Tag Archives: Origen

Summary of “The Text of Acts in the Writings of Origen”

My thanks to Adam Harwood for posting a summary of my research on Origen on his site at http://www.adamharwood.com/?p=74.


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Origen and the First or Second Psalm

Most of the examples of Origen’s text-critical observations occur in the Gospels, but I have found one in Acts. In commenting on Acts 13:33, Origen notes that Acts attributes Psa 2:7 to the first psalm (ὡς γὰρ γέγραπται φήσιν ἐν πρώτῳ ψαλμῷ) as does Codex Bezae (D),[1] however, all other extant MSS of Acts refers to the second psalm (καὶ ἐν τῷ ψαλμῷ γέγραπται τῷ δευτέρῳ). After pointing out this discrepancy, Origen discusses the different numbering systems used by the Hebrew OT, in which Psalms 1 and 2 are considered separate compositions, while Acts 13:33 (apart from D) knows Psalm 1 and 2 as a single psalm (τὰ Ἑλληνικὶ μέντοι ἀντίγραφα δεύτερον εἶναι τοῦτον μηνεύει. τοῦτο δὲ οὐκ ἀγνοητέον ὅτι ἐν τῷ Ἑβραϊκῷ οὐδενὶ τῶν ψαλμῶν ἀριθμὸς παράκειται πρῶτος εἰ τύχοι ἢ δεύτερος ἢ τρίτος).[2] While this is one of the few places where Origen agrees with D alone, Origen’s comment gives evidence that at Acts 13:33 “ἐν πρώτῳ ψαλμῷ” was present in some Greek MSS in the early third century.

[1] PS.CAT – 1099/1100, D2 is a catena and as such may not necessary reflect the exact text of Origen. 05 reads τω πρωτω ψαλμω γεγραπται.

[2] The Latin is “… verum exemplaria Graeca hunc secundum esse indicant illud autem non ignorandum est in Hebraieis exemplaribus nulli psalmo numerum apponi sive primus sive secundus sive tertius sit.” On the numbering of Psa 1 and 2, see Peter C. Craigie, Psalms 1–50 (WBC 19; Waco: Word Books, 1983), 18–19, who misreads the case when he writes, “The evidence from the early Christian tradition is found in Acts 13:33. The writer, Luke, gives a quotation from Ps 2:7, but introduces it as coming from the first psalm; the corrections, both in the early Greek text and in modern English versions, to read ‘the second psalm,’ are appropriate given the change in the conventional system of numbering the Psalms. Nevertheless, the oldest Greek text of Acts provides evidence for the early Christian view that the first two psalms were considered to be a single unit.” Actually, only D among extant Greek MSS, has ἐν πρώτῳ ψαλμῷ.


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Origen and the Text of Acts

It has been a while since I have posted here. Largely  because I have been busy working on my dissertation on Origen’s text of Acts. In fact, it was my work on Origen, that caused me to name this blog Stan’s Σχόλια (scholia) since Origen left many scholia, or marginal notes, or catenae, and also fragments preserved by other writers.

As I complete the dissertation, I can begin to share some of my findings, saving the ultimate findings for the dissertation itself.

To get to this point, I have collected every citation and allusion in Origen’s extant writing to the text of Acts. Though I will only use the Greek materials for the reconstruction of Origen’s text of Acts, I have collected everything–and some of it is remotely related to the text to which it is suppose to allude.

As scholars have known, not a great deal of Acts survives in Origen and this will create some challenges in being confident about the overall nature of the text or texts of Acts used by him. However, since a comprehensive collection and analysis of what is available has not been done (at least not recorded), then it is worth the work. Even the incidentals on particular texts of Acts have been enlightening.

At this stage I’m currently  analyzing Origen’s text against representative MSS of what has been traditionally called text-types: Alexandrian (primary and secondary), the ‘Western,’ namely Codex Bezae (D), and the Byzantine tradition.

MS 1739 is getting a lot of attention since previous scholars have shown that it has some affinity with Origen, especially the text of Romans in it. Some have thought that 1739 might also be close to Origen in Acts.

It has been interesting to revisit Tom Geer’s work on 1739. Tom was one of my professors at ACU. Tom showed that 1739 was a secondary Alexandrian text in Acts.

So if you are interested in this type of stuff, follow along.


Filed under New Testament, Textual Criticism

A Textual Variant That Was Not

Not every textual variant of the Greek New Testament shows up in the MSS of the NT. The case I have in mind is Origen’s citations of Mark 10:18 and Luke 18:19 (cf. also Mark 2:7 and Matthew 19:16). In his Commentary on Matthew (15,10; loc. in comm. not the Gospel of Matthew), written late in Origen’s life, he notes that Mark and Luke quotes the Savior as saying τι με λεγεις αγαθον; ουδεις αγαθος ει μη εις ο θεος (“Why do you call me good? None is good except one: God”). This is one of those places where Origen has to be clear about what his text reads as he is saying that both Gospels read the same. Based on our critical text today, he is correct.

However, Origen had earlier cited this text six times in his extant writings, but in each of these occurrences he added ο πατηρ after ο θεος, so the text now reads, “…no one is good except one God the Father.” Thus, the citation in the Matthew commentary is singular among Origen’s references to this text. This addition of “the Father” occurs in four different works. His first and second books of his commentary on John, written while he still lived in Alexandria (before 231), contains the citation twice (Commentary on John 1,254, 2,96). This reading is retained in the sixth book of his commentary on John (6,245) completed after his move to Caesarea (c. 231-3). The longer citation also occurs in Origen’s apology of the Christian faith against Celsus (Contra Celsum 5,11). Finally, the longer text occurs in two of Origen’s hortatory works, Exhortation to Martyrdom (7; ca. 235) and On Prayer (7; ca. 233-4).

