the Song of Songs as the Spirit of Scripture: The Bridegroom’s Perfect Marriage-Song (Oxford, 2005), 168-9; Robert Somos, Logic and Argumentation in Origen (Munster, 2015), 22. 40 Frances Young, ‘Riddles and Puzzles’ (2017), 149-50. 41 Plutarch, ‘De E Apud Delphos’ 385C, in Moralia, ed. and trans. Frank C. Babbitt (Cambridge, MA, 1936), V 202. 42 Ibid. 384F; Babbitt (1936), 200. 43 PA 4.2.9 (SC 268, 334-40). 44 Ibid. 4.2.3 (SC 268, 304-6).



fact. So, in Contra Celsum 4.49, Origen says: ‘If Celsus had read the Scriptures impartially, he would not have said that our writings do not in any way allow for allegory’.45 Given that Scripture itself indicates the need for non-literal reading, it could only be bias and preconceptions on Celsus’ part that can explain his inability to see this. Of course, Origen’s assertions here exhibit the tendency in late antique polemics to attribute any mistake or disagreement to the moral and intellectual failure of the opponent. Nonetheless, the point remains that Origen believes that were one to read Scripture impartially, it would clearly exhibit the need for non-literal interpretations. Thus, on the other hand, Origen could praise Numenius as a non-Christian who ‘desired more than Celsus and other Greeks to examine even our Scriptures in a learned manner’, and thus concluded that they were worthy of figurative interpretation.46 Development of interpretative skill through reading Scripture If, as we have seen, Scripture signals to the attentive and open reader the need to approach its texts in a figurative manner, the question still to be answered is how they develop this capability. Signalling this fact alone is insufficient if it requires the Christian reader to import these techniques from without. Nonetheless, there are certain preconditions that Origen asserts were necessary to read Scripture spiritually, all of which were possible to be met through engagement with Scripture. The first of these is the presence of divine grace. The importance of divine grace for the spiritual exegete is commonly expounded in Origenian scholarship47 and is a constant presence in Origen’s literary corpus48. Take as a brief example Contra Celsum 4.49-50, where Origen, after stating that the allegorisation of the Christian Scriptures is not simply a later phenomenon but inherent to the Scriptures themselves, states that if the Mosaic law contained no hidden meaning, Psalm 118:18 would not say: ‘Unveil my eyes, and I will perceive the wonderful things of your law’.49 This shows, Origen says, that the Psalmist understood there to be a veil of ignorance over the hearts of those who read and do not understand the allegorical meaning. ‘This very veil is stripped away by the gift of God, when he sees someone who has done everything in 45

C. Cels. 4.49 (SC 136, 308). Ibid. 4.51 (SC 136, 316). 47 For example, see Henri de Lubac, History and Spirit: The Understanding of Scripture according to Origen, trans. Anne Englund Nash and Juvenal Merriell (San Francisco, CA, 2007), 36174; Henri Crouzel, Origen, trans. A.S. Worrall (Edinburgh, 1989), 73-8; P. Martens, Origen and Scripture (2012), 181-6. 48 See P. Martens, Origen and Scripture (2012), 182 n. 84 for an extensive list of passages in Origen’s writings where the Word, Wisdom, or Jesus is described as aiding the interpreter of Scripture. The importance of divine grace in figurative interpretation is evident in the description of the highest figurative sense of Scripture as the ‘spiritual sense’. See PA 4.2.4 (SC 268, 310-2). 49 C. Cels, 4.49-50 (SC 136, 308-14). 46

The Self-Sufficiency of Scripture for Figurative Exegesis


their own power, and through habit has exercised their senses to distinguish good and evil, and has constantly said in their prayers, “Unveil my eyes, and I will perceive the wonderful things of your law”’.50 If grace is a crucial precondition for the development of the Christian exegete, this condition is undoubtedly met by the genuine and faithful engagement with Scripture, since Scripture is perhaps the crucial locus of grace in Origen’s theology. However, the ability to read figuratively is not dependent solely on the condescension of God to the reader. In this quotation from Contra Celsum 4.50, God’s gift of the grace which lifts the veil on Scripture is given only after ‘he sees someone who has done everything in their own power’. Prayer and the grace imparted as a result of it, while necessary, are not sufficient to be able to read Scripture figuratively if not combined with human effort.51 This passage from Contra Celsum highlights the second precondition: virtue and moral uprightness. One must first be able to ‘distinguish good and evil’ before one is able to perceive the veiled and hidden meanings of Scripture. This is a common refrain throughout Origen’s work, so much so that Crouzel could state that for Origen ‘the most important of the subjective conditions for knowledge’ is ‘that of a moral and ascetic life’.52 Specifically in relation to the cryptic literary devices of Prov. 1:6, specifically parables, Origen highlights in his first Homily on Psalm 77 how observance of Christian moral instruction is necessary before one can approach the hidden wisdom of Jesus’ parables. 53 Ps. 77:1-2 reads: ‘Pay heed, my people, to my law. Incline your ear to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter problems which have existed from the beginning’. Linking this to the Gospel of Matthew, which references this verse in Jesus’ parable discourses in Matt. 13:34-5, Origen argues that this verse reflects the order of Christian education. One must first learn the law – not the Mosaic law but the Christian law as outlined in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7) – before one can come to understand deeper mysteries hidden in the parables discourses in Matt. 13: ‘For no one 50

Ibid. 4.50 (SC 136, 312). Likewise, in relation to the interpretation of parables in Origen’s Commentary on Matthew, Heine notes Origen’s frequent use of Matt. 7:7-8, ‘Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you’. So, Heine states: ‘The latter two terms [seeking and knocking] imply both effort and persistence, as Origen suggests when he says in his application of these words to his own interpretative effort’. Origen, Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew (2018), I 12. 52 Henri Crouzel, Origène et la “Connaissance Mystique” (Paris, 1961), 409. For greater discussion on the relation between exegesis and moral purification, see P. Martens, Origen and Scripture (2012), 162-7. 53 Origen, Homily on Ps. 77, 1.1-6: Origen, Die Neuen Psalmenhomilien, ed. Lorenzo Perrone, GCS N.F. 19 (Berlin, Boston, 2015), 351-64. For further discussion on the relation between the law and parables in this homily and the importance of the narrative order in understanding the contents of the Gospel of Matthew, see Ronald Heine’s introduction in Origen, Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew (2018), I 20-4. 51



is perfected by the law alone, without also employing the word of wisdom and the word of knowledge, nor is it possible whatsoever for the word of wisdom to be in someone who has not beforehand lived righteously in the law’.54 Here, the order of the text provides an important hermeneutic key to understanding how to properly read it, just as in the Commentary on the Song of Songs, where the order of the three books of the Solomonic corpus provides a hermeneutic key to understanding the meaning within each book.55 One must first become proficient in the moral course of instruction in the book of Proverbs, before, eventually, coming to an understanding of the mysteries figuratively hidden in the erotic language of the Song of Songs. Once again, it is the Christian Scriptures which teach their readers these moral commandments, since even those unable to understand the deeper meanings are nonetheless benefited by the ethical instructions of the bare text of Scripture.56 However, the effort Origen refers to is not simply one of maintaining one’s moral uprightness. So states Origen in Contra Celsum 3.60: ‘And whosoever has a wise voice from studying the law of the Lord day and night, and has exercised his senses by habit to distinguish good and evil, should not shrink from approaching solid, rational foods, which are fit for athletes of piety and every virtue’.57 Once one has exercised one’s senses, one is to progress to ‘rational food’ in a similar way one moves from the law to the parables in Origen’s interpretation of Ps. 77. All of which, Origen stresses, is enabled by the engagement with and study of Scripture. Thus, the ability to read Scripture also involves the utilization of one’s rational faculties. Similarly, in the Commentary on the Song of Songs, Proverbs, the science of Logic, the science concerned with the deciphering and understanding of various literary forms and hidden meanings, is described as the ‘rational science.’58 In Book I of Contra Celsum, in response to Celsus’ exhortation not to accept Christian doctrines but to ‘follow reason and a rational guide,’59 Origen retorts that the study of the obscure sayings, parables, and other symbolic sayings in the Christian Scriptures is no less profound than non-Christians have to offer. The link between the figurative interpretation of cryptic passages and rational discernment is further reinforced when Origen continues, suggesting that the only reason most people fail to devote themselves to such interpretation is because only very few people are enthusiastic in making use of their rational faculties.60 Such people may be ‘converted with simple faith 54

Homily on Ps. 77, 1.5 (GCS N.F. 19, 359). C. Cant. prol. 3 (SC 375, 128-42). 56 This is in Origen’s eyes a crucial advantage of the Christian Scriptures over the classical Greek texts, whose obvious meaning is completely unedifying. See C. Cels. 4.50 (SC 136, 314). 57 C. Cels. 3.60 (SC 136, 140). 58 C. Cant. prol. 3 (SC 375, 134-6). 59 C. Cels. 1.9 (SC 132, 96). 60 Ibid. 1.9 (SC 132, 100). 55

The Self-Sufficiency of Scripture for Figurative Exegesis


until they might devote themselves to the study of reasons’ – this study being the explanation of ‘the enigmas of the prophets, and the parables in the gospels, and countless other things that happened or were laid down symbolically’.61 These obscure utterances and parables are designed to test and enliven the rational faculties of the reader, as Origen suggests in Contra Celsum 7.10: All the more mysterious and epoptic truths, which contain visions beyond common perception, they expressed by enigmas, allegories, and what are called dark sayings, and by what are named parables or proverbs, so that those who do not shun hard work but take on every toil in pursuit of virtue and truth, they might seek these truths by means of study and, having found them, might make use of them as reason demands.62

Finally, we can draw attention to one of the key passages Origen utilises in justifying his hermeneutics: 1Cor. 2:13. Christians understand the hidden meanings of Scripture by ‘comparing spiritual things with spiritual things.’63 As Origen explains in Contra Celsum 7.11, ‘It is only a person who is wise and truly in Christ who could give as a connected whole the interpretation of the obscure passages in the prophets by “comparing spiritual things with spiritual” (1Cor. 2:13) and by explaining each phrase found in the text from the common usage of that phrase elsewhere in scripture’. By reading the Scriptures, the Christian student learns the common meaning of phrases and terms utilised in the biblical texts, and thereby, to draw on Origen’s memorable simile preserved in the Philocalia, discovers the keys with which they can unlock the hidden meaning of some other difficult or enigmatic passage of Scripture.64

Conclusion We can now see how Origen understands Christian philosophy, which is so deeply wedded to the figurative exegesis of Scripture, to stand on its own two 61 Ibid 1.9 (SC 132, 100). In C. Cels. 1.10 (SC 132, 102), Origen continues: ‘Since these matters concerning faith are much discussed, it must be said that, having accepted it as useful to the multitude, we admit to teaching those who cannot abandon everything and follow the study of reason, that they should believe without acknowledging the reasons for it’. 62 Ibid. 7.10 (SC 150, 38). Also, see C. Cels. 4.49 (SC 136, 308-10); C. Cels. 3.45 (SC 136, 108). The reference to ‘epoptic’ truths draws on the language of Greek mysteries, suggesting the development of virtue and interpretive ability is a kind of initiation into the higher mysteries of Christianity. In his Commentary on the Song of Songs, the highest level of Christian teaching, epitomised in the Song of Songs, is the ‘epoptic’ science, for which one must be prepared by physics, ethics, and logic, which includes the study of words, phrases, and obscure sayings. See C. Cant. prol. 3 (SC 375, 128). 63 See P. Martens, Origen and Scripture (2012), 61 n. 122, which includes a substantial list of citations of this verse. 64 Origen, Philocalia 2.3 (SC 302, 244): Origène, Philocalie 1-20 et Lettre à Africanus, ed. and trans. Nicholas De Lange, SC 302 (Paris, 1983).



feet. Scripture itself highlights, through both the examples of its authoritative authors as well as through the enigmatic means of its discourse, the need for its readers to approach its interpretation in a certain manner. Moreover, Scripture also provides the tools to unlock the deeper wisdom hidden within itself, through its morally reforming commandments, its rationally challenging manner, and through the fact that it is the locus of spiritual grace.

Origen vs Origen: His Spiritual and Literal Interpretations of Biblical Journeys J. José ALVIAR, University of Navarra, Spain

ABSTRACT Origen more often than not interprets Biblical journeys spiritually, as depictions of the soul’s pilgrimage. However, in certain instances he prefers to read Biblical journey narratives more literally, to hint at some form of retreat from the world and secular affairs. The present communication studies the tantalizing contrast between these two groups of texts, and suggests that their apparent discrepancy may be better understood in the light of Origen’s complex, ambivalent view of the world (κόσμος/mundus).

1. Introduction This article contrasts two groups of texts by Origen. In the first, our author shows his propensity for reading biblical journeys (e.g. Abraham’s departure from his native land, the Israelites’ going out of Egypt, etc.) in a ‘spiritual’ way. In the second, he appears to read biblical journeys more literally, often to suggest withdrawal in a more physical sense from the secular milieu and its activities. These texts have been analysed previously by scholars; in this communication I will simply add the suggestion that the apparent discrepancy between the two groups of statements may be better understood within the context of Origen’s nuanced view of the world (κόσμος/mundus).

2. Spiritual journeys Origen’s preferential pursuit of the spiritual meaning of biblical passages has been well studied by scholars.1 He uses such an allegorical approach to interpret biblical narratives of journeys, reading them as depictions of the pilgrimage of 1 Origen’s spiritual interpretation of biblical journeys in particular has been analysed by Karen Jo Torjesen, Hermeneutical Procedure and Theological Method in Origen’s Exegesis (Berlin, New York, 1986), 70-107; Peter William Martens, Origen and Scripture: The Contours of the Exegetical Life (Oxford, New York, 2012), 212-6; Jean Daniélou, ‘Les sources bibliques de la mystique d’Origène’, RAM 23 (1947), 126-41.

Studia Patristica CXI, 37-47. © Peeters Publishers, 2021.



the soul, created in God’s image and summoned by Him to the fullness of divine likeness.2 Let us consider just two examples, since this class of texts has been extensively studied by Origen scholars. In the first, from his commentary on John, Origen declares his exegetical principle: It is necessary to allegorize all the history of Abraham, in order to accomplish each one of his actions spiritually (δεῖ πᾶσαν τὴν κατὰ τὸν Ἀβραὰμ ἀλληγοροῦντα ἱστορίαν ἕκαστον πνευματικῶς ποιῆσαι τῶν πεπραγμένων ὑπ’ αὐτοῦ), beginning with this: ‘Leave (ἔξελθε) your country, your kinsfolk and your father’s house, for the land which I will show you’ (Gen. 12:1), for this is said not only to Abraham but also to whomever would become his infant.3

Origen goes on to describe the transition from an ignorant and sinful state to a life of faith and obedience to God, then concludes: Now the Word may say of us, too: ‘He departed (ἐπορεύθη)’, as it is said of Abraham: ‘Abraham departed, as the Lord had told him’ (Gen. 12:4).4

Here we see our author’s hermeneutical method at work. Without wholly discarding the literal sense, Origen focuses on the loftiest significance of Abraham’s journey, convinced that it is the spiritual meaning (transition from sinfulness to holiness) which is most relevant for his audience. A similar leap, from the literal to the spiritual significance of motion, may be found in Origen’s comment on the Genesis passage ‘Rebecca departed to inquire of the Lord’ (Gen. 25:22): ‘She departed (abiit)’. Where did she go? Did she depart from that place where the Lord was not, to that place where He was? … Is not the Lord everywhere? Did He not say Himself: ‘I fill heaven and earth…’ (Jer. 23:24)?5

Origen reasons that since God is in every place, the biblical reference to Rebecca’s journey should not be taken literally but spiritually: I think that she did not depart from one place to another (non de loco ad locum), but she passed over from one life to another (de vita ad vitam), from one deed to another (de actu ad actum), from good things to better (de bonis ad meliora); she proceeded from profitable things to more profitable (de utilibus ad utiliora); she hastened from holy things to holier (de sanctis ad sanctiora).6 2 See Henri Crouzel, Théologie de l’image de Dieu chez Origène (Paris, 1956); J. José Alviar, Klesis. The Theology of the Christian Vocation According to Origen (Dublin, 1993); Walter Völker, Das Vollkommenheitsideal des Origenes (Tübingen, 1931). 3 ComJn 20.10.67. 4 Ibid. 5 HomGn 12.2. 6 Ibid. Similarly, in the desire expressed before Pharaoh by the Israelites to go out to the desert in order to worship God (see Exod. 5:1), Origen sees not so much a reference to physical movement as to spiritual advancement: ‘We must go forth from Egypt. We must leave the world behind (relinquendus est mundus) if we wish “to serve the Lord” (Exod. 5:1). I mean, however, that we must

Origen vs Origen: His Spiritual and Literal Interpretations of Biblical Journeys


The passage just cited reveals Origen’s conception of the human person as a highly dynamic reality, capable of advancing unceasingly in virtue and intimacy with God. From such a perspective, biblical passages narrating voyages are a portrayal of the soul’s journey, and those enumerating waypoints signify milestones in the personal story of sanctification. The paradoxical situation thus arises, wherein a believer may appear to be locally stationary but in is fact a secret pilgrim, zealously engaged in the quest for virtue and holiness. Such a one may be in a crowd but actually be sitting alone in the summit of perfection;7 or may appear to be in the home, marketplace or theatre but really be exercising an inner priesthood or continuous prayer before God.8 Thus spiritual pilgrimage becomes compatible and coextensive with physical permanence in town, city, or society.9 We may affirm that, in the Origenistic passages just considered, the physical location of a Christian appears to be of secondary importance, as long as the individual does not lose sight of God, and his/her actions – including mundane activities – are in conformity with God’s law.10 3. ‘Distancing’ oneself from the ‘world’ Up to this point we have considered more familiar texts that show Origen’s preference for the spiritual meaning. Let us now turn to other passages of his leave the world behind not in space, but in the soul (non loco, sed animo); not by setting out on a journey, but by advancing in faith (non itinere profiscescendo, sed fide proficiendo)’ (HomEx 3.3). 7 ‘“I sat alone (κατὰ μόνας ἐκαθήμην)” (Jer. 15:17) … Perhaps if you examine more deeply the words, I sat alone, you will find a kind of sense worthy of the prophetic depth (εὑρήσεις τινὰ ἄξιον νοῦν βάθους προφητικοῦ). Whenever we imitate the life of the masses so that it has not been set off and is not greater and more special than the masses, I cannot say, I have sat alone, but I sat with the masses. But when my life becomes hard to imitate so that I become so great that no one resembles my habits, my doctrine, my practices, my wisdom, then I can say, because I am one of a kind, and no one imitates me, I sat alone’ (HomJr 14.16). 8 ‘It is not in a place where one ought to seek the sanctuary, but in one’s actions, life, and behaviour. If these are according to God, if they are accomplished according to His precept, it matters little if you are in your house, or in the forum; it matters little, likewise, if you are in the theatre; if you obey the Word of God, without doubt you are in the sanctuary’ (HomLev 12.4; see also 11.1). See Irénée Hausherr, ‘La prière perpétuelle du chrétien’, in Sainteté et vie dans le siècle (Rome, 1965), 109-66, 115-9; Gustave Bardy, La vie spirituelle d’après les Pères des trois premiers siècles, 2 vol. (Paris, 1968), II 118-9; Marcel Viller and Karl Rahner, Aszese und Mystik in der Väterzeit (Freiburg i.B., 1939), 72-80; Joseph Lécuyer, ‘Sacerdoce des fidèles et sacerdoce ministériel chez Origène’, VetChr 7 (1970), 253-64. 9 In Contra Celsum Origen affirms that ‘if necessary, we (Christians) will also partake of the joys of this life and endure the appointed evils as trials of the soul’ (CCels 8.56), while asserting too that the perfect Christian ‘is always passing over (διαβαίνων) in thought and in every word and every deed from the affairs of this life to God (ἀπὸ τῶν τοῦ βίου πραγμάτων ἐπὶ τὸν θεόν) and hastening (σπεύδων) towards His city’ (CCels 8.22). 10 Such a symbiosis between the holy and the secular may sound like a radical doctrine, but is actually drawn by Origen from Scriptural passages such as Num. 28:6, 1Cor. 10:31, 1Thess. 5:17, 1Pet. 2:9.



which have a different tone, wherein he appears to read biblical journeys more literally, often ending with the suggestion of physical withdrawal from the secular milieu and its affairs.11 This attitude derives from the fact that Origen does not see the world (κόσμος or αἰών in his original works; mundus, aeon, or saeculum in the Latin translations) in an unmitigated positive light; rather, he maintains a diffident position.12 At the risk of simplifying, we may say that Origen is simultaneously appreciative and wary of the actual world. Insofar as it is God’s creation, it cannot be despised as intrinsically evil; but in the light of the fall and its consequences, the world is problematic. a) The positive aspect of the world On the positive side, within his theory of preexistence Origen sees the universe – now populated by visible and invisible entities – as proceeding from a good Creator and obeying his providential plan. God, after the fall of his purely spiritual creatures, provided bodily receptacles for them13 as well as a suitable habitat in which they might carry out their material/spiritual activities, including the rational satisfaction of bodily needs.14 Consequently, the material cosmos and bodies, though dissimilar to the invisible, spiritual God, cannot be dismissed as inherently evil or abominable.15 This ‘theological’ or providentialistic way of contemplating the whole of created reality allows our author to contemplate the actual universe in a certain positive light. From such a vantage point, there is no question of disengaging completely from secular reality.16 b) Negative aspects of the world From other vantage points, however, Origen sees problems with the material body, the material universe, and all activities associated with them. We may name at least three reasons for such a critical stance: 11 Texts of this second kind have also been the object of earlier studies, particularly those exploring Origen’s influence on the monastic movement. See Friedrich Wilhelm Bernhard Bornemann, In investiganda monachatus origine, quibus de causis ratio habenda sit Origenis (Göttingen, 1885); William Seston, ‘Remarques sur le rôle de la pensée d’Origène dans les origines du monachisme’, RHR 108 (1933), 197-213; Henri Crouzel, ‘Origène, précurseur du monachisme’, in Théologie de la vie monastique. Études sur la tradition patristique (Paris, 1961), 15-38. 12 See Manuel Ruiz Jurado, ‘Le concept de “Monde” chez Origène’, BLE 75 (1974), 3-24; J. José Alviar, Klesis (1993), 133-203. 13 See for example PArch 1.7.4; 2.1.4. 14 See CCels 4.76; PArch 2.1.1. 15 See CCels 3.42. 16 See CCels 8.73 for Origen’s defence of Christians against Celsus’ charge of scant involvement in civic affairs.

Origen vs Origen: His Spiritual and Literal Interpretations of Biblical Journeys


(1) Origen sometimes views the world as a quagmire of sin that could readily suck in a person seeking holiness. In this first negative sense – derived from Johannine and Pauline allusions to the κόσμος as a reality infected by sin and distanced from God – the world is a morass of evil ways from which one must depart in haste: John gives us the same warning…: ‘Do not love the world (nolite diligere mundum), nor that which is in the world (ea quae in mundo sunt)’ (1John 2:15). And Paul tells us the same: ‘Do not conform yourself to the present world (nolite conformari huic mundo)’ (Rom. 12:2)…17

Origen proceeds in this homily to remind his Christian listeners that they must abandon all sinful associations and practices (‘to celebrate the feasts of the pagans… ; to seek the secret of life and of men’s actions in the course of stars; to read the crow’s flight and to give up oneself to divinations of the same kind as one used to practice in the world…’18). From the universe of debauchery and superstition one must distance oneself19 and stay aloof.20 (2) In other texts Origen depicts the actual world and its affairs with additional dark hues. From his pastoral experience he knows that even the legitimate goods of the world and pleasures of ordinary life are capable of provoking a disproportionate attachment in the human creature, weakened as it is after the Fall. Our author often complains in his homilies of the way some Christians become inordinately absorbed by secular affairs: You spend most of this time – no, rather almost all of it – in mundane occupations (mundanis occupationibus); you pass some of it in the marketplace, some in business; one has time for the country, another for lawsuits, and no one or very few have time to hear the word of God.21

(This sounds like the lament a contemporary preacher would make. It is worthwhile noting that Origen mentions the marketplace and a number of secular affairs, which in other texts he considers compatible with the exercise of continuous prayer.22 In the present instance, however, he portrays the world as a dangerous magnet, whose pull it is necessary to avoid or resist). 17

HomJos 7.4. Ibid. Similarly, HomNum 27.12. 19 Or, according to another text, one must ‘renounce’ the world or ‘die’ to it: ‘“I have been crucified with Christ. But I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2:20). If you have renounced the world (si renuntiasti saeculo), if you have rejected vices, if you are no longer provoked to sin, but you are dead to sin, then you are better than the one who lives to sin; and that praiseworthy death will be in you’ (HomNum 7. 3). 20 ‘“I sat alone (κατὰ μόνας ἐκαθήμην)” (Jer. 15:17). Even the literal words edify here (καὶ τὰ ῥήματα ἐνταῦθα οἰκοδομεῖ). Whenever there may be a great number of sinners and they do not forbear the righteous living righteously, there is nothing improper in avoiding the council of evil to imitate the one who said, I have sat alone’ (HomJr 14.16). 21 HomGn 10.1. See also HomEz 3.7; HomEx 6.6. 22 See note 8. 18



Origen recalls how Jesus himself withdrew from the crowd that wanted to exalt him as king (see John 6:15): You find him withdrawing also from the things the world holds to be good (εὕροις ἂν καὶ ἀπὸ τῶν νομιζομένων εἶναι ἐν κόσμῳ καλῶν ἀναχωροῦντα), so that through these examples, too, he might teach us to flee (φεύγειν) honours and positions of superiority in the world.23

Earthly goods such as food, drink, wealth, or honour, are attractive but deceptive. For all visible and corporal things are fleeting and brittle; and once the seeker of wisdom has grasped that they are so, he is bound to spurn and despise them.24 They are false goods – part of the ‘vanity’ (Rom. 8:20) to which creation has been subjected after the fall.25 They must not be allowed to entrap the human heart: ‘If I rejoice in the things of this age, in honours, in riches, these joys are false, proceeding from the “vanities of vanities” (Eccl. 1:2)’.26 Thus the life of a Christian in the middle of the world is not a comfortable one. It is necessary to resist the gravitational pull not only of sinful pleasures, but even of legitimate human goods such as honours and social status; material possessions;27 food and drink.28 One must exercise a strong discipline to keep the heart sufficiently detached; otherwise, disorder would pervade one’s life on earth.29 (3) In another group of texts Origen points to a third inconvenient aspect of the world, as a result of his platonic mindset.30 As already mentioned, Origen 23 ComJn 28.23.209. ‘In everyone who is engaged in the cares of the present life (in praesentis vitae curis versatur), “the heart is hardened” (Isa. 6:9-10); likewise, in those who live among worldly affairs, the heart is hardened as though suffocated by thorns. In this way the heart becomes filled up and may not accept even the lightest of spiritual notions (non potest tenuioris spiritus suscipere notiones). Let us therefore flee from such cares (fugiamus ergo a talibus curis) … Let us flee from earthly occupations (fugiamus terrena negotia)’ (HomIs 9). 24 See ComCant, Prologue, 3.21. 25 ComRom 7.3.9. 26 HomLev 11.8. 27 ‘Let us see what it means to “turn to the Lord” (converti ad Dominum) (2Cor. 3:16). And that we might be able to know more clearly what “turned to” means, we must first say what “turned away” (aversus) means. Everyone who is occupied with common stories when the words of the Law are read is “turned away”. Everyone who is concerned about affairs of the world, about money, about profits (de negotiis saeculi, de pecunia, de lucris) “when Moses is read” (2Cor. 3:15) is “turned away”. Everyone who is tied up with concerns for possessions and distracted by the desire for riches, who is zealous for the glory of the age and honours of the world is “turned away”’ (HomEx 12.2). 28 ‘If any of us is anxiously concerned about food and drink and devotes all his concern to secular affairs (omnem curam in rebus saecularibus gerat), but who assigns to God one hour or two out of the whole day, and comes to the church for prayer, or who listens to the word of God in passing, but who devotes his chief interest to anxious concern for the world and for his own belly (praecipuam vero curam erga sollicitudinem saeculi et ventris expendat) (see Phil. 3:19) – such a man does not fulfil the command that says that a man should “advance according to his own order” (Num. 2:2), or that says: “let all things be done according to order” (1Cor. 14:40)’ (HomNum 2.1). 29 Ibid. 30 For a nuanced presentation of Origen’s Platonic mentality, see Mark Julian Edwards, Origen against Plato (Aldershot, 2002).

Origen vs Origen: His Spiritual and Literal Interpretations of Biblical Journeys


maintains the hypothesis that the present cosmos and its inhabitants’ activities are a result of the fall of originally purely spiritual creatures. The material cosmos is a receptacle for fallen spirits, ontologically degenerated images of God, and is, in this sense, a house of bondage.31 As a sensible reality, it often interposes itself between the invisible God and the soul thirsting for clear vision.32 Even more, the human body, with its clamorous needs, prevents the soul from devoting itself full-time to the higher activities of rational thought and contemplation. In De principiis Origen states: When we are drawn away by reason of the needs of the body (pro necessitate … corporis abstracti) we are not allowed leisure for things that are divine and profitable for eternity (divinis et in aeternum profuturis rebus vacare non sinimur); just as on the other hand when a soul has leisure for divine and spiritual things and is united with the Spirit of God it is said to war against the flesh, for it does not allow itself to become relaxed through indulgences and to be tossed about by the pleasures in which it takes a natural delight.33

Thus Origen, without absolutely despising the body and its needs, acknowledges their inconvenient distracting quality. And despite his belief in the possibility of exercising a spiritual priesthood or continuous prayer in any earthly circumstance, we find him occasionally referring to the commoner tasks of life, such as ‘agriculture, sailing, or other occupations of the common life’, as inferior,34 compared to the excellent activities35 of meditation and study of the 31 ‘See if the affairs of the world (negotia saeculi) and the acts of the flesh (actus carnalis) are not ‘the house of bondage’ (Exod. 20:2), just as, on the contrary, to leave worldly matters (relinquere saecularia) and to live according to God (secundum Deum vivere) is the house of freedom … In comparison to the heavenly Jerusalem, which, so to speak, is the mother of freedom, the entire world and all it contains (totus hic mundus et omnia quae in hoc mundo sunt) is a house of bondage (domus est servitutis)’ (HomEx 8.1). See Ronald E. Heine’s commentary on this passage in the Fathers of the Church translation: Homilies on Genesis and Exodus, Fathers of the Church 71 (Washington, DC, 1982), 317, n. 8. 32 ‘He (the Word of God) calls her (the soul) to Himself (see Song 2:13), and bids her come forth, not only from the house, but from the city itself – in other words, she must forsake not only fleshly vices, but also everything bodily and visible that the world contains. For we have already demonstrated plainly that the city is a figure for the world. The soul, therefore, is summoned forth outside the wall, and is brought to the outwork, when, forsaking and leaving things seen and temporal, she hastens towards those that are unseen and eternal’ (ComCant 4.2.7); see also ComCant, Prologue, 3. 33 PArch 3.4.4. See also PArch 1.1.5. 34 ‘For “a soul” (Lev. 2:1), (the law of sacrifices) describes far lower offerings … It seems to me that what is here called “a soul” is to be understood as that person whom Paul calls “the natural person” (1Cor. 2:14). Even if he is not persuaded to sin nor is in great danger of moral offenses, he does not have anything spiritual in him … He offers only “fine wheat flour and unleavened bread” (Lev. 2:4); that is, this common life, placed, for example, in agriculture, sailing, or in other occupations of the common life’ (HomLev 2.2). 35 ‘Those who devote themselves to the divine Word and truly exist by the service of God alone will properly be said to be Levites and priests, in accordance with the excellence (κατὰ τὴν διαφοράν) of their activities in this work’ (ComJn 1.2.10). See also HomNum 21.1; ComJn 1.2.12.



divine world. Individuals able to follow this latter path are classed by Origen as a privileged set, symbolized in the Scripture by the Levites: The ‘Levites’ seem to me to represent those who, not permitting themselves to be overcome by the obstacles of bodily nature, have surpassed the glory of all visible objects and have placed their entire life in God with their exercises; those who seek nothing bodily, nothing foreign to reason. They have desired Wisdom, they have desired the knowledge of God’s secrets, and ‘where their heart is, there also is their treasure’ (Matt. 6:21).36

Reluctantly but realistically, Origen acknowledges that such a way of life is not accessible to the great majority.37 4. Fight or flight? In view of the evil, temptation, and distraction present in the actual world, it is not surprising that Origen should occasionally hint at a way of life involving some degree of material remotion. For instance, when commenting on John the Baptist’s sojourn in the desert (‘the child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the wilderness until he appeared publicly to Israel’, Luke 1:80), Origen says: He withdrew (recessit), fleeing (fugiens) from the tumult of cities, the crowds of people, and vices of the towns. He went into the wilderness (abiit in deserta), where the air is purer and the sky more open, and God is closer (familiarior Deus)…38

Origen goes on to say that these qualities of the desert – isolation, silence, purity, openness – make it a place connatural for trysting with God, as may be seen in the cases of John the Baptist and Moses: (Moses) called upon God and heard him answer and say, ‘Behold, I am here’ (Exod. 3:14). Just as ‘Moses spoke and God answered him’ (Exod. 19:19) so, I think, John spoke in the desert (in deserto) and the Lord answered him.39 36 HomNum 21.1. ‘One calls saints those –sinners included– who have consecrated themselves to God (qui devoverunt se quidem Deo) and have withdrawn their life from vulgar occupations (sequestraverunt a vulgi conversatione vitam suam) in order to serve the Lord (ut domino serviant)’ (HomNum 10.1). 37 ‘If every man could abandon the business of life and devote his time to philosophy, no other course ought to be followed but this alone … However … this is impossible, since, partly owing to the necessities of life (διὰ τὰς τοῦ βίου ἀνάγκας) and partly owing to human weakness (διὰ τὴν τῶν ἀνθρώπων ἀσθένειαν) very few people are enthusiastic about rational thought…’ (CCels 1.9). 38 HomLc 11.4. 39 Ibid. A similar laudatory text of remote places, extant in the Greek original, may be found in CCels 6.6, where Origen comments on Jesus’s teaching method: ‘Jesus … is said to have spoken to Word of God to his disciples “privately (κατ’ ἰδίαν)” (Mark 4:34), and especially (μάλιστα) in places of retreat (ἐν ταῖς ἀναχωρήσεσιν)’.

Origen vs Origen: His Spiritual and Literal Interpretations of Biblical Journeys


The wilderness has an atmosphere of its own, so different and propitious for a new beginning, as Origen affirms in another homily: We live in cities; we are in the midst of people. We look for more elegant garments, food, and dwellings; but John lived in the desert … everything about him was new.40

The public square and the physical desert appear as two radically different milieus; moving physically from the former to the latter embodies the passage from a deluded to a more authentic existence. Statements like the ones just cited have led some scholars to count Origen as a near forerunner of the monastic movement – in mentality, attitude, or tendency. We know for a fact that Origen himself, accompanied by a group of followers, led a life to some degree separated from secular affairs, as they devoted themselves intensively to study and meditation. Gregory Thaumaturgus attests of his teacher: ‘He strove to separate us from the bustle of life and the troubles of the public square, and to elevate us to the contemplation of ourselves’.41 Thus in practice Origen made at least some attempt at a lifestyle that allowed greater leisure for exercising the mind in the study of divine things. But he and his followers did not practice a complete physical withdrawal from secular existence. We know for a fact that Origen personally carried out an impressive activity in the middle of the world – traveling to Rome, Athens, Nicomedia, Cappadocia, Syria, Roman Arabia, dealing with influential people in the secular sphere, teaching and preaching to diverse audiences, debating with pagans, Jews, and heretics, writing an impressive corpus of doctrinal works, and maintaining a considerable correspondence.42 Thus Origen and his disciples placed themselves in a class distinct from the desert ascetics, who would later choose the radical option of physical withdrawal from the bustle of cities and towns. Origen significantly states his guiding principle: We say … ‘set apart’ (sanctus/ἅγιος), not from places but from deeds, not from regions but from ways of life (non locis sed actibus, nec regionibus sed conversationibus) … This … word (sanctus) … signifies that it is something outside the earth (extra terram). For whoever consecrates himself to God will deservedly appear to be outside the earth and outside the world (extra mundum) (see Phil. 3:20).43


HomLc 25.3. Gregory Thaumaturgus, Panegyric of Origen, 21.138. 42 H. Crouzel, after considering Origen’s impressive activity in the world, declares: ‘On imagine certes le grand apôtre, mais on ne voit guère le moine’ (‘Origène, précurseur du monachisme’ [1961], 15-6). 43 HomLev 11.1. Origen even qualifies the temptation Jeremiah experienced – to withdraw from the world in order to avoid persecution – as a temptation that had to be rejected, a ‘sin’ to be avoided: see HomJr 20.8. 41



5. Conclusion: a tension in Origen’s mind? Summing up, we may affirm that Origen reads Biblical journeys at times literally and, more often, spiritually. Thus he sometimes appears as an advocate of seeking God in the middle of the world, and at other times as a proponent of flight from the secular milieu. The apparent contradiction in Origen’s statements may be better comprehended in the light of his ambivalent view of the actual world. For Origen, the ‘world’ signifies the universe of spiritual and material entities originating from the divine creator and his providential design, but also a reality infected and disfigured by sin to such an extent that is an obstacle, danger, or distraction for the human creature seeking God. In the face of such a multifaceted ‘world’, Origen adopts different postures and offers different recommendations. a) Inspired by the Christian tenet of the cosmos’ origin in God, as well as the biblical doctrines of continuous prayer and spiritual priesthood, Origen believes it feasible to seek God actively and commune with Him, independently of one’s physical location. It is in this dynamic spiritual sense that we see our author interpreting biblical journeys most of the time. b) On the other hand, the biblical tenet of sin affecting the world, along with Origen’s pastoral experience with persons absorbed by worldly affairs, as well as his negative platonic appraisal of bodily and material realities, leads Origen to believe that the secular milieu is non-ideal, and to entertain the idea of a convenient degree of separation. Thus we also find texts (albeit fewer) by our author that insinuate some form of withdrawal from the all-consuming bustle of the world. It is at this point where Origen places himself in a position of affinity, though not full coincidence, with the later Fathers and Mothers of the Desert. Not primarily because he advocated virtues typical of the monastic ideal, like poverty, penance, and chastity; but more deeply because he raised the question of the depth of the Christian’s involvement – on the physical, moral, and spiritual levels – with the world and its affairs. Where does he stand, finally? Was he truly convinced that a Christian could find God at home, in the marketplace, in the theatre, or did he at bottom suspect that desert isolation was best? But then again, are we not formulating the question improperly? The testimony of Origen’s life and writings would seem to lend credence to the idea that a tension existed in his own thinking and acting regarding the world, as in his mind converged ideas from Platonism, Scripture, and his own pastoral experience. Could it be that that this tension remained unresolved within his own soul, unresolved in his own lifetime?44 It would 44 H. Crouzel, in Théologie de l’image de Dieu chez Origène (1956), 222, suggests that traces of an unsolved dilemma may be found in Origen’s doctrines, as diverse currents of thought met

Origen vs Origen: His Spiritual and Literal Interpretations of Biblical Journeys


certainly manifest itself in the next centuries as the unfolding of a double path within Christianity – one with fuga saeculi as paradigm, the other with the practice of interior priesthood and continuous prayer in the heart of the world as its ideal. But, then again, is not the dilemma a perennial one, felt by every human being residing in a material cosmos yet cognizant of God’s summons to join him?

in his mind. For more details of his possible ambivalence specifically on the matter of attaining holiness in the secular milieu, see J. José Alviar, Klesis (1993), 215-6.

How to Build Exegesis with the Particle καί: Some Examples by Origen Agnès ALIAU-MILHAUD, Université Sorbonne, UMR 8167 Orient et Méditerranée, Paris, France

ABSTRACT It is a fact that during late Antiquity, the particle καί is used more and more, replacing subordinating conjunctions, for example. Moreover and at the same time, there is an increasing use of some kind of doublets: pairs of synonyms connected by this particle καί. I would like to point out how Origen uses such pairs of synonyms to build his interpretation. Indeed, while the exegete is commenting a verse, we can observe this fact: he quotes a word and adds a synonym, so as to re-write the biblical text, in order to go from the literal to the spiritual meaning. I will present a few examples of this phenomenon, drawn from the Commentary on John and the ‘new’ Homilies on the Psalms.

During late Antiquity, the particle καί (‘and’) is used more and more.1 We can observe this fact in the works of Origen, too. The aim of this article is to point out how the Alexandrian exegete uses καί in his exegesis. More precisely, I will study the way that he sometimes uses pairs of synonyms linked by καί: the first word coming from the biblical verse, whereas the second one is added by Origen. My hypothesis is the following: the use of καί between the two words creates a gradation, and the particle καί is sometimes like a springboard from the text to Origen’s interpretation.2 I will present three examples of this phenomenon. A. First example: Abraham and the spiritual nation (Commentary on the Gospel of John = ComJn XX 66-9) Here is the verse that Origen interprets: 1 It replaces subordinating conjunctions, for example, and it is also used instead of participial constructions. See Antonius N. Jannaris, An Historical Greek Grammar (Hildesheim, Zürich, New York, 1987), 402-5. 2 This may remind us of one of the meanings of καί that John D. Denniston highlights in his book The Greek Particles (Oxford, 19782), 191-2. Indeed, he says that the copulative role of καί between two related ideas may have ‘a sense of climax’.

Studia Patristica CXI, 49-54. © Peeters Publishers, 2021.



Λέγει αὐτοῖς ὁ Ἰησοῦς· Εἰ τέκνα τοῦ Ἀβραάμ ἐστε, τὰ ἔργα τοῦ Ἀβραὰμ ποιεῖτε. ‘Jesus says to them: If you are the children of Abraham, do the works of Abraham’. (Jn 8:39 cited in ComJn XX 66)

In his exegesis, Origen wonders which of Abraham’s works should be imitated by believers: the exegete argues it is not only his faith. He says: Δεῖ πᾶσαν τὴν κατὰ τὸν Ἀβραάμ ἀλληγοροῦντα ἱστορίαν ἕκαστον πνευματικῶς ποιῆσαι τῶν πεπραγμένων. ‘We must interpret the whole story of Abraham allegorically, and make each thing he did spiritual’.3 (ComJn XX 67)

Then the exegete rewrites for all the believers the story of Abraham which is told in the book of Genesis: … οὕτω γὰρ φθάσομεν, ὡς καταλιπόντες τὴν ἡμετέραν γῆν, ἐφ’ ἣν δείξει ἡμῖν “γῆν” ὁ θεός, τὴν ἀληθῶς “ἀγαθὴν καὶ” ὄντως “πολλήν” … Καὶ ὡς καταλιπόντες “συγγένειαν” οὐ καλὴν “εἰς ἔθνος” ἐσόμεθα “μέγα” καὶ μεῖζον ἢ κατὰ ἀνθρώπους. ‘… For it is in this way, when we have left our land, that we will arrive at that “land” which God will show us (Gen. 12:1), which is really “good and” truly “abundant” (Ex. 3:8) … And when we have left the “kinship” that is not good, we will become “a great nation” (Gen. 12:2), even greater than a human nation’. (ComJn XX 68-9)

Thus, in this rewriting, the believers have to do the same things as Abraham, but on a spiritual level. We move from the history of Abraham to the spiritual life of the believers, from the ‘great nation’ that God promised to Abraham in the book of Genesis (12:2), to a nation ‘even greater than a human nation’: εἰς ἔθνος ἐσόμεθα μέγα καὶ μεῖζον ἢ κατὰ ἀνθρώπους. The single word καί (between the adjective μέγα and his comparative μεῖζον) acts as a springboard between the text of the Genesis and the spiritual interpretation of the exegete. But what is precisely this spiritual nation, ‘greater as a human nation’? The key is given by the context, because Origen builds this sentence in parallel with the one above: – on the one hand, ὡς καταλιπόντες συγγένειαν οὐ καλὴν does echo the beginning of the first sentence ὡς καταλιπόντες τὴν ἡμετέραν γῆν, both expressions alluding to Gen. 12:1-2 – and on the other hand εἰς ἔθνος ἐσόμεθα μέγα καὶ μεῖζον ἢ κατὰ ἀνθρώπους echoes the end of the same sentence: φθάσομεν … γῆν … τὴν ἀληθῶς ἀγαθὴν καὶ ὄντως πολλήν 3 Whenever possible, I use the American translation of Ronald E. Heine, Origen, Commentary on the Gospel According to John (Washington DC, vol. I, 1989; vol. II, 1993).

How to Build Exegesis with the Particle καί


But this last expression comes from the book of Exodus (3:8): εἰσαγαγεῖν αὐτοὺς εἰς γῆν ἀγαθὴν καὶ πολλήν. So the doublet μέγα καὶ μεῖζον parallels the doublet of Exodus ἀγαθὴν καὶ πολλήν. Thus, what we considered as an extension given by Origen to the verse of Genesis ἔθνος … μέγα καὶ μεῖζον ἢ κατὰ ἀνθρώπους sounds like a rewriting of Exodus. This is not a game of rhetoric. Indeed, it is thanks to Moses that the promise to Abraham will finally come true: the people of God will arrive in the promised land and become a great people. Origen reminds the Christians that they are the spiritual Jews that Moses led to the promised land. So, in this example, the pair of synonyms μέγα καὶ μεῖζον appears like a rewriting of the pair of words coming from Exodus ἀγαθὴν καὶ πολλήν. Origen builds his interpretation by extending the biblical text thanks to the particle καὶ, but he uses the same word as Genesis in the comparative (μέγα // μεῖζον) and the same rhythm as Exodus (ἀγαθὴν καὶ πολλήν // μέγα καὶ μεῖζον). Therefore, the exegesis of Origen is an interpretation of the Bible by the Bible on several levels: he comments on the Gospel of John using the words of Genesis and the rhythm of Exodus.4 And the particle καί acts as a tool to extend the biblical text to the spiritual interpretation. B. Second example: John the Baptist and the sandal of Jesus (ComJn VI 157) The starting point of the following remarks is a study of Domenico Pazzini, in his book Lingua e teologia in Origene (Brescia, 2009). Now, I will study Origen’s interpretation of the following verse: Ὁ ὀπίσω μου ἐρχόμενος, οὗ οὐκ εἰμὶ ἐγὼ ἄξιος ἵνα λύσω αὐτοῦ τὸν ἱμάντα τοῦ ὑποδήματος. ‘He is the one who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie’. (Jn 1:27)

The one who speaks is John the Baptist: he tries to explain how important Jesus is in comparison with himself, through the concrete metaphor of the sandal he cannot untie. Origen gives an allegorical interpretation of this metaphor which seems far, at first sight, from the literal meaning of the verse, as he declares that the sandal of Jesus stands for his incarnation: … λέγει καὶ τὸ “Οὗ οὐκ εἰμὶ ἐγὼ ἄξιος ἵνα λύσω αὐτοῦ τὸν ἱμάντα τοῦ ὑποδήματος”, αἰνιττόμενος τὸ οὐχ ἱκανὸς εἶναι τὸν περὶ τῆς ἐνσωματώσεως αὐτοῦ λόγον, 4 That reminds of what Domenico Pazzini says about allegory in this text about Abraham: according to him, allegory appears as a way to fulfil history, Lingua e teologia in Origene: il Commento a Giovanni (Brescia, 2009), 194-5. Indeed, allegory does not appear as a ‘spiritual meaning’ that would be very different from the literal or historical meaning, but it seems to be the very ‘literal’ signification of the text.



