Not Just Too Cool but Super Too Cool

I will do more about this later, since I am in a moving bus, but this news got me worked up.

Some has discovered 29 unknown sermons of the 3rd century Alexandrian theologian Origen.

The intrepid Tornielli in Vatican Insider writes (sorry… translation must wait):


È una clamorosa scoperta quella effettuata nella Bayerische Staatsbibliothek di Monaco di Baviera, dove sono state da poco ritrovate 29 omelie inedite di Origene di Alessandria, scrittore e teologo cristiano vissuto tra secondo e terzo secolo.

L’Osservatore Romano, nell’edizione di domani, definisce «la scoperta del secolo» quella di una filologa italiana nella biblioteca di Monaco di Baviera, annunciata ieri dalla stessa Bayerische Staatsbibliothek. Nel pomeriggio dello scorso 5 aprile, Giovedì santo, studiando un codice bizantino dell’XI secolo, il Monacense greco 314, Marina Molin Pradel si è infatti accorta che alcune omelie sui Salmi in esso contenute corrispondevano a quelle di Origene tradotte in latino da Rufino all’inizio del V secolo. E subito dopo Pasqua, estendendo i controlli sul manoscritto, la studiosa è arrivata alla conclusione che tutte le 29 omelie contenute nel codice, finora inedite, sono del grande intellettuale cristiano.

«Nella prima metà del terzo secolo – scrive il quotidiano della Santa Sede – Origene aveva dettato sul Salterio una serie imponente di opere che hanno presto avuto un influsso decisivo sull’esegesi biblica sia greca sia latina. Ma proprio la loro estensione, oltre alla condanna del 553, ne spiega la quasi totale perdita, già in epoca antica».


Can you imagine finding something like that?

There are treasures yet to discover!

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Just Too Cool, Patristiblogging and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Philangelus says:

    **Fangeek Squee!!!**

    That’s so cool!

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  3. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Hurray! That is so awesome, that the person was well-read enough to recognize what he’s found. How long did that Greek codex sit in the library, unread and unknown, waiting for some reader with the chops to recognize its priceless treasure?

    And Origen is one of our Holy Father’s faves, so to have this show up in Bavaria during his pontificate is a very nice gift to him!

  4. Supertradmum says:

    What other things are hidden out there? Wow. This boggles the mind.

  5. acardnal says:

    Wish I could read Italian. Well, besides spaghetti. I’ll have to wait for your next report.

  6. poorlady says:

    Wow! It seems when everything is looking bad, Heaven itself and all of its Saints are letting us know they are looking out for us. Origen of all writers!! This is too cool! I can hardly wait to hear the translation of how these were found. I hope they get published, too!! Origen, pray for us, please.

  7. jbpolhamus says:

    For you, acardnal:

    “IT IS a sensational discovery that performed in the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in Munich, where they have just found 29 homilies unpublished of Origen of Alexandria, writer and theologian lived Christian between second and third century. L’Osservatore Romano, in the edition of tomorrow, defines “the discovery of the century” than that of a philologist italian in the library of Munich, announced yesterday by the same Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.

    In the afternoon of the last 5 April, Holy Thursday, studying a byzantine code of the XI century, the Munich greek 314, Marina Molin Pradel was in fact realized that some homilies on the Psalms in it contained corresponded to those of Origen translated into Latin by Rufino in the beginning of the V century. AND immediately after Easter, by extending the controls on the manuscript, the studious and arrived to the conclusion that all 29 homilies contained in the code, unpublished, are of the great Christian intellectual.

    In the first half of the third century, writes the newspaper of the Holy See – Origen had dictated on the Psalter an impressive array of works that have soon had a decisive influence on biblical exegesis both Greek and Latin. But their own extension, in addition to the condemnation of 553, he explains the almost total loss, already in ancient times”.

    Yep, I translated all of that…myself…all by myself…(with my free online translator)…by myself. ;-)

  8. This is certainly fantastic news from a historical perspective, and to understand the development of the doctrine of the Church better. Origen was an interesting man.. I don’t mean to be a downer and rain on the parade, but he isn’t a Saint, correct? Weren’t many of his ideas anathematized, which cost him Sainthood?

  9. acardnal says:

    @jbpolhamus: Thank you sir! “Grazie.”

  10. guatadopt says:


    His work was anathematized in the later Constantipole councils. I always found that unfair. While his writings did at times teeter on the edge of heterodoxy, he meant well. Also, applying a post-Nicene orthodoxy to pre-Nicene times is also unfair. Hindsight is always 20/20. He couldn’t help that, centuries after his death, some would misinterpret his writings. It is said that he was nearly as prolific a writer as Augustine, and just as profound. Unfortunately, his works were burned…although he did die a martyr.

