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Das 'Opus imperfectum in Matthaeum' und sein Verhaltnis zu den Matthauskommentaren von Origenes und Heironymus.

The high quality and exegetical sensitivity of the incomplete commentary on Matthew known as the Opus Imperfectum in Matthaeum have long been recognized. Indeed, Saint Thomas Aquinas is said to have found it so useful that he would have preferred having the end of this commentary to being master of Paris. Some 196 manuscripts testify to the depth of popular concurrence.

At least since the beginning of the sixteenth century, however, it has been recognized that this work cannot be by its putative author, John Chrysostom, and that, indeed, it must have originated outside Nicene circles altogether. Scattered signs of a Greek Vorlage have been enough to keep a translation theory alive, but the general consensus is that the work was composed in Latin. The present volume (originally a thesis presented to the Catholic Theological Faculty at Graz) is an attempt to account both for the work's exegetical excellence and for the signs of a Greek original by exploring the sources which underlie it.

Chief among these are the commentaries of Jerome and Origen on Matthew, and the greater part of the work is devoted to setting out the evidence they provide. The relevant sections of each commentary are set out in parallel columns underneath the lemmata and briefly discussed. Since only the work of Jerome survives entire (the others being either fragmentary or interpolated), the amount of material varies considerably. Thus all the relevant fragments of Origen are included, whether in Greek or one of the ancient versions, while for the Opus Imperfectum the version used is the critical edition now being prepared by J. van Banning (CCL 87b et seq.). The excerpts are laid out with commendable accuracy, but since their is considerable variation in the number of columns, it is unfortunate that column headings were not provided.

That the documents are generally interrelated is quickly established. However, while some non-Nicenes certainly did use Jerome (as, for example, in the Collectio Veronensis, CCL 87.i. 46), differences in translation and disparities in content show that the connection must be a more distant one: Jerome and the Opus Imperfectum share a source, and that source is the now fragmentary commentary of Origen on Matthew. The form of this commentary, however, was not identical with that now surviving in Greek, but closer to that underlying the so-called Vetus Interpretatio. The possibility of an intermediate stage is raised but not discussed.

Mali, then, does in the end make his case: the source underlying much of the Opus Imperfectum is Origen's Commentary on Matthew. This is established on the basis of a programme of intense literary analysis meticulously carried out. The very success of this analysis, however, points to a new task: the exploration of the theology and exegetical technique of these authors and the use they made of their illustrious source. In the meanwhile we can thank Dr Mali for having shed some light on one of the darker and more fascinating corners of patristic scholarship.


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Author:Vaggione, R.P.
Publication:The Journal of Theological Studies
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Apr 1, 1995
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