οἱονεὶ δεδεμένον καὶ κεκρυμμένον τοῖς μὴ νοοῦσιν, λῦσαι καὶ σαφηνίσαι, ὥστε ἄξιόν τι τῆς τοσαύτης ἐπιδημίας εἰς οὕτω βραχύτατα συνεσταλμένης εἰπεῖν. ‘(John the Baptist) adds: “The strap of his sandal I am not worthy to untie”. By which he says, as in a riddle, that he is not fit to solve and to explain the doctrine about Christ’s incarnation, a doctrine tied up and hidden to those who do not understand it, – so as to say anything worthy of such an advent, compressed, as it was, into so short a space’.5 (ComJn VI 157)

The transition to the abstract appears through two pairs of words: δεδεμένον καὶ κεκρυμμένον and λῦσαι καὶ σαφηνίσαι. In each pair, the two words are linked by καί and seem redundant. On the one hand, the two perfect participles δεδεμένον καὶ κεκρυμμένον (tied up and hidden) convey the same idea of something difficult to understand. On the other hand, the two aorist infinitives λῦσαι καὶ σαφηνίσαι (to solve and to explain) mean that everything is clear and understood. So the exegete builds a parallel between the two pairs of synonyms, to say how difficult it is for John the Baptist to explain this doctrine of incarnation. Paradoxically, Origen uses the prosaic words of the verse to build his allegorical interpretation. The verb λῦσαι is drawn from the verse (λύσω), with a slightly different meaning: whereas in the verse, the word has the concrete meaning of ‘untie’, the exegete uses its abstract meaning of ‘resolve’. Indeed, the second verb σαφηνίσαι does have this meaning: this second verb brings out the abstract meaning of the first one. So, untie the sandal means in fact resolve a problem.6 However, the same thing happens in the first pair of words: δεδεμένον καὶ κεκρυμμένον. As a matter of fact, δεδεμένον, untied, has the same root as the word ὑπόδημα, which is in the verse of John: the verb δέω means ‘to tie’. The first meaning of this word is the sole, though it means only ‘shoe’ or ‘sandal’ in the verse. The sole is what is hidden in the shoe: that’s maybe why it is associated to the word κεκρυμμένον, hidden. Therefore, in both cases, the second word added by Origen brings out another meaning of the first one, which was not its original meaning in the verse. The exegete uses other meanings of the biblical words, as if the interpretation was already present in the verse but only implicit. More interesting, the thought about the sandal, that is to say about the physical body of Jesus, leads to the problem of Incarnation, the way God became man. In other words, the concrete metaphor of the sandal stands for the problem of Christ being physically present on earth. 5 Transl. Roberts-Donaldson (, revised). 6 D. Pazzini gives a very interesting explanation of this passage of Origen in Lingua e teologia (2009), 127-55. He notes that this verb σαφηνίζω also appears in ComJn X 174: in this passage, the donkey untied by the disciple in Matt. 21:2 represents for Origen (not the Incarnation but) the Old Testament which is made clear, that is to say allegorized (ἀλληγοροῦντος).

How to Build Exegesis with the Particle καί


The role of the καί particle is to introduce a synonym of the biblical word that highlights its deep meaning. The particle acts as the crossing-point between the biblical words and the interpretation itself. C. Third example: Christ and crucifixion – how Christ is seeking God with his hands – (1HomPs 76,4) Through this example, drawn from the new Homilies on Psalms by Origen, I will try to show how, in the speech of homily, the movement from the text to its spiritual meaning is also supported by the particle καί. Here is the verse that Origen studies: Ἐν ἡμέρᾳ θλίψεώς μου τὸν θεὸν ἐξεζήτησα ταῖς χερσίν μου… ‘In a day of my affliction, I sought God with my hands…’ (Ps. 76:3a)7

Origen first explains two manners for mankind to seek God: one can seek God by one’s concrete acts, or by one’s prayers. Then he goes on in this movement from the concrete to the spiritual, suggesting that Christ himself sought God with his hands: Μέλλει τι λέγειν ὁ λόγος, καὶ λέγω ὅτι Χριστὸς ταῖς χερσὶν ἐζήτει τὸν θεόν, ὑπὲρ ὅλου τοῦ κόσμου ἐκτείνας αὐτὰς ἐπὶ τοῦ ξύλου καὶ στηρίξας αὐτὰς ἵνα τότε εὔξηται, μετὰ ἐκτάσεως χειρῶν καὶ ὅλου τοῦ σώματος καὶ τῆς ψυχῆς αὐτῷ συνεκτεινομένης οὐκ ἐπὶ τὸ σῶμα ἀλλ’ ἐπὶ ὅλον τὸν κόσμον, ὑπὲρ ὅλου τοῦ κόσμου. The word is about to say something, and I say that Christ was seeking God with his hands, since he had extended them on behalf of the whole world, on the wood (of the cross), and held them fast in order to pray at that time, with his hands extended and the whole body and his soul extended with, not on the body but on the whole world, on behalf of the whole world’. (1HomPs 76,4)

First, I shall emphasize the verb ζητέω (to seek), which Origen uses in the expression Χριστὸς ταῖς χερσὶν ἐζήτει τὸν θεόν: this verb comes from the verse (ἐξεζήτησα). Then we can notice the two aorist participles ἐκτείνας… καὶ στηρίξας, linked by καί: they are not exactly synonyms, but they have in common the idea of effort, of tension. So they appear as rewritings of the word ἐζήτει, which also conveys this idea. Origen argues that Christ has extended and held his hands to pray: this is the same gradation from a concrete act to prayer that the exegete described above for mankind. But this kind of gradation from the concrete to the spiritual continues then with the use of several καί: μετὰ ἐκτάσεως χειρῶν καὶ ὅλου τοῦ σώματος καὶ τῆς ψυχῆς αὐτῷ συνεκτεινομένης. The extension of Jesus’ hands is also 7 ‘… at night, before him, and I was not deceived’ (trans. A. Pietersma, New English Translation of the Septuagint:



the extension of his body and soul. From the crucifixion of Christ to the salvation of the whole world, there is only one movement, and the particle καί plays the role of a pivot in this movement. This idea of salvation seems to be implicit but if Origen insists on the word ἐκτείνω (I quote: ἐκτείνας /ἐκτάσεως /συνεκτεινομένης), it may be because nearly every time Jesus extends his hand in the Gospel, it is to accomplish healing.8 Thus, for Origen, this gesture may stand for the healing, the salvation of the whole world. So, in this example as well, the particle καί appears as a linguistic tool on which Origen relies to move from the text to the spiritual meaning, and at the same time from the particular to the universal. Conclusion The simple particle καί seems to play a role in the building of Origen’s exegesis. Especially, it can be a pivot between the biblical words that Origen is commenting on, and the exegete’s interpretation. In the three examples developed, the exegete starts from the biblical text, then adds his own words, linked by καί, which are synonyms or words of similar meanings. This allows him to go slightly beyond the text, towards his exegesis. In particular, the use of καί can launch a movement from the concrete, the literal meaning, to the abstract or the spiritual meaning: from the Jewish people to the Christian people, from the physical body of Jesus to the doctrine of Incarnation, from the historical crucifixion to the salvation of the whole world. But even allegorical interpretations take root in the biblical text, as usually by Origen. Moreover, the exegete doesn’t pretend, in fact, to go beyond the text, but dwells on it or dwells in it, looking for the material of his own interpretation. This highlights how he has a great feeling for literalness, for the biblical words themselves. The καί particle may be for him a kind of rhetorical tool to unveil the biblical text, a support point to bring to light what lay hidden under the words. Besides, the hidden meaning does not originate the exegete’s imagination: in many cases, it comes from another biblical passage. The ‘greater nation’ of Abraham is the one of Exodus, the Christ’s gesture of extending the hands to save the world is the same one as in his miracles in the Gospel. The particle καί may be one of the tools that Origen uses to interpret the Bible through the Bible. Finally, apart from the exegetical issue, I would like to point out the issue of orality. Especially in homilies, which Origen utters, we may observe that not only his thought, but also his voice relies on the καί particle to launch the exegetical movement from the literal to the spiritual meaning. 8

See Matt. 8:3; 14:31 … especially in the Synoptics.

Theologia naturalis and theologia revelata in Origen’s First Homily on Psalm 77 * Róbert SOMOS, Pécs, Hungary

ABSTRACT The topic of this article is the relation between natural theology and Biblical theology in the Greek text of Origen’s Homilies on the Psalms, discovered in 2012 and edited in 2015. It seems that the key text is the First Homily on Psalm 77, where Origen emphasises that faith in the Creator should be based on experience, because the heaven and the earth manifest a divine order. In the process of becoming Christian, according to Origen, this theistic faith should be prior to the reading of Scripture, because sometimes the manuscripts of Scripture suffer from corruption. One of the causes of the corruption is the activity of the Evil. In this way, the heretics influenced by the Evil find their false doctrines in the Scriptures. This thought of Origen is absent in his other works, and I think that the idea of the priority of the cosmological argument helps to grasp the true relation between natural theology and scriptural theology in the Alexandrian master’s thought. Reading the Homilies on the Psalms and other Origenian works may provide new insight into the complicated question of how the word ‘philosophy’ can be used in the case of Origen.

The discovery and publication of the Greek text of Origen’s Homilies on the Psalms are notable events of the last years in patristic studies.1 These new texts deserve attention especially as they shed new light on various aspects of the Alexandrian master’s œuvre. Naturally, when a new text comes up – which is * I thank Mark Randall James for correcting my English text and for his comments. Special thanks to Joseph Trigg for allowing me to use freely the draft version of his English translation of Origen’s Homilies on the Psalms. Project NKFI 128321 sponsored my participation in the Oxford Patristic Conference. 1 Origenes Werke XIII. Die neue Psalmenhomilien. Eine kritische Edition des Codex monacensis Graecus 314, ed. Lorenzo Perrone in collaboration with Marina Molin Pradel, Emanuela Prinzivalli and Antonio Cacciari, GCS Neue Folge 19 (Berlin, München, Boston, 2015). By now Origenian authorship is already taken for granted. The attribution to the Alexandrian theologian has been proved by several studies of Marina Molin Pradel, who first identified these texts, and Lorenzo Perrone, the editor of the homilies, who offered numerous arguments for it in several papers. Here, I would like to mention only Molin Pradel’s ‘Novità origeniane della Staatsbibliothek di Monaco di Baviera: il Cod Graec. 314’, Adamantius 18 (2012), 16-40, and Perrone’s ‘Origenes alt und neu: die Psalmenhomilien in der neuendeckten Münchner Handschrift’, ZAC 17 (2013), 193-214.

Studia Patristica CXI, 55-63. © Peeters Publishers, 2021.



a golden opportunity in the field of patristics – some unprecedented ideas or fresh aspects may be identified in this new material. I think that in the text of Origen’s Homilies on the Psalms there are also new thoughts relating to the connection between scriptural theology and natural theology. At first glance, the relation between natural theology and scriptural theology in Origen’s writings seems to be unproblematic: the introduction to Peri Archon articulates for the first time the program of Christian theology as scriptural theology. Although Origen does not use the term of ‘theology’ in this context, it is clear that what he describes is scriptural theology.2 According to the introduction’s phrasing, the author gave up seeking the truth from Greeks and barbarians who claimed to possess it.3 Similarly, Origen asserts that some Greek philosophers were able to express several truths about God, and these propositions are issues of natural theology.4 This unproblematic picture becomes more blurred when we make two distinctions. The first one is the division of material and methodological aspects of theology, and the second one is the difference between the point of view of Origen himself and our modern, historical point of view focusing on the relation between Origen’s thoughts about things and the truth of these thoughts. These distinctions need thorough clarification. Lacking the space necessary to do so, I only briefly note here that the materials of Origenian theology belongs to the Judeo-Christian religious tradition embodied by Scripture and apostolic tradition, but his method of theology comes from the theoretical and practical heritage of the Greek science and philosophy. Secondly, in opposition to our modern historical view, Origen thought that many true ideas of Greek philosophy originate from Scripture, therefore his view, including his intentions, on the relation between Greek philosophy and Christianity is not identical with our modern historical view on this relation. We may surely assert that Origen is in error that Plato dipped into the biblical sources. 2 On the Origenian use of the word ‘theology’ see Lorenzo Perrone, ‘Dire Dieu chez Origène: La démarche théologique et ses présupposés spirituels’, in Bernard Pouderon and Anna Usacheva (eds), Dire Dieu. Principes méthodologiques de l’écriture sur Dieu en patristique, Théologie historique 124 (Beauchesne, 2017), 129-59. 3 De principiis I, praefatio 2. The Origenian procedure of theological science in nuce is the following: Origen starts from the apostolic teaching and shows that the basic statements of it are really included in the scriptures. Then, in the light of the theses constituting a ‘definite line and unmistakable rule’, he elaborates on the scriptural texts relating to the topic, sometimes dealing with other texts. The process results in a systematic and coherent body of doctrine. According to Origen, these statements are ‘clear and necessary arguments’ (manifestis et necessariis assertionibus), that is, he points out that the theses of the sciences do not produce merely probable description but cogent argumentation. The word corpus is the translation of the Greek term of σῶμα, used by Origen for voluminous works showing logical coherence and systematic character. The production of new theses – the creation of theory – works in two ways. The first is the collection and interpretation of the relevant scriptural passages – that is, this way is concerned with the use of these textual units as examples (exemplum). The other is concerned with logical inference and an insistence on what is right. 4 Princ. I 3,1.

Theologia naturalis and theologia revelata in Origen’s First Homily on Psalm 77


Therefore, on closer inspection it turns out, that the overall picture of natural theology, which seems to have clear contours, in Origen’s texts becomes more complicated. This is also true in the case of the teleological or physico-theological argument for the existence of God. According to this philosophical argument, shared by Platonist and Stoic philosophers, the existence, structure and content of the world can be explained only by postulating a creator God. We perceive the rationally organized structure, the revolution of the celestial bodies and the teleological order of the living beings, and from these experiences we conclude the existence of a rational designer and creator God. This idea has a long history in Greek philosophy.5 However, in a narrow sense, the role of the physico-theological argument is not to prove the existence of God in the Platonic tradition. Rather, it helps us to understand and conceptualize God as first principle.6 Similarly, Origen does not want to offer a formal proof for the existence of God because this existence is indisputable for him. In a simpler form, the physico-theological argument inheres in the JudeoChristian religious tradition. Psalm 18:2 – the heavens are telling the divine glory, and the firmament proclaims his handiwork – was usually interpreted as a text relating to natural theology and biblical theology at the same time. In the case of Wisdom 13:5 the connection to the creationist argument is more obvious: For from the greatness and beauty of created things is their creator correspondently discerned. St Paul’s Letter to the Romans (1:19-20) simultaneously refers to the physico-theological argument of the existence of God as a general form of knowledge of God and as an issue of revelation coming from God: For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible things, his eternal power and deity, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. Interpreting these words in the Contra Celsum, Origen emphasizes two aspects. The first one is that these men, whereof Paul speaks vaguely as possessing certain knowledge of God, were Greek wise men, and they propagated true doctrines. The second moment is that ‘… they did not achieve this without God’s help’, according to the translation of Chadwick.7 Origen’s wording is the following: τοῦτ’ οὐκ ἀθεεὶ αὐτοῖς γεγονέναι. The reference to divine revelation is ambiguous, however, in two respects. Firstly, the revelation may be scriptural or non-scriptural,8 secondly, the recipients of the revelation may be all Greek sages or a special group of them. The first point remains obscure in Origen. But his interpretation relating to the second point shows that he here 5 David Sedley, Creationism and its Critics in Antiquity, Sather Classical Lectures 66 (Berkeley, Los Angeles, London, 2007). 6 George Boys-Stones, Platonist Philosophy 80 BC to AD 250 (Cambridge, 2018), 60-1, 147. 7 Cels. III 47, translated by Henry Chadwick (Cambridge, 19803), 161. 8 The introduction of the Commentary on the Psalms shows the close relation, analogy between Scripture and world. Philocalia 2,4 (SC 302, 246). In Cels. I 23 Origen highlights that it is much more rational if we accept the physico-theological argument than to believe in Greek or Egyptian myths.



had Platonic philosophers in mind: ‘And he [scil. Paul – R.S.] hints, I think, at those who ascend to intelligible things’.9 In Origen’s interpretation τὰ ἀόρατα αὐτοῦ [scil. θεοῦ] do not refer to the attributes of God, as common interpretations take it, but to the spiritual creatures. This is clear from the textual evidences of Contra Celsum,10 Rufinus’ Latin translation of the Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans11 and Origen’s interpretation of Psalm 18:2 in the catena tradition.12 The commentary highlights the role of natural reason (ratio naturalis)13 and inference from the creation on the one side, and the fact of revelation on the other side.14 Thus, Origen’s whole interpretation of Rom. 1:19-20 shows a close relation between natural reason and revelation.15 According to the Origenian view, the concept of the new earth in Plato’s Phaedo 109a-b, which is the place of the perfect souls in the Platonic myth, or the place of rational creatures in Origen’s interpretation, is a borrowing from Isaiah, who described the city of God as constructed of precious stones.16 Similarly, the place above the heavens in Plato’s Phaedrus is regarded by Origen as borrowed from the Jewish prophets.17 The Christian theologian connects this comment on the things above the heavens to the invisible things of Paul’s Letter to the Romans.18 In this way, the Platonic theory of the ascent of knowledge from the visible things to the invisible things, can be considered by Origen partly a result of revelation via Scripture.

9 Cels. III 47, Chadwick’s translation 161. Cels. VI 3-4 shows unambiguously that Origen refers to Plato. 10 Cels. VI 20; VII 46. 11 ‘… [T]he invisible things which he names here refer to created beings … in addition to the things which he had called invisible, he adds, “and his eternal power and deity”. Therefore, the power of God which is eternal and his deity which is not less eternal are known by interference from the creation. His power is that by which he rules all things, his deity is that by which he fills the universe’. Comm. Rom I 20,2 (SC 532, 244-6), translated by Thomas P. Scheck, FC 103, 91-2. 12 PG 12, 1240C. Origen connects Psalm 27:5 and 18:2. Πάνυ γὰρ κατάδηλά ἐστιν, ὡς ἀπ’ αὺτῆς τῆς κτίσεως καὶ τῶν δημιουργημάτων ἀναλόγως δύνασθαι τὸν γενεσιουργὸν θεωρεῖν. Selecta in Psalmos (Joannes Baptista Pitra, Analecta sacra Spicilegio Solesmensi parata (Venetiis, 1883), III 2. On the Origenian use of analogy see Antonio Cacciari, ‘Sull’ἀναλογία come strumento esegetico in Origene’, Adamantius 22 (2016), 67-86. 13 Comm. Rom. I 20,1,3 (SC 532, 244). 14 Without comments Cels. VI 3 also emphasizes the fact of the revelation. Commenting Plato’s words cited by Celsus, ‘… the highest good cannot at all be expressed in words’, Origen says: ‘When we hear this, we also agree that this is well said; for God revealed to them these things and all other truths which they stated rightly’ (trans. Chadwick 317). 15 Similarly, relating to Rom. 1:19-21 and Wisd. 7:17-20, Origen refers simultaneously to the natural knowledge of the heavenly things and to the revelation via the creator in the third book of Commentary on the Song of Songs (GCS VIII 209-10). 16 Cels. VII 30. 17 Cels. VI 19. Phaedr. 247c 3-9. 18 Cels. VI 20.

Theologia naturalis and theologia revelata in Origen’s First Homily on Psalm 77


In contrast with this strongly intertwined character of natural and revealed theology, the First Homily on Psalm 77 makes these two forms of theology into well-defined discrete stages in the process of the knowledge of God or in the process of the teaching on God.19 The substantial theological idea of the First Homily on Psalm 77 is that in the inchoative stage of the process of becoming Christian the principle of sola scriptura and appeal to revelation do not work. According to Origen, this early period belongs instead to natural theology, and he considered this phase as independent of Scripture. At the beginning of the homily Origen calls attention to a scribal error. The inscription attributes Psalm 77 to Asaph. Psalm 77:2 runs as follows: I will open my mouth in parables; I will proclaim problems from a beginning. Origen says the following: This should also be known, that Matthew mentioned the statement. For concerning the Saviour, writing about how he spoke in parables, he said, in order to fulfil ‘I will open my mouth in parables; I will proclaim problems from a beginning’, or actually, ‘from the sowing of the cosmos’.20 When the statement was paraphrased by such wording as said here by Matthew, there occurred a scribal error with regard to the copies of the gospel: So that what was said by Isaiah might be fulfilled, ‘I will open my mouth in parables’. Apparently, finding the words, so that what was said by Asaph, one of the earliest copyists, unaware that Asaph was a prophet, assumed that there had been an error, and was emboldened by the strangeness of the prophet’s name, to substitute Isaiah for Asaph. (351,7-17)

Thus, Origen has two different scriptural texts. The latter, the text of the Gospel of Matthew, obviously quotes the text of the Psalm, but instead of the name of Asaph it posits the name of Isaiah. In this case, there is no real possibility of resolving the contradiction by seeking a figurative sense. At the same time, Matthew cannot be condemned for the change of the persons because, according to Origen, there are no real contradictions in Scripture. Instead, this must be a scribal error. In the Commentary on Matthew Origen lists three causes of scribal errors: 1. through an oversight 2. the audacious, erroneous correction of some words 3. arbitrary addition or omission of some shorter or longer texts with intention of correcting it.21 19 This homily has been investigated from another point of view by Margaret M. Mitchell, ‘“Problems and Solutions” in Early Christian Biblical Interpretation: A Telling Case from Origen’s Newly Discovered Greek Homilies on the Psalms (Codex Monacensis Graecus 314)’, Adamantius 22 (2016), 40-55. All the nine Homilies on Psalm 77 have been treated by Lorenzo Perrone at the 2017 Conference of North American Patristic Society (Chicago): ‘Origen’s interpretation of the Psalter revisited: The nine homilies on Psalm 77(78) in the Munich codex’. 20 Matt. 13:35. 21 Comm. Mt. XV 14 (GCS X 387-8). Here, the Greek text has some problems because Erich Klostermann emended it on the basis of the Latin translation. Früchtel and Neuschäfer rejected this solution (Bernard Neuschäfer, Origenes als Philologe [Basel, 1987], II 372).



In the case of Matthew 13:35 the second type of error occurs. Origen does not stop here but he wants to provide the reason for this erroneous correction. He says: In general, it must be said that the devil plots against the living and wants to scatter the churches, but daily contrives to generate heresies and schisms, and yet still to set a thousand more traps for human beings. It is no marvel if he even plots against the scriptures. Because our salvation is through them, he contrives contradiction among the scriptures, so that by means of the contradiction there might arise a stumbling block to those who read: which account is to be accepted, this or that?

Therefore, Satan is behind the audacious correction of scriptural texts. He conspires obviously not in the sense that he would have made the scribal error and erroneous manuscripts himself, because Satan is not a corporeal being. Later, Origen alludes to the birth of mistakes in the copies of Scripture. Thus, the devil plots even in the scripture, but we must not on that account be bold and move precipitously to emendation. That is the sort of thing that happened to Marcion; assuming that the scriptures had been tampered with and had come to be interpolated by the devil, he undertook to emend the scripture. In this project, he took away some of the foundations of the gospels – among many others, the birth of the Saviour – and he took away apparitions and prophecies even when they were essential to the Apostle. (352,14-9)

Therefore, according to Origen, Marcion blundered in consequence of Satan conspiring to add contradictions in several texts of the scripture. Marcion’s mistake was that that he committed another type of philological error, which is not only a simple lapsus, but the omission of longer texts. The most effective tool, which prevents scribal errors and the more radical forms of improper text-critical activity, is intense and precise philological work. For Origen, this philological competence and the assistance of the experts are the main bases of the investigation of scriptural texts. At the same time, Origen also formulates a general principle. His analysis of how the radical text-critical errors made by Marcion arose also gives the remedy against the mistake. This pivotal moment is the physico-theological argument for the existence of God, and the enthumēma-like phrasing of this teleological argument. Therefore having faith is a reasonable thing, not so much on account of the scriptures as on account of the cosmos and the order that is in it, in the one who made sky and earth and the things in them. And it is reasonable to believe in Christ Jesus, not so much from what is read as from the resplendent power of the churches and from his superlative strength, which has overcome the inhabited world, and then move to the letters after having asked grace from God, that we may not misconstrue what is written. The letters provide a pretext for much death to make its way into souls. Every sect takes impious notions from the letters and they suppose that they are proving them from the gospels, from the apostles, or, in the case of some sects, from the law or from the prophets. I do not say this to criticize the scriptures, but in the wish that the faith I was talking about should come to rely not so much on scripture as on a demonstration more splendid than the scriptures: heaven, earth and the things in them. (352,19-353,11)

Theologia naturalis and theologia revelata in Origen’s First Homily on Psalm 77


In Origen’s view, the unbiased contemplation of the world compels us to accept the theist’s thesis. In this way theism – in a certain sense – is the result of logical thinking and logic. Origen thinks that logical thinking grounded on experiences necessarily results in the idea of a creator and a provident God. In Origen’s opinion, the main trouble with the dualist heretics is that the absolute idea of the creator and provident God is not well-grounded in their mind.22 Because of this, they are led astray, and they oppose the creator God to the Good God, the God of the Old Testament to the God of the New Testament. Whoever does not perceive the beauty of creation will not accept the principal thesis of theism, namely, the good creator. Origen says: In a discussion with the adherents of Marcion, I remember saying: ‘You have two options – to rely on scripture, as you say, about the Father, or to rely on the cosmos and by its order about their creator – which should you do? For even if scripture did not encompass all these things, would it not be reasonable, for one going to the cosmos and seeing its order, to have relied on its creator, rather than making such assumptions about God as you do?’ (353,11-6)

Therefore, according to Origen, the ordered cosmos and the implication that the perfect creator God exists need not be accepted simply because of reading Wisdom 13:5, Psalm 18:2 or Rom. 1:19-20, nor because we read about him in Greek philosophers’ works. Rather, we need only contemplate the rational order of the heaven and earth to infer a rational creator. Naturally, we can and we must argue for the identity of the Old Testament’s creator God and of the Father of Jesus Christ with texts of Scriptures, but on a more basic level, direct experience and the interference from experiences must be preferred. And it is truly possible to say, it seems to me, that it must impress the seeker as a more evident demonstration compared to an inferior one. It is a more evident demonstration to see the sky, stars, sun, moon, fixed stars, earth and the animals on earth, the human being their king, endowed with such skills, and to be amazed at the one who has made these and to accept the herald of such teaching, Jesus Christ our Lord. (353,16-22)

Showing the teleological order of nature is the ‘more evident demonstration’. Relating to the demonstration of the rational structure of the world the observation of the order and the motion of the heavenly bodies have some priority over earthly things.23 In the next homilies on Psalm 77, Origen similarly mentions the heavenly bodies first and provides detailed description of the celestial revolutions: The marvellous things of God are not only those in the scriptures, but these [things of the created world] as well; we are no longer marvelling on account of familiarity … Or is it not marvellous that every day the sun rises from the place of rising and in twelve hours, revolving around such a great heaven, goes into the place of setting? Why is it 22 Other cause of the heretics’ errors is the lack of the correction of their conduct. Hom. Ps 77. 1,5 (GCS XIII 361,13-20). On this topic see L. Perrone, ‘Dire Dieu chez Origène’ (2017), 148. 23 Cf. Cicero, De natura deorum II 88, see D. Sedley, Creationism (2007), 231.



not marvellous that the moon, moving, sometimes flees from the sun and sometimes approaches the sun, for it must have an end in conjunction with the sun, but the beginning is to be standing away from the sun, so that the two lights, dividing and uniting, nourish plants and animals upon the earth? But why is it not marvellous that the sun has charge of the magnitude of days and nights, and sometimes it makes the days larger, sometimes smaller, the smaller ones at the time when we require more nightly restoration, larger at the time when we can have the use of more light (for the light is greater at the time of a harvest day)? I have not yet said what can be said about the Bear that stands still in the sky, so that pilots who travel through the sea that does not have a path, no track or road, when they look with comprehension at the sky and the stars, see where they are and where they are going, and how the stars always show them. And, observing, they can see more than just the positions of the stars, those who are clever about these things, are enabled, as they handle them well, to see that all things are God’s marvels.24

In this homily Origen shows the limit of the more evident demonstration. Therefore, this ‘more evident demonstration’ is not an absolutely perfect proof. The reason for this lack is that over-familiarity with the regularity of the rational revolution of the heavenly bodies obscures the perfection of divine activity in the created order.25 The physico-theological argument demonstrates not merely the existence of a good and rational God, but also supports the doctrine of God’s providence. According to Origen, the outcome of this provident activity are the events of the revelation, the incarnation and the palpable success of the Christianity despite the persecution. Naturally, the priority of natural theology in the First Homily on Psalm 77 is not logical priority. It should be interpreted as priority in the process of teaching and learning. But this temporal priority is not only an introduction to Christianity but a foundation of the framework of theism within Christianity. This text of the First Homily on Psalm 77 modifies the sense of the text delivered in the Twentieth Homily on Jeremiah, where Origen speaks about his missionary strategy, a deceptive strategy, according to which it may be useful not to say that we are Christians: When such opportunities arise for us, when there appears an advantage for us, we also do it. Sometimes we preface our words to those from the pagan nations when we want to introduce them to the Faith, and if we see that they have set themselves at variance with Christianity and abhor the name and hate to hear that this is the doctrine of the Christians, we pretend to say that it is a useful doctrine not of the Christians. But when that doctrine is prepared by us according to our power, and we seem to captivate the 24

Hom. Ps. 77. 2,7 (GCS XIII 380,12-381,9). The reason of this over-familiarity is the ‘lazy human nature’ mentioned in the Fourth Homily on Psalm 76. But God helps perceiving the perfection of his providence. ‘In diverse ways God intends to arouse and to waken, as if from sleep, a lazy human nature, so that through the eyes it may see the cosmos and seeing the cosmos and the composition of elements on the earth, it will, from the order of the universe, marvel at the one who has made it’ (Hom. Ps. 76. 4,1). 25

Theologia naturalis and theologia revelata in Origen’s First Homily on Psalm 77


hearer who has not heard, as it happens, what was actually said, then we admit that this praiseworthy doctrine was the doctrine of Christians and we accomplish something similar to the one who no longer said, Thus says the Lord, but ‘Hear the words of me, Jeremiah’.26

In Origen’s view, the success of the Christian mission is a very important argument for the existence of the provident God. Nevertheless, in the course of the teaching and missionary activity the theoretical moments are also important and beginning his teaching with the cosmological argument is not a method used exclusively for those who ‘… abhor the name and hate to hear … the doctrine of the Christians’ but for everybody. This idea fits in with the words of the Address of Thanksgiving to Origen delivered by Gregory of Thaumaturgus, who presents the early phase of Origen’s teaching method in such a way: Then he raised us up and put us straight with other lessons, those in physics, explaining each existing thing, and analysing them with great wisdom down to their most basic elements, and then weaving them together by reason and going over the nature of the entire universe and each of its parts, and the endless alteration and transformation of the things in the world. In the end he brought us, by his clear teaching and the arguments which he had either learned or discovered about the sacred arrangement of the universe and the unsullied nature, to the point where a rational wonder replaced the irrational one in our souls.27

Gregory emphasizes that Origen first wanted to strengthen the standpoint of theism and only after that he began to give interpretations of Scriptures. Investigating the topic of natural philosophy, Origen connected it to the description of the human condition. In his view, the main questions of natural philosophy are the created world, the perfection, beauty, variety and rational order of this world. Therefore, the First Homily on Psalm 77 verifies the accuracy of Gregory’s Address of Thanksgiving on the Origenian method of teaching. Why does the priority of natural theology emerge just in the homilies on the Psalms? It seems that there is no other book of the Old Testament which has so many textual problems. No other Origenian homilies investigate so many text-critical questions. Meeting more philological troubles than usual would have strengthened Origen’s conviction that he should first implant the idea of theistic philosophy in his pupils and catechumens and only after the success of this process was a thorough investigation of Scriptures possible.


Hom. Jer. 20,5(2), translated by John Clark Smith, FC 97, 232. Address of Thanksgiving to Origen 110-1, translated by Michael Slusser, FC 98, 109. Lorenzo Perrone highlights the connection between this ‘rational wonder’ and the description of the order of the world in Hom. Ps. 76. 4,1. ‘Scrittura e cosmo nelle nuove omelie di Origene sui Salmi: L’interpretazione del Salmo 76’, in José Carlos Caamaño and Hernán Giudice (eds), Patrística, Biblia y Teología. Caminos di diálogo (Buenos Aires, 2017), 45-72, 65. 27

Origen and Eusebius Interpreting Psalm 77 Tommaso INTERI, Università di Torino – Dipartimento di Studi Storici, Turin, Italy

ABSTRACT The discovery of twenty-nine new Greek Homilies on the Psalms by Origen has consistently widened our knowledge on the Alexandrian’s interpretation of the Psalter. He dedicated nine sermons to Psalm 77, addressing several distinctive points of his exegesis, and especially stressing the spiritual meaning of the historical events recalled in the composition. His interpretation urges the audience to a moral edification and to avoid the perils of heresies, symbolised by the schism between the kingdom of Judah and the kingdom of Israel. Eusebius, who knew Origen’s works on the Psalter, also composed a Commentary on the Psalms which we can partly read from direct tradition (on Pss. 51-95:2a). His interpretation of Psalm 77 is in line with the methodology of the Alexandrian exegesis, inasmuch as it investigates the persona loquens of the psalm or gives importance to the other Greek translations from the Hexapla. However, even if Eusebius never refused the allegorical interpretation, or denied its moral value, he was more interested in explaining the text from a historical point of view, stressing the responsibilities of the Jews for their punishments and thus highlighting the apologetic stance of the events narrated in the psalm. The analysis compares some fundamental key-issues of the two fathers’ exegesis of Psalm 77, so as to highlight the peculiarity of their own interpretations. The account of the different perspectives lets us glimpse the motivations that led Eusebius to pursue a different interpretation from Origen’s, while maintaining the basis of his method.

For different reasons, both Origen’s and Eusebius’ interpretation of the Psalms remain to be thoroughly investigated. On the one hand, many of the works composed by the Alexandrian on the Psalter have been lost: therefore, the task of sketching his exegesis from the remaining nine Latin homilies and the catenae fragments has luckily become easier since the finding of the collection of twenty-nine Greek Homilies on the Psalms (= HPs)1. On the other hand, the 1 See at least Emanuela Prinzivalli, ‘Salmi’, in Adele Monaci Castagno (ed.), Origene. Dizionario: la cultura, il pensiero, le opere (Rome, 2000), 422-4; Lorenzo Perrone, ‘Origen Reading the Psalms. The Challenge of a Christian Interpretation’, in Moshe Blidstein, Serge Ruzer and Daniel Stökl Ben Ezra (eds), Scriptures, Sacred Traditions, and Strategies of Religious Subversion. Studies in Discourse with the Work of Guy G. Stroumsa (Tübingen, 2018), 131-48.

Studia Patristica CXI, 65-75. © Peeters Publishers, 2021.



bishop of Caesarea owes his reputation more to his historical and apologetical effort, rather than to the exegetical Commentary on the Psalms (= CPs) and Commentary on Isaiah.2 The former work suffers also from the lack of a critical edition – which is being prepared at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities.3 In this article I will compare the two author’s exegesis on Psalm 77 (78). Along with giving an insight into their consideration of this composition, the comparison will allow pinpointing the key issues of their approach to the Psalter and addressing some guidelines of their exegesis. I will firstly summarise briefly each author’s interpretation of Ps. 77. Then, I will give some examples which also illustrate in detail the diverse takes on the same composition. On a final note, I will argue that, although Eusebius’ interpretation shared many of the typical features of the method that Origen refined, he was driven by a different conception of the Psalms, which consequently led him to pursue a different aim with his explanation. 1. Origen Psalm 77 is a long meditation on the history of the people of Israel, starting from their departure from Egypt and following their wandering in the desert, up to their instauration in Jerusalem and the election of David.4 The composition also addresses the relationship between Israel and God, since the people continuously mourned their condition and questioned God’s intervention, while he was always ready to forgive and bestow his benefits on them. Along with scattered references to single verses in his other works, Origen commented the entire Ps. 77 in nine homilies5 during his preaching activity in 2

The fundamental study on CPs remains Carmelo Curti, Eusebiana I: Commentarii in Psalmos. Seconda edizione riveduta e accresciuta, Saggi e testi classici, cristiani e medievali 1 (Catania, 1989); on the Commentary on Isaiah see Michael J. Hollerich, Eusebius of Caesarea’s Commentary on Isaiah. Christian Exegesis in the Age of Constantine (Oxford, 1999). 3 The manuscript Parisinus Coislin 44 contains the CPs text between Ps. 51 and Ps. 95:2a in direct tradition; the previous and following parts are preserved only in catenae fragments. Therefore, the reference, non-critical edition is still the faulty text published in the twenty-third and twenty-fourth volumes of Migne’s Patrologia Graeca, to which references are made in brackets. I have, however, collated the manuscript from the digital reproduction on the Bibliothèque Nationale de France website and corrected its errors, taking into account also the critical text proposed by Magali Coullet, Eusèbe de Césarée – Commentaire sur les Psaumes. Édition critique et traduction de quelques Psaumes, Ph.D. dissertation (Aix-en-Provence, Marseille, 2016). 4 See e.g. Luis A. Schökel and Cecilia Carniti, I Salmi, II (Roma, 1993), 85-112; Judith Gärtner, ‘The Historical Psalms: A Study of Psalms 78; 105; 106; 135, and 136 as Key Hermeneutical Texts in the Psalter’, HeBAI 4 (2015), 373-99, 377-82. 5 The critical edition is Origenes Werke 13. Band. Die neuen Psalmenhomilien. Eine kritische Edition des Codex Monacensis Graecus 314, ed. Lorenzo Perrone, Marina Molin Pradel, Emanuela Prinzivalli and Antonio Cacciari, GCS NF 19 (Berlin, 2015). Quotes to H77Ps will hereafter

Origen and Eusebius Interpreting Psalm 77


Caesarea (dedicating a minimum of four verses – H77Ps II on Ps. 77:9-12 – up to a maximum of thirteen verses – H77Ps VIII on Ps. 77:52-64 – per sermon6). Origen’s interpretation begins with the identification of the speakers of the psalm: he observes that Jesus is pronouncing the first two verses, quoted also by Matthew 13:34-5, while the following ones are spoken by either the prophet himself, or the church7. Then, the preacher argues that the historical narration can be useful for the readers both in its literal sense and through a spiritual interpretation which discloses its divine mysteries8. Indeed, the Alexandrian links the reference to the sons of Ephraim (Ps. 77:9) to the split of the Kingdom of Israel from Judah, and therefore in his view this historical event foreshadows the birth of all subsequent schisms and heresies9. This anti-heretical stance emerges as a substantial background of Origen’s interpretation of this psalm, resulting often in an exhortation never to leave the church nor follow the sinful teachings of Gnostics or Marcionites10. The events of the history of Israel are then interpreted in a way that is useful to the audience’s moral growth: thus, Origen stresses that God’s wonders were performed for his people in the desert so that include homily and paragraph numbers, followed by the reference to page and line numbers of this edition in brackets. A thorough analysis of these homilies is offered by Lorenzo Perrone, ‘Origen’s Interpretation of the Psalter Revisited: The Nine Homilies on Psalm 77(78) in the Munich Codex’, ASEs 36 (2019), 139-61. Translations of the Septuagint are hereafter quoted without further notice from A New English Translation of the Septuagint, ed. A. Pietersma and B.G. Wright (New York, Oxford 2007), except where a few adjustments were required. 6 Each homily covers the verses of the psalm as follows: H77Ps I: vv. 1-8 (8); H77Ps II: vv. 9-12 (4); H77Ps III: vv. 13-22 (10); H77Ps IV: vv. 23-31 (9); H77Ps V: vv. 31-7 (7); H77Ps VI: vv. 38-43 (6); H77Ps VII: vv. 44-51 (8); H77Ps VIII: vv. 52-64 (13); H77Ps IX: vv. 65-72 (8). 7 Orig., H77Ps I,2 (356.8-12): Σώζου οὖν καὶ ὅτι ὁ σωτὴρ ὁ λέγων ἐστίν, ὡς ὁ Ματθαῖος ἀνέγραψε, καὶ ὅτι οὐ δι’ ὅλου τοῦ ψαλμοῦ λέγει ὁ σωτήρ, ἀλλά τινα λέγει τὸ πρόσωπον τὸ προφητικὸν περὶ αὐτοῦ καὶ τῶν ἀπὸ τοῦ λαοῦ ἢ ἁπλῶς πλῆθος καὶ ἐκκλησία λέγει τὰ ἑξῆς. Ταῦτα μὲν εἰς τὸ καθᾶραι τὸ λέγον πρόσωπον. 8 Orig., H77Ps II,2 (368.6-8, 16): Αἱ ἱστορίαι δὲ αὗται καὶ οἱ λόγοι οὗτοι οἱ κατὰ τὰ ἀναγνώσματα καὶ τὸ ἦθος μὲν ἡμῶν ὠφελῆσαι δύνανται· ἐὰν δὲ δυνώμεθα καὶ ἀναβαίνειν, οἷοί τε ἔσονται καὶ διδάσκειν ἡμᾶς θεῖα μυστήρια. […] Ὁρᾶτε οὖν ὅτι ἡ ἱστορία ὠφελεῖ κατὰ τὸ ῥητόν. 9 Orig., H77Ps II,2 (368.16-22): Καὶ εἴ ποτε ἐν ἐκκλησίαις γέγονε σχίσματα, πάντως τῇ προφάσει τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν Ῥοβοάμ τινες γεγέννηνται. Φαντασθέντες γὰρ τὴν σκληρότητα ἔσχισαν οἱ σχίσαντες, φαντασθέντες γὰρ τὴν χαλεπότητα ἔσχισαν οἱ σχίσαντες, καὶ οἱ ἀποστήσαντες δὲ τῆς ἐκκλησίας ὡς ἀπέστησαν, τὸν Ἱεροβοὰμ ἐκεῖνον ἐμιμήσαντο. Ἀρχὴ δὲ οὐ μόνον σχισμάτων, ἀλλὰ καὶ αἱρέσεων γεγένηται τὰ τοιαῦτα ἁμαρτήματα. Origen implies that while the schism is due to the thirst for power, it may become a heresy when innovations to the doctrine and false beliefs are introduced; see H77Ps II,3 (370.13-7): Τί οὖν βούλεται ἐν τούτῳ ἡ γραφή; Ὅτι ὡς ἐπίπαν οἱ τὰ σχίσματα ποιοῦντες ἀπὸ φιλαρχίας τοῦτο πάσχουσι καὶ οὐκ ἀρκούμενοι τῷ ἐσχικέναι βούλονταί τινα καινοτομίαν διδασκαλίας εἰσάγειν, ἵνα διὰ τῆς καινοτομίας καθαιροῦντες τὰ ἐκκλησιαστικὰ φαντασίᾳ ἀληθείας κρατῶσι τοὺς ἠπατημένους. 10 The strong anti-heretical character of the whole collection of HPs is highlighted by Alain Le Boulluec, ‘La polémique contre les hérésies dans les Homélies sur les Psaumes d’Origène (Codex Monacensis Graecus 314)’, Adamantius 20 (2014), 256-74, and by Manlio Simonetti, ‘Leggendo le Omelie sui Salmi di Origene’, Adamantius 22 (2016), 454-80, 456-9.



they would believe him, but today they must be understood as hinting at the spiritual gifts that he bestows on those who are faithful to him.11 Accordingly, Origen develops a discourse on the spiritual food represented by the manna and the bread of heaven and of angels, symbolising the nourishment that derives from thoroughly studying and investigating the divine scripture and the Logos.12 On the contrary, the quails (see Ps. 77:27) represent the corporeal foods and needs that one must fulfil only when strictly necessary, without indulging in the excesses of the body.13 God’s reaction to the sinful attitude of his people 11 Orig., H77Ps III,1-2 (385.10-26): Ἐάν ποτε οὖν ἀναγινώσκῃς σημεῖα καὶ τέρατα, εἴτε ἐν τοῖς κατὰ τὴν παλαιὰν διαθήκην, εἴτε ἐν τοῖς κατὰ τὴν παρουσίαν Χριστοῦ, ὅρα μὴ γένῃ ὡς ὁ σκληροκάρδιος ἐκεῖνος καὶ σωματικὸς λαὸς ζητῶν σημεῖα καὶ τέρατα, προκρίνειν τὰ ὑλικὰ καὶ σωματικὰ τῶν μειζόνων καὶ πνευματικῶν· οὐδέν ἐστι τὰ σωματικὰ σημεῖα ὡς πρὸς ἐκεῖνα. Ταῦτα μὲν γὰρ ἄπιστον πιστὸν ποιήσει, ἐκεῖνα δὲ τὸν πιστὸν καὶ διαβεβηκότα μέγιστα οἷά τέ ἐστιν ὠφελῆσαι. Εὐχώμεθα τοίνυν καὶ ἡμεῖς, ἐάν ποτε ἴδωμεν ἑαυτοὺς παρὰ τῇ θαλάσσῃ ἐν διωγμοῖς, ἐν θλίψεσιν, ἐν κινδύνοις, ἐν στενοχωρίαις, ἵνα ὁ θεὸς διαρρήξῃ τὴν τῶν τοιούτων πραγμάτων θάλασσαν καὶ διαγάγῃ ἡμᾶς μηδὲν παθόντας καὶ παραστήσῃ ταῦτα τὰ ὕδατα ὡσεὶ ἀσκὸν κεκρατημένα, καὶ ὁδηγήσῃ ἡμᾶς ἐν νεφέλῃ ἡμέρας καὶ ὅλην τὴν νύκτα ἐν φωτισμῷ πυρός (Ps. 77:14). 2. Διττῶς γὰρ ‹ἔστιν› εἰπεῖν καὶ περὶ τούτων· εἶπεν σωματικῶς μὲν ὁδηγηθῆναι ἐν νεφέλῃ σωματικῇ ἡμέρας (Ps. 77:14a), ἀλλ’ ἡ ψυχὴ οὐκ ὠφελεῖται, οὐ γὰρ εἶδεν ἀληθινὸν φῶς. Ἐὰν δὲ νοήσῃς νεφέλην πνευματικὴν καὶ κρείττονα, τὴν κούφην, ἐφ’ ἧς καθεζόμενος ὁ σωτὴρ προφητεύεται ἐπιδημεῖν τῇ Αἰγύπτῳ (see Is. 19:1), ὄψει ὅτι ‹τῷ› τοιαύτην νεφέλην πέμπεσθαι ἀπὸ τοῦ θεοῦ ὁδηγοῦσαν ἡμᾶς μέγα ὄφελος ἡμῖν περιποιεῖ καὶ σωτήριον. 12 See Orig., H77Ps IV,7 (398.13-7): Ὁ γὰρ γευσάμενος πνευματικῆς τροφῆς οἶδεν τίς ἡ τρυφὴ ἡ τῆς ψυχῆς. Ἴδε μοι διήγησιν νομικήν, κατανόησον σαφήνειαν προφητικήν, ἴδε εὐαγγελικὸν ἀναπτυσσόμενον λόγον, κατανόησον ἀπόστολον φωτίζοντά σε τῇ σαφηνείᾳ τῆς γραφῆς, εἰ μὴ αἰσθάνῃ ὅτι ἐναντία τρυφὴ τῆς τοῦ σώματος τρυφῆς ἡ τρυφή ἐστιν ἡ τοιαύτη, ἣν ὁ θεὸς βούλεται ἡμᾶς τρυφᾶν; 9 (402.3-7): Ἔβρεξεν ἐπ’ αὐτοὺς μάννα φαγεῖν (Ps. 77:24a)· ἕτοιμον ἄρτον ἀπ’ οὐρανοῦ ἔδωκεν ὁ θεὸς τῷ λαῷ αὐτοῦ ἀκοπιάστως πρὸς πᾶσαν ἡδονὴν ἰσχύοντα καὶ πρὸς πᾶσαν ἁρμόνιον γεῦσιν (Sap. 16:20b-c). Πρὸς ὅ τι γάρ τις ἐβούλετο, μετεκιρνᾶτο (Sap. 21c) τοιαύτη δὲ τοῦ τρέφοντος τὴν ψυχὴν λόγου φύσις πρὸς τὴν δύναμιν τοῦ τρεφομένου μεταβάλλουσα; 10 (406.6-8): ὅταν γὰρ διαλαμβάνω περὶ θεοῦ, περὶ κόσμου, περὶ Χριστοῦ, περὶ τῆς θεότητος αὐτοῦ καὶ περὶ τῆς ἐνοικήσεως αὐτοῦ ἀνθρωπίνῳ σώματι καὶ ψυχῇ, ἄρτον ἀγγέλων (Ps. 77:25a) ἐσθίω. Ἐὰν δ’ ἐξετάζω τοὺς λόγους τοῦ ἁγίου πνεύματος, ἄρτον ἀγγέλων (Ps. 77:25a) ἐσθίω. 13 Orig., H77Ps V,2 (410.10-23): Πᾶς ἄνθρωπος χρῆται τισὶ σωματικοῖς ὁτὲ μὲν ἀναγκαίως ὁτὲ δὲ οὐκ ἀναγκαίως· καὶ ἀναγκαίως μὲν ὅτε πρὸς τοῖς κρείττοσίν ἐστιν, οὐκ ἀναγκαίως δὲ ὅτε ἀπέστραπται τὰ κρείττονα καὶ ὅλος γίνεται τῶν σωματικῶν. Ἔοικεν οὖν ταῦτα δηλοῦσθαι δι’ ἀμφοτέρων τῶν τόπων τῶν περὶ τῆς διηγήσεως τῆς ὀρτυγομήτρας· τὸ πρότερον γὰρ ἔφαγον ὀρτυγομήτραν οὐ κακῶς εἰπόντες τὸν ἄρτον τοῦ θεοῦ, ἀλλ’ ἔφαγον ὀρτυγομήτραν μετὰ τοῦ ἔχειν τὸ μάννα καὶ οὐκ ἐξουδένουν αὐτό, ἵνα φάγωσι τῶν σαρκῶν. Τοιοῦτον οὖν τι πάσχομεν καὶ ἡμεῖς ἐν τοῖς σωματικοῖς μετὰ τοῦ πνευματικὰ ποιεῖν· οἷον γὰρ μάννα ἐσθίομεν καὶ κατὰ ἀνάγκην τὴν διδομένην ἀπὸ τοῦ θεοῦ ὀρτυγομήτραν, καὶ οὐκ ἐξ ἐπιθυμιῶν. Ὅταν γὰρ τὰ πνευματικὰ μὴ ποιῶμεν, ὅλοι ὄντες τῆς ἐπιθυμίας τῶν κακῶν, κακῶς λέγοντες τὸ μάννα καὶ ἀπεστραμμένοι τὰ θεῖα, τότε γίνεται ἡμῖν ἡ ἐπιθυμία. Διὸ οὐκ ἐπὶ τοῖς πρότερον ἀλλ’ ἐπὶ τοῖς δεύτερον γεγενημένοις γέγραπται τὸ ἔτι τῆς βρώσεως οὔσης ἐν τῷ στόματι αὐτῶν καὶ ἡ ὀργὴ τοῦ θεοῦ ἀνέβη ἐπ’ αὐτούς (Ps. 77:30b-31a). See also H77Ps IV,11. On the relevance of the theme of food and drinking in Origen, see Fernando Soler, ‘Gustar y participar del Logos en Orígenes: Acercamientos al “gusto” como sentido espiritual’, Adamantius 23 (2017), 416-31;

