A spectacular discovery was recently made in the Bavarian State Library, in the process of cataloguing the Greek manuscripts from the collection of Johann Jakob Fuggers. While cataloguing a manuscript, Philologist Marina Molin Pradel identified numerous texts of sermons on the Psalms by Origen of Alexandria (AD 185 – 253/54), the most important theologian of the early Christian church before Augustine–sermons which until now had not been known in the original. The importance of this find cannot be overestimated. The attribution to Origen was confirmed, with the highest degree of certainty, by internationally recognised Origen expert Lorenzo Perrone from the University of Bologna.
Origen is regarded as the founder of the allegorical interpretation of Scripture. His works, which are numerous, yet are often no longer extant or only found in Latin translation, are fundamental for Christian thought. As a philosopher, theologian, philologist and preacher, Origen has made a deep impression on the intellectual history from late antiquity to today. His sermons and interpretations of the Psalms were, until now, only fragmentary and only extent in Latin translation. The inconspicuous-looking, extensive Greek manuscript, whose true contents have now been identified, comes from the 12th century.
“The find is extremely important–both in terms of its age and its extent. It will trigger lively discussion in scholarly and research circles, and will even allow new insights into the text of the Greek version of the Bible. All of the church Fathers had read Origen and received his work in depth. The discovery allows us now to deal directly with hitherto unknown original texts”, said General Director Rolf Griebel.
Read the entire post, which includes links to photos of the manuscripts (ht: CF). Origen holds a very significant (if heavily debated) place in early Christian theology. In his April 25, 2007, general audience, Pope Benedict XVI said the following about Origen:
Origen of Alexandria truly was a figure crucial to the whole development of Christian thought. … He was a true “maestro”, and so it was that his pupils remembered him with nostalgia and emotion: he was not only a brilliant theologian but also an exemplary witness of the doctrine he passed on. Eusebius of Caesarea, his enthusiastic biographer, said “his manner of life was as his doctrine, and his doctrine as his life. Therefore, by the divine power working with him he aroused a great many to his own zeal” (cf. Church History, 6, 3, 7). …
Theology to him was essentially explaining, understanding Scripture; or we might also say that his theology was a perfect symbiosis between theology and exegesis. In fact, the proper hallmark of Origen’s doctrine seems to lie precisely in the constant invitation to move from the letter to the spirit of the Scriptures, to progress in knowledge of God. Furthermore, this so-called “allegorism”, as von Balthasar wrote, coincides exactly “with the development of Christian dogma, effected by the teaching of the Church Doctors”, who in one way or another accepted Origen’s “lessons”.
Thus, Tradition and the Magisterium, the foundation and guarantee of theological research, come to take the form of “scripture in action” (cf. Origene: Il mondo, Cristo e la Chiesa, Milan, 1972, p. 43). We can therefore say that the central nucleus of Origen’s immense literary opus consists in his “threefold interpretation” of the Bible.
Read more. An important book about Origen as theologian and exegete is Henri de Lubac’s study, History and Spirit: The Understanding of Scripture According to Origen (orig. 1950; Ignatius Press, 2007). The Introduction is available on Ignatius Insight.
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