Church Fathers: Ante-Nicene Fathers Volume 9: 9.13.17 Origen - Gospel of Matthew - Introduction

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Church Fathers: Ante-Nicene Fathers Volume 9: 9.13.17 Origen - Gospel of Matthew - Introduction

TOPIC: Ante-Nicene Fathers Volume 9 (Other Topics in this Collection)
SUBJECT: 9.13.17 Origen - Gospel of Matthew - Introduction

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Commentaries of Origen (Cont.)

Origen’s Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew.


According to Eusebius (H. E. vi. 36) the Commentaries on the Gospel of Matthew were written about the same time as the Contra Celsum, when Origen was over sixty years of age, and may therefore be probably assigned to the period 246-248. This statement is confirmed by internal evidence. In the portion here translated, books x.-xiv., he passes by the verses Mat_18:12, Mat_18:13, and refers for the exposition of them to his Homilies on Luke book xiii. 29. Elsewhere, he refers his readers for a fuller discussion on certain points to his Commentaries on John (book xvi. 20), and on Romans (book xvii. 32). Of the twenty-five books into which the work was divided, the first nine, with the exception of two fragments, are lost; books x.-xvii, covering the portion from Mat_13:36 to Mat_22:33, are extant in the Greek, and the greater part of the remaining books survives in a Latin version, which is co-extensive with the Greek from book xii. 9 to book xvii. 36, and contains further the exposition from Mat_22:34 to Mat_27:66. The passages in Cramer’s Galena do not seem to be taken from the Commentaries. Of the numerous quotations from Matthew only one Mat_21:35 can be definitely traced to this section of the writings of Origen; and as this differs greatly from our present text, and is moreover purely narrative, it is probably taken like the others either from the Scholia (cammaticum interpretations genus), or from the Homilies to which reference is made by Jerome (Prol. in Matt. I. iv.). The majority of them may be ascribed to the Scholia.

In addition to the mss. already referred to (p. 292) the old Latin version is often useful for determining the text, though it contains some interpolations and has many omissions. The omissions (cf. book xiii. 28, book xiv. I, 3, book xiv. 19-22) are not due to any dogmatic bias, but have been made by the translator or some subsequent transcriber on the ground that the passages were uninteresting or unimportant. The version is otherwise for the most part literal, and has in some cases preserved the correct reading, though it often fails just when it would have been of most service. For an estimate of the work and method of Origen as an exegete, see pp. 291-294; and for a fuller statement on some of the points here touched upon, see Westcott’s article on Origen in Smith’s Dictionary of Christian Biography (vol. iv.). 412

From the First Book of the Commentary on Matthew1

Concerning the four Gospels which alone are uncontroverted in the Church of God under heaven, I have learned by tradition that the Gospel according to Matthew, who was at one time a publican and afterwards an Apostle of Jesus Christ, was written first; and that he composed it in the Hebrew tongue and published it for the converts from Judaism. The second written was that according to Mark, who wrote it according to the instruction of Peter, who, in his General Epistle, acknowledged him as a son, saying, “The church that is in Babylon, elect together with you, saluteth you; and so doth Mark my son.” (1Pe_5:13) And third, was that according to Luke, the Gospel commended by2 Paul, which he composed for the converts from the Gentiles. Last of all, that according to John. 413

From the Second Book of the Commentary on the Gospel According to Matthew

Book II.3

The Unity and Harmony of Scripture

“Blessed are the peacemakers. ...” (Mat_5:9) To the man who is a peacemaker in either sense there is in the Divine oracles nothing crooked or perverse, for they are all plain to those who understand. (Pro_8:8, Pro_8:9) And because to such an one there is nothing crooked or perverse, he sees therefore abundance of peace (Psa_72:7) in all the Scriptures, even in those which seem to be at conflict, and in contradiction with one another. And likewise he becomes a third peacemaker as he demonstrates that that which appears to others to be a conflict in the Scriptures is no conflict, and exhibits their concord and peace, whether of the Old Scriptures with the New, or of the Law with the Prophets, or of the Gospels with the Apostolic Scriptures, or of the Apostolic Scriptures with each other. For, also, according to the Preacher, all the Scriptures are “words of the wise like goads, and as nails firmly fixed which were given by agreement from one shepherd;” (Ecc_12:11) and there is nothing superfluous in them. But the Word is the one Shepherd of things rational which may have an appearance of discord to those who have not ears to hear, but are truly at perfect concord. For as the different chords of the psalter or the lyre, each of which gives forth a certain sound of its own which seems unlike the sound of another chord, are thought by a man who is not musical and ignorant of the principle of musical harmony, to be inharmonious, because of the dissimilarity of the sounds, so those who are not skilled in hearing the harmony of God in the sacred Scriptures think that the Old is not in harmony with the New, or the Prophets with the Law, or the Gospels with one another, or the Apostle with the Gospel, or with himself, or with the other Apostles. But he who comes instructed in the music of God, being a man wise in word and deed, and, on this account, like another David — which is, by interpretation, skilful with the hand — will bring out the sound of the music of God, having learned from this at the right time to strike the chords, now the chords of the Law, now the Gospel chords in harmony with them, and again the Prophetic chords, and, when reason demands it, the Apostolic chords which are in harmony with the Prophetic, and likewise the Apostolic with those of the Gospels. For he knows that all the Scripture is the one perfect and harmonised1 instrument of God, which from different sounds gives forth one saving voice to those willing to learn, which stops and restrains every working of an evil spirit, just as the music of David laid to rest the evil spirit in Saul, which also was choking him. (1Sa_16:14) You see, then, that he is in the third place a peacemaker, who sees in accordance with the Scripture the peace of it all, and implants this peace in those who rightly seek and make nice distinctions in a genuine spirit. 414


1 This fragment is found in Eusebius, H. E., vi. 25.

2 Or, who is recommended by Paul.

3 This fragment, which is preferred in the Philocalia, c. vi., is all that is extant of Book II.