Origen and Eusebius Interpreting Psalm 77


leads Origen to stress his mercy and kindness, and to assert that his punishments are always aimed at correcting and converting sinners:14 in this sense, even the plagues of Egypt evoked by the psalm were actually meant to keep the Egyptians from sinning, as Origen comments, insisting at the same time on the spiritual meaning underneath each one of them.15 The mention of the flock of the people (Ps. 77:52) is developed with an appeal to ecclesiastical harmony, and the punishments for their idolatry with a warning not to fall in false heretical beliefs.16 The rejection of the tribes of Joseph and Ephraim is once again interpreted as the condemnation of the heretics and those who departed from the true church of God, symbolised by Zion.17 2. Eusebius Eusebius’ overall evaluation of Ps. 77 is consistently different.18 He briefly summarises its content saying that ‘the whole composition accuses the people Id., ‘Acercamientos a la teología del comer y beber en el cristianismo antiguo’, Communio 25/2 (2018), 35-53; Id., ‘The Theological Use of Eating and Drinking Metaphors in Origen’s De Principiis’, ZAC 23 (2019), 4-20. 14 Orig., H77Ps VI,1 (420.6-10): Τίς δὲ κατανοῶν τὰ καθ’ ἑκάστην γενεὰν οἰκονομηθέντα οὐ βλέπει τοὺς οἰκτιρμοὺς τοῦ θεοῦ ἡνίκα ἔπεμπε τοὺς προφήτας πρὸς τοὺς ἁμαρτάνοντας, καὶ πέμπων αὐτοὺς ἐπέστρεφε τοὺς πταίοντας; Τίς δὲ βλέπων ὅτι καὶ ἐν τοῖς καιροῖς τῆς νομιζομένης ὀργῆς καὶ κολάσεως παρακαλεῖ ἐπὶ μετάνοιαν, οὐ θαυμάζει τὸν οἰκτιρμὸν τοῦ θεοῦ; 15 Orig., H77Ps VI,1 (421.15-422.6): Καὶ ἀκρίσι καὶ μύαις καὶ σκνιψί, καὶ θανάτῳ πτηνῶν, ἐκόλαζε τοὺς Αἰγυπτίους, οὐδὲν ἄλλο βουλόμενος ἢ ἐπιστρέψαι αὐτοὺς καὶ συνελθεῖν τῷ λαῷ. Ὅρα γ’ οὖν ὅτι ὅτε ἐπέμεινον τῇ ἁμαρτίᾳ, τὸν θάνατον τῶν πρωτοτόκων τὴν τελευταίαν ἐποίησε μάστιγα· ἀλλὰ καὶ ἡνίκα ἐδίωξαν οἱ Αἰγύπτιοι τὸν λαὸν καὶ ἔδωκε τῷ λαῷ ὁδεύειν διὰ τῆς ἐρυθρᾶς θαλάσσης, τί ἄλλο ἐβούλετο ἢ τοὺς Αἰγυπτίους σῶσαι μὴ ἐπιδιώκοντας ἀλλὰ συμφυγόντας καὶ συνεξερχομένους; Ἐπεὶ δὲ οὐκ ἐβουλήθησαν ἀλλὰ διῶξαι μετὰ ταῦτα πάντα ἠθέλησαν, παρ’ ἑαυτοὺς ἀπώλοντο. The interpretation of the plagues is developed in H77Ps VII. 16 See especially Orig., H77Ps VIII, 2-4 and 6-7. 17 Orig., H77Ps IX,6 (475.13-476.3): Καὶ ἐξελέξατο τὴν φυλὴν Ἰούδα (Ps. 77:68a) διὰ τὸν Χριστόν· πρόδηλον γὰρ ὅτι ἐξ Ἰούδα ἀνατέταλκεν ὁ κύριος ἡμῶν. Ἐὰν τοίνυν ἀκούσῃς· ἀπώσατο τὸ σκήνωμα Ἰωσήφ (Ps. 77:67a), ἄκουε περὶ τῶν αἱρέσεων. Ἐὰν ἀκούσῃς· καὶ τὴν φυλὴν Ἐφραῒμ οὐκ ἐξελέξατο (Ps. 77:67b), ἄκουε περὶ τῶν ἑτεροδόξων τὸ λεγόμενον, ὡς τετηρήκαμεν ἐν τοῖς εἰς τὸν Ὠσηὲ ἡμῖν πραγματευθεῖσιν. Τὸ ὄρος τὸ Σιών, ὃ ἠγάπησεν (Ps. 77:68b)· ἆρα τοῦτο τὸ ἄψυχον ἢ ἐκεῖνο περὶ οὗ πολλάκις λέγεται· ἀλλὰ προσεληλύθατε Σιὼν ὄρει καὶ πόλει θεοῦ ζῶντος, Ἰερουσαλὴμ ἐπουρανίῳ (Heb. 12:22); 18 Eusebius’ explanation of Ps. 77 as presented by the manuscript is divided into sections, as it follows (the numbers after ‘CPs 77’ refer to the explained verses): CPs 77,1-2 (PG 23, 901B-905B); CPs 77,3-4 (PG 23, 905C-908A); CPs 77,4-8 (PG 23, 908A-909A); CPs 77,9-12 (PG 23, 909B-912D); CPs 77,13-7 (PG 23, 912D-916B); CPs 77,18-25a (PG 23, 916B-920A); CPs 77,25b-31 (PG 23, 920B-921A); CPs 77,32-5 (PG 23, 921B-924A); CPs 77,36-9 (PG 23, 924A-925A); CPs 77,40-8 (PG 23, 925A-928A); CPs 77,49-51 (PG 23, 928B-929D); CPs 77,52-4 (PG 23, 929D-932B); CPs 77,55-8 (PG 23, 932B-C); CPs 77,59-64 (PG 23, 932D-936C); CPs 77,65-7 (PG 23, 936C-937B); CPs 77,68-72 (PG 23, 937C-941A).



of the Jews, listing their ancient sacrileges’,19 so that the Word of God can warn his church not to make the same mistakes as the Jewish nation through the example of their punishments.20 For Eusebius, Christ himself also speaks the whole psalm in person of his disciples and apostles, so as to present in a more human way the summary of the historical narration contained in the scripture.21 The bishop then comments on the psalm by explaining all the recalled events and referencing them in the historical books of the Bible that comprise their detailed narration. Therefore, the sons of Ephraim (Ps. 77:9) are interpreted as metaphorically referring to everyone from the actual people of Israel who did not listen to the Law and committed idolatry.22 Eusebius then retraces all the 19 Eus., CPs Prol. Ps. 77 (PG 23, 828B-C): Ὁ ἕκτος οὐκέτι ψαλμὸς οὐδὲ ᾠδὴ οὐδὲ ὕμνος, οὐδὲ ἀναπέμπει εἰς τὸ τέλος. Ὅθεν οὐδὲν τούτων ἐπιγέγραπται, διεγείρει δὲ ἡμᾶς εἰς σύνεσιν τῶν ἐμφερομένων. Διὰ τί δὲ μηδὲν τῶν προειρημένων ἡ προγραφὴ περιέχει, ἀλλ’ ἐπειδήπερ ὁ πᾶς λόγος τοῦ Ἰουδαίων ἔθνους κατηγορεῖ, καταριθμούμενος αὐτῶν τὰ πάλαι ἀσεβήματα; Τοῦτο δὲ πράττει ὁ προφήτης εἰς ἀπολογίαν τῆς τοῦ θεοῦ δικαιοκρισίας· μέλλων γὰρ θεσπίζειν τὰ συμβησόμενα τῷ ἔθνει πρὸ τῆς τοῦ σωτῆρος παρουσίας, ἀναγκαίως διδάσκει ὅτι μὴ ἐπὶ μικροῖς ἀσεβήμασιν ταῦτα πείσονται. Διόπερ καταριθμεῖται ὁσάκις ἥμαρτεν καὶ ὁσάκις ἤνεγκεν αὐτοὺς ἡ τοῦ θεοῦ μακροθυμία, καὶ ὡς ὕστερον πληρώσαντας αὐτοὺς τὸ μέτρον τῶν ἀσεβημάτων δικαιότατα μετῆλθεν ἡ ἐκ θεοῦ ὀργή. Ἵν’ οὖν ταῦτα γνῶμεν, ἀναγκαίως ἐπιγράφει Συνέσεως τῷ Ἀσάφ, καὶ προϊὼν ἑξῆς ἀνακεφαλαιοῦται αὐτῶν πάσας τὰς παρανομίας. 20 Eus., CPs 77,1-2 (PG 23, 905A): Μέλλων δὲ ὁ τοῦ θεοῦ λόγος τὰς κατηγορίας τοῦ προτέρου ποιεῖσθαι λαοῦ, καὶ τὰς αἰτίας δι’ ἃς ἀποβέβληται παρατίθεσθαι, ἀναγκαίως τῇ ἑαυτοῦ ἐκκλησίᾳ παρακελεύεται προσέχειν τοῖς λεγομένοις, καὶ συνιέναι τὰς παραθέσεις τῆς τῶν παλαιῶν κατηγορίας, ὡς ἂν μὴ τοῖς αὐτοῖς περιπέσοι, μαθοῦσα δὲ ἐκ τῆς περὶ ἐκείνων διηγήσεως ὁποῖον αὐτοὺς διεδέξατο τέλος, σωφρονίζοιτο ἐκ τοῦ παραδείγματος. 21 Eus., CPs 77,3-4 (PG 23, 905C-908A): Τὰ μὲν πρῶτα ἐξ ἑνὸς ἐλέγετο προσώπου, ὅπερ τίνος ἦν ἀποδέδεικται· ‹τὰ δὲ προκείμενα λέλεκται› [suppl. Coullet] μὲν ἐκ τοῦ αὐτοῦ. Συμπαραλαμβάνει δὲ καὶ ἕτερα ὑποκαταβὰς τῆς αὐτοῦ θεότητος, καὶ ἀνθρωπινώτερον φθεγγόμενος, ὡς ἂν ἐκ προσώπου οὗ ἀνείληφεν ἀνθρώπου τοῦ γενομένου ἐκ σπέρματος Δαυῒδ κατὰ σάρκα, οὗ τὴν γένεσιν ἱστορεῖ τὸ εὐαγγέλιον φάσκον· Βίβλος γενέσεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ υἱοῦ Δαυῒδ υἱοῦ Ἀβραάμ (Matt. 1:1). Διόπερ συμπεριλαμβάνων τοὺς κατὰ σάρκα ὁμογενεῖς αὐτοῦ γενομένους μαθητὰς καὶ ἀποστόλους, πληθυντικῶς διεξέρχεται τὰ μετὰ χεῖρας λέγων· Ὅσα ἠκούσαμεν καὶ ἔγνωμεν αὐτά (Ps. 77:3a). Ὅτε μὲν γὰρ τὸν λαὸν ἑαυτοῦ ἀνεκαλεῖτο, καὶ οἰκεῖον νόμον αὐτοῖς προὐβάλλετο, παρῄνει τε κλίνειν τὸ οὖς τοῖς αὐτοῦ ῥήμασιν, σὺν αὐθεντείᾳ βασιλικῇ ἐξ ἑνὸς προσώπου προεφέρετο τὴν παραγγελίαν· νῦν δὲ, ὅτε τῶν παλαιῶν ἀναγνωσμάτων ἐπιτέμνεται τὴν διήγησιν, κοινοποιεῖ τὸν λόγον ὑπομιμνήσκων τὰ πάλαι πεπραγμένα, καὶ ὡς ἂν τοῖς πᾶσι γνώριμα ἐπαναλαμβάνων τὰ ἀπὸ τῆς ἱστορικῆς γραφῆς δηλούμενα. Διό φησιν· Ὅσα ἠκούσαμεν καὶ ἔγνωμεν αὐτά (Ps. 77:3a). Οὐ πάντων δέ ἐστι τὸ ἀκούειν καὶ γινώσκειν, ἀλλ’ ἢ μόνων τῶν συνιέντων τοὺς λόγους. Διὸ καὶ ὁ Φίλιππος τῷ εὐνούχῳ ἔλεγεν· Ἆρα γινώσκεις ἃ ἀναγινώσκεις; (Acts 8:30) Ἀλλ’ οὐδὲ πᾶσιν οἱ πατέρες διηγήσαντο. Οὐκ ἔχομεν γοῦν ἡμεῖς οἱ ἐξ ἐθνῶν τῷ θείῳ λόγῳ προσελθόντες διδασκάλους ἐπιγράψασθαι τῶν θείων μαθημάτων τοὺς κατὰ σάρκα πατέρας· ἀλλ’ ὅ γε σωτὴρ ἐξ αὐτοῦ προσώπου καὶ τῶν κατὰ σάρκα ἐκ τῶν αὐτῶν πατέρων γενομένων ἀποστόλων αὐτοῦ καὶ μαθητῶν καὶ εὐαγγελιστῶν ταύτας προφέρεται τὰς φωνὰς λέγων· Ὅσα ἠκούσαμεν καὶ ἔγνωμεν αὐτὰ, καὶ οἱ πατέρες ἡμῶν διηγήσαντο ἡμῖν (Ps. 77:3). 22 Eus., CPs 77,9-12 (PG 23, 909D-912A): Εἰκότως οὖν καὶ διὰ τῶν προκειμένων εἴρηται· Υἱοὶ Ἐφραῒμ ἐντείνοντες καὶ βάλλοντες τόξον, ἐστράφησαν ἐν ἡμέρᾳ πολέμου (Ps. 77:9). Πῶς δὲ ἐστράφησαν σαφέστερον παρίστησιν εἰπών· καὶ ἐγένοντο εἰς τόξον στρεβλόν (cf. Ps. 77:57b).

Origen and Eusebius Interpreting Psalm 77


stages of the Israelite history highlighting that despite all the miracles and marvels that God performed to help them (including the crossing of the Red Sea, the water in the desert, the manna and the quails), the people kept on sinning and disobeying him.23 Even though the bishop underlines the fact that God was always patient and ready to forgive them,24 in no case does he ascribe a spiritual meaning to any of the punishments that the text mentions, including the plagues against the Egyptians. Thus, the attacks of the Philistines against the people of Israel (1Kgs. 4-5) are presented as a consequence of their disobedience and idolatry;25 and David, chosen because of his virtue and mercy, is not interpreted traditionally as typologically referring to Christ, like Origen did instead. Overall, Eusebius sketches a resume of the events paraphrasing the psalm, yet he is very accurate in noticing the differences between its text and the historical narrations.26 Δέον γὰρ βάλλειν καὶ πολεμεῖν τοὺς τῷ θεῷ πολεμίους, οἱ δὲ εἰδωλολατροῦντες πόλεμον ἤραντο κατὰ τοῦ θεοῦ. Διὸ ἐπιλέγει· Οὐκ ἐφύλαξαν τὴν διαθήκην τοῦ θεοῦ, καὶ ἐν τῷ νόμῳ αὐτοῦ οὐκ ἠβουλήθησαν πορεύεσθαι (Ps. 77:10). Καὶ τοὺς λοιποὺς δὲ τοῦ παντὸς ἔθνους δηλοῖ διὰ τούτων μεταφορικῶς διὰ τῶν υἱῶν Ἐφραΐμ, καὶ τοὺς ὁμοίους τοῖς τρόποις, εἰ καὶ μὴ τῆς αὐτῆς ἐτύγχανον ὄντες φυλῆς, σημαίνων. Ἐπεὶ καὶ οἱ ἐν τοῖς μετὰ ταῦτα χρόνοις ἀποσχίσαντες τῆς Ἱερουσαλὴμ καὶ ἐν τῇ Σαμαρείᾳ εἰδωλολατρήσαντες υἱοὶ ἦσαν Ἐφραΐμ. Εἰκότως οὖν τοὺς παραβάτας τοῦ παντὸς ἔθνους υἱοὺς Ἐφραῒμ [Ἀβραὰμ C, PG, Coullet] ὀνομάσας, ἀθρόως διαβάλλει τοὺς πάντας. 23 Eus., CPs 77,32-5 (PG 23, 921B-C): Ἐλεγτικὸς ὢν καὶ κατηγορητικὸς τῆς Ἰουδαίων μοχθηρίας ὁ λόγος, καταρίθμησιν ποιεῖ καὶ τῶν πεπλημμελημένων αὐτοῖς, παριστῶν ὅτι μὴ μάτην αὐτοὺς τὰ τῆς ὀργῆς τοῦ θεοῦ μετῆλθεν. Καὶ δὴ διδάσκει ὡς καὶ μετὰ τὰ προλεχθέντα πάντα, αὔξοντες ἑαυτῶν τὰ κακά, ἥμαρτον ἔτι· καὶ ἥμαρτον, ἐπεὶ οὐκ ἐπίστευσαν τοῖς θαυμασίοις αὐτοῦ. Τοιαῦτα γὰρ ὀφθαλμοῖς ὁρῶντες, ἐνικῶντο ὑπὸ τῆς ἐπιθυμίας. Εἶτα, καὶ ἐξέλιπον ἐν ματαιότητι αἱ ἡμέραι αὐτῶν (Ps. 77:33a). Δέον γάρ, θεωροὺς γενομένους τῶν τοῦ θεοῦ μεγαλουργημάτων, ὅλους αὐτοὺς ἀναθεῖναι αὐτῷ, οἱ δὲ θρεμμάτων ἀλόγων δίκην τῇ τῶν σωμάτων προσεῖχον ματαιότητι, ἐν ἀλογίᾳ καὶ ἀνοίᾳ κατηγοροῦντες, καὶ μηδὲν πλέον ἐκ τῶν εἰς αὐτοὺς χορηγουμένων εἰς γνῶσιν θεοῦ καὶ ψυχῆς σωτηρίαν ποριζόμενοι. 24 Eus., CPs 77,36-9 (PG 23, 924B-C): Ὁ δέ, πατρὸς ἀγαθοῦ δίκην οἶκτον αὐτῶν πλείονα λαμβάνων, ἱλάσκετο ταῖς ἁμαρτίαις αὐτῶν, καὶ οὐ παρεδίδου αὐτοὺς εἰς ἐσχάτην διαφθοράν. […] Ἔτι γὰρ τότε μακροθύμως αὐτοὺς ἔφερεν οὔπω εἰς τέλος αὐτοὺς ἀπωθούμενος. 25 Eus., CPs 77,55-8 (PG 23, 932C): Εἶτ’ αὖθις αὐτῶν κατηγορεῖ, διδάσκων ὡς πρὸς τοῖς ἡμαρτημένοις κατὰ τὴν ἔρημον προσθήκας κακῶν ἐποιήσαντο· καὶ μετὰ τὸ κτήσασθαι τὴν γῆν, ἐπείρασαν πάλιν ἐνταῦθα καὶ παρεπίκραναν τὸν θεὸν τὸν ὕψιστον, καὶ τὰ μαρτύρια αὐτοῦ τὰ διὰ Μωσέως αὐτοῖς παραδεδομένα οὐκ ἐφύλαξαν· ἀλλ’ ἀπέστρεψαν καὶ ἠθέτησαν καθὼς οἱ πατέρες αὐτῶν, καὶ μετεστράφησαν εἰς τόξον στρεβλόν (Ps. 77:56-7). Δέον γὰρ τοὺς ἐχθροὺς τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ τὰς πολεμίους αὐτῶν δυνάμεις τὰς ἀντικειμένας τοξεύειν καὶ βάλλειν, οἱ δὲ εἰδωλολατρήσαντες τὸν θεὸν ἔβαλλον βλασφήμοις καὶ ἀθεμίτοις λόγοις. Διὸ γεγόνασιν εἰς τόξον στρεβλόν (Ps. 77:57b)· ὃ δὴ κατ’ ἀρχὰς ἐδήλου τὸ λόγιον φῆσαν· Υἱοὶ Ἐφραῒμ ἐντείνοντες καὶ βάλλοντες τόξοις, ἐστράφησαν ἐν ἡμέρᾳ πολέμου (Ps. 77:9). Πῶς δὲ ἐστράφησαν εἰς τόξον στρεβλὸν (Ps. 77:57b) διασαφεῖ λέγων ἑξῆς· Καὶ παρώργισαν αὐτὸν ἐν τοῖς βουνοῖς καὶ ἐν τοῖς γλυπτοῖς αὐτῶν παρεζήλωσαν αὐτόν (Ps. 77:58). ‹Ὀργὴν δὲ ἀνθρωπίνως ἀλληγορεῖ τὴν ἀλλοτρίωσιν, καὶ ζῆλον τὴν πρὸς τοὺς ἀφισταμένους δικαίαν αἰτίασιν› [suppl. Coullet]. 26 See e.g. Eus., CPs 77,9-12 (PG 23, 912B) on the plain of Tanis: Ὅπερ Μωσῆς μὲν οὐκ ἐδήλωσεν διὰ τῆς ἑαυτοῦ γραφῆς· ὁ δὲ Ἀσάφ, προφήτης ὢν, διδάσκει διὰ τῶν προκειμένων ὡς ἐν τῷ πεδίῳ Τάνεως τὰ ἐν Αἰγύπτῳ πραχθέντα θαύματα διὰ Μωσέως ἐπετελέσθη. On the



3. Different perspectives It would take a longer article to thoroughly review all the similarities which characterise the methodology of both these authors: for example, the importance that they ascribe to the title of the Psalms and their systematic engagement in determining the speaker of each composition, as well as their regular use of the translations provided by the Hexapla.27 Despite this common ground, some instances can effectively articulate these brief summaries and exemplify the two different perspectives of Origen and Eusebius. The main feature to notice is that, coherently with his method, Origen often highlights apparent inconsistencies as signals that the text demands a deeper, spiritual reading, whose aim is the conversion and moral progress of the believers;28 on the contrary, Eusebius does not problematise such details nor does he ascribe to them a further meaning.29 Instead, when the bishop feels the need to focus on a verse, he does it to explain how the words of the psalms could have possibly found realisation in the historical events. For example, plagues, see CPs 77,40-8 (on which Origen also presents a thorough comparison, see H77Ps VII,1); CPs 77,49-51. 27 While Origen uses them to correct errors that occurred in the manuscript tradition (see Orig., H77Ps V,3 on Ps. 77:31b; VIII,9 on Ps. 77:63b) or to clear the sense of the text of the Septuagint (see Orig., H77Ps IX,6 on Ps. 77:69a), Eusebius seems to use them more to add details to his interpretation, including the variants in his exegesis rather than preferring one over others (see e.g. Eus., CPs 77,59-64 on Ps. 77:63b; CPs 77,68-9 on Ps. 77:69a) – but see also CPs 77,18-25a on Ps. 25a, where he explicitly chooses the Hebrew reading over the Septuagint. The fundamental analysis on both Origen’s and Eusebius’ exegesis of the Psalter can be found in Marie-Josèphe Rondeau, Les commentaires patristiques du Psautier (IIIe-Ve siècles). I: Les travaux des pères grecs et latins sur le Psautier. Recherches et bilan, Orientalia Christiana Analecta 219 (Roma, 1982), 44-63 (Origen); 64-75 (Eusebius); ead., Les commentaires patristiques du Psautier (IIIeVe siècles). II: Exégèse prosopologique et théologie, Orientalia Christiana Analecta 220 (Roma, 1985), 40-72, 99-135 (Origen); 169-95, 397-413 (Eusebius). 28 Orig., H77Ps IV,5 (395.13-6): Ἢ οὐκ οἶδας ὅτι ἀνέμιξε τὸ ἅγιον πνεῦμα τῇ ἱστορίᾳ τροπολογίαν γυμνήν, ἵνα διεγείρῃ τὸν ἀκροατὴν μέλλοντα καταπίπτειν ὅλον ἐπὶ τὰ σωματικὰ καὶ ὅλον ἐπὶ τὰ αἰσθητά, ἵνα διεγείρῃ αὐτὸν ἐπὶ τὰ πνευματικὰ καὶ τὰ κρείττονα; H77Ps VII,2 (437.20-3): Ἡ γὰρ γραφὴ πολλοὺς λέγει Αἰγύπτου ποταμοὺς παρὰ τὸ ἐναργὲς καὶ τὸ αἰσθητόν. Ἄκουε γὰρ τίνα τρόπον φησί· μετέστρεψεν εἰς αἷμα τοὺς ποταμοὺς αὐτῶν (Ps. 77:44a), ἀφ’ ὧν πείσεις καὶ τοὺς μὴ βουλομένους τροπολογεῖν, λέγων ὅτι ποταμοὺς Αἰγύπτιοι οὐχ ἔχουσιν. H77Ps V,7 (415.3-4): Τί οὖν ἐστι τὸ λεγόμενον, συμβαλλόμενον ἡμῖν εἰς ἐπιστροφήν, κατανοητέον. 29 See e.g. H77Ps V,2, where Origen investigates why the people of Israel were punished only after they had fed on the quails the second time; and CPs 77,25-31, where Eusebius, though acknowledging and quoting both quails episodes (in Exod. 16 and Num. 11), does not recognise a particular significance to this difference. In H77Ps IX,1-2 Origen develops a long consideration to explain the anthropomorphism evoked by Ps. 77:65 (καὶ ἐξηγέρθη ὡς ὁ ὑπνῶν κύριος, ὡς δυνατὸς κεκραιπαληκὼς ἐξ οἴνου), while in CPs 77,65-7 Eusebius mentions the hexaplaric translation of the verse without developing the image – although he swiftly says that God’s awakening hints at his surveillance (τὴν ἐπισκοπὴν αὐτοῦ δεικνύς), which may recall Origen’s more articulated interpretation.

Origen and Eusebius Interpreting Psalm 77


Origen reads the verse evoking the crossing of the Red Sea and its waters standing like a wineskin30 as symbolising the overcoming of the obstacles of life;31 on the other hand, Eusebius describes how, according to a Jewish interpretation, the way through the sea was divided into twelve parts so that each tribe could orderly pass through it, while the waters were standing up in the air assuming the form of an archway passage.32 Similarly, the doors of heaven33 for Origen are the virtues that lead to salvation,34 while for Eusebius they stand for the heavenly works and marvels which God performed for his people.35 Again, the Alexandrian interprets the verse he made a path for his wrath36 claiming that God’s wrath is not an actual passion, but responds to his providential plan, because his punishments are always conceived to provide a way out of sin and to salvation.37 On the contrary, Eusebius reads it as an allusion to the institution of the rite of the Passover, since the lamb’s blood on the doors of the Israelites protected them from the destroyer sent by God to kill the firstborn of Egypt, and thus let them escape his wrath.38 One last example: commenting on Ps. 77:69a

Ps. 77:13: διέρρηξεν θάλασσαν καὶ διήγαγεν αὐτούς, ἔστησεν ὕδατα ὡσεὶ ἀσκόν. See Orig., H77Ps III,1. 32 See Eus., CPs 77,13-7 (PG 23, 913A-B): Ταῦτα μὲν οὖν κατ’ Αἰγυπτίων ἐγίνετο ἐν πεδίῳ Τάνεως· ἃ δὴ παρελθὼν ἐπὶ τοῦ παρόντος ὁ λόγος, τὰς εἰς τὸν λαὸν εὐεργεσίας προτάττει· ὡς διῆλθον τὴν θάλασσαν, εἰς πολλὰ μέρη διαιρεθέντων τῶν ὑδάτων· ὃ δὴ παρίσταται διὰ τοῦ φάσκοντος λόγου· Τῷ καταδιελόντι τὴν ἐρυθρὰν θάλασσαν εἰς διαιρέσεις, καὶ διαγαγόντι τὸν Ἰσραὴλ διὰ μέσου αὐτῆς (Ps. 135:13a.14a). Φασὶν γοῦν Ἑβραίων παῖδες εἰς δώδεκα τμήματα διῃρῆσθαι αὐτὴν κατ’ ἀριθμὸν τῶν δώδεκα φυλῶν τοῦ λαοῦ· ὥστε ἀφωρισμένως ἑκάστην διελθεῖν φυλὴν, κατὰ τὴν ἀπονεμηθεῖσαν αὐτῇ πορείαν. Διισταμένων δὲ τῶν ὑδάτων καὶ ξηρᾶς γῆς ἐν τῷ μεταξὺ συνισταμένης, ἀκόλουθον ἦν συνοχὴν γίνεσθαι τῶν ὑδάτων, ὡς κυρτοῦσθαι αὐτὰ συνεχόμενα πρὸς ἄλληλα καὶ ἐν αὐτῷ τῷ ἀέρι ἐπαίρεσθαι καὶ ὑψοῦσθαι κυρτούμενα καὶ μετεωριζόμενα, καὶ ὥσπερ ἐν ἀσκῷ τῷ ἀέρι περικλειόμενα· διὸ λέλεκται· Παρέστησεν ὕδατα ὡσεὶ ἀσκόν (cf. Ps. 77:13b). The description of the waters bears some resemblance to the interpretation given by Philo, Mos. 1,176-7; 2,253-4; Contempl. 86, though the Alexandrian does not mention the division of the waters in twelve sections. 33 Ps. 77:23: καὶ ἐνετείλατο νεφέλαις ὑπεράνωθεν καὶ θύρας οὐρανοῦ ἀνέῳξεν. 34 See Orig., H77Ps IV,8. 35 See Eus., CPs 77,18-25a (PG 23, 917C): Θύρας δὲ οὐρανοῦ ἀνοιγνυμένας τὰς οὐρανίους νόει πράξεις. Πάντα γὰρ τὰ παραδόξως ὑπὸ τοῦ θεοῦ πεπραγμένα θεῖα καὶ οὐράνια ἦν· ἃ δὴ καὶ ἀνθρώποις ἀποκέκλειστο, ὅτε μὴ ἐγίγνετο· ὅτε δὲ παραδόξως ἐγίγνετο, ὥσπερ θύρας τινὰς οὐρανίους ἀνέῳγεν αὐτοῖς. 36 Ps. 77:50a: ὡδοποίησεν τρίβον τῇ ὀργῇ αὐτοῦ. 37 Orig., H77Ps VII,7 (447.4-11). 38 Eus., CPs 77,49-51 (PG 23, 928C-D): Καί μοι δοκεῖ διὰ τούτων αἰνίττεσθαι τὴν παραδοθεῖσαν τῷ λαῷ μυστικὴν λατρείαν κατὰ τὸν καιρὸν τῆς ἐπελθούσης τοῖς Αἰγυπτίοις ὀργῆς. Τότε γὰρ διατάττεται τὴν τοῦ πάσχα ἑορτὴν ἐπιτελέσαι, θύσαντας μὲν πρόβατον κατὰ σύμβολον τοῦ μέλλοντος ὑπὲρ ἀνθρώπων τυθήσεσθαι ἀμνοῦ τοῦ θεοῦ, χρίσαντας δὲ ἑαυτῶν τὰς φλιὰς τῶν οἴκων τῷ αἵματι· ὡς ἂν, τοῦτο θεασάμενος ὁ ὀλοθρευτὴς, ἀναχωρήσειε τῆς κατὰ τῶν τοῦτο πραξάντων ἐπιβουλῆς. Γέγραπται γοῦν· Καὶ παρελεύσεται Κύριος πατάξαι τοὺς Αἰγυπτίους· καὶ ὄψεται τὸ αἷμα ἐπὶ τῆς φλιᾶς, καὶ ἐπ’ ἀμφοτέρων τῶν σταθμῶν. Καὶ παρελεύσεται Κύριος τὴν θύραν· καὶ οὐκ ἀφήσει τὸν ὀλοθρεύοντα εἰσελθεῖν εἰς τὰς οἰκίας ὑμῶν πατάξαι (Exod. 12:23). 30 31



(And he built his sanctuary like that of unicorns),39 Origen argues that the text calls ‘unicorns’ the believers who attack their spiritual enemies, aligned compactly along God like in the wing or column of an army (another meaning for κέρας: ‘perhaps he now allegorically calls unicorns [μονοκέρωτας] those who through God, as in a single wing [κέρατι], gore the enemies and say: through you we shall gore our enemies [Ps. 43:6] and he shall exalt his people’s wing [Ps. 148:14]’).40 Eusebius, instead, reads the verse as a hint to the fact that the temple in Jerusalem is built in the likeness and image of the sublime realities in heaven, and therefore ‘[…] unicorns are those who are registered under the only wing in heaven, those who the Apostle indicates by saying and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven (Heb. 12:22-3)’.41 To conclude, I will advance a potential explanation for Eusebius’ different approach to the Psalter, as compared to his predecessor’s. In fact, the bishop of Caesarea insists that the Psalms contain not only theological truths or moral and philosophical teachings, but also many prophecies.42 Even though the definition Ps. 77:69a: καὶ ᾠκοδόμησεν ὡς μονοκερώτων τὸ ἁγίασμα αὐτοῦ. Orig., H77Ps IX,6 (476.3-8): Καὶ ᾠκοδόμησεν ὡς μονοκερώτων τὸ ἁγίασμα αὐτοῦ (Ps. 77:69a). Αἱ ἄλλαι ἐκδόσεις ἔχουσιν· καὶ ὕψη τὸ ἁγίασμα αὐτοῦ, δηλοῦσαι ὅτι καὶ τὸ μονοκερώτων ἀντὶ τοῦ ὑψηλοῦ ἐτάχθη. Καὶ τάχα τροπικῶς νῦν “μονοκέρωτας” ὀνομάζει τοὺς ἐν τῷ θεῷ, ἑνὶ κέρατι κερατίζοντας τοὺς ἐχθροὺς καὶ λέγοντας· ἐν σοὶ τοὺς ἐχθροὺς ἡμῶν κερατιοῦμεν (Ps. 43:6) καὶ ὑψώσει κέρας λαοῦ αὐτοῦ (Ps. 148:14)· ἓν κέρας, οὐ τὰ κέρατα τοῦ λαοῦ ὑψοῖ ὁ θεός. 41 Eus., CPs 77,68-72 (PG 23, 937C-940A): Εἶτά φησιν· Καὶ ᾠκοδόμησεν ὡς μονοκερώτων τὸ ἁγίασμα αὐτοῦ (Ps. 77:69a)· κατὰ δὲ τὸν Ἀκύλαν· Καὶ ᾠκοδόμησεν ὁμοίως ὑψηλοῖς ἁγίασμα αὐτοῦ· κατὰ δὲ τὸν Σύμμαχον· Καὶ ᾠκοδόμησεν ὡς τὰ ὑψηλὰ τὸ ἁγίασμα αὐτοῦ. Ὁμοίως οὖν ὑψηλοῖς καὶ ὡς τὰ ὕψη ᾠκοδόμησεν τὸ ἁγίασμα αὐτοῦ. Ἀναπέμπει δ’ ἡμᾶς ὁ λόγος εἰς βαθὺ καὶ ἀπόρρητον νοῦν, διδάσκων, ὡς τὸ ἐπὶ γῆς ἁγίασμα τὸ ἐπὶ τῆς Ἱερουσαλὴμ καὶ τῷ ὄρει Σιὼν καταστὰν ὁμοίωσιν εἶχε τῶν ἐν τοῖς ὑψηλοῖς, καὶ ᾠκοδόμητο ὡς τὰ ὕψη κατ’ εἰκόνα καὶ καθ’ ὁμοίωσιν γενόμενον τῶν ἐν οὐρανοῖς ὑψηλῶν· ἃ δὴ καὶ ὁ ἀπόστολος παρίστη λέγων· Ἡ δὲ ἄνω Ἱερουσαλὴμ ἐλευθέρα ἐστίν (Gal. 4:26)· καὶ· Προσεληλύθαμεν Σιὼν ὄρει καὶ πόλει θεοῦ ζῶντος Ἱερουσαλὴμ ἐπουρανίῳ (Heb. 12:22). Διὸ κατὰ τὸν Ἀκύλαν εἴρηται· Καὶ ᾠκοδόμησεν ὁμοίως ὑψηλοῖς ἁγίασμα αὐτοῦ· κατὰ δὲ τὸν Σύμμαχον· Καὶ ᾠκοδόμησεν ὡς τὰ ὑψηλὰ τὸ ἁγίασμα αὐτοῦ· κατὰ δὲ τοὺς Ἑβδομήκοντα· Ὡς μονοκερώτων ᾠκοδόμησεν τὸ ἁγίασμα αὐτοῦ (Ps. 77:69a)· νοούντων ἡμῶν μονοκέρωτας εἶναι τοὺς τὸ ἓν κέρας ἐπιγραφομένους κατ’ οὐρανὸν, οὓς ἐδήλου λέγων ὁ ἀπόστολος· Καὶ μυριάσιν ἀγγέλων πανηγύρει, καὶ ἐκκλησίᾳ πρωτοτόκων ἀπογεγραμμένων ἐν οὐρανοῖς (Heb. 12:22-3). 42 See e.g. Eus., d.e. XI,5,8: καὶ τὰ μὲν τῆς λέξεως αὐτοῖς ὧδέ πη λογικῆς συνέσεως ἔχει, τὰ δὲ δὴ τῆς διανοίας οὐδ’ ἔστι παραβαλεῖν ἀνθρώποις· θεοῦ γὰρ καὶ αὐτῆς ἀληθείας λόγια δι’ αὐτῶν ἐκπεφωνημένα, θεσπίσματα καὶ προρρήσεις μαθήματά τε εὐσεβῆ καὶ τῆς τῶν ὄντων ἐπιγνώσεως δόγματα, περιειλήφασι. ‘While such is the relation of their diction to its logical sense, the thoughts must not be brought into comparison with those of men. For they comprise the oracles of God and of absolute truth to which they have given utterance, prophecies, and predictions, and religious lessons, and doctrines relating to the knowledge of the beings’ (trans. mod. E.H. Gifford, Eusebius of Caesarea. Preparation for the Gospel, 2 vol. [Oxford, 1903; repr. Grand Rapids, 1981]); d.e. X,1,3: Ἐπειδή τινες ὑπειλήφασιν τὴν βίβλον τῶν ψαλμῶν ὕμνους μόνον εἰς θεὸν καὶ ᾠδὰς θεολογικὰς περιέχειν, οὐ μὴν καὶ προγνώσεις οὐδὲ μελλόντων προφητείας, τοῦτο πρῶτον ἐπιτηρητέον, ὡς μυρία θεσπίζεται δι’ αὐτῶν, ἃ καὶ μακρὸν ἂν εἴη 39


Origen and Eusebius Interpreting Psalm 77


of ‘prophecy’ is traditional for the Psalms, he employs the term almost exclusively with the sense of ‘prediction, foretelling of future events’.43 For this reason, his primary aim in interpreting the Psalter is to ascertain the concrete realisation of the events here prophesied. However, since Ps. 77 is almost entirely a commemoration of the past events of the history of Israel, Eusebius’ effort is here limited – so to say – to a praraphrase which compares this account with the historical books that depict such events, and which clarifies their causes. Overall, his perspective points at a significant different target than Origen’s exegesis; nonetheless, Eusebius builds it on the method developed by the Alexandrian tradition, and combines it with new needs, uncovering a new valuable access to the multi-faceted text of the Psalms.

συναγαγεῖν ἐπὶ τοῦ παρόντος, ἀρκεῖ δὲ χρήσασθαι εἰς μαρτυρίαν τοῦ λόγου δύο ψαλμοῖς ἐπιγεγραμμένοις μὲν τοῦ Ἀσὰφ εἰρημένοις δὲ κατὰ τοὺς τοῦ Δαβὶδ χρόνους. ‘As it has been supposed by some that the Book of Psalms merely consists of hymns to God and theological songs, but neither predictions nor prophecies of the future, let us firstly realize distinctly that it contains many prophecies, far too many to be quoted now, and it must suffice for proof of what I say to make use of two Psalms ascribed to Asaph, pronounced in the time of David’ (trans. mod. W.J. Ferrar, Eusebius of Caesarea. The Proof of the Gospel [London, 1920; repr. Grand Rapids, 2001]). 43 See e.g. Eus., d.e. XIII,14,1: Τὰ Ἑβραίων λόγια, θεοπρόπια καὶ χρησμοὺς θείας, ᾗ κατὰ ἄνθρωπον, δυνάμεως περιέχοντα θεόν τε αὐθέντην ἐπιγραφόμενα καὶ πιστούμενά γε τὴν ἐπαγγελίαν διὰ τῆς τῶν μελλόντων προρρήσεως διά τε τῶν συμφώνων τοῖς θεσπίσμασιν ἀποτελεσμάτων, πάσης λέγεται διεψευσμένης διανοίας ἐκτὸς τυγχάνειν. τὰ γοῦν θεῖα λόγια ἁγνὰ καὶ ἀργύριον πεπυρωμένον, δοκίμιον τῇ γῇ, κεκαθαρισμένον ἑπταπλασίως (Ps. 11:7) ἀνείρηται. ‘The oracles of the Hebrews containing prophecies and responses of a divine power beyond that of man, and claiming God as their author, and confirming their promise by the prediction of things to come, and by the results corresponding to the prophecies, are said to be free from all erroneous thought. Indeed, the words of God are declared to be pure words, and silver tried in the fire, tested by earth, purified seven times (Ps. 11:7)’ (trans. mod. Gifford, Eusebius [1981]). Cf. also d.e. I,1,9; III,1,7.

Origen’s Relational Trinity: A Clarification from his Fourth Homily on Isaiah Elizabeth Ann DIVELY LAURO, Los Angeles, CA, USA

ABSTRACT Overshadowed by accusations of proto-Arianism throughout the centuries, Origen’s Trinitarian theology has yet to be assessed with clarity, and yet it is foundational to his understanding of the human telos. First, we analyze the relational portrait of the Trinity that Origen draws, centering on the involvement of all three, the Father, Savior and Holy Spirit, in the bilateral activity of eternal generation. Second, we treat a key passage in Homily Isaiah 4 in which Origen presents this active intimacy of the three as a perpetual communication of virtue, which is the sum of all the qualities of Divine nature and activity. Third, we explore how, for Origen, the human telos is to share in this Trinitarian communication of self-love.

Introduction Origen’s piety-driven statements about the nature of God,1 form a foundation for the whole of his teleological theology. By joining major descriptions of the Divine nature from his works, the shared essence of the Trinity emerges as a perpetual, relational activity between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In Homily Isaiah (H. Is.) 4, he more specifically describes this eternal activity of the Trinity as virtue’s self-communication of love. This added description clarifies how his understanding of the Trinitarian nature both drives and shapes the rest of his soteriologically-focused theology. To understand the impact of his Trinitarian views on his overall theology, we will consider, first, statements about the Trinity from his works; second, the statement in H. Is. 4 about the Trinitarian communication of virtue; and third, how these statements taken together logically lead to his view that the human telos is to share in the Trinity’s loving selfcommunication of virtue as the sum of all the qualities of the Divine nature.2 1

In De Principiis (DP), Origen insists that all theological inquiry must be ‘pious’, from the term ἡ εὐσέβεια, pietas, which he uses in DP 3.1.17 and defines in DP 3.1.9 as ‘observ[ing or guarding] the idea [or thought] of God … [as] just and good according to sound doctrine’ [author’s translation from the Greek]. See Origen: On First Principles, trans. G.W. Butterworth (Gloucester, MA, 1973) 193 and 171-2; Origène: Traité des Principes, trans. and ed. Henri Crouzel and Manlio Simonetti, SC 252, 253, 268 (Paris, 1978, 1980), SC 268, 106-8, 52-6. 2 The observations in this paper are components of a larger work in progress by the author on Origen’s Trinitarian theology and its impact on his soteriological theology.

Studia Patristica CXI, 77-89. © Peeters Publishers, 2021.



I. The Building Blocks of the Divine Nature A. The Bilateral Activity of Eternal Generation between the Father and Son The foundation of Origen’s understanding of the Divine nature is his explanation of the Father’s eternal generation of the Son and the Son’s eternal response. Both earlier in DP (preserved in Rufinus’ Latin) and later in his homilies on Jeremiah (preserved in Greek), Origen stresses that the Father eternally begets the Son.3 In DP, he states that ‘[t]his is an eternal and everlasting begetting, as brightness is begotten from light. For he does not become Son in an external way … but is Son by nature’.4 Likewise, in H. Jer. 9, ‘the Father has not begotten the Son and then severed him from his generation, but always begets him’.5 In DP, Origen explains that because the begetting is eternal, and ‘God was always the Father of his only-begotten Son’, this Son, ‘who was born indeed of him and draws his being from him … is … without any beginning’.6 This Son is ‘the only-begotten Son of God [who] is God’s wisdom [essentially/substantially] existing’,7 and we cannot ‘believe that God the Father ever existed, even for a single moment, without begetting this wisdom’.8 This eternal generation is a bilateral activity, since the Son responds to the Father’s perpetual generation of him by reflecting or contemplating the Father. The Son, or Savior [is] a reflection of [the Father’s] glory… [The Son] has not been begotten just once and no longer begotten. But … as … light is an agent of reflection … [so] the 3 Origen likely wrote DP in Alexandria, between 229 and 230, but likely delivered his extant homilies in Caesarea, between 239 and 242, demonstrating that Origen consistently held to the Father’s eternal generation of the Son. See Elizabeth Ann Dively Lauro, The Soul and Spirit of Scripture within Origen’s Exegesis, Bible in Ancient Christianity 3 (Leiden, 2005; Atlanta, 2015), 7-11; Dively Lauro, Origen: Homilies on Judges, FC 119 (Washington, DC, 2010), 13-20. 4 De Principiis (DP) 1.2.4, referring to Wisd. 7:26, Heb. 1:3; Butterworth, 18; SC 252, 118. (Est namque ita aeterna ac sempiterna generatio … natura filius est). See also E. Dively Lauro, ‘The Meaning and Significance of Scripture’s Sacramental Nature within Origen’s Thought’, SP 94 (2017), 153-85, 154-7. 5 H. Jer. 9.4.4; Origen: Homilies on Jeremiah, trans. John Clark Smith, FC 97 (Washington, DC, 1998), 92; Origène: Homélies sur Jérémie, Tome I, trans. Pierre Husson and Pierre Nautin, SC 232 (Paris, 1976), 392 (… ὁ πατὴρ … ἀεὶ γεννᾷ αὐτόν…). 6 DP 1.2.2, Butterworth, 16; SC 252, 114 (… semper deum patrem … unigeniti filii sui … sine ullo tamen initio…). See also DP 1.2.11. 7 DP 1.2.2, Butterworth, 15; SC 252, 112 (… unigenitum filium dei sapientiam eius esse substantialiter subsistentem…). Butterworth translates ‘substantialiter’ as ‘hypostatically’, but a more literal and perhaps accurate translation is ‘essentially’ or ‘substantially’. 8 DP 1.2.2, Butterworth, 15; SC 252, 112. See also DP 1.2.3. Henri Crouzel explains that, for Origen, the eternal generation is a ‘continual generation’ where ‘the Father is begetting the Son at each instant, just as light is always emitting its radiance’. Crouzel, Origen: The Life and Thought of the First Great Theologian, trans. A.S. Worrall (San Francisco, 1989), 187.

