Origen on Adam and Eve

September 15, 2017

Origen, De Principiis, iv. 16 = Philocalia Origenis, p. 24. (Translation, with original text on facing side, in H. M. Gwatkin, Selections from Early Christian Writers, London 1897, pp. 136-139.)

What intelligent person would fancy, for instance, that a first, second, and third day, evening and morning, took place without sun, moon, and stars; and the first, as we call it, without even a heaven? Who would be so childish as to suppose that God after the manner of a human gardener planted a garden in Eden towards the east, and made therein a tree, visible and sensible, so that one could get the power of living by the bodily eating of its fruit with the teeth; or again, could partake of good and evil by feeding on what came from that other tree? If God is said to walk at eventide in the garden, and Adam to hide himself under the tree, I fancy that no one will question that these statements are figurative, declaring mysterious truths by the means of a seeming history, not one that took place in a bodily form. And Cain’s going forth from the presence of God, as is clear and plain to attentive minds, stirs the reader to look for the meaning of the presence of God, and of any one’s going forth from it. What need of more, when all but the dullest eyes can gather innumerable instances, in which things are recorded as having happened which did not take place in the literal sense? Nay, even the Gospels are full of sayings of the same class: as when the devil takes Jesus up into a high mountain, to show him from thence the kingdoms of the whole world and the glory of them. Who but a careless reader of such words would fail to condemn those who think that by the eye of flesh, which needed a height to bring into view what lay far down beneath, the kingdoms of Persians, and Scythians, and Indians, and Parthians, were seen, and the glory men give to their rulers? Countless cases such as this the accurate reader is able to observe, to make him agree that with the histories which literally took place other things are interwoven which did not actually happen.

Note that the above passage is cited in the Philocalia Origenis, an anthology of Origen’s writings made by Saints Basil the Great and Gregory the Theologian with the intention of defending Origen’s essential orthodoxy. Compare Gregory the Theologian, Poem 1.1.8 “On the Soul,” lines 97-111 (PG 37, 454-455):

But when the imperishable Son had formed for himself a man,
in order to have new glory, and so that, in the last days,
leaving the earth, man might journey from here to God, as god,
he neither left him at liberty, nor utterly
bound him. But he placed a law in his nature, and engraved good things
in his heart, and set him, thus, in the vales of an ever-verdant
paradise, evenly balanced, observing which direction he’d incline.
Naked he was, without the form of evil and duplicity.
And, as for paradise, it is the heavenly life, it seems to me.
So this is where he placed him, to be a farmer, cultivating his words.
He kept from him one plant, a most perfect one,
having within it a perfect discrimination between good
and evil. For what’s perfect is suited for grown-ups,
but not for beginners; since this would be as hard to take
as were some very powerful dish to infants.

When St. Gregory says here that, “as for paradise, it is the heavenly life, it seems to me” (Ζωὴ δ᾽ οὐρανίη πέλεται παράδεισος ἔμοιγε), and that Adam spent his time cultivating God’s λόγοι — i.e., contemplating the eternal forms of things (cf. orat. 38.12, PG 36.324 B: Adam was placed in paradise “to till the immortal plants, by which is meant perhaps the Divine Conceptions, both the simpler and the more perfect”) — it seems clear that the Theologian basically accepts Origen’s interpretation of Adam and the Garden, as a kind of parable and not as something to be read strictly literally.

Advertisements

 

ר֛וּחַ אֲדֹנָ֥י יְהוִ֖ה עָלָ֑י יַ֡עַן מָשַׁח֩
יְהוָ֨ה אֹתִ֜י לְבַשֵּׂ֣ר עֲנָוִ֗ים שְׁלָחַ֙נִי֙
לַחֲבֹ֣שׁ לְנִשְׁבְּרֵי־לֵ֔ב לִקְרֹ֤א לִשְׁבוּיִם֙
דְּר֔וֹר וְלַאֲסוּרִ֖ים פְּקַח־קֽוֹחַ׃
לִקְרֹ֤א שְׁנַת־רָצוֹן֙ לַֽיהוָ֔ה וְי֥וֹם נָקָ֖ם
לֵאלֹהֵ֑ינוּ לְנַחֵ֖ם כָּל־אֲבֵלִֽים׃
לָשׂ֣וּם׀ לַאֲבֵלֵ֣י צִיּ֗וֹן לָתֵת֩ לָהֶ֨ם פְּאֵ֜ר
תַּ֣חַת אֵ֗פֶר שֶׁ֤מֶן שָׂשׂוֹן֙ תַּ֣חַת אֵ֔בֶל מַעֲטֵ֣ה
תְהִלָּ֔ה תַּ֖חַת ר֣וּחַ כֵּהָ֑ה וְקֹרָ֤א לָהֶם֙ אֵילֵ֣י
הַצֶּ֔דֶק מַטַּ֥ע יְהוָ֖ה לְהִתְפָּאֵֽר׃

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me;
because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek;
he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all that mourn;
To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion,
to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning,
the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
that they might be called trees of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.

