Sylwia Kaczmarek and Henryk Pietras, in collaboration with Andrzej Dziadowiec (eds), Origeniana decima: Origen as Writer, Papers of the 10th International Origen Congress, 2009 (Leuven: Peeters, 2011), ISBN: 978-90-429-2529-8, XVIII-1039 pp., 105 EURO
Reviewed by Allan E. Johnson,
This collection of papers represents a spectrum of current Origen scholarship. Here are many of the areas in which scholars of this transformative writer find interest, and find opportunities for richer understanding. I would highly recommend this book to anyone wanting an overview of present Origen studies.
The volume organizes these papers into useful topic blocks, such as literary milieu, hermeneutics, document types, language, and sources and followers. Within the constraints of a review it is not possible to do justice to the wide range of scholars and scholarship presented here, but as I read it from my own areas of interest several themes stood out.
What would it mean to see Origen not only as a student and interpreter of Scripture but as one who has chosen the means of writing to communicate? Lorenzo Perrone, in “Origenes pro domo sua,” suggests that in referring to his own works Origen intended to establish a literary heritage in the service of Scripture. Éric Junod’s “Du danger d’écrire” reminds us that to commit teaching to written form was a choice, and was not inevitable; Origen wrote, knowing that this act in itself made his teaching vulnerable to misunderstanding, misrepresentation, and the risk of setting his exegetical writings over against the Scripture which he intended them to serve.
I’m especially interested in Origen’s homilies, and his use of Hellenistic grammar. Both are well served in this collection.
In recent decades, studies of Origen’s use of the grammarian’s tools has illuminated his method; these studies of Origen as Writer continue to move us forward in this regard, and also suggest interesting ways in which the literary structure of his work can help us see connections within his thought. Antonio Cacciari, in “From Grammar to Theology,” examines Origen’s use of the technical term diastole as both a grammarian’s tool for the clarification of texts and also a theological tool for precision in doctrine. Olivier Munnich’s study of “Le rôle de la citation dans l’écriture d’Origène” argues that the variations in Origen’s citations do not represent errors or failing memory, but were a deliberate choice of text, a “rewriting” through which Origen reflected upon Scripture as a web of meaning in which each version of the Bible has its own authenticity and illuminates the others. Gilles Dorival, in “La forme littéraire des Hexaples d’Origène,” examines possible literary parallels for the columnar presentation of the Hexapla, and concludes that the closest parallels are in the literature of Hellenistic grammar – bilingual glossaries, and bilingual texts of standard authors. Karen Metzler continues to examine the grammarian’s task in “Namensetymologien zur hebräischen Bibel bei Origenes.” Agnès Aliau-Milhaud, in a study of “La réécriture au passif…,” makes an intriguing case that in his Commentary on John introduction of the passive voice into quotations from the Bible was one of the tools Origen used to link texts and ring changes on their interrelationships, while Samuel Fernández in “Verso la teologia trinitaria di Origene” examines the use of metaphor as an instrument for developing Trinitarian language which could begin to deal with the challenge of monarchianism.
I found Olivier Munnich’s paper “Le rôle de la citation dans l’écriture d’Origène: Etude des Homélies sur Jérémie” especially interesting. As mentioned above, it’s an intriguing and well documented analysis of the way Origen used textual variants as well as his own Hexapla edition in his exegesis. Munnich also finds reason to suggest that, if the Greek text of the Homilies on Jeremiah is an example, Origen’s homilies were more intellectually challenging than might have been assumed. Manabu Akiyama in “La “figura” tipologica vera nelle Omelie di Origene su Ezechiele” examines how Origen connected Ezekiel with John’s Gospel and the Apocalypse to see “the Lamb who was slain” in Ezekiel’s vision of the Temple.
The literary, philosophical, and theological contexts of Origen’s work remain areas of interest. Sylwia Kaczmarek, in “L’Exemplum di Paolo nel Commento alla Lettera ai Romani,” sets Origen’s reference to Paul as paradeigma in the context of Graeco-Roman rhetoric and the classical tradition and suggests that, for Origen, to “imitate” Paul included understanding of Paul’s longing to seek below the surface of the text and lead to Christ. Anna Tzvetkova-Glaser in “L’interprétation origénienne de Gen 2,8…” finds in his exegesis of “paradise” roots in rabbinic etymology and theology, while Christian Hengsterman examines “The Neoplatonism of Origen in the First Two Books of His Commentary on John” for relationships between Origen’s doctrine of salvation and that of Plotinus and Proclus. Henryk Pietras examines the apocryphal Prayer of Joseph in “L’apocripho giudaico “Preghiera di Giuseppe” nell’interpretazione origeniana – CIo II.31.188-190.” In the assertion of the Prayer that “Jacob” was the terrestrial name of an angelic being, Pietras finds interesting comparisons with Origen’s thoughts regarding rational beings who are imbedded in a continuing process of creation.
Attempts continue to reconstruct some of Origen’s lost works, as best we can. Here we find especially ongoing edition and examination of surviving catenae. Reinhart Ceulemans reports on attempts to recover fragments of Origen’s Commentary on the Song of Songs, in “Origène dans la catena Hauniensis sur le Cantique des cantiques,” correlating this catena with manuscripts of a catena Athonita discovered by Maria Antoniette Barbàra. Likewise, Jean-Marie Auwers finds fragments of the Greek text of this Commentary in Procopius of Gazas’ Épitomé sur le Cantique. In “Zur Psalmenauslegung des Origenes …” Barbara Villani offers us an analysis of fragments on Psalm 2. In a different direction, Johannes Arnold in “Unordnung, bedingt durch Hass? …” attempts to recover the structure of Celsus’ Alethes Logos from Origen’s Contra Celsum.
Among the works whose recovery is most problematic are the scholia to which Jerome bore witness. While relics of such systematic annotations may lurk within the catenae, distinguishing them from fragments of other vanished writings proves challenging. This quest receives careful discussion in Christoph Markschies’ “Scholien bei Origenes und in der zeitgenössischen wissenschaftlichen Kommentierung.”
Familiar doctrinal questions are not lacking in this collection. Gerald Bostock discusses “Satan – Origen’s Forgotten Doctrine,” while Ilaria L. E. Ramelli examines “Origen’s Doctrine of Apokatastasis,” and Jon F. Dechow considers the “Anti-Origenist Anathemas.”
In light of the forthcoming Colloquium Origenianum at Aarhus University in August 2013, whose theme will be “Origen and Origenism in the History of Western Thought,” the papers on “Disciples and Followers of Origen” will be of special interest. Over a quarter of the volume pursues this topic, from Piotr O. Scholz’ attempt to ground elements of Origen’s thought in ancient Egyptian religion through both Greek and Latin writers to Marie-Odile Boulnois’ tracing of themes from Contra Celsum in Julian the Apostate.
For anyone interested in any aspect of Origen, it would be hard not to find something intriguing in this volume. Like any such collection, it can hardly be presented as a thematic whole; but as a glimpse of what’s currently most interesting in Origen studies, it is excellent.