Origen’s Relational Trinity


reflection of the glory of God is begotten. Our Savior is the wisdom of God … [which] is the reflection of everlasting light … [T]hen the Savior is always begotten…9

The Father eternally begets His own ‘wisdom’, the Son, as light, and the Son reflects back this light to the Father. Origen also describes the Son’s response as ‘continu[ing] in unceasing contemplation of the depth of the Father’.10 This contemplation is ‘spiritual food’ for the Son, who ‘is always replenishing himself from the Father who alone is without need and sufficient in himself’.11 Explaining this passage, Crouzel states, ‘the Son is constantly “fed” by the Father who communicates to Him at every instant his own divinity’.12 B. The Shared Nature of the Father and Son When reflecting the Father’s light or contemplating his depths, the Son is not only feeding upon the Father’s nature, but also on his own nature, because he also ‘is God’. In C. Jn., Origen states: [T]he Word … does not come to be ‘in the beginning’ from not being … [B]efore all time and eternity ‘the Word was in the beginning’, and … ‘was with God’ … [T]he Word is God because he is with him … By being ‘with the God’ he [the Word] always continues to be ‘God’. But he would not have this if he were not with God, and he would not remain God if he did not continue in unceasing contemplation of the depth of the Father.13

The Son is both God and not the same as the Father: ‘The only-begotten Son … is the brightness of this light, proceeding from God without separation’.14 When Origen refers to the Son as ‘the express image of his … God’s [the Father’s] 9 H. Jer. 9.4.5, quoting Heb. 1:3, Wisd. 7:26, 1Jn. 1:5, 1Cor. 1:24; FC 97, 93; SC 232, 392 (Ὁ σωτὴρ ἡμῶν ‘σοφία’ ἐστὶν ‘τοῦ θεοῦ’ ἔστιν δὲ ἡ σοφία ‘ἀπαύγασμα φωτὸς ἀιδίου.’ Εἰ οὖν ὁ σωτὴρ ἀεὶ γεννᾶται…). 10 C. Jn. 2.18. Origen: Commentary on the Gospel According to John, Books 1-10, trans. Ronald E. Heine, FC 80 (Washington, DC, 1989) 99; Origène: Commentaire sur Saint Jean, Tome I, trans. Cécile Blanc, SC 120 (Paris, 1966) 218 (… παρέμενε τῇ ἀδιαλείπτῳ θέᾳ τοῦ πατρικοῦ βάθους…). 11 C. Jn. 13, 219; Origen, Commentary on the Gospel According to John, Books 13-32, trans. Ronald E. Heine, FC 89 (Washington, DC, 1993), 113; Origène: Commentaire sur Saint Jean, Tome III, trans. Cécile Blanc, SC 222 (Paris, 1975), 148-50 (… μὴ μόνον ἀνθρώπους καὶ ἀγγέλους ἐνδεεῖς εἶναι τῶν νοητῶν τροφῶν, ἀλλὰ καὶ τὸν Χριστὸν τοῦ θεοῦ̇ καὶ αὐτὸς γάρ … ἐπισκευάζεται ἀεὶ ἀπὸ τοῦ πατρὸς τοῦ μόνου ἀνενδεοῦς καὶ αὐτάρκους αὑτῷ). 12 H. Crouzel, Origen (1989), 187. 13 C. Jn. 2.9-10, 18, referring to Jn. 1:1; FC 80, 97-9; SC 120, 212-8 (… ὁ λόγος … οὔτε ἀπὸ τοῦ μὴ εἶναι ‘ἐν ἀρχῇ’ γινόμενος … πρὸ γὰρ παντὸς χρόνου καὶ αἰῶνος ‘ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος’, καὶ ‘ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν’ … πρὸς δὲ τὸν θεὸν τὸ ‘θεός’ ἐστι τυγχάνων ἀπὸ τοῦ εἶναι πρὸς αὐτόν … τῷ εἶναι ‘πρὸς τὸν θεόν’ ἀεὶ μένων ‘θεός’, οὐκ ἂν δ᾽ αὐτὸ ἐσχηκὼς εἰ μὴ πρὸς θεὸν ἦν, καὶ οὐκ ἂν μείνας θεός, εἰ μὴ παρέμενε τῇ ἀδιαλείπτῳ θέᾳ τοῦ πατρικοῦ βάθους). 14 DP 1.2.7, referring to 1Jn. 1:5; Butterworth, 20; SC 252, 124 (Splendor ergo huius lucis est unigenitus filius, ex ipso inseparabiliter uelut splendor ex luce procedens…). See also DP 1.2.6.



… “substance” or “subsistence”’,15 he is neither saying that the Son is in no way different from the Father nor that he is a separate substance from the Father. Rather, Origen understands one, ontological difference between the Father and Son, one not of substance but of causation. As Robert Berchman clarifies, for Origen, the Father exists without cause and so exists ‘necessarily’, as οὐσία per se, while the Son is caused by the Father, though without beginning, and so exists ‘contingently’, as οὐσία per accidens.16 This is why in the preceding passage from C. Jn., Origen refers to the Father as ‘the God’ and the Son as ‘God’, not because the Son is a lesser, different God, but merely to stress the difference in causation.17 C. The Shared Qualities of the Father and Son This difference of causation also clarifies what Origen means, in DP, when he calls the Father ‘[t]he original goodness’, and the Son the ‘image of [the Father’s] goodness’, stressing that the Son is ‘from this [original goodness] … born’ and ‘is in every respect an image of the Father’,18 but warns that [t]here is no other second goodness existing in the Son, besides that which is in the Father … [T]he Son is not of some other ‘goodness’, but of that alone which is in the Father; whose image he is rightly called, because he neither springs from any…source [other] than … original goodness itself, – for if that were so, there would seem to be a different goodness in the Son from that which is in the Father – nor has the goodness that is in him any dissimilarity or divergence from that of the Father.19

For this DP passage translated by Rufinus, a Greek fragment is preserved by Jerome in which Origen states, while stressing that only the Father is 15 DP 1.2.8, referring to Heb. 1:3; Butterworth, 21; SC 252, 126 (… et figura expressa substantiae uel subsistentiae eius … dei). 16 See Robert Berchman, From Philo to Origen: Middle Platonism in Transition, Brown Judaic Studies 69 (Chico, CA, 1984), 141-56. Also see E. Dively Lauro, ‘The Meaning and Significance’ (2017), 153-85, 157 n. 15, 158 n. 18; ead., ‘History and Context of Origen’s Relation of the Two Seraphim to the Son and Holy Spirit’, in Brouria Bitton-Ashkelony et al. (eds), Origeniana Duodecima (Leuven, 2019), 547-62; and ead., ‘The Inadequacy of the Term “Subordination” for Origen’s Theology and Ministry: A Study of Origen’s Homilies on Psalm 15’ (CUA 2017 colloquium proceedings) (Washington, DC, forthcoming). 17 See n. 13 above. In C. Jn. 2:9-18, Origen refers to the Father as ‘ὁ θεός’ and the ‘Word’ or ‘Son’ as ‘θεός’. 18 DP 1.2.13, Butterworth, 27; SC 252, 140 (Principalis namque bonitas sine dubio pater est; ex qua filius natus, qui per omnia imago est patris, procul dubio etiam bonitatis eius conuenienter imago dicetur). 19 DP 1.2.13, Butterworth, 27; SC 252, 140-2 (Non enim alia aliqua secunda bonitas existit in filio praeter eam, quae est in patre … [F]ilius non esse alterius bonitatis, sed illius solius, quae in patre est; cuius recte imago appellatur, quia neque aliunde est nisi ex ipsa principali bonitate, ne altera bonitas quam ea quae in patre est uideatur in filio, neque aliqua dissimilitudo aut distantia bonitatis in filio est).

Origen’s Relational Trinity


‘goodness … purely and simply’, or ‘without qualification’, that the Son, at the same time, ‘is himself God’.20 Thus, when Origen states that the Son is not the original goodness, he is not saying that the Son is not God but, rather, that the Son is not the Father. As the image of the Father who is original goodness, the Son, in every respect except for the qualification of causation, is goodness as well. Seeing that the Father and Son share both the same nature and that nature’s quality of goodness and differ only in causation, one can infer that they share all the qualities of their shared nature. Indeed, Origen stresses that they share one power, one work and one glory. First, Christ, or Wisdom, is the ‘breath of the power of God’,21 or, more directly, ‘the power [or virtue] of God’,22 and, therefore, ‘the omnipotence of the Father and the Son is one and the same’.23 Out of this same power arise the same ‘works’: As regards the power of his works … the Son is in no way whatever separate or different from the Father, nor is his work anything other than the Father’s work, but there is one and the same movement … in all they do; consequently … there is absolutely no dissimilarity between the Son and the Father.24

Out of their shared power and works, arises the same ‘glory’: 20 The extant Greek fragment of this same passage arguably likewise specifies a difference of causation yet not of nature between the Father and Son: ‘[I]n the case of the Savior it would be right to say that he is an image of God’s goodness, but not goodness itself. And perhaps also the Son, while being good, is yet not good purely and simply. And just as he is the image of the invisible God, and in virtue of this is himself God, and yet is not he of whom Christ himself says, ‘that they may know you, the only true God’; so he is the image of the goodness, and yet not, as the Father is, good without qualification’, DP 1.2.13, Butterworth, 27 and n. 3; Paul Koetschau (ed.), Origenes Werke 5, GCS 22, fragment 6 (Leipzig, 1913), quoting Justinian’s Letter to Mennas (Mansi 9.525): … οὕτω τοίνυν ἡγοῦμαι καὶ ἐπὶ τοῦ σωτῆρος καλῶς ἂν λεχθήσεσθαι ὅτι >εἰκὼν ἀγαθότητος τοῦ θεοῦ< ἐστιν, ἀλλ᾽ οὐκ αὐτοαγαθόν. καὶ τάχα καὶ ὁ υἱὸς ἀγαθὸς ἀλλ᾽ οὐχ ὡς ἁπλῶς ἀγαθός. καὶ ὥσπερ >εἰκών ἐστι τοῦ θεοῦ τοῦ ἀοράτοι ̇< καὶ κατὰ τοῦτο θεός. ἀλλ᾿ οὐ περὶ οὗ λέγει αὐτὸς ὁ Χριστὸς >ἵνα γινώσκωσί σε τὸν μόνον ἀληθινὸν θεόνεἰκὼν τῆς ἀγαθότητος< ἀλλ᾿ οὐχ ὡς ὁ πατὴρ ἀπαραλλάκτως ἀγαθός… Butterworth’s translation of ἀπαραλλάκτως as ‘without qualification’ is merited. It is from the adjective ἀπαραλλάκτος, meaning ‘precisely similar, indistinguishable’ and ‘unchangeable’ (from παραλλάσσω, meaning ‘to alternate or change’). Origen would not likely mean that the Son’s goodness can ‘change’, but rather that it is not ‘indistinguishable’ from the Father’s ‘original’ goodness, as it is distinguishable on the basis of causation alone. 21 DP 1.2.9, quoting Wisd. 7:25-6; Butterworth, 22; SC 252, 128 (… ait de sapientia quia ‘uapor est quidam uirtutis dei’…). 22 DP 1.2.1, referring to 1Cor. 1:24; Butterworth, 15; SC 252, 112 (… apostolus Paulus dicit: ‘Christus dei uirtus et dei sapientia’…). Virtus can mean ‘power, strength’ or ‘virtue, excellence, goodness’. 23 DP 1.2.10; Butterworth, 24-5; SC 252, 134 (… unam eandemque omnipotentiam patris ac filii esse…). 24 DP 1.2.12; Butterworth, 26; SC 252, 140 (Quoniam ergo in nullo prorsus filius a patre uirtute operum inmutatur ac differt, nec aliud est opus filii quam patris, sed unus atque idem … etiam motus in omnibus est … nulla omnino dissimilitudo filii intellegatur ad patrem).



[S]ince the wisdom of God, which is his only-begotten Son, is in all respects unalterable and unchangeable, and since every good quality in him is essential and can never be changed or altered, his glory is on that account described as pure and sincere.25

Because the Father and Son share the same nature and because ‘every quality’ of that nature is ‘essential’ and ‘unchangeable’, Origen infers that they share all the qualities of that nature ‘purely and sincerely’. D. The Shared Nature of the Father and Son with the Holy Spirit Origen proclaims that the Holy Spirit also is God. He states that the Holy Spirit, like the Father and Son, is without beginning: [I]t was not by a process of development that he came to be the Holy Spirit … for the Holy Spirit would never have been included in the unity of the Trinity [God] … along with God the unchangeable Father and with his Son, unless he had always been the Holy Spirit.26

Though the Father is uncaused (οὐσία per se) and the Son and Holy Spirit are caused by the Father (οὐσία per accidens), all three abide in a ‘unity’ without beginning. Each is ‘unchangeably’ what each has ‘always’ been and will be.27 E. The Shared Qualities of Nature between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit Because all three share the same nature, all three share the qualities essential to that nature. Origen states that ‘the power of the Trinity is one and the same … [for] there is no separation in the Trinity’.28 Also, the original goodness must be believed to reside in God the Father, and from him both the Son and the Holy Spirit undoubtedly draw into themselves the nature of that goodness existing in the fount from which the one is born and the other proceeds.29 25

DP 1.2.10, consonant with Heb. 1:3; Butterworth, 26; SC 252, 136-8 (Sapientia uero dei, qui est unigenitus filius eius, quoniam in omnibus inconuertibilis est et incommutabilis, et substantiale in eo omne bonum est, quod utique mutari aut conuerti numquam potest, idcirco pura eius ac sincera gloria praedicatur). 26 DP 1.3.4; Butterworth, 33; SC 252, 150-2 (… ipse semper erat spiritus sanctus…). See also H. Num. 11.8.1. 27 No doubt, Origen’s main priority is piety and truth on each theological point rather than a cohesive system of thought. Berchman points out that Origen views the Son as ‘eternally generated’ but the Holy Spirit as ‘first generated’ while yet both share ‘essential unity’ with the Father (see R. Berchman, From Philo to Origen [1984], 152-3). Any logical nuances, limitations or tensions that may arise between these and other aspects of Origen’s Trinitarian and soteriological theology will be fully considered in the author’s larger work. 28 DP 1.3.7, quoting 1Cor. 12:4-7; Butterworth, 37-8; SC 252, 160 (… unam eandemque uirtutem trinitatis … nulla est in trinitate discretio…). In this passage, Origen explains that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit perform ‘diversities of ministrations’, or works, for creation (creating, teaching reason, wisdom or knowledge, and guiding to holiness) but are ‘the same God’. See DP 1.3.5-8. 29 DP 1.2.13; Butterworth, 28; SC 252, 142 (… principalis bonitas in deo patre sentienda est, ex quo uel filius natus uel spiritus sanctus procedens sine dubio bonitatis eius naturam in se refert,

Origen’s Relational Trinity


Here again Origen points out that only the Father is ‘original goodness’. Again, this is because the Father exists per se, or without cause, while the Son and Holy Spirit exist per accidens, having been caused by the Father. Their causal difference does not bar the Son and Holy Spirit from sharing in the Divine nature’s quality of goodness.30 Rather, all three, in their one, shared essence, are goodness. Likewise, all three share the Divine nature’s essential quality of love and so are love: ‘God is Charity’ … If God the Father is Charity, and the Son is Charity, the Charity[] that Each One is, is one; it follows … that the Father and the Son are one and the same in every respect. Fittingly, then, is Christ called Charity … [I]n like manner, because He is called Charity, it is the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father, who alone knows what is in God…31

In sum, Origen suggests that because they share the same nature, they share and are the qualities of that nature. F. The Shared Knowledge of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit The Father, Son and Holy Spirit also intimately share full knowledge of their shared Divine nature and its qualities, again stressing for Origen that all three are God. In H. Is. 1, Origen states that the one who knows ‘the first things and the last things … is God’, and the only ones who know these things, which are ‘the beginning and end of God’, are the two Seraphim in the vision at Isaiah 6, that is, ‘[m]y Lord Jesus and the Holy Spirit’, along with the Father; thus, all three and these three alone share the full knowledge of God and, thus, are God.32 quae est in eo fonte, de quo uel natus est filius uel procedit spiritus sanctus…). The term ‘proceeds’ may be an interpolation by Rufinus. The author’s larger work on Origen’s Trinitarian theology explores Origen’s considerations of how the Holy Spirit comes from the Father. See note 27 above. 30 Origen’s distinction between existence per se for the Father and existence per accidens for the Son and Holy Spirit relates to causation but not to substance. As pointed out in this paper, Origen understands the Father, Son and Holy Spirit to share the same substance. For support of this ontological nuance, see R. Berchman, From Philo to Origen (1984), 117-64; H. Crouzel, Origen (1989), 188; E. Dively Lauro, ‘The Meaning and Significance’ (2017), 153-60, esp. 157 n. 15 and 16 and 158 n. 18. See n. 16 above. 31 C. Cant. Prol. 2, quoting 1Jn. 4:8; Origen: The Song of Songs Commentary and Homilies, trans. R.P. Lawson, ACW 26 (New York, 1956), 32, 39; Origène: Commentaire sur le Cantique des Cantiques, Tome I, ed. and trans. Luc Brésard, Henri Crouzel and Marcel Borret, SC 375 (Paris, 1991), 110, 124 (‘Deus caritas est’ … Quod si Deus Pater caritas est et Filius caritas est, caritas autem et caritas unum est et in nullo differt, consequenter ergo Pater et Filius unum est et in nullo differt … convenienter Christus … caritas dicitur … Etiam secundum hoc quod caritas dicitur, solus autem sanctus Spiritus est qui ex Patre procedit, et ideo scit quae in Deo sunt…). 32 H. Is. 1.2, quoting Is. 41:22-3; Origenes: Die Homilien zum Buch Jesaja, ed. and trans. Alfons Fürst and Christian Hengstermann, Origines Werke mit deutscher Übersetzung 10 (Berlin,



In H. Is. 4, he explains that humans can ‘never comprehend the beginning of the movement of God’ or ‘the last things’.33 The Son and Holy Spirit, as the Seraphim, surround the Lord’s throne, and, by covering his face and feet with the first two of three pairs of wings, they hide, respectively, the beginning and end of God, that is, their shared Divine nature, from creatures.34 II. The Trinitarian Activity of Virtue Communicating Self-Love A. Terminology With their full knowledge as God, the two Seraphim sing to each other eternally and continuously about the beginning, middle and end things in the Trisagion (‘Holy, holy, holy!’).35 In H. Is. 4, Origen describes this singing as the Trinity’s self-communication of the Divine nature’s essential quality of virtue: ‘And they shouted out one to the other’, not one to many but one to the other. For according to the greatness of the matter, no one except the Holy Spirit can hear the purity of God, which is announced by the Savior; in the same way again no one except the Savior alone can dwell in the virtuousness of God, which is announced by the Holy Spirit. For this reason, they shouted out one to the other and said, ‘Holy, holy, holy!’36

The Savior, or Son, announces (adnuntiatur) the ‘purity of God’ (sanctitudo Dei), which the Holy Spirit hears (audire), while the Holy Spirit announces (annuntiatur) the ‘virtuousness of God’ (sanctimonia Dei), in which the Son ‘dwells’ (inhabitare). Both words, ‘purity (sanctitudo)’ and ‘virtuousness (sanctimonia)’ can be translated ‘sacredness’ or ‘sanctity’, but sanctitudo refers specifically to ‘uprightness’ or ‘purity’, while sanctimonia refers specifically to ‘moral purity, virtuousness or chastity’. Their shared root, sanctus,37 has two New York, 2009), 200 (… ‘Adnuntiate mihi priora et novissima, quae erunt, et dicam quoniam Dii estis’, dixit Isaias. Ex quo si quis dixerit praeterita et potuerit novissima dicere, Deus est; quis ergo potest dicere praeter Seraphim? … Dominus meus Iesus et Spiritus sanctus…). Translations from H. Is. are by the author in relation to E. Dively Lauro (trans.), Origen: Homilies on Isaiah, FC (Washington, DC, forthcoming). 33 H. Is. 4.1; Origenes Werke 10, 228. 34 H. Is. 1.2, quoting Is. 6:2; Origenes Werke 10, 198-200. 35 See Is. 6:3; H. Is. 4.1. 36 H. Is. 4:1, quoting Is. 6:3; Origenes Werke 10, 232 (‘Et clamabant alter ad alterum’, non alter ad plures, sed alter ad alterum. Audire enim sanctitudinem Dei, quae adnuntiatur a Salvatore, iuxta dignitatem rei nemo potest nisi Spiritus sanctus, quomodo rursum inhabitare sanctimoniam Dei, quae annuntiatur a Spiritu sancto, nemo potest nisi solus Salvator. Ob id alter ad alterum clamabant et dicebant: ‘Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus!’). For support that this statement, unlike others following it, is attributable to Origen and not interpolated by Jerome, see E. Dively Lauro, Origen: Homilies on Isaiah (forthcoming), H. Is. 4.1 n. 32; Origenes Werke 10, 232 n. 69; and Alfons Fürst, ‘Jerome Keeping Silent: Origen and his Exegesis of Isaiah’, in Jerome of Stridon: His Life, Writings and Legacy, ed. Andrew Cain and Josef Lössl (Burlington, VT, 2009), 141-52. 37 Sanctus is the adjectival past participle of the verb sancio.

Origen’s Relational Trinity


distinct meanings: (1) ‘sacred’, or ‘divine, pure or holy’, as ‘of a divinity’, or (2) ‘morally pure, good, innocent, pious, holy or just’, as of ‘a saint or holy man’.38 Sanctitudo arguably refers to God’s nature as pure virtue, while sanctimonia to the action that displays the virtues. In other words, the Son announces the virtuous nature while the Spirit announces the virtuous action of God, and the synonymous quality of these words show that, for Origen, God’s action is the same as God’s nature. B. The Son Announces, and the Holy Spirit Hears, the Purity of God’s Virtue First, the Son announces and the Holy Spirit hears the sanctitudo of God. In DP, Origen presents as sure doctrine that ‘God is One’,39 ‘Unity (μονάς) or … Oneness (ἑνάς) … [and] the first principle of all things … [possessing] simplicity of its divine nature…’40 The ‘purity’, sanctitudo, that the Son announces is this ‘simplicity’ of God’s nature as ‘Oneness’ or ‘Unity’. When responding to the Father’s eternal generation, the Son is announcing the purity of God by reflecting back the Father’s nature which the Son himself also is. By using the passive form of ‘announce’ (adnuntiatur), Rufinus is likely capturing Origen’s use of the Greek middle voice to emphasize the reflexive nature of this action, suggesting that the Son’s announcement is the Trinity’s announcement to itself. The Holy Spirit ‘hears’ (audire) this announcement of the Divine nature’s purity, and audire can mean ‘agrees with’ or ‘understands’.41 The Holy Spirit is not only ‘hearing’ the Son announce God’s purity, but he is ‘understanding’ and ‘agreeing with’ the oneness or simplicity of God. Thus, in the Trisagion, the Son ‘announces’ to himself, the Father, and Holy Spirit, that is, the Trinity announces to itself, the purity, uprightness, oneness, unity, indeed, simplicity of its own nature, and, by understanding and agreeing, the Holy Spirit is sharing in the Son’s response to the Father’s eternal generation of reflecting the Divine nature. C. The Holy Spirit Announces, as the Son Dwells in, God’s Virtuousness While the Son is announcing and the Holy Spirit is agreeing with the purity of the Divine nature, the Holy Spirit is announcing the ‘virtuousness’(or sanctimonia) of God in which ‘the Savior alone can dwell’. By using words that can be synonymous, sanctimonia and sanctitudo, Origen is emphasizing that the Son and Holy Spirit are both singing about the same thing: the sanctity or 38

Lewis and Short, 1625b-c, sanctus under sancio II. A. and B. DP 1.Pref.4; Butterworth, 2; SC 252, 80 (unus est deus). 40 DP 1.1.6; Butterworth, 10; SC 252, 100 (… est deus …μονάς … ἑνάς … diuinae naturae simplicitas … est principium omnium). 41 Lewis and Short, 201c-2c. 39



sacredness of God. Yet their announcements have different focuses: the Son announces the ‘purity’ or oneness of the Divine nature, while the Holy Spirit announces the ‘virtuousness’ or moral character of the Divine activity. Their announcements are both about the Trinity’s essence, for whom nature and activity are synonymous. The Savior ‘alone dwells in’ this virtue, because He is ‘total virtue’,42 as He is each of the virtues and all of the virtues in one: We can … say[] [of Christ] … ‘Equity has loved You’, [and] similar[ly] … Justice … Truth … Wisdom … Modesty, and all the virtues in turn … [W]e speak of the virtues loving Christ, since … Christ [is] Himself the substance of those very virtues … [a]ll of which … are … said to be Himself, and to embrace Him.43

When the Holy Spirit announces the ‘virtuousness’ of God, he announces that the Son is eternally generated by Virtue Itself, the Father, and, as the reflection of that Divine nature, the Son is virtue and all of the virtues simultaneously, dwelling in the purity or oneness of these virtues through his activities as Savior. As with the Son above, the Holy Spirit is ‘announcing’ (annuntiatur) in the reflexive sense, such that the Trinity is announcing to itself. The Holy Spirit, then, is performing his own act of ‘reflecting back’ the glory and depth of the Father in response to the Father’s eternal generation of the Son, and, thus, along with the Son, is contemplating, or feeding on the Divine nature that he also shares. D. Implications of the Trinity’s Communication of Virtue The Trinity, then, is in an eternal communication of virtue, as the sum of all the virtues, or qualities of the Divine nature. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all eternally and simultaneously announcing to each other the Divine nature as pure virtue in action. When eternally generating the Son, the Father is announcing the pure, simple oneness and unity of the Divine nature as Virtue. When reflecting back the glory and contemplating the depth of the Father, the Son is dwelling in and announcing the Virtue that is the Divine nature. When hearing and understanding the purity, the Holy Spirit is also announcing or reflecting back 42 C. Jn. 32.127; FC 89, 366; Origène: Commentaire sur Saint Jean, Tome V, trans. Cécile Blanc, SC 385 (Paris, 1992), 242 (ὁ λόγος … ὁ κύριος, ἡ πᾶσα ἔμψυχος καὶ ζῶσα ἀρετή). 43 C. Cant. 1.5, referring to Cant. 1:4b; consonant with Col. 3:14, 1Cor. 13, 1Cor. 1:30, Eph. 2:14, Jn. 14:6, and Is. 61:10; ACW 26, 89-90; SC [1.6.12-4] 375, 256 (… dicimus virtutes esse quae diligunt Christum, cum in aliis ipsarum virtutum substantiam Christum soleamus accipere … [q]uae utique omnia et ipse esse et rursum ipsum dicuntur amplecti…). Crouzel points out that for Origen ‘[t]he virtues are … included in the epinoiai. The Christ in his divine reality is all the virtues and each virtue, virtue “whole, animated, and living”, that is Virtue turned into a Person’, H. Crouzel, Origen (1989), 190, referring to C. Jn. 32.127. See also H. Crouzel, Origen (1989), 98; C. Rom. 9:34; Peter W. Martens, Origen and Scripture: The Contours of the Exegetical Life (Oxford, 2012), 230 n. 17.

Origen’s Relational Trinity


the Divine nature’s essential activity as Virtue. This self-communication of virtue is how Origen understands all three to participate in the Divine nature’s internal, self-sustaining activity of eternal generation. And because they are each essentially goodness and love, this self-communication of virtue is a conversation of self-love. III. How the Divine Nature Determines the Human Telos A. The Song of the Middle Things to Creation in the Trisagion While the Father, Son and Holy Spirit participate eternally, without beginning or end, in this internal relationship of self-communication that marks their one, shared essence, they do turn their song, or Trisagion, outward toward creatures: ‘“Holy, holy, holy Lord of Hosts, the whole earth is full of his glory”’.44 The Father, Son and Holy Spirit, together as God, sing to each other their full, shared knowledge of the beginning, middle and end things, but creatures can hear only the part that is presently relevant to them, the middle part, or God’s unfolding plan of salvation. While the Son and Holy Spirit, as the two Seraphim, use the first two sets of their wings to cover up the beginning and end things, with their third set of wings, they fly, singing the song of Jesus Christ the Savior, ‘announc[ing]’ and ‘open[ing] for contemplation … the middle things’,45 that is, ‘the salvific confession … of the coming of [the] Lord Jesus … to everyone’.46 B. Creation’s Response to the Trisagion by Growing in Virtue The appropriate response of rational creatures to this song of God’s salvation plan is to grow into the likeness of God. Origen explains that this is their telos or ‘[t]he highest good, towards which all rational nature is progressing, and which is also called the end of all things … to become as far as possible like God…’47 While ‘man received the honor of God’s image in his first creation … the perfection of God’s likeness was reserved for him at the consummation … [and] man should acquire it for himself by his own earnest efforts to imitate God’.48 This perfect likeness to God consists in acquiring fully all the qualities essential to the Divine nature, or the virtues, since ‘the marks of the divine image in man [are] clearly discerned … in the whole company of the virtues’.49 44

H. Is. 1.2, quoting Is. 6:3b; Origenes Werke 10, 200 (‘Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus Dominus Sabaoth, plena est omnis terra gloria eius’). 45 H. Is. 4.1, quoting Is. 6:2; Origenes Werke 10, 228-32. See also H. Is. 1.2, quoting Ps. 61:2 (62:1); Origenes Werke 10, 198-202; and H. Is. 1.3, quoting Is. 6:2-4; Origenes Werke 10, 202. 46 H. Is. 1.2; Origenes Werke 10, 198-200. 47 DP 3.6.1; Butterworth, 245; SC 268, 236. 48 Ibid. 49 DP 4.4.10; Butterworth, 327; SC 268, 426-8.



Origen lists virtues such as ‘prudence’, ‘righteousness’, ‘self-control’, ‘courage’, ‘wisdom’, and ‘discipline’, explaining that they ‘exist in God essentially (per substantiam) … for ever … never com[ing] to … or depart[ing] from’ God, but that they ‘may exist in man as a result of his own efforts and his imitation of God … acquir[ing] them … one by one’.50 For growth in the virtues, humans need to imitate Christ and receive the Holy Spirit, indeed, interact with the whole Trinity. First, Origen explains that each ‘believer[] … should … cleanse himself from stains by the example [of Christ] set before him, and, taking [Christ as] a leader for the journey[,] proceed along the steep path of virtue’.51 Second, ‘as by participation in the Son of God a man is adopted among God’s sons, and by participation in the wisdom which is in God he becomes wise, so, too, by participation in the Holy Spirit he becomes holy and spiritual’.52 Origen insists that the human telos is to ‘share’ also in ‘the Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of the Father and the Son, since the nature of the Trinity is one and incorporeal’, indeed, ‘every rational creature needs to participate in the Trinity’.53 Participation now in each person of the Trinity, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is necessary for salvation, since it is obtained by reaching perfect likeness to each of them and all of them together.54 The Father gives existence, the Son gives wisdom, and the Holy Spirit gives holiness,55 all essential for humans to achieve ultimately a perfect likeness to God. This is because the reward at the end of time is that humans will become ‘partakers of the divine nature’56 shared by the Trinity. They will ‘receive from God the power to exist for ever and to endure for eternity’ and ‘be unceasingly and inseparably present with him’.57 By embracing God’s ‘holiness and purity’, through training in ‘the wisdom’ of the Son and the ‘sanctification of the Holy Spirit’, the human person will reach the perfection that is God and ‘receive God’,58 or the Divine nature of the Trinity, which is Virtue Itself. 50 Ibid. For Origen’s consistent use of the psychic reading of Scripture to call his audience to engage in this effort to shun the vices and grow in the virtues and, thus, come to a fuller likeness of God, see E. Dively Lauro, The Soul and Spirit of Scripture (2005; 2015), generally. 51 DP 4.4.4; Butterworth, 319; SC 268, 410-2. 52 DP 4.4.5; Butterworth, 320; SC 268, 412. 53 Ibid. 54 No one ‘will … obtain salvation apart from the entire Trinity … [I]t is impossible to become partaker of the Father or the Son without the Holy Spirit’, DP 1.3.5; Butterworth, 33; SC 252, 152. 55 These are the divine ‘ministrations’ that they each offer, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, drawing out from their shared nature the qualities that they each bestow on creatures. See DP 1.3.5; Butterworth, 33-4. 56 DP 4.4.4; Butterworth, 319; SC 268, 410-2 (… per imitationem eius participes efficiamur diuinae naturae…). See also Crouzel, Origen (1989), 190. 57 DP 1.3.8; Butterworth, 38-9; SC 252, 164. 58 Ibid. (deum capere possunt).

Origen’s Relational Trinity


This is why for Origen the end will be like but not the same as the beginning.59 In the beginning, only the Father, Son and Holy Spirit existed, in whom ‘goodness reside essentially’; in the end, however, creatures will share in that goodness which is the ‘Divine nature’ itself, when ‘they live in blessedness [and] … participate in holiness and wisdom and in the divine nature itself’.60 They will enjoy God as God has always been, is and ever will be. For they will participate in the Trinity’s Divine nature and thus its activity of eternal generation. Just as the Son, the image of the Father, reflects the Father, humans, also in God’s ‘image’, are called to reflect the Father, and thus the whole Trinity. Struggling during this life to grow in the virtues, humans will reach an ‘intimacy’ with the Divine nature, such that, like the Son or Christ, they will reflect the Divine nature, and, like the Holy Spirit, they will understand the Divine nature’s activity. Indeed, they will participate in this activity of the Trinity, reflecting the Father’s glory and simplicity and contemplating the Father’s depths. With the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, they will ‘feed on God’, for ‘when … the mind … has come to perfection, [it] still feeds on appropriate and suitable food … [which is] the contemplation and understanding of God’.61 Conclusion The road to the human telos, then, is imitation of the Trinity in the virtues. Humans will enter into the singular activity of the Trinity, the eternal selfcommunication of virtue, where virtue loves virtue, sharing, in response to the Father’s eternal generation of the Son, the Son’s and Holy Spirit’s perpetual reflection and contemplation of, or feeding upon, this Divine nature of Virtue. Humans will join the Trinity in its relational song of self-love, communicating virtue as the sum of all the Divine qualities, feeding upon them eternally, sharing in the heavenly feast of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.


See H. Is. 4.1 and DP 1.6.1-4, 2.10, and 3.6.1-9. DP 1.6.1-2; Butterworth, 53; SC 252, 198 (… tunc sunt in beatitudine, cum de sanctitate et sapientia ac de ipsa deitate participant…). See also DP 3.6.4-9. 61 DP 2.11.7; Butterworth, 154; SC 252, 412. 60

Triadic Circles: On the Trinity as the Structure of the System in Origen’s On First Principles Ryan HAECKER, Peterhouse University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK

ABSTRACT Origen’s On First Principles has typically been read in four books as a linear sequence of theological topics. Basilius Steidle first recognized that such a fourfold division ‘dissects’ the books ‘completely contrary’ to the original systematic structure, and proposed an alternative systematic structure consisting in ‘three courses’. His emphasis upon the second ‘course’ has prompted Gilles Dorival and Marguerite Harl to bipartition the text into two cycles. Brian Daley has, however, argued, against Dorival and Harl, that such a bipartite interpretation cannot account for the concluding chapters on hermeneutics and the final recapitulation. Charles Kannengiesser has similarly distinguished between an internal and external logic, and recommended, against Dorival and Harl, to investigate the structure from such an ‘internal’ and ‘systematic viewpoint’ centred on the first principles of the Trinity. The first principles of God, Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit may, accordingly, be read as the centre of the three circuits at the systematic centre of On First Principles: Basilius Steidle’s critique of the fourfold division suggested, for Dorival and Harl, a bipartite structure centered on the second cycle; but, because such a structure had been decentered from the first principles, Kannengiesser and Daley have since recommended a tripartite structure centred upon the Trinity. I argue, against the bipartite interpretation, and beyond the tripartite interpretation, that On First Principles should be read according to a trinitarian interpretation, in which the systematic structure reflects the relations of the three first principles of God as Trinity.

1. The Question of a System The question of a system has continued to divide Origen scholars. Many historians of the Nineteenth and Twentieth centuries had regarded Origen as the first and foremost Christian systematic theologian of the ante-Nicene era.1 And On First Principles had been acknowledged as the first work of Christian systematic theology. Yet Henri de Lubac and Henri Crouzel have influentially argued, to the contrary, that all such attempts to interpret Origen systematically 1 For a survey of conflicting interpretations of a system in Origen, see Ulrich Berner, Origenes (Darmstadt, 1981).

Studia Patristica CXI, 91-100. © Peeters Publishers, 2021.



are liable to a ‘rationalistic distortion’ (la déformation rationaliste) of a foreign ‘logic’ without sufficient warrant in the evidence of his extant writings.2 Many critics have since come to question whether it is legitimate to speak of a ‘system’ in Origen at all. Such critics argue that, not only is there no evidence, but, moreover, that such a schema would amount to little more than an artificial imposition: for, first, Origen nowhere speaks of a systematic structure; second, the notion of systematicity is a modern notion that has since been anachronistically interpolated into the canon of ancient authors; and, third, to read Origen according to a system appears to violently distort the disparate purposes of his original written work. On First Principles admittedly appears, on an initial reading, to present little more than an inventory of theological topics, processing from God, to the Son, to the Holy Spirit, and, thereafter, to the whole created cosmos. The latter theological topics dealing with the created cosmos, thus appear to be schematically subordinated to the former theological topics of the uncreated first principles, just as the Spirit is subordinated to the Son, and the Son is thereafter subordinated to the Father. And the Trinity thereafter appears, among the Middle Platonists, to name nothing more than such a triple schema of the three first principles that may be altogether subordinated to one God. Ancient and modern authorities could thus consider Origen to be more Platonic than Christian.3 And modern scholars have since disputed whether it is at all legitimate to speak of the Trinity in Origen’s theology.4 Origen should, I propose, be read, as he reads, and is himself read, by such a spiritual interpretation, not only of sacred scripture, but, even, of any and all further reflections upon reading in the self-reflexive reading of a reflexive hermeneutics. Scepticism of systematicity in Origen appears to have arisen from a philosophical ambiguity concerning the definition of ‘system’: for since the notion of systematicity had first come to prominence after Peter Ramus and René Descartes5, scholars have naturally tended to regard the ‘system’ in this robust sense, in which all of the conclusions can be analytically demonstrated from the first principles. Since, however, we find no clear evidence of such a robust systematic in Origen, his writings have tended to be read episodically and a-systematically. Yet we may, with this reflexive reading, alternatively read 2

Henri Crouzel, ‘Origène est-il un systématique?’, in Origène et la Philosophie (Paris, 1962), 184. For a study of Origen’s Platonism, see Charles Bigg, The Christian Platonists of Alexandria: Being the Bamton Lectures of the Year 1886 (Oxford, 1913), 151-280. For a statement to the contrary, see Mark Julian Edwards, Origen Against Plato (Aldershot, 2002). 4 For an account of Origen’s ‘subordinationism’, see J. Nigel Rowe, Origen’s Doctrine of Subordination: A Study of Origen’s Christology (Bern, Frankfurt am Main, New York, 1987). For a contrary account, see Ilaria L.E. Ramelli, ‘Origen’s Anti-Subordinationism and its Heritage in the Nicene and Cappadocian Line’, Vigilae Christianae 65 (2011), 21-49. 5 Walter J. Ong, S.J., Ramus: Method, and the Decay of Dialogue, From the Art of Discourse to the Art of Reason (Chicago, London, 1958), 225-69. 3

Triadic Circles


the word ‘system’ to suggest another and more modest sense: for if ‘system’ is regarded as an explicit post-Cartesian demonstration of the categories of conclusions from the axiomatic assumption of the first principles then such a robust ‘system’ may evidently not be found in Origen’s oeuvre; but if ‘system’ is regarded as an implicit post-Platonic determination of any archetypes of all appearances participating as many standing upon one, then we may begin to search through the writings of Origen and the Church Fathers for the logical traces of systematicity. Origen’s On First Principles can, for this purpose, be read as among the earliest expressions of Christian systematic theology.6 It can be considered ‘systematic’, not in the robust post-Cartesian sense of an explicit demonstration of all of the categories from the first principles, but, rather, in a more modest sense, of a post-Platonic spiritual hermeneutic of reading, and of writing, that reflects upon as it proceeds from and for the first principles of theology. Since, as I shall suggest, these first principles are none other than the three divine hypostases of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Origen’s system can be read to consist of three circuits cycling from and for the central circuit of the three first principles of God as Trinity.7 In support of this trinitarian reading, I shall, in Section 2, briefly summarise the development of the ‘bipartite’ interpretation of Dorival and Harl as tilted towards the second cycle, and then of the ‘tripartite’ interpretation of Kannengiesser and Daley as centred on the first principles of God as Trinity, before proceeding, in Section 3, to argue, against the bipartite interpretation, and beyond the tripartite interpretation, for a new trinitarian interpretation, in which the architectonic structure of Origen’s systematic theology reflects the triadic circuits of the three first principles of God as Trinity. 2. Interpretations of the System The systematic structure of Origen’s theology is most evident in On First Principles. It has often been read as a linear sequence of theological topics absent of a systematic centre. Such a linear reading initially appears to find some passing support in the fourfold division of the books. The work has been received in eight extant manuscripts of the Latin translation of Rufinus, along with over fifty manuscripts of the original Greek in the Philocalia of Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzus.8 Additionally, there exists indirect testimonia, 6 A.N. Williams, ‘What is Systematic Theology?’, International Journal of Systematic Theology 11 (2009), 40-55, 44; Henri Crouzel, Origen, trans. A.S. Worral (Edinburgh, 1989), 46, 168. 7 Ilaria Ramelli, ‘Origen and the Platonic Tradition’, Religions 8 (2017), 1-20, 5; Angelos Kritikos, ‘Platonism and Principles in Origen’, Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies, Supplement, No. 94, Greek & Roman Philosophy, 100 BC - 200 AD Vol. II (2007), 403-17. 8 John Behr, ‘Introduction’, in Origen: On First Principles, trans. John Behr (Oxford, 2017), lxxxix, xcv.



such as Pampihilus’ Apology for Origen, Pseudo-Augustine’s On the Incarnation of the Deity of Christ to Januarius, and Photius’ Bibliotheca.9 Although slight variations appear in the chapter divisions and headings, all of the ancient testimonia and all of the extant manuscripts attest to an original division of the work into four books.10 The four books have thus been typified by the four themes of (I) God, (II) the world, (III) freedom, and (IV) revelation.11 And the eponymous ‘first principles’ had early been read by Adolf von Harnack as a linear sequence of theological topics.12 Yet even a cursory survey of its contents shows that each book also conspicuously covers more than these themes. And since the second book also repeats the topics of the first book, and the fourth book repeats all the rest, such a fourfold division and linear interpretation cannot be consistently upheld.13 Basilius Steidle first recognized that this fourfold division ‘dissects’ the books ‘completely contrary’ to the original systematic structure, and, accordingly, proposed an alternative tripartite systematic structure of three courses: he distinguishes the first basic course (1.1-2.3) that speaks of the Father, Son, Holy Spirit, rational beings and the cosmos; the second widening and in-depth course (2.4-4.3) that ‘begins again’ by discussing the same themes of the Father, Christ, and Holy Spirit, followed by separate treatises on the topics of rational beings, the cosmos, and the interpretation of scriptures; and the third and final course (4.4) that starts again with the Father, Christ, and Holy Spirit, followed by a short explanation of matter, immortality, and rational beings. Steidle conjectured, with this ‘internal clue’, that the series of theological topics is extended and deepened from the first to the second cycle.14 This privileging of the second cycle has since prompted Gilles Dorival and Marguerite Harl to bipartition the text into two cycles, in which the two cycles are tilted towards the second cycle. Dorival has described how the systematic structure announced in the prologue consists in ‘two parts’ and a ‘recapitulation’: the first part consists in a ‘Christian physics’, while the second part returns to address the topics of the first part.15 He recognized that this ‘two-part division’ 9

Ibid. xci-iv. Ibid. xxviii-ix. 11 Basilius Steidle, ‘Neue Untersuchungen zu Origenes ‘Peri Archon’’, Zeitschrifi für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft und die Kunde der älteren Kirche 40 (1941), 236-43, 237. 12 Adolf von Harnack, Lehrbuch der Dogmengeschichte, 1: Die Entstehung des kirchlichen Dogmas (Darmstadt, 1964), 662-3, n. 2. See also the chapter headings of the editions of Paul Koetschau and G.W. Butterworth. Cf. Paul Koetschau, Origenes Werke 5, De Principiis, GCS (Leipzig, 1913); G.W. Butterworth, Origen: On First Principles (London, 1936). 13 Brian Daley, ‘Origen’s De Principiis: A Guide to the Principles of Christian Scriptural Interpretation’, in Nova et Vetera: Patristic Studies in Honor of T.A. Halton (Washington, DC, 1998), 3-21, 5. 14 Basilius Steidle, ‘Neue Untersuchungen zu Origenes “Peri Archon”’ (1941), 238. 15 Gilles Dorival, ‘Remarques sur la forme du Peri Archôn’, in Origeniana: Premier colloque international des études origéniennes, Montserrat, 18–21 septembre, 1973 (Bari, 1975), 33-45, 33. 10

Triadic Circles


had been a frequent framework of late-antique academic philosophical literature, even as he acknowledge that it appears as an ‘empty frame’ that ‘could be filled in various ways’.16 And Harl had similarly defined the central axis as a quasi-Stoic ‘biblical physics’.17 Since the second cycle extends and deepens the examination of the first cycle, she similarly concludes by privileging the second cycle as the ‘main object’ of investigation.18 Charles Kannengiesser has further distinguished between an internal and external logic, and proposed, as against Dorival and Harl, to investigate the systematic structure of On First Principles from an ‘internal’ and ‘systematic viewpoint’ that is structured by the standpoint of the first principles themselves.19 He duplicates their bipartition when he divides, not only the first from the second cycle, but also, and more importantly, the ‘first exposition’ of the Trinity from the ‘second exposition’ of the created and rational beings.20 This double-bipartition of the first partition into the Trinity and the rational beings thus results in the tripartition of the first circuit of God the Trinity, the second circuit of the rational beings, and the third circuit of the theological topics.21 He suggests that the ‘four books’ of Peri Archon ‘fits, properly speaking, only the so-called “first exposition”’ of ‘Peri Archon proper’, and speculates that its thematic division rests upon the internal ‘doctrinal ground’ of the Trinity.22 Brian Daley similarly argues, against Dorival and Harl, that their bipartite interpretation cannot account for the anomalous sections on biblical hermeneutics and the final recapitulation, which, he observes, does not merely repeat, but rather and also adds to all that has come before.23 He describes how Origen develops a new ‘theological science’ that informs his logical reasoning of scriptural interpretation.24 And he tacitly acknowledges its systematic centre when he describes how the most basic part of the systematic structure is that of ‘the doctrine of God and of His only-begotten Son’.25 The final return to the topic 16

Ibid. 37. Marguerite Harl, ‘Structure et cohérence du Peri Archôn’, in H. Crouzel, G. Lomiento and J. Rius-Camp (eds), Origeniana prima: Premier colloque international des études origéniennes (Bari, 1975), 13. 18 Ibid. 17. 19 Charles Kannengiesser, ‘Divine Trinity and the Structure of Peri Archon’, in Origen of Alexandria, His World and His Legacy (South Bend, IN, 1989), 231-49, 236. 20 Charles Kannengiesser, ‘Origen, Systematician in De Principiis’, in Origeniana Quinta, Fifth International Colloquium of Origen Studies (Leuven, 1992), 395-405, 401. 21 Ibid. 402. 22 C. Kannengiesser, ‘Divine Trinity and the Structure of Peri Archon’ (1989), 237, 246-7. 23 Brian Daley, ‘Origen’s De Principiis: A Guide to the Principles of Christian Scriptural Interpretation’, in Nova et Vetera: Patristic Studies in Honor of T.A. Halton (Washington, DC, 1998), 3-21, 5. 24 Ibid. 12. 25 Ibid. 16. 17



of incorporeality at the conclusion of the Recapitulation thus indicates a return to the absolute incorporeality of God as Trinity.26 With these recent interpretations, we may witness an unnoticed convergence towards a trinitarian interpretation of the systematic structure of On First Principles. Basilius Steidle’s critique of the fourfold division had suggested, for Dorival and Harl, a bipartite structure centered on the second cycle; but, because such a structure had been decentered from the first principles, Kannengiesser and Daley have since recommended a tripartite structure centered upon the three first principles of God as Trinity. The Trinity stands at the centre of this tripartite interpretation of Origen’s systematic theology. Yet the role of the Trinity remains to be explored: for among previous commentators, Origen’s spiritual hermeneutic has been read unreflexively as a recommendation only for reading, and not also for writing; and, as a consequence, most commentators have neglected to notice any connection between the ontology of the system and the hermeneutics of the programme of On First Principles. Since, as Torjesen has shown, the Logos is, for Origen, the author, not only of reading, but of writing, and the Logos is an epinonia of Christ in God, we may, as I shall illustrate, read the architectonic structure of three dialectical circuits as a reflection of the three first principles of God as Trinity.27

3. A Trinitarian Interpretation Origen presents, in On First Principles, a systematic summary of Christian theology for the express purpose of providing a regulative rule for scriptural interpretation. He begins by stating that the ‘words and teachings of Christ’ are the source of any knowledge of Christian theology, even as he restricts the scope of this theological investigation to ‘the briefest possible limits’ of what he calls the ‘great and important matters’ of Christian doctrine.28 The clearest indication of how he understands its systematic structure appears in the Preface: the precedence of the ‘great and important matters’ of God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit indexes the priority of the first principles; the greater over the smaller theological topics; and of all Christic, apostolic, and ecclesial teachings.29 He writes that ‘it seems necessary first of all to lay down a definite line and clear rule regarding each of these matters [concerning God or the Lord Jesus Christ or the Holy Spirit], and then thereafter to investigate other matters’ to define as a rule the first principles of theology by regulating any exegesis of 26

Ibid. 17. Karen Jo Torjesen, Hermeneutical Procedure and Theological Method in Origen’s Exegesis (Berlin, New York, 1986), 72-147. 28 Origen, On First Principles, Pr. 1-2, trans. J. Behr (2017), 11-3. 29 Origen, On First Principles, Pr. 2-3, trans. J. Behr (2017), 13. 27


Triadic Circles

scripture.30 He then distinguishes these ‘great and important’ matters from the ‘small and trivial’ matters so as to index the principle theological topics: beginning with the three first principles of God the Father, Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit; proceeding through the first created beings of the ‘dominions and holy powers’, and, thereafter, concluding with the created cosmos.31 He furthermore divides the doxastic necessity of apostolic teachings from the doxastic contingency of ecclesiastical preachings when he distinguishes the ‘certain points’ that are ‘believed to be necessary’ from the ‘other points’ that may ‘be inquired into’ by the ‘more diligent of their successors’ in the future development of systematic theology.32 And he finally indicates the theme of scriptural interpretation, where ‘the whole law is indeed spiritual’, as the founding purpose and final theological topic.33 The Preface offers an outline of On First Principles schematized according to two divisions for a total of three circuits: the first division consists in an ontological distinction between the absolutely incorporeal and uncreated first principles of God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit and the corporeal grades of created spirits, substances, and signs of the created cosmos; and the second division consists in a doxological distinction between the doxastically necessary apostolic teachings and the doxastically non-necessary, contingent, and open-ended ecclesiastical teachings.34 Although necessary and contingent teachings are present throughout, the first and second circuits are expressly addressed to those theological topics that are necessary and not contingent. In contrast to the bipartite interpretation, the second part of the first division can then be subdivided in two for a total of three circuits: the first circuit is that of the absolutely incorporeal and uncreated three first principles of God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit (PA 1.1-4); the second circuit is that of the relative grades of corporeal and created spirits, substances, and signs of the created cosmos (PA 1.5-2.3); and the third circuit is an assorted inventory of theological topics – of the fall, of freedom, and of the final restoration – which concludes in a final reflection on scriptural interpretation (PA 2.4-4.3). The opening Preface (PA Pr.) and the concluding Recapitulation (PA 4.4) serve then only to introduce and to recapitulate the trinitarian structure of these three circuits. The Trinity is, on this interpretation, the axial circuit around which cycle the three circuits of the first principles, the created cosmos, and all of the topics of theological investigation. For since, as we have seen, the ontological distinction of uncreated and created is subdivided by the doxological distinction between necessary and contingent beliefs, and yet creation comes absolutely before any 30 31 32 33 34

Origen, Origen, Origen, Origen, Origen,

On On On On On

First First First First First

Principles, Principles, Principles, Principles, Principles,

Pr. Pr. Pr. Pr. Pr.

