Lost Homilies of Origen Found!

I’ve written a bit on Origen in the past (e.g., here). He’s one of my favorite early Christian writers. He’s also one of Pope Benedict’s favorites. In his catechetical series on the fathers, Benedict XVI spent two lectures on Origen (many only got one).

Well, now we have more of Origen than ever before. In a spectacular new discovery, lost works of his have apparently been found!

Over at the blog, Oxford Patristics, Prof. Markus Vinzent, has the big announcement from Lorenzo Perrone, who has authenticated the find. Specifically, the discovery involves lost homilies on the Psalms. What a story!


Dear Colleagues and Friends,

On the 21st of May, a day after the first severe earthquake since centuries began to shake my region, I was asked an expertise on a Greek manuscript of Munich.

Prof. Anna Meschini Pontani, from Padua University, informed me that Dr. Marina Molin Pradel, who is preparing the new catalogue of the Greek manuscripts of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, wished to submit to my attention a discovery she had made on Holy Thursday. While examining the content of Codex Monacensis Graecus 314 (11th-12th century), an anonymous collection of 29 homilies on the Psalms, she discovered that the manuscript included the Greek text of four of the five homilies of Origen on Psalm 36 (H36Ps I-IV) translated by Rufinus. Moreover, she noticed that the list of the other homilies corresponded to a large extent to that presented by Jerome in his Letter 33 to Paula, the most important group being the series of nine homilies on Psalm 77.

I worked hastily in the following weeks to go through the considerable manuscript (371 folios) and check its content. More and more, albeit still provisionally, I have come to the conclusion that we have to do with a lot of lost homilies of Origen. My conviction is supported, among other things, by the exegetical treatment presented by the homilies, the doctrinal elements they preserve, the stylistic features which are typical of the great Alexandrian. In addition, a few excerpts of these homilies were already known to us under his name in some catenae fragments edited in PG 17 and the «Analecta Sacra» of Pitra, especially with regard to Psalm 77. Only a thorough examination of the texts transmitted by the Codex Monacensis Graecus 314 will permit to extend with reasonable certainty the attribution to Origen of all the remaining homilies or of part of them, besides the Homilies I-IV on Psalm 36.

I have already begun with the transcription of the manuscript and hope to complete it before the end of the summer, in order to make the texts accessible to scholars. Together with my colleagues Chiara Barilli, Antonio Cacciari and Emanuela Prinzivalli I plan to prepare without delay a critical edition of the homilies.

Marina Molin Pradel will present her discovery and offer some samples of the manuscript in the next issue of «Adamantius», due to be published before the autumn.

A series of initiatives are planned to announce the discovery of the new texts to the scholarly world and to promote their knowledge and study.

On Monday the 11th of June the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek will release a public statement about the discovery.

A seminar will take place at Padua University the 25th of June and a day-conference is planned for the 5th of December in Munich at the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.

Together with the colleagues of the Italian Research Group on Origen and the Alexandrian Tradition we plan a conference in Bologna next February, exactly one year after the one devoted to the prospect of a new edition of Origen’s commentaries on the Psalms, in cooperation with the colleagues of the Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaft.

At the time we were submerged by the snow no less than by the uncomfortable impression of the heavy task still waiting the editors of the catenae fragments. Now, in the middle of renewed quakes, we have been given an unexpected gift that we would like to share with all those who love Origen.

Lorenzo Perrone

«Alma Mater Studiorum» – Università di Bologna Dipartimento di Filologia Classica e Italianistica Via Zamboni 32 I-40126 Bologna Italy

Here’s the original press release [German]. Here are images of the codex in which they were found (Bavarian State library).

The AP is reporting on this now as well. Here is the story from the Vatican it cites.

Other academic bloggers have picked this up, including, Alin Siciu (who has been on this from the outset and has a lot of information), Dirk Jongkind [on some interesting textual critical implications for a passage in 1 Cor 4:13 cited in the work], Ben Blackwell, Lionel Windsor.

Roger Pearse, summing up what Sicui has, writes,

The homilies are arranged into two books (tomos). The first book (foll. 1-273 according to a modern foliation) contains Origen’s homilies on the following Psalms:

  • Psalm 15:  2 homilies.
  • Psalm 31:  4 homilies.
  • Psalm 66:  2 homilies (although the modern note in Latin which opens the manuscript mentions 3 homilies on this Psalm).
  • Psalm 73:  3 homilies.
  • Psalm 74:  1 homily.
  • Psalm 75:  1 homily.
  • Psalm 76:  4 homilies. 
  • The volume ends with the first 5 homilies on Psalm 77.

The second book starts on the verso of fol. 273. It contains:

  • Psalm 77: homilies 6-9.
  • Psalm 80:  2 homilies
  • Psalm 81:  1 homily.

That’s quite a find. . .
I’d say so!