(AP) Unpublished works of early church father Origen found

The Vatican newspaper reported Tuesday that 29 previously unpublished homilies said to be the work of one of the most important and prolific early church fathers have been discovered in a German library.

The 3rd century theologian Origen of Alexandria is considered to have played a critical role in the development of Christian thought. Pope Benedict XVI, himself a theologian, dedicated two of his 2007 weekly church teaching sessions to the importance of Origen’s life and work.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Church History, Theology

11 comments on “(AP) Unpublished works of early church father Origen found

  1. A Senior Priest says:

    Now THIS is exciting!

  2. Pageantmaster Ù† says:

    [blockquote]The newspaper said an Italian scholar, Marina Molin Pradel, discovered the homilies in the Bavarian State Library in April while reading an 11th Century Byzantine code. She noticed that some homilies were similar to a Latin translation of Origen’s work. After further study, the newspaper said, she concluded the originals were his.[/blockquote]
    Well one doesn’t want to rain on anyone’s parade, but isn’t that a conclusion for scholars to reach a consensus on?

    One hears too many bits of news of discoveries of this and that, and then surprisingly it traces back to thin details from one person. Assignment of provenance is a matter for peer review by scholars, rather than the say so of one person. As for the similarities, again that may be right, but but plagiarism wasn’t invented in the 19th Century, but assigning provenance particularly on a copy of a translation is not really a job for one person, the discoverer, but for considered reflection by others, taking into account not only the forensic data and similarities but also the theological and stylistic consistency with Origen’s work and other texts of a similar time.

    I have been surprised and the lack of testing against other evidence and the opinions of other scholars in this area compared to other disciplines.

  3. Pageantmaster Ù† says:

    If a work of art were to be attributed to a major artist, the art world would not just accept the word of a researcher to make her own attribution without more; it certainly would not accept it on the basis of a report of a newspaper report.

    If the artworld can expect that attributions should be backed up by third party consensus of other experts and rigorous forensic and stlylistic analysis, why should theological texts, arguably of more importance not be subject to the same third party review before an attribution is accepted, rather than the word of the researcher who has such a hunch, and also an interest in making a name for him/herself?

    I have never come across such laxness and lack of accountability as you find in the church and its related disciplines. It really lags behind other disciplines.

  4. MichaelA says:

    Yes, like PM, I would counsel everyone not to get their hopes up too early.

    Its the same as when somebody reckons they have found a new fragment of one of the gospels, or a bronze-age item with a biblical name on it or whatever. Sometimes they do turn out to be genuine and we then have further confirmation of the veracity of the Christian faith. But there are also a large number of mistakes, misattributions, incorrect claims, not to mention fakes and forgeries. Care is always needed.

    These documents will have to be considered and re-considered by a number of scholars from different disciplines and institutions before any reasonably firm conclusion can be drawn. The process will take many years.

  5. driver8 says:

    Of course many scholars will need to study the manuscript (in fact the manuscript is already digitized and anyone can look at it online) and the the “finders” have already organized a conference at which their proposal will be examined. In this case, if one reads the reports published by the scholars, it is more tentative than newspapers typically are. However there are reasons to be cautiously optimistic in this case. It may be more like François Dolbeau’s 1990 discovery of 26 “new” sermons by St. Augustine of Hippo in a fifteenth century Carthusian manuscript, than the relentless hype about items which tun out to be forged (the metal tablets “found” in Jordan last year) or based on analyses from scholars that are subject to widespread critique (the various stories about ossuaries over the last few years).

  6. c.r.seitz says:

    This has always been the challenge of determing true “Origen”, n’est ce pas?

    I wish they would tell us what kind of material is being discussed (Biblical commentary?) and the extent of the material.

  7. Pageantmaster Ù† says:

    It looks as if people are beginning to look critically at what is apparently catalogued as a document, author unknown.
    [blockquote]There were a couple of other places I looked at yesterday evening that are consistent with a NT text as one would expect Origen to have used. However, since these are sermons, do we know how these were published? Did someone take short-hand notes? And were these then later cleaned up and edited? Or did Origen write the sermon first and read it out? This last option is unlikely for a man as brilliant as Origen. Anyway, citations from the NT in a sermon on the psalms can probably be used more confidently for ‘bigger variants’ such as different words, than for smaller variants such as articles, copula, and word order, and, quite likely, can have only illustrative force for omission of phrases. But a good study of individual citation habits could clear these things up[/blockquote]
    Anyway, lots of people seem to be getting terribly excited, particularly people in Italy, but it might be better to let scholars take a close look at the document and have a close look at exactly what it is that the document is, and to what extent it can be said to be by or related to Origen, before leaping about waving arms in the air, in that way some Italians have.

  8. c.r.seitz says:

    #7 — thanks. We have the fine study of Torjesen already. I wonder if this augments what we have?

  9. A Senior Priest says:

    The debates of scholars are always interesting to me. Like the rows over the James brother of Jesus ossuary.

  10. driver8 says:

    If you are following this you may find this recent lecture interesting http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=s890BLlVvKg