2, 2, 3, 8, 5,

trans. trans. trans. trans. trans.

J. J. J. J. J.

Behr Behr Behr Behr Behr

(2017), (2017), (2017), (2017), (2017),

13. 13. 13. 19. 17.



belief, even writing among the most contingent of creations may only be believed as it is created by the first principles. This trinitarian interpretation departs from the bipartite interpretation by subdividing the ‘first cycle’ (PA 1-2.3) into the first circuit of the uncreated Trinity (PA 1.1-4) and the second circuit of the created cosmos (PA 1.5-2.3). Yet it also departs from the tripartite interpretation by relegating the famous chapter on spiritual hermeneutics (PA 4.1-3) to the ninth and final theological topic of the third circuit (PA 2.4-4.4). These chapters on spiritual hermeneutics have previously been held apart as a separate and third cycle by John Behr, because its content does not appear to be anticipated in the programme of the ‘first cycle’.35 We may, however, object that the theological topics exhibit a profusion of content, such as the chapter on Free Will (PA 3.1), which does not correspond to the programme of the first and second circuits. Additionally, we may also argue, beyond the tripartite interpretation, that the spiritual hermeneutic is exercised in the opening investigation into the three first principles; as it proceeds from the epinoia of the ‘Way’ (Hodos) of Christ; and as it reflects the Logos of Christ and the Holy Spirit in every act of reading, as of writing.36 Although appearing only at the final end, the concluding chapters on spiritual hermeneutics (4,1-4,3) are presupposed to operate from the first beginning, as the hermeneutical is primitively possessed by the theological, and supremely by Christ in God the Trinity.37

4. Triadic Circles We may, with this trinitarian interpretation, integrate the programmatic sequence and the systematic structure of Origen’s On First Principles. As we have seen, Basilius Steidle first recognized that such a fourfold division ‘dissects’ the books ‘completely contrary’ to the original systematic structure, and, proposed an alternative structure consisting in ‘three courses’. His emphasis upon the second ‘course’ has prompted Gilles Dorival and Marguerite Harl to bipartition the text into two cycles. Brian Daley has, however, since argued, against Dorival and Harl, that such a bipartite interpretation cannot easily account for the concluding chapters on hermeneutics, as well as the final Recapitulation. And Charles Kannengiesser has similarly distinguished between an internal and external logic, and recommended we read the structure instead from an ‘internal’ and ‘systematic viewpoint’, one which is centred on the first 35

J. Behr, ‘Introduction’ (2017), xlvi-liv. Origen, On First Principles 1.2.4., 4.2.3, trans. J. Behr (2017), 45, 495-7. See also K.J. Torjesen, Hermeneutical Procedure and Theological Method in Origen’s Exegesis (1986), 82-5, 108-15. 37 B. Daley, ‘Origen’s De Principiis: A Guide to the Principles of Christian Scriptural Interpretation’ (1998), 12-7. 36

Triadic Circles


principles of the Trinity. The concluding recapitulation thus summarizes how the third circuit can be contained in the second, the second circuit can be contained in the first, and, finally, how these three circuits reflect the three hypostases of the Trinity. There are many parallel passages in On First Principles that index the focal points where the first three principles of the Trinity are inflected at the points of transition between the three circuits. In the Preface, Origen schematizes the programme of apostolic preaching according to the ‘great and important matters’ of ‘God or the Lord Jesus Christ or the Holy Spirit’.38 After describing the three first principles, Origen returns to distinguish the first circuit of ‘the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit’ from the second circuit ‘concerning rational beings’.39 Then after examining the rational beings, he returns to distinguish the absolutely incorporeal God as Trinity and the relatively corporeal grades of the angelic hierarchy.40 And after describing the descent of the angelic orders, he also describes the ‘Trinity alone’ (sola trinitate) as the ‘author of all things’.41 Origen concludes the ninth and final topic on scriptural hermeneutics by gesturing back to this ‘substance of the Trinity’ (substantia trinitatis) as the source of signification and interpretation.42 And, at the start of the Recapitulation, Origen returns to recollect ‘our conclusions regarding [the first principles of] the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit’, where, from the end to the beginning, the relations of the Trinity are reflected in these triadic circuits.43 With this trinitarian interpretation, we can begin to read Origen again as he reads, and is himself read, according to the first principles of his own spiritual hermeneutic: for, as the foregoing suggests, his spiritual hermeneutic is never isolated from but always essentially shaped by the Spirit and guided by the Logos of Christ, as altogether united in God as Trinity. The essential relations of the Trinity may, accordingly, be found reflected in the schematic divisions of the system and the programme of On First Principles: the divine difference of the Son from the Father is reflected, first in the ontological difference of the uncreated incorporeal first principles and the created corporeal cosmos; and, second, in the doxastic difference of the necessary apostolic and the contingent ecclesiastical teachings. Such a trinitarian interpretation may preserve the essential partitions of the bipartite and the tripartite interpretations, even as it links the highest circuit of the Trinity to the lowest circuit of any reflexive reading of the system of theology. For it can integrate the programmatic sequence of the theological topics and the systematic structure of the text through the 38 39 40 41 42 43

Origen, Origen, Origen, Origen, Origen, Origen,

On On On On On On

First First First First First First

Principles, Principles, Principles, Principles, Principles, Principles,

Pr. 2-4, trans. J. Behr (2017), 13. 1.4.2, trans. J. Behr (2017), 85. 1.5.3, trans. J. Behr (2017), 97. 1.6.2, trans. J. Behr (2017), 107. 4.3.15, trans. J. Behr (2017), 559. 4.4.1, trans. J. Behr (2017), 563.



three circuits cycling into the centre. These three circuits can then be circumscribed to cycle through one another from and for the centre: the third circuit can cycle through the third part of the second circuit of the rational beings, just as the second can cycle through the third part of the first circuit of the Spirit; and the lower can recycle into the higher circuits, even as the higher can cycle into the lower circuits, as all three circuits cycle around the central axis of the first three principles of God as Trinity. The Trinity thus completes at its centre the circuitous procession of the filiation of Father to the Son and the spiration of the Spirit from the Father and the Son, where, at last, there appears to be no lasting difference except that which can be given from the Father; through the Son; to the Holy Spirit; ‘nothing in the Trinity can be called greater or less’; and all in all may be said to equally flow forth from this same ‘fount of divinity’.44


Origen, On First Principles, 1.3.7, trans. J. Behr (2017), 79.

Origen’s Mediation of the Logos in his Exegesis of the Old Testament Psalms and Prophets Miriam DECOCK, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark

ABSTRACT In her Hermeneutical Procedure and Theological Structure in Origen’s Exegesis, Karen Jo Torjesen demonstrated that for Origen, the reader of the Old Testament encountered the Logos through the mediation of the biblical author’s encounter with the Logos, whereas in the New Testament, one encountered the Logos directly. In this article, I will highlight another subject’s mediation of the Logos in the context of Origen’s Old Testament exegesis, namely, that of the (spiritually mature and technically rigorous) homiletic exegete. In order to examine Origen’s understanding of the homilist’s mediating role in discerning the communication of the Logos in the Old Testament, we will examine several passages from his recently discovered Greek Homilies on the Psalms and from his Greek Homilies on Jeremiah. In both works, we catch glimpses of Origen’s understanding of the interplay between the exegetical homilist’s skill and the divine grace revealed. I argue that Origen’s self-understanding as an exegetical mediator of the Logos is based on the interplay of three important factors: 1) his understanding of the nature of the Old Testament text itself – it is at times obscure and difficult; 2) because of this difficulty, the divine grace who required for the exegetical task, and 3) the mediating exegete, Origen, has important qualifications for the task – he shares deep affinities with the biblical authors themselves, and he hears the voice of the Logos himself.

In response to a previous generation of scholarship on Origen’s exegesis, Karen Jo Torjesen argued convincingly in her 1986 work, Hermeneutical Procedure and Theological Structure in Origen’s Exegesis, that the organizing principle of Origen’s exegesis was his belief in the actual presence of the teaching Logos in Scripture. She demonstrated that for Origen, this teaching Logos was to be mediated for the reader or hearer by the Old Testament author’s own encounter with the Logos, whereas one encountered the Logos directly in the New Testament.1 In this article, I intend to focus on another mediator of the teaching Logos, namely, the mediating exegete, who, in Origen’s estimation, ought to be spiritually mature and technically rigorous, both requirements he understood himself to meet. I will do so by developing a passing, yet suggestive 1 K.J. Torjesen, Hermeneutical Procedure and Theological Method in Origen’s Exegesis, Patristische Texte und Studien 28 (Berlin, New York, 1986), 66-7.

Studia Patristica CXI, 101-109. © Peeters Publishers, 2021.



comment about the mediating exegete made by Torjesen as she examined Origen’s exegesis of Psalm 36. She observed that according to Origen: ‘We do not hear the voice of Christ praying in the Psalm. But we hear the voice of Christ in the interpretation of the Psalm’.2 In other words, it is in the exegesis of the Old Testament biblical text, in this case the Psalm, where one encounters the teachings of the Logos. I will therefore provide a close analysis of Origen’s comments about the role of the mediating exegete, which I take to be autobiographical, in the process of the hearer’s or reader’s encounter with the Logos in the Old Testament.3 I hope that this analysis will go some way in addressing what I argue remains an often-overlooked aspect of early Christian exegesis, namely, the early Christian account of the ideal interpreter of Scripture.4 In the recently discovered Homilies on the Psalms, Origen makes a series of statements about his role as an interpreter of the Old Testament. These I will analyze alongside a selection of similar comments from his Homilies on Jeremiah, the only other extant set of Origen’s Greek homilies on the Old Testament.5 I will argue that Origen’s self-understanding as an exegetical mediator of the Logos is based on the interplay of three important factors: 1) his understanding of the nature of the Old Testament text itself, 2) closely-related to the first, his belief that divine grace is required for the exegetical task, and 3) the qualifications of the mediating exegete himself. I will begin by discussing in tandem the first two factors, the nature of the biblical text itself, and the divine grace or assistance given to the interpreter to deal with the biblical text. As I said above, for Origen, the biblical text is inspired by the Spirit and by the Logos, and it therefore portends an encounter

2 Ibid. 44. She has since developed this observation indirectly in an article entitled, ‘The Alexandrian Tradition of the Inspired Interpreter’, in Lorenzo Perrone (ed.), Origeniana Octava: Origen and the Alexandrian Tradition, BETL 164 (Leuven, 2003), 287-99. However, in this brief article, Origen is one of four authors she treats, and she is more interested in the historical-cultural reality of ‘the inspired interpreter’ within the Alexandrian milieu, and in the subsequent tradition’s understanding of Origen as an inspired interpreter than she is in Origen’s articulations of his selfunderstanding. 3 I suspect, however, that Origen sees himself as a mediator of the Logos vis-à-vis the New Testament text as well, though this supposition requires further exploration. 4 There are exceptions of course. For example, see: Peter W. Martens, ‘Ideal Interpreters’, in Peter W. Martens and Paul M. Blowers (eds), The Oxford Handbook of Early Christian Interpretation (Oxford, 2019), 149-65; Peter W. Martens, Origen and Scripture: The Contours of the Exegetical Life (Oxford, 2012); Blossom Stefaniw, Mind, Text, and Commentary: Noetic Exegesis in Origen of Alexandria, Didymus the Blind, and Evagrius Ponticus, ECCA 6 (New York, 2008), 221-69; Margaret M. Mitchell, The Heavenly Trumpet: John Chrysostom and the Art of Pauline Interpretation (Louisville, 2002), 409-39; David Rylaarsdam, John Chrysostom on Divine Pedagogy: The Coherence of his Theology and Preaching (Oxford, 2014). 5 We have, of course, Homily 5 on 1Kgs. 28, the most thorough analysis of which has been conducted by Rowan A. Greer and Margaret M. Mitchell in The ‘Belly-Myther of Endor’: Interpretations of 1 Kingdoms 28 in the Early Church, WGRW 16 (Atlanta, 2007).

Origen’s Mediation of the Logos in his Exegesis


with the Logos, however mediated.6 Furthermore, for Origen the inspired Scriptures themselves command the exegete to search the Scriptures. As he discerns the interpretation of a given text, Origen frequently summons Jn. 5:39, in which Jesus claims that the Scriptures point to him, often turning Jesus’ indicative statement, ‘you search the Scriptures’ to the imperative, ‘search the Scriptures’, and Matt. 7:7, in which Jesus promises that the one who asks (i.e., searches the Scriptures), will receive. This principle is in accord with Origen’s view that inspired Scripture is the authoritative guide to its own interpretation, but, as we shall see, it is not an easy task and it requires divine aid. For example, in his eighth homily on Ps. 77, as Origen deals with the words, ‘he took away his people like sheep’ of Ps. 77:52, he gives his hearers an account of his interpretive process. He tells them that, ‘in searching the scripture and wanting to be faithful to my Lord, who said, “Search the scriptures”, I was seeking individually (ἐζήτουν κατ᾽ ἐμαυτόν) whether it happened by chance that the people of God were earlier referred to as “sheep being taken away”, but next they are not “sheep” but, at that point, a “flock”… And seeking I found that it is consistent (ἀκολουθεῖ) for him first to take away his flock like sheep, but later to lead them up as a flock in the desert…’7 Here he does not claim to have received divine aid, but he clearly thinks he has discerned the answer to the question that has arisen because he has sought the scriptures just as Christ has commanded him to do. Similarly, concerning the interpretation he provides for the word ‘trumpet’ of Jer. 4:5, ‘signify it with the trumpet over the land,’ Origen claims that ‘[the exalted Word] (Ὁ λόγος ὁ ὑψηλῆς) has given it to him who wishes for and seeks the sense (τὸν νοῦν) of Scripture…’8 In obedience to Christ’s words, which again, he finds on the pages of Scripture themselves, Origen searches the scriptures on behalf of his community, and he is rewarded for his obedience with understanding and with the interpretation for which he has asked. However, there are various features of the biblical text that make it a challenge to be obedient to these commands of Christ, and thereby interpret Scripture so that his hearers’ encounter with the Logos takes place. The texts are complex, unclear or obscure, and accordingly difficult to interpret, and therefore the exegete requires divine assistance. We see this in what Origen regards as one of the most important tasks of the exegete when dealing with the Psalms, namely, the identification of the Psalm’s ‘person’ or speaker (τὸ πρόσοπον). 6 As is well known, Origen articulates his understanding of the biblical text’s inspiration in Peri Archon IV 1.1-7. 7 HPs77 8.2. Origenes Werke XIII. Die Neuen Psalmenhomilien, ed. Lorenzo Perrone, GCS NF 19 (Berlin, 2015), 451. 8 HomJer 5.16.1. Origenes Werke XI. Die Homilien zum Buch Jeremia, ed. Alfons Fürst and Horacio E. Lona, GCS NF 11 (Berlin, 2018), 206. John Clark Smith (trans.), Origen: Homilies on Jeremiah, FC 97 (Washington DC, 1998), 59-60. See also HPs77 5.2.



For example, in his second homily on Ps. 15, once he has identified the psalm’s ‘person’ as Christ, he claims, with his characteristic rhetorical flourish, that the text is difficult to interpret. He says, ‘it is not very easy to refer the explanations, as to the Savior, which the apostles applied (οὐ πάνυ ἐστὶν εὐχερὲς τᾶ μὲν οὖν ἐγκείμενα ἀναφέρειν ἐπὶ τὸν σωτῆρα, οἷς οἱ ἀπόστολοι ἐχρήσαντο), and for them to be explained by us vigorously according to the letter (καὶ πρὸς λέξιν κεκρατημένως δι᾽ ἡμῶν διηγήσαθαι)’.9 He continues by explaining that the identification of the Psalm’s person requires that, ‘the whole psalm must be made clear and fit textually to itself (ὅλον δὲ τὸν ψαλμὸν σαφηνίσαι καὶ πρὸς λέξιν ἐφαρμόσαι ἑαυτῷ)’, which I take to mean that each verse must be demonstrated to have been spoken by or about the Psalm’s person, in this case, Christ.10 According to Origen, the endeavor in this case is particularly difficult because some of the psalm’s verses pose doctrinal problems, such as why Christ needs God’s protection and counsel (Ps. 15:1, 7), and these problems, he claims, ‘seem to require the Savior himself (δοκεῖ μοι αὐτοῦ τοῦ σωτῆρος χρείαν ἒχειν)’.11 While there is much we might say about this brief passage concerning the aims of his Psalm exegesis, I simply wish to highlight Origen’s insistence that the text is difficult to interpret in a manner ‘worthy’ of Christ, and, as he remarks, it requires not only the skilled interpreter’s vigorous attention, but also the aid of the Saviour himself. Such aid can be given through prayer, and in our passage of focus, Origen does in fact proceed to request the prayers of his hearers, saying: At times either your prayers or requests for good things from God have assisted us to clarify (τὸ σαφηνίσαι) the Scripture, and now may they be of assistance, in order that God might provide a teaching (ἐπιχορηγήσῃ λόγον) to us who thirst and request enlightenment of matters needing to be clarified, and that we, through your prayers, if at first we did not understand, may now, enlightened by the Logos (φωτιζόμενοι ὑπὸ τοῦ λόγου), offer, as ones who do understand them, the things appearing in the Psalm.12

Here we see the convergence of Origen’s assertions that this difficult text requires divine interpretive assistance, which can be summoned through his and his hearer’s prayers, and his belief that such assistance will be granted due to his obedient thirsting and searching of the Scriptures.

9 HPs15 2. Perrone (2015), 92. I have commented at length on Origen’s identification of the ‘person’ in the new psalm homilies in an article entitled, ‘Origen’s Identification of the “Person” in his Homilies on the Psalms’, which will appear in a forthcoming volume celebrating five years since the discovery of the new material in Joseph W. Trigg and Robin Darling Young (eds), Origen’s Homilies on the Psalms: Explorations Five Years On, Studies in Early Christianity (Washington DC, forthcoming). 10 HPs15 2, ed. Perrone (2015), 92. 11 HPs15 2, ed. Perrone (2015), 92. 12 Ibid. See also HomJer 19.10.1; 19.14.1; 19.15.1: 20.3.1; 20.8.4; HomPs 15 1.7; 2.3, 6; 36 2.5; 77 1.1, 5; 9.1.

Origen’s Mediation of the Logos in his Exegesis


One of the recurring difficulties of the biblical text according to Origen is that it is obscure or unclear, and this too requires divine grace. In his fourth homily on Jeremiah, as he begins his treatment of Jer. 3:6-11, in which the prophet compares the fate of the tribes of Israel and Judah, Origen tells his hearers that ‘the letter itself of the text just read has something unclear (Αὐτὸ τὸ ῥητὸν τῆς ἀναγνωσθείσης λέξεως ἔχει τι ἀσαφές) that we need to understand first’.13 It is the duty of the mediating exegete to clarify those aspects of the text that are unclear, but again, this mediator is at the mercy of God, for, as Origen often claims, ‘if God wills it’, then a more detailed or a ‘deeper’ explanation of the text will be provided. Of course, God almost always seems to will it, and we frequently find Origen claiming that he has received the interpretation he has sought through the divine assistance given as a result of prayer and his close attention to the text. For example, in his eighteenth homily on Jeremiah, as he seeks to explain the meaning of Jeremiah’s visions of a clay vessel and the broken wine vessel in Jer. 18, he claims that, ‘if it be given (ἐὰν δοθῇ), we will examine word by word what these words convey’.14 A few paragraphs later, he tells his audience that he will now introduce them to ‘the interpretation that has been granted (τῇ δεδομένῃ ἑρμηνείᾳ)’.15 I will not discuss the details of his interpretation here, but I will simply observe that again the obscure text requires both divine intervention and an attentive exegete who is capable of receiving the interpretation that is given. According to Origen, then, the divinely inspired biblical text, which has commanded him to interpret it so that his audience might encounter the teaching Logos, is unclear, obscure, doctrinally and conceptually difficult, and therefore its interpretation requires divine assistance. According to Origen, I contend, such assistance is given to the spiritually mature and technically skilled mediating exegete, which Origen understands himself to be. I will focus on two main qualifications that Origen considers himself to possess. First, Origen understands himself (and the exegetical office more generally) to share deep affinities with the authors of the biblical text, that is, those other mediators of the teaching Logos. He likens himself to the prophet Jeremiah as he interprets Jeremiah, to the psalmist as he interprets the Psalms, and he places himself in a similar category to that of the apostle Paul. Secondly, Origen perceives that the Logos actually speaks directly to him as he sets about the task of exegesis. We will begin with Origen’s belief that he shares affinities with the biblical authors. He articulates this belief vis-à-vis the biblical prophets clearly in his nineteenth homily on Jer. 20. As he comments on Jer. 20:6, ‘and all your 13

HomJer 4.1.1, ed. Fürst and Lona (2018), 157; trans. Smith (1998), 30. HomJer 18.1.1, ed. Fürst and Lona (2018), 428; trans. Smith (1998), 188. 15 HomJer 18.2.3, ed. Fürst and Lona (2018), 430; trans. Smith (1998), 190. Interestingly, the words of the Apostle are part of the interpretation he receives to deal with the prophetic text, and he immediately quotes Phil. 2:10-1. 14



friends go there, those to whom you have prophesied lies,’ he discusses false and true interpreters in the light of prophecy saying that, He who discusses in an evil way the sayings of God and throws the prophetic words into the pit, he prophesies, but he prophesies lies. For anyone who discusses the prophetic words, if he speaks truly, he both prophesies and prophesies truth, but if he lies, he is a lying prophet who speaks falsely of the prophetic words.16

Unfortunately, Origen does not explain exactly what he means by this likening of the interpreter to the prophet, but instead he moves on to discuss the next section of Jer. 20. In any case, it is clear that for Origen, the interpreter himself is a kind of prophet, for like the prophet, the interpreter too discusses ‘the sayings of God’.17 Origen’s understanding of the exegete’s identity as similar to that of the Psalmist’s he describes in his first homily on Ps. 67. He begins with a discussion of the sayings of the patriarchs as prophecies of things to come after their lifetimes, prophecies in which Christ was the true speaker. He places Ps. 67, on which he is about to preach, within the same category, and describes it as a ‘heavenly speech (λόγον οὐράνιον)’.18 He says, ‘therefore, concerning one of the psalms read containing a prayer, I would pray it for the explanation of the appointed psalm that has been read (πρὸ τῆς διηγμήσεως τοῦ προκειμένου καὶ ἀναγνωσθέντος ψαλμοῦ)’.19 Like the psalmist, then, Origen prays, and he prays the very words of the psalm he sets out to interpret, so as to ask God for assistance and to gain interpretive understanding through speaking the words of a ‘heavenly speech’, whose speaker is Christ. Origen concludes his introduction to this first homily on Ps. 67 by addressing his audience and expressing his hope that ‘a logos might be given that will gladden and delight’ them, and, given that he will first pray the words of the appointed psalm, of which Christ is the speaker, he prays that his audience again be delighted and gladdened, ‘through Christ speaking in me (2Cor. 13:3)’.20 Like the psalmist, through whom Christ spoke the words of the psalm at hand, and like Paul, who claimed in 2Cor. 13:3 that Christ was speaking in him,21 Origen claims implicit affinity 16

HomJer 19.14.9, ed. Fürst and Lona (2018), 476; trans. Smith (1998), 216. See also HomEzek

2.3.1. 17 Torjesen discusses ways in which the prophet and the exegete overlap for Origen in her article ‘The Alexandrian Tradition’ (2003), 293-4. She cites his discussions in HomEzek IV 2; HomGen XI.3; CommMatt XXVII 46.8-11 as proof of this argument. Both Fürst and Smith have observed Origen’s tendency to identify strongly with the prophet Jeremiah throughout his homiletical exegesis of the prophetic text. See Smith’s ‘Introduction’ to his English translation of Origen’s Homilies on Jeremiah (1998), xvi. See also A. Fürst, ‘Der Inhalt der Jeremiahomilien’, in Origines Werke XI (2018), 54-64. 18 HPs67 1.1, ed. Perrone (2015), 173. Ι would like to thank Joseph Trigg for sharing his English translation of this homily with me; I have consulted and used his forthcoming translation of the introductory section here. 19 Ibid. 20 Ibid. 174. 21 This is a favourite text of Origen’s in exegetical contexts. See the following two examples: HPs77 1.1-2; CommJn 10.105. See also Margaret Mitchell’s analysis of early Christian exegetes’

Origen’s Mediation of the Logos in his Exegesis


with both, by praying the psalmist’s prayer and describing the psalmist and himself with Paul’s autobiographical words as he sets himself to the exegetical task. Origen likens himself to Paul even more directly in his third homily on Ps. 36. As he deals with the words, ‘The sinner borrows and will not pay back, but a righteous person is merciful and would give’, of Ps. 36:21, he discusses lending and borrowing in terms of scriptural interpretation, such as was the case when Paul was teaching and his audience was listening.22 After explaining the referents of the psalm verse’s lender and borrowers, i.e., Paul and his audience, Origen addresses his own audience directly, saying, ‘all of you are borrowing now’.23 In contrast to the heterodox, such as Marcion, Basilides, and Valentinus, who teach and lend their own words, he explains, like Paul himself, Origen lends God’s words in the prophets and the Gospels, and thus he can truly say, with Paul, ‘do you seek proof of Christ speaking in me?’24 We have seen in these three examples, then, that Origen understands himself to share deep affinities with the biblical authors, a belief which positions him well to mediate the Logos for his hearers. I will now turn to the second reason Origen thinks he is qualified to be an exegetical mediator of the Logos, a reason not unlike the first: he receives direct communication from the Logos himself as he turns to the task of exegesis. In several instances, Origen stops a particular line of interpretation to claim that the Logos is speaking to him in that very moment. On such occasions it is therefore necessary for him to listen intently, to determine the extent to which he is to share what is being communicated to him with his audience, and to adapt his explanation of the text to this new revelation from the Logos.25 We will briefly examine three examples here. use of this and other Pauline texts in her Paul, the Corinthians and the Birth of Christian Hermeneutics (Cambridge, 2010). 22 HPs36 3.11, ed. Perrone (2015), 154. 23 Ibid. 24 Ibid. 25 Some readers will object to my argument concerning the Logos’ prompting of Origen directly on the grounds that the term λόγος might simply refer to the biblical text itself. I would first point out that in Origen’s thought the biblical text and the personal logos are not so easily disentangled, as Torjesen, for example, has demonstrated convincingly. I am well aware that it is notoriously difficult to interpret the multivalent term λόγος in Origen’s corpus; however, in the extraordinary instances that follow, I argue that the referent of the term is nonetheless the personal Logos. This for several reasons. Firstly, we will see below that in these instances Origen stops his line of interpretation to accommodate something that he leads the reader to believe is interruptive of his prior argumentation of the biblical logos. Now, one could easily take a cynical approach to this phenomenon, and understand these re-directive pauses as Origen’s having simply remembered an additional comment about the text that he wants to share with his audience before proceeding. However – and this is the second reason I argue that Origen understands the personal Logos to be communicating with him in these instances – he describes the logos as ‘daring’ to say something, as we shall see in two of the three examples below. This language he does not ordinarily use as he interprets a given text, and it suggests a kind of agency on the part of the logos that, to my mind at least, indicates that in these rare moments, he has more than the biblical text in view.



In his first homily on Ps. 15, as Origen treats Ps. 15:3, ‘He has made marvels for the saints who are in his land,’ he interrupts his first explanation of the verse, which concerns its direct application to his hearers, to announce that, ‘The Logos is about to dare (τολμᾶν) something and to dare a great thing’.26 It seems that the Logos has reminded Origen (in real time) of other instances of Scripture’s recording of miraculous events, which took place in various locations. Given that this is so, Origen is forced to ask what is distinctive about the marvels in the land of Israel. This he goes on to do, by comparing the marvels performed by God through Moses outside the promise land with those performed by Joshua in the land itself.27 It seems then that the Logos has both revealed to Origen a potential problem and subsequently helped him to solve it. After this explanation Origen goes on to provide his audience with a third, this one concerning the boundary that separates those inside and outside the church.28 Another example from the Homilies on the Psalms comes as Origen deals with the words, ‘I sought God with my hands’, of Ps. 76:3.29 He provides two readings before he stops to claim that the Logos is speaking to him. The first concerns one’s conduct, that is, to seek God ‘with the hands’, according to Origen, refers to one’s conduct or way of life, whereas the second concerns the act of prayer itself and it is supplied by the apostle Paul’s words in 1Tim. 2:8, ‘I want men everywhere to make supplication in every place lifting up holy hands without wrath and argument’.30 A third reading, however, is provided directly by the Logos, which Origen indicates by saying, ‘the Logos is about to say something (μέλλει τι λέγειν ὁ λόγος)’.31 This reading concerns the stretching of Christ’s hands in prayer at the time of his crucifixion, for in this instance, Origen explains, ‘Christ sought God with the hands, stretching them over the whole world on the wood and fixing them in order that he might then pray, with hands stretched and the whole body and soul stretched together by him, not for the body but for the whole world, over the whole world’.32 This stretching of the hands in prayer, then, requires, and is thereby effective because of, the simultaneous offering of oneself. According to Origen, this too, his hearers can do, if they follow Christ and take up his cross, stretching their hands on the cross, in order to be crucified with Christ to the world Third, as will be demonstrated in my final example, as Origen acknowledges that the Logos is daring to say something other than the explanation Origen has already initiated, he expresses concern about the fittingness of the received message for his audience. This hesitation suggests that he considers himself to be in a mediating position of something outside of the ‘ordinary’ text-reader relationship. 26 HPs15 1.6, ed. Perrone (2015), 82. See also: HPs77 4.6; HomJer 19.15.3. 27 Ibid. 82-3. 28 Ibid. 84. 29 HPs76 1.4, ed. Perrone (2015), 297. 30 Ibid. 297-8. 31 HPs76 1.4, ed. Perrone (2015), 299. 32 Ibid. 300.

Origen’s Mediation of the Logos in his Exegesis


(Gal. 6:14).33 The Logos has guided Origen to this reading concerning his own raising of the hands in prayer as he sacrificed his body on the cross. As we saw, Origen went on to incorporate this revelation from the Logos seamlessly into his treatment of the verse, concluding with comments concerning the way in which the Christian might truly ‘seek God with the hands’, namely, through the sacrificial following of Christ. Similarly, in our final example, from his Homilies on Jeremiah, Origen claims again that the Logos speaks to him, pointing him toward another reading concerning himself. In this instance, the Logos’ direct communication with Origen requires that the Alexandrian pastorally ‘handle’ the teaching being given by the Logos before communicating it with his audience. In Homily 20 on Jer. 20, Origen seeks to interpret Jer. 20:9, ‘it arose in my heart as a burning fire … and I could not bear it’. The words cause Origen to reflect on his own desire to feel a fire in his heart after he has sinned, and as he does so, he seems to be interrupted by the Logos himself, who Origen claims, is ‘about to dare something (μέλλει τι ὁ λόγος τολμᾶν)’.34 Origen then expresses some hesitation about sharing with his audience what has been communicated with him, saying, ‘I do not know for what sort of audience it is fitting (συμφέρον)’.35 Nevertheless, he divulges what he has heard from the Logos, namely, that there exists an imperceptible punishing ‘fire’, which he then describes in detail. In fact, he explains, it is the fire about which Christ spoke in the Gospels, saying, ‘I came to cast fire on the earth’ (Lk. 12:49), and which burned in the hearts of Simon and Cleopas on the road to Emmaeus (Lk. 24:32).36 The source of this fire, then, is Christ, and like Simon and Cleopas, who received fire in their hearts on the road to Emmaeus, Origen’s claims to receive it occur as he explains the prophetic words to his hearers. The remainder of the homily is spent discussing who (else) is worthy to receive this imperceptible fire of the heart, and, according to Origen, it was the Logos himself who nudged him in this interpretive direction. In conclusion, I hope that I have demonstrated that Origen understood himself as an exegetical mediator of the Logos’ teachings in the Old Testament, an often obscure and doctrinally difficult body of texts. Origen believed that a spiritually mature exegete shared affinities with those other mediators of the Logos, the biblical authors themselves, and that as an inheritor of their prophetic and apostolic lineage, he shared their mediating task. Not only that, but as he interpreted the Old Testament, like the inspired biblical authors, Origen heard directly from the Logos, and was thus the ideal intermediary through whom his audience heard Christ’s voice. I contend that the extent to which subsequent interpreters of Scripture shared Origen’s vision of the ideal biblical interpreter requires further attention. 33 34 35 36

Ibid. HomJer 20.8.4, ed. Fürst and Lona (2018), 516; trans. Smith (1998), 239. Ibid. HomJer 20.8.4, ed. Fürst and Lona (2018), 518; trans. Smith (1998), 239.

Purity of Heart in Origen’s Psalm Homilies John C. SOLHEID, Faculty of Theology, University of St. Michael’s College, Toronto, Canada

ABSTRACT Origen’s recently discovered Homilies on the Psalms has provided Origen scholars and scholars of Patristics with a rich new source to explore the Alexandrian’s thought. For example, on several occasions, Origen discusses the concept of purity of heart when explaining the Psalm passage at hand. Paying particular attention to the exegetical contexts in which Origen’s use of this concept occurs, I argue that behind the preacher explaining a theological concept to his audience was the grammarian teaching his listeners how to properly read the Bible. Origen understood the heart to the locus of the most intimate encounter with God, thus making it the central location of the reader’s encounter with the Logos mediated through the text. Through the literary device of homonymy, and Origen’s application of Matt. 5:8, Origen guided his listeners towards a reading of the Bible that penetrated it’s outer/somatic language into its inner subject matter, Christ himself.

1. Introduction While preaching on the verse ‘until the night my kidneys instructed me’ (Ps. 15:7), Origen explained how the kidneys in question were not bodily kidneys, but spiritual kidneys containing the roots of thoughts before they ascend to the heart.1 Two recent articles have treated Origen’s discourse on this verse, paying particular attention to his discussion of the ‘kidneys’ and ‘heart’. Róbert Somos focused particularly on Origen’s understanding of the role of the ‘kidneys’ in the ‘developmental process’ of decision making.2 Lorenzo Perrone connected Origen’s discourse to his broader understanding of the heart, and argued that the chief insight from this homily was Christological.3 In this essay, I will complement the insights of Somos and Perrone by extending the discussion 1 Origenes Werke XIII. Die Neuen Psalmenhomilien, ed. Lorenzo Perrone, GCS 94 (Berlin, 2015), 18-20. Hom. 2.3 in Ps. 15. Ὡς εἰ ἔλεγον καὶ περὶ ἀνθρωπίνης ψυχῆς τὸ ἀνάλογον, ἐχούσης ἐν τοῖς νεφροῖς τὰ πρὸ τοῦ ἀνατεῖλαι ἐπὶ τὴν καρδίαν νοήματα καὶ διαλογισμῶν σπέρματα, τὰ ἔνδον προόντα δυνάμει. 2 Róbert Somos, ‘Origen on the Kidneys’, SP 81 (2017), 65-77. 3 Lorenzo Perrone, ‘I cuori e i reni: Note sull’interpretazione origeniana di Sal 7,10’, Adamantius 22 (2016), 87-104, esp. 98-103.

Studia Patristica CXI, 111-123. © Peeters Publishers, 2021.



beyond Hom. 2 in Ps. 15 and include similar discussions in three other homilies, Hom. 3 and 4 in Ps. 76 and Hom. 1 in Ps. 36. The literary or grammatical concept behind the discussion in each of the cases examined below is homonymy, a term having a long history prior to Origen in both philosophical and grammatical contexts. In the texts analyzed below, Origen applied homonymy and its paradigm in Matt. 5:8 in order to penetrate beneath the letter of the text and open the depths of the spiritual meaning for his audience. In light of this, I argue here that not only does Origen’s understanding of purity of heart and his use of Matt. 5:8 in these homilies have anthropological and Christological implications. Origen’s discussions of the heart within the context of biblical homonymy also has implications for the kind of readers Origen was attempting to fashion in his audience. Origen’s teaching on purity of heart in these homilies was specifically aimed at moving his audience to a direct encounter with the Logos incarnate in the biblical text, an encounter which took place in the heart. 2. The texts My Kidneys Instructed Me (Ps. 15:7a): Hom. 2 in Ps. 15 The lengthiest discussion on the heart and the influence of Matt. 5:8 in the Psalm Homilies is found in his Hom. 2.3 in Ps. 15. Origen had already attributed this Psalm text to the Saviour,4 giving the homily a particularly Christological framework. When Origen approached the verse: my kidneys instructed me until the night (Ps. 15:7a), he began by saying that he was unaware of anywhere outside of the Word (ἔξω τοῦ λόγου) where the kidneys were understood with respect to understanding and aptitude.5 He then immediately gave the text at hand a biblical framework with a paraphrase of Ps. 7:10c, where God is said to be one who ‘examines hearts and kidneys’. Origen then returned to his Christological discourse, with which he began the homily, identifying these same kidneys within the soul of Jesus.6 He qualified his remarks by pointing out that the ‘kidneys’ did not refer to the ‘firstborn of all creation’ (Col. 1:15), but to the ‘Son of Man’ (John 3:13), particularly 4 Origen, Hom. 2.1 in Ps. 15 (GCS 19, 91.19-92.1). Ὅρα οὖν πόσοι μάρτυρες ἐμαρτύρησαν περὶ τοῦ τὸν ψαλμὸν τοῦτον ἐκ προσώπου εἰρῆσθαι τοῦ Χριστοῦ. Origen cited Peter’s words in Acts 2:25-8 as proof that this psalm was spoken in the persona of Christ. Hom. 2.1 in Ps 15 (GCS 19, 91.9-15). 5 Origen, Hom. 2.3 in Ps. 15 (GCS 19, 94.7-8). Οὐκ οἶδα δὴ τούς νεφρούς παραλαμβανομένους τοῖς ἔξω τοῦ λόγου εἰς τά περὶ συνέσεως ἤ ἐντρεχείας πράγματα ὡς ἐν τῇ γραφῇ. 6 Origen, Hom. 2.3 in Ps. 15 (GCS 19, 94.15-7). Οὗτοι οὖν οἱ νεφροί φημι οἱ ἀναλόγους τῇ καθαρότητι τῆς καρδίας ἔχοντες τὰς ῥίζας καὶ τὰς ἀρχὰς τῶν νοημάτων, μεθ’ ὧν ἐπιδεδήμηκεν ὁ λέγων οὐκ ἐγκαταλείψεις τὴν ψυχήν μου εἰς τὸν ᾅδην (Ps. 15:10a), παιδεύουσι τὴν ψυχὴν τοῦ Ἰησοῦ.