Kirsopp Lake and company (“The Caesarean text of the Gospel of Mark,” Harvard Theological Review 21:4 [1928], 207-404), argued that the addition of ο πατηρ was a “characteristic Alexandrian variant” based apparently on the fact that Clement of Alexandria had used it, though no NT MSS support exists for the longer reading. (I got this last point from Fiona Thompson’s “The Text of the Synoptic Gospels in the Writings of Origen” (Ph.D. diss; University of Leeds, 2005), 415.

Origen’s use of an alternate text not found in the Greek MSS of the NT raises the interesting question about what to do with his reading in terms of the transmission of the NT. Just because this reading does not match any known NT MSS does not make it any less a textual variant.

Personally, I think it, and other variants of this nature, should be included in future textual apparatuses of the NT that include the Church Fathers. The evidence here from Origen points in the direction that the longer form of the text is how he knew it in Alexandria. One wonders if his exposure to other MSS as he built his library in Caesarea caused Origen to change his view on the text by the time he wrote his Commentary on Matthew.


Filed under Citations and Allusions, New Testament, Textual Criticism

Origen’s Reponse to Celsus on How Christians Serve the Government

Toward the end of Origen’s life (ca. AD 254), his patron Ambrose encouraged him to respond to a little book by an enemy of Christianity, Celsus. Celsus’ book was mockingly titled The True Doctrine and had been circulating for nearly seventy years before Origen’s response. Because Origen chose to respond to the book in a point-by-point fashion by quoting Celsus and then offering a response, we have the bulk of Celsus’ book, now lost. Though, this is a older translation, it still proves quite interesting (and perhaps bewildering) to modern Christians. What follows comes from Contra Celsum 8.73-75 which happens to be the very end of Origen’s total response.

73 In the next place, Celsus urges us

“to help the king with all our might, and to labour with him in the maintenance of justice, to fight for him; and if he requires it, to fight under him, or lead an army along with him.”

To this our answer is, that we do, when occasion requires, give help to kings, and that, so to say, a divine help,

“putting on the whole armour of God.”

And this we do in obedience to the injunction of the apostle,

“I exhort, therefore, that first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority;”

and the more any one excels in piety, the more effective help does he render to kings, even more than is given by soldiers, who go forth to fight and slay as many of the enemy as they can. And to those enemies of our faith who require us to bear arms for the commonwealth, and to slay men, we can reply:

“Do not those who are priests at certain shrines, and those who attend on certain gods, as you account them, keep their hands free from blood, that they may with hands unstained and free from human blood offer the appointed sacrifices to your gods; and even when war is upon you, you never enlist the priests in the army. If that, then, is a laudable custom, how much more so, that while others are engaged in battle, these too should engage as the priests and ministers of God, keeping their hands pure, and wrestling in prayers to God on behalf of those who are fighting in a righteous cause, and for the king who reigns righteously, that whatever is opposed to those who act righteously may be destroyed!”

And as we by our prayers vanquish all demons who stir up war, and lead to the violation of oaths, and disturb the peace, we in this way are much more helpful to the kings than those who go into the field to fight for them. And we do take our part in public affairs, when along with righteous prayers we join self-denying exercises and meditations, which teach us to despise pleasures, and not to be led away by them. And none fight better for the king than we do. We do not indeed fight under him, although he require it; but we fight on his behalf, forming a special army— an army of piety— by offering our prayers to God.

74 And if Celsus would have us to lead armies in defence of our country, let him know that we do this too, and that not for the purpose of being seen by men, or of vainglory. For “in secret,” and in our own hearts, there are prayers which ascend as from priests in behalf of our fellow citizens. And Christians are benefactors of their country more than others. For they train up citizens, and inculcate piety to the Supreme Being; and they promote those whose lives in the smallest cities have been good and worthy, to a divine and heavenly city, to whom it may be said,

“You have been faithful in the smallest city, come into a great one,”


“God stands in the assembly of the gods, and judges the gods in the midst;”

and He reckons you among them, if you no more

“die as a man, or fall as one of the princes.”

75 Celsus also urges us to

“take office in the government of the country, if that is required for the maintenance of the laws and the support of religion.”

But we recognise in each state the existence of another national organization, founded by the Word of God, and we exhort those who are mighty in word and of blameless life to rule over Churches. Those who are ambitious of ruling we reject; but we constrain those who, through excess of modesty, are not easily induced to take a public charge in the Church of God. And those who rule over us well are under the constraining influence of the great King, whom we believe to be the Son of God, God the Word. And if those who govern in the Church, and are called rulers of the divine nation— that is, the Church— rule well, they rule in accordance with the divine commands, and never suffer themselves to be led astray by worldly policy.

And it is not for the purpose of escaping public duties that Christians decline public offices, but that they may reserve themselves for a diviner and more necessary service in the Church of God— for the salvation of men. And this service is at once necessary and right. They take charge of all— of those that are within, that they may day by day lead better lives, and of those that are without, that they may come to abound in holy words and in deeds of piety; and that, while thus worshipping God truly, and training up as many as they can in the same way, they may be filled with the word of God and the law of God, and thus be united with the Supreme God through His Son the Word, Wisdom, Truth, and Righteousness, who unites to God all who are resolved to conform their lives in all things to the law of God.

Oh, that the church might again recover her true calling!

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