Wednesday, June 13, 2012

"New" Sermons by Origen

A researcher at the Bavarian State Library has recently uncovered what appears to be a collection of Greek sermons by Origen of Alexandria, many of them hitherto unknown or known only in Latin translations.

Those with even a little background in patristics will see at a glance how important this find may be.  Origen was a towering, and deeply controversial, figure.  Famous throughout the Christian world during his lifetime -- not least for his symbolic exegetical techniques -- he was anathematized after his death.  To this day, the debate rages over whether Origen actually held the doctrines condemned under his name.  In any case, many modern theologians, including Pope Benedict XVI, find him worthy of reading and discussion.

In a slow-moving field of study, this is potentially enormous news.

The sermons were identified by Dr. Marina Molin Pradel, and their contents have been confirmed by Dr. Lorenzo Perrone, an expert on Origen.  Pradel's results are to be published in Adamantius, the journal of research into Origen and the Alexandrian theologians.

Here is the press release (in German).  Here is a series of blog posts by Roger Pearse.  Here is our own original source, John Zuhlsdorf, whose readers -- always quick with self-parody -- immediately begin questioning Origen's orthodoxy.  And here are images of the book itself.


Turnip Ghost said...

Didn't he castrate himself? Wouldn't that be enough to get him considered out of bounds-unless he's viewed as an early transgendered saint?

Father Anonymous said...

Ah, yes -- "Origen's rash act," the only thing most non-theologians know about him. It does indeed appear that, as a young man, he castrated himself -- although the evidence isn't conclusive. According to Eusebius, the idea was to put himself above suspicion when he taught women as well as men.

We today might think that, as an interpretation of "eunuchs for the sake of the Kingdom," it cast some doubt on his exegetical expertise. Perceptions were different then, but even in his own time, it appears to have been regarded as a pretty stupid idea.

Despite the best efforts of a jealous bishop, though, this act did not put Origen "out of bounds." He was condemned in Alexandria for reasons which are now unknown, but appear not have been doctrinal; otherwise, though, the controversy over "Origenism" is basically about doctrine.

In any case, he has never been regarded as a saint by anybody. Just a theologian -- but a controversial and influential one, which is why new works are so exciting.