Purity of Heart in Origen’s Psalm Homilies


to his sinlessness. Origen remarked that there was nothing surprising about the impeccability of the ‘firstborn of creation’, but that praise was certainly due to ‘Jesus the man’, who did not sin.7 These ideas and thoughts, the Stoic concept of the innate ideas is hovering in the background,8 even instructed the Son of Man, whom the Father sent for the sake of human beings. Origen then cites Ps. 50:7 to demonstrate the distinction between the soul of Jesus and the soul of other human beings. The implication of Origen’s argument is that the distinguishing characteristic of the soul of Jesus was its impeccability. ‘All of us’, he says ‘knew sin, we who speak mystically: in lawlessness I was conceived and in sin my mother craved for me, but I do not know what kind’.9 Perrone suggests that embedded in this distinction between the condition of the human soul of Jesus and the souls of other human beings is a trace of Origen’s doctrine of the pre-existence of souls.10 The soul of Jesus, because it possessed these pedagogical kidneys, did not know sin. For other human beings, there is an educational process that must unfold so that the seeds of thoughts existing in potential (προόντα δυνάμει) before ascending to the heart11 receive proper cultivation. At any rate, Origen turned Jesus, who also possessed these spiritual kidneys, into a model for how the pedagogy of the soul takes place. Origen then turns to a discourse on the grammatical concept ‘homonymy’12 to demonstrate the biblical use of the term ‘kidneys (νεφροὶ)’. ‘Indeed, these kidneys, not the bodily kidneys, are named in an analogous way (ἀναλόγως ὀνομαζόμενοι) to heart (for, when a heart is said to be pure such as blessed is the pure in heart (cf. Matt. 5:8), it is not the heart in the body that is understood 7 Ἐγὼ οὐ θαυμάζω, ἐὰν τὰ γεγραμμένα περὶ τοῦ μὴ ἡμαρτηκέναι τὸν σωτῆρα ἀναφέρῃ τις ἐπὶ τὸν πρωτότοκον πάσης κτίσεως (Col. 1:15). Ὁ γὰρ ἐπὶ τῷ τοιούτῳ θαυμάζων ὅμοιον ποιεῖ ὡσεὶ θαυμάζων ὅτι ὁ θεὸς ὁ ποιήσας τὸν οὐρανὸν καὶ τὴν γῆν οὐχ ἥμαρτεν, μὴ εἰδὼς ὅτι οὐ πέφυκεν ἁμαρτάνειν ὁ θεός. Οὕτως οὐ πέφυκεν ἁμαρτάνειν ὁ λόγος τοῦ θεοῦ, οὐ δύναται ἁμαρτάνειν ὁ πρωτότοκος πάσης κτίσεως (Col. 1:15). Ἀλλὰ ὁ ἔπαινος περὶ τοῦ μὴ ἁμαράνειν τὸν Ἰησοῦν ἐπὶ τὸν ἄνθρωπον ἀναφέρεται, ὅς ἁμαρτίαν οὐκ ἐποίησεν οὐδὲ εὑρέθη δόλος ἐν τῷ στόματι αὐτοῦ (1Pet. 2:22). 8 R. Somos, ‘Origen on the Kidneys’ (2017), 75. 9 Origen, Hom. 2.3 in Ps. 15 (GCS 19, 96.4-6). Πάντες γὰρ ἡμεῖς ἔγνωμεν ἁμαρτίαν, οἵτινες λέγομεν μυστικῶς· ἐν ἀνομίαις συνελήφθην καὶ ἐν ἁμαρτίαις ἐκίσσησέ με ἡ μήτηρ μου (Ps. 50:7), καὶ οὐκ οἶδα ποίαις. 10 L. Perrone, ‘I cuori a i reni’ (2016), 102. Earlier in the homily, Origen distinguished the first-born of all creation from the human soul of Jesus: Εἶτε κατὰ τὸν πρωτότοκον πάσης κτίσεως, εἶτε κατὰ τὴν πρὸ τοῦ σώματος ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ, καὶ νῦν δὲ εὐλογήσω, φησί, τὸν κύριον, δηλονότι τὸν πατέρα, τὸν συνεστίσαντά με (Ps. 15:7a). Τίς ἐστιν ὁ λέγων ταῦτα ἤ ὁ προφητευόμενος, ὡς προεῖπον, ἄνθρωπος; 11 Origen, Hom. 2.3 in Ps. 15 (GCS 19, 94.18-20). Ὡς εἰ ἔλεγον καὶ περὶ ἀνθρωπίνης ψυχῆς τὸ ἀνάλογον, ἐχούσης ἐν τοῖς νεφροῖς τὰ πρὸ τοῦ ἀνατεῖλαι ἐπὶ τὴν καρδίαν νοήματα καὶ διαλογισμῶν σπέρματα, τὰ ἔνδον προόντα δυνάμει. 12 For Origen’s use of homonymy, see Joseph W. Trigg, Origen (New York, 1998), 17, 41, 47, 59.



to be blessed, that which we even see in irrational animals)’.13 He then applies an argument almost identical to his discussion in First Principles 1.1.9:14 In a similar way, the eyes of the soul are said to be illuminated by the commandment of God (cf. Ps. 18:9) homonymously (ὁμωνύμως) with the eyes of the body, since the eyes of the soul act in a way analogous to the work of the eyes of the body: the eyes of the body see bodies and colors and the eyes of the soul see intellectual things. So too, the ears of the soul are spoken homonymously with the ears of the body.15

Origen’s application of homonymy here rested on a similarity in function between the two kinds of organs. In order to understand the spiritual organ, one first needed to know the function of the bodily organ.16 Origen continued that just as the bodily heart (καρδία τοῦ σώματος), regarded as the ‘governing faculty (τὸ ἡγεμονικόν)’ of the body is homonymous (ὁμωνύμως) with the heart of the soul (καρδία ψυχῆς), so too were the ‘bodily kidneys (σωματικοί νεφροὶ)’ homonymous with the ‘kidneys of the soul (νεφροὶ ψυχῆς)’.17 Following an ‘out-of-date’ medical theory,18 Origen identified the kidneys as the male procreative organ which generates sperm. In the same way, the kidneys of the soul were the seats of ‘spiritual seeds’, which rose to the heart and developed into mature thoughts and actions.19 Just as the bodily kidneys provided the seminal fluid necessary for procreation, the spiritual kidneys provided the seminal ideas and thoughts, the ‘law written in the heart (Rom. 2:15)’, which would come to maturity if properly cultivated.20 In this homily, the concept ‘purity of heart’ played only a subordinate role allowing Origen to develop his exegesis of the ‘kidneys’ in light of his Christological concerns. However, the relevance of his application of Matt. 5:8 as an intertext for his understanding of the concept ‘purity of heart’ should not be overlooked. Besides its purpose as a biblical paradigm for homonymy, Origen’s discourse on the heart as the ἡγεμονικόν places the spiritual organ at the centre, or perhaps it is better to say at the pinnacle of the human person’s intellectual 13

Origen, Hom. 2.3 in Ps. 15 (GCS 19, 94.12-4). Origen, Prin. 1.1.9 (Behr 38-9). ‘the names of bodily parts are taken by way of analogy to their bodily function as referring to the faculties of the soul’. 15 Origen, Hom 2.5 in Ps. 15 (GCS 19, 100.19-101.3). Οἷον ὀφθαλμοὶ λέγονται ψυχῆς φωτιζόμενοι εἶναι ὑπὸ τῆς ἐντολῆς τοῦ θεοῦ ὁμωνύμως τοῖς ὀφθαλμοῖς τοῦ σώματος, ἐπεὶ ἀνάλογον τῷ ἔργῳ τῶν ὀφθαλμῶν τοῦ σώματος ποιοῦσιν οἱ ὀφθαλμοὶ τῆς ψυχῆς· οἱ ὀφθαλμοὶ τοῦ σώματος βλέπουσι σώματα καὶ χρώματα καὶ οἱ ὀφθαλμοὶ τῆς ψυχῆς βλέπουσι τὰ νοητά. Οὕτως καὶ ὦτα λέγεται ψυχῆς ὁμωνύμως τοῖς ὠσὶ τοῦ σώματος. 16 R. Somos, ‘Origen on the Kidneys’ (2017), 69. 17 Origen, Hom. 2.5 in Ps. 15 (GCS 19, 101.4-10). 18 R. Somos, ‘Origen on the Kidneys’ (2017), 71. 19 Origen, Hom. 2.5 in Ps. 15 (GCS 19, 101.10-4). Οὕτως ἀνάλογον τῷ γινομένῳ ἐν τοῖς νεφροῖς γίνεται ἐν τοῖς νεφροῖς τῆς ψυχῆς· ἐν τοῖς νεφροῖς συνίσταται τὰ σπέρματα καὶ ὁ ἄρρην περὶ τοὺς νεφροὺς ταῦτα ἔχει, καὶ οὕτως γόνιμος γίνεται. Οὕτως ἡ γόνιμος ψυχὴ τὰς δυνάμεις ἔχει τῶν πνευματικῶν σπερμάτων ἐν νεφροῖς ψυχῆς. 20 R. Somos, ‘Origen on the Kidneys’ (2017), 75. 14

Purity of Heart in Origen’s Psalm Homilies


processes.21 Moreover, like the faculties of sense-perception, each of which had objects proper to itself, so too did the heart have objects proper to it. We will see this doctrine unfold more explicitly in the next two homilies. The waters saw you, O God, and were afraid (Ps. 76:17) – Hom. 3 in Ps. 76 Origen began his Hom. 3 in Ps. 76 by asking his audience what kind of waters could ‘see God, since human beings receive this end (τέλος) after much toil (μετὰ πολλοῦ καμάτου) according to what scripture says: Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God (Matt. 5:8)’.22 But, how could an inanimate object see God? To solve this conundrum, Origen interpreted the waters as spiritual powers, focusing on the distinction between the Spirit which was over the waters, and the darkness that was over the abyss in the creation account from Genesis.23 Origen based this intertextual reading on the distinction he saw implicit in Ps. 76 between the ‘waters (ὕδατα)’ that saw God and were afraid, and the ‘depths (ἄβυσσοι)’, which were ‘thrown into confusion (ἐταράχθησαν)’.24 Origen considered the references to the ‘waters’ and the ‘abyss’ in Ps. 76 to be allusions to two distinct kinds of intellectual beings. However, in order to buttress his argument and demonstrate his point on grammatical grounds, Origen again turned to the principle of homonymy: if everything in the world is managed by powers being set over them and assigned to everything, why is it out of place for the things that manage to be termed homonymously with things that are being managed and the waters [to be] called powers over the waters, for the seas the be called powers over the seas, and also the depths [to be called] powers over the abyss?25

Origen then turns to juxtapose Isa. 14:9 (‘Hades below was embittered meeting you’) and Ps. 9:18 (‘Let sinners be turned away to Hades’) to show that while Hades was ‘a place of souls (τόπος ψυχῶν)’, there is also ‘a living Hades with the same name (ὁμώνυμον) in that passage (i.e. Isa. 14:9), who is called Hades’.26 He draws this lesson out further with references to Ps. 113:3, regarding the sea, which ‘saw and fled (εἴδεν καὶ ἔφυγεν)’, saying that it was ‘homonymously (ὁμωνύμως) called the power administering things pertaining to the sea and [the power] guiding the people of God (ἡ δύναμις ἡ διοικοῦσα 21

L. Perrone, ‘I cuori e i reni’ (2016), 101-2. Origen, Hom. 3.1 in Ps. 76 (GCS 19, 326.1-3). 23 Origen, Hom. 3.1 in Ps. 76 (GCS 19, 328.5-329.17). 24 Origen, Hom. 3.2 in Ps. 76 (GCS 19, 329.19-20). 25 Origen, Hom 3.2 in Ps. 76 (GCS 19, 331.12-7). Εἰ οὖν πάντα δυνάμεων ἐπιστατουσῶν καὶ μεμερισμένων πάντα τὰ ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ οἰκονομεῖται, τί ἄτοπον ὁμωνύμως τοῖς οἰκονομουμένοις τὰ οἰκονομοῦντα ὀνομάζεσθαι καὶ λέγεσθαι ὕδατα τὰς δυνάμεις τὰς ἐπὶ τῶν ὑδάτων, λέγεσθαι θαλάσσας τὰς δυνάμεις τὰς ἐπὶ τῆς θαλάσσης, καὶ οὕτως ἀβύσσους τὰς δυνάμεις τὰς ἐπὶ τῆς ἀβύσσου; 26 Origen, Hom. 3.2 in Ps. 76 (GCS 19, 332.1-3). 22



τὰ κατὰ τὴν θάλασσαν καὶ ὁδοποιοῦσα τῷ λαῷ τοῦ θεοῦ ὠνομάσθη)’. The passage, ‘the Jordan was turned backwards (Ps. 113:3b)’ was also a case of homonymy, since the name ‘Jordan’ could be used for the river itself and the power entrusted with governing (ἡ δύναμις ἡ ἐγκεχειρισμένη τὴν διοίκησιν) it.27 Origen’s interpretation of the verse, the waters saw you, O God, and were afraid, and the deep was troubled. A great roaring of the waters (Ps. 76:17), drew his audience to the conclusion that the first waters experienced ‘tranquility and silence (εὐστάθεια καὶ ἡσυχία)’ simply contemplating (θεωρέω) God, while the deep was shaken (ταράσσω) as in a state of confusion.28 With the reference to Matt. 5:8, tranquility and silence were conditions associated with a pure heart, a heart that remains still in the presence of God. Moreover, here Origen connects the spiritual heart with the organ of spiritual vision, the organ capable of beholding God. However, it was not necessarily that an unclean heart could not see God. The ‘deep’ did indeed have such a vision. The difference was that those with a pure heart would not be shaken, would not be disturbed by such a vision. A voice of your thunder was in the circuit (Ps. 76:19a) – Hom. 4 in Ps. 76. The prologue to Origen’s Hom. 4 in Ps. 76 was a masterful display of rhetoric in which he set out to describe the various ways by which ‘God arouses the slumbering human nature as if waking from sleep’.29 He opened with a description of how the arts (τέχναι) such as music can lead the soul into idolatry (ἐκλύουσι τὴν ψυχὴν ἕκλουσι καὶ εἰς εἰδωλολατρίαν φέρουσι).30 He then admonished his audience for valorizing those human arts, rather than contemplating (κατανοέω) God through the medium of the natural world.31 He said that through such objects of sense-perception, both auditory and visual (παρὰ τὴν ὅρασιν καὶ τὴν ἀκοήν) God exhorts us (προτρέπει ἡμᾶς) to look upon the created world. Through objects of sense perception, such as flowers and plants, God’s very own odours can be contemplated.32 Origen then addresses his audience: We are obliged, then, if in objects of sense perception, God is found [using] these same arts in order to exhort us to religion, to inquire what God can do in the mightier things 27

Origen, Hom. 3.2 in Ps. 76 (GCS 19, 332.3-7). Origen, Hom. 3.3 in Ps. 76 (GCS 19, 336.8-11). 29 Origen, Hom. 4.1 in Ps. 76 (GCS 19, 341.1-2). Ῥαθυμοῦσαν τὴν ἀνθρωπίνην φύσιν ὁ θεὸς ποικίλως διαναστῆσαι βούλεται καὶ ὥσπερ ἐξ ὕπνου ἐγεῖραι. 30 Origen, Hom. 4.1 in Ps. 76 (GCS 19, 341.11-2). 31 Origen, Hom. 4.1 in Ps. 76 (GCS 19, 341.13). This is a common theme in the Psalm Homilies. Sometimes, however, Origen contrasts objects inappropriate for human affection with the Bible. See, for example, Hom. 1.2 in Ps. 76 (GCS 19, 295.5-12), Hom. 5.5 in Ps. 77 (GCS 19, 414.1-7). 32 Origen, Hom. 4.1 in Ps. 76 (GCS 19, 341.17-26). 28

Purity of Heart in Origen’s Psalm Homilies


– I mean in things distinct from objects of sense perception – in order that you may judge things of sense perception and contemplating sensible objects and things from the world and [look upon] the one who created the world. For, no one among humankind sees, nor is able to see God (1Tim. 6:16): nevertheless, there is a super-human element (ὑπὲρ ἄνθρωπον) in us – and this is the mind (νοῦς) – that sees God, if it is pure: Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God (Matt. 5:8).33

However, he said that many people do not comprehend God, since they have ‘an unclean eye of the soul, or mind (ἀκάθαρτον τὸν τῆς ψυχῆς ὀφθαλμὸν, τὸν νοῦν)’, that is ‘fettered (ἐμποδίζεται)’ ‘by the passions (πάθη), by evil (κακία), by the love of life (ὑπὸ τῆς ἀγάπης τοῦ βίου), by anxieties and cares (ὑπὸ τῶν μεριμνῶν καὶ φροντίδων)’.34 A pure eye of the soul, i.e. heart, is one that has been properly trained to free itself from the passions. The implication here is that if the heart was not pure, the person would mistake the arts, and the created world, for the proper object of devotion, God. In other words, if the heart was not pure, the person would fall into idolatry. Origen does not, in this instance, provide a lesson for his audience in homonymy. He certainly could have seized this opportunity to do so. Nevertheless, the content of Origen’s discourse, especially the allusion to Matt. 5:8, is consistent with his use of homonymy. As we saw in the previous examples, Origen often used homonymy to explain the Bible’s way of using objects of sense perception to signify intellectual objects. That seems to be the case in this homily as he warns his audience against attaching a significance to the human arts rather than the wonders of the natural world. At any rate, his words on the anxieties and cares for temporal things suggests that he was concerned to direct his audience’s attention away from such bodily or perceptible things and towards intellectual or spiritual things. Delight in the Lord and he will give you the requests of your heart (Ps. 36:4) – Hom. 1 in Ps. 36 Origen prefaced his remarks on Ps. 36 by telling his audience that the subject matter of this particular psalm was ethical (ἠθικός ἐστι τόπος).35 Following the opening verse (‘Do not fret among those who act wickedly nor be jealous of those who do lawlessness’), he first encouraged his audience to neither provoke others to jealousy,36 nor provoke God to jealousy through idolatry,37 nor to be jealous of those who are wealthy or of high status.38 However, when 33 34 35 36 37 38

Origen, Origen, Origen, Origen, Origen, Origen,

Hom. Hom. Hom. Hom. Hom. Hom.

4.1 4.1 1.1 1.1 1.1 1.2

in in in in in in

Ps. Ps. Ps. Ps. Ps. Ps.

76 (GCS 76 (GCS 36 (GCS 36 (GCS 36 (GCS 36 (GCS

19, 19, 19, 19, 19, 19,

342.1-7). 342.8-14). 113.7). 113.11-114.21). 114.22-117.15). 118.7-120.7).



Origen arrived at v. 4, his discourse turns to the heart’, with another lesson in homonymy. Origen began by directing his audience’s attention to the customary language of the Bible: ‘It is the custom in scripture to introduce two men and to make each homonyms of the other men’.39 Origen first made reference to scripture’s way of discussing the ‘inner (ἔσω)’ and ‘outer (ἔξω)’ person. Just as there is food and drink for the outer person, so too there is food and drink for the inner person. Later, as his discussion of the ‘heart’ continues, he applies an argument similar to the one we saw in Hom. 2 in Ps. 15: If you understand that regarding each of the senses there is a corresponding request and a corresponding rejection in its constitution, then consider that the inner heart is your mind, the inner [heart] is the governing faculty (ἡγεμονικόν), in order that you see what happens to you in the heart is also what your heart requests: as the eye [requests] light, as the sense of smell [requests] a pleasant odor, as the sense of hearing requests harmonious sound, so too the heart, that is the mind, requests ideas, requests thoughts, requests understandings. So, should you delight in the Lord, God will give to you the requests of your heart (Ps. 36:4b).40

Notably, Origen does not apply Matt. 5:8 in this particular passage as a paradigm for the Bible’s use of homonyms as he did in Hom. 2 in Ps. 15. However, the content of this passage is remarkably similar to a passage from the first book of de Principiis, in which he did apply Matt. 5:8 to explain how the Bible uses somatic language with reference to the soul.41 Nevertheless, his message was that the proper objects for which a Christian should request were intellectual, or divine, objects. Thus, earlier in the homily he exhorted his audience to not provoke God to jealousy by jealously seeking temporal goods.42 Origen, Hom. 1.4 in Ps. 36 (GCS 19, 121.19-20). Ἔθος ἐστὶ τῇ γραφῇ δύο ἀνθρώπους εἰσάγειν καὶ καθ’ ἕκαστον ὁμώνυμα ποιεῖν τοῦ ἑτέρου τῶν ἀνθρώπων. See also Dial. 11.16-9 (SC 67, 78). 40 Origen, Hom. 1.4 in Ps. 36 (GCS 19, 124.3-10). Εἰ νοεῖς ὅτι ἑκάστου τῶν αἰσθητηρίων ἐστὶν αἴτησις κατάλληλος καὶ φυγὴ κατάλληλος τῇ κατασκευῇ, βλέπε τὴν καρδίαν ἔνθα ἐστί σου ὁ νοῦς, ἔνθα ἐστὶ τὸ ἡγεμονικόν, ἵνα ἴδῃς τί γίνεται σοι ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ καὶ τί αἰτεῖ ἡ καρδία· ὡς ὁ ὀφθαλμὸς τὸ φῶς, ὡς ἡ ὄσφρησις τὸ εὐὠδες, ὡς ἡ ἀκοὴ τὸ ἑμμελές, οὕτως ἡ καρδία, ὁ νοῦς αἰτεῖ τὰ νοήματα, αἰτεῖ τὰ διανοητά, αἰτεῖ τὰ συνετά. Ἐὰν οὖν κατατρυφήσῃς τοῦ κυρίου δώσει σοι ὁ θεὸς τὰ αἰτήματα τῆς καρδίας σου (Ps. 36:4b). See also, Origen, Dialogue with Heraclides, 11.24-32 (SC 67, 78-80). ‘I have found that non-bodily (οὐ σωματικά) things are termed homonymously (ὁμωνύμως) with all bodily things (πᾶσι τοῖς σωματικοῖς) so that bodily things might correspond to the outer man (κατὰ τὸν ἔξω ἄνθρωπον), but that the homonyms for bodily things correspond to the inner man (ὁμώνυμα τοῖς σωματικοῖς κατὰ τὸν ἔσω).’ 41 Origen, Prin. 1.1.9 (Behr 38-9). ‘But, if someone lays before us the question why it was said: Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God, from that very passage in my opinion, will our argument be much more firmly established… For the names of the organs of sense are frequently applied to the soul…’ See also the preceding discussion in Prin. 1.1.7 (Behr 34-4). 42 Origen, Hom. 1.1-2 in Ps. 36 (GCS 19, 114.22-115.9; 118.7-24). 39

Purity of Heart in Origen’s Psalm Homilies


3. Homonymy and the Bible So far, I have shown that a common thread underpinning Origen’s exegesis in these homilies is the principle of homonymy, which had a long history prior to Origen. According to Aristotle, ‘things are homonyms (ὁμώνυμα), when they have the name only in common, the definition corresponding with the (ὁ δὲ κατὰ τοὔνομα λόγος) name being different’.43 He considered homonymy to be a cause of fallacy due to ambiguous language, such as the expression: ‘those who know, learn; for it is those who know the use of letters that learn what is dictated to them’. In this case, Aristotle pointed out that the verb ‘to learn (τὸ μανθάνειν)’ is a ‘homonym (ὁμώνυμον)’ meaning both ‘to understand by using knowledge and to acquire knowledge (τό τε ξυνιέναι χρώμενον τῇ ἐπιστήμῃ καὶ τὸ λαμβάνειν ἐπιστήμην)’.44 Commenting on Aristotle, Galen used the example: ‘I have pursued a κύων’, demonstrating that κύων is a homonym giving the sentence more than one meaning.45 Homonymy was also a subject in need of study among the grammarians. Dionysius Thrax defined it in the following way: ‘A homonym (ὁμώνυμον) is a term (ὄνομα) used equivocally (ὁμωνύμως) of many things, such as in the case of proper names, like Ajax son of Telamon and Ajax son of Oileus, or in the case of appellatives, like sea-mouse (μῦς θαλάσσιος = mussel) and landmouse (μῦς γηγενής)’.46 In the former, Ajax is the same name, but could refer to two different people. In the latter, the common noun ‘mouse’ could be applied to two different species. The problem was that homonyms create ambiguity, making interpretation difficult. In the homilies analyzed above, we see Origen’s application of the principle of homonymy is consistent with the classical tradition. Moreover, in the texts examined above, we also see that when Origen applied the principle of homonymy to clarify ambiguous diction in the Bible, he frequently appealed to Matt. 5:8. For example, in Hom. 2 in Ps. 15, Origen prefaced his remarks by saying that he did not know of anywhere outside the Word (ἔξω τοῦ λόγου), where the kidneys were used in relation to faculties of understanding or ability (περὶ συνέσεως ἤ ἐντρεχείας).47 Origen then introduces the concept of homonymy to explain the strange linguistic usage of ‘kidneys’ in the Bible, using Matt. 5:8 as the biblical paradigm.48 While he did not appeal to Matt. 5:8 in every discussion of homonymy, his use of it suggests that this passage functioned as a biblical paradigm for homonymy. 43 44 45 46 47 48

Aristotle, Categories 1.1 (LCL 12-3). See also, J.W. Trigg, Origen (1998), 244 n. 10. Aristotle, On Sophistical Refutations 4 (LCL 18-9). Galen, On Language and Ambiguity, trans. Robert Blair Edlow (Leiden, 1977), 89-90. Dionysius Thrax, Ars Grammatica 12.6. Origen, Hom. 2.3 in Ps. 15 (GCS 19, 94.7-8). Origen, Hom. 2.3 in Ps. 15 (GCS 19, 94.12-7).



In Hom. 2 in Ps. 15, Origen applied Matt. 5:8 in order to teach his audience that the kidneys (νεφροί) were not the bodily (σωματικοί) kidneys, but the kidneys of the soul.49 In Hom. 3 in Ps. 76, Origen used homonymy and Matt. 5:8 to explain how the waters of Ps. 76:17 could ‘see God’, a feat only possible for human beings if their heart was pure. In Hom. 4 in Ps. 76, while not explicitly using the principle of homonymy, Origen’s teaching on the usefulness of objects of sense-perception for contemplating God turned directly on Matt. 5:8. Also, in Hom. 1 in Ps. 36, Origen’s entire discussion was centred on homonymy in the Bible. 4. Purity of heart in the Psalm homilies Scholars have long known that Origen’s understanding of the ‘heart’ is a combination of the Platonic concept ‘mind (νοῦς)’ and the Stoic concept ἡγεμονικόν.50 For the Stoics, the ἡγεμονικόν was the governing faculty of the soul. It was the part of the soul responsible for mental/psychic operations, ‘producing images and assent to the images, perceptions and impulses (τὸ ποιοῦν τὰς φαντασίας καὶ συγκαταθέσεις καὶ αἰσθήσεις καὶ ὁρμάς)’.51 In other words, it was the locus of the moral struggle, the centre of the psychological operations involved in decision making. Origen applied this use of the ἡγεμονικόν in his discourse on free will in the third book of On First Principles. There, Origen distinguished the different movements of animate beings. Spiders, for example, will weave a web when an image (φαντασία) arises ‘inciting an impulse (ὁρμὴν προκαλουμένης)’. In contrast, the rational being, ‘in addition to its imaginative nature, also has reason, which judges the images, rejecting some and accepting others’. This rational process, Origen notes, occurs in the ἡγεμονικόν.52 However, for Origen, the heart, i.e. ἡγεμονικόν, was more than just the centre of mental operations. It was also the location of the most intimate encounter with God.53 We see this in both Origen’s Commentary on John 13 and his Commentary on Matthew 14. In the former, after finishing his discourse on Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4:13-39, Origen turned to the following verse in which the Samaritans ask Jesus to remain with them. 49

Origen, Hom. 2.5 in Ps. 15 (GCS 19, 101.6-14). See for example, Benjamin P. Blosser, Become Like the Angels: Origen’s Doctrine of the Soul (Washington, DC, 2012), 89-92; Henri Crouzel, ‘Le cœur selon Origène’, BLE 85 (1984), 5-16, 99-110. Crouzel, Origen, trans. A.S. Worrall (Edinburgh, 1985), 87-92; and Juana Raasch, ‘Philo, Clement of Alexandria, and Origen’, in The Monastic Concept of Purity of Heart and its Sources III = Studia Monastica 10 (1966), 24-55. In Comm. in Jo. 1.30.206 (GCS 10, 37.16), Origen equates it with the διανοητικόν. 51 SVF 2.836. Also, SVF 1.143; 2.879. 52 Origen, De prin. 3.1.2-4 (Behr 286-91). 53 L. Perrone, ‘I cuori e i reni’ (2016), 94. 50

Purity of Heart in Origen’s Psalm Homilies


Origen said that it was not in the city where they wanted Jesus to remain, but ‘with them’, that is to say, in their ἡγεμονικόν.54 More important than Jesus’ spatial presence with the Samaritans was his spiritual presence. It is noteworthy that this allusion to the ἡγεμονικόν in the John Commentary comes at the conclusion of a lengthy dialectical encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman, after which the latter renounced her previous way of life.55 After the preliminary work of reason, further instruction is still necessary. In his Matthew Commentary, Origen prefaced his remarks on the servants from the parable of the unforgiving servant in Matt. 18 by positing that no one could properly interpret the meaning without the help of Jesus himself: ‘No one can explain it unless Jesus, who explained ‘all things for his own disciples in private (Mark 4:34) resides in one’s governing faculty (ἐπιδημήσαντος αὐτοῦ τῷ ἡγεμονικῷ), and opens all the dark, hidden, invisible treasures in the parable’.56 Here, we see a direct intersection between anthropology and exegesis for Origen. From an anthropological perspective, the heart was the locus of the most intimate encounter with Christ.57 From an exegetical perspective, this encounter involved Christ opening the depths of scripture for the Christian reader. This is most relevant in Hom. 2 in Ps. 15, in which the kidneys and heart provide a model for the relationship between the letter and spirit of the text.58 The heart, i.e. ἡγεμονικόν, then, is the part of the soul on which Christ acts, pruning it by cutting off the excess baggage of material concerns, and implanting divine thoughts. As we saw in his Hom. 4 in Ps. 76, Origen defined this excess baggage as a soul ‘fettered (ἐμποδίζεται)’ by the passions (πάθη).59 If the ἡγεμονικόν was the location of the soul’s most intimate contact with God, cultivating this ‘organ of prayer’60 would have been a prerequisite for such contact, fostering what Perrone termed ‘spiritual prayer’.61 In Hom. 2 in Ps. 15 Origen explains the distinction between ‘psychic’ and ‘spiritual’ people. Here, Origen addresses those who are mistaken ‘about the truth regarding the doctrine of the soul (ἀληθῆ περὶ ψυχῆς λόγον)’, specifically those who held that the human person was composed of three parts, with the soul in the middle (μέση), the body as the lower part (κάτω), and the spirit as the higher part (ἄνω). These same interlocutors, presumably Gnostics62 given the anthropology Origen is critiquing here, designate some people as ‘psychic 54

Origen, Comm. in Jo. 13.182 (GCS 10, 254.27-8). Origen, Comm. in Jo. 13.1-4.29 (GCS 10, 226-53). 56 Origen, Comm. in Matt. 14.11 (GCS 40, 302.19-24). 57 L. Perrone, ‘I cuori e i reni’ (2016), 94. 58 Ibid. 99. 59 Origen, Hom. 4.1 in Ps. 76 (GCS 19, 342.11-3). 60 ‘L’organo della preghiera’, Lorenzo Perrone, La preghiera secondo Origene: L’impossibilità donata (Brescia, 2011), 467. 61 L. Perrone, ‘I cuori e i reni’ (2016), 94. 62 The precise interlocutors are uncertain. There is, however, certainly a Valentinian flavour in Origen’s account. 55



(ψυχικός)’. Origen refutes this anthropology by saying that everyone is ‘first psychic owing to the soul (πρῶτον γίνονται ψυχικοὶ δία τὴν ψυχήν)’, before sins and before virtuous action (πρὸ ἁμαρτίας καὶ πρὸ κατορθώσεως).63 After one amends one’s behaviour through virtuous action, however, the ‘psychic’ person becomes spiritual (κατορθώσας γὰρ γίνεται πνευματικός).64 It was not a matter of nature, but character disposition. After training in the virtues, the psalmist/Christ, and the Christian could say ‘I see the Lord ever before me, because he is at my right hand’ (Ps. 15:8), that is to say, in the more honourable and the right place of the soul the helper is present, the Father is present or the firstborn of all creation is present, united with the soul, in order that the soul may say, in order that I not be shaken (Ps. 15:8b). Just as if unless he saw the Lord ever before him, because he is at my right hand, he could have been shaken. For, so far as it is with the nature of the soul, it is able to be shaken.65

If the person cultivated the natural thoughts and ideas which existed in potential (προόντα δυνάμει), they would rise to the heart and bear fruit as virtues, not vices. The spiritual kidneys were, in this way, instructive and corrective (παιδεύοντα καὶ τὰ ἐπιστρέφοντα) for the soul,66 functioning as the soul’s intellectual ‘equipment (corredo)’.67 Furthermore, the result was vision of God. Again, the heart was the organ of spiritual vision, a vision that occurred in the act of reading the Bible. While the concept ‘purity of heart’ was not central to Origen’s discourse in Hom. 2 in Ps. 15, his discussion of the ‘heart’ in the homily is relevant for his general understanding of the concept. The animate waters from Ps. 76:1, which experienced ‘tranquility and silence (εὐστάθεια καὶ ἡσυχία)’ in the presence of God were emblematic of the condition of purity of heart, in contrast to the waters of the abyss, which looked upon God and were thrown into confusion (cf. Ps. 76:17c).68 We perhaps see here a precursor to the later monastic understanding of purity of heart, most notably in John Cassian, for whom tranquility of heart was a synonym for purity of heart.69 In any case, Origen explicitly contrasts this disposition with a heart fettered by the passions.70 Another way to express what Origen meant is to speak of a heart impeded from the vision of God by the distractions of bodily existence. To read the scriptures, for Origen, was to encounter Christ himself, indeed, to look upon God. However, the aforementioned distractions 63

Origen, Hom. 2.4 in Ps. 15 (GCS 19, 98.10-4). Origen, Hom. 2.4 in Ps. 15 (GCS 19, 98.17-8). 65 Origen, Hom. 2.4 in Ps. 15 (GCS 19, 98.3-9). 66 Origen, Hom. 2.3 in Ps. 15 (GCS 19, 95.11-2). 67 L. Perrone, ‘I cuori e i reni’ (2016), 103. 68 Origen, Hom. 3.3 in Ps. 76 (GCS 19, 336.8-12). 69 Columba Stewart, Cassian the Monk (Oxford, 1998), 45-7. 70 Origen, Hom. 4.1 in Ps. 76 (GCS 19, 342.11-3). See also C. Stewart, Cassian the Monk (1998), 42. 64

Purity of Heart in Origen’s Psalm Homilies


impeded such vision. The inability to move beyond the mere letter of the text was symptomatic of a distracted heart. 5. Conclusion Origen’s understanding of purity of heart, especially when used in conjunction with the principle of homonymy, allows us to draw some conclusions regarding Origen’s pastoral concerns as a preacher. Origen consistently combines the two as a remedy for the preoccupation with objects of sense-perception, especially as that preoccupation influenced the way one read the Bible. Origen was attempting to guide his audience to a reading experience understood as an encounter with the Logos incarnate in the Bible. During such a reading experience, the reader was looking upon the Logos, i.e. God, who was speaking directly to the heart of the reader. Such an encounter demanded a heart detached from the distractions of life, which clouded the spiritual vision of the reader, blinding them from the radiance of the Lord mediated in the text of scripture. Origen’s concerns to provide his audience with such literary analysis, such as in his discussions on homonymy, should not come as a surprise given the low levels of literacy in Late Antiquity. William Harris has estimated that no more than twenty to thirty percent of the population would have been able to read literature with any level of understanding.71 Harry Gamble estimated that in Christian communities, literacy likely never exceeded ten to fifteen percent of the population. Thus, he argued that the liturgy would have been the primary means by which most early Christians participated in literacy.72 Of course, what we see in these homilies is a preacher doing more than teaching literacy. In these homilies, Origen used homonymy as a literary strategy to teach his audience how to read the biblical text and understand its customary way of speaking, its συνήθεια. The inability to grasp a meaning in the biblical text beyond the words on the page was not simply a failure of imagination. It was the result of not having the literary tools to read the Bible with understanding. A literary tool such as homonymy would allow the reader to engage the Logos speaking directly to the heart of the reader, where the individual experienced the most intimate encounter with the Logos.

71 William V. Harris, Ancient Literacy (Cambridge, 1989), 141. Harris specifies that this number is only for the more educated Greek cities, whereas the number in the Western provinces likely never exceeded five to ten percent, 272. 72 Harry Y. Gamble, Books and Readers in the Early Church: A History of Early Christian Texts (New Haven, 1995), 5-10, 211-31.

Origen’s Refutation of the Divine Ideas in Περὶ Ἀρχῶν II 3.6 as the Emergence of ‘Neoplatonism’ Daniel J. TOLAN, Clare College, Cambridge, UK

ABSTRACT Origen’s disavowal of the ἰδέαι in Περὶ Ἀρχῶν II 3.6 is a key passage for those who wish to make clear the ways in which Origen departs from Platonic thought. Yet, what makes this passage particularly perplexing is the omnipresence of exemplarism in the Origenian corpus. Accordingly, this essay reconciles this apparent inconsistency by situating Origen’s exemplarism amongst the various Platonic understandings of the divine ideas of his day. In this context, Origen’s disavowal of the ἰδέαι, ‘which consist solely of the phantasy of mind or the slippery realm of thoughts’, should be understood as a disavowal of a specific position within the Platonic debates of his day, a position which holds that the exemplar for creation is separate from the divine mind. This is to say that Origen does not refute the divine ideas as they later come to be understood. More specifically, Origen produces a position that places the ἰδέαι in the Λόγος, anticipating Plotinus’ claim that ‘the ideas are not external to the intellect’. Moreover, by placing the ἰδέαι in the Λόγος, or Son, Origen occasionally seems to suggest that the Father is beyond this level of multiplicity, a position which has a marked resemblance to Plotinus’ first two hypostases. This parallel is continued in virtue of the fact that the Son embodies the intelligible world because of his epistrophe to contemplate the paternal depth (βάθος), a claim that seems to anticipate Plotinus’ claim that Νοῦς is filled with its contemplation through its epistrophe to the One. Accordingly, one ought to understand Origen’s ‘rejection’ of the divine ideas as a rejection of a specific understanding of them. Furthermore, it would appear that Origen’s belief that the ideas are internal to the divine intellect and his occasional positing of a transcendent, simple (ἁπλοῦν) Father over a Son who is one-many give glimpses of the Neoplatonism soon to be expounded by Plotinus.

The doctrine of the divine ideas offers an efficient answer to basic metaphysical questions, especially those that are epistemological and axiological. Moreover, it is well observed that realism was a theological lingua franca in late antique theology and beyond.1 This, in turn, raises the question: what did Origen have in mind when he rejected the ἰδέαι by name in Περὶ Ἀρχῶν II? 1

John P. Kenney, Mystical Monotheism: A Study in Ancient Platonic Theology, 2nd ed. (Eugene, OR, 2010), xv & 1; Mark McIntosh, ‘The Maker’s Meaning: Divine Ideas and Salvation’, Modern Theology 28 (2012), 365-84, 365.

Studia Patristica CXI, 125-136. © Peeters Publishers, 2021.



The following establishes, on the basis of other claims in the Περὶ Ἀρχῶν and Origen’s early works, that this abjuration was not a rejection of the divine ideas as they have come to be known, but the doctrine as it had been discussed up until Origen’s time. In virtue of this, it is clear that Origen antedates Plotinus’ claim that ‘the intelligibles are not external to the intellect’ by placing the ideas in the Λόγος, demonstrating that both thinkers prefer Alcinous’ approach to exemplarism over that of the Athenian school. Hence, despite Origen’s rejection of a particular understanding of the divine ideas, it is not improper to say that he does ascribe to this doctrine.

Exemplarism Before Origen and His Rejection Thereof The Timaeus is a clear starting point for discussions of exemplarism, and it provides an account of creation wherein the demiurge creates the cosmos by modelling it after an eternal living being.2 Kenney has documented that there were two prominent readings of this dialogue: one reading followed Alcinous and understood the living being to be one and the same with the demiurge, an understanding of the text that almost certainly dates back to Antiochus of Ascalon and might even date as far back as Xenocrates;3 the other reading is that of the Athenian school, which maintained that the living model and the demiurge were two separate entities.4 In the Platonic tradition, Plotinus makes a definitive, and apparently pioneering, break with the Athenian position by arguing that the intelligibles are not external to the intellect (V 5).5 Plotinus developed this position in contrast to his peer Longinus, who held the traditional Athenian position that the demiurge is more primordial than the living being, as Proclus reports.6 Of these two positions, Plotinus’ position emerged as normative 2 Platonis Opera, Vol. 4. Timaeus, ed. John Burnet, OCT (Oxford, 1902, repr. 1979), 39e6-9: τοῦτο δὴ τὸ κατάλοιπον ἀπηργάζετο αὐτοῦ πρὸς τὴν τοῦ παραδείγματος ἀποτυπούμενος φύσιν. ᾗπερ οὖν νοῦς ἐνούσας ἰδέας τῷ ὃ ἔστιν ζῷον, οἷαί τε ἔνεισι καὶ ὅσαι, καθορᾷ, τοιαύτας καὶ τοσαύτας διενοήθη δεῖν καὶ τόδε σχεῖν. 3 John M. Dillon, The Middle Platonists: 80 B.C. to A.D. 220 (Ithaca, NY, 1996), 95; see J.P. Kenney, Mystical (2010), 29-31. For the most recent treatment of this, and the circumstantial evidence for thinking that Xenocrates might have held this view, see John M. Dillon and Daniel J. Tolan, ‘Ideas as Thoughts of God’, in Alexander J.B. Hampton and John P. Kenney (eds), Christian Platonism: A History (Cambridge, 2020). 4 Atticus may be taken as an example of the Athenian school (Procli In Platonis Timaeum Commentarii, 3 vol., ed. Ernst Diehl [Leipzig, 1903-6], I 431.14). For an outline of Alcinous’ position and the Athenian position, see J.P. Kenney, Mystical (2010), 74-88. 5 ‘The novelty of Plotinian Platonism seems to have coalesced, for his contemporaries, around his doctrine “that the intelligibles are not outside the intellect”’ (J.P. Kenney, Mystical [2010], 93). 6 Proclus, In Tim. I 322, 24; ‘Porphyry, Vita Plotini’, in Plotinus, Enneads, ed. & trans. Arthur Hilary Armstrong, LCL (Cambridge, MA, 1966), XIV 18-20.

Origen’s Refutation of the Divine Ideas in Περὶ Ἀρχῶν II 3.6


for subsequent Platonists.7 Yet, Origen’s explicit rejection of the divine ideas antedates Plotinus’ rejection of the Athenian position by some years. In II 3.6 of the Περὶ Ἀρχῶν, Origen offers what, at first glance, appears to be a repudiation of Platonic metaphysics: It is difficult for us to explain this other world, lest, by chance, it allowed some to think us to affirm certain ‘ideas’ which the Greeks call ἰδέας. For assuredly it is foreign to us to speak of an incorporeal world, which consists solely of the phantasy of mind or the slippery realm of thoughts.8

This passage is grist to the mill for those who wish to diminish Origen’s dependency on Plato.9 Yet, Origen is only separating himself from one particular reading of the divine ideas, while, elsewhere, aligning himself with Alcinous’ understanding of exemplarism. In the passage just cited, Origen makes clear that it is alien for Christians to speak of an incorporeal world that consists of the ideas,10 not exemplarist models of creation.11 This is to say that Origen is 7 E.g. Proclus is clear that νοῦς possesses the forms (Proclus: The Elements of Theology, ed. & trans. Eric R. Dodds [Oxford, 1963], Pr. 194). Porphyry, as Proclus reports, initially held that the demiurge is proper to the level of soul (In Tim. I 306.32-307.2); yet, after Porphyry left Longinus’ tutelage and went to study with Plotinus, Porphyry himself writes that he recanted this position in favour of the Plotinian one (Porphyry, Vita Plotini 18). 8 Origen, De prin. II 3.6, 266.241-7: Cuius mundi difficilem nobis esse expositionem idcirco praediximus, ne forte aliquibus praebeatur occasio illius intellegentiae, qua putent nos imagines quasdam, quas Graeci ἰδέας nominant, adfirmare : quod utique a nostris rationibus alienum est, mundum incorporeum dicere, in sola mentis fantasia uel cogitationum lubrico consistentem (Henri Crouzel and Manlio Simonetti, Origène, Traité Des Principes Tome I-V (Paris, 1978-84); Origen, On First Principles, trans. George W. Butterworth [London, 1936]). 9 Edwards uses Origen’s comments about the ἰδέαι to push back on a belief in realism, although his case would have been strengthened had he addressed intelligible matter: ‘(Origen) denies that any being, except the members of the Trinity, can survive without a substrate to preserve its form and individuality; consequently he denies that there can be a creation populated only by incorporeal entities. Even in his First Principles he roundly declares the Ideas or Forms of Plato to be chimerical; the worlds which, on the evidence of scripture, he believes to have predeceased us were as physical as the present one; and if he suggests that forms and genera of all species and particulars have subsisted eternally in the divine intelligence, he means no more than Paul meant when he wrote that the whole creation is fulfilling the plan of God, and that he elects his saints to glory before the foundation of the world’ (Mark J. Edwards, Origen against Plato [Aldershot, 2002], 160). 10 Crouzel makes clear that the ἰδέαι do not have separate existence, but exist in the Λόγος-σοφία, while the intelligible world has another hypostasis and pre-exists united to the pre-existent soul of Christ, Henri Crouzel, Origène et la “connaissance mystique” (Paris, 1961), 54, N3, cf. 59, and id., Théologie de l’image de Dieu chez Origène (Paris, 1956), 123. Crouzel has also suggested that this is a critique aimed at the Aristotelians in favour of realism (id., Théologie [1956], 123). Pietras makes the same claim, writing, ‘Dobbiamo però tener sempre presente che Origene non ammetteva l’esistenza del mondo separato delle idee, ma le collocava nel Logos’ (Henryk Pietras, L’amore in Origene, [Roma, 1988], 130). 11 Indeed, Crouzel remarks, ‘the exemplarist view of the world underlying Origen’s theology comes to him from Platonism, although he gives it a different content’, Henri Crouzel, Origen (San Francisco, 1989), 157.



not rejecting exemplarism,12 but the fact that the exemplar is a world unto itself, separate even from the mind of God. Crouzel and Simonetti explain this passage in their commentary as follows, L’expression cogitationum lubrico traduit peut-être l’appréciation négative des idées platoniciennes par les stoïciens leur refusant toute réalité hors de l’esprit: Origène ne s’oppose pas ici à leur existence, mais à ce qu’elles existent dans un monde séparé; elles sont dans le Logos en tant qu’il est Sagesse.13

When understood this way, Origen is also separating himself from a dominant middle Platonic reading of exemplarism,14 while anticipating the position developed explicitly by Plotinus.15 What is more, it should hardly be surprising 12 Edwards understands this passage as a flat rejection of the ideas: ‘He is Logos as the paradigm and parent of all the logikai, or rational beings, who exercise reason only by participation in him. He cannot be identified with the world of forms, or Platonic ideas, because to Origen these ideas are imaginary entities which the Greeks absurdly suppose to be independent of the Creator (Princ. 2.3.6)’, Mark J. Edwards, ‘Origen’, in Edward N. Zalta (ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2018 Edition). 13 Henri Crouzel and Manlio Simonetti. Origène, Traité Tome II, 150; cf. Henri Crouzel, Origène et Plotin: Comparaisons doctrinales (Paris, 1991), 79. Augustine, later, made clear that this is his understanding of the ideas: ‘As for these reasons, they must be thought to exist nowhere but in the very mind of the Creator. For it would be sacrilegious to suppose that he was looking at something placed outside himself when he created in accord with it what he did create’ (Augustine, Eighty-three Different Questions, trans. David L. Mosher [Washington, DC, 1982], 46.2). 14 Perhaps this break with the Athenian reading helps to explain Origen’s varying claims about whether the Λόγος is a living being. Origen will note that the Word is not ‘some wise living being’, quod eum non uelut animal quoddam sapiens (Origen, De prin. I 2.2, 112.20), while also appealing to the Acts of Paul in order to argue that the Word is a living being, qui in Actibus Pauli scriptus est, quia hic est uerbum animal uiuens (Origen, De prin. I 2.3, 116.68-9). This appellation is not a ἅπαξ, for it re-emerges in Origen’s homilies on Jeremiah, where Origen makes the same connection as he does in De prin. from the Acts of Paul to the Johannine Prologue: Οὐδὲ γὰρ ὁ λόγος αὐτοῦ τοιοῦτός ἐστιν, ὁποῖος ὁ πάντων λόγος· οὐδενὸς γὰρ ὁ λόγος «ζῶον», οὐδενὸς ὁ λόγος «θεός», οὐδενὸς γὰρ ὁ λόγος «ἐν ἀρχῇ πρὸς» ἐκεῖνον ἦν, οὗ ὁ λόγος ἦν, κἂν εἰ μόνον ἀπό τινος ἦν ἀρχῆς (Origène, Homélies sur Jérémie, vol. 1-2, ed. Pierre Nautin [Paris, 1976, 1977], 20.1.11-5). While the immediate context for this discussion appears to be a reference to ζῶν γὰρ ὁ λόγος from Hebrews 4:1 in the Acts of Paul, one wonders whether or not a connection to Plato’s ζῶον is also under consideration (Plato, Tim. 37d1-2, Tim. 39e6-9)? This would be an important connection to make for an exemplarist account of creation. If this is the case, perhaps Origen feels the need to couple ζῶν γὰρ ὁ λόγος with ἐν ἀρχῇ πρὸς and ἦν, as he does in both his appeals to the Acts of Paul, in order to demonstrate that the Λόγος both was with God in the beginning and was God. If this is the case, it may well be that Origen wishes to reject the belief that the archetype of being is animal quoddam, for it is actually internal to the Son as the hypostatic existence of God’s wisdom (Origen, De prin. I 2.2). 15 Edwards provides an alternate interpretation of this passage, referring II 3.6 back to I 4.5, where Origen couples εἴδη with γένη. He writes, ‘Origen reserves the term idea for the thesis that he rejects, and here [I 4.5] the coupling of the words ‘genus’ and ‘species’ (gene kai eide), though attested in the Cratylus of Plato, would be more likely to remind the ancient reader of Aristotle’s Categories. In this work the noun eidos denotes a natural kind or species such as man, genos a more extensive category, such as animal. Both are specimens of ‘secondary essence’ (deutera ousia), which never subsists as a separable entity, but only as the form or quiddity of the concrete

Origen’s Refutation of the Divine Ideas in Περὶ Ἀρχῶν II 3.6


that Origen would hold such an acute reading of the Timaeus, given his demonstrable familiarity with the dialogue.16 Origen’s Divine Ideas To assess Origen’s belief in exemplarism properly, the rest of the Περὶ Ἀρχῶν and Origen’s early works, such as his Commentary on John, must be considered. One theme that emerges in the Περὶ Ἀρχῶν, and is crucial for Origen’s understanding of exemplarism, is the link between σοφία and the Λόγος,17 especially insofar as this relates to the psalmist’s claim πάντα ἐν σοφίᾳ ἐποίησας.18 This allows Origen to hypostasise σοφία as a principle in the same way that he hypostasises the ἀρχή of Genesis.19 To this end, Origen notes: And because in this very subsistence of wisdom (sapientiae subsistentia) there was implicit every capacity (uirtus = δύναμις) and form (deformatio = μόρφωσις) of the creation that was to be, both of those things that exist in a primary sense and of those which happen in consequence of them, the whole being fashioned and arranged

particular which Aristotle styles the ‘primary essence’ (prôtê ousia)’ (Mark J. Edwards, Origen against [2002], 64-5). Köckert holds yet a stronger position, explaining away any form of intelligible world by mapping the Phaedrus’ ὑπερουράνιος τόπος onto the ancient cosmological understanding of the nine spheres in Origen’s thought: ‘Indem Origenes Himmel und Erde aus Gen 1,1 mit astronomischen Himmelssphären verbindet, weist er ihnen demonstrativ einen räumlich lokalisierbaren Ort zu. Dadurch verleiht er dem »Ort über dem Himmel (vgl. Phdr. 247 a–c)«, für den Philo und Clemens von Alexandrien im Gefolge Platons allenfalls einen intelligiblen Ort annehmen, eine kosmische Realität. Durch die Verbindung mit dem astronomischen Sphärenmodell vermag Origenes außerdem zu veranschaulichen, daß sowohl irdischer und himmlischer als auch der überhimmlische Ort jeweils Teilbereiche des einen, umfassenden Kosmos sind’ (Charlotte Kökkert, ‘Räumliche Vorstellungen im Weltbild des Origenes und ihr Verhältnis zum zeitgenössischen astronomischen Weltbild’, in Christoph Markschies and Johannes Zachhuber [eds], Die Welt als Bild: Interdisziplinäre Beiträge zur Visualität von Weltbildern [Berlin, 2008], 69-80, 78). 16 Recall Origen’s critique of Celsus’ interpretation of the Timaeus (Origène, Contre Celse IIIIV, ed. Marcel Borret [Paris, 1968], IV 63). 17 Prov. 8:22-5; see Origen, De prin. I 2.1. Although deeply connected, σοφία enjoys a logical priority over λόγος: ‘Il tient seulement à souligner par là que le Logos prend son origine de la Sagesse et que l’antériorité de la Sagesse par rapport au Logos est une antériorité logique et non chronologique, l’epinoia Sagesse étant simplement plus fondamentale que celle de Logos’ (Joël Letellier, ‘Le Logos chez Origène’, RSPT 75 [1991], 587-612, 591). This connection between the Son as Λόγος and as σοφία has received continued theological attention and has even influenced the iconographic tradition; consider the 14th-century icon Χριστός, ἡ Σοφία τοῦ Θεοῦ from Ἁγία Σοφία in Thessaloniki, now held in the Byzantine Museum of Thessaloniki (ΒΕΙ 503). 18 Ps. 103 (LXX). 19 Origen takes what appears to be a temporal claim, ‘in the beginning’ as a metaphysical statement ‘in the principle’, when he notes, non ergo hic temporale aliquod principium dicit: sed in principio, id est in Salvatore factum esse dicit coelum et terram, et omnia quae facta sunt (Origen, Hom. in Gen. 1.1; PG 12, 145C).