(Isaiah 61:1-3)

Today marks the tenth anniversary of this blog. (See the first two posts, John Bekkos in jail and Happy New Year.) It is also the beginning of the ecclesiastical year (year 7526 according to the Byzantine calendar), and a day, at least since 1989, on which prayers are made in the Orthodox Church for the welfare of the creation. (See the Vespers for the Preservation of Creation, composed by Monk Gerasimos of the Skete of Saint Anne and translated into English by the late Archimandrite Ephrem Lash.) The observance of September 1st as a day for prayer on behalf of the physical creation has, in recent years, spread from the Orthodox Church to other Christians; in 2015, Pope Francis instituted it as a day of observance for Catholics, Protestants appear to be observing it as well, and it now is referred to, at least in some places, as “the World Day of Prayer for Creation.” In connection with this, Pope Francis of Rome and Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople jointly issued a statement today, which I think is worth reading, and will reprint here:

JOINT MESSAGE

On the World Day of Prayer for Creation

The story of creation presents us with a panoramic view of the world. Scripture reveals that, “in the beginning”, God intended humanity to cooperate in the preservation and protection of the natural environment. At first, as we read in Genesis, “no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up – for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no one to till the ground” (2:5). The earth was entrusted to us as a sublime gift and legacy, for which all of us share responsibility until, “in the end”, all things in heaven and on earth will be restored in Christ (cf. Eph. 1:10). Our human dignity and welfare are deeply connected to our care for the whole of creation.

However, “in the meantime”, the history of the world presents a very different context. It reveals a morally decaying scenario where our attitude and behavior towards creation obscures our calling as God’s co-operators. Our propensity to interrupt the world’s delicate and balanced ecosystems, our insatiable desire to manipulate and control the planet’s limited resources, and our greed for limitless profit in markets – all these have alienated us from the original purpose of creation. We no longer respect nature as a shared gift; instead, we regard it as a private possession. We no longer associate with nature in order to sustain it; instead, we lord over it to support our own constructs.

The consequences of this alternative worldview are tragic and lasting. The human environment and the natural environment are deteriorating together, and this deterioration of the planet weighs upon the most vulnerable of its people. The impact of climate change affects, first and foremost, those who live in poverty in every corner of the globe. Our obligation to use the earth’s goods responsibly implies the recognition of and respect for all people and all living creatures. The urgent call and challenge to care for creation are an invitation for all of humanity to work toward sustainable and integral development.

Therefore, united by the same concern for God’s creation and acknowledging the earth as a shared good, we fervently invite all people of goodwill to dedicate a time of prayer for the environment on September 1st. On this occasion, we wish to offer thanks to the loving Creator for the noble gift of creation and to pledge commitment to its care and preservation for the sake of future generations. After all, we know that we labor in vain if the Lord is not by our side (cf. Ps. 126-127), if prayer is not at the center of our reflection and celebration. Indeed, an objective of our prayer is to change the way we perceive the world in order to change the way we relate to the world. The goal of our promise is to be courageous in embracing greater simplicity and solidarity in our lives.

We urgently appeal to those in positions of social and economic, as well as political and cultural, responsibility to hear the cry of the earth and to attend to the needs of the marginalized, but above all to respond to the plea of millions and support the consensus of the world for the healing of our wounded creation. We are convinced that there can be no sincere and enduring resolution to the challenge of the ecological crisis and climate change unless the response is concerted and collective, unless the responsibility is shared and accountable, unless we give priority to solidarity and service.

From the Vatican and from the Phanar, 1 September 2017

Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew

There are, of course, plenty of people who deny that there exists an ecological crisis or that human-induced climate change is a reality or is anything to be concerned about. Frankly, I wonder how such people can look at what happened in Texas and Louisiana this past week and not change their minds.

I recognize that minds do not change easily. That is precisely why prayer is called for. Μετάνοια (“repentance,” literally, “a change of mind”), as St. Augustine saw, is not just a rational choice of a perfectly free moral agent: it is the movement of an enslaved moral agent into a state of freedom, and that movement requires a divine intervention, which he called grace. It may be that some would cavil at the implications of this: I seem to be implying that one’s response to the environment is a moral matter, and that those who refuse to see this are not merely intellectually in error, but morally blind. Well, so be it; on this matter, I agree with the Pope and the Patriarch.

May this year be, for all of us, a year of grace and repentance, the acceptable year of the Lord.