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  12. JacobWall says:

    guatadopt, or anyone else knowledgeable on the matter:

    I’ve been trying to sort some of this out as well – about the orthodoxy of Origen. Some Eastern Christians I know consider him to be quite definitively “condemned” and consider it invalid and misleading to quote him as a Church Father.

    On the other hand, the Catholic Encyclopedia, distinguishes Origen’s theology from “Origenism,” “by [which] term is understood not so much Origen’s theology and the body of his teachings, as a certain number of doctrines, rightly or wrongly attributed to him.” (

    My knowledge of the controversy is based solely on that article. From what I get out of that article, an oversimplified explanation is that much of “Origenism” was unorthodox and condemned, but not Origen’s theology itself; people later misunderstood this condemnation as including Origen. I see Origen quoted quite often in Catholic texts that I read.

    I wonder if this discovery would help clarify this issue? Are these documents that were unknown previously or just newly discovered manuscripts of something we already have? The Italian says “29 omelie inedite”; Fr. Z says “29 unknown sermons.” In any case, this is “super too cool!”

    By the way, if anyone can point to any good resources (books, articles, etc.) on the orthodoxy of Origen I would greatly appreciate it.

  13. Hilleyb says:

    Yes… absolutely “Super Too Cool.” To take it a step further, I searched and found some great commentary regarding the discovery:

    As I came to the end there, it’s revealed that the book itself is actually on line already!

  14. PostCatholic says:

    Grazie, jbpolhamus. Such a cool find; can’t wait to hear about publication and translation. I hope the sermons shed some light on Origen’s evolution as a theologian.

  15. Let me just say that I *hope* there is some way to reconcile Origen with orthodoxy in the same way that the other ante-Nicene Saints were, and I hope that Origenism is distinct from Origen’s theology. However. I think it’s rather dangerous to refer to *any* anathema as being “unfair,” as if it were simply a slap on the wrist or some non-infallible rebuke. There is no qualitative difference between an Eastern or a Western anathema, an anathema is infallible in either case. If there is some way to reconcile him and his theology to the Church, amen, let it be so. But to show disrespect to an Ecumenical Council’s anathema by acting like it’s not infallible is beyond the pale, and is *not* the right way to attempt to reconcile them.

  16. Clinton R. says:

    “On the other hand, the Catholic Encyclopedia, distinguishes Origen’s theology from “Origenism,” “by [which] term is understood not so much Origen’s theology and the body of his teachings, as a certain number of doctrines, rightly or wrongly attributed to him.”

    Perhaps the ancient theologian’s teaching has been distorted by the “spirit” of Origenism.

  17. irishgirl says:

    This is ‘super too cool’, indeed, Father Z!
    And thank you, jbpolhamus, for your translation from the Italian!
    Wow…Origen…I’ve heard about him…
    And these writings were found in Bavaria, the Holy Father’s ‘stomping grounds’! I’m sure that the news must have gladdened his heart, in the wake of the mess going on inside the Vatican!

  18. PostCatholic says:

    Your point about anathemas is interesting, JonathanCatholic. I would say that Origen is a figure in intellectual history of supreme interest to many people, regardless of whether his theological development can be reconciled with Catholic Tradition.

  19. theidler says:

    I can never get enough Origen in my readings – he is my favorite theologian, and to this day, I cannot understand why he was anathematized. Sure some of his teachings are unorthodox…but so were St. Justin Martyr’s, and yet he is a saint. Origen was tortured for his faith, defended it to the death against pagan intellectual attacks, and constantly professed his obedience to Holy Mother Church – and yet what did he receive…anathemas and condemnations.
    Truly a sad tale…Father, if you can help me wrap my head around it all, I would be so grateful.

  20. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Wikipedia (so, cum grano – or preferred amount – salis) article on “Second Council of Constantinople” [i.e., in 553] (as of 21 May) looks interesting and useful:

    “The original Greek acts of the council are lost [1], but an old Latin version exists, possibly made for [Pope] Vigilius, of which there is a critical edition in Acta Conciliorum Oecumenicorum, Tome IV, vol. 1 (Berlin, 1971), and of which there is now an English translation and commentary—Richard Price, The Acts of the Council of Constantinople of 553, 2 vols (Liverpool University Press, 2009). In the next General Council of Constantinople (680) it was alleged (probably falsely) that the original Acts of the Fifth Council had been tampered with (Hefele, op. cit., II, 855-58) in favour of Monothelitism. It used to be argued that the extant acts are incomplete, since they make no mention of the debate over Origenism. However, the solution generally accepted today is that the bishops signed the canons condemning Origenism before the council formally opened. This condemnation was confirmed by Pope Vigilius, and its full conciliar authority has only been questioned in modern times. See Price, op. cit., vol. 2, 270-86.”

  21. tour86rocker says:

    So why is no one concerned about the validity of the material in the first place? Why are we so sure it’s even of the correct century? What if it’s the patristics equivalent of the “Gospel of Thomas”, some kind of Gnostic junk?