beforehand by the power of foreknowledge, wisdom, speaking through Solomon in regard to these very created things that had been as it were outlined and prefigured in herself, says that she was created as a ‘beginning of the ways’ of God, which means that she contains within herself both the beginnings (initia = ἀρχαί) and causes (rationes = λόγοι) and species (species = εἴδη) of the whole creation.20

This passage makes clear that creation has been thought-out in wisdom beforehand, wisdom containing both the beginnings (ἀρχαί), the causes (λόγοι), and forms (εἴδη) of creation. Origen repeats such claims about both σοφία and the Λόγος, elsewhere. Again, in the Περὶ Ἀρχῶν, we read, Now, in the same way in which we have understood that Wisdom was the beginning of the ways of God, and is said to be created, prefiguring and containing within herself the forms (species = εἴδη) and reason-principles (rationes = λόγοι) of all creatures (species scilicet in se et rationes totius praeformans et continens creaturae: hoc modo etiam uerbum dei), so must we understand her to be the Word of God, because of her disclosing to all other beings.21

Here, it is most probable that the Greek words εἴδη and λόγοι are behind Rufinus’ species and rationes. Thus, the question becomes, ‘what does Origen have in mind when he says that σοφία prefigures and contains (praeformans et continens) the εἴδη and λόγοι’? It should also be noted that this passage makes clear that σοφία assumes the ἐπίνοια of Λόγος in the disclosure of her contents. The case for Origen’s desire to place the forms in σοφία in the Περὶ Ἀρχῶν is given further credence by how he addresses the forms in the contemporaneously written book one of the Commentary on John, which reads: For I think, just as a house and a ship are built or framed according to architects’ plans, the arche of the house and of the ship having their respective plans (τύπους) and reasons (λόγους) in the craftsman; thusly, all things come about according to the reasons (λόγους) made clear in advance by God in wisdom (σοφίᾳ), ‘for He made all things in wisdom’. And it must be said, if I might say it thusly, that God made ensouled wisdom, He entrusted to her the moulding (πλάσιν) and the forms (εἴδη) for existence (οὖσι) and matter (ὕλῃ) from the plans (τύπων) which exist in her, but I stop short of saying if this is also their essences (οὐσίας). Thus, therefore, it is not difficult to say that, roughly, the arche of beings (ὄντων) is the Son of God, as it says, ‘I am the arche and the telos, the Α and the Ω, the first and the last’. But, it is necessary to know that He Himself is not called the arche according to all that He is called.22 20

Origen, De prin. I 2.2 (trans. Butterworth); see Origène, Commentaire sur saint Jean, ed. Cécile Blanc (Paris, 1966-1992), I 19.111. 21 Origen, De prin. I 2.3 (Ante-Nicene Fathers. Volume 4: Tertullian, Part Fourth; Minucius Felix; Commodian; Origen, Part First and Second, trans. Cleveland A. Coxe, ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson [New York, 1885]). 22 Origen, CommJn. I 19.114-6 (trans. from Daniel J. Tolan, ‘The impact of the Ὁμοούσιον on the divine ideas’, in Panagiotis G. Pavlos, Lars Fredrik Janby, Eyjólfur Kjalar Emilsson and Torstein Theodor Tollefsen [eds], Platonism and Christian Thought in Late Antiquity [London,

Origen’s Refutation of the Divine Ideas in Περὶ Ἀρχῶν II 3.6


In this passage, it is stated clearly that ‘ἐν σοφίᾳ’ is a metaphysical claim, rather than a tropological one, for the world is prefigured in σοφία and, as part of this, the forms and reason-principles of creation are entrusted to her. Crouzel casts the relationship between σοφία and the Λόγος in the mould of the Timaeus by likening σοφία to the model of the Timaeus and the Λόγος to the Demiurge, writing, En tant que telle elle contient en elle les τύποι, εἶδη, λόγοι qui sont les idées ou raisons, les modèles, de ce que crée Dieu dans sa Sagesse. Elle est donc, correspondant au Modèle du Timée, le monde intelligible dont le monde sensible est une chute (καταβολή) … Le Logos correspond au Démiurge du Timée et c’est lui qui exprime dans des êtres distincts ce qui est contenu dans la Sagesse.23

It should, however, be noted that, for Origen, these ideas are not stricto sensu ‘in the mind of God’, but they are in σοφία-Λόγος, however much this might amount to the same thing.24 Yet, Origen goes beyond a simple exemplarism by presenting a contemplative metaphysic.25 Origen stresses the Son’s contemplation both as the cause of his own existence as God and as the cause of the communication of truth to all creatures. In the Commentary on John, we learn that the Son’s divine existence depends on his contemplation of the ‘paternal depth’;26 Origen writes: Therefore the God is true God. And the gods are formed according to him as icons of the prototype; but again the archetypal icon of the many icons is the λόγος who is with the God, who was ‘in the beginning’, by virtue of being ‘with the God’, always remaining 2019], 134): Οἶμαι γάρ, ὥσπερ κατὰ τοὺς ἀρχιτεκτονικοὺς τύπους οἰκοδομεῖται ἢ τεκταίνεται οἰκία καὶ ναῦς, ἀρχὴν τῆς οἰκίας καὶ τῆς νεὼς ἐχόντων τοὺς ἐν τῷ τεχνίτῃ τύπους καὶ λόγους, οὕτω τὰ σύμπαντα γεγονέναι κατὰ τοὺς ἐν τῇ σοφίᾳ προτρανωθέντας ὑπὸ θεοῦ τῶν ἐσομένων λόγους· «Πάντα γὰρ ἐν σοφίᾳ ἐποίησε». Καὶ λεκτέον ὅτι κτίσας, ἵν’ οὕτως εἴπω, ἔμψυχον σοφίαν ὁ θεός, αὐτῇ ἐπέτρεψεν ἀπὸ τῶν ἐν αὐτῇ τύπων τοῖς οὖσι καὶ τῇ ὕλῃ τὴν πλάσιν καὶ τὰ εἴδη, ἐγὼ δὲ ἐφίστημι εἰ καὶ τὰς οὐσίας. Οὐ χαλεπὸν μὲν οὖν παχύτερον εἰπεῖν ἀρχὴν τῶν ὄντων εἶναι τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ θεοῦ, λέγοντα· «Ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ ἀρχὴ καὶ τὸ τέλος, τὸ Α καὶ τὸ Ω, ὁ πρῶτος καὶ ὁ ἔσχατος.» Ἀναγκαῖον δὲ εἰδέναι ὅτι οὐ κατὰ πᾶν ὃ ὀνομάζεται ἀρχή ἐστιν αὐτός. 23 H. Crouzel, Origène et Plotin (1991), 150. 24 Hal Koch, Pronoia und Paideusis: Studien über Origenes und sein Verhältnis zum Platonismus (Berlin, 1932), 255: ‘Bei Origenes wird dagegen nirgends gesagt, dass die Ideen die Gedanken Gottes sind; sie sind im Logos eingeschlossen, der in sich die ganze intelligible Welt als eine Art praefiguratio zur sichtbaren enthält (II, p. 135, 10, p. 43, 22, IV, p. 324, 7, V, p. 67, 12 ua St.), in der Realität aber ist es derselbe Gedanke, welcher sich darin zeigt, dass es heisst, dass alles κατὰ τὴν σοφίαν καὶ τοὺς τύπους τοῦ συστήματος τῶν ἐν αὐτῷ νοημάτων entstanden ist (IV, p. 24, 1 f.)’. 25 This theme can be observed in Die neuen Psalmenhomilien (ed. Lorenzo Perrone [Berlin, 2015]), Homilia II in Psalmum XV 10, 112.9-11: Μετὰ τοῦτό ἐστι· πληρώσεις με εὐφροσύνης μετὰ τοῦ προσώπου σου. Καὶ περὶ τούτου δὲ λεκτέον, ὅτι αἱ ἀληθῶς εὐφροσύναι εἰσίν, ὧν Χριστὸς πληροῦται, ἀπὸ τοῦ πατρικοῦ γενόμεναι προσώπου θεωρουμένου αὐτῷ. 26 For the significance of βάθος in Origen’s thought, see H. Crouzel, Connaissance mystique (1961), 38-9.



‘God’, and he would not possess this if he were not with God; yet, he would not remain God, if he did not remain in unbroken contemplation of the paternal depth (εἰ μὴ παρέμενε τῇ ἀδιαλείπτῳ θέᾳ τοῦ πατρικοῦ βάθους).27

The Son’s unbroken contemplation of the βάθος of the Father points to a vital realism similar to the one found in Plotinus, wherein we find that νοῦς animates the intelligible world by contemplating the intelligibles ‘all at once’ (ὁμοῦ πάντα).28 Moreover, one would do well to notice a further parallel between this passage and another point in Plotinus’ thought, wherein Νοῦς is filled with its contemplation through its epistrophe to the One in a fashion similar to the Son’s epistrophe to the Father, from whom he comes, in unbroken contemplation.29 Commensurate with this, Origen’s contemplative metaphysic points to the Son’s active embodiment of the truth, as is emphasised when he writes, This Son, then, is also the truth and the life (cf. Jn. 14:6) of all things that exist; and rightly so. For the things that were made, how could they live, except by the gift of life? Or the things that exist, how could they really and truly exist, unless they were derived from the truth? Or how could rational beings exist, unless the Word or reason had existed before them? Or how could they be wise, unless wisdom existed?30

This citation portrays an embodiment of truth that allows for subsequent instantiations of the truth, suggesting a strong realism.31 It should also be noted, following this consideration, that we have the same relationship to the Λόγος as the Λόγος has to God;32 and, naturally, we gain our sonship from the depth (βάθος) of the Λόγος, namely the σοφία of God, just as the Son gains his Divinity through the contemplation of the paternal depth.33 27 Origen, CommJn. II 2.18.1-7 (trans. mine): Ἀληθινὸς οὖν θεὸς ὁ θεός, οἱ δὲ κατ’ ἐκεῖνον μορφούμενοι θεοὶ ὡς εἰκόνες πρωτοτύπου· ἀλλὰ πάλιν τῶν πλειόνων εἰκόνων ἡ ἀρχέτυπος εἰκὼν ὁ πρὸς τὸν θεόν ἐστι λόγος, ὃς «ἐν ἀρχῇ» ἦν, τῷ εἶναι «πρὸς τὸν θεὸν» ἀεὶ μένων «θεός», οὐκ ἂν δ’ αὐτὸ ἐσχηκὼς εἰ μὴ πρὸς θεὸν ἦν, καὶ οὐκ ἂν μείνας θεός, εἰ μὴ παρέμενε τῇ ἀδιαλείπτῳ θέᾳ τοῦ πατρικοῦ βάθους. 28 Plotini Opera (editio minor) Vol. I-III, ed. Paul Henry and Hans-Rudolph Schwyzer (Oxford, 1964-1983), V 9.6, 8; see Origen, Comm. In Matt XIV 9, PG 13, 1203B. 29 Plotinus, Enn. V 2.1, 9-11: τὸ δὲ γενόμενον εἰς αὐτὸ ἐπεστράφη καὶ ἐπληρώθη καὶ ἐγένετο πρὸς αὐτὸ βλέπον καὶ νοῦς οὗτος. 30 Origen, De prin. I 2.4 (trans. Butterworth); this bears a certain resemblance to the intellectual triads later formalised by Porphyry (Proclus, In Tim. 3.64.8-65.8). 31 See CommJn. XIX 22.147. 32 Origen, CommJn. II 1.3: Πῶς οὖν λόγος κυρίου ἐγενήθη πρὸς Ὠσηέ, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἐστὶν ὁ γενόμενος πρὸς Ἡσαΐαν, υἱὸν Ἀμώς, καὶ πάλιν «ὁ λόγος πρὸς Ἱερεμίαν περὶ τῆς ἀβροχίας», ἐπισκοπητέον, ἵν’ ὡς παρακείμενον εὑρεθῆναι δυνηθῇ, πῶς «ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν». 33 Origen, CommJn. II 1.4: Ὁ μὲν οὖν πολὺς ἁπλούστερον ἐκλήψεται τὰ περὶ τῶν προφητῶν εἰρημένα ὡς λόγου κυρίου ἢ τοῦ λόγου γενομένου πρὸς αὐτούς. Μήποτε δέ, ὥς φαμεν τόνδε τινὰ πρὸς τόνδε γίνεσθαι, οὕτως ὁ νῦν θεολογούμενος «υἱὸς λόγος» ἐγενήθη πρὸς Ὠσηέ, ἀποσταλεὶς ὑπὸ τοῦ πατρὸς πρὸς αὐτόν· κατὰ μὲν τὴν ἱστορίαν πρὸς τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ

Origen’s Refutation of the Divine Ideas in Περὶ Ἀρχῶν II 3.6


The Son and the Many As is becoming clear, the Son’s cosmological role is to mediate truth to each creature according to its merit. In testimony to this, Origen writes: And the Only-begotten is truth, encompassing the whole reason of all things according to the will (βούλημα) of the Father with total clearness, and, since He is the truth in this way, He gives a share to each according to his merit.34

Thus, it is in accordance with the will of the Father that the Son shows forth the λόγοι that undergird all creation. Elsewhere, in the first book of the Commentary on John, Origen explains the Son’s role as a mediator in terms of the one and the many; he writes, On the one hand, therefore, the God is in every way One and simple (ἕν ἐστι καὶ ἁπλοῦν); on the other, our saviour is for the many (διὰ τὰ πολλά), since ‘the God set’ him ‘forth as a propitiation’ (Rom. 3:25) and ‘firstfruits of all creation’ (Jn. 1:18), he has become many, or perhaps even all these things, just as all creation, which is able to be liberated, needs him.35

Here, by positing a solitary ‘One’ over a ‘one-many’, Origen has yet again anticipated a point that becomes core to Plotinus’ thought.36 Williams has drawn attention to the way in which the Son refracts the inscrutable depths of the Godhead as if through a prism, making these divine depths intelligible, writing, Βεηρεί, προφήτην Ὠσηέ, κατὰ δὲ μυστικὸν λόγον πρὸς τὸν σῳζόμενον – Ὠσηὲ γὰρ ἑρμηνεύεται «σῳζόμενος» – υἱὸν Βεηρεί, ὃς ἑρμηνεύεται «φρέατα»· πηγῆς γὰρ ἐκ βάθους ἀναβλυστανούσης, σοφίας θεοῦ, ἕκαστος τῶν σῳζομένων υἱὸς γίνεται. 34 Origen, CommJn. I 27.186 (trans. mine): Ἀλήθεια δὲ ὁ μονογενής ἐστι πάντα ἐμπεριειληφὼς τὸν περὶ τῶν ὅλων κατὰ τὸ βούλημα τοῦ πατρὸς μετὰ πάσης τρανότητος λόγον καὶ ἑκάστῳ κατὰ τὴν ἀξίαν αὐτοῦ, ᾗ ἀλήθειά ἐστι, μεταδιδούς. See Origen, De prin. I 2.2. 35 Origen, CommJn. I 20.119; Consider Plotinus’s comment on the One at Enn. V 5.10, 12-4: ζωῆς γὰρ ἔμφρονος καὶ νοερᾶς αἴτιος δύναμις ὤν, ἀφ’ οὗ ζωὴ καὶ νοῦς ὅ τι οὐσίας καὶ τοῦ ὄντος – ὅτι ἕν – ἁπλοῦν γὰρ καὶ πρῶτον – ὅτι ἀρχή – ἀπ’ αὐτοῦ γὰρ πάντα. Williams comments, ‘In two respects, Origen clearly ranges himself with Neoplatonism over against some of its precursors: he accepts that the logic of placing the First beyond intellect and insisting on its simplicity involves the identification of intellect with the Second, and the assimilation of intellect and demiurge; and he holds (as far as we can see) that the intelligibilia are within the being of the Second qua wisdom. The Son contemplates the bathos of the Father, and in that (paradoxical) light perceives in himself the plurality of the noetic world; Origen never implies in the ComJn that the Son perceives the noëta in the Father. We have moved beyond both Atticus and Numenius, in an unmistakably Plotinian direction. Notice too that Origen prefers to keep zoe as the title of the Son, and does not generally use autozoon or autozoe for the Father’ (Rowan D. Williams, ‘The Son’s Knowledge of the Father in Origen’, in Lothar Lies [ed.], Origeniana Quarta: Die Referate des 4. Internationalen Origeneskongresses, Innsbruck, 2.-6. September 1985 [Innsbruck, 1987], 146-53, 149). 36 Plotinus, Enn. V 1.8, 23-6: Ὁ δὲ παρὰ Πλάτωνι Παρμενίδης ἀκριβέστερον λέγων διαιρεῖ ἀπ’ ἀλλήλων τὸ πρῶτον ἕν, ὃ κυριώτερον ἕν, καὶ δεύτερον ἓν πολλὰ λέγων, καὶ τρίτον ἓν καὶ πολλά.



The Son’s essential cosmological role in fact depends upon his knowledge of the Father, an uninterrupted and unmediated contemplation: he is the prism though which the white light of the source of Godhead is refracted into the polychrome variety of the world (to borrow a wellknown metaphor). The Father is simple, the Son multiple – hence the long and detailed discussion of the Son’s epinoiai in the first book of the ComJn.37

Hengstermann builds on William’s insight by emphasising the difficulties surrounding whether or not the Son can fathom the Father. He writes, At the same time, however, Origen seems prepared to accept that the Father, the Neoplatonic ἕν καὶ ἁπλοῦν, is indeed beyond truth: ‘Now to the extent that God, the Father of the truth, is more than, and greater than, the truth and, being the Father of wisdom, is greater than and surpasses wisdom, to this extent he transcends being “true light”’. In fact, the notion of the Father knowing himself in ways that even the Son cannot fathom is a vexed question in Origen scholarship. The manifest contradiction between the two theological options outlined testifies to Origen’s struggle to reconcile the Neoplatonic notion of the utter transcendence of the paternal One vis-à-vis truth and the intelligible realm and the idea that the truth, which the Son encompasses as Sophia and communicates as Logos, must not be incomplete.38

These difficulties, which Hengstermann highlights, point to a thinker who is on the cusp of Neoplatonic thought; so, in addition to Origen holding such core Neoplatonic beliefs as ‘a transcendent One and the idea of creative contemplation’,39 37 R.D. Williams, ‘The Son’s Knowledge’ (1985), 149. Also consider Crouzel’s note about the role of the Son in creation, ‘Le rôle du Fils par rapport à la création sera donc double: en tant que Sagesse, il est le modèle, il contient en lui les Idées qui sont les exemplaires des êtres; en tant que Verbe il est l’instrument intelligent par lequel le Père agit sur le monde, le crée et le gouverne’ (Henri Crouzel, Theologie [1956], 122). 38 Christian Hengstermann, ‘The Neoplatonism of Origen in the First Two Books of His Commentary on John’, in Sylwia Kaczmarek and Henryk Pietras (eds), Origeniana Decima (Leuven, 2011), 75-87, 83. 39 C. Hengstermann, ‘The Neoplatonism’ (2011), 87. In order to emphasise the Father’s transcendence, Hengstermann draws attention to Origen’s consideration of Psalm 44, where we read ‘my heart hath belched forth a good word’; Origen writes: ‘But as in belching, some hidden wind makes its way out to the world, so it may be that the Father does not withhold the truths he contemplates, but belches them forth, producing their form in the Word; and for this reason the Word is called the image of the invisible God’ (CommJn. I 38.283 [GCS IV, 50], trans. Hengstermann). Crouzel also emphasises the Father’s creation of the θεωρήματα in the Son (H. Crouzel, Connaissance mystique [1961], 58-9). One difficulty of the One and One-Many reading is the question of why Origen does not make more of John 1:18. Origen provides only an historical exegesis of John 1:18, Θεὸν οὐδεὶς ἑώρακεν πώποτε· μονογενὴς θεὸς ὁ ὢν εἰς τὸν κόλπον τοῦ πατρὸς ἐκεῖνος ἐξηγήσατο in CommJn VI 13-6, and when he alludes to the verse elsewhere, no metaphysical claims are made (Origen, CommJn XXXII 264). Contrast the doxography preserved by Clement: ‘He names the invisible and unspeakable the “bosom” of God; hence, some have called it “the depths” (βυθόν), as encompassing and embracing all things, while remaining both inaccessible and boundless’ (Clemens Alexandrinus, vol. 2, 3rd ed., ed. Otto Stählin, GCS 15 [Berlin, 1960], V 12.81.3 [trans. mine]). Beeks asserts that there is no etymological link between βυθός and βαθύς (Robert Beekes and Lucien Van Beek, Etymological Dictionary of Greek [Leiden, 2016], S.v. βυθός), yet there

Origen’s Refutation of the Divine Ideas in Περὶ Ἀρχῶν II 3.6


we may wish to add that Origen shares with nascent Neoplatonism the belief that the ideas are not external to the intellect, for they exist in the Son, who is both σοφία and Λόγος. Should one wish it, this parallel between Origen and the emerging thought of Plotinus can also be extended to the way in which the first and second hypostases contemplate. Consider, for example, the way in which God the Father has a greater (μείζων) theōria than that of the Son, But I wonder if it is possible for God to be glorified beyond the extent to which He is glorified in the Son? As we have explained, He is exceedingly (μειζόνως) glorified when He is engaged in the contemplation (περιωπῇ) of Himself, in accordance with the knowledge of Himself and the theōria of Himself, this theōria being greater (μείζονι) than the theōria which is in the Son; inasmuch as it is necessary to think these things concerning God, it is necessary to say that He is gladdened (εὐφραίνεται) with a certain unutterable satisfaction and gladness and joy (εὐφροσύνην καὶ χαράν), being satisfied and rejoicing on account of Himself.40

The fact that the Father and the Son are both engaged in contemplation, but that the Father’s contemplation is greater than the Son’s, suggests that their relationship might be analogous to the relationship Plotinus develops between the contemplation of the One and the contemplation of Νοῦς. This is particularly the case for Plotinus’ attribution of νόησις to Νοῦς and a οἷον νόησις to the One.41 Moreover, this would give further credence to Koetschau’s Frag. 39, which reads, ‘the Father is greater (μείζων) in contemplation (νοεῖν), too, as he is contemplated (νοεῖται) both more clearly and more perfectly by Himself than by the Son’. Such a relationship between the Father and the Son would also bolster the earlier image of the Son as ‘the prism though which the white light of the source of Godhead is refracted into the polychrome variety of the world’, for the Son is converting the Father’s ὑπερνόησις into νόησις. Conclusion: From Exemplarism to Platonism While it is entirely possible Plato believed that the demiurge and the living model were two separate entities, the Platonism of Origen’s day was working towards the consensus that the two were one. Thus, Origen’s pushback on a world of ἰδέαι is not a rejection of Platonic metaphysics in toto, but a denial remain clear similarities in meaning and pronunciation, especially when one considers the relationship between βυθός and βάθος. Because of this, one wonders if Origen was considering this passage from Clement when he wrote about the πατρικοῦ βάθους (CommJn. II 2.18.1-7)? 40 Origen, CommJn. XXXII 350. 41 Plotinus, Enneads VI 8.6, 36. For more on the positive attributes of the One, see my article, forthcoming with HTR, ‘The Flight of the All-One to the All-One: The φυγὴ μόνου πρὸς μόνον as the Basis of Plotinian Altrusim’.



of a common Middle Platonic understanding of the ἰδέαι.42 It is reminded that the present claim regarding Origen’s ‘Platonism’ is a metaphysical, rather than confessional one. Yet, simply by adhering to exemplarism, as has been documented above, Origen demonstrates himself to adhere to four of the five tenets that Gerson understands as constituting ‘Ur-Platonism’: antimaterialism, antinominalism, antirelativism, and antiskepticism.43 Gerson’s fifth tenet is antimechanism, a position Origen develops thoroughly in Περὶ Ἀρχῶν III 1. Our primary aim has been to articulate the way in which Origen’s rejection of the ‘ἰδέαι’ is a rejection of a particular understanding of ‘divine ideas’ that emerged in the Athenian Middle Platonic school. This neither represents a rejection of the divine ideas, nor does it represent a rejection of divine exemplarism, but it instead witnesses to a shift in an emerging Platonic orthodoxy, which is reflected in Origen’s Christianised Platonism. As such, Origen demonstrates himself to be keeping abreast of the developments in the Platonism of his day, while also anticipating points that were only made clear in ‘confessional’ Platonism by Plotinus.44

42 Consider Koch’s remark that the Platonic understanding of the ἰδέαι is of no significance for Origen, but that the intelligible world remains an integral part of his soteriology: ‘Zwar hat die platonische Ideenlehre für Origenes keine Bedeutung; so viel ist jedoch übrig geblieben, dass die Erlösung in der Erkenntnis der intelligiblen Welt, welche die einzige Wirklichkeit ist, besteht. Erkenntnis darf hier natürlich nicht in engem intellektualistischen Sinne verstanden werden – eine moralische Vollkommenheit und Reinheit ist miteingeschlossen, da ja gerade die Sünde die Seele von der ewigen Welt trennt’ (H. Koch, Pronoia [1932], 79); Koch notes Origen’s continued inspiration by Plato, elsewhere (ibid. 201-2). 43 Lloyd Gerson, From Plato to Platonism (Ithaca, 2013), 9-13. 44 While this is not the place to rehearse recent debate about how many Origens and Ammonii there are, if it is the case that the Christian Origen studied with Plotinus’ Ammonius, then perhaps the doctrine of the νοητά being internal to the Intellect can be traced back to Ammonius? This is not the stronger claim that Ammonius, rather than Plotinus, is the founder of Neoplatonism (recall the way in which Karl H.E. De Jong called Ammonius ‘de grondvester van het Neoplatonisme’ [Plotinus of Ammonius Saccas? (Leiden, 1941), 2]), but simply a suggestion that this might be a glimpse at one of Ammonius’ teachings.

“Between Human and Animal Souls”: The Resurrection of the Rational Soul and Origen’s Transformation of Metensomatosis Jonathan H. YOUNG, The University of Oxford, Oxford, UK

ABSTRACT Scholars argue that Origen conceives the soul’s progress within a modified Platonic paradigm (Marx-Wolf 2010; Ramelli 2017). Others suggest more alignment with the New Testament (Edwards 2002). According to Ramelli (2018), Origen advances that the soul occupies one earthly, human body (ensomatosis), rather than a cycle of multiple bodies (metensomatosis). Marx-Wolf (2010), however, argues that the rational soul, separated from the body, still is capable of advancement. Furthermore, Origen insists that the Christian teaching of the resurrection should contrast with metensomatosis (ConCels 5.29, 3.75). Nevertheless, Origen’s Contra Celsum preserves the language and imagery of metensomatosis. He harmonizes Plato’s cycle of generation (Phaedrus 249a-250e) with the Christian teaching of the soul’s resurrection (1Cor. 15). Like Plato, Origen preserves the souls’ future embodiment (Phaedrus 247b-c) and one dons this ethereal body at its resurrection in heaven, not on earth (ConCels 7.32, 7.44). Implicit in Origen’s disagreement with multiple earthly incarnations, is the suggestion that the human soul is born into animals or vice versa (Plato, Phaedo 81d-82b, Phaedrus 249b). To solve this conundrum, Origen incorporates the Stoic distinction of the rational, human soul and the non-rational, animal soul (Gilhus 2006; ConCels 7.17, 8.18). Thus, Origen transforms the paradigm of metensomatosis, limiting future resurrection to rational souls in heaven; barred are the non-rational souls of animals. This study analyzes Origen’s reading of Plato’s Phaedrus and Timaeus in view of Genesis and 1Corinthians and it provides a window into third-century AD debates among Platonists regarding the interpretation of Plato’s teachings.

Introduction In the 6th century AD,1 Origen of Alexandria was impugned with the charge of believing in the reincarnation (metensomatosis) of the soul, specifically of 1 Portions of this article were presented as a paper at the annual meeting of the International Society for Neoplatonic Studies, Ottawa, Canada, 12-16 June 2019. I would like to thank the many comments and suggestions in writing and in person in Ottawa and Oxford, UK: Crystal Addey, Mark J. Edwards, John Finamore, Julio Cesar Moreira, Ilaria Ramelli, Aron Reppmann, Riemer Roukema, Markus Vinzent, and Sami Yli-Karjanmaa. A note on translations and critical editions: all translations unless otherwise stated are from Origen, Contra Celsum, trans. Henry Chadwick

Studia Patristica CXI, 137-149. © Peeters Publishers, 2021.



human souls into the body of animals.2 There has been research to re-examine Origen’s presentation of metensomatosis apart from his later sixth-century detractors.3 Some like Heidi Marx-Wolf and Ilaria Ramelli see Origen’s philosophy as Platonic in nature.4 Others like Mark J. Edwards are more skeptical and argue that Origen’s philosophy derives from his interpretations of the Christian scriptures.5 Rightly, according to Ramelli, Origen advances that the rational soul occupies an earthly, human body only once (ensomatosis), rather than a cycle of multiple bodies (metensomatosis).6 This notwithstanding, MarxWolf argues that the rational soul, separated from the body, is still capable of advancement.7 Origen insists that the Christian teaching of the resurrection should contrast with metensomatosis.8 Nevertheless, Origen’s Contra Celsum (ConCels) preserves the language and imagery inherent to the paradigm of metensomatosis. Instead, Origen harmonizes Plato’s cycle of generation with Paul’s teaching of the soul’s resurrection.9 Additionally, like Plato, Origen preserves the idea of the soul’s future embodiment.10 For Origen, however, one obtains this spiritual (Cambridge, 1965); primary texts of Contra Celsum and De principiis derive from Origenes: Contra Celsum libri VIII, ed. M. Marcovich, SVigChr 54 (Leiden, 2001) and Origen: On First Principles, 2 vol., ed. John Behr (Oxford, 2017); passages of Plato’s Phaedrus come from Platonis Opera, Book 2, ed. Ioannes Burnet, Scriptum Classicorum Bibliotheca Oxoniensis (Oxford, 1901). 2 Justinian, Letter to Mennas, ed. M.A.-L. Zingale, Scritti teologici ed ecclesiastici di Giustiniano (Milan, 1977), 68-118, 88-90. 3 U. Bianchi, ‘Origen’s Treatment of the Soul and the Debate over Metensomatosis’, in Lothar Lies (ed.), Origeniana Quarta: Die Referate des 4. Internationalen Origeneskongresses (Innsbruck, 2.-6. September 1985), Insbrucker theologische Studien 19 (Innsbruck, 1985), 270-81; G. Dorival, ‘Origène a-t-il enseigné la transmigration des âmes dans les corps d’animaux? (à propos de PArch 1.8.4)’, in Henri Crouzel and Antonio Quacquarelli (eds), Origeniana Secunda: Second colloque international des études origéniennes (Bari, 20-23 septembre 1977), Quaderni di ‘Vetera Christianorum’ 15 (Roma, 1980), 11-32; Lothar Lies, ‘Origenes und Reinkarnation’, Zeitschrift für Katholische Theologie 121 (1999), 139-58; Riemer Roukema, ‘“Die Liebe kommt nie zu Fall” (1 Kor 13,8a) als Argument des Origenes gegen einen neuen Abfall der Seelen von Gott’, in Wolfgang Bienert and Uwe Kühneweg (eds), Origeniana Septima: Origenes in den Auseinandersetzungen des 4. Jahrhunderts, Bibliotheca Ephemeridum Theologicarum Lovaniensium 137 (Leuven, 1999), 15-25, and id., ‘Transmigration of Souls’, in John Anthony McGuckin (ed.), The Westminster Handbook to Origen (Louisville, KY, 2004), 205-7. 4 See Heidi Marx-Wolf, ‘Third-Century Daimonologies and the Via Universalis: Origen, Porphyry and Iamblichus on daimones and Other Angels’, SP 46 (2010), 207-15; Ilaria L.E. Ramelli, ‘Origen and the Platonic Tradition’, Religions 8 (2017), 1-20. 5 Mark J. Edwards, Origen Against Plato (Aldershot, 2002), 1-9. 6 Ilaria Ramelli, ‘Origen’, in Anna Marmodoro and Sophie Cartwright (eds), A History of Mind and Body in Late Antiquity (Cambridge, 2018), 245-67, 249-50; see M.J. Edwards, Origen against Plato (2002), 96-101. 7 By ‘rational souls’, Marx-Wolf refers specifically to daemons and angels, but the process she observes arguably extends the rational souls of humans, Heidi Marx-Wolf, ‘Third-Century Daimonologies and the Via Universalis’ (2010), 212-4. 8 Origen, ConCels. 5.29, 3.75. 9 See Plato, Phaedrus 249a-250e; 1Cor. 15. 10 See Plato, Phaedrus 247b-c.

The Resurrection of the Rational Soul


body at its resurrection in heaven, not on earth.11 Origen contends that the body must undergo some sort of qualitative change. Accordingly, the soul needs a body better suited to its purer state. Thus, the soul dons a ‘spiritual body’ in its new embodiment which is better suited to the ethereal area of heaven.12 Origen limits the future resurrection to rational souls. Barred from the ascent to heaven are the non-rational souls of animals. Origen disagrees with the idea that the non-rational soul can ascend or descend into multiple incarnations, that is the suggestion that the human soul is born into animals or vice versa (e.g. Plato, Phaedo 81d-82b, Phaedrus 249b). Origen implicitly refocuses metensomatosis within the context of a philosophic debate (among Stoics, Peripatetics, and Platonists) over the spiritual capacity of animal’s souls,13 which Origen characterizes as non-rational.14 Origen solves this conundrum by incorporating the Stoic distinction between the spiritual abilities of the rational human soul and the non-rational animal soul.15 Thus, Origen adopts this Stoic dichotomy to transform the paradigm of metensomatosis in the language and imagery of his depiction of resurrection, whereby its scope is limited only to the rational soul. The soul’s future embodiment occurs at its heavenly resurrection and not in another human lifetime. Much of the discussion of Origen’s engagement with metensomatosis has focused on his treatment of the subject in De Principiis and Commentarii in Evangelium Iohannis, among other texts.16 Origen, however, preserves some lingering language and imagery of metensomatosis and transforms it in his description of the resurrection of the rational soul in his Contra Celsum, the sustained argument against the otherwise unknown middle Platonist Celsus. Here Origen is a reader of Plato and other eschatological literature, who departs from an evaluation of animal souls as rational and privy to personal eschatology. We can see this by Origen’s interpretation of Plato’s Phaedrus and Timaeus in view of the scriptures of Genesis and 1Corinthians.17 This study thus provides a window into not only third-century AD debates among Platonists and Stoics regarding the spiritual advancement of animals, but also the interpretation of Plato’s writings. 11

Origen, ConCels 7.32, 7.44. Ibid. 5.19, 7.32. 13 See Richard Sorabji, Animal Minds and Human Morals: The Origins of the Western Debate (Ithaca, NY, 1993). 14 Origen, ConCels 1.20 and in passim. 15 See Ingvild Sælid Gilhus, Animals, Gods and Humans: Changing Attitudes to Animals in Greek, Roman and Early Christian Ideas (London, New York, 2006); ConCels 7.17, 8.18. 16 See U. Bianchi, ‘Origen’s Treatment of the Soul’ (1985), 270-81; G. Dorival, ‘Origène a-t-il ensigne la transmigration’ (1980), 11-32; L. Lies, ‘Origenes und Reinkarnation’ (1999), 139-58; R. Roukema, ‘“Die Liebe kommt nie zu Fall”’ (1999), 15-25; R. Roukema, ‘Transmigration of Souls’ (2004), 205-7. 17 For an argument that Origen was a reader of the Timaeus, see Ilaria L.E. Ramelli, ‘Origen’s Allegoresis of Plato’s and Scripture’s “Myths”’, in Nathaniel P. DesRosiers and Lily C. Vuong (eds), Religious Competition in the Greco-Roman World (Atlanta, 2016), 85-105, 87-90. 12



Metensomatosis and Animals in Plato’s Corpus Before we examine Origen’s treatment of animals and metensomatosis, which he associates with Plato, it is prudent to review what Plato writes about the subject. In Plato’s corpus there are some general characteristics in his descriptions of reincarnation. First, for Plato, in the beginning there were only male humans. Later, in subsequent lifetimes, male humans developed into females, and then again became animals of various types. Second, Plato argues that this change from one body to another, is due to some moral and ethical failure of the soul, especially its lack of study of philosophy. Finally, however, it is possible for these souls to live in either human or animal bodies. In the Phaedrus, Plato likens the soul to a charioteer driving a winged chariot led by two horses. Once all souls drove their chariots in the divine company of Zeus, the gods, and the daemons through heaven and to the vault of heaven (ἐπὶ τὴν ὑπουράνιον ἁψῖδα).18 Some souls, however, lost control of their chariots and fell to earth where they became embodied first as people, and subsequently lost their wings. On their second lifetime, souls have the choice on becoming incarnated into animal form.19 In the Phaedo, reincarnation as animals is due at least to a non-philosophical life, or at worst to an unjust life.20 According to the myth of Er, found in the Republic, (virtually) each soul has the choice of its next life (whether that be human or animal, male or female); this choice is conditioned by the choices in its previous life.21 Finally, the Timaeus presents that all souls started their first embodiment as male humans. They then underwent changes in bodies to different types of animals only due to their failure to maintain their ideal ethical conduct.22 Later Platonists (like Celsus as we shall see) referred to these Platonic sourcetexts regarding reincarnation. For some, Plato’s thoughts on metensomatosis into animals seems to have received mixed reviews, with some perhaps taking these mythic passages literally or metaphorically.23 Furthermore, not only did Origen have to deal with this Platonic legacy, but also with the creation accounts of Genesis which propose an almost reverse account than the Timaeus, with (1) sea animals, (2) birds, (3) land animals, (4) humans (and depending on which account, male then female).24 18

Plato, Phaedrus 247b-c. Ibid. 20 Plato, Phaedo 81d-82c. 21 Id., Respublica 620a-d. 22 Id., Timaeus 41e-42a, 90a-92c. 23 See Giannis Stamatellos, ‘Plotinus on Transmigration: A Reconsideration’, Journal of Ancient Philosophy 7 (2013), 49-64, and Andrew Smith, ‘Did Porphyry Reject the Transmigration of Human Souls into Animals?’, Rheinisches Museum für Philologie 127 (1984), 276-84; I. Ramelli, ‘Origen’ (2018), 250, takes Origen’s position as metaphorical. 24 Gen. 1:20-6, 2:18-24; see Origen, HomGen 1.12. 19

The Resurrection of the Rational Soul


Stoic and Platonist debate about the rationality of animals Now let us turn to Origen’s attitudes towards animals. Ingvild Sælid Gilhus, building upon Richard Sorabji,25 situates Origen’s views of animals in the context of Stoic and Platonic debate about the rationality of animals. Origen’s views closely align with the approach held by many Stoics that animals lack reason (logos), whereas Celsus follows the position generally held by middle Platonists that animals could have it. Gilhus notes that Origen follows this Stoic evaluation of animals.26 For Origen, animals are, in his words, ‘nonrational’ – ἄλογα ζῷα, as he repeatedly calls them.27 Furthermore, similar to representatives of Stoic thought such as Epictetus, Origen’s worldview is anthropocentric in nature; animals exist for humans, who are more important.28 This Stoic anthropocentrism also fits well with the aforementioned account of the creation of animals given in Genesis 1:20-6, to which Origen refers when he claims primacy of humans over animals.29 Origen’s distinctions between humans and animals bar animals from participation in religious activity, since they are non-rational beings. He argues that the rational human soul forms part of a class of rational beings alongside angels and daemons.30 Humans as rational beings have connection to Christ the Logos by way of reason (logos), which enables people to have religious ability.31 Origen frequently reminds his readers about his views towards animals. He frequently calls them non-rational and he often reiterates his negative views in the context of other arguments.32 Most often, Origen defines animals by what he says they are not: rational. They are properly understood to be non-rational in contrast to humans. Moreover, it becomes evident that this difference between the two, is not just in their respective faculties, but importantly due to the differences in their souls.


R. Sorabji, Animal Minds and Human Morals (1993). Ingvild Sælid Gilhus, Animals, Gods and Humans (2006), 37-61 cites two works for the Stoic and Platonist debate: Philo, in On Whether Dumb Animals Possess Reason, argues against animals’ access to reason (logos). Plutarch, in On the Cleverness of Animals, presents a debate whether land or sea animals are smarter, with the result that both have logos. 27 See Origen, ConCels 1.20, 1.52, 3.17, 3.18, 3.75, 4.58, 4.75-4.79, 4.83-4.84, 4.88-4.91, 4.95-4.98, 5.36, 8.15, 8.30, 8.50, 8.53. 28 See Epictetus, Diss. 1.6.18-20, 1.16.4-5. 29 Origen, ConCels 4.83; see Gen. 1:26 and Origen, HomGen 1.12. 30 Origen, ConCels 4.24; DePrin 1.5.1. 31 Origen, ConCels 4.25. 32 See Origen, ConCels 1.20, 1.52, 3.17, 3.18, 3.75, 4.58, 4.75-4.79, 4.83-4.84, 4.88-4.91, 4.95-4.98, 5.36, 8.15, 8.30, 8.50, 8.53. 26



Origen’s alternate readings of the Timaeus to highlight animal differences This distinction is seen in Origen’s prevarication whether the soul for humans and animals was made by God prior to the body. Origen disagrees with Celsus’ appeal to Plato’s Timaeus in which the Demiurge made the soul, but the lesser gods would make the body.33 Origen leaves unspoken in his criticism the source of Celsus’ statements. Tacit, it seems, is the acknowledgement that the Timaeus holds that these original souls lived in human bodies and subsequently those of animals.34 To this, Origen says that there are differences in bodies between humans and animals and there is a soul appropriate for each type of body.35 The implication is that, if humans and animals have different types of bodies, they have different types of souls. Elsewhere, Origen grapples with Celsus’ claim, and thus, Plato’s description in Timaeus 69c, that the soul is the same shape (ὁμοειδῆ) for humans and animals.36 Origen counters this claim that there is no difference (μηδὲν διαφέρειν) between the souls of humans and animals and proposes otherwise.37 Origen considers that this opinion is that of someone who holds the soul can come not only to humans but also animals: ‘This is the view of him who brings the soul down from the vaults of heaven not only to the human body but even to other bodies also’ (ὅπερ κατάγοντός ἐστι τὴν ψυχὴν ἀπὸ τῶν ἁψίδων τοῦ οὐρανοῦ οὐκ ἐπὶ τὸ ἀνθρώπινον σῶμα μόνον ἀλλὰ καὶ ἐπὶ τὰ λοιπά).38 The human soul, not that of animals, is in the ‘image of God’ (κατ εἰκόνα θεοῦ) of God, as Origen concludes, citing Gen. 1:26.39 Origen’s animosity to metensomatosis The primary implication of Origen’s stark contrast between human and animal souls is that animal souls are not privy to a personal eschatology akin to humans. This becomes apparent in Origen’s statements against metensomatosis, which virtually always involve animals. It is clear that Origen strongly connects metensomatosis with animals and expects his readers to do so as well. Origen mocks Pythagorean (and Empedoclean) rationales for abstaining from meat because the animal killed might have the soul of someone they knew.40 Origen speaks against the so-called ‘myth about the soul having metensomatosed’ (τὸν 33

Celsus apud Origen, ConCels 4.58; see Plato, Timaeus 41d. Origen, ConCels 4.58. 35 Ibid. 36 Celsus apud Origen, ConCels 4.83. 37 Origen, ConCels 4.83. 38 Ibid.; trans. Chadwick (1965), 249, emphasis added; see Plato, Phaedrus 246c, 248d, 249a-c. 39 Ibid.; see Origen, HomGen 1.3, at which Origen says it is not the body which makes humans in the image of God but in humans’ mental faculties. 40 Origen, ConCels 5.49. 34

The Resurrection of the Rational Soul


περὶ ψυχῆς μετενσωματουμένης μῦθον)41 which, he says, is held by those who follow Pythagoras in their abstinence from eating ensouled beings (τῆς τῶν ἐμψύχων ἀποχῆς).42 Origen intimates, by quoting from Empedocles’ poetry, that the reason for this abstinence from animals derives from a fear of eating a relative, like a father his child: ‘Lift up his own son / And slay him with an imprecation, the great fool’ (φίλον υἱὸν ἀείρας / σφάξει ἐπευχόμενος μέγα νήπιος).43 Furthermore, elsewhere Origen clarifies his Christian rationale for not partaking in sacrifices. If Christians abstain’ from animals by refusing to participate in these, he argues it is because of the daemons involved in the sacrifices and not because of metensomatosis.44 Unlike Empedocles’ reasons against sacrifice, Origen maintains that souls do not ‘fall down all the way to non-rational animals’ (κατάπτωσιν αὐτῆς μέχρι τῶν ἀλόγων ζῴων).45 In the context of other arguments, Origen reiterates his connection of metensomatosis with ‘non-rational animals’. Specifically, his comments occur as part of his larger disdain of the Greeks’ toleration of the Egyptian conception of God as ‘non-rational animals’.46 This view, in his opinion, is even worse than reincarnation. By this dissimilarity of metensomatosis and Egyptian zoomorphic religion, it becomes evident that the main problem here is not so much the idea of metensomatosis itself, but, as we have previously seen, that others allow for the ‘rational’ to come down to the ‘non-rational’ – in this case, God and not the rational human soul.47 In another argument, Origen argues that Christians try to heal those affected by false teachings, such as the Epicureans who deny providence and the Stoics who claim God is material. Christians also heal people negatively affected by the teaching of metensomatosis, in which the ‘logical can go to the non-logical animal’.48 Origen’s use of imagery pertaining to metensomatosis A. The ‘rational’ soul’s embodiment Despite Origen’s patent animosity to metensomatosis to animals, in multiple locations, Origen entertains rational human souls enjoying a similar process. He is open to a modified paradigm including the context of the human soul’s 41

Ibid.; my translation. Ibid. 43 Origen, ConCels 5.49, trans. Chadwick (1965), 303; Empedocles, 31 B137 Diehls-Kranz (Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker: Griechisch und Deutsch, ed. Hermann Diehls and Walther Kranz, vol. 1 [Berlin, 1974]). 44 5.49; see 1Cor. 8:8. 45 Origen, ConCels 8.30, my translation. 46 Ibid. 1.20; 1.52; 3.17-9. 47 Ibid. 1.52. 48 Ibid. 3.75. 42



earthly embodiment49 and its second body at its future resurrection. Origen treats this embodiment with the language of metensomatosis. First, Origen compares the allegory of scripture to that of Plato’s myths broadly, comparing the serpent and the two trees in Eden to the birth of Eros from Penia and Poros of Plato’s Symposium.50 Second, Origen points to Genesis again and the ‘leather tunics’ (δερματίνους … χιτῶνας) that Adam and Eve come to wear.51 This clothing, it seems, refers roughly to the rational soul’s embodiment.52 And the statement that the man [Adam] who was cast out of the garden with the woman [Eve] was clothed with ‘leather tunics’, which God made for those who had sinned on account of the transgression of mankind, has a certain secret and mysterious meaning, superior to the Platonic doctrine of the descent of the soul which loses its wings and is carried hither ‘until it finds some firm resting-place’. Καὶ ὁ ἐκβαλλόμενος δὲ ἐκ τοῦ παραδείσου ἄνθρωπος μετὰ τῆς γυναικὸς, τοὺς “δερματίνους” ἠμφιεσμένος “χιτῶνας”, οὓς διὰ τὴν παράβασιν τῶν ἀνθρώπων ἐποίησε τοῖς ἁμαρτήσασιν ὁ θεὸς, ἀπόῤῥητόν τινα καὶ μυστικὸν ἔχει λόγον, ὑπὲρ τὴν κατὰ Πλάτωνα κάθον τῆς ψυχῆς, πτεροῤῥυούσης καὶ δεῦρο φερομένης, “ἕως ἂν στερεοῦ τινος λάβηται”. (Origen, ConCels 4.40, trans. Chadwick [1965], 216-7, slightly modified)

Origen compares the two accounts but suggests that the story of the soul as expressed in Genesis has a more profound meaning than what Plato writes in the Phaedrus about the descent of the winged soul to its earthly embodiment.53 Despite his insistence that Genesis provides a better account, this does not prevent Origen from using imagery from Plato’s Phaedrus to discuss the soul’s eschatology. He continues to compare this afterlife with the myth of the winged souls’ ascent (Plato, Phaedrus 247a-250c).54 In other locations, Origen defends the position that the Christian scriptures do indeed provide allegories of the soul. He argues for the sacred content of biblical texts, pointing to earlier precedence. He maintains that, if others can maintain that Dionysus was torn apart by Titans, so too could others like Celsus 49

For the argument that Origen did not espouse the pre-existence of the soul, see M.J. Edwards, ‘Origen against Plato’ (2002), 89-93, 94-7 and I. Ramelli, ‘Origen’ (2018), 247; for the argument that Origen did, see Peter W. Martens, ‘Embodiment, Heresy, and the Hellenization of Christianity: The Descent of the Soul in Plato and Origen’, HTR 108 (2015), 594-620. 50 Origen, ConCels 4.39; Gen. 2:8-9; Plato, Symposium 203b-e. 51 Origen, ConCels 4.39; Gen. 3:21, my translation. 52 See Irenaeus, AdvHaer 1.5.5; Clement of Alexandria, Strom. 3.95.2; Tertullian, DeResCarn 7; Origen may not have seen this allegory as precisely implying embodiment as Epiphanius, Anacoratus 62.3, 64.4 later claims; see H. Chadwick, Contra Celsum (1965), 216 n. 5 and I. Ramelli, ‘Origen’ (2018), 252. 53 See Gen. 3:21, Plato, Phaedrus 246b-c; see P.W. Martens, ‘Embodiment, Heresy, and the Hellenization of Christianity’ (2015), 613-20. 54 See Origen, ConCels 3.80; 1.13 and 3.80.