 

Dictionnaire de la Bible

September 3, 2016

Since I have begun posting links to French reference works, I might as well post the following:

Dictionnaire de la Bible

Edited by F. Vigouroux, with the collaboration of many scholars. Published in 39 fascicles between 1895 and 1912, and brought together into eleven separate volumes in 1912 (each of the five “tomes” of the work takes up at least two physical volumes).

On Internet Archive:
Tome 1/1: A – Armoni
Tome 1/2: Arnald – Bythner
Tome 2/1: C
Tome 2/2: D – F
Tome 3/1: G – Izrahia
Tome 3/2: Isaie – Kurzeniecki
Tome 4/1: L – Mezuza
Tome 4/2: Miamin – Pavot
Tome 5/1: Pé – Pudens
Tome 5/2: Pudens – Siloé
Tome 5/3: Siloé – Zuzim

 

Two of the earlier fascicles, on BnF Gallica:
Fasc. 31: Pé – Pierre  (1908)
Fasc. 39: Tuteur – Zuzim (1912)

 

Some articles of possible interest:
Aaron
Abel
Abomination de la Désolation
Abraham
Absalom
Actes des Apôtres
Adam
Agar (i.e., Hagar)
Alexandrie (École exégétique d’)
Alphabet hébreu
Âme (i.e., Soul)
Ange
Annonciation
Antioche de Syrie
Antioche (École exégétique d’)
Antiochus IV Épiphane
Apocalypse
Apollinaire de Laodicée
Apôtre
Arabe
Ararat
Arche d’Alliance (Ark of the Covenant)
Arménie
David
Élie (the Prophet Elijah)
Évangiles
(Tableau synoptique des quatre évangiles)
Ève
Ézéchiel (the Prophet Ezekiel)
Isaïe (the Prophet Isaiah)
Israël (peuple et royaume de)
Jérémie (the Prophet Jeremiah)
Jéricho
Jérusalem
Jésus-Christ
Joab
Miracle
Mischna
Moab
Moïse (Moses)
Musique des Hébreux
Paul (Saint)
Péché originel
Pharisiens
Philistins
Pierre (Saint)
Pilate (Ponce)
Prophète
Prophétie
Proverbes (livre des)
Psaumes (livre des)
Publicains
Salomon
Samaritains
Samuel
Synagogue

Looking through an old notebook last night, I found some brief notes which I jotted down during an ordination on April 12, 1998 (Palm Sunday) in the Cathedral of the Annunciation in Tirana, Albania; I thought I would share them here. The man being ordained to the priesthood was Deacon Llazar Çullai; the speaker was Archbishop Anastasios of Tirana. The epistle reading on which the Archbishop was commenting was, apparently, Philippians 4: 4-9. I must assume that His Beatitude was speaking in Greek or Albanian, and that I was translating on the spot.

  1. Rejoice in the Lord always. This applies to all Christians, but especially to the priests. This joy is something he has to transmit to others. Seek to be a kind person. A harsh priest causes the faithful to depart. He cannot, in this manner, represent the God of love.
  2. Do everything with prayer. A priest should be a man of continual prayer. Not only with his lips, but with his heart. Both in our troubles, and in our joys, we should pray.
  3. We continually hear the word “peace” in the liturgy. A priest should seek to be a man of peace. In times like these we need to show ourselves as people of peace.
  4. The Lord is near. The priest has to know this always. Another meaning: The Lord is coming. In his second coming, in which he will judge us. In a few minutes you will be ordained. You will be bearing the body of Christ in your hands. Recognize that you will be judged according to how you fulfil this calling.

As many readers of this blog may already have heard, tomorrow, according to Family Radio (an Evangelical Christian radio network based in Oakland, California), is the end of the world. Or, more precisely, tomorrow, May 21, 2011, is predicted to be the date of Jesus’ Second Coming and the Rapture; the end of the world is not supposed to occur until October. These predictions, by 89-year-old Harold Camping, founder and president of Family Radio, have been broadcast repeatedly over Family Radio’s many stations, in this country and elsewhere, for many months now, and apparently the message is having an effect upon some people; one hears of anticipatory gatherings taking place in New York subway stations…. For myself, I intend to spend the day doing nothing extraordinary; I will be driving out to Long Island later today and, God willing, will celebrate my 52nd birthday on Sunday. I have heard enough of Mr. Camping to know that, on many points of theology and exegesis, he is simply wrong (e.g., his frequent claim that the Greek verb βαπτίζω means “sprinkle”); moreover, in the early 1990’s, he predicted that the end of the world would occur in the year 1994, which clearly did not happen. One might have thought that, after that, Camping’s followers would have inferred that he is a false prophet, and that his end-of-the-world predictions are not to be trusted; but, apparently, ownership of the means of mass communication is a great help for getting one’s opinions across.