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  23. Adam says:

    Wow….is that a very small cross one of the two ‘nuns’ is wearing? I guess their
    identity is so secret so that no one will notice them closeup. Never would have recognised
    them as sisters. I am still shocked and astonished that these nuns never learn anything from
    the great Blesed M Teresa whose nuns wear the simple and powerful garb with the cross and th
    rosary beads. I have witnessed M Teresa at work with her nuns in India and abroad. Her garb was and is so powerful. Never afraid to be recognised. But today, you have to wonder (no just be
    stunned) why women dont join the religious orders that have abandoned their garb . They have nothing to offer frankly of sacrifice and being obvious for who they are. My heart bleeds.
    Have they not got the message yet? Enough said.

  24. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    The partial answer to tour86rocker’s questions will be found in the posts by Roger Pearse (and his links) thankfully linked to by Hilleyb above: due care is pretty clearly being exercised!

    Does anyone know a reliable online translation of the relevant canons of/associated with the Council of Constantinople of 553?

    In the Letter which Pearse translates, St. Jerome seems full of praise for Origen, and critical of (some of) his critics – he was of course writing long before the Council.

    Henry Chadwick (an Origen scholar, and member of the Church of England) in his book The Early Christian Church (Penguin, 1967) notes both that around 375 St. Epiphanius launched “a damaging and surprisingly influential attack on the orthodoxy of Origen” (p. 184) but also that even he (p. 112) “admitted that there was excellent stuff in his Bible commentaries” – of which we now appear to have more!

    When the abbot Menas accused St. Maximus the Confessor at his first trial (June 654) of “leading everyone into the doctrines of Origen”, “the servant of God said in the presence of all, ‘Anathema to Origen and all his doctrines and to all of the same mind!’ ” – but the translator of this, Fr. G.C. Berthold, also persuasively argues how indebted in good ways St. Maximus was to the works of Origen (Selected Writings [Paulist Press/SPCK, 1985]).

    And, for example, discussing Rufinus’s translation of Origen on the ‘Song of Songs’ between St. Bernard of Clarivaux and St. William of Saint-Thierry when those two abbots were convalescing together (c. 1127) seems to have had beneficial effects on their thought and work for the rest of their lives – and on the course of western mysticism (with St. William going on to study the commentaries of St. Ambrose and St. Gregory the Great, both of whom also seem to have benefited from the work of Origen).

    And, for yet another example, that Patristic editor, Erasmus, particularly admired Origen as a interpreter of Scripture, as well as writing Johann Eck that he “learned more about Christian philosophy from a couple pages of Origin than from ten of St. Augustine” (though he devoted long care and effort to editing and publishing the works of the latter).

    So, however exactly it works, much good seems to have gone on being sifted out of the writings of Origen down the ages!

  25. John Murray says:

    Fantastic! When I studied at the Univ of Munich an archivist at the Staatsbibliothek gave a tour to a few students. The most memorable part was when he pulled open a drawer to show us a parchment signed by Ludwig der Fromm = Louis the Pious, Charlemagne’s son.

    What else is out there is a very good question.

  26. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Roger Pearse also links to some posts by Alex Poulos, explaining how to read Byzantine Greek handwriting and abbreviations, and using this new Origen text as a practice sheet. And some transcripts/translations of good bits, too.

  27. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Oh, and in his homily series on the Fathers of the Church, Pope B included Origen with great honor (unlike Tertullian, who was included with great sadness). He particularly noted St. Gregory Thaumaturgus’ wonderful farewell speech to his teacher Origen, who converted him and his brother to Christianity as well as teaching them philosophy; and then taught them the liberal arts as the gateway before teaching them theology and Scripture. As a teacher himself, the Pope praised Origen as a model for all Catholic educators.

    So yeah, “Origenism” is condemned, Origen not so much. I think that nobody really wants to mess with the current state of things, out of respect for those in the Church who went before; and his speculative theology and idealism sometimes gets to the silly point (he’s one of those guys who really doesn’t think you should pray for things that aren’t total non-material idealness, for example, and thus interprets “our daily bread” as almost totally symbolic — which is very highminded but is also way too dismissive of normal ways of interacting with God). So it’s good to read him with a grain of salt; but it’s still good to read him.

  28. Suburbanbanshee says:

    The way to read Origen is that he was a philosopher and scholar and teacher first. He loved God, he sought God through the Scriptures, and his path of holiness was primarily through lectio divina. (Many of the methods and attitude of lectio divina were pretty much invented or distributed by him.) He threw himself toward the mystic dimensions of Scripture and of prayer, which was why he had so little time for the normal stuff in his writings.

    However, he seems to have been practical enough as a teacher, and demanded very practically that those who would study the Word should strive to live the Word’s commands.

    Anyway, here are the Holy Father’s two talks on Origen:
    April 25, 2007 audience talk.
    May 2, 2007 audience talk.

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