The Resurrection of the Rational Soul


see the deeper messages of the Christian scriptures.55 Furthermore, Origen insists that Celsus wrongly understands the scriptures; for, ‘If he had understood, he would have seen that these meanings provide insight into the rational soul’.56 As Origen says, If he [Celsus] had understood what is appropriate for a soul which will have everlasting life and what is the right view of its essence and origin, he would not have ridiculed in this way the idea of an immortal person entering a mortal body. Εἰ δὲ ἦν ἐννοήσας, τί ἀκολουθεῖ ψυχῇ ἐν αἰωνίῳ ἐσομένῃ ζωῇ καὶ τί χρὴ φρονεῖν περὶ τῆς οὐσίας αὐτῆς καὶ περὶ τῶν ἀρχῶν αὐτῆς, οὐκ ἂν οὕτως διέσυρε τὸν ἀθάνατον εἰς θνητὸν ἐρχόμενον σῶμα. (ConCels 4.17, trans. Chadwick [1965], 195)

Origen continues to say that this view maintained by Christians of the soul’s embodiment is better than metensomatosis: it is ‘not according to the metensomatosis of Plato, but according to a different and more sublime view’ (οὐ κατὰ τὴν Πλάτωνος μετενσωμάτωσιν ἀλλὰ κατ ἄλλην τινὰ ὑψηλοτέραν θεωρίαν).57 If Celsus knew this, he would have understood how Jesus came to help people.58 Once more, Origen discusses the coming of Jesus’ soul into a body, referring to the paradigm of metensomatosis. In response to Celsus’ claims that Jesus was an illegitimate child, Origen appeals in theory to the process of the metensomatosis of Jesus’ soul coming into his body. Origen entertains this process (although only by allusion) to explain his understanding of Jesus’ incarnation contrary to Celsus’ maligning of the circumstances of his virgin birth. According to Origen, Celsus previously accused Jesus’ mother of conceiving him in an affair with a man named Panthera.59 Origen counters Celsus’ claims to argue that Jesus was born from a virgin. Specifically, he points to the historical rationale among key thinkers, whom he associates with metensomatosis (Pythagoras, Empedocles, Plato), that the actions of the soul determine the next embodiment. Or is it more reasonable (and I say this now following Pythagoras, Plato, and Empedocles, whom Celsus often mentions) that there are certain secret principles by which each soul that enters a body does so in accordance with its merits and former character? It is therefore probable that this soul, which lived a more useful life on earth than many men (to avoid appearing to beg the question by saying ‘all men’), needed a body which was not only distinguished among human bodies, but was also superior to all others. 55

Origen, ConCels 4.17. By this, Origen refers the allegorical reading of the so-called ‘Orphic’ poems in which the Titans dismember Dionysus’ body. For further discussion, Dwayne A. Meisner, Orphic Tradition and the Birth of the Gods (Oxford, 2018), 253-73. 56 Ibid. 57 Ibid.; translation modified from Chadwick (1965), 195. 58 Ibid. 59 ConCels 1.32; trans. Chadwick (1965), 32: ‘… she had been convicted of adultery and had a child by a certain soldier named Panthera’.



Ἢ εὐλογώτερον ἑκάστην ψυχὴν κατά τινας ἀποῤῥήτους λόγους (λέγω δὲ ταῦτα νῦν κατὰ Πυθαγόραν καὶ Πλάτωνα καὶ Ἐμπεδοκλέα, οὓς πολλάκις ὠνόμασεν ὁ Κέλσος,) εἰσκρινομένην σώματι κατ ἀξίαν εἰσκρίνεσθαι καὶ κατὰ τὰ πρότερα ἤθη; Εἰκὸς οὖν καὶ ταύτην τὴν ψυχὴν, πολλῶν (ἵνα μὴ συναρπάζειν δοκῶ, λέγων πάντων) ἀνθρώπων ὠφελιμωτέραν τῷ βίῳ τῶν ἀνθρώπων ἐπιδημοῦσαν, δεδεῆσθαι σώματος, οὐ μόνον ὡς ἐν ἀνθρωπίνοις σώμασι διαφέροντος ἀλλὰ καὶ τοῦ πάντων κρείττονος. (ConCels 1.32, trans. Chadwick [1965], 32)

Origen entertains that a process similar to metensomatosis would explain why Jesus’ ‘miraculous conception’ and his ‘miraculous birth’ must have matched the qualities of his soul’s virtues.60 Origen seems fine to associate hypothetically the paradigm of metensomatosis with the coming of Jesus’ soul into his body. In this passage, Origen discusses the embodiment of a rational soul (as Origen classifies Jesus the Logos)61 as opposed to that of the non-rational souls of animals. B. The rational soul’s resurrection: the soul’s second embodiment The language and imagery pertaining to metensomatosis also occur alongside his discussion of resurrection and the soul’s ascent. Origen transforms the process significantly to only apply to the rational soul, preserving the language of Plato’s Phaedrus where in the soul’s winged chariot and two horses travels through heaven to the other side of its heavenly vault. Origen maintains that, through the help of the Logos, one can ascend in prayer to the realm above vault of heaven: He does not stop even at the vault of heaven, but comes in mind to the [hyperouranic] region ... through the mediation of His Son who is the Logos of God. ὑπεραναβαίνει τὸν ὅλον κόσμον. Καὶ οὐδ᾿ ἐπὶ τὴν ἁψῖδα ἵσταται τοῦ οὐρανοῦ, ἀλλ᾿ εἰς τὸν ὑπερουράνιον γενόμενος τῇ διανοίᾳ τόπον διὰ τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ λόγου ὄντος θεοῦ... (Origen, ConCels 3.80, trans. Chadwick [1965], 181; see Plato, Phaedrus 247b-c, emphasis mine)

Origen also writes, citing 1Cor. 8:5-6, that the souls of the just ascend to the likeness of angels, through reason (logos): We know too that the angels are so far superior to men that when men are made perfect they become equal to angels. “For in the resurrection of the dead they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but the righteous are as the angels of heaven”, and they become “equal to angels”…. We also see that, though we men fall short of these beings, we have hopes that by living a good life and doing everything according to reason we may ascend to the likeness of all these. 60

ConCels 1.32. See Origen, ConCels 4.24, DePrin 1.5.1 although he stresses that Christ the Logos is not really the same as the human soul. 61

The Resurrection of the Rational Soul


οἴδαμεν δὲ καὶ τοὺς ἀγγέλους οὕτως εἶναι ἀνθρώπων κρείττονας, ὥστε τοὺς ἀνθρώπους τελειωθέντας ἰσαγγέλους γίνεσθαι · “ἐν γὰρ τῇ ἀναστάσει τῶν νεκρῶν οὔτε γαμοῦσιν οὔτ ἐγγαμίζονται, ἀλλ εἰσὶν ὡς οἱ ἄγγελοι τῶν οὐρανῶν” οἱ δίκαιοι καὶ γίνονται “ἰσάγγελοι”… καὶ ὁρῶμεν ὅτι πολὺ τούτων ἡμεῖς οἱ ἄνθρωποι ἀπολειπόμενοι ἐλπίδας ἔχομεν ἐκ τοῦ καλῶς βιοῦν καὶ πάντα πράττειν κατὰ τὸν λόγον ἀναβαίνειν ἐπὶ τὴν τούτων πάντων ἐξομοίωσιν. (Origen, ConCels 4.29, trans. Chadwick [1965], 204, emphasis mine)62

We see that Origen appeals to Plato and Paul as bases for the ascension of the human soul. When these three passages are taken collectively, we see that Origen reframes the rational soul’s ascent as described by Plato to imply the ascent to the realm of the angels. Reason (logos) is the key to this ascent, hence the access to this eschatology only for rational souls and not non-rational animals. Origen proceeds to explain how the body, at the resurrection, must qualitatively change. He responds to Celsus’ claim that they hope for the rotted corpse to be brought to life. First, he cites passages from 1Corinthians wherein Paul discusses the resurrection of the body. Corroborating his argument Origen explicitly calls upon 1Cor. 14:40-4 wherein Paul compares the resurrection of the dead to grain which must die in order to sow its seeds.63 Origen explicates the passage that the body must be ‘sown’ by dying so it can ‘take up a body which is appointed by God...’64 Origen then quotes from 1Corinthians further where Paul distinguishes a ‘natural’ body from a ‘spiritual’ body.65 Later, Origen quotes the apostle Paul who describes this transformation as a person having the ‘image of the heavenly’.66 Recall again that Origen makes it clear that animals are not in the image of God. And (elsewhere) that the image of God is the rational nature of humans. Language and imagery pertaining to metensomatosis (especially its sublunar locale) also occur alongside resurrection. Instead, he provides a correction to it. Later Origen provides a rationale for the body’s qualitative change, because at time of resurrection the soul needs a body better suited to its purer state.67 On this Origen says: We do not talk about the resurrection, as Celsus imagines, because we have misunderstood the doctrine of metensomatosis, but because we know that when the soul, which in its own nature is incorporeal and invisible, is in any material place, it requires a body suited to the nature of that environment. In the first place, it bears this body after it has put off the former body which was necessary at first, but which is now superfluous in its second state. In the second place, it puts a body on top of that which it possessed

62 63 64 65 66 67

See Origen, DePrin 2.11.6. Origen, ConCels 4.57. Ibid.; trans. Chadwick (1965), 231. Ibid.; trans. Chadwick (1965), 231. ConCels 5.19. Ibid. 7.32; for a similar account of another body, see Origen, DePrin 2.10.1.



formerly because it needs a better garment for the purer, ethereal, and heavenly regions... ... ὅτι οὐχ, ὡς οἴεται Κέλσος, τῆς μετενσωματώσεως παρακούσαντες τὰ περί ἀναστάσεώς φαμεν ἀλλ’ εἰδότες ὅτι ἡ τῇ ἐαυτῆς φύσει ἀσώματος καὶ ἀόρατος ψυχὴ ἐν παντὶ σωματικᾧ τόπῳ τυγχάνουσα δέεται σώματος οἰκείου τῇ φύσει τῷ τόπῳ ἐκείνῳ· ὅπερ ὅπου μὲν φορεῖ ἀπεκδυσαμένη πρότερον ἀναγκαῖον μὲν περισσὸν δὲ ὡς πρὸς τὰ δαέτερα. Ὅπου δὲ ἐπενδυσαμένη ᾦ πρότερον εῖχε, δεομένη κρείττονος ἐνδύματος εἰς τοὺς καθαρωτέρους καὶ αἰθερίους καὶ οὐρανίους τόπους... (ConCels 7.32, trans. Chadwick [1965], 420, emphasis mine)

Here, Origen proposes two things: (1) The soul rids itself of its previous body, and (2) takes on a new body for its new location.68 This resurrection, despite his suggestions otherwise, is akin to the next embodiment as implied elsewhere about metensomatosis. Origen even uses language reminiscent of the soul’s ascent to heaven in Plato’s Phaedrus. Origen’s description of this location as εἰς τοὺς καθαρωτέρους καὶ αἰθερίους καὶ οὐρανίους τόπους (ConCels 7.32) mirrors the language used by Plato to describe the ascent of the winged soul through heaven to the hyperouranic locale of the gods and daemons (ἐπὶ τὴν ὑπουράνιον ἁψῖδα),69 which Origen aligns with how he describes the realm of angels. The difference, however, is that the soul’s next embodiment does not happen repeatedly on earth, but once at the resurrection in heaven.70 Furthermore, conspicuously absent is any discussion of non-rational animals. Instead, we see an openness to the language of metensomatosis, provided that the rational soul’s life in a human body does not occur over multiple times, or that this rational soul transmigrates into the bodies of non-rational animals.

Conclusion Origen modifies this paradigm of metensomatosis to bar non-rational animal souls from the process, using the Stoic privation of logos to them. Instead, despite his disavowal of metensomatosis, Origen describes the future resurrection of elect souls with a spiritual body in terms reminiscent of Plato’s cycle of generation.71 Origen synchronizes his readings of Christian scriptures (Genesis and 1Corinthians) and Plato’s writings (Phaedrus and Timaeus) in such a way that the soul’s embodiment and future resurrection mirror the paradigm of metensomatosis – without animals. Origen positively associates the 68

Origen, ConCels 7.32. Plato, Phaedrus 247b. 70 See I. Ramelli, ‘Origen and the Platonic Tradition’ (2017), 2; H. Marx-Wolf, ‘Third-Century Daimonologies and the Via Universalis’ (2010), 212-4. 71 Plato, Phaedrus 247a-250e. 69

The Resurrection of the Rational Soul


Phaedrus’ imagery of the soul’s ascent with rational humans. Missing from these accounts are Origen’s discussion of animals. He corrects alternative accounts of the earthly metensomatosis of humans to animals (or human to human – which is not a primary concern in ConCels). The just rational soul’s eschatology in ConCels is in heaven and not on earth. Origen does not seem to have problems with rational souls coming into bodies or the taking on of another body at the resurrection (although this soul likely has a continuity of its identity, contrary to what is found largely in Plato). Thus, using the Stoic dichotomies between rational and non-rational souls, Origen interprets Plato through the lens of scripture to transform the paradigm of metensomatosis. He provides the Christian embodiment at the resurrection as a proper understanding of the soul’s eschatology in contrast to what he presents other Platonists to claim.

Magic and Morality: Origen of Alexandria and the Construction of Christian ‘Miracle’ Shaily Shashikant PATEL, Blacksburg, VA, USA

ABSTRACT In much of the scholarship on magic in early Christianity, ‘magic’ operates as a marginalized obverse of religion. A similar understanding obtains in Origen of Alexandria’s Contra Celsum. According to Origen, sorcerers lack moral rectitude. If Jesus were such a figure, he could not teach believers to act as though divine judgment were forthcoming and prompt them to modify their behavior accordingly. Jesus’ miracles, and Christianity as such, represent a moral system antithetical to magical practices. Despite Origen’s claims, recent research suggests that freelance specialists like magicians proliferated in the Roman world, plying their wares and selling their services. These specialists were widely maligned in literary circles precisely because of their popularity. Ancient Christian writers, therefore, were caught between two opposing trends: (1) the popular allure of magic and those who provided its benefits; and (2) the categorical condemnation of magic among literati. This paper explores how such contradictory facets of ancient magic illuminate Origen’s famous refutation of Celsus and contribute to an overarching discourse of magic that is likewise contradictory. Instead of categorically denying Jesus’ participation in activities associated with magic, our author must instead offer moralizing interpretations of said activities. This ‘moral’ differentiation of magic from miracle functions as a pedagogical warning to would-be converts who may be tempted by magic’s allure.

Introduction In Apuleius’ Metamorphoses, the protagonist Lucius wants to witness the magical deeds of Pamphile and to become her apprentice, even though he is warned against the costs of plying this particular trade.1 Apuleius’ ambivalence towards magic here should give us pause, despite the fact that Lucius is a fictional character and The Metamorphoses is a work of satire. These warring impulses present the tantalizing possibility that some people may have participated in 1

Met. 2.6. In fact, Lucius pursues ‘the always desirable name of magic’ (artis magicae semper optatum nomen), despite the fact that he has been warned against the deeds of Pamphile immediately before he expresses this fascination (in 2.5).

Studia Patristica CXI, 151-163. © Peeters Publishers, 2021.



magic while simultaneously knowing it was viewed in a negative light.2 Perhaps more tantalizing is an assertion put forth by Heidi Wendt in her volume, At the Temple Gates. Wendt argues that freelance religious specialists who were often conflated with magicians were both popular among the masses and yet reviled in elite literary circles.3 These two pieces of ancient data expose a contradiction between magicians’ allure and how they are most often represented in literary texts. In short, Lucius’ fascination with magic might be emblematic of a broader cultural situation in which people were entranced even as ancient writers disparaged magic and magicians.4 What do these inconsistences have to do with an early Christian writer like Origen of Alexandria? To me, Origen’s debate with the pagan philosopher Celsus also showcases similar contradictions: a recognition of magic’s power and popularity as well as an opposing proclivity to categorically malign magicians in a manner consistent with other ancient literati. In fact, the Alexandrian Church Father’s inconsistency with respect to magic has not gone unnoticed by modern scholars.5 We often analyze Origen’s contradictory ‘discourse of magic’ against a broader rhetorical backdrop in which our author must construct binaries between Christianity and ‘other’ systems of belief or practice. So, for example, several scholars argue that the issue of magic is bound up with questions of philosophy. Origen posits Christianity as superior to pagan philosophy, yes, but he concomitantly elevates philosophy above magic.6 Others, like Adele 2 The Metamorphoses is a satire, but the text must trade in verisimilitude. The satire would lose its comedic edge if the audience could not imagine someone whose fascination with magic approximates that of Lucius. Such a text must make sense within its cultural context. 3 Heidi Wendt, At the Temple Gates: The Religion of Freelance Experts in the Roman Empire (Oxford, 2016), 142. 4 A note on the translation of μαγεία/magia and its cognates: In the introduction to his Guide to the Study of Ancient Magic, David Frankfurter warns that translating indigenous Greek and Latin represents a sort of intellectual slippage, whereby emic and etic perspectives are collapsed. See D. Frankfurter, ‘Ancient Magic in a New Key’, in David Frankfurter (ed.), Guide to the Study of Ancient Magic (Leiden, 2019), 4. I agree with Frankfurter. Nevertheless, I have translated μαγεία/magia and cognates into the English ‘magic’. I am perhaps more sanguine than he about rehabilitating the term ‘magic’. More importantly, this project presupposes a ‘stereotype of magic’ extant in the ancient imaginary. Such a stereotype is a scholarly reconstruction, not a first-order category. To avoid any illusions of an emic perspective, I have decided to use the English to refer to this stereotype and the activities that comprise it. 5 See, for example, Eugene V. Gallagher, Divine Man or Magician? Celsus and Origen on Jesus, SBL Dissertation Series 64 (Chico, 1982), 44; Jacques van der Vliet, ‘Roman and Byzantine Egypt’, in David Frankfurter (ed.), Guide to the Study of Ancient Magic (2019), 266; Adele Monaci Castagno, ‘Magia’, in Adele Monaci Castagno (ed.), Origene. Dizionario: la cultura, il pensiero, le opere (Roma, 2000), 255. 6 Recent discussions include John Dillon, ‘The Magical Power of Names in Origen and Later Platonism’, in Richard Hanson and Henri Crouzel (eds), Origeniana Tertia. The Third Colloquium for Origen Studies (Rome, 1985), 203-16; Naomi Janowitz, ‘Theories of Divine Names in Origen and Pseudo-Dionysius’, HR 30 (1990), 359-72; Giulia Sfameni Gasparro, ‘Origene e la magia. Teoria e prassi’, in L. Perrone (ed.), Origeniana Octava: Origen and the Alexandrian Tradition. Papers of the 8th International Origen Conference in Pisa 27-31 August, 2001, Bibliotheca

Magic and Morality


Monaci Gasparro and Naomi Janowitz, see in Origen’s understanding of magic an additional Jewish background: if he can make Christian wonders conform to Jewish prophetic expectations, they must be classed as miracle, and not magic.7 The larger point, of course, is that Origen’s discourse of magic is necessarily contradictory and ambiguous; he must retain the wonders themselves since they are popular and widely-believed to be effective, but he cannot allow Christian miracles to be confused with magic, since in his mind, ‘magic’ is demonic and evil.8 He therefore negotiates distinctions between Christian miracle and magic in myriad ways. In this paper, I wish to highlight yet another of Origen’s binaries for these ongoing scholarly conversations about magic in the Contra Celsum – the binary between good and evil, particularly as it relates to our author’s insistence that Christian miracles prompt moral reformation (τῶν ἠθῶν ἐπανόρθωσιν) (1.68).9 For Origen, wonders that lead to such a reformation cannot be magical, since magicians have a depraved character. This assertion seems natural to modern scholars, but we should note that ancient literati who maligned magic did not necessarily frame their criticisms of the practice in terms of moral failing. Lucian’s Babylonian magician was a figure of ridicule.10 The author of On the Sacred Disease described magicians offering cures and purifications as charlatans.11 In some sources, the more salient characteristic of magicians is that they are foreign, and consequently have strange or barbaric customs.12 Ephemeridum Theologicarum Louvaniensium 164 (Leuven, 2003), 733-56; M. Castagno, ‘Magia’ (2000), 255. In the introduction to his classic translation, Chadwick too, discusses Origen’s indebtedness to philosophy as well as his modes of distinguishing Christianity from it: Henry Chadwick, Origen: Contra Celsum (Cambridge, 1953), ix-xii. 7 G.S. Gasparro, ‘Origene e la magia’ (2003), 748; N. Janowitz, ‘Theories of Divine Names’ (1990), 360-5. 8 Origen uses both γοητεία and μαγεία to denote activities that commonly corresponded with μαγεία in ancient literature. For a discussion on the histories of these terms, and how they became increasingly conflated in our period, see Fritz Graf, Magic in the Ancient World, trans. Franklin Philip, Revealing Antiquity 10 (Cambridge, 1997), 20-60, esp. 24-7. For a discussion of these activities and a justification for their inclusion within the rubric of ‘magic’, see Radcliffe Edmonds III, Drawing Down the Moon: Magic in the Graeco-Roman World (Princeton, 2019). Additionally, when I refer to ‘miracle’, I am referring to the distinction Origen constructs between Christian wonderworkers and others, not to any essential differences between these two classes of activities. I retain this terminology for the sake of clarity. 9 By ‘moral reformation’ I simply mean belief and the behavioral modification that accompanies said belief in the Contra Celsum. I do not mean it in a technical or philosophical sense, but rather as a convenient placeholder for a set of ideas I will detail below. 10 Philops. 12. 11 1.10-2, 28 Grensemann. 12 The majority of the figures in Lucian’s Philopseudes are ‘foreigners’. See also First Alcibiades, 122a; Dio Cassius, Roman History, 72; Catallus, Carmen 90, among others. Richard Gordon analyzes the use of magic in ‘othering’ foreigners in ‘Imagining Greek and Roman Magic’, in Bengt Ankarloo and Stuart Clark (eds), Witchcraft and Magic in Europe: Ancient Greece and Rome (Philadelphia, 1999), 191-4.



It is too facile to conflate multiple literary descriptors for magicians – ridiculous, charlatan, strange, barbaric – into a general notion of evil in the sense of moral corruption.13 Isolating the very specific moral nuance Origen imparts to his own negotiations of magic and miracle is of deep import, because it prompts us to consider the following: If not all magicians were considered evil in the same fashion, then what is Origen’s purpose in characterizing magic as a matter of moral reformation? In what follows, I aim to show that emphasizing magicians’ morality (or lack thereof) aids in ossifying Origen’s larger pedagogical agenda. By differentiating magic and miracle along this particular index, our author teaches his audience consisting of outsiders and those of ‘weak faith’ (Praef. 4), not to confuse Christian ‘miracles’ with magic. This prescriptive endeavor would have been particularly urgent in a cultural context wherein it became increasingly difficult to differentiate between various religious specialists – between Jesus and the marketplace magician, as it were.14 For those like Celsus inclined to see exorcisms and healings as magical, tying the question of magic to morality, and ultimately to salvation, means Origen can frame magic as an issue of cosmic good versus evil. Understanding Jesus and Christians correctly (i.e., as something other than magicians) has deep existential consequences – a persuasive argument, if one’s audience is receptive, that is. Origen’s Discourse of Magic Distilling the core of Origen’s discourse of magic is rather difficult. Gallagher explains: ‘Origen’s attitude towards magical beliefs and practices was decidedly ambivalent. At one point (6.80) he notes that magic, whose origin and name he traces to the Magi, has spread to other races to the destruction and ruin of those who use it. But he claims elsewhere that ‘so-called magic’ is not, as the followers of Epicurus and Aristotle think, utterly incoherent, but rather a consistent system whose principles are known only to a very few (1.24).’15 The Alexandrian Father also believes certain names lend themselves to supernatural efficacy (1.24), suggesting that he, ‘was inclined to take at least some parts of ‘magic’ very seriously’, especially those parts that dealt with the power of sacred names.16 The Contra Celsum includes a wholesale condemnation of 13

I am not denying that magicians were, overwhelmingly, characterized in negative terms by ancient literati, nor am I suggesting that magicians could not be characterized by a multiplicity of these indices. What I am claiming is that not all so-called evil magicians were ‘evil’ in precisely the same ways. See the discussion in R. Gordon for how the charge of magic is multivalent: ‘Imagining Greek and Roman Magic’ (1999), 191-239. 14 H. Wendt, At the Temple Gates (2016), 118, 142. 15 E.V. Gallagher, Divine Man or Magician (1982), 44. 16 Ibid. 45.

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magic alongside a seemingly-contradictory recognition that magic, as a system, is both coherent and effective (as exemplified by the power of divine names). This is in marked contrast to an ancient writer like Philostratus, who describes magic as a series of trickeries that ensnare the gullible but cause derision among others.17 Despite the difficulties attendant to the task of articulating such a contradictory discourse, scholars have made significant contributions to distilling Origen’s overarching theory of magic. As these scholars’ observations are helpful to the discussion that follows, I will offer a brief summary. In particular, the majority of work on magic in Origen focuses on the Alexandrian Father’s theory of the efficacy of divine names, and how this theorization is one site for negotiating ‘magic’ and ‘miracle’ throughout the Contra Celsum.18 The issue of divine names comes to the fore in 1.6, where Celsus charges Christians with obtaining power ‘by pronouncing the name of certain daemons and incantations’.19 In refuting the charge, Origen asserts that Christians do not pronounce the names of demons, but exorcise ‘by the name of Jesus with the recitation of histories concerning him’ (1.6). So, while Origen admits that Christians perform wonders through the name of Jesus, he makes a technical distinction between two types of ritual activity – that of Christians and that of magicians. As others have noted, Origen was not the only thinker to attribute ritual efficacy to divine names. There exist multiple interpretive backdrops within which our author’s understanding of divine names becomes a convention of philosophy or linguistic tradition as opposed to magic.20 Perhaps Origen has such philosophical or Jewish prophetic traditions in mind when he explains why divine names must be uttered in their native languages and contexts to retain the full measure of their power (1.24).21 And yet, he also claims the name of Jesus is so powerful that even ‘bad men’ who pronounce it will see some result (1.6). It seems ritual context itself does not render a name divine or magical.22 This is a most fascinating implication, given that some scholars of ancient magic would posit ritual context as the most salient index for distinguishing magic from miracle: outside wonderworkers are magicians 17

Vit. Apoll. 7.39. In particular J. Dillon, ‘Magical Power of Names’ (1985); N. Janowitz, ‘Theories of Divine Names’ (1990), 360-5; G.S. Gasparro, ‘Origene e la magia’ (2003), 742-4; Miroslav Šedina, ‘Magical Power of Names in Origen’s Polemic against Celsus’, Listy filologické 136 (2013), 7-25. Gallagher believes Origen’s system of magic is ‘… primarily a theory of the inherent power of certain divine names…’: E.V. Gallagher, Divine Man or Magician (1982), 45. 19 Translations from H. Chadwick, Origen: Contra Celsum (1953). 20 Origen’s intellectual milieu provides several frameworks for affirming the power inherent in divine names. These include philosophical traditions (J. Dillon, ‘Magical Power of Names’ [1985], esp. 207-9), linguistic conventions of Hebrew (N. Janowitz, ‘Theories of Divine Names’ [1990], 360-5) and that of Egyptian ritual practice (G.S. Gasparro, ‘Origene e la magia’ [2003], 738). 21 Discussed in J. Dillon, ‘Magical Power of Names’ (1985), 206. 22 Ibid.; N. Janowitz, ‘Theories of Divine Names’ (1990), 363. 18



while in-group wonderworkers are miracle-workers.23 While Origen certainly betrays some preoccupation with ritual context, he primarily differentiates magic from miracle on moral grounds, as I will discuss below.24 The result is that magic and miracle become matters of an individual’s character as much as group membership. Because our author is well aware that some aspects of Christian wonderworking (like the recitation of divine names) are externally similar to the wiles of marketplace sorcerers (1.68), he has to create a distinctive tradition for Jesus and his followers, one that is decidedly not magic. To me, the internal appeal to morality is a direct result of external similarities between Jesus’ deeds and magic. Prioritizing individual, internal facets of magic is pedagogically expedient: It warns that things which look similar may, in truth, be fundamentally different. Origen thus makes a two-fold attack against magic, technical and ethical.25 The technical aspects of this differentiation I have already mentioned: Christian exorcists use only the name of Jesus and simple histories to work their wonders (1.68). In the remainder of this paper, I would like to treat what van der Vliet terms the ‘ethical’ dimensions of magical discourse.26 When witnessing a wondrous deed, Origen claims, it is incumbent upon the observer to distinguish between good and evil, and ultimately, between magician and miracle-worker (2.51).27 Specifically, these observers must ask if the results of the deeds performed injure humankind or bring about a moral reformation (2.51). They must also examine the character (τοῦ ἤθους) of the wonderworker to determine their legitimacy (2.51). A careful reader will note the stunning circular reasoning: Origen’s criteria for distinguishing miracle from magic involve the character of the wonderworker and the ability of their deeds to bring about a moral reformation. Likewise, Christians’ exemplary character and the power of their miracles to engender moral change mark them as figures 23 For example, David Aune, ‘Magic in Early Christianity’, in Apocalypticism, Prophecy, and Magic in Early Christianity (Grand Rapids, 2008), 376. Originally printed in H. Temporini and W. Haase (eds), ANRW II.23.2 (Berlin, 1980), 1507-57; Alan F. Segal, ‘Hellenistic Magic: Some Questions of Definition’, in M.J. Bermaseren and Roel B. Broek (eds), Studies in Gnosticism and Hellensitic Religions (Leiden, 1981), 369-70. 24 Gallagher makes a similar point, E.V. Gallagher, Divine Man or Magician (1982), 59-61. I wish to add to his discussion by contextualizing it within cultural and literary trends concerning ancient magic and by highlighting how rhetorical circularity in the Contra Celsum functions within Origen’s larger pedagogical agenda. 25 J. van der Vliet, ‘Roman and Byzantine Egypt’ (2019), 268. 26 Instead of van der Vliet’s ‘ethical’, I have chosen to retain Chadwick’s translation of ‘moral’ to maintain consistent terminology throughout. 27 I wish to table comparisons between magicians and ‘divine men’. We cannot talk of the construction of the ‘divine man’ archetype in antiquity or in modern scholarship here. To mitigate confusion resulting from uncritical use of this technical term, I use ‘miracle-worker’ instead. Of course, Gallagher’s treatment is invaluable for those seeking a review of scholarship: E.V. Gallagher, Divine Man or Magician (1982), 1-40.

Magic and Morality


other than magicians. He presupposes what he wishes to prove, but in doing so, Origen creates a rhetorical ‘closed loop’ – a means of restricting interpretive possibilities for his protagonists’ deeds. In essence, our author asserts that morality is a factor for distinguishing miracle from magic and then demonstrates how Jesus and his followers fulfil the moral requirements he himself sets forth. In my mind, this kind of rhetorical circularity is directly resultant of the opposing cultural trends I mentioned earlier. Magic was part and parcel of the ancient imaginary, and some Romans no doubt wished to harness its efficacy.28 Simultaneously, the increased taxonomic muddling of ritual specialists led Roman literati to categorically malign magicians.29 If Origen imagines himself writing for ‘those without experience’ or ‘weak in faith’ perhaps inclined to interpret Christian wonders as magic (and enticed on account of this), then differentiation solely along technical lines leaves our author’s task half-done. By describing differences in ritual practice, he explains what Christian wonderworking is not – namely, it is not magic, since it does not employ the same ritual trappings. But he has not given a positive interpretation with which to fill the conceptual vacuum left by magic’s excision. To do so, he must relate what Christian wonderworking is and further detail what advantages it offers over mere magic. This is the function of relating magic to morality, and eventually, to salvation. In doing so, our author ultimately leaves his audience with an urgent warning in terms of interpreting Christians’ wonders: either they come to the correct understanding or they face God’s judgment. There is no room for ambiguity. Magic and Morality To be sure, Origen is concerned with the morality of Christians throughout the Contra Celsum, not simply in those sections dedicated to magic. In fact, the moral uprightness of Christians is one mode through which he elevates Christianity above philosophy and Judaism, too. But with respect to magic, he primarily focuses on those two criteria he establishes for identifying miracleworkers: (1) the character of those who perform wonders; and (2) the moral reformation engendered in those who benefit from said wonders. Origen makes a number of claims to arrive at the following: Christian miracle-workers are of sterling character and instill a redemptive fear of God while wicked magicians lead people to destruction. The net effect of this chain of reasoning is that magic becomes increasingly correlated with Christian notions of sin. Magic is no longer about what magicians do; it is about who cannot be saved. This text 28 29

R. Gordon, ‘Imagining Greek and Roman Magic’ (1999), 168-78. H. Wendt, At the Temple Gates (2016), 142.



thus represents one contribution to the larger early Christian construction of magic as a transgressive, sinful obverse of “religion” – a notion that remains with us today.30 Before I turn to the aforementioned ‘chain’ of reasoning, I should note that Origen believes everyone capable of being morally upright, since ‘God has implanted in the souls of all men truths … so that every man might be without excuse at the divine judgment, having the requirement of the law written in their heart’ (1.4). Within this overarching framework of universal accessibility to divine truth, the wickedness of magicians takes on an especially dire tenor. These practitioners are capable of orienting themselves towards God, but instead, they cling to power and commune with demons (1.60). In Origen’s estimation, ‘… magic and sorcery [are] wrought by evil daemons who are enchanted by elaborate spells and obey men who are sorcerers’ (2.51). Demons do not belong to God; they belong to Beelzebul (8.25). And just as demons are evil, so too are the sorcerers who use them: these individuals are filled with the most shameful and insidious sins (αἰσχίστων καὶ ἐπιρρητοτάτων ἁμαρτημάτων), and have neither the desire nor the inclination for reforming people (1.68). In essence, both the supernatural agent and the person harnessing said agent are wicked (1.68). It is no wonder that magic cannot be practiced within a tradition that is moral (6.40).31 But Origen’s concerns go beyond the character of the wonderworker; he also wishes to make distinctions between results of their respective deeds. He insists that demon-empowered magicians use their dark powers for unsavory ends. In 6.30-1, Origen expressly calls the Ophites ‘sorcerers’ and describes how they lead people astray. Simon the Magician, too, had his days of leading people away from the truth (1.57). This accusation of ‘leading people astray’ is a common method by which Christian writers malign outside magicians. We see the same charge brought against Simon in the Acts of Peter (4) and the Clementine Recognitions (1.72), for example. In all of these texts, the accusation functions as a warning: anyone seduced by magic’s allure is liable to be corrupted by the immorality rampant in the ranks of magicians.32 As so, for those who would be enticed by magic, Origen forces a choice. One cannot adopt the ambivalent attitude towards magic displayed by someone like Apuleius’ Lucius and expect to remain unchanged. Getting involved with magicians poses an existential risk to one’s character. Nevertheless, such a warning cannot fully suffice. It certainly did not for Lucius, who pursued magic heedless of the consequences. Once again, we must bear in mind that if Origen insists Christianity is not magic, he must relate what 30 Randall Steyers, Making Magic: Religion, Magic, and Science in the Modern World (Oxford, 2004), 69-120. 31 In fact, Origen reminds us of Jewish and Christian injunctions against magic (1.26). 32 E.V. Gallagher, Divine Man or Magician (1982), 45.

Magic and Morality


it is. This means he must offer a satisfying alternative to the morally-compromising attraction of magic. He cannot deny its existence wholesale, after all. Doing so would prove problematic on several fronts. It would demand erasing many of the Christian traditions he inherited, neglecting the cultural reality of magic’s existence, and ignoring Celsus’ charge against Jesus. Perhaps most importantly, however, such a move might invite the denial of miracle (2.51).33 So, unlike other ancient writers who dismiss magic as ineffectual or vain, Origen concedes its power.34 His appeal to morality allows him to insulate Jesus and Christian practitioners from the accusation of magic, showing them to be ‘miracle-workers’ instead. As mentioned, the first of Origen’s requirements for the miracle-worker involves the character of the wonderworker himself. He begins with Jesus, using Celsus’ charge of magic against Jesus as the baseline from which he draws broader distinctions between Christian miracle-workers and magicians. One of his strategies for elevating Jesus involves the expanding the discussion of magic to include more than wondrous deeds. Origen claims Jesus was widely admired for his ‘wisdom, miracles, and leadership’ (1.30). Jesus’ ministry, therefore, offers more than wondrous deeds; he offers wisdom and leadership. We get some sense of what such wisdom and leadership add in 1.9, where physicians who heal the body are deemed less impressive than one who ‘cures souls’. Believers healed by Jesus are physically restored, true enough, but they are also taught to avoid anything displeasing to God, down to ‘the most insignificant of words or deeds or even casual thoughts’ (1.9). Those healed are fundamentally changed by their encounter, implying that Jesus’ wonderworking and ministry transcend the physical. By elevating the one who cures souls over those who heal bodies, Origen intimates the latter group cannot offer the same. Although the group in question in 1.9 are physicians, Origen does imagine healing to be within the purview of magicians as well (1.68). Jesus is more than these magicians who ‘blow away diseases’ (1.68). Jesus’s legacy did not end with his crucifixion. When Celsus wonders what ‘fine action’ Jesus did to justify his being worshipped as a God, Origen submits as evidence the fact that people are still cured ‘through his name’ (2.33). Christian miracles remain efficacious because the divine power through which Jesus worked was disseminated, from him to his disciples, and then to others. As with Origen’s rhetorical circularity, this appeal to a spiritual succession closes the loop, preventing any magicians from partaking in true divine power. We see how this power is distributed in 1.31: here, our author claims Jesus’ disciples saw his miracles and learned many things from him ‘in secret’, eventually acquiring a ‘certain power’ which imparted true knowledge and wisdom of 33

See discussion in G.S. Gasparro, ‘Origene e la magia’ (2003), 754. Plato, Rep. 412e7, 413c4; Lex. X 908d2-4; Hdt. 4.105.2; Pliny, HN 30.17. See discussion in R. Gordon, ‘Imagining Greek and Roman Magic’ (1999), 210-9. 34



God. Said power is sometimes expressly correlated with the Holy Spirit.35 In other parts of the text, the divine spirit empowers Moses (3.5), other prophets (3.3), and those who do God’s work (2.51). Traces of it remain operative in Christian believers, and these very traces are responsible for healings, exorcisms, and some sorts of divination (1.46). Magicians who are empowered by evil demons do not participate in this distribution of divine power.36 In contrast to those who collude with demons, Christian wonderworkers legitimately empowered by the Spirit approach their work with ‘real sincerity and genuine belief’ (διαθέσεως ὑγιοῦς καὶ πεπιστευκυίας γνησίως) (1.6). In Origen’s view, then, whatever practical similarities abound between Christians and magicians are illusory, since there is an ontological difference between the two classes of activities (2.51). Magic may be a coherent system according to our author, but miracle exists apart from that system. It is a different species entirely (2.51). Thus, the line between magician and miracle-worker is drawn. A magician is of low character and uses demonic entities to perform wonders and lead people astray.37 In contrast, Jesus was of sterling moral character and used miracles to teach others to live in a manner pleasing to God.38 The power that animated his ministry is still available to those who do God’s work. Potential converts or neophytes who might be interested in soliciting the services of a marketplace magician are better served by legitimate Christian miracle-workers. Not only will they benefit physically from healings or exorcisms, they will find themselves reformed. Having established that his protagonists are superior to base magicians, Origen must describe what an interested party might gain by abandoning magic and joining the followers of Jesus. What does ‘moral reformation’ entail, precisely?39 Origen hints at this in 1.9: As part of a larger argument defending belief precipitated through faith as opposed to reason, our author insists that those converting by faith are ‘made reformed characters … and helped by the belief that they are punished for sin and rewarded for good works…’ Additionally, faith-inspired belief is preferable to reasoned philosophical inquiry since it more quickly turns people away from living ‘a very evil life’ (1.9). Such non-believers living a ‘very evil’ life will be subject to punishment as a result 35 In (3.28), Origen claims divine power ‘descended’ into Jesus, animating his wonders. Given that all Jewish and Christian wonders in the Contra Celsum are described as being powered by the divine spirit, we can assume this spirit is the same Holy Spirit mentioned in 1.46 as the entity driving Christian wonderworking in Origen’s day. 36 Despite the fact that divine names remain operative in non-Christian contexts. J. Dillon, ‘Magical Power of Names’ (1985), 206; N. Janowitz, ‘Theories of Divine Names’ (1990), 362. 37 E.V. Gallagher, Divine Man or Magician (1982), 70-3. 38 Ibid. 39 I should note that a full consideration of Origen’s understanding of moral reformation is beyond the scope of this paper. I treat it only when it relates to Origen’s discussions of the purpose of Christian miracle.

Magic and Morality


(cf. 2.25). Later, our author claims God offers remedy to humanity, which is ‘defiled’ with sin (4.69). Moral reformation makes an individual aware of humanity’s fallen state and God’s judgment, which requires death for those living in wickedness (2.25). Those who are converted by witnessing miracles are prompted to make behavioural changes appropriate to a people who will be judged by God (1.68). Christian miracles offer salvation, in the end. Escape from divine punishment seems to us an especially persuasive argument for choosing Christian miracle over magic. But Origen is not quite finished. In 3.28, he offers to believers something especially extraordinary: a share in divinity. He writes that those who came to Jesus did not believe solely in his divine nature and ability to perform miracles, but also the divine power that descended to bring salvation to believers (3.28). This power assumed human characteristics and form in Jesus, whereby human and divine nature ‘began to be woven together, so that by fellowship with divinity, human nature might become divine’ (3.28). Origen extrapolates from this ‘weaving together’ of Jesus’ divine and human natures, eventually claiming that all who believe in Christ and live their lives by his exemplar are granted a measure of the same divinity (3.28). So, while the wondrous deeds performed by magicians might temporarily entice, what a believer gains by abandoning magic for Christianity far outstrips anything offered in the marketplace. These rather grand implications are further buttressed in order to advance Origen’s pedagogical agenda. In 1.60, Origen tells us that Jesus is more powerful than the evil daemons who drive magicians’ work (1.60). He argues that a ‘more divine power’ can destroy lesser powers, suggesting that Jesus and those who wield the power of God are more potent than magicians who work through demons. They are more popular, too. Churches are filled with those converted by the name of Jesus (1.67). In contrast, followers of someone like Simon the Magician have dwindled away to a mere thirty people (1.57). And frankly, there must be something of great worth in Christian miracles, since those converted through them are willing to undergo persecution for the sake of the gospel (3.78). All of these claims serve as advertisement, presenting various advantages of Christian miracle. In sum, Christian miracles are not only superior to magic because they are performed by those of sound character; they are also superior because they confer tangible and intangible benefits that magicians could hardly provide. Miracles offer entrée into a personal reformation, whereby the character and behaviour of an individual is changed such that they will be saved from God’s punishment. But dilettantes beware: these benefits are only available to those who have ‘genuinely accepted the gospel about Christ and God and the judgment to come’, and not to those who seek everyday necessities (1.67). In other words, those who seek healings or exorcisms for the sake of healing and exorcism are excluded. One cannot solicit the services of a magician and expect to be saved.



If Origen hopes to demonstrate how his characterization of Jesus and the disciples fits within his own notion of what a ‘non-magician’ ought to be, he succeeds. Christian wonderworkers ought to be distinguished from magicians because they are of superior character and because their deeds lead people to the truth of God. But as I explained earlier, this internal logic functions to restrict (mis)interpretation and mitigate ambivalence. Observers are presented with specific criteria against which to judge divergent traditions. If these observers assess wonderworkers through the prism of our author’s standards, only one answer remains – that Christianity is antithetical to magic. Armed with this knowledge, one cannot remain ambivalent.

Coda: On Persuasion The Contra Celsum is framed as a pedagogical exercise. Origen does not believe the ‘true Christian’ will be convinced by any of Celsus’ arguments (Praef. 3). But he does feel compelled to address them nevertheless, writing that ‘among the multitude, people of this kind may be found … who may be shaken and disturbed by the writings of Celsus (Praef. 4).’ And so, his imagined audience are those entirely without experience of faith in Christ’, or ‘weak in faith’ (Praef. 6).40 These individuals, in his mind, are the ones most likely to be convinced by Celsus’ arguments about Jesus being a magician. Origen’s refutation of Celsus’ charge against Jesus rests on the presupposition that magicians were a distinct class of practitioners from miracle-workers. He further assumes his audience could recognize various practitioners with some guidance in the form of discernment criteria.41 And yet, the great irony of Christian texts like the Contra Celsum is that magicians, messiahs, prophets, and even philosophers may not have been perceived as mutually exclusive classes of practitioners by the everyday Roman, though they may have been constructed as such in ancient Roman literature. That several Christian authors had to defend Jesus from the charge of magic lends evidence to this fact.42 Despite the possibility of confusion, though, Origen certainly claims Christian miracle-workers have nothing to do with mere magicians.


E.V. Gallagher, Divine Man or Magician (1982), 191 n. 5. To say nothing of the assumption that everyday individuals would have knowledge of his work and would be swayed by it in the first place. To me, the fact that practitioners like magicians were so popular suggests that Origen and his literary contemporaries may have had less influence among everyday Romans than they wished to enjoy. Even so, as I discuss below, it is this widespread popularity of freelance specialists that prompted writers like Origen to craft distinctions between practitioners. And so, whether or not he has a receptive audience, he participates in contemporary literary trends concerning magic. 42 Justin, Dial. 69.5; 1Apol. 30; Arnobius, Adv. Nat. 1:43; Lactantius, Div. inst. 4.15.1. 41

Magic and Morality


But as Heidi Wendt reminds us, we should exercise caution when reading ancient literati who describe religious specialists. In her book on freelance religious experts in antiquity, she discusses both the prevalence of freelance religious experts and the reactions they provoked.43 She explains how the magician figure came to represent freelance religious experts in a general fashion, likely because magicians were known to offer a wide array of skills.44 Freelance religious experts like so-called magicians offered ‘power, influence, prestige, social mobility, and improved standing’.45 They did this through various means, including healings and exorcisms, philosophical disquisition, and divination.46 Against the perceived or real lure of experts offering extraordinary rewards, nascent Christianity needed to offer something equally enticing in return. In doing so, however, Christian writers had to be careful that their protagonists did not incur the same vitriol as these freelance specialists, especially since individual practitioners were difficult to distinguish from one another.47 In the face of widespread conflation, ancient writers became more vigilant about creating difference between their heroes and so-called marketplace charlatans.48 Read against these conflicting cultural trends, Origen’s strategies for making magic a question of morality exposes an anxiety about how Christians might be (mis)perceived. In remedy, he narrows interpretive possibilities for his audience by insisting observers judge Christian wonders according to his criteria. In short, he does not describe the distinctions between magicians and miracle-workers so much as prescribe it. When confronted with the threat of the magician figure, our author draws a rigid distinction between legitimate Christian practices and those of sorcerers. His efforts amount to a prophylactic against freelance specialists who might lead astray those ‘weak in faith’. Origen’s understanding of magic can therefore be read as an attempt to capitalize on the charisma of these experts’ deeds while at the same time participating in an intellectual scorn of them.49 The difference between Origen and someone like Lucian of Samosata, however, is that our author cannot totally dismiss wonderworkers as frauds who deceive the foolish masses. Because practices associated with magic are so fundamental to Christianity, he must wage his war on another index – that of good and evil.

43 44 45 46 47 48 49

H. Wendt, At the Temple Gates (2016), 10. Ibid. 119. Ibid. 11. Ibid. 117. Ibid. 118. Ibid. 142. Ibid.







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