What chiefly troubles me about these matters is that, for many people in America, Harold Camping is Christianity’s public voice; in the New York metropolitan area, Family Radio is one of the few radio stations broadcasting Christian content, and the same thing holds true throughout much of the urban Northeast. This, in spite of the fact that Camping now has no formal church affiliation — or, perhaps, that lack of church affiliation facilitates the spreading of his message: his radio station is his church. The likely effect of the likely non-occurrence of tomorrow’s predicted Rapture is a further discrediting of Christianity in the public eye. But perhaps it will cause some Christians to look elsewhere than Family Radio for a true understanding of the Gospel; one can only hope so.

A comparison between Bible-reading and gardening. From St. John Chrysostom, Homilia de capto Eutropio et de divitiarum vanitate, §1, PG 52, 396-397.

Sweet is a meadow and a garden, but much sweeter the reading of the divine Scriptures. For, there, there are flowers that fade, whereas here there are thoughts at their full peak; there, a blowing zephyr, but here the breeze of the Spirit; there, thorns which serve as a hedge, but, here, God’s Providence supplying protection; there, grasshoppers chirp, but here prophets cry aloud; there, there is pleasure from the sight, but here there is profit from the reading. A garden exists in one place, while the Scriptures are to be found in all the world. A garden is subject to necessary, seasonal cares, but the Scriptures, both in winter and in summer, are thick with leaves and laden with fruits. Let us therefore have a care for reading the Scriptures; for, if you pay attention to Scripture, it casts out your low spirits, it implants your enjoyment, it destroys evil, it roots in virtue, it does not leave you adrift in confusion because of business, like people tossed about by the waves at sea. The sea rages, but you sail in peace, for you have as your helmsman the reading of the Scriptures. For the trials that come from much business do not snap this cable. Ἡδὺς μὲν λειμὼν καὶ παράδεισος, πολὺ δὲ ἡδύτερον τῶν θείων Γραφῶν ἡ ἀνάγνωσις. Ἐκεῖ μὲν γάρ ἐστιν ἄνθη μαραινόμενα, ἐνταῦθα δὲ νοήματα ἀκμάζοντα· ἐκεῖ ζέφυρος πνέων, ἐνταῦθα δὲ Πνεύματος αὔρα· ἐκεῖ ἄκανθαι αἱ τειχίζουσαι, ἐνταῦθα δὲ πρόνοια Θεοῦ ἡ ἀσφαλιζομένη· ἐκεῖ τέττιγες ᾄδοντες, ἐνταῦθα δὲ προφῆται κελαδοῦντες· ἐκεῖ τέρψις ἀπὸ τῆς ὄψεως, ἐνταῦθα δὲ ὠφέλεια ἀπὸ τῆς ἀναγνώσεως. Ὁ παράδεισος ἐν ἑνὶ χωρίῳ, αἱ δὲ Γραφαὶ πανταχοῦ τῆς οἰκουμένης· ὁ παράδεισος δουλεύει καιρῶν ἀνάγκαις, αἱ δὲ Γραφαὶ καὶ ἐν χειμῶνι καὶ ἐν θέρει κομῶσι τοῖς φύλλοις, βρίθουσι τοῖς καρποῖς. Προσέχωμεν τοίνυν τῇ τῶν Γραφῶν ἀναγνώσει· ἐὰν γὰρ τῇ Γραφῇ προσέχῃς, ἐκβάλλει σου τὴν ἀθυμίαν, φυτεύει σου τὴν ἡδονὴν, ἀναιρεῖ τὴν κακίαν, ῥιζοῖ τὴν ἀρετὴν, οὐκ ἀφίησιν ἐν θορύβῳ πραγμάτων τὰ τῶν κλυδωνιζομένων πάσχειν. Ἡ θάλασσα μαίνεται, σὺ δὲ μετὰ γαλήνης πλέεις· ἔχεις γὰρ κυβερνήτην τῶν Γραφῶν τὴν ἀνάγνωσιν· τοῦτο γὰρ τὸ σχοινίον οὐ διαρρήγνυσι τῶν πραγμάτων ὁ πειρασμός.

A Christmas present

December 25, 2010

Earlier this year, I began making available on this blog digital recordings of the New Testament, read chapter by chapter in the original Greek (links to them are found on the page titled The New Testament read in Greek.) As of today, Christmas Day 2010, these recordings are finished; I added the Gospel of John to the page early this morning. Those who wish may now download, gratis, a complete recording of the Greek New Testament.

Wishing all readers of this blog a Merry Christmas.

Δόξα ἐν ὑψίστοις